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Fri Aug 23, 2013, 09:13 AM

Nuclear deterrence is overrated


August 23, 2013
Nuclear deterrence is overrated
Ramesh Thakur

The real risks and costs of having these weapons, both monetary and human, far outweigh their security benefits

The Indian Navy has figured in three recent, global news items. The launch of the indigenously developed aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, expected to be operational by 2018, makes India only the fifth country after the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and France to have such capability. The diesel-electric submarine INS Sindhurakshak caught fire and exploded, causing the tragic death of 18 crew. In the early hours of August 10, the reactor on the nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant (“slayer of enemies”), with underwater ballistic launch capability, went critical.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, launched the 6,000-tonne Arihant in Visakhapatnam on July 26, 2009. In time, it was said, with a fleet of five nuclear-powered submarines and three to four aircraft carrier battle groups, a 35-squadron air force and land-based weapons systems, India would emerge as a major force in the Indian Ocean, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.

The strategic rationale is to acquire and consolidate the three legs of land, air and sea-based nuclear weapons to underpin the policy of nuclear deterrence. Unfortunately, however, the whole concept of nuclear deterrence is deeply flawed.


The world is perched precariously on the edge of the nuclear precipice. As long as anyone has nuclear weapons, others will want them; as long as nuclear weapons exist, they will be used again some day by design, accident, miscalculation or rogue launch; any nuclear exchange anywhere would have catastrophic consequences for the whole world. We need authoritative road maps to walk us back from the nuclear cliff to the relative safety of a progressively, less-heavily nuclearised, and eventually, a denuclearised world.

Our goal should be to make the transition from a world in which nuclear weapons are seen by some countries as central to maintaining security, to one where they become increasingly marginal, and eventually entirely unnecessary. Like chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons too cannot be disinvented. But like them, nuclear weapons too can be controlled, regulated, restricted and outlawed under an international regime that ensures strict compliance through effective and credible inspection, verification and enforcement.

(Ramesh Thakur is director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Australian National University. The article is based on a paper presented at the “Arms Control and Strategic Stability” conference in Beijing, August 8–9.)

Via http://antinuclear.net/2013/08/23/misplaced-complacency-about-nuclear-deterrence/

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