Warfare In 21st Century - 2: The Nuclear Debate

"I have always advocated that India move away from ' NO FIRST USE ' precept to ' NEED BASED FIRST USE ' Mere change will put our hostile neighbours on notice " Opines Gp Capt TP Srivastava in Part 2 of MVI debate

Warfare In 21st Century - 2: The Nuclear Debate

Editor's Note: 'Meaning of War in the 21st Century ' by Thierry Meyssen has given a deep insight into the complexity of war in the present era with a thought provoking historical perspective to warfare as it evolved with times and advancement of science, technology and the changing human mind set. The article focuses on the present ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine with implications for the world. In the Indian context what lessons can we draw from this war?

Responses received from some of our learned veterans from the three services are reproduced below to collectively give the readers the overall general perception of our knowledgeable faujis and what they perceive and advocate for the well being of the armed forces and the country. The subject by itself is so vast, complex with rapidly changing situations, emerging uncertainities that this debate can go on endlessly! It is hoped that our debate triggers more responses and articles to enrich the minds and perceptions of readers.

Trigger: 'The Meaning of War in the 21st Century' by Thierry Meyssan, published at The Peninsula Foundation, on October 22, 2022.

Responses to the Article in the Indian Context

Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh

The word or technology  NUCLEAR is common to Strategic and Tactical Nuclear weapons. But these two differ drastically in the extent of damage these cause, and target area. One is very small yield weapon to be primarily used in Tactical Battle Area against military targets. The Strategic Nuclear weapons are against Enemy Nation, primarily civilian population targets.

The plan for defence of NATO against the Soviet Union was initially based on Low Yield Nuclear weapons due to inferior conventional forces.
Subsequently, Pakistan announced its intention to use TNWs if Indian Forces crossed some Red Lines. THIS HAS CERTAINLY PLACED CAUTION ON INDIAN ARMY OFFENSIVE PLANS.

Lately, Putin has brandished use of TNWs against Ukraine.

India should send signals to China and Pak in appropriate manner, that we will use TNWs in case large scale offensive launched by our adversaries against India.
A nation facing two Front war and being inferior in conventional forces has no other choice.

India has a Nuclear Triad, which will act as deterrent against Strategic Nuclear attack by our adversaries.

The Indian Armed Forces should start discussing use of TNWs in our training establishments. In 1960s, Nuclear Scenario Sand Models were even part of JC Course at Mhow, including the Course I attended.

Now there is a talk of use of even EMP weapons in Ukraine and EMP  weapons are shown on TV!!

Lt Col. MK Gupta Ray                  

It's been very rightly brought out that principles and field application of nuclear warfare must be included even at unit level training so that it doesn't come as a shock to the soldiers whenever it comes.

Politically and militarily it must be taken as an accepted fact and troops must be trained, equipped and authorise commanders to use at tactical and strategic level depending on deployment and target value. It can't be achieved in a day or two. Considering the geopolitical situation and aggressiveness of the neighbours the preparation has to start from today at whatever scale it is possible  ,it's a long term game. It's essential to start building nuclear shelters and issuing necessary clothing and equipment and various facilities needed to come out relatively safely  needed to mitigate the effect of nuclear blast.

One must remember, as always reminded by defence thinkers that one has a choice to start a war but not end it. It may be easily escalated to a situation beyond control.

In traditional wars, up to perhaps second world war, there was still an end point to arrive at an armistice and a treaty but in nuclear era it's perhaps difficult to achieve a midpoint stop. If at all achieved, destruction may be irrevocable. No battle Will end with TNW. This will automatically be escalated to higher yield by the losing country in the course of retaliation. One must, therefore, have Nuclear Weapon of maximum yield in one's arsenal to act as a deterrent.
Initially nuclear policy was treated as deterrent. When adversaries were found to develop their nuclear arsenal, policy was modified to retaliatory power. Now the present policy is thought to be to develop minimum second strike capabilities, in case first strike could not achieve desired result.

Russian-Ukrainian war has provided two important strategic lessons in the  present war. These are:

  1. Russian stand on nuclear threat has been able to stop Nuclear-powered countries physically participating in favour of Ukraine by instilling fear of nuclear escalation.
  2. Same Russia has to stop aggression beyond a limit fearing retaliatory escalation. This is more a battle of nerves than tactical or strategic skill, battle field manoeuvre, command and leadership ,etc. Beyond a point in today's world these are immaterial.

What's needed, if all other parameters are equal, robust foreign policy, strong economy, good alliances with like minded foreign power, very good relationship with immediate neighbours creating a defence shield, adequate reserves, very powerful Air Force and Blue Navy and last but not the least very strong visionary political leadership and educated citizens focused towards integration of the country.

Stop the powerful Nuclear country from actual employment of Nuclear weapons fearing no-holds bar nuclear war, leading perhaps to complete destruction. No one can give any authentic guarantee that war will end with employment of TMC.
India amongst all countries of world including US, Russia, China and all European countries is a most geopolitically suited country. If we can't take  advantage of it, that's because mostly of Political and partly Military leaderships.
In today's warfare in larger scale it's not the war of defence forces but of the entire nation and its machinery. We need to Think Big !

Gp Capt TP Srivastava        

May I suggest that persons dwelling into nuclear scenario read latest study by SIPRI. I have always advocated that India move away from 'NO FIRST USE ' precept to 'NEED BASED FIRST USE' .        

Mere change will put our hostile neighbours on notice. Talking about creating nuclear shelters and troop level awareness about nuclear attack is like holding candle to the sun. No country, USA included, has the capability to provide any degree of protection to troops and population. Will North Korea inform the time, trajectory, and target? Likewise will Pak or China do that? Can we, rather do we have the guts to take pre emptive strike decision? Even our military leadership is scared to talk about wilful first strike. Rest of the issues are superfluous and English prose.  Military continues to miss the 'woods' for 'trees'. Trend unlikely to change. Biggest reform needed to make us a truly world class military, equipment wise is:                                              

1. DPB to be headed by respective service chief.                                      

2. Appoint independent Secretary Air Force, Army and Navy.                

3. Abolish post of Defence Secretary.

60 years after China debacle an Indian still says "Hindustan ki fauj China se haar gayi". They do not say that Krishna Menon, then RM and Defence Secretary lost the war. Equipment wise Indian Military is in regressive mode. But self proclaimed military strategists do not have the guts and wisdom to say that. They are stuck with and ready to accept a three star CDS and Theatre Commands.

(Views expressed are the respondent's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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