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Sea-basing threatens India's minimalist nuclear strategy

Both the draft nuclear doctrine released in 1999 and the official nuclear doctrine released later in 2003 state India's commitment to a minimalist nuclear posture.

This nuclear minimalism was best advocated in the policy of credible minimum deterrence (CMD). Two assumptions inform the concept of CMD. First, that deterrence can be projected at low numbers, and second, that a ready arsenal – delivery vehicles mated with warheads at continuous alert – is unnecessary. The commitment to low numbers of warheads meant that CMD could help avoid unnecessary 'vertical proliferation'. Such a posture was therefore considered propitious for nuclear stability.

But will CMD remain valid as India shifts its nuclear arsenal to the sea? The coming of the Arihant, India's first nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), constitutes a formidable challenge to India's posture of credible minimum deterrence and therefore, also to strategic stability in the region.

The present configuration of INS Arihant allows it to carry 16 nuclear-tipped missiles. By the end of this decade, India plans to deploy five to six such SSBNs. Clearly, the warheads required to arm these submarines would alone be close to the current estimates of the total number of nuclear weapons (between 90-110) in India's arsenal. This increase in numbers would not be alarming if India was to shift its entire nuclear arsenal underwater as France and Britain have done. In fact, in 2000, in a well argued and equally well received book on India's nuclear strategy, Raja Menon – an influential strategic analyst and a retired rear admiral – suggested precisely this course.

Various factors militate against such a prospect, however.

For one thing, the current generation of India's sea-launched ballistic missiles lack the range for an underwater deterrent to be credible. The K-15 or Sagarika, the only missile ready to be deployed on Arihant, has an effective range of only 700km. Though this may be sufficient for projecting second-strike capability against Pakistan, it is clearly inadequate for retaliating against China. With such a short range, Indian SSBNs would have to enter dangerous waters in East Asia to release their payloads. India, therefore, will continue to rely on aircraft and missiles for nuclear delivery. The rivalry among India's army, navy and air force will also frustrate any shift to an underwater-only nuclear arsenal. All three services want a part of the nuclear arsenal, both for budgets and prestige. This is similar to the US experience during the initial years of the Cold War.

Furthermore, the number of Indian nuclear warheads would spike if the Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) ambitious plan of introducing multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRV) into India's nuclear delivery systems bear fruit. The DRDO claims that, in the near future, Indian missiles could be capable of carrying 4 to 12 nuclear warheads atop a single missile. Multiple warheads clearly imply a multiplying arsenal. 

Then there is the question of India's nuclear readiness. The conventional wisdom is that India's nuclear weapons are in a state of 'recessed deterrence' – disassembled, de-mated and de-alerted. In case of a nuclear emergency, operationalising the nuclear arsenal would require coordination among multiple agencies such as the DRDO, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the armed forces. All these agencies control different subsystem of the nuclear arsenal: AEC controls the nuclear core; DRDO controls the non-fissile triggers and the armed forces control the delivery vehicles. Such diffusion automatically suggests a disassembled arsenal.

However, as Vipin Narang has argued recently, the idea that 'India keeps its nuclear weapons is a disassembled state...is largely now just a myth'. DRDO has publicly articulated its position of 'canisterising' or 'encapsulating' all nuclear delivery systems, which requires that a 'warhead is likely to be pre-mated to the delivery vehicle and kept hermetically sealed for storage and transport'. The rationale emanates from the need for a credible second strike capability. As the DRDO chief explains, 'In the second strike capability, the most important thing is how fast we can react.  We are working on cannisterised systems that can launch from anywhere at anytime'.

Though last-minute checks and balances would still be in place, this is not a picture of a 'disassembled' nuclear force. This is particularly true of nuclear-armed submarines. Since such submarines may have no links with the mainland during a patrol, warheads cannot be possibly detached from the delivery vehicles. In the case of land-based and air-based delivery platforms, coordination among multiple agencies is still possible, but an underwater deterrent requires a ready arsenal. 

So Arihant and its progenies will not only increase the size of India's nuclear arsenal but also its readiness, making the idea of a CMD practically meaningless. This could have a spiral effect on Pakistan, which would increase its own weapons production and battle readiness. We are already witnessing this, with increasing numbers in her nuclear arsenal and intentions to develop tactical nuclear weapons. It may also lead to new proliferation challenges for India if Pakistan avails of China's services to acquire its own nuclear triad.

The Lowy Institute gratefully acknowledges support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation for this Interpreter debate, which is part of a broader research, dialogue and outreach project on strategic stability in Indo-Pacific Asia.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Japan's continuing confidence in the alliance

The views expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent those of National Institute for Defense Studies or the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

I am inspired by the recent debate on The Interpreter about the trajectory of Japan's security strategy. Brad Glosserman's Washington Quarterly article, which prompted the debate, sketches the contemporary discourse in Japan. Many do indeed appear to accept the decline of Japan rather comfortably, which, Glosserman suggests, explains why Japan does not go beyond picking 'low-hanging fruit' in economic and security policy. Although I personally wouldn't use this expression, I agree with Brad's underlying message that the series of recently announced policy initiatives do not constitute a radical change in Japan's strategic posture.

Building on Brad's explanation, which focuses on Japan's domestic discussion, I would add another key factor which accounts for why Japan is not changing as fast or as dramatically as a number of external observers, including Hugh White, anticipate. That is: despite the hot debate about the end of the US unipolar moment, the Japanese Government continues to place a high degree of confidence in the leadership of the US, and indeed in the alliance. In other words, from a Japanese perspective, changes in the external environment have not yet reached the point where Tokyo is forced to fundamentally reconsider its post-war strategy, founded upon its alliance with the US.

The Abe Government's National Security Strategy (NSS) captures this perception: 'though its relative influence in the international community is changing, the US remains the country that has the world's largest power'.

Japan's confidence is also underscored by America's repeated commitment to the alliance, powerfully demonstrated by flying B-52s through China's so-called air defence identification zone in November 2013 and President Obama's affirmation of the US treaty obligation to defend the Senkaku Islands. The Abe Government's confidence is also widely shared by the public. According to a recent poll by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), 70% of respondents believe the alliance should be maintained or even further reinforced. I am sure this widely shared confidence in the Japan-US alliance shapes opinions and discourses within Japan and encourages many to feel comfortable with the status quo.

Of course, this does not mean the Japanese Government is blind to some of the challenges facing the US both on its international and domestic fronts.

In order to support the US in this difficult time, Japan's policy aims to strengthen and further support the alliance rather than switching to any alternative strategy. This is, at minimum, a fourfold initiative: (1) reforming Japan's security policy and system by establishing the National Security Council, amending some long-standing self-imposed restraints and building a 'Dynamic Joint Defense Force'; (2) adjusting the alliance infrastructure, including the defence cooperation guidelines, in line with China's 'gray-zone' activities and Japan's constitutional reinterpretation; (3) reaching out to third parties who share Japan's interests and values, including most prominently Australia; and (4) attempting to manage the relationship with China.

As Malcolm Cook rightly argues, Japan's policy moves are largely consistent with what the US is trying to do in Asia. Perhaps the only existing discrepancy between Japan and the US is how successful each has been at engaging China. While the US institutionalises its relations with China through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue and regular summit meetings, so far Japan's engagement vis-à-vis China remains stagnant, despite the Japanese Government's consistent calls for dialogue.

The current status of Japan's engagement with China is a concern for the alliance. It is more difficult for regional partners to cooperate with Japan if Sino-Japanese relations remain strained. It may also slow the US-Japan initiative to work with third countries (eg. a Japan-Australia-US or Japan-Korea-US framework). Furthermore, a functioning and healthy Sino-Japanese relationship is clearly advantageous to the alliance. For example, creating a Sino-Japanese maritime communication mechanism (a key agenda of Japan's China engagement) would help Japan and China avoid accidental or inadvertent escalations and hence prevent the US from having to make a difficult decision about how to respond. This is the key reason why the US vocally supports Japan's China engagement.

The past few weeks have seen some positive signs in the Japan-China relationship. On the sidelines of this year's ASEAN Regional Forum ministerial meeting, the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers held a dialogue for the first time since the Abe Government came to power. In addition, speaking to a visiting Japanese parliamentary delegation on 18 August, Chinese Vice-Present Li Yuan Chao made some positive remarks about the possibility of an Abe-Xi summit meeting when Prime Minister Abe visits China for APEC in November.

How effectively and quickly Japan's engagement with China is restored is still an open question. But there is no question that any progress in Japan's engagement with China will support the US-Japan alliance and thus further strengthen Japan's confidence in the alliance. 

Image courtesy of the White House.

SSBNs destablising? Not if command and control is maintained

Ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) became the seagoing platform of choice for the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons by 1960, with the availability of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Today there are five countries with operational SSBNs. The US, the UK, France and Russia all have a major part of their deterrent capability deployed on SSBNs, while China has three or four SSBNs, though not all are operationally available.

Before getting into a discussion on how the spread of sea-based nuclear weapons in Asia would affect stability, it is worth revisiting some concepts regarding 'stability'. To clarify, this discussion is about nuclear stability, not about prevention of conventional conflict. In other words, our frame of reference is to examine whether the possession and deployment of nuclear-armed submarines in Asia would provoke, or conversely prevent, escalation of a conflict over the nuclear threshold. With this in mind, the following is a brief review of the existing concepts:

  1. Strategic stability exists when there is mutual acceptance of relative nuclear force levels (which is not the same thing as the forces being equal) and neither side has the intent or desire to alter it. A change in this relativity could induce willingness to strike first, either by the side that perceives itself as weaker (as a pre-emptive defensive measure) or by the side that sees itself as stronger and therefore immune from effective counterstrike.
  2. Crisis stability exists when the nuclear weapons of both sides are not vulnerable to inadvertent or unauthorised launch, when both sides are confident in each other's determination to avoid escalation, and when the command and control (both politico-military as well as technical) is robust and can withstand political crises.
  3. Deterrence stability prevails when each side knows that the nuclear forces of the other will survive an attack and be able to deliver an effective retaliatory strike with consequences that will be unacceptable to it. 

The only Asian country that currently has SSBNs in service is China, though their detailed operational status is not clear. India is in the process of operationalising its first SSBN; however it is not clear when a matching submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) will be available. Pakistan does not have any SSBNs and has not declared any intention of building or acquiring any, though there are reports of it considering nuclear warheads for its submarine-launched cruise missiles. The only other nuclear weapons deployed in the Asian maritime region are those on US and Russian submarines. With this background we may consider the question at issue.

Let us for convenience consider the relevant countries in dyads, beginning with the US-China equation. The US has overwhelming nuclear superiority in forces as well as technology, and the SSBNs that China can deploy against it will not seriously affect the balance between them for some time to come. If however China's SSBN program goes smoothly and it has five or six operational units in the next three or four years, that would be a significant challenge which the US would have to address. From a theoretical standpoint it is more destabilising when one nuclear power in a dyad has the overwhelming advantage, and China having a demonstrable ability to retaliate, albeit with a much smaller force, will reduce the possibility of a preemptive strike by an adversary. 

A similar situation exists with the India-China dyad. China's nuclear superiority rules out any first strike attempt by India. With a far smaller arsenal than China's, India is vulnerable to a first strike. The deployment of SLBMs will strengthen India's second-strike capability, on which it is largely dependent because of its 'no first use' policy. India is not pursuing parity in nuclear forces with China; if it did that would create arms race instability. The Indian SSBN program will not address the nuclear imbalance with China, but will improve strategic stability by giving India a credible ability to retaliate to a nuclear attack. 

The India-Pakistan equation is more fraught. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is a little larger than India's and growing rapidly, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. According to reports, Pakistan also has a nuclear submarine building program, and although Pakistan has no known plan to deploy ballistic missiles at sea, there have been reports of plans to miniaturise a warhead for fitment on submarine-launched cruise missiles. Considering India and Pakistan share a long land border, and potential targets on both sides are a few minutes' flying time apart, it is hard to see how the Indian SSBN, when operational, would in any significant way change the nuclear stability equation. On the other hand, just as a destabilising element has been created on land by the introduction of Pakistan's Nasr tactical nuclear missile, if Pakistan does fit submarine-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads it would result in the delegation of the control of nuclear weapons to the tactical level and thus dangerously destabilise the situation.

To conclude: the deployment of sea-based nuclear weapons will not destabilise the nuclear balance in the Indo-Pacific provided this is restricted to ballistic weapons with centralised launch authority and the requisite command and control structures. The situation would, however, become extremely unstable by the arming of ships and submarines with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The Lowy Institute gratefully acknowledges support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation for this Interpreter debate, which is part of a broader research, dialogue and outreach project on strategic stability in Indo-Pacific Asia.

The dangers of SSBN proliferation in Indo-Pacific Asia


It has become commonplace to lament the arms races underway in Indo-Pacific Asia.

China's military modernisation over the last two decades has helped provoke heightened political tensions and growing concern in capitals from Tokyo to New Delhi to Washington and Moscow. North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems keeps tensions in Northeast Asia high. The Indian subcontinent is home to two nuclear powers that have fought four wars over the last 65 years. Many countries in the Asian littoral have undertaken serious rearmament programs, and across the region strategists see a proliferation of missiles of all types — anti-access systems, aerospace capabilities and naval platforms, among others. 

Regional nuclear modernisation programs, especially the development of submarines (nuclear powered or conventional) armed with nuclear weapons, are of special concern.

China and India are committed to producing more nuclear-capable delivery systems and weapons with greater range, accuracy and features that make them more lethal and thus more threatening to potential adversaries. Meanwhile Pakistan is pursuing its own program to acquire more capable submarines from China. While no one is arguing, as yet, that Pakistan intends to acquire ballistic missile submarines, some analysts hint that nuclear-tipped cruise missiles are a real possibility. Given Pakistan's record on nuclear proliferation over the past decades, such fears appear real. 

With the possible exception of America, powers external to the Indo-Pacific (Russia, for example) are also pursuing strategic modernisation. Russia, lest anyone forget, is an Indo-Pacific nuclear power by virtue of its Pacific Fleet, complete with its latest model SSBNs (in the American lexicon: Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear), the Borei class, armed with Bulava missiles. Even the US is investing in the research and development preliminary to building a replacement for the Ohio-class submarines that currently constitute the sea-based leg of the American nuclear triad. American strategic modernisation is not a driver in the region's strategic dynamics, but insofar as the US is executing an Asian 'pivot', American military capabilities, nuclear and conventional, remain important. 

The emergence of strategic submarines in the Indo-Pacific is summarised in the following table.

This short post will not attempt a net assessment of regional or bilateral rivalries. A full analysis would need to look more closely at all dimensions of military power as well as the impact of American forces in the region. But a simple scan of the table above allows one small observation for a region that may soon be in the grips of a full-blown nuclear arms race. The prospects for stable, long-term peace (meaning greater strategic stability, the reduction of crisis instability, and fewer opportunities for accidents, chance and misperception to lead to conflict) depend, in part, on taking steps sooner rather than later to rein in potentially destabilising developments. At present, regional SSBN programs are not so advanced, and the numbers of platforms and weapons are not so large, that steps cannot avert a widening arms race. 

Growing numbers of submarines with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles may preserve second-strike capabilities for their possessors (and thus, debatably, contribute to strategic stability). But in the increasingly crowded seas of  Indo-Pacific Asia, greater numbers also lead to more opportunities for accidents, chance and misperception.

Submarine accidents are not unknown: the national tragedy of a lost boat and its crew might quickly become a regional or even global crisis if reactors or nuclear weapons have problems. Submarine operations in cramped seas also raise the possibility that one side or another will encounter the other in a crisis, with unpredictable results. Slowly maturing command and control (C2 ) and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies still have a ways to go (look how long it took in US and the Soviet Union to develop their systems).

Furthermore, few speak of the challenge of ensuring the political and professional reliability of crews (while the mature nuclear powers rarely focus today on crew reliability, such concerns were quite real in the not-so-distant past). Nor are SSBNs and ballistic missiles in the Indo-Pacific the only aspect of undersea warfare and nuclear weapons that should trouble us: surface fleets, mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and so forth increase the danger of incidents at sea, and they could raise the potential for a nuclear crisis. Knowledgeable analysts are concerned that the next stage of the Indo-Pacific naval arms race will involve still more submarines with nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles. 

Three 'nots'

If regional actors (not just the states currently pursuing SSBNs but other concerned parties) are to act to avert further arms racing and stabilise the emerging undersea deterrent, they must recognise the situation for what it is. A nuclear arms race at sea is:

  • Not simply a local or regional issue.
  • Not simply a military issue.
  • And not simply a navy or maritime issue.

A nuclear arms race at sea is a global problem with far-reaching implications for proliferation, conventional arms modernisation, and the possibility of arms control. The mere existence of such systems makes it more likely that the so-called nuclear taboo might finally be broken. An undersea nuclear race is deeply political because it affects the geopolitical rivalry among great and regional powers, not to mention alliance structures and patterns of regional governance.

For all regional military forces, such a nuclear arms race at sea is not simply the business of navies: SSBNs affect joint and combined operations in ways big and small, and blur important distinctions between conventional and nuclear systems. It is worrisome that despite some recent developments there has been, in general, asymmetric progress in developing weapons systems versus the C2, ISR, training/readiness, and nuclear doctrine necessary to deploy sea-based deterrent systems safely and reliably. 

Although prudence on the part of India, China and other regional powers may alleviate these concerns, it may not be sufficient for those interested in regional stability. In the end, although it is not fashionable to advocate for arms control much less naval arms control, strategists and policy makers should remember the words of Schelling and Halperin: 'the essential feature of arms control is the recognition of the common interest, of the possibility of reciprocation and cooperation even between potential enemies with respect to their militaries.' And, in the words of Robert Jervis, which seem especially prescient with regard to naval nuclear arms racing in the Indo-Pacific, 'because the security dilemma and crisis instability can exacerbate if not create conflicts, potential enemies will have an interest in developing arms control arrangements.'

The Lowy Institute gratefully acknowledges support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation for this Interpreter debate, which is part of a broader research, dialogue and outreach project on strategic stability in Indo-Pacific Asia.

Image from Wikipedia.

SSBNs are unnecessary and destabilising

A Chinese Type 094 (Jin-class) SSBN. (Wikipedia.)

Regarding the Chinese and Indian ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programs and their impact on international security, my arguments are: (1) they are not necessary; (2) noisy SSBNs are destabilising and should not be deployed; and (3) China's SSBNs are still far from being operational.

Chinese and Indian SSBNs are unnecessary because China-India and China-US strategic relations are stable, and will probably remain so in near future. While the Indian nuclear weapons program is driven by China's nuclear capability, it is America that drives China's nuclear development. Neither China nor India has first-strike capability against the other side, and neither side is seeking such capability. Some American nuclear and conventional strategic capabilities, such as missile defences and conventional prompt global strike (CPGS), do pose a big challenge of China's nuclear deterrent, but China can deal with these threats and restore strategic stability with its land-based nuclear missiles, which are relatively cheap and technologically mature compared to sea-based nuclear weapons.

So why are China and India developing SSBNs? The probable answer is that they are doing it for technology demonstration, national prestige, or bureaucratic competition purposes.

It is sometimes argued that SSBNs are a stabilising force, but this is the case only when the SSBN in question is quiet. Quiet SSBNs are difficult to find, giving leaders confidence that they will always have the ability to strike back should they be attacked, whereas noisy SSBNs are easy for an adversary to track, locate and destroy, encouraging a 'use it or lose it' mentality in times of crisis.

A declassified US Office of Naval Intelligence report from 2009 stated that China's Type 094 SSBN is so noisy that it is not survivable. China can use the Type 094 for technology demonstration or training purposes, but should not deploy it. India has yet to commission its Arihant-class SSBN, so we have no idea of its noise level. But if it too proves to be noisy, India should not deploy it either.

Furthermore, given China's lack of experience running an SSBN fleet, it needs to solve several problems in order to operate the Type 094s:

  1. Missile range: the range of the JL-2 sea-launched ballistic missile, which will arm the Type 094, is 7400km, not enough to hold the continental US at risk if launched from China's coastal waters. The Type 094 will have to get through the first island chain to target America, which would be dangerous, given its high noise level.
  2. Alert status: for land-based ballistic missiles, China separates nuclear warheads from their boosters in peacetime. Will China change this practice for SSBNs? Will China maintain a continuous-at-sea deterrent?
  3. Will China deploy a permissive action link (PAL)-like coded arming control device in its SSBNs? The advantage of the PAL-like system is to avoid unauthorised launch; the disadvantage is that the crew might be unable to launch missiles should the national command  authority or the communication system be destroyed.
  4. Deployment mode: will China deploy its SSBNs in 'bastions' protected by friendly forces, along China's coastal waters, or in open seas?

In sum, there are many problems for China to solve, all of which are complicated. China is unlikely to solve these problems in 10 to 20 years. I believe the current purpose of China's SSBN fleet is (and should be) to develop submarine-building technology and to train submariners in how to run an SSBN fleet. It is however too early to discuss the security influences of the Type 094.

The Lowy Institute gratefully acknowledges support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation for this Interpreter debate, which is part of a broader research, dialogue and outreach project on strategic stability in Indo-Pacific Asia.

Why sea-based nuclear weapons won't stabilise the Indo-Pacific

China, India and possibly Pakistan intend to deploy nuclear weapons at sea. Ultimately, such deployments may well have a stabilising effect — that is, they may reduce the risk of full-scale war and nuclear use. Sea-based nuclear weapons might, for instance, fit well with 'no-first-use' doctrines. They might also encourage reduced investment in more destabilising forces such as weapons fired from fixed sites, which are vulnerable and thus suited to a 'first strike'. And after all, sea-based nuclear weapons were widely seen as stabilising during the Cold War. 

However, we should beware of applying simple retrospective visions of the US-Soviet balance to the Asian strategic scene. There are various reasons to doubt that deployment of sea-based nuclear weapons in Indo-Pacific Asia will be stabilising. 

First, to state the obvious, there are three independent centres of nuclear power in Asia: China, India and Pakistan. And that is before counting the US and Russia, as well as North Korea, which one day could also want to base some of its weapons at sea. This fundamental element of the Asian nuclear scene will remain regardless of where weapons are based.

Second, although wanting the permanent presence of nuclear weapons at sea as a second-strike capability to guarantee their survival is arguably a stabilising factor, that may not be the driving motivation of all three countries. There seems to be strong interest in China and India, at least, in the symbolic value of strategic submarines, including for parochial or bureaucratic reasons. In addition, these two countries may prefer to avoid deploying nuclear-armed sea-launched ballistic missiles, in order to maximise political control over the weapons. It should also be added, regarding China, that the choice of a secure SSBN base on Hainan island, where berths are largely immune to a first strike, puts less pressure on Beijing to adopt a practice of continuous at-sea deterrence. 

Third, deployment of nuclear weapons at sea in Indo-Pacific Asia does not only mean strategic missiles based on submarines.

It may include cruise missiles on vulnerable surface platforms. It will also probably include theatre systems designed to target naval forces, notably by Pakistan. This would not be a stabilising factor if command-and-control dilemmas for such systems are resolved in a way that dilutes the ability of national authorities to maintain the highest degree of political control over the weapons at all times. It should be remembered that probably the closest call for the use of nuclear weapons since 1945 concerned naval theatre weapons: it was in Cuba in October 1962.

Fourth, Indo-Pacific waters lend themselves less easily to the deployment of non-detectable submarines than was the case for the Cold War confrontation, when the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans offered more opportunities. This is especially true since India and Pakistan are likely to field only medium-range systems for some time, forcing their submarines to operate relatively close to the adversary's shores. It is also worth mentioning that unlikely accidents can happen, as was the case in 2009 when British and French SSBNs collided, and it took them a while to realise what had happened.

More generally, the transition period towards the deployment of operational SSBNs by China, India and Pakistan is likely to be long, tortuous and dangerous, for technical and budgetary reasons. What happens if one (or two) of the three countries manages to have a secure sea-based second-strike capability well before the others? 

Simply put, it is impossible to argue that the deployment of sea-based nuclear weapons in Indo-Pacific Asia will be inherently stabilising.

The Lowy Institute gratefully acknowledges support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation for this Interpreter debate, which is part of a broader research, dialogue and outreach project on strategic stability in Indo-Pacific Asia.

Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Indo-Pacific security links: ICBMs,drone sales, intelligence sharing, Russian subs and more

By David Schaefer, an intern in the Lowy Institute's International Security program.The Indo-Pacific is a strategic system encompassing the Indian and Pacific oceans, reflecting the expanding interests and reach of China and India as well as the enduring role of the US. The Lowy Institute's International Security program presents a weekly selection of links illuminating the changing security picture in this increasingly connected super-region.

  • Citing surveillance imagery, Clint Richards warns that North Korea may soon be in possession of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • China has recently been conducting 'anti-missile tests', but there is suspicion this is just a cover for more satellite-killing weaponry.
  • With so much talk of military capabilities and diplomatic friction, have we seen the end of China's 'charm offensive'?
  • Given the enlarged role for special operations forces in US defence posture, RAND has a video presentation which argues that an American offer to China to jointly train with its  special operations units could resonate with the People's Liberation Army.
  • In Japan, American defence manufacturers increasingly perceive a lucrative market for drone sales.
  • Following a visit from US Secretary of State John Kerry to India, the Hindustan Times reports that an intelligence sharing pact between the two countries is on the table for discussion.
  • Bucking the trend towards sanctioning Moscow, the Indian Navy is edging closer to acquiring Russian submarines while New Delhi's ambitious plans for developing more vessels are delayed.

The Lowy Institute International Security Program's work on Indo-Pacific security is supported by two grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Indo-Pacific security links: Japan's constitution, Malabar, SLBMs, defence hotline and more

The Indo-Pacific is a strategic system encompassing the Indian and Pacific oceans, reflecting the expanding interests and reach of China and India as well as the enduring role of the US. The Lowy Institute's International Security program presents a weekly selection of links illuminating the changing security picture in this increasingly connected super-region.

  • Despite a negative response from China, constitutional reinterpretation has paved the way for greater military cooperation between the US and Japan. 
  • Largely overlooked, however, have been the potential constitutional constraints on the US to fulfil its alliance commitments to Japan.
  • Doubts aside, Japan joined and hosted the annual US-India naval exercises, Exercise Malabar. Undertaken off the south coast of Japan, the drills will conclude on 30 July 30 . 
  • Meanwhile, China also began nationwide military exercises, which included naval drills in the disputed East China Sea. The scale of the land component reportedly caused mass disruption to China’s domestic air traffic.
  • Increased competition with China has been cited as a reason for the accelerated development of India’s submarine launched ballistic missile system, again raising concern over the subcontinent’s nuclear balance. 
  • Amid regional tension, Indonesia has called on China to make the Indo-Pacific ‘peaceful’.
  • The recent overture again highlights Indonesia’s increasing concern over the impact of regional disputes
  • On a more positive note, China and South Korea worked towards managing their differences by announcing the establishment of a defence hotline between capitals.

The Lowy Institute International Security Program's work on Indo-Pacific security is supported by two grants from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation

Indo-Pacific security links: Japan as a great power, RIMPAC, China's oil rig and more

The Indo-Pacific is a strategic system encompassing the Indian and Pacific oceans, reflecting the expanding interests and reach of China and India as well as the enduring role of the US. The Lowy Institute's International Security program presents a weekly selection of links illuminating the changing security picture in this increasingly connected super-region.

The Lowy Institute International Security Program's work on Indo-Pacific security is supported by two grants from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation.

Indo-Pacific security links: Collective self-defence, North Korea collapse, Indonesia's police and more

The Indo-Pacific is a strategic system encompassing the Indian and Pacific oceans, reflecting the expanding interests and reach of China and India as well as the enduring role of the US. The Lowy Institute's International Security program presents a weekly selection of links illuminating the changing security picture in this increasingly connected super-region.

The Lowy Institute International Security Program's work on Indo-Pacific security is supported by two grants from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation.