Professor M.L. SONDHI
Pacific Community, January 1973

(Reprinted in Military Review, KANSAS, USA)
September 1973, Vol. III, No. 9

The Annual Report of the Ministry of Defence, 1971-72, indicates that the Indian military action in Bangladesh marked a turning point in the traditional conception of India’s role in attaining its own security interests.  The report speaks of “major changes in our strategic environment” which necessitate a review of the basic assumptions of defense plans.

It goes on to point out the difficulties of separating “the development of sophisticated defence technologies from other civil technologies” and underscores the value of sophistication in military preparedness in these words:

The weapons systems we have already acquired and developed are sufficiently sophisticated to meet immediate threats; the trend however, is towards further sophistication, greater complexity, higher costs.  More sophisticated systems need longer lead times to establish production in a country at our level of technology.  It will,  therefore, be necessary to develop environmental technologies if a high degree of self-reliance in the Defence sector is to be achieved.  Our approach to Defence Production will have to be increasingly technology-oriented rather than product-oriented.  Special attention will need to be paid to build up capabilities to design and upgrade the variety of systems on which defence effort must be based.  Now that a comprehensive plan for the development of science and technology in the country is on the anvil, it seems essential to adopt an integrated approach and to view the effort in the Defence sector as a vital component of the National Plan.


The rethinking and remodeling of Indian defense policy has in the background strategic and political arguments relevant to India’s power and influence in a fairly long-term perspective which constitute a Great Debate in which not only political parties but, perhaps more importantly, the military and civilian bureaucracy and the scientists are participants.  In place of public discussions with unrestrained rhetoric, which marked the Indian scene in the sixties, the security interests of India are now being subjected to concrete analysis in relation to five central questions:

First, what force levels should India seek to achieve a strategic environment in the subcontinent which would minimize the effects of “the machinations of the Big Powers”?

Second, should India attempt to develop a capacity to project its power presence to deter or arrest conflict in neighbouring areas for the strategic environment in the decade ahead?

Third, what importance should be attached to Communist China’s nuclear deterrent capabilities in relation to the potentialities and limitations of Peking’s South Asia policy?

Fourth, should India seek any collaborative arrangements with neighbouring countries for naval defence in the Indian Ocean?

Finally, what considerations should permeate Indian defence policy so that, in a strategic environment dictated by the US-Soviet convergence, India will not suffer loss of political flexibility?

The content of new policies in Indian defence planning will depend, in a large measure, on the political and bureaucratic incentives to adhere to an agreed Indian strategic concept which came into play as India’s military role in Bangladesh became inevitable.  Although never stated in a formal manner, the strategic justification of sub-continental defence is to place Indian forces in an unfettered position for a decisive role in a wide range of actions.  For political and military policy reasons, the Indo-Soviet Treaty was interpreted with deliberate ambiguity as far as third parties were concerned, but it did not come in the way of theoretical refinement of the sub-continental strategic concept.

It is in pursuit of this concept that the search for new strike aircraft to improve India’s penetration capabilities has now been intensified.  The movement of the United States Seventh Fleet through the Strait of Malacca into the Bay of Bengal during the Bangladesh operations was regarded by Indian public opinion as an example of unacceptable “gunboat diplomacy,” and is a significant factor responsible for shifting the balance of Indian defence policy toward a greater role for the Indian Navy.  The addition of Leander class frigates, the reinforcement of the submarine fleet and the large-scale expansion of the Vishakhapatnam and Bombay naval yards are all designed to provide for a greater Indian participation not only in defence of the coastline, but also for fulfilling a naval role to support the framework of the overall strategic concept.

In considering the scenarios for future crises, the danger spots of potential conflict are being taken into account so as to integrate the means for deterring aggression and for achieving military success.  The general assessment of India’s defence goals, strategy and the trend of its military technology would obviously suggest a more realistic attitude toward the question of acquiring a minimal nuclear deterrence than anytime in the past when general ideological and political debates on India and the bomb took place.  In May 1972, the Indian Defence Minister’s remarks in Parliament in replying to the debate on the Defence Ministry’s budget demands indicated that international developments which affected the Indian strategic environment had been closely studied.  The Defence Minister added significantly that the Atomic Energy Commission was studying the technology for underground explosions for peaceful purposes.  It was noticeable that the tendency to make enigmatic remarks on “utilising nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” had given way to pragmatic interpretations of India’s nuclear option in the speeches made in Parliament by Opposition and Independent members and also from the ruling Congress party’s ranks.  The momentum in the “nuclear” direction also has developed as part of the discussion on the use of nuclear propulsion for submarines where the advantage over conventional submarines is overwhelming.  The net effect of the post-Bangladesh debate on a balanced defence system appropriate to the new environment in the sub-continent has been to present “incontrovertible” reasons for creating an Indian nuclear strategic technology.  It is no longer the political extremists who point to the advantages of going nuclear; the current mood in India is toward a center-moderate consensus which focuses on the pressing need to recognize nuclearization as the sine qua non of the big power withdrawal from the subcontinent.

Indian policy planners are convinced that, after Bangladesh, India has moved into a central position as far as regional management of power is concerned and there is no going back from the obligations inherent in the historical and geographical situation of the subcontinent.  Curiously, the inspirational motives of Indian foreign policy remind one of the “Manifest Destiny” theme with which the Americans have had some familiarity in their history.  The post-1971 improvement in armed strength is now being sought with the purpose of achieving major organic innovations.  These are intended to result in a cumulative strengthening of the Indian arsenal of offensive weapons.  As the most powerful country in the sub-continent, it is in keeping with the political realism of Indian defence planners that the build-up of personnel and equipment of expeditionary air and naval forces which can be used to project an Indian power presence is being pursued with hard-headed determination.

Indian officials concerned with security planning voice a preference for contingency planning for situations in which India may have to assume commitments to defuse situations where political tensions and instability across the borders may invite neo-colonialist interventions, or otherwise lead to horrible genocidal massacres.  The past rigid pattern of thinking excluded any necessity of building up expeditionary forces, and was coincidental with popular support of the government’s disarmament policies at international forums.  Most Indian writers on defence affairs believe that the die is now cast in favour of projecting India’s power status, and Indian military insularity has now few adherents within the defence establishment.  The acquisition of an “independent nuclear deterrent” is no longer perceived as an over-extension of the meager resources available for Indian defence; it is seen as a symbol of the dynamism and competence of an Indian deterrent policy and as a vital element in crisis management in adhering to which there are no major political inhibitions. 

It is generally believed that the Chinese are making a calculated attempt to multiply the feasible options in the subcontinent while refraining from normalizing relations with India whom they accuse of being engaged in “collusion” with the Soviet Union.  A decade after the traumatic happenings of 1962, the Indian public and government have chosen to interpret the Chinese military posture against India more as a shadow on the future, but not as one which is either volatile or which would inflict an unacceptable level of Indian casualties.

The latest developments in Sino-American relations have created an Indian anxiety that the United States may offer unrealistic accommodations to China which may inevitably close options for peaceful settlement between New Delhi and Peking.  More fundamentally, the view is gathering strength in India that, if India denies itself an independent nuclear capability, it will only provide incentives to the United States to aggravate political tensions between India and China.  The exercise of the nuclear option by India is now seen as a major step toward eroding the “anti-Chinese collusion” image of India and opening the way to a new pattern of improved Sino-Indian relations.


The major restructuring of the sub-continent has increased the expectation in India that it has to opt for a more significant role in relation to the outside pressures in the Indian Ocean.  India has not formulated its objections to the growing Russian naval power in the Indian Ocean since the Indo-Soviet Treaty emerged as a symbol of mutual political support, in the context of the general balance in Asia.  India naval defence planners are much less alarmist than those of some other countries who see the Indian Ocean turning into a Soviet sea.  It is, however, characteristic of their sophistication increasingly to emphasize India’s naval role and its potentialities for developing technologically feasible options in the Indian Ocean.  While India recognizes that a sort of balance is emerging between the Soviet naval presence and that of the United States (with the “communication facilities” at Diego Garcia), it is opposed to both sides exacerbating political problems in the Indian Ocean by demonstrations of their naval strength.  There is considerable evidence to suggest that at present Indian policy planners are seriously concerned with the problems and costs that might flow to India from the superpowers bringing their navies into the Indian Ocean.  A significant Indian involvement in the Indian Ocean is seen as extremely important if India is to take a clear-cut position to support moves to make the Indian Ocean a region of peace free from big power rivalry.  This specific view again leads to an Indian acceptance of sea-based deterrent forces as an important asset for an Indian Ocean policy.

The current Indian perspective on defence planning is flexible and pragmatic in assessing changes in the character of Soviet-American relations in the context of global strategic problems and arms control.  The fact is that, in the aftermath of the Indo-Soviet Treaty, Indian policymakers have been exploring new options and strategies which can cope with the constraints which develop as the two superpowers dramatically proclaim their agreements about their global interests.  A corollary of this pragmatism among Indian policy planners is a growing conviction that the groundwork has now to be laid for the eventual exercise of the nuclear option with the minimum of destabilizing effects.  In the Seventies, in its policies toward the two superpowers, India confronts the urgent necessity of choice, because both costs and benefits are inherent in any attempt to broaden India’s international involvements.  The feeling has grown strong after 1971 that the time to state explicitly and unambiguously India’s military-strategic position in the nuclear context is long overdue.

The framework of perception of the Indian bureaucracy is now wide enough to encourage the pursuit of goals relating to India’s long-term future, and both American and Soviet judgments are not perceived as final in deciding whether India should develop a credible deterrence.  The process of bureaucratic decision-making takes place with paradigms on national security, and the network of relationships between the political leadership, bureaucracy and public opinion has enough sophistication to identify the legitimate concerns of defence planning on which a broad front of agreement prevails.  It would not be an unrealistic exaggeration to say that, in the Seventies, while there is concern for the ways by which the Indian economy should be reoriented to meet the post-1971 needs of the country, the strictly military picture is quite encouraging.  The Prime Minister and Parliament have pledged to maintain and improve the nation’s military strength.  The international community has accepted India’s opposition and refusal to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty as a current “reality” while India’s “peaceful efforts” to develop nuclear strength are openly played up as a most important factor for national security.  Indeed, the whole edifice of defence orientation now rests on substantial budgetary provisions for the Defence Ministry, the Departments of Atomic Energy and Space which have removed many of the constraints in the nuclear-space efforts of the Nehru era.


One of the key areas for any discussion on Indian perspectives in defence planning is evaluation of China’s nuclear program.  It is obvious that the Joint Intelligence Committee, now part of the Indian Cabinet Secretariat, has been making a detailed analysis and assessment of how the Chinese are likely to deploy their nuclear forces in the decade ahead.  Indian intelligence policy faces intractable problems on account of the practice in the sixties of approaching Chinese developments from the American China-watching standpoint.  Since Washington started pursuing its normalization policy with China, US-style assessments are counterproductive as far as Indian intelligence estimations are concerned.  The Soviet intelligence estimates about China occasionally made available to New Delhi are also regarded as evading or bypassing Indian strategic objectives.  The expansion of the Indian external intelligence establishment is not unrelated to India’s new order of priorities in which intelligence assessment of the sophistication of Chinese nuclear establishment ranks high.

Broadly speaking, Peking’s nuclear capability is viewed in India as supporting four military-political objectives:

First, the Chinese have a viable offensive option against India and Japan (two countries with potential for a regional Asian challenge to China) with midrange ballistic missiles and provide an impressive demonstration of their effective military superiority as an Asian power.  Tactical nuclear weapons figure in the Chinese doctrine presumably as far as India is concerned to “punish” the Indians if the latter “provoke” war in Tibet in support of a Russian massive offensive on China.

Second, the primary stress of Chinese efforts vis-à-vis Moscow is to gain the minimum necessary protection against a Soviet pre-emptive strike against the nuclear complex in Sinkiang.  The uncertainty and risk from Russia will continue till the Chinese gain confidence that their second-strike capability is respected by Moscow.  Although China’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities will always seem slight in comparison with Russia’s, after China has test fired the expected ICBM over the Indian Ocean, the “Chinese threat” may possibly have important ramifications for those elements in the Soviet leadership which view a “new beginning with China after Mao” as realistic.

Third, whatever the Indian public attitudes against the “domino theory,” it is obvious that Indian policy planners are concerned about the effect of China’s nuclear capabilities as instruments for strengthening intervention and threats of escalation by Peking against Southeast Asian countries.

Finally, Indian decision makers find it increasingly relevant to estimate and forecast the implications of China’s status as the only “non-white” nuclear power which lends credence to its rhetoric in support of national liberation movements.

Considering the political advantages of normalization of Sino-Indian relations, the Indira Gandhi government has been trying to persuade the Chinese to agree to a series of phases in which better bilateral relations could emerge.  The Chinese, however, see their self-interest, after 1971, in hedging against the consequences which might flow from their condoning “Indian colonial designs” in Bangladesh.  While some Indian fears of Chinese retaliation against India or Bangladesh are misplaced, it would be in line with Chinese caution to develop detailed strategic planning toward the subcontinent with a view to enhancing Indian circumspection if New Delhi should show signs of undertaking more Bangladesh-type “adventures.”  Whatever the Chinese sincerity in affirming again and again that they will never be the first to use nuclear weapons, it is obvious that the coming into being of deterrent relationships with the Soviet Union after deployment of operational ICBMs will undoubtedly weigh heavily at a political level upon the Indians when they consider long-term measures.

Entirely aside from the question of nuclear blackmail, it is increasingly being recognized by India’s political leadership that, without Indian nuclear testing, it will become highly questionable whether any civilian government democratically selected can justify the country’s lagging behind in nuclear technological knowledge when India had a headstart over China in nuclear research in the Forties and Fifties.  Since October 1964, China has set off 12 nuclear devices.  Indian reactions to Chinese nuclear tests have varied depending on India’s political and strategic relationships and the world situation, but India’s knowledge and experience of detecting Chinese nuclear explosions at the Explosion Detection Center of India have come to a point where Indian scientists are convinced that there is no escape from nuclear testing if India is to keep track of Chinese nuclear explosions, including underground explosions.

As India has drawn nearer to the Soviets in 1971, the Chinese have viewed with mounting concern the shipments of Russian military hardware to India.  The Chinese interpret these Indo-Soviet arrangements as steps in the direction of adding to the vulnerability of China.  Apart from a conventional Russian collaboration with India, they also assign to the Russians nuclear deterrence to support a possible Indian conventional attack on Tibet.  As long as India does not deploy nuclear weapons, the Chinese are inclined to regard India as the beneficiary of a Soviet nuclear guarantee.  Indian defence analysts are in this context deeply concerned about the question whether India can afford the price of becoming a target for a retaliatory second-strike threat by China.  Thus, some students of national security policy would contend that one reason why India must seek and maintain strategic stability with China is that such an Indian doctrine would be the only way to convince Peking that India is not colluding with Russia for the latter’s own political purposes.  An independent Indian nuclear force prima facie would be the strongest argument for dispelling Chinese suspicions of Indo-Soviet collaboration.  According to this view, it is not unlikely that an Indian nuclear test would be followed by an official statement from Peking hailing the scientists of a fellow Asian country for ‘developing weapons for self-defence.”


The failure of the superpowers after years of effort to persuade India to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty testifies to the strong incentives of Indian policy makers to create an environment in which the principal considerations are: maintaining and developing the overlapping nuclear technology for peaceful commercial uses and for weapons development; expanding Indian production of fissile materials; making substantial advances in nuclear technology specially suited to indigenous resources; and non-interference in Indian nuclear operational processes.

While agreeing to the principle of non-proliferation (both vertical and horizontal), Indian diplomacy has deliberately chosen to focus efforts on the disarmament ideologies of the two superpowers, which ostensibly are aimed at giving a status of equality to the nuclear haves and have-nots.  The Indian notion of “atomic apartheid” in the context of Article III verification arrangements has hardened into a position of refusing to accede to the “brazen hypocrisy” of those who seek to impose a discriminatory non-proliferation treaty.  The stress of the Indian Arms Control Policy is no longer placed on the dangers of world-wide proliferation; it is now specifically concerned with India’s own nuclear anxieties and its desire to retain opportunities for manoeuvre and flexibility in the future.

India still couches its statements in the language of the Nehru era, but it is clear that India is no longer interested in retaining its profile as a member of the non-nuclear club.  A staple ingredient of Indian policy now is to issue warnings against attempts of big powers to deny technology to developing nations.  The most important results of the anti-Non-proliferation Treaty stand of the government of India have been the development of a new style of thinking in which the linkage between superpower security interests and Indian nuclear options is seen as a resource which can be translated into meaningful international political currency.

What are the implications of these new policy positions for India’s efforts to maintain and strengthen its comprehensive nuclear-space program?  As previously indicated, the Indian scientific establishment along with the civilian and military bureaucracy has actively participated in the second Great Debate on India’s independent nuclear capability.  The concern with the spin-off benefits of military-oriented nuclear-space research has now become dominant.  The advent of scientists like H.N. Sethna (Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission), Satish Dhawan (Chairman, Space Commission) and Raja Ramanna (Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Center) to apex positions underscores the change of atmosphere from the scientific setting of the Bhabha-Sarabhai period.  Although Dr. H. Bhabha’s remarks about the possibility of an Indian bomb in 18 months had stirred interest abroad about a prospective Indian atomic role, the scientific perspectives in the Nehru and Shastri eras were never oriented towards the acquisition of atomic weapons.  Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s nuclear ambitions are not discernible at the level of general policy, but observers have concluded that the organization of the Space Commission, and the Electronics Commission, in addition to and separate from the Atomic Energy Commission, is designed to achieve a breakthrough in the main technical problems of nuclear physics, ballistics and control systems.

Some perspective on the development of India’s nuclear capability is provided by developments such as the major breakthrough in 1966 at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in planning and completing without external assistance a plutonium separation plant.  Technical problems relating to the separation of U-233 from India’s existing stocks of plutonium have also been successfully solved.  India’s interest in developing a new generation of power plants using the plutonium-thorium-uranium cycle is based on an appropriate choice of utilizing the indigenous thorium resources.  Dr. H.N. Sethna, the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, has put the issue as follows:

The country has the largest reserves of thorium in the world and so it should have a long-term nuclear energy programme based on the use of thorium in future reactors.

A most important juncture in India’s nuclear program will be reached when India is able to utilize its vast thorium resources through its own fast breeder reactors.  Although behind schedule, the completion of the first unit of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project was viewed as a key stage in India’s scientific and technical program.  The construction was entirely in Indian hands, and its fuel cycle permits the use of natural uranium which does not have to be imported and is mined by the Uranium Corporation at Jaduguda.  The groundwork for a final decision to undertake an underground nuclear explosion appears to have been prepared in Rajasthan.  The ostensible purpose of such an explosion would be extraction of minerals like copper and uranium, but, given the present mood in India, there would be little effort to disguise the possibility of conversion of “peaceful uses” to military purposes of the project.  India’s atomic self-reliance will be reinforced when the Kalpakkam fast reactor is completed.  The successful operation of Purnima, a zero energy prototype fast reactor, is a significant link toward the advanced scientific technology which will be used in Kalpakkam.  The strengthening of self-reliance in civilian nuclear technology will undoubtedly emphasize the seriousness of the growing Indian interests in a national nuclear weapons program.

A further transformation of the Indian arms control policy will set the stage for an Indian participation in the dialogue on international stability, for which the developing Indian nuclear capabilities will serve as an instrument of diplomacy in the hands of a resilient Indian leadership.  The strategic implications of India’s space establishment are no less significant although they have not been interpreted in public debate as crucial to a future military program.  The Shriharikota Rocket Range is well on the way to acquiring a satellite launching facility, and is the main center of effort along with the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station where activity in space research is being developed toward more self-reliance.  The deterioration in Indo-American relations has reduced the possibility of widening Indian cooperation with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  India has, however, been receptive to the offers of cooperation from the Soviets and from the Japanese Institute of Space and Aeronautical Sciences at the University of Tokyo and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales in France.

The priorities in the nuclear program, the space program and in the field of electronics appear on the surface to be the same when India accepted the premises of non-proliferation.  The modifications in the Bhabha-Sarabhai outlook are in fact designed to make “self-reliance” the basis of a scientific contribution under which India’s drive for atomic power hood appears to informed observers to have become both credible and feasible.  The military and scientific decisions for the creation of an Indian nuclear deterrence will not be disclosed, but it stands to reason that chain reactions in decision making are often triggered when the morale of a nation is high and when the Pakistani debacle has given India an opportunity to achieve its regional goals and have enhanced its international standing.


The agreement on nuclear parity between the superpowers at the Moscow summit has been witnessed by Indian observers as a declaration of nuclear status quo which may drastically reduce India’s own options if India allows either the US or the Soviet Union to use “international stability” as a lever against India.  The Indian position resembles that of France’s nuclear diplomacy in the context of Franco-American relations.  The contemporary interest among Indian defence planners and diplomats in the writings of Pierre M. Gallois, Charles Ailleret, Pierre Messmer, Andre Beaufre and Raymond Aron suggests that the Indians approach nuclear problems not in the superpower framework, but with national interest as the guide to harsh political and military realities.  The strongest case for going nuclear now rests not on “domestic political reasons” as some Western commentators were wont to point out, but on the foreign policy consideration that only a nuclear India can extract political, military and economic advantages from the two superpowers.  The essential line of development of Indian thinking is now to downgrade in the policy area the leverage of the superpowers in the form of withdrawal of economic aid or outright military threats.  The release from earlier constraints also follows from the way the non-proliferation cause has been hamstrung by the phenomenon of Chinese nuclear development, and the lack of any evidence that the United Kingdom and France are going to get rid of their sophisticated nuclear weaponry.

In a world where the two superpowers have the same general intention to reduce their risks of injuring one another, the Indians have watched with particular concern the Russian acceptance of the “humiliation” of the United States mining of Haiphong coincidentally with the Moscow summit, and have seen in Nixon’s action the symbolic demonstration of how the new code of conduct among the two superpowers will work in the future.  In facing China as an adversary armed with medium and short-range missiles, any capability of counter-balancing through adherence to “international stability” would appear meaningless.

What does the Indo-Soviet Treaty mean in concrete terms as far as India’s nuclear perspective is concerned?  Does the Soviet Union now have the requisite leverage to force India to avoid the nuclear decision?  Toward what priority choices will India move as it intensifies its cooperation with the Soviet Union?  In any discussion of India’s conduct in international affairs or of its foreign policy goals, the characteristics of Indo-Soviet relations must be examined closely.  Political evaluations of the Indo-Soviet Treaty have varied from those which exaggerate its positive results in safeguarding Indian national security.  It is not surprising that, after the successful Indian action in Bangladesh, the voices which criticized the treaty within India have become muted.  The more decisive aspect of the long-term situation is the refusal of the Indian Government to create a blind dependence on Soviet principles of “international order.”

The fear of Soviet incursion upon Indian decision making in matters affecting India’s vital interests has to be seen against the background of the clarification given by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi shortly after signing the treaty, when she said that it would not fetter the country’s freedom of action in regard to the Bangladesh problem and that the country would “not allow any power, big or small, to interfere with our internal affairs.”  The problems of future Indo-Soviet relations will undoubtedly be tackled with this precedent in mind, and it is unlikely that the accent on deterrence against Chinese intervention and the United States’ “tilt” in favour of Pakistan will lead to India closing its eyes to the Kremlin’s own “great-power chauvinism.”  Mrs. Gandhi’s political style is to maintain her freedom to manoeuvre, and the Soviets cannot expect political gains which create distortions of her own long-term aims.  The domestic political debate in India also tends to make Soviet engagements into controversial issues and throw the Russian position open to much criticism.  Among areas of tensions within Indo-Soviet relations are the Indian position on the Nonproliferation Treaty, the Soviet ambivalence on the Chinese territorial claims against India, the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean, and Soviet moves for re-establishing close ties with Pakistan.  Despite the opinions which are expressed by some American commentators about the amalgamation of Indian and Russian attitudes, the “framework of mutual consultations” between the two countries is actually characterized by highly pragmatic conduct.

While there are direct and indirect Soviet pressures on India, the view that Indian decision-makers are vulnerable to Soviet displeasure is without foundation.  Very often it is the Russians who are on the defensive as for example during his visit to India the Soviet Naval Chief Admiral Sergei G. Gorshkov was at pains to point out that the Soviets had not built any bases in the Indian Ocean area and were not going to have any bases, although the Soviet ships sailed under difficult conditions in this region.  Usually, from India’s point of view, demonstrative gestures of friendship toward the Soviet Union are merely intended to streamline cooperation in specific fields.  India has been seeking Soviet help, for example, in electronics, computers and atomic and space research, and the newly created Indo-Soviet Commission on Economic Scientific and Technical Cooperation may be expected to evolve negotiating guidelines for enabling Indian scientists to gain access to Soviet nuclear, space and other scientific facilities.  Despite the Soviet interest as a superpower in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the present methods and extent of scientific collaboration with India may be followed by a progressive elaboration depending especially on India’s manifest resolve to reject all attempts to freeze its scientific (including nuclear-space) enterprise.


 A minimal Indian deterrent posture would have some clearly defined objectives which would serve the immediate goals of those who feel that Indian nonalignment has lost its way in the new balance which is emerging in Asia.  Admittedly, it is a difficult undertaking after India has been busy for two decades making inputs of investments in “non-proliferation” and “disarmament.”  What are the political and diplomatic requirements of the radical alternative of “going nuclear”?  The following have primary importance.

First, the convergence of Soviet and Indian interests in opposition to the parallelism of United States and Chinese attitudes must be converted into a “special relationship” detached from the Brezhnev formulations on Asian security.  India must show skill in managing the Indo-Russian relationship to enable India to count upon a continued Soviet interest in peace in the subcontinent while roundly opposing any solutions which would give the Soviets an Asian continent-wide role previously played by the British or the United States.

Second, in its relations with the United States, realism would dictate that, while the leverage of foreign aid should be firmly rejected, India should explain its changing course not in terms of “petty nationalism,” but in response to regional developments affecting India’s security.  The extent to which India creates credibility for itself as a distinct element in the new balance in Asia without the Russian apron strings will give strength to the Indian position in American eyes.

Third, India should spurn all formulas for the containment of China, and consistently emphasize the limits of its nuclear problem vis-à-vis China.  Within this framework, the effects of the Chinese nuclear program on India, and the development of India’s own response, should be realistically examined.  In political terms, such an approach would not reduce the opportunities that otherwise exist for a movement toward a Sino-Indian détente.

Fourth, India must map out a special approach to Asian developments like the change in Sino-Japanese relations after the Tanaka-Chou summit.  Indian policy makers must adopt a careful “verbal strategy” which takes into account the evaluation of the strategic environment by China and Japan in their roles as Asian neighbours.  It is quite necessary for Indian analysts to determine the new patterns of nuclear planning and restraints which become visible in Japan as it assesses its security needs in the new era and diversifies its international role.   

Finally, India has to reassure Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries that any utilization of Soviet technology and materials is not designed to deploy and operate Indian nuclear forces as subsidiary to a Soviet imperial presence in Asia.  The misgivings in Southeast Asia about the Russian naval domination in the Indian Ocean must be faced squarely and should be the subject of intimate dialogue with these countries.

The fundamental problem facing a nuclear India is to develop its fruitful realism of 1971 into a purposeful acceptance of the obligations of power and give up ideas of fixed hostility to Peking and Islamabad.  India’s nuclear role will be a modest one, but it can be given coherence if its essential concepts are related to Asian stability.

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