Recent reports suggesting that India’s second indigenously built nuclear powered strategic missile submarine (SSBN) Arighat is likely to get commissioned in early 2021 is extremely encouraging news. The presence of a second SSBN will not only demonstrate India’s strategic intent, industrial and technological prowess but will also enhance the credibility of India’s nuclear posture.
Indian nuclear doctrine released in 2003, is anchored in ‘No First Use’, ‘minimum credible deterrence’ and ‘maximum assured destruction’. An invulnerable capability to deliver a retaliatory strike is therefore integral to this posture for it to be credible.
It should be able to deter an adversary in the first place but if the adversary is foolish enough to launch the first strike, it should be able to deliver a second strike with ‘maximum assured destruction’.It is the fear of the retaliatory strike that underlines the concept of strategic deterrence.
In the nuclear triad of strategic weapon delivery platforms from land, air and the sea, the submarine-launched sea-based element is most effective as a deterrent and offers the most credible second-strike capability. While a nuclear first strike could incapacitate the land and air-launched capability thus neutralising the possibility of an effective second strike, it is only the sea-based element onboard a submarine operating stealthily and silently deep below the surface somewhere in the vast ocean spaces from a position unknown to the enemy, which can be relied upon to deliver an effective second strike. It is this capability which also makes a submarine the most effective deterrent.
An SSBN carries an impressive arsenal of nuclear ballistic missiles of ranges in thousands of kilometres with independently targetable warheads which have the ability to destroy the world several times over.