By Tanvi Kulkarni, IPCS
The three Asian nuclear weapons states – China, India and Pakistan – have adopted the doctrine of minimum nuclear deterrence to project their nuclear weapons policy. The term ‘Credible Minimum (Nuclear) Deterrence’ (CMD) is now used as a brand-name for the Indian Nuclear Doctrine, advertising three features of a nuclear weapons-empowered India: security with a thrust on deterrence, a responsible nuclear weapons state and commitment to global nuclear disarmament. Minimum Deterrence has ultimately to do with ‘numbers’ (of warheads, delivery systems and fissile material stockpiles). Safety, security, survivability and an effective second-strike capability are the pre-conditions for a minimum deterrent. The ‘numbers’ labyrinth involves complex calculations based on a state’s capabilities and resources, and an assessment of those available to the adversary. The exact number and quantity of weapons and fissile material that India possesses is not public knowledge.
Definitions must be precise and cannot be viewed in terms of the words that are included to formulate them. Credibility - minimum – deterrence, are a part of a whole and not imbued with individual specifics. Consequently the author's statement "Minimum Deterrence has ultimately to do with ‘numbers’ (of warheads, delivery systems and fissile material stockpiles)", is way off the mark. …
Deterrence is a function of creating a psychological impact on the decision making nucleus of a perceived adversary so as to preclude the decision to initiate a nuclear strike against India. …
It is the sum of understanding ‘the loss of what’ the adversary would hold dearer than getting embroiled in a nuclear exchange;
Appreciating the exact kind of punishment that needs to be meted out to dissuade the adversarial leadership;
The specific targets that would need to be engaged;
An analysis of each to determine the throw weight and points of impact;
A demonstrated capability to deliver the warheads to the assigned targets;
The mechanisms to execute retaliatory strikes;
and last, but not the least, a demonstrated political will to execute the stated strategy. …
'Minimum' is not a function of numbers, but the comprehensive whole of the issues mentioned above appropriately communicated to the adversary to create the desired psychological equation that would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to take the decision to initiate a nuclear exchange.