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From Testing to Deploying Nuclear Forces

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.....The Effect of China on the Indian-Pakistani Nuclear Relationship

Discussions of the recent events in South Asia have tended to focus on the
interaction between India and Pakistan--but China is also a player in South
Asia. India and China fought a border conflict in 1962 and outstanding
border disputes remain. Furthermore, China has been a long-time supporter of
Pakistan, and India sees any major conflict with Pakistan as having a
Chinese dimension--especially now that India believes China has provided
considerable support to Pakistan's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
In May 1998, India's Defense Minister, George Fernandes, declared that China
was "potential threat No. 1." India's nuclear tests only eight days after
this statement seem to be intended as a direct challenge to China.
Compared with India, China has formidable nuclear forces. China is believed
to have deployed some 125 long-range (1700 km or greater) nuclear-armed
ballistic missiles. [7] The missile warheads are thought to have yields of
between 200 kT and 5 MT. In addition, China is believed to have some 150
bomber-deliverable nuclear weapons and 120 tactical nuclear weapons
deliverable by short-range missiles or artillery. An attack using just a
small part of this force could have a devastating effect on an Indian
nuclear force.
China's a major modernization program for its nuclear forces is being driven
by its concerns related to the United States and Russia. It is developing
several new long-range solid-fueled ballistic missiles including the DF-31
that was tested in August 1999. This land-based mobile missile has a range
of 8000 km. Changes to China's modernization effort in light of the Indian
nuclear tests should not be anticipated because the developing systems would
be quite capable against India. For example, the DF-31 could hit any part of
India from any part of China.
China professes to adhere to no-first-use and minimum deterrence policies.
China's deployed nuclear forces, however, can achieve more than minimum
deterrence. Nuclear weapons of a minimum deterrence force would need only to
reach the homelands of the four other declared nuclear powers. Such a force
would consist only of CSS-3s and CSS-4s. But China also has the
shorter-range CSS-2s and CSS-5s. The CSS-5 is particularly telling because
the missile was developed after the CSS-3 and CSS-4. These missiles have a
range of only 1700 km, which makes it clear that they are intended to hit
targets near China. These targets could be the conventional forces of the
major nuclear powers or China's neighboring countries. Neither is consistent
with a minimum deterrence policy. Clearly, China has a more complex nuclear
policy that does not rule out nuclear attacks on its neighbors. It is not
clear what China's real nuclear policy is, but it might under some
circumstances include the first use of nuclear weapons, such as a disarming
first strike against India. The risk of such an attack is currently quite
low. Nevertheless, Indian planners will have to consider such an attack
seriously if they start to deploy nuclear forces.
There are many reports of China having provided Pakistan with substantial
aid to both its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. An alternative to a
direct Chinese nuclear confrontation with India is for China to continue or
even increase its aid to Pakistan. China's goal would be to make it harder
for India to use its superior resources to gain an advantage over Pakistan
in a nuclear arms race.
Decisions Facing India
What choices does India face if it is intent on developing a fully deployed
nuclear force? Probably the biggest decision relates to delivery systems. In
the near term, aircraft are the only available delivery systems.
Fighter-bomber aircraft would be the most likely type used, with India's
Jaguar as a good example. It can carry a 1000-kg nuclear weapon to a radius
of 900--1400 km depending on the flight profile. [8] From the base at Ambala
(200 km north of New Delhi), the Jaguar could cover most of Pakistan. This
base, however, is only 300 km from Pakistan and might be vulnerable to
attack. Using the Jaguar base at Gorakpur might make more sense. This base
is about 1000 km from Pakistan, which makes it less vulnerable to air
attack. To attack Pakistan, aircraft from this base could stage through a
base close to Pakistan and thereby cover the entire country. In the near
future, the newly acquired Su-30 might be the preferred option. It would not
have a much greater range than the Jaguar, but its higher performance and
better radar might make it more capable of penetrating defenses.
Fighter-bomber-type aircraft can cover Pakistan, but they do not cover China
well. Even if they were to stage through bases in Assam (northeastern
India), they can only reach southwestern China. Although India possesses the
antisubmarine warfare (ASW) variant of Russia's strategic TU-95 bomber,
which can carry a heavy nuclear weapon (or several lighter ones) 5000-6000
km, India has only eight of these aircraft, and their ability to penetrate
Chinese air defenses is probably not good. In addition, because these
aircraft are navy assets, using them for strategic bombing might be
organizationally difficult.
Any aircraft-based Indian delivery system with dependence on fixed airfields
would have a problem surviving a first strike, especially from China. China
could easily strike Indian military facilities and nuclear weapon production
sites with 20 or so nuclear-armed ballistic missiles (mainly CSS-2s and
CSS-5s, with a few CSS-3s) and have over 100 nuclear-armed missiles in
reserve. India has no way of detecting ballistic missiles in flight. Its
first hint that a nuclear attack was under way would come only when Chinese
nuclear weapons began exploding over its airfields. China could then mop up
with bomber-delivered nuclear attacks. An Indian nuclear force based solely
on aircraft delivery would be hard pressed to survive such an attack. (A
multimegaton warhead exploded over an airfield would destroy all of the
aircraft on the ground even if they were in hardened shelters.) Furthermore,
Pakistan's two tests (in April 1998 and April 1999) of its 1500-km-range
Ghauri missile, which can reach many of India's deep airfields such as
Gorakpur, show that this is a growing problem with respect to Pakistan as
well. Combined with the problems associated with penetrating air defenses
(again, China is more of a problem than is Pakistan), an aircraft-based
delivery system appears doubtful, leading one to consider ballistic
India is currently developing two medium-range ballistic missiles, the
Agni-1 and the Agni-2. The Agni-1 uses a first stage derived from India's
SLV-3 space launcher and a second stage derived from India's Prithvi
short-range ballistic missile. It was tested three times between 1989 and
1994 and has a range of about 1500 km. India tested the Agni-2 in April
1999. This missile is similar to the Agni-1 but uses a new solid-fuel second
stage. Indian sources suggest 2500 km as the intended range of this missile,
but it is more likely to be only 2000-2200 km. [9] This range is sufficient
to cover all of Pakistan from well inside India, but it cannot cover much of
China. Even if the Agni-2 were based in extreme northeast India it could not
reach northeastern China (including Beijing) or many of the east coast
cities. However, operating in such a geographically restricted area would
increase the missile's vulnerability to a Chinese first strike. In addition,
the state of Assam has been the site of an internal insurrection and is
connected to the rest of India by only a narrow corridor.
For these reasons, India might want to base its missile force to the west of
Bangladesh. One of the closest viable sites to China would be near the city
of Bhagalpur, which is some 3000 km from Beijing. To provide flexibility for
basing or for operating a land-based mobile system, a missile range of 3500
km would be required. A missile with a range of 5000 km would be ideal
because it could be based almost anywhere in India and still hit Beijing.
However, no upgrade of the Agni-2 is likely to produce a missile with a
3500-5000 km range. Thus, India would have to produce a whole new missile.
The Polar Space Launch Vehicle (PSLV) shows that India has the technology to
produce the required missile, but the new missile cannot be directly derived
from the PSLV because it is too big (it would be big even for an ICBM). The
3500-5000 km ballistic missile would have to be a new development, not
derived from any existing Indian missile system, so it would be neither
quick nor inexpensive. Ultimately, such a missile would probably weigh 25-30
metric tons and look something like the French S-3 or M-20 or the Soviet
SS-20 ballistic missiles.
If India procures a 3500-5000 km range missile, what would be its basing
options? The easiest option would be to deploy the missile to soft fixed
sites, although such a deployment mode would make it vulnerable to a first
strike. Silo basing would be quite effective given the large CEPs of
Pakistan's and China's current missiles. However, India does not currently
have the technology to build hardened silos. In the ten or more years it
would take for India to develop such technology, China's missile accuracy
could improve enough (perhaps using satellite systems) that silo-based
missiles would also be vulnerable.
Another alternative might be some form of mobile basing. A 30-metric-ton
missile is light enough to be made road-mobile, but the poor state of
India's roads makes this a dangerous proposition. Special roads could be
built to transport the missile but would be expensive, and it is not clear
that a road long enough to ensure the missile force's survival could be
built. India's railroads are in fairly good shape, which makes a rail-mobile
system a possibility. The identity of trains carrying nuclear weapons would
need to be obscured, and the trains would have to move often enough so that
China and Pakistan could not learn their locations. As with any mobile
system, there are the problems of physical accidents, theft and physical
security, and communication with civilian authorities. To minimize some of
these problems, various garrisons could be connected by rail. The trains
would normally be at one of the protected garrisons and only occasionally
moved between them. This would be a compromise between a constantly mobile
system and a fixed one. There would have to be enough garrison locations to
ensure sufficient locational uncertainty so that some of the force would
survive a first strike. This would increase costs.
Mobility on a submarine seems well beyond India's capability for at least
ten, and probably 20, years. To build such a submarine, India would have to
develop a light water reactor using enriched uranium, which would require
India to obtain a source of enriched uranium. Foreign suppliers are not
likely to be willing to help India, and in any case India may well not want
to be dependent on foreign supplies, with the result that India would have
to expand its centrifuge enrichment program to supply the needed material.
India's National Security Advisory Board's draft Nuclear Doctrine calls for
"a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets." The
phrase "sea-based assets" implies that India may be considering a surface
ship system for delivering nuclear weapons. Such a system would not be as
desirable as a submarine; unlike a submarine, which is difficult to find
when it is submerged, a surface ship can be readily located.
Another important decision for India is to determine the readiness level of
its nuclear force. In the past, India has had an unready force. Presumably,
the weapons were kept in pieces at one well-guarded site. South Africa's
nuclear force was kept this way. [10] Such an arrangement can be protected
against physical accidents, theft, and unauthorized use, and the site is
inexpensive and easy to communicate with. However, it is vulnerable to a
first strike. South Africa did not need to worry about a first strike but
India certainly does. A further complication is that India does not possess
any means of detecting ballistic missiles in flight and therefore is forced
to adopt a strategy of riding out any nuclear missile attack. The more ready
India's force is and the more it takes other steps (such as using mobile
delivery systems) to reduce its first-strike vulnerability, the better it
will be able to survive a ballistic missile attack. But it will have to
worry more about physical accidents, theft and unauthorized use, and
maintaining reliable and secure communications.
One possible option would be to have a mobile system kept safely guarded in
garrison during "normal" peacetime. Only in a crisis or on receipt of
strategic warning would the force be sent into mobile operation. This raises
the issue of whether strategic warning can be the principal means to protect
a nuclear force. Some have argued that Wohlstetter's "delicate balance"
assumed a "bolt from the blue" attack and that such attacks are unlikely.
[11] This argument, however, ignores the fact that some of the most serious
instances of surprise attacks were not "bolts from the blue" but rather
"bolts from the gray," and indeed sometimes the gray has been very dark
indeed. [12] For example, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred only ten days
after a war warning had been sent to its commander from the Chief of Naval
Operations. [13] The Israelis depend on strategic warning to mobilize their
military forces, but failed to mobilize until just before the start of the
1973 Yom Kippur war despite a situation that could hardly be characterized
as "blue skies." [14] The combat in Kashmir between Indian and Pakistani
forces in the spring of 1999 once again illustrates that it is often hard to
find "blue skies" in the relations between these two countries.
A nuclear force that depended on its survival by dispersing on the receipt
of strategic warning would be vulnerable to a first strike if the warning
were not received or recognized. Furthermore, the dispersal of the nuclear
force during a crisis could be considered an escalatory step. Despite the
serious risks associated with this option, India may de facto adopt this or
some similar system. Indeed, India's National Security Advisory Board's
draft Nuclear Doctrine calls for its nuclear forces to have the "capability
to shift from peace-time deployment to fully employable forces," which
suggests that this option is being seriously considered. Not only will this
option have the first-strike vulnerability problems described, but a hastily
dispersed force will be particularly prone to the problems of physical
accidents, theft, unauthorized use, and difficulty communicating with its
command authorities. For example, the fear that an attack was imminent could
lead one to skip certain safety or security procedures in the effort to
disperse the force quickly. These problems underline the dangers that would
be created should India try to deploy nuclear forces without spending the
time and money needed to make them more robust.
Another important decision for India is how to design a command structure
that is resistant to an attack aimed at decapitating India's civilian
leadership. One option is to delegate nuclear-use authority to subordinate
commanders so that nuclear response is still possible even if the civilian
leadership is disabled. This, however, exacerbates the problem of
unauthorized use because nothing would prevent a subordinate commander from
proclaiming the civilian leadership disabled and using the weapons as he
sees fit. In fact, the Indian government seems unlikely to want to delegate
authority. [15] If this is so, and if the Indian government wants to always
maintain "top-down" control, then there are two things it must clarify.
First, India must, like the United States, codify civilian succession
through a large enough number of governmental officers so that one or more
is likely to survive a decapitating attack. At the present time, the ruling
party in India would have to convene to elect a successor--something that
would be difficult in a nuclear war. Second, India must develop the
mechanism to enforce the civilian control of its nuclear weapons. There are
two ways to do this. One way is to use a mechanical device, which prevents
the arming of the weapon unless the proper code is entered. In the United
States, such devices, used extensively on U.S. weapons, are called
Permissive Action Links (PALs). The other way is to use specially selected
personnel in an organization separate from the military to maintain weapons
control. This method was used in the old Soviet Union and is still used by
Russia. India must decide on the combination of these two methods that it
wants to use.
India must also decide on a targeting and use doctrine. Open Indian sources
(including the National Security Advisory Board's draft Nuclear Doctrine)
call for a minimum or proportional deterrence doctrine. Such a doctrine
would require only a small number of delivery vehicles and would target only
the opponent's cities. This doctrine might be sufficient for deterring
Pakistan, especially if India's main goal were to ensure that nuclear
weapons are not used in any conflict. Against China this doctrine might not
be enough. A first strike by China against India using approximately 20
nuclear weapons could devastate India's nuclear and air forces, yet China
would still have over one hundred nuclear weapons to hit Indian cities
should India strike Chinese cities in response. India must determine how it
would respond to such an attack. Such a response would probably involve
attacking Chinese military targets, which would require a larger and more
discriminate nuclear force than would be required by a minimum deterrence
Ironically, a leading proponent of the proportional deterrence variant of
minimum deterrence, Pierre Gallois, came to recognize the flaw in this
strategy. When he had originally formulated his views on proportional
deterrence, he had done so in the context of an attack that jeopardized
national survival. [16] However, in the 1980s Gallois realized that
discriminate attacks on military targets would require a different kind of
response. "For a medium-size power victim of such an attack, retaliation
would pose a difficult political and strategic problem. Hence, for this
medium power, the necessity of adding to the minimum deterrence weapons, the
instruments of a selective nuclear reaction against the aggressor's military
installations with accurate and low yield atomic weapons." [17]
An issue that will be dictated by the choice of doctrine is whether India
will require a prompt response (in less than an hour) to any nuclear attack.
Presumably, a quick response would be required to strike military targets
(not necessarily only nuclear ones). A rapid response would require India to
maintain a very ready nuclear force and would have implications for command,
control, and intelligence. Rapid reaction would require not only that the
top Indian leadership survive and decide to retaliate, but also that the
command links to the nuclear forces survive, so that a message to respond
could be received quickly. Rapid response would place heavy demands on
Indian intelligence to provide targeting information related to enemy
military forces. Having a force that can respond rapidly raises the problems
of not only unauthorized use and theft but also of mistaken authorized use.
In particular, India would have to quickly decide that an attack had
occurred and ascertain where it had come from.
A final issue that India must address is whether to further develop its
nuclear weapons. There are two parts to this question. The first is whether
India needs to conduct additional nuclear weapons tests. India says that it
tested five devices on May 11 and 13, 1998, and that four of them were
fission devices with yields of 0.2 kT, 0.2 kT, 0.6 kT and 12 kT. [18] The
three subkiloton tests are unusual, and have led some to speculate that
these low-yield devices are intended for battlefield use. But even if these
devices had the yield reported by India, there is no reason to assume that
the intended yield is the same as the test yield. When the British were
testing in Australia, they deliberately tested reduced-yield versions of
their weapons to limit the test's environmental effects. [19] India's three
subkiloton tests, along with the 12-kT test and its May 1974 test might have
provided enough information for India to produce a reliable weapon with a
10-20 kT yield that would be light enough (1000 kg or less) to be
deliverable by tactical aircraft or ballistic missile.
India has said that its other nuclear test was of a thermonuclear device
with a yield of 42 kT. [20] This again is somewhat unusual, since the whole
point of India producing a thermonuclear weapon would be to have a weapon
with a yield in the 100-kT to 1-MT range. India has specifically said that
the weapon yield was deliberately reduced to minimize environmental damage.
This might include not only seismic damage to nearby villages but also
containment of radioactivity. But how confident can India be that its
scaled-up thermonuclear weapon will produce the desired yield? All five
nuclear powers undertook many tests not only to perfect their thermonuclear
weapons but also to produce relatively lightweight versions of this type of
weapon. China's first deployed thermonuclear missile warhead weighed over
2000 kg, yet India's Agni-2 missile has only a 1000-kg payload. [21]
Nor can India easily forgo the possession of thermonuclear weapons if it
wants to maintain any sort of balance with China. Despite the common belief
that one atomic weapon is enough to destroy a city, in actuality a 10-kT
weapon will destroy about 9 sq km of an urban area. [22] While this yield
would be quite enough for a medium-sized city like Hiroshima with a
population of about one-quarter million and a built-up area of about 18 sq
km, large modern cities typically have populations of 5 to 10 million and
built-up areas of 500 to 1,000 sq km or more. A small Indian retaliatory
force of, say, ten 10-kT weapons would barely be enough to disable even one
large Chinese city (bearing in mind that not every square kilometer of a
city must be destroyed before it stops functioning). However, a 1-MT weapon
will destroy an area at least 20 times larger than that of a 10-kT one.
Approximately 20 Chinese multimegaton weapons would be enough to disable
every Indian city with a population of more than 1 million.
These considerations lead one to conclude that India might want to conduct
additional thermonuclear tests. India has currently proclaimed a test
moratorium and has said that it will enter negotiations on signing the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty--but it is hard to tell how serious India is.
Whether India conducts additional nuclear tests will ultimately depend upon
political considerations, not just technical ones.
Our discussion thus far has taken India's test claims at face value.
However, the seismic data do not totally agree with India's statements.
India said its three tests on May 11, 1998 had yields of 42 kT, 12 kT and
0.2 kT. The tests, however, registered a body-wave magnitude of 5.0, which
corresponds to a total yield of only 9-16 kT. [23] India said that its two
tests on May 13, 1998 had yields of 0.6 kT and 0.2 kT. However, no seismic
signals were detected, though at these yields, some should have been.
Clearly (at least on May 11), some type of nuclear explosion took place, so
it is not hard to credit India with a simple fission weapon capability. The
yield discrepancies throw doubt on India's thermonuclear claims--a doubt
that must undercut any deterrent effect India's supposed possession of
thermonuclear weapons might have. The need to remove this doubt is yet
another reason why India may well want to conduct more nuclear tests.
The second part of the question of further Indian nuclear weapons
development concerns stockpile size and how it affects fissile nuclear
material requirements. India currently has about 450 kg of separated
weapons-grade plutonium, [24] which would allow the manufacture of about 90
simple fission weapons. [25] India is currently producing about 25 kg of
weapons-grade plutonium per year, which could be increased to about 100 kg
per year if India felt it to be necessary. This stockpile of plutonium and
its current production rate are probably enough to supply India with an
adequate supply of fission weapons. India's fissile material requirements
for its thermonuclear weapons are less clear; there is no unclassified
estimate of the amount of plutonium required per weapon. Furthermore, all of
the five established nuclear-weapon states have produced both plutonium and
highly enriched uranium (HEU). The usual reason given is that thermonuclear
weapons require highly enriched uranium. India has only a very small uranium
enrichment capacity. It could currently produce at most only 10 kg of HEU
per year. It also has produced kilogram quantities of U-233 by irradiating
thorium in its power reactors. It is unclear whether it used some of its
limited supplies of HEU or U-233 in its thermonuclear test or whether it has
found a way to make thermonuclear weapons without HEU. Either way, India
might have to increase its fissile material production if it wants to make
tens of thermonuclear weapons. If it makes plutonium-only thermonuclear
weapons, then these weapons might well use more plutonium than a standard
fission weapon. If India uses HEU or U-233, then it will have to undertake a
major expansion in its ability to produce these materials.
Decisions Facing Pakistan
Much of the discussion on India applies to Pakistan as well, for if Pakistan
is to deploy a fully weaponized force, many of the choices it must make are
similar to those facing India. I will highlight some of the significant
differences. Just as the potential of a first strike from Pakistan or,
especially, China places difficult requirements on India, so India, with its
relatively large size and resources, generates difficult decisions for
Pakistan, like India, must make decisions about a nuclear delivery system.
Pakistan has fighter-bombers, such as the F-16, suitable for nuclear
delivery. The F-16 can carry a 1000-kg nuclear weapon to a range of 1400 km,
[26] which would allow for fairly deep strikes into India. But, like India,
Pakistan's aircraft are vulnerable to a first strike. Its handful of
tactical fighter bases are nearly all within 200 km of India (less than 10
minutes flying time). The problem of first-strike vulnerability, combined
with the need to penetrate deeply into Indian air defenses, leads to the
consideration of ballistic missiles for nuclear delivery.
Thanks to foreign assistance, Pakistan's missile programs are further along
than are India's. The M-11 missiles Pakistan is reported to have received
from China are highly capable mobile missiles that would make excellent
nuclear delivery vehicles. Their main drawback is that their range is only
300 km, which means that they cannot cover most of India. Pakistan's two
tests of its Ghauri missile may have solved this problem. The Ghauri is
believed to be derived from the North Korean No Dong missile and to have a
range of 1500 km. The videos of its tests showed that it was launched from a
road-mobile launcher. If Pakistan is able to acquire or build enough of
these missiles, they could be quite a satisfactory delivery system. The
750-km-range Shaheen-1 that Pakistan tested in April 1999 could also be a
nuclear-delivery vehicle, although its shorter range would limit the targets
in India that it could reach.
Even if Pakistan decides to place its nuclear weapons on a mobile ballistic
missile, it, like India, must then decide how ready this force will be. If
it is deployed in the field, moving frequently from site to site, and is
armed with its nuclear warheads, then a missile force will be more likely to
survive a first strike but will at the same time be more vulnerable to
physical accidents, theft and unauthorized use, and problems communicating
with its command authorities. If it is deployed at a few secure garrisons,
perhaps without the nuclear warheads attached, then it will have far fewer
problems with physical accidents and the like but will be much more
vulnerable to a first strike. Like India, there is a serious risk that
Pakistan will keep its forces in unready garrison mode and try to rely on
strategic warning to disperse its force. Such a strategy is vulnerable to
warning failure and a hasty dispersal can increase the physical accident and
other problems, and could be considered an escalatory action.
Like India, Pakistan must make important decisions regarding its command
arrangements and must develop a targeting and use doctrine. These include
devising an arrangement to maintain "top-down" control of its nuclear forces
even in the face of an attack designed to decapitate the leadership, and
deciding under what circumstances and against which targets it might
actually use nuclear weapons.
Pakistan must also decide on any further development of its nuclear
stockpile. There has been no official Pakistani statement regarding the
types of weapons and the yields for its six claimed tests. The first five
tests on May 28, 1998 produced a single seismic signal with a body-wave
magnitude of 4.9. [27] This is equivalent to a total yield of 6-13 kT. The
sixth test on May 30, 1998 had a body-wave magnitude of 4.3, which is
equivalent to a yield of 2-8 kT. It seems likely that all of Pakistan's
tests involved simple fission weapons, with the most powerful one having a
yield no greater than 15 kT. As a result of these tests, Pakistan may have a
reliable weapon with a 10-15 kT yield that is light enough (1000 kg or less)
to be carried on its F-16s or its M-11s and Ghauris. If this is true, then
in the short term Pakistan will have no need to conduct further tests for
weapons development, although for political reasons, it might still test if
India does.
In the long term, the situation is less clear. If India has really tested a
thermonuclear weapon and if it conducts additional tests (especially with
large yields of 100 kT- 1 MT), then Pakistan will likely try to develop its
own thermonuclear weapon--not only for political reasons but for technical
ones as well. As was discussed earlier, it takes at least twenty times as
many 10-kT warheads to cause urban damage similar to that of a 1-MT warhead.
A small Pakistani force equipped with 10-kT weapons would have difficulty
disabling even one large Indian city, whereas an Indian force equipped with
megaton-yield weapons would probably be able to disable every major city in
Pakistan has already made the decision to expand its stockpile of fissile
material. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s (when production stopped as
a result of U.S. pressure) Pakistan produced some 200 kg of HEU at its
enrichment plant at Kahuta. [28] Assuming 15 kg of HEU per weapon, this
would have given Pakistan enough HEU for approximately 13 fission nuclear
weapons. If Pakistan really did test six nuclear weapons in May 1998,
afterwards it would have had only enough HEU for seven more weapons. Given
this fact, it is not surprising that there are reports that Pakistan
restarted production of HEU at Kahuta in the spring of 1998. [29] Although
HEU may not have been produced at Kahuta during the 1991-1998 period, Kahuta
was in operation during this time and the Pakistanis stockpiled medium
enriched uranium product. Using this intermediate product to produce HEU
would have given Pakistan some 200 kg of additional HEU by the end of 1998.
[30] Pakistan would then have had enough total HEU to produce approximately
20 nuclear weapons. At this point, the intermediate product stockpile would
be exhausted and Kahuta would have gone back to producing HEU from natural
uranium. When Kahuta last operated, it produced some 25 kg of HEU per year
(starting from natural uranium), which is enough for about 1.7 weapons per
year. Pakistan may have already expanded the production rate at this
facility or it may expand it in the future.
In addition, Pakistan is reported to have started the operation of its 50-MW
heavy-water plutonium production reactor at Khushab. [31] Significantly,
this reactor is reported to have started operation in April 1998, before the
Indian tests. Where Pakistan obtained the heavy water needed to start this
reactor has not been publicly stated. It probably took about a year for the
reactor to reach full-power operation and the plutonium production in the
fuel to achieve equilibrium. At this point, the reactor would start
discharging about 11 kg of plutonium per year. Assuming 5 kg of plutonium
per weapon, this will be enough for some 2.2 weapons per year. The number of
plutonium weapons is additive with whatever HEU weapons are produced by
Kahuta's output.
Each of the five major nuclear powers has had to create deployed nuclear
forces that meet the requirements for a deterrent force. It has been a long
and expensive process. When the British, French, and Chinese first deployed
their nuclear forces, they could not survive a Soviet first strike. These
countries wanted (and needed) such forces anyway. As soon as they had the
capability, both Britain and France deployed nuclear ballistic missile
submarines. China has moved toward survivable forces somewhat more slowly,
but even it has developed nuclear ballistic missile submarines and
land-mobile missiles.
Because no nuclear disasters occurred while these three powers had
vulnerable nuclear forces, there may be some in India and Pakistan who think
that this paper has overstated the risks that they face. But the British and
French were always protected by U.S. nuclear forces. In the Chinese case, it
is well known that the Soviets were seriously considering a preventive
nuclear war against China in the late 1960s, which clearly illustrates the
magnitude of the risks. [32]
These three powers eventually managed to minimize some of the risks
discussed in this paper by deploying large diverse arsenals. An important
element in their arsenals was the deployment of mobile missiles on
submarines. The submarine's mobility and its invisibility under water not
only protect it from a first strike but also from theft. In the case of a
physical accident (as has happened to two Soviet ballistic missile
submarines), the vessel simply sinks into deep water, with minimal
environmental effects.[33]
However, it will be a long time before there are Indian ballistic missile
submarines cruising the Indian Ocean and even longer before there are
Pakistani ones. In the interim, if India and Pakistan go ahead with their
nuclear deployments, their forces could be vulnerable to a first strike
(which could lead to crisis instability), to physical accidents, to theft,
and to unauthorized use. As such, Indian and Pakistani nuclear deployments
are a threat to the whole world.
Even if some day India and Pakistan were able to make all of the decisions,
take all of the actions, and afford all of the expenditures needed to bring
them to where the major nuclear powers are today, neither country should
think that this would be the end of it. Maintaining a nuclear deterrent
force is a dynamic process,[34] a point that was illustrated to some extent
above. For example, Pakistan's two tests of its Ghauri ballistic missile has
forced India to consider the vulnerability of many more of its air bases.
India's claim to have tested a thermonuclear weapon has forced Pakistan to
consider the development of similar weapons. Additional events should be
expected in the future. It was considerations such as these that forced the
five nuclear powers to maintain significant expenditures on their nuclear
forces. One of the more extreme cases was France, which for many years spent
around 30 percent of its defense budget on its nuclear forces. India and
Pakistan may face expenditures of a similar magnitude.
Some Indians will argue that the possibility of conflict with China requires
India to deploy nuclear weapons. But as this paper has shown, the mere
possession of nuclear forces does not necessarily mean that one can deter
one's enemies. The key issue is, does the deployment of nuclear forces
increase or decrease Indian security? Because Indian nuclear forces will be
unlikely to be able to withstand a Chinese first strike, an Indian
deployment of nuclear weapons will actually make a Chinese nuclear strike
more likely. This, combined with the risks of physical accidents, theft, and
unauthorized use, and the drain of resources away from conventional military
forces, makes it clear that by deploying nuclear forces India will be
decreasing its security.
Given all of these problems, the U.S. policy to try to stop nuclear
weaponization in India and Pakistan is eminently sensible. The risks to the
rest of the world are undeniable. And as this paper has shown, weaponization
would present India and Pakistan not only with substantial risks but also
with major expenditures should they try to reduce these risks. The United
States needs to be frank with India and Pakistan about the problems they are
getting into and how complex those problems can be. It is one thing to say,
"Have safe nuclear weapons." The Indians and Pakistanis will surely respond,
"Of course we will." It is another to say, "A small, unsophisticated nuclear
force may have to choose whether it can survive a first strike or whether it
can avoid physical accidents and have weapons that are safe from theft and
unauthorized use."
At the same time, the United States should see what can be done to lessen
the underlying tensions in the region. For example, resolution of India's
border disputes with China would help to build on the force reductions that
have already taken place in the last few years on the Sino-Indian border. It
is steps like these, rather than India and Pakistan's deployment of
vulnerable nuclear forces, that hold the key to stability in South Asia.

[1] Albert Wohlstetter, "The Delicate Balance of Terror," Foreign Affairs,
Vol. 37, No. 2, January 1959. A slightly different version was published as
P-1472, RAND, December 1958.
[2]Albert Wohlstetter, "Nuclear Sharing: NATO and the N+1 Country," Foreign
Affairs, Vol. 39, No. 3, April 1961.
[3]See A. J. Wohlstetter, F. S. Hoffman, R. J. Lutz, and H. S. Rowen,
Selection and Use of Strategic Air Bases, RAND, R-266, April 2, 1954; A. J.
Wohlstetter, F. S. Hoffman, and H. S. Rowen, Protecting U.S. Power to Strike
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, RAND, R-290, September 1, 1956; and Albert
Wohlstetter and Fred Hoffman, Defending a Strategic Force After 1960, RAND,
D-2270, February 1, 1954. This work first enunciated the importance of the
first strike/second strike distinction, developed "fail-safe" procedures for
strategic bomber operations, and formulated the concept and rationale for
missile silos.
[4]In "Nuclear Sharing: NATO and the N+1 Country" (p. 370), he wrote,
The view that widespread diffusion [of nuclear weapons] will be stabilizing
assumes that the prototype relation among the many powers will be mutual
deterrence. But it would in fact be a miracle if every pair of countries out
of a large number of nuclear powers stood in this relationship. These
countries are at different stages of development and in different relative
strategic positions. It would be remarkable if there were not strong
asymmetries and sometimes symmetrical "preclusive" capabilities.
Not all analysts share Wohlstetter's concerns about Nth country nuclear
forces. Kenneth N. Waltz takes a benign view of the proliferation of nuclear
forces. "Nuclear forces are seldom delicate because no state wants delicate
forces, and nuclear forces can easily be made sturdy." (Kenneth N. Waltz,
"More May Be Better," The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate, W. W. Norton
& Company, New York, 1995, p. 19.) Given Wohlstetter's extensive real-world
analysis of this issue (see footnote 3), his concerns have far more weight
than do Waltz's assurances. Furthermore, by his use of the word "seldom,"
even Waltz concedes that under some circumstances vulnerable forces may
[5]3 U.S. Code Annotated, Section 19.
[6]Note that Waltz's requirements for deterrent forces, "whether big or
small ones," are similar to those laid out in this section. See Waltz, 1995,
p. 20.
[7]SIPRI Yearbook 1997, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,
Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, p. 401.
[8]The 900-km radius is with external fuel and a lo-lo-lo flight profile.
The 1400-km radius is with external fuel and a hi-lo-hi flight profile. See
Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1994-1995, Jane's Information Group,
Alexandria, Virginia, p. 121.
[9]The 2000-km range is given by a U.S. Defense Department source; the
2200-km range is given by an Indian one. See Proliferation: Threat and
Response, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, D.C., April 1996, p. 39; and Vivek Raghuvanshi and
Barbara Opall-Rome, "India's New Agni Raises Missile Race Stakes," Defense
News, May 11-17, 1998, p. 4.
[10]David Albright, "South Africa and the Affordable Bomb," The Bulletin of
the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1994, p. 44.
[11]See for example, Bernard Brodie, "The Development of Nuclear Strategy,"
International Security, Vol. 2, No. 4, Spring 1978. To be fair to Brodie, he
was making this argument in the context of the United States and Soviet
Union. It is not clear that he would make this same argument in the current
South Asian context.
[12]For more on this issue, see Richard Brody, "The Limits of Warning,"
Washington Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, Summer 1983.
[13]In part this message said: "This dispatch is to be considered a war
warning. Negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions
in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected
within the next few days." This did not necessarily mean that an attack on
Hawaii would take place. In Hawaii, this message was interpreted as
referring to a possible Japanese attack in Southeast Asia. As it turned out,
both Hawaii and Southeast Asia were attacked. See Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl
Harbor: Warning and Decision, Stanford University Press, 1962, p. 45.
[14]Israel had already fought three wars with its neighbors. At the end of
the Six Day War in 1967, there was a long period of low-level conflict known
as the War of Attrition that did not end until August 1970. Only four months
before the Yom Kippur war, Israel had partially mobilized its forces in
anticipation of an attack. See Chaim Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars, Random
House, New York, 1982.
[15]India's National Security Advisory Board's draft Nuclear Doctrine says:
"The authority to release nuclear weapons for use resides in the person of
the Prime Minister of India, or the designated successor(s)."
[16]Pierre Gallois, The Balance of Terror, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,
Massachusetts, 1961, p. 119.
[17]Pierre Gallois, "Precision, The Fourth Age of Strategy," paper presented
at "Disarmament and Peace Seminar," Istanbul, November 25-26, 1983, p. 5.
[18]John F. Burns, "Indian Scientists Confirm They Detonated a Hydrogen
Bomb," The New York Times, May 18, 1998, p. 1.
[19]During the "Buffalo" test series in 1956, the second and third tests
were of the "Blue Danube" bomb. The full yield of this bomb was 40 kT, yet
the yields of the two tests were 1.5 kT and 3 kT. As the official history of
these tests states: "The yield of a test warhead or device bore no necessary
relation to that of a production bomb, since the yield of a given device
could be varied at will." See Lorna Arnold, A Very Special
Relationship--British Atomic Weapon Trials in Australia, Her Majesty's
Stationery Office, London, 1987, pp. 63-64, 70.
[20]Burns, 1998.
[21]This was on the DF-3 (CSS-2). See Robert S. Norris, Andrew S. Burrows,
and Richard W. Fieldhouse, Nuclear Weapons Databook, Volume V, British,
French, and Chinese Nuclear Weapons, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado,
1994, p. 380.
[22]About 12 sq km were destroyed at Hiroshima. I used two-thirds power
scaling to reduce this area from the 15-kT weapon used at Hiroshima to that
for a 10-kT one. See The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office,
June 30, 1946. Note that this area is not the same as the lethal area, which
at Hiroshima was about 8 sq km.
[23]Brian Barker et al., "Monitoring Nuclear Tests," Science, Vol. 281,
September 25, 1998, p. 1967.
[24]This is an update of a previous estimate. See Brian G. Chow, Richard H.
Speier, and Gregory S. Jones, The Proposed Fissile Material Production
Cutoff--Next Steps, RAND, MR-586-1-OSD, 1995, pp. 43-45.
[25]India also has about 200 kg of separated reactor-grade plutonium.
Although this material is less desirable for weapons, it could be used to
make about 30 additional weapons (assuming 7 kg of plutonium per weapon).
India's stocks of weapons-grade plutonium are large enough that it probably
would not use its stock of reactor-grade plutonium to make weapons.
[26]Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1994-1995, p. 572.
[27]Barker et al., 1998.
[28]Brian G. Chow, Richard H. Speier, and Gregory S. Jones, 1995,
p. 46.
[29]Mark Hibbs, Shahid-Ur-Rehman, and Abdul Rauf Siddiqi, "Pakistan's Prime
Minister Will Not Order a Hasty Test," Nucleonics Week, May 21, 1998, p. 14.
[30]Pakistan's total stockpile of HEU will be the same as if it had never
stopped producing HEU at Kahuta. In other words, the moratorium on HEU
production at Kahuta during these seven years will have had no effect on
Pakistan's long-term HEU production.
[31]Testimony of Paul Leventhal, President, Nuclear Control Institute, to
the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection,
Committee on Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives, May 14, 1998.
[32]Ultimately, even China's security depended on U.S. protection; it was
strong U.S. opposition that discouraged the Soviet attack. See Scott D.
Sagan, "The Perils of Proliferation," International Security, Vol. 18, No.
4, Spring 1994, p. 84. New information makes it clear that Brezhnev himself
favored truncating China's nuclear weapons development, but that he wanted
U.S. concurrence. See William Burr (ed.), The Kissinger Transcripts, The New
Press, New York, 1998, pp. 131, 142.
[33]Peter Huchthausen, Igor Kurdin, and R. Alan White, Hostile Waters, St.
Martin's Press, New York, 1997.
[34]Albert Wohlstetter first pointed out this problem facing small nuclear
The problem of deterring a major power requires a continuing effort because
the requirements for deterrence will change with the counter-measures taken
by the major power. Therefore, the costs can never be computed with
certainty; one can be sure only that the initiation fee is merely a down
payment on the expense of membership in the nuclear club.
("Nuclear Sharing: NATO and the N+1 Country," 1961, p. 363.)

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