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Analyzing India’s Potential Nuclear Strategy Shift Amidst Chinese Advancements

The recent assertions by former head of India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC), Air Marshal Rajesh Kumar (Retd), regarding a potential increase in India’s nuclear warheads in response to China’s military developments, signal a pivotal moment in the region’s strategic dynamics.

In an interview with The Week magazine, Air Marshal Kumar emphasized the imperative for India to adjust its nuclear arsenal to maintain a credible second-strike capability amidst China’s expanding nuclear capabilities and advancements in ballistic missile defense systems. China’s estimated inventory of 400 to 500 warheads, projected to surpass 1,000 in the near future, presents a formidable challenge for India, which currently possesses around 140 to 150 warheads.

The evolving strategic landscape underscores the growing pressure on India to bolster its deterrence capabilities in the face of China’s military modernization efforts and perceived ambitions. While India has historically maintained a restrained nuclear posture, focusing on a minimum credible deterrent, the escalating arms race in the region prompts a reassessment of its strategic calculus.

Air Marshal Kumar’s remarks highlight the significance of India’s ongoing missile development programs, including the Agni P and Agni V missiles, as well as the operationalization of INS Arihant, India’s first indigenously built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. These endeavors are viewed as crucial steps in enhancing India’s nuclear triad capabilities and ensuring a robust deterrent posture.

Moreover, Air Marshal Kumar advocates for the expeditious development and deployment of longer-range sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), along with the advancement of air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) technologies. These initiatives are perceived as essential for bolstering India’s strategic flexibility and responsiveness in the face of evolving security challenges.

However, India’s strategic calculus must navigate a delicate balance between deterrence imperatives and regional stability, particularly in the context of ongoing tensions with Pakistan. While the temptation to expand its nuclear arsenal may be compelling in light of Chinese advancements, India must carefully consider the broader implications for regional security and nuclear stability.

As India deliberates its nuclear strategy in response to China’s military assertiveness, Air Marshal Kumar’s insights underscore the complex strategic calculations shaping the region’s security landscape. The trajectory of India’s nuclear posture will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for regional stability and global security dynamics in the years to come.

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