By Dean Nelson
India will soon launch its first home-built nuclear submarine, capable of firing ballistic missiles, as the country escalates an arms race with China and Pakistan.
INS Arihant, planned to be the first of five submarines of its class, will be ready to begin sea trials, said Admiral Nirmal Verma, the navy commander. When the vessel eventually becomes operational, India will be able to launch nuclear missiles from the sea, land and air, joining a handful of countries possessing the "nuclear triad".
The strategic aim is to deter China and Pakistan and establish India as the leading power in the Indian Ocean.
"INS Arihant is steadily progressing towards becoming operational," said Adml Verma. "We are pretty close to putting it to sea."
The navy was poised to "complete the triad, and our maritime and nuclear doctrines will then be aligned to ensure our nuclear insurance comes from the sea," added Adml Verma. "Given our unequivocal 'no first-use commitment', a retaliatory strike capability that is credible and invulnerable is an imperative."
INS Arihant will carry the K-15 ballistic missile, which carries a nuclear warhead. However, this weapon has a relatively modest range of less than 500 miles, raising questions about its ability to hit a target in China.
Nonetheless, Adml Verma's statement is likely to provoke a strong reaction from Beijing, which warned India against 'arrogance' earlier this year following its successful launch of the Agni IV intercontinental ballistic missile, a land-based weapon which can strike any city in China.
Mohan Guruswamy, from the Centre for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi, said the imminent launch of the new submarine "changed the equation [between India and China] considerably."
He pointed out that India was also planning to launch six nuclear-powered attack submarines, adding that within seven years the country should have a varied fleet which would, in theory, be able to block Chinese access to the Indian Ocean via the Strait of Malacca. "They could be sitting off Karachi – or China. It's an investment for the future," said Mr Guruswamy.
Courtesy: Telegraph, UK, Aug 09, 2012