An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 01 October 2002

Recently after the attack on the temple in Gandhinagar, India’s Defence Minister George Fernandes made a bold statement that bolder steps would be taken to deal with terrorism, in view of Pakistan having stepped up its cross border support to terrorist activity. At the same time President Bush enunciated the policy of “anticipated defence“ to deal with Iraq and Generals Richard Myers, Peter Pace and C-in- C of Rapid Force at Tampa, Florida and Air Chief Gen John Jumper have completed a war game, Prominent Hammer 11, to assure America that a swift, strong and IT led strike can be made against Iraq. The Armed Forces are readied but have not been put on alert. Senior Generals and Admirals took part with clear Aims to enable change of regime in Iraq, but the President cannot go to war without the Congress giving its approval as per the Law Governing War Powers and Public Law enacted in USA.

In India as we had explained earlier, war is governed by Art 74 of the Constitution. We also suggested that immediate changes are required in this Article, as now we are a nuclear state and we discuss here ‘How Nuclear Ready Are We?’ Bharat Karnad in his book titled ‘NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND INDIAN SECURITY’ has given all the details of India’s nuclear status and just as we analysed over a year ago, that without further testing India’s nuclear arsenal is not battle ready, so does Bharat explain the same thing and like us he relies greatly on the many statements and findings of Drs Sreenivasan, Iyengar and George Perkovich in the main. He was part of the NSAB and the Draft Nuclear Doctrine Committee so he had access to official data.

In India there has been mobilization since December 2001 and 400,000 Indian and 300,000 Pakistani troops are ranged against each other along the borders and it is the “uncertainty of intentions” of these two nuclear powers that worries the world. In August 2002, Pakistani troops infiltrated 1 km into the areas of Malecchi and Loonda Sector of Gurez in Kargil, across the Line of Control before being detected, called Kargil 2 by the media. The mountainous border cannot be kept under complete surveillance and many posts in the region have changed hands from time to time.

As in the 1999 Kargil war, India had to employ Mirage 2000 aircraft again to thwart the incursion. Pakistan’s confidence to titillate and take on India stems from its rough but ready nuclear fission uranium Rocket Forces, commanded by a Lt Gen. Hence India’s military nuclear readiness level deserves an analysis as we have had Ashley Tellis and Jasjit Singh tell us that India’s nuclear forces are recessed and not under any one command.Both India and Pakistan have been termed as Backward Nations with Advanced Technologies under the acronym BNAT, because they possess weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Iraq also a BNAT, President Bush is worried.

The nuclear tests conducted by India and followed by Pakistan in May 1998 took the world by surprise but now it is well documented that India pursued its nuclear bomb programme stealthily under most Prime Ministers’ direct support. The funding to BARC at Mumbai and DRDO continues unabated. Pakistan pursued nuclear programmes aggressively under Military control with subterfuge and tacit help from China. Now it claims it has missile and aerial delivery systems in place to nuke India but since 1998 no testing of weapons has taken place in both countries. In the West rigorous testing was essential to prove the efficacy of the weapons. Dr Iyengar has explained this and Bharat Karnad puts a lot of the responsibility on Dr Chidambaram and NSA Brajesh Mishra. About the latter, who is the key to India’s nuclear weapons he says, ”Mishra has done little writing of his own. But from what meager evidence is available, he is essentially a person with “a risk averse mindset, oriented towards short-term objectives and unwilling to think ahead or rigorously enough ……” These are telling words which in the past we have alluded to.

Mr Brajesh Mishra and PM Vajpayee have repeatedly stated that India has declared a unilateral moratorium on testing and that the weapons possessed by India are not intended for aggressive purposes. India has also declared a “no first use” principle. These two policy statements have lulled the Armed Forces in India who have desisted from asking for the nuclear wherewithal, should the need ever arise to retaliate against Pakistan’s first strike. Deterrence also works on the principle that the aggressor be made to heed the enemy’s nuclear capabilities. Many months ago President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was lecturing at the College of Combat Mhow in his capacity as an Academic. He answered a uniformed senior audience and assured them that the required nuclear arsenal would be provided to the Military at the appropriate time if Pakistan ever attacked. For DRDO the nuclear bomb became a reality when it passed a full field drop test in May 1994 at Balasore. Kalam therefore probably implied that dummy bombs and war heads had been tested and were in readiness with BARC for assembly, to be delivered by the Indian Air Force and by missiles, the only two modes feasible at present. Former Air Chief SK Mehra had disclosed that Mirages had carried out dummy sorties of toss bombing years ago, and the IAF swears by the Mirage 2000H which remains the sole air breathing nuclear weapon delivery system. Ten more Mirages with modifications are on order on Dassualt and ten SU-30 MKI’s have been recently inducted. The challenges of EMP may have been addressed, but as the Indian Navy learnt in the case of the INS Talwar EMI/EMC issues are very important.

Over $2 billion dollars have also been spent to operationalise the Prithvi and Agni missiles. The Prithvis are operational in the conventional role with 333 and 444 Missile groups of the Indian Army in Punjab, and the liquid fuelled missiles once readied are capable of being fired within six months with war heads of high-explosives (HE), pre-fragmented unitary HE, incendiary, cluster munitions (bomblets), and fuel-air explosives (FAE) weighing around half a tonne.

A nuclear war-head of this size is now within the technical capability of BARC and DRDO. In the Kargil war of 1999 the Pakistani threat to use nuclear weapons did not surface, but in June 2002 when India threatened Pakistan with war if it did not stop cross border terrorism, President Musharraf declared Pakistan would use Nuclear weapons to defend itself. Flying time between the two nations is in minutes. This raised the ante the world over. Since mobilisation there has been a spending wave by the Armed Forces from their revenue and capital budgets. India’s nuclear arsenal also must have been strengthened, but no details are forthcoming.

On 22 May 1998 Brajesh Misra had stated, “Let it not be forgotten that PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir), including the so-called Northern areas, is an integral part of India. After all, the unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament in February 1994 to this effect is absolutely clear.” In absence of any contrary Military Directive regarding Kashmir to the Armed Forces, they are duty bound to ensure the territorial integrity of India.

Hence the Chiefs have to have war plans ready and practiced for any eventuality including a nuclear strike however remote it might be. Logic would dictate that in the event of a nuclear strike by Pakistan, Indian Armed Forces may be ordered to retaliate on counter value and counter force targets with alacrity. It is therefore presumed the nuclear strategy and tactics have been tried out by the Armed Forces. However it is also known this task was to be completed by the Strategic Force Commander under the Chief of Defence Staff over one year ago, but the political leadership has not been able to appoint either one of them.

Inter Service rivalry is still rife to stake control of their own nuclear forces. The easiest way out for the Government to resolve this dilemma has been taken, by not assigning any forces per se to the proposed Strategic Force Commander. The question then is can Indian Armed Forces execute a second strike without operational practice, nuclear doctrine and a tried out command and control structure. There is so much to nuclear strike and safety procedures of stowage and aborts. This begs the question. Is the Indian Government confident of its second strike? Surely the Armed Forces have to answer that.

The DRDO have indicated the 800 Km AGNI-I single stage solid fuel missiles with 1000 kg warheads have been tested and the missile is both rail and road mobile on Tatra trucks. A control room to feed data accompanies the missile. The covers can be slid off and the missile can be elevated and fired in 15 minutes. This is heartening, and seems technologically feasible but any weapon system to become operational needs a lot of practice in the field with trials. None have been sighted or reported.

On the other hand Pakistan just as firmly believes that Indian controlled Kashmir is an integral part of Pakistan. Three of the four Indo-Pakistani wars have been fought over this same territory. The increasingly aggressive Indian posture, coupled with the current tension along the LoC, raises a very real possibility of war returning to the region. The nuclear factor is of concern.

Current Nuclear Arsenal

There are no official figures for weapon stockpiles even at this stage of development of India’s arsenal and facilities are not subject to scrutiny. The only figures that can be offered are estimates made from considerations of India’s probable ability to produce critical raw materials and considerations of likely production plans.

The types of weapons India could field as discerned from the tests are:

  • A pure fission plutonium bomb with a yield of 12 kt

  • A fusion boosted fission bomb with a yield of 15–20 kt, made with weapon-grade plutonium. This is questioned by most experts as unusable for the time being

  • A fusion boosted fission bomb design, made with reactor-grade plutonium

  • ·Low yield pure fission plutonium bomb with yields from 0.1 kt to 1 kt

In October 2000 David Albright made the most widely accepted estimates of India’s plutonium production. At the end of 1999 India had available between 240 and 395 kg of weapons grade plutonium for weapons production, with a median value of 310 kg. He suggests that this is sufficient for 45–95 weapons (median estimate 65). The production of weapons grade plutonium has actually been greater, but about 130 kg of plutonium has been consumed –– principally in fuelling two plutonium reactors, but also in weapons tests. His estimate for India’s holdings of less-than-weapons-grade plutonium (reactor or fuel grade plutonium) are 4200 kg of unsafe guarded plutonium (800 kg of this already separated) and 4100 kg of IAEA safeguarded plutonium (25 kg of this separated).

Delivery Systems

Agni-I Under series Production


Length           :     18.4 meters

Diameter        :     1.3 meters

Weight           :     16,000 kg

Range            :     700-1500 km

Stages           :     Single/Two stage, solid fuel (HTPB, hydroxyl-terminated                  polybutadine / oxidizer)

Guidance       :     Strap-down inertial; in-flight positioning update with GPS.

Payload         :     1000 kg; Re entry vehicle has carbon-carbon composite heat shield; Thermonuclear warhead (200–300 kt)?, fission/boosted fission warhead (greater than 15 kt)? “Agni” is Hindi for “fire” and is also the name of the Hindu deity of fire and the cost is estimated to be $ 2 million per piece.



Length           :     20 meters

Diameter        :     1.3 meters

Weight           :     16,000 kg

Range            :     2500–3000 km

Stages           :     Two stage, solid fuel (HTPB, hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene/oxidizer)

Guidance       :     Strap-down inertial; in-flight positioning update with GPS.

Payload         :     1000 kg; Manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle with carbon-carbon composite heat shield; Thermonuclear warhead (200-300 kt)?, fission/boosted fission warhead (greater than 15 kt)? The Agni-II costs approximately $10 million per missile and is manufactured by a partnership of the DRDO/ DRDL and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) in Hyderabad. It is expected that BDL will be manufacturing 10–12 missiles every year.



Length           :     9 meters

Diameter        :     1.1 meters

Weight           :     4000 kg

Propulsion      :     Single stage, dual motor; liquid fuel - inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA) oxidizer; 50% xylidene, 50% triethylamine fuel

Guidance       :     Inertial

Versions        :     SS-150 (Prithvi-1); Army version –– range 150 km, payload 1000 kg SS-250 (Prithvi-2); Air Force version –– range 250 km, payload 500-750 kg

Dhanush (“Prithvi-with modifications); Naval version –– range 350 km, payload 500 kg fired from INS SUBHADRA twice.


Summary of Pakistan’s Missiles


Alternate Names

Range (Km)

Payload (Kg)

Test Firing








April 1989


In service since 1996





February 2000


In service?





April 1989


In service?





3 July 1997?


Never deployed





15 April 1999


Deployed September 2000





6 April 1998







14 April 1999








Declared ready for test Sept. 2000



Ghauri-3? (Ghaznavi?)



15 August 2000??
















30-80 Supplied



1.         NDC: National Defence Complex

2.         KRL: A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories

3.         DPRK: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)

4.         Hatf-2 may be a Pakistani manufactured M-11

5.         Shaheen-1 believed to be based on Chinese M-9 technology and design Shaheen-2 believed to be based on Chinese M-18 or DF-21 technology and design Ghauri and Ghauri-2 are believed to be DPRK (North Korea) No-dong missiles or No-dong based designs


It can therefore be concluded that India does have a credible nuclear arsenal but how effective it is for urgent deployment by the Armed Forces is being kept secret, which is counter to the conventional nuclear strategy of deterrence.

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