Home Contact Us
Search :
   

Nuclear - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3029, 22 December 2009
 
The Logic of the 'Sundarji Doctrine'
Ali Ahmed
Security Analyst
e-mail: aliahd66@hotmail.com
 


Deterrence theory has understandably been imported into South Asia with the onset of nuclearization in the late eighties. It, having contributed to keeping the Cold War ‘cold’, has much to offer on how the nuclear equation is to be managed. Simply put deterrence posits making a credible threat of nuclear retaliation to ensure that the enemy desists from using nuclear weapons in first place.

Official Indian nuclear doctrine has predicated deterrence on assured nuclear retaliation that promises to be ‘massive’ to enemy first use. This is a controversial extension of the promise of inflicting ‘unacceptable damage’ that had been suggested by the earlier Draft Nuclear Doctrine. Unacceptable damage does not require ‘massive’ numbers, when ‘sufficient’ would do. Both, ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation and infliction of ‘unacceptable damage’ have been queried by this author in earlier contributions here (‘The illogic of massive punitive retaliation’ and ‘The illogic of ‘unacceptable damage’). It is only fair that an alternative be suggested. This article makes such an attempt.

The doctrinal options for India that practices No First Use are: ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation as currently posited; infliction of ‘unacceptable damage’ with ‘sufficient’ numbers as in the Draft Nuclear Doctrine; ‘flexible’ nuclear retaliation depending on nature of enemy first use, desired effects and demands of in-conflict deterrence; and lastly, ending a nuclear exchange at the lowest possible level. As argued earlier, inflicting ‘unacceptable damage’ on the enemy without also degrading his means of retaliation could result in receiving like ‘unacceptable damage’ in its counter strike.

In conflict, deterrence would have it that the power to destroy the enemy with the remainder of one’s arsenal would deter his infliction of unacceptable damage on us. Such self-deterrence in the enemy after receiving ‘unacceptable’ levels of damage is wishful. Since a counter of like proportions is virtually assured, and would be unacceptable to us also, it makes sense not to get into a position of receiving such a counter strike. This means our retaliatory strike should not be of the order as to provoke a counter that inflicts ‘unacceptable damage’.  

‘Flexible’ nuclear retaliation, implying a measured retaliatory strike, suggests itself as a suitable option. It is permissive of a wider range of options than strikes causing ‘unacceptable’ levels of damage. The problem with this is that there is no guarantee against escalation and termination of exchange(s).

It is here that the less-discussed ‘Sundarji doctrine’ has advantages. This requires termination of the exchange(s) at the lowest levels of escalation. It explicitly states the intent not to escalate by promising to remain at the lowest level and promising to end the exchange earliest. This gives incentives to the enemy to stay at the lower end himself and not to go in for further exchanges, hoping to give us similar incentives. This is at variance with deterrence philosophy that is instead a competition in showing resolve and willingness to face even ‘unacceptable’ punishment.  

Such a doctrine makes better sense for India. Firstly, India, just as its putative nuclear adversaries, has vulnerabilities that aggravate ‘unacceptable damage’. It would not be able to cope with the aftermath, even if emergency is invoked. It has repeatedly been demonstrated that India’s disaster response mechanisms are weak. While these will strengthen over time, Cold War experience indicates that protection through anti missile defences and shelters etcetera is an expensive chimera.

Secondly, the poor would suffer more, especially the long term impact. Unprecedented breakdown of order, in multiples of the Partition experience, would occur. India though powerful, is also a ‘weak’ state. The verities of national life, as we know it, will be challenged. The impact on polity could be a lurch towards the Right and authoritarianism. In case of Pakistan being the nuclear adversary, internal communal harmony may not withstand the strain of misplaced perceptions and those taking political advantage of the situation. Thus, even if the enemy is ‘finished’, ‘India’ as we know it, would also cease to exist. Receipt of ‘unacceptable damage’ would be equivalent to shocks administered by Timur, Nadir Shah and Abdali in history.

Lastly, provinces that have borne the impact of an ‘unacceptable damage’ in the form of loss of an urban centre would be miffed. The balance of ethnicities and communities that is India in reality would be upset. Appraisal of the changed local balance would be likely to make the groups effected disillusioned enough to reopen sovereignty issues.

In deterrence theory, self-deterrence occurs due to such negative prognostications. Therefore, theory has it that political ‘resolve’ has to be cultivated and demonstrated. Doing so reinforces deterrence. But consideration as to the response when deterrence for some reason or other has broken down, requires moving away from the promise of inflicting punishment to preserving oneself from unacceptable punishment.

In this light, the Sundarji doctrine recommends itself. It would help preserve India, even while sparing the nuclear opponent the temerity to break the nuclear taboo. Its expectation that nuclear escalation can be avoided needs debate. Measures that need to be instituted for its success, such strategic dialogue in a permanent nuclear risk reduction and management mechanism, can then be emplaced.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Pakistan: Crouching Democrats, Hidden Khakis
Mullah Fazlullah: Challenges to the ?Eliminate or Extradite? Approach
Taliban after Afghan Elections: Spring Offensive or the Last Stand?
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Of Inquilab and the Inquilabis
Pakistan: Of Messiahs and Marches
Zarb-e-Azb: The Decisive Strike

Dateline Kabul
Mariam Safi
Can Afghanistan Become a "Perfect Place?"
Afghanistan: Political Crises After the Presidential Run-off
Taliban?s Spring Offensive: Are the ANSF Prepared?
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
Abe?s Successful Visit to Dhaka: Two Political Challenges
Girl Summit Diplomacy and Bangladesh-UK Relations
India-Bangladesh: After Sushma Swaraj's Visit

Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
Changing Global Balance of Power: Obama?s Response
Obama Administration: Re-engaging India
US in South Asia: Declining Influence
East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India in East Asia: Modi?s Three Summit Meets
Modi's Visit to Japan: Gauging Inter-State Relations in Asia
North Korea: Seeking New Friends?

Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
China in Nepal: Increasing Connectivity Via Railways
India-Nepal Hydroelectricity Deal: Making it Count
Federalism and Nepal: Internal Differences
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point
Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?
BRICS: The Oceanic Connections

Middle Kingdom
DS Rajan
China in the Indian Ocean: Competing Priorities
China-Japan Friction: How can India Respond?
Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Musings on the Bomb
The Second Nuclear Age in the Asia Pacific

Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Six Thousand Plus Killed: The Naxal Ideology of Violence
Anti-Naxal Operations: Seeking Refuge in Symbolism
A 'New' Counter-Naxal Action Plan
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Obama?s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India
Modi?s Tryst with Abe
Thinking the Unthinkable: Promoting Nuclear Disarmament

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
War against the Islamic State: Political and Military Responses from the Region
The Islamic State: No Country for the Old World Order
India and the Conflict in Gaza
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories
A Strategic Review for India
Indian Ratification of the Additional Protocol: Mischievous Reports Miss its Significance

The Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability
The Indo Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
Myanmar's Political Transition: Challenges of the 2015 Election
South China Sea: Intransigence Over Troubled Waters
Indonesia: 2014 Presidential Election Explained

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
The Islamic State Caliphate: A Mirage of Resurrection
A Covenant Sans Sword
Strife on the Global Commons
Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Stronger Democratic Values for a Better Tomorrow
Sri Lanka and China: Towards Innovation Driven Economies
India-Sri Lanka: Strengthening Regional Cooperation
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
Pakistan: Why is Army against Nawaz Sharif?
Pakistan: Degraded Democracy
Domestic Politicking in Pakistan: It's Not Cricket, Stupid!
Voice from America
Amit Gupta
Modi?s US Visit: So Much Promise, Such Little Outcome
India and Australia: Beyond Curry, Cricket, and Commonwealth
And Then There is the Middle East: The Lack of an End-Game

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


  Error : You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near 's nuclear programme%' or keyword2 like '%India's nuclear programme%' or keyword3' at line 2