India’s nuclear breakout in 1998, foreshadowed as early as 1974, may have been
understandable for reasons of global nuclear politics, a triangular regional
equation between China, India and Pakistan, and domestic politics. Yet the
utility of India’s nuclear weapons remains questionable on many grounds.
Nuclear deterrence is dubious in general and especially dubious in the subcontinent.
Nuclear weapons are not usable as weapons of compellence or defence.
They failed to stop the Pakistani incursion in Kargil in 1999 or the terrorist attack
on Mumbai in 2008. They will not help India to shape the military calculations
of likely enemies. And India’s global status and profile will be determined far
more crucially by its economic performance than nuclear weapons. Meanwhile,
they do impose direct and opportunity costs economically, risk corrosion of
democratic accountability, add to global concerns about nuclear terrorism, and
have not helped the cause of global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
Because the consequences of a limited regional war involving India could be
catastrophic for the world, others have both the right and a responsibility to
engage with the issue. For all these reasons, a denuclearized world that includes
the destruction of India’s nuclear stockpile would favourably affect the balance
of India’s security and other interests, national and international interests, and
material interests and value goals.