India will shortly join the list of countries having a nuclear armed submarines. It will be the sixth country to do so after USA, Russia, China UK and France to achieve this. The 6,000-ton, 110-metre-long INS Arihant was developed as a part of a secret government program. The submarine is a result of a project which went for over three decades. The project was first sanctioned in 1970. It was approved in 1984. The actual work began in 1998. The INS Arihant is currently completing its final trials in the Bay of Bengal, having passed several deep sea diving drills as well as weapons tests over the past five months. The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine can be armed with 12 Short Range K-15 missiles with a range of over 750 kms, or four K-4 ballistic missiles with a longer range of around 3500kms. Work has already started on two more Arihant-class submarines. India intends to have a total of four of these submarines by 2020.
What does this development mean, and what could be its impact?
This development is put the nations into a naval arms race, with China being a potential helping hand to the nations like Pakistan and North Korea to develop similar technologies. Both India and China subscribe to a No First-Use policy on nuclear weapons. They regard nuclear-armed submarines as a deterrence aimed at preventing the outbreak of war. The Arihant is harder to detect than India’s nuclear weapons platforms on land and in the air, giving it a “second-strike” capability. This would allow India to retaliate against an enemy who managed to destroy the rest of its nuclear arsenal in a first-strike. This is very important aspect because our traditional enemy Pakistan still sticks onto a first-strike policy.
The INS Arihant has however made some serious noise in the defense world, with India establishing a strong hold in Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.