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In stand-off, keeping an eye on the nuclear ball

  • IASbaba
  • July 8, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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INTERNATIONAL/ SECURITY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

In stand-off, keeping an eye on the nuclear ball

Context: There is now growing evidence that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to expand its nuclear arsenal

Why China is increasing its nuclear arsenal?

  • Power projection: An increased nuclear arsenal means a stronger deterrence to China’s opponents
  • Against USA: China is pursuing a planned modernisation of its nuclear arsenal because it fears the multi-layered missile defence capabilities of the United States.
    • China is arming its missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) capabilities to neutralise America’s missile shield. 
    • China’s DF-31As, which are road mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), are equipped with MIRVs and potent penetration aids.

Expansionist mode of China vis-à-vis Nuclear arms 

  • Increased Tests: The PRC’s ballistic missile tests in 2019 were the highest among the designated Nuclear Weapon States (NWS). 
  • Increased Nuclear Arsenal: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) observes that China’s nuclear arsenal has risen from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 warheads in 2020.
  • Tactical Nuclear Weapons: China’s Lop Nur was the site of Chinese sub-critical testing since the PRC adopted a moratorium on hot testing in 1996, enabling China to miniaturise warheads.
  • Sizeable Inventory of Fissile materials: China is estimated to possess 2.9+-0.6 metric tonnes of Weapons-grade Plutonium (WGP) compared to India’s is 0.6+-0.15 tonnes of WGP
  • Goal to match U.S. & Russian nuclear force levels: The Chinese state mouthpiece, Global Times, has recently called for a 1,000-warhead nuclear arsenal, underlining the motivation of the PLA 

Challenges to India due to China’s nuclear expansionism

  • Sophisticated nature of Chinese nuclear capabilities relative to India, give Beijing considerable coercive leverage against India which could alter the conventional military balance
  • Increased nuclear arsenal could lead China to press ahead with a limited aims war.
  • China is believed to base a part of its nuclear arsenal in inland territories such as in the Far-Western Xinjiang Region, which is close to Aksai Chin. 
  • Korla in Xinjiang is believed to host DF-26 IRBMs with a range of 4,000 kilometres, which can potentially strike targets across most of India. They can be either conventional or nuclear tipped
  • China’s land-based missiles are a primarily road mobile and could play a key role in any larger conventional offensive China might mount against India along the LAC.

Way Ahead

  • Conventional escalation between Chinese and Indian forces along the LAC must factor the role of nuclear weapons and their impact on military operations 
  • India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) needs to be on a heightened state of alert to ward off any Chinese nuclear threats
  • India should start seriously assessing its extant nuclear doctrine and redouble efforts to get a robust triadic capability for deterrence.

Connecting the dots:

  • No First Use policy of India’s nuclear doctrine
  • Nuclear Suppliers Group and why India is not a part of it?

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