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Pokhran-II: an H-bomb disaster


Agni missile

China would be undeterred by our A-bomb arsenal of the yields indicated above. So we reiterate our considered view — shared by the majority of our nuclear scientists, strategic analysts and, above all, our military — that a solely A-bomb arsenal is inadequate as a deterrent against China. Otherwise, why did four prime ministers want a TN device (H-bomb) and why did the then Prime Minister Vajpayee and his NSA Brajesh Mishra direct and insist with the BARC-DRDO leadership — Kalam, Chidambaram, Santhanam and Kakodkar — that at least one P-2 test must be of a TN device? (via K Santhanam & Ashok Parthasarathi: Pokhran-II: an H-bomb disaster).

At the cusp of history

India, is at the cusp of becoming a military power, which will make the cost of an military confrontation unacceptable to the aggressor. However, the position at the cusp, is statistically, always the most tricky. India, though far better prepared than in 1962 and 1965,  has not yet become a unquestioned military force – and is yet a thresh-hold power.

Prospective aggressors would do well to remember that in 1971, India opened war on two fronts against Pakistan. On the Western front, Indian armed forces held out against a US-equipped, armed, financed and supported Pakistan. On the Eastern front, Indian Armed Forces captured more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers as POWs, which is the largest POW capture in post WW2 wars.

At another level, there is the reductionist perspective, that beyond a point, nuclear arsenals can only “make the rubble bounce.”

In modern warfare

To my mind, more critical than thermonuclear or the H-bomb, is the delivery mechanism. India, must focus on missiles which can shoot down incoming missiles and at the same time evade enemy radar and defence missiles. This will be the low cost, high impact defence strategy which can make India handle this cusp situation better. These can be low range to medium range missiles – which will target military installations and NOT civilian targets.

The other aspect is that an arms race is a mug’s game. What gives military victories is the difference between armies. Armed parity will ensure a prolonged war of attrition – and not victory. India should not try for parity – but a differentiating factor.

What can make a difference

There may even be merit in having micro A-bombs which will vaporize invading forces. Instead of spending more and money on bigger and bigger bombs, it may be counter-intuitive to make smaller, more compact bombs. These can be used against invading forces – instead of the Nagasaki-Hiroshima model.Battle scenes from Ramayana

My favorite battle story

From the Ramayana – Hanuman kills Dhumaraksha.

Dhumaraksha’s fearsome chariot, with braying and neighing  mules, clashing cymbals and rolling bells, clanging metal and fearsome pennants, featuring vultures, rolls out from the Lanka’s gates, onto the battlefield. Wreaking havoc on the vanarsena.

The sight of the chariot inspires fear – and the vanarsena is on their feet, without chariots, some 2000 miles from home, with nil supply lines, against a renowned Asura force. After watching the battle sway back and forth, seeing the flagging morale of his warriors, Hanuman picks up a huge boulder and crushes Dhumaraksha’s chariot. Dhumraksha himself jumps off the  chariot and escapes death. Now on the ground, on his feet, Dhumaraksha is quickly killed by Hanuman.

So, there is some sense in not getting too sophisticated, after all.

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