Monday, 28 September 2020


Part II



Ali Ahmed, PhD (JNU), has been an infantryman, an academic and a UN official. His second doctorate, a PhD under Special Regulations from Cambridge University, was awarded based on his publications - inter-alia - on nuclear doctrine. This book is second part of a compilation of his writings on nuclear doctrinal issues in South Asia.

 For anti-nuclearists



This is the second part of Nuclear Heresies. The title owes to the main theme of the book, that a nuclear doctrine that was genocidal to begin with, is now suicidal. The doctrine self-interestedly assumes that South Asia is not in the state of Mutual Assured Destruction. Since at the crunch this notion will be rudely dispelled, the book endeavours to make the case that it would not do to wait that long and instead rethink deterrence and rework doctrine, if not be rid of the wretched weapons themselves.

The book has been twenty years and more in the making. It comprises commentaries with focus mainly on the India-Pakistan strategic equation, of which the nuclear factor is a critical part. It engages with the doctrinal interconnection between the two subcontinental states, arguing that their two doctrines taken together make for a combustible mess.

The book covers the century so far. Since we have managed to avoid a nuclear punch up, this implies we can get along. By no means is this thanks to nuclear weapons. We can thus coexist if not collaborate, and without nuclear weapons at that. This vision needs to energise people, lest someday nuclear use be the trigger for good sense.

I thank the publications in which these commentaries appeared over the years. I have used others’ works as peg for my arguments, sometimes using their ideas for target practice. While some were genuine bhakts of the false god, deterrence, there has been over the years an ideological contamination of doctrinal space by bhakts of the better-known variety. My singular contribution, if any, has been to point to this, hopefully to the betterment of strategic thinking in general. 

I hope the commentaries inspire students in particular. Here they can access the nuclear field through an Ashokan lens. The liberal rationalist perspective has a long historical tradition in South Asia. It needs airing in order that someday it gets the momentum and escape velocity to reclaim its place, if not sway, in Indian strategic culture.




1. The Nuclear Domain: In Irreverence                                                                                                               8


2. Modi at the Helm: Whither Nuclear Decision-making?                                                                                                              17


3. Indian Nuclear Command and Control                                                                                                             21


4. Indian Nuclear Command and Control – II                                                                                                             29


5. The Scientific Establishment: From the Brahmachari Bomb to Brahmastra                                                                                                             34


6. Information Operations in Limited Nuclear War                                                                                                             52


7. A Call for nuclear sanity                                                                                                             54


8. Avoiding Nuclear War in South Asia                                                                                                             56


9. India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Strategic Direction or Drift?                                                                                                              58


10. Modi May Say Otherwise, But India Is Still Short of ‘Survivable Nuclear Deterrent’                                                                                                              59


11. What nuclear weapons have done to us                                                                                                              61


12. Are India’s nuclear weapons in safe hands?                                                                                                              63


13. Nuclear Battlefield Preparedness                                                                                                             64


14. India-Pakistan: Contrasting Doctrines                                                                                                             66


15. Conventional Backdrop to the NuclearForeground                                                                                                             72


16. Visualising the Impact of Nuclear Operations at the Conventional Level                                                                                                             78


17. India’s forthcoming nuclear doctrine review                                                                                                             81


18. At the Conventional-Nuclear Interface                                                                                                             88


19. The Doctrinal Challenge                                                                                                              93


20. The Danger of Strategic Determinism                                                                                                             99

21. India and China: Nationalism and Nuclear Risk                                                                                                            101


22. Political Dimensions of Limited War                                                                                                            102


23. What Does India Mean By ‘Two Front’ Problem?                                                                                                            105


24. Mountain Strike Corps: The Nuclear Dimension                                                                                                            108


25. Exit Points and the Updation of Cold Start Doctrine                                                                                                            109


26. What Does India Mean By ‘Massive’Retaliation?                                                                                                            112


27. Nuclear Use: Need for Thinking on Political-Level Considerations                                                                                                            115


28. India’s Nuclear Doctrine Review: Don’t Leave It to the Hawks!                                                                                                            116


29. Nuclear Doctrine Review: NRRC                                                                                                            118


30. Diplomatic Engagement in a Post Nuclear Use Environment                                                                                                            121


31. The Aftermath of Pakistani Nuclear First Use                                                                                                            123


32. Nuclear Doctrine Review: Three Deterrence Models                                                                                                            125                                                                                                                


33. Severe Indigestion From Nuclear Orthodoxy                                                                                                            127


34. An Indian Nuclear Doctrine Review: A Third Model                                                                                                            129


35. Kashmir and the Bomb                                                                                                            131


36. Nuclear Doctrinal Revision for the China Front                                                                                                            133


37. India’s Nuclear Doctrine: The Storm in India’s Nuclear Teacup                                                                                                            135


38. India-Pakistan: Distancing the Spark from theNuclear Tinderbox                                                                                                            136


39. Rethinking India’s Nuclear Doctrine                                                                                                            140


40. The Post Conflict Factor in Nuclear Decision Making                                                                                                            144


41. India, Nuclear Weapons and ‘MassiveRetaliation’: The Impossibility of Limitation?                                                                                                            146


42. Nuclear Use Consequences for Pakistan                                                                                                            147


43. Hatf IX and Possible Indian Responses                                                                                                            149


44. Deterrence has a Shaky and Brief Shelf Life                                                                                                            151


45. Demonstration Strikes, in an Indo-Pak Conflict Scenario                                                                                                            152


46. Tit for Tat: A Nuclear Retaliation Alternative                                                                                                            154


47. What Does Pakistan Hope to Achieve with Nasr?                                                                                                            156


48. Pakistan’s ‘First Use’ in Perspective                                                                                                            158


49. Making Sense of ‘Nasr’                                                                                                            161


50. Nuclear Targeting Caveats                                                                                                            163


51. The Military Intelligence Function in Future War                                                                                                             166


52. Implications of Indian BMD Developments                                                                                                            168


53. Nuclear Implications of the ‘Two Front’ Formulation                                                                                                            170


54. Re-visioning the Nuclear Command Authority                                                                                                            172


55. Policy Brief  Reviewing India’s Nuclear Doctrine                                                                                                            175


56. The Need for Clarity In India’s Nuclear Doctrine                                                                                                            181


57. India’s Response to CBW Attack                                                                                                            184


58. India’s Nuclear Doctrine                                                                                                            187


59. Taking Nuclear War-Fighting Seriously                                                                                                            193


60. India-Pakistan: Missing NCBMs                                                                                                            196


61. Prospects of India-Pakistan Nuclear Confidence Building                                                                                                            198


62. NCBMs: Scaremongering, But with a Purpose                                                                                                            200


63. The Direction of India’s Deterrent                                                                                                            201


64. Implications of Indian BMD Developments                                                                                                            203


65. Should India Give Up its NFU Doctrine                                                                                                            205


66. The Logic of the ‘Sundarji Doctrine’                                                                                                            206


67. The Illogic of ‘Unacceptable Damage’                                                                                                            208


68. The Illogic of ‘Massive’ Punitive Retaliation                                                                                                            209


69. Nuclear Trajectory in South Asia                                                                                                            211


70. Nuclear C2: The Balance Agenda                                                                                                            212


71. Deterrence Stability in a Context of Strategic Instability                                                                                                            214


72. Hatf IX and Possible Indian Responses                                                                                                            216


73. Arguing for NBC Training                                                                                                            218


74. Mountain Strike Corps: The Nuclear Dimension                                                                                                            220


73. One gaffe too many                                                                                                            221


74. Whose command? Whose control?                                                                                                            224


75. The nuclear numbers game                                                                                                            226


76. Wanted: A peace movement                                                                                                            228


77. Making nuclear sense                                                                                                            230


78. The Bright Side of ‘Asymmetric Escalation’                                                                                                            232


79. On Disarmament Prospects in South Asia                                                                                                            234


80. Yet Another Nuclear Controversy                                                                                                            235


81. The Myth of ‘Weapons of Peace’                                                                                                            237


82. Getting it Right: Rereading India’s Nuclear Doctrine                                                                                                            239


83. Pakistan’s Possible Nuclear Game Plan                                                                                                            240


84. The Calculus of ‘Cold Start’                                                                                                            242


84. Limited Nuclear War, Limitless Anxiety                                                                                                            244


85. The Day After ‘Cold Start’                                                                                                            247


86. The Logic of Nuclear Redlines                                                                                                            248


87. A Smoke Screen called Limited War                                                                                                            250


88. The Need to Revisit Conventional Doctrine                                                                                                            251


89. The Impetus Behind Limited War                                                                                                            252


90. Preparing for ‘Limited Nuclear War’                                                                                                            253