In Conversation

Admiral Arun Prakash [Retd]
’If We Could Sign a Formal Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union in 1971, Why not an Informal Partnership With the US, in National Interest, Now?’

The peculiarity of India is that its external defence and internal security are like conjoined twins, not yet separated by surgery, even though at times there is an illusion of severance. While FORCE has always treated the strategic and the internal as extensions of one another, in the run-up to DefExpo 2012, we decided to engage a long time contributor and former Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Arun Prakash (retd) on some critical national security issues. Complimenting that, FORCE had an extensive conversation with recently retired home secretary, G.K. Pillai on challenges within. We spoke to these two officers after retirement because while not having constraints of office, they still remain relevant to the establishment.

As a member of the task force on national security, Admiral Arun Prakash continues to have a ring side view of the corridors of power. He puts seven critical national security issues that bedevil India’s policy-makers in perspective. G.K. Pillai, on the hand, only a few months into his retirement, has been closely associated with India’s counter-terror and counter-Maoist policy-making, having taken over as home secretary a few months after the 26 November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Is India’s nuclear deterrence credible? If not, what needs to be done to make it so?

Deterrence lies squarely in the mind of the adversary, and a deterrent can be termed ‘credible’ if it persuades the adversary not to pursue a certain course(s) of action out of fear that an unacceptable cost or punishment is certain to be inflicted on him. Deterrence in the nuclear context is starkly simple: the possibility of nuclear attack from an adversary is negated by the assurance of a nuclear response which will devastate his homeland. This calls for a deterrent which is capable of surviving a nuclear surprise attack and then undertaking the promised retaliation.

Since India seeks to deter China and Pakistan (in that order), and to the extent that we have not, so far, suffered a first strike from either of them; superficially our nuclear deterrent can be considered ‘credible.’ However, the real issues are far more complex.

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