Nuclear Threats and Security Challenges

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Among the greatest obstacles to jointness across the three branches of the Indian military are service parochialism and the absence of civilian intervention to compel the three services to overcome it. The selection of the appropriate model lies at the heart of the jointness debate in India. The coordination model permits maximum autonomy to each of the armed services, and avoids interference on matters related to individual service prerogatives, roles and—critically—issues surrounding command and control.

Under this model, service commanders may choose to engage in jointness. Moreover, jointness achieved through tri-service cooperation could undermine civilian control: indeed, this is one of the critical reasons why Indian civilian decision-makers have resisted appointing a chief of defence staff or chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to oversee coordination and cooperation. Notwithstanding recent moves to create IBGs and test their efficacy for potentially limited offensive operations, 84 the army's existing doctrine is poorly suited to the military realities of the subcontinent, because civilians are reluctant to support the offensive operations that the army wishes to mount.

Generally, the coordination model has been adopted as the basis of India's military operations, as evident in its most recent conventional conflicts, in Sri Lanka in the late s and against Pakistan in the late s at Kargil.

The absence of political will in compelling jointness is an even more significant obstacle to it than interservice rivalry. As noted above, China has not only established ITCs, each under a single operational commander, it has forged a consonant approach with Pakistan across equipment, doctrine, force structure and military-to-military exercises.

This failure exemplifies the chasm between India and its immediate adversaries in their approaches to transforming operational architectures and introducing military reforms. India's civilian regime confronts a dilemma.


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Should it subject the army—the largest of the three service arms, which consumes the lion's share of the defence budget—to significant manpower reductions, despite facing the reality of a form of warfare from Pakistan that compels India to pursue manpower-intensive operations? India's other potential adversary, China, has rapidly reconfigured its forces by reducing armed personnel.

The trade-offs between technology and firepower on the one hand and manpower-intensive fighting force on the other are considerable and will remain unresolved for the near future. In order to meet the complex security challenges facing it, ranging from counter-insurgency operations to a potential two-front war, India sources capabilities from a variety of states, and has expended considerable resources in dealing with its difficult threat environment. While external threats are dangerous, India also faces internal challenges in securing its military acquisitions.

The country's defence acquisition policies are highly layered and complex, and the domestic defence industry is almost entirely state-owned. The Indian government pursues acquisitions for the armed forces through three principal mechanisms. The first is by way of attracting investment into its defence-industrial sector in the form of direct investments, embedded partnerships and joint ventures. The second is by way of offsets and direct government-to-government contracts; these are subject to MoD guidelines enshrined in the Defence Procurement Procedure DPP.

The third has entailed a policy of diversification. Let us begin with investments in the Indian defence-industrial sector. India's defence-industrial sector was closed to foreign direct investment FDI until the early s. This prohibition ended in , when the Indian government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee opened the defence industry to FDI up to an equity cap of 26 per cent in total.

Despite this shift, investment flows into the defence-industrial sector have remained low. So far, the results of liberalization have been small.

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New Delhi has a complex and elaborate procurement system enshrined in a set of formal guidelines, the DPP. The DPP has undergone three revisions since , most recently in Here we will consider only the most salient features of these guidelines. This practice was instituted following the failures of vendors to meet the stringent services qualitative requirements SQRs , which were deemed unrealistic.

All foreign weapons manufacturers seeking to supply India with military platforms and spares are required to sign an integrity pact with the New Delhi government. The integrity pact is vital in the defence acquisition process because of the constant threat of corruption. Examples abound, the most prominent being that of artillery modernization for the Indian Army, delayed largely owing to a defence scandal over Swedish-built Bofors howitzer guns in the s, notwithstanding recent efforts to fill gaps in India's artillery capabilities.

A deal with the French company Dassault, originally for the purchase of fighter aircraft, subsequently reduced to 36, hangs in the balance owing to allegations that an Indian private-sector company was favoured by the Indian government to partner with Dassault. Another of the crucial features of the DPP is the aim of increasing Indian content in weapons orders placed by the armed services. The procurement process is very complex and layered, which is to some extent unavoidable if the integrity and transparency of the acquisition process are to be sustained.

India essentially follows three models of procurement. First, for the acquisition of strategic capabilities such as Agni and Prithvi ballistic missiles, the Nag anti-tank missile and the Akash air-defence missile, New Delhi has pursued an exclusively indigenous acquisition strategy, because these missile capabilities are generally subject to export control embargoes.


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  • Second, some procurement takes place through the DRDO, India's premier defence research agency, which co-develops weapon systems with a foreign vendor or a domestic private-sector company. One example is the BrahMos cruise missile, produced through a joint venture between India and Russia; another is the Indian—Israeli long-range surface-to-air missile.

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    In these cases the Russians and the Israelis respectively have contributed in areas where India is deficient. The third procurement mechanism is by way of direct government-to-government contracts: examples of platforms acquired by this route are the T battle tanks, C Globemasters and Sukhoi MKI fighters. Overall, the defence acquisition regime under the MoD is still too decentralized, suffering from an absence of coordination and accountability among the different institutions overseeing the procurement process, which is itself much too diffuse and time-consuming, with many delays.

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    Successive committees have recommended that the service headquarters of each of the armed services be integrated with the MoD, but Indian governments have been reluctant to implement this reform. Integrating service headquarters with a ministry staffed by bureaucrats, most of whom are generalists and not specialists, would reduce inefficiency and overcome unnecessary delays in the acquisition of equipment and military planning. Even now, civilian control over the military has transmuted itself into bureaucratic control over the armed services.

    In addition, India's acquisitions process is hampered by a lack of expertise within the civilian bureaucracy of the MoD, including insufficient numbers of military operations researchers and systems analysts. Where domestic capacity does exist within the Indian defence industry, it tends to be at the low end of manufacturing.

    The fundamental deficiency is the inability of HAL and the DRDO, and the latter's associated laboratories and manufacturing entities such as the OFB, to meet the qualitative and quantitative requirements of the air force and the army. The Indian Navy has managed to indigenize more rapidly. All warship development at Indian shipyards is undertaken under the supervision of an officer of vice-admiral rank, a practice which is not replicated in the other two armed services.

    New Delhi's strategic ties with other countries also affect its military acquisitions. Generally, in order to prevent any one strategic partner from monopolizing supply, New Delhi has pursued a policy of diversification by sourcing capabilities from multiple partners. This policy also helps India to secure state-of-the-art capabilities from a range of suppliers. India consistently ranked as the world's largest importer of weapons during the period —17, and accounted for 12 per cent of the world's arms imports between and In two four-year periods put together——12 and —17—India's military imports increased by 24 per cent.

    The purpose of OROP, implemented in July , was to fulfil a longstanding demand from military veterans to bring uniformity to defence pensions and salaries. Russia still retains the number one position in the Indian defence market, and is likely to continue to hold it for several years ahead, as weapons contracts concluded in the previous few years are fulfilled. The United States, however, has risen to become the second largest supplier of military hardware to India, whose imports from America surged by per cent between —12 and — The US, indeed, displaced Russia in some key areas of military hardware, with platforms such as the P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft, Hercules C and C strategic transport aircraft, and Apache Longbow attack helicopters.

    India and the United States also pursue close counterterrorism cooperation through the Counter-terrorism Cooperation Initiative agreed in November Again, the robustness of India—Israel defence relations is a product of an improved strategic partnership. Israeli arms sales to India increased by per cent between the years —12 and —17, to the point where India has become the largest export market for Israeli defence products.

    Indian military imports from Israel range from anti-ballistic missile systems to equipment for its special forces. While purchasing weapons from numerous sources has created more options for India, it also generates challenges, in that New Delhi needs to keep many players satisfied as they compete for shares in the Indian defence market. This requires New Delhi to respond to pressures and incentives from the leading weapons supplier states. The analysis presented above is an explication of how the Indian state has approached issues surrounding the use of force, how it is tackling conflicts and reorganizing its capabilities and forces in response to actual and potential threats, and the influence of strategic partnerships in dealing with these matters.

    India faces inescapable trade-offs and stark choices in dealing with the changes in the capabilities and order of battle of its immediate adversaries.

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    The country's national security landscape, if not irretrievably perilous, is stressed and susceptible to conflict with its neighbouring rivals. The military procurement models New Delhi has pursued are less than optimal, reflecting the difficulties faced by the Indian state in indigenizing capabilities, building core capacities within the defence bureaucracy, and exploring integrative solutions to deal with the challenges facing higher defence management.

    Given budgetary shortfalls and civilian apathy towards military reform, the Indian armed services, too, face serious choices on how to use their meagre resources. As a manpower-heavy fighting force, the Indian Army in particular is likely to face the most daunting trade-offs with regard to how it uses its allocations. Without a significant hike in military spending, the Indian Army's unsustainably large pension and salary bill will leave little for new military hardware to replace obsolete equipment.

    The army also faces a challenge in formulating a doctrine that fits with civilian objectives. External dependence to make up for shortfalls in conventional capabilities is likely to persist for several years to come.

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    Concerning strategic capabilities, the Indian state, notwithstanding limited assistance from Russia today, will need to move towards complete and durable indigenization. Short of a major military crisis to precipitate drastic change, India's civilian and military decision-makers will muddle through military reforms.