South Asia Center Nonresident Fellow Iskander Rehman writes for the Indian Express on India’s nuclear submarine and other naval nuclear developments:
Almost six years ago, in Visakhapatnam, Gursharan Kaur, wife of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cracked a coconut on the hull of India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). Subsequently named the INS Arihant or “destroyer of enemies”, the vessel was the result of decades of efforts by India’s nuclear scientists. For many years, bureaucratic languor, technical challenges and chronic difficulties in nuclear reactor miniaturisation appeared to ensure that progress would be painstakingly slow. Indeed, at one stage, it became unclear whether the project would see the light of day.
In August 2013, when the Arihant’s nuclear reactor finally went critical, the event was thus widely hailed, both in India and abroad, as a major technological and symbolic milestone. Currently undergoing sea trials, the Arihant is destined to be the first vessel in a flotilla of up to five indigenously produced SSBNs, and it has been reported that a sister vessel, the INS Aridhaman, is nearing completion. Since the Pokhran-II series of nuclear tests in 1998, the Indian government has repeatedly iterated its desire to attain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, structured around what nuclear strategists refer to as a triad, that is, a mixture of aircraft, land-based mobile missiles and naval assets. India’s nuclear doctrine states that it is a no-first-use power, and it is in this light that one must view the importance attached to the sea-based leg of its nuclear deterrent.