Do we really need naval nuclear weapon systems?

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The Indian Navy and its scientists and engineers are extremely proud of their water warrior – INS Arihant, an indigenous nuclear submarine. But is this something that was necessary?

This is a universally accepted fact that an initiation of a nuclear attack would mean mass destruction. And the destruction would not remain confined to the borders of nations involved rather would leave an everlasting impact far beyond the borders of the nations involved. The United States got away even after their much controversial bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki because at that time they were the only nation with nuclear weapons. However, today the situation is totally different and far more dangerous.

There is a common myth that has been developed and spread across by the major nuclear powers like United States about the nuclear triad. The theory goes this way that if a country X initiates the nuclear attack on the country Y, then the country Y must be in a position to retaliate with a massive nuclear attack after absorbing the strike from X. This ability is being termed as second strike capability. In case X manages to destroy the land and air nuclear weapon systems of Y in its first strike, Y still has the navel leg to retaliate. Also, these sea based weapons would be launched from nuclear submarines and hence it would not be able to detect them. Thus, the basic function of the third triad is its survivability. Clearly, naval nuclear systems are not deterrent in any scenario rather as mentioned above, they survive for retaliation.

In an event where the country A initiates a nuclear strike, by no means will this country be able to destroy all the land and air based weapons on the target country B. Mainly because, the main target of A would be the population centres. Hence, all the weapons would remain intact and available for retaliation. In any case, there would be no effect on the deterrence capability of B. So, if the possession of naval nuclear weapons is only to deter the enemy from initiating a launch, it would add to deterrence value.

Still, if the countries reach to a point where they may consider using nuclear weapons, this would definitely be preceded by a period of conventional war. The side which is going to face defeat would only think of using them. But, in today’s scenario such situation would not arise immediately. The conventional war itself starts after several days of negotiations, including mediation by external forces and United Nations Security Council. Whether these negotiations bear any fruit or not is another question but this would certainly give the target country enough time to disperse its land and air nuclear weapons. The naval leg doesn’t seem to be indispensable.

 

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