Posted below is a three part article that appeared in the Indian Daily 'The Hindu'
[Source: The Hindu, Monday, August 31, 1998 SECTION: Opinion]
The wages of Armageddon - I
Date: 31-08-1998 :: Pg: 12 :: Col: c
By C. Rammanohar Reddy
THAT two of the poorest countries are insistent on assembling a nuclear arsenal has not shaken the polity in either India or Pakistan. Indeed, in India at least, the message being conveyed by the state is that nuclear weaponisation will not be a burden on the economy.
Nuclear weapon programmes have always been shrouded in secrecy, so no one knows - and will ever know - what the five nuclear powers have spent on their arsenals. But the first secrets have begun to peel off, to reveal the gigantic outlays. Atomic Audit, the result of a four-year study by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, recently estimated that between 1940 and 1996 the U.S. spent as much as $5.5 trillion (1996 prices) on nuclearisation. This outlay is equivalent to 20 times the gross domestic product (GDP) of India in 1997-98. Even for the richest country, $5.5 trillion was not a small amount. The expenditure on nuclear weapons was more than what the U.S. Government spent in the same period on six sectors that included education, environment, space research and law enforcement.
In their search for superiority over each other, the U.S. and the erstwhile Soviet Union spent enough on acquiring weapons to destroy the world many times over. The size of neither the U.S. nor the Soviet programme is therefore relevant for estimating the potential costs of an Indian programme. But what could be of relevance to India is the distribution of costs in the U.S. The Brookings study found that the expenditure on the bombs itself constituted only 7 per cent of the total costs and another 7 per cent went towards dealing with the effects of tests, storing radioactive wastes and cleaning up the environment. And 86 per cent of the U.S. costs was on building delivery systems and a command, control, communications and intelligence system (C3I). In other words, it is the delivery and the C3I systems and not the costs of the bombs themselves that could form the most expensive part of an Indian weaponisation programme.
The programmes of Britain, France and China - the smaller nuclear powers - which may be closer to an Indian one also do not suggest that these weapons of mass destruction can be acquired cheaply. A researcher, Mr. Camille Grand, pointed out that France's ``nuclear effort was extremely costly in financial terms, even for an industrialised country...'' (Strategic Analysis, July 1998). The cost ran between 0.4 and 1.2 per cent of the GDP between 1964 and 1992. At its high point, the French weaponisation programme imposed a burden of $1.9 billion (1987 prices) on the Government in just one year, 1967. A full accounting of the British programme is yet to be done. But according to the authors of the Brookings study, between 1981 and 1997 Britain spent $8 billion on just the operating cost of its Polaris fleet of four submarines which carried nuclear-tipped missiles.
Perhaps the one country whose economic conditions when it embarked on a nuclear programme would come the closest to those of contemporary India is China. However, very little, is known about the Chinese costs. But according to the most authoritative study of the Chinese programme (China Builds the Bomb by John W. Lewis and Xue Litai, 1988), the Government of the day did its best to control the expenses through a variety of measures. Yet, the estimate is that in the decade 1955-64, China spent as much as 10.7 billion yuan (1957 prices) on weaponisation. The burden was so large that the programme consumed more than a third of the state budget in 1957 and exceeded the defence budget in 1957 and 1958. The total cost in 1955-64 has been estimated as the equivalent of $28 billion at 1996 prices. And that was just the first decade of China's weapons programme.
It could be argued that the experience of none of the five nuclear powers is applicable to an Indian programme of the late Nineties and the first decade of the 21st century. This is true to a certain extent. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were ``pioneers'' who engaged themselves in bizarre and expensive adventures in an attempt to ``win'' a nuclear war. India, on the other hand, says it is only going to acquire a minimum deterrent capability. In theory, it will not also have to spend anywhere near what China spent on nuclear weaponisation. The fifth nuclear power had to, after all, work in complete isolation and at a time when nuclear weapons and delivery systems were just a decade old. India, on the other hand, now has the ``benefit'' of being able to draw on half-century of accumulated international knowledge on nuclear weapons as well as the advances in material sciences and microelectronics which should hold down costs.
The most important factor that should, again in theory, keep Indian's costs low is that a substantial part of the costs of developing a bomb and the missile delivery systems as well as the costs of some of the plutonium required for an Indian arsenal have already been incurred. In retrospect, it is clear that a good part of the space and nuclear energy programmes over the past 30 years has been directed towards developing and delivering nuclear weapons. This is true as well of a large component of the outlay on the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme which has yielded the Prithvi missile and will yield Agni and Agni-II and eventually the inter-continental ballistic missile, Surya. All these are sunk costs, which is one reason for the dominant view that the future costs of completing nuclear weaponisation will be low.
In the three months since the Pokhran tests, a number of independent estimates have been made of the total costs of an Indian weaponisation programme. These range from Rs. 5,000 crores to Rs. 20,000 crores over the next decade. But none of them has any meaning since they have either been arrived at by inflating past estimates to present-day prices or are the sum total of the cost of a list of components that has been arbitrarily drawn up without reference to any nuclear doctrine or, for that matter, to the likely composition of an Indian nuclear arsenal.
In 1985 a committee of senior defence personnel and representatives from the defence and nuclear energy research establishments prepared an estimate of a weapons programme. According to one recent (unofficial) recollection, the group projected that a minimum deterrent comprising aircraft, the Agni and Prithvi missiles and a nuclear arsenal in the ``low three digit figures'' would come to Rs. 7,000 crores at 1985 prices (``Indian Nuclear Policy'' in Nuclear India, IDSA, 1998).
Significantly, this group does not appear to have included nuclear-powered submarines in its plan for an Indian minimum deterrent; nor did it make any provision for a C3I system. The estimate was also apparently drawn up over just a fortnight.
There have been two more coherent and plausible estimates of a weaponisation programme, both prepared by retired defence personnel. One was a ``broad brush calculation'' made by the former Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. K. Sundarji, in 1996 (''Imperatives of Indian Minimum Deterrence'', Agni, Vol. 2 No. 1) and the other by Brig. Vijai K. Nair in 1992 (Nuclear India, Lancet).
Gen. Sundarji's notion of a minimum deterrent was an arsenal of 150 bombs that could be delivered by aircraft and a missile force comprising the Prithvi and Agni missiles. His cost estimate was a very ``affordable'' Rs. 2,760 crores (1996 prices). With the required aircraft already with the IAF, the only expenses to be incurred were the costs of the bombs and the missiles.
For an arsenal of roughly the same size, Brig. Nair in 1992 projected a total cost of Rs.6,835 crores over a 10-year period. While Gen. Sundarji made no provision for C3I (on the implausible ground that ``such costs are common to conventional force requirements and are not to be taken as incremental costs.''), Brig. Nair's estimate included about Rs. 3,500 crores for C3I, testing and maintenance.
The relevance of these two estimates to an Indian programme is not so much their numbers as both assume a doctrine that is referred to in the jargon as second-strike capability. That is, in Gen. Sundarji's words, ``For minimum deterrence to be effective we have to ensure that in a second strike we can do unacceptable damage to our adversary.''
A second-strike capability is the other side of a policy of ``no- first use'' which the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, announced during the last session of Parliament. In other words, the Government policy is to acquire a nuclear capability which even if partly destroyed in a first strike from across the borders will remain large enough to devastate urban settlements in the adversary country.
[Tuesday, September 01, 1998 SECTION: Opinion]
The wages of Armageddon - II
Date: 01-09-1998 :: Pg: 12 :: Col: c
By C. Rammanohar Reddy
IN retrospect, while the May tests by India and Pakistan have brought their nuclear ambitions into the open, it does appear that both countries have possessed for some time the capacity to carry out a nuclear strike at short, if not immediate, notice. Though India and Pakistan would like each other to believe this, the fabrication of a few bombs and (possibly) the equipping of the air force to deliver them do not mean that either country is now weaponised.
Nuclearisation would involve assembling an arsenal of a certain size and acquiring a certain kind of delivery system. This, in turn, would depend on the threat perceptions of the country. There is also the matter of building the associated command, control, communications and intelligence system (C3I). A C3I system would be necessary to monitor the nuclear build-up in the adversary countries, develop a foolproof chain of command to authorise and carry out a nuclear strike in an eventuality, protect the arsenal from unauthorised use and build a defence communication system that will withstand the effects of a first strike from the adversary and can then be used for a counter- attack.
There is no information in the public domain on where India is under any of these components of a weaponisation programme. All that we do have are statements by the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, that the Government is working on plans for a command and control system, while the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, has said India does not plan to replicate the C3I systems of the nuclear powers of the West. But building on Mr. Vajpayee's recent announcement of a no-first-use policy combined with development of a minimum deterrent, it is possible to construct what an Indian nuclear force would look like and therefore what a weaponisation programme would cost.
It is now clear as daylight that an Indian nuclear force would be designed to cover not only Pakistan but China as well. What was unstated for long has come into the open not just with the frequent remarks of the Defence Minister about China but also as revealed by the contents of Mr. Vajpayee's letter to the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, after the Pokhran tests, in which there was a reference to ``a big neighbour'' with nuclear weapons. Moreover, even earlier the more substantive discussions on an Indian nuclear force - as contained in the writings of Gen. K. Sundarji and Brig. Vijai Nair - were based on the need to target both countries. If these are the threat perceptions that have been identified, then there are obvious implications for both the size of the arsenal and the sophistication of the delivery systems.
*Number of nuclear bombs: The projections made outside the Government are for an arsenal of 125-150 bombs. Each would be of just 15-20 kiloton (KT) capacity, of the kind dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gen. Sundarji, for instance, arrived at a figure of 150 based on the assumption that deterrence would require the ability to devastate five cities in Pakistan and 10 in China, each with three bombs. After taking into account losses in a first strike from an adversary, an Indian second-strike capability would require an arsenal of closer to 150 warheads. Brig. Nair also arrived at approximately the same number. This figure has also been talked about for decades. A recently declassified U.S. State Department telegram to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in 1966 refers to ``(the former AEC official) Sethna's own figure of 150 bombs for a credible deterrent.''
*Delivery systems: The strategists have always talked about an Indian triad of delivery systems - aircraft, land-based ballistic missiles and submarine-based ballistic missiles. India has the aircraft to deliver bombs, though they have to be equipped for the purpose. Land-based missiles would complement the air force. India already has the short-range Prithvi, though there is some controversy over whether it is suited for nuclear delivery. The intermediate-range, 1,600-km Agni is now going to be fully developed and will surely carry nuclear warheads. Further, the Defence Minister announced earlier this month the decision to go ahead with developing Agni-II, which will presumably be capable of traversing up to 2,500-3,000 km - well into China. And waiting on the drawing board of the Defence Research and Development Organisation is the inter-continental ballistic missile, Surya. We do not know when Surya will be ready or how much it will cost.
However, neither the aircraft nor the land-based ballistic missiles will - within the logic of a nuclear deterrent - give the protection of the submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Out at sea and under water, they cannot be destroyed quite as easily as are the aircraft or the land-based missiles. But the big disadvantage is their cost. Gen. Sundarji in his estimates did not include subs, while Brig. Nair does. According to Admiral L. Ramdas, former Chief of the Navy, a ``second-strike capability can only be ensured with a submarine.'' Similarly, Lt. Gen. V. R. Raghavan, former Director-General of Military Operations, says ``If Indian nuclear deterrence is to remain immune to a first strike by the adversaries, a submarine-based capability is absolutely essential.'' The general view is that the Indian triad would need five nuclear-powered submarines.
But such submarines are extremely expensive. According to some estimates, India has spent Rs. 3,500 crores over the past 20 years in an as yet incomplete effort at building a submarine. The target date now is 2004.
*C3I Systems: The most complicated, costly, controversial and critically important elements of weaponisation are the C3I systems. The U.S. and the erstwhile USSR spent hundreds of billions of dollars on satellites to monitor an impending attack, command structures from where the political and military leadership could operate during a war and on what the two countries thought was a foolproof system to communicate orders from the highest political authority. But they did not succeed.
In a recent article, Dr. M. V. Ramana of MIT in the U.S. writes that the U.S. system gave 20,000 false alarms of a missile attack between 1977 and 1984. Mr. Stephen Schwartz, Director of the Brookings Institution study of the U.S. nuclear programme, says that in spite of spending more than $700 billion on the C3I systems, ``the U.S. was never able to solve the problem of designing a system robust enough to survive a nuclear attack and coordinate a retaliatory launch.''
There is substance in Brig. Nair's view that there is no need for India to replicate the expensive systems of the nuclear powers of the West, which were trying to develop structures to ``win'' a nuclear war. According to Brig. Nair, while some more money has certainly to be spent in India, the ongoing process of modernisation of the conventional forces is going to provide command shelters and satellite communication that can be integrated into a nuclear force. And that the incremental outlay needed will not be very large.
However, saving on a C3I system could be suicidal. With a no- first-use policy, the Indian communication systems have to be hardened to withstand the electromagnetic pulses generated by an adversarial nuclear first strike. Otherwise, no one will be fooled by the Indian deterrent. There may also be no getting away from putting into space high-resolution satellites that will (try to) track a nuclear build-up on the other side. For, as Admiral Ramdas says, in a second strike, ``the riposte will have to be accurate to knock out launch stations, otherwise the exchange will give the adversary yet another opportunity to strike.''
In the end, an Indian weaponisation programme may well force on the country an expensive C3I system which itself, Lt. Gen. Raghavan, states, may cost ``as much as a good medium-sized army.'' The costs will be huge because, according to him , a missile launch capability spread from Kutch in the west to Kashmir and then on the Ladakh-H.P.-U.P.-Arunachal frontier ``would need to be linked to an equally widely spread early warning, surveillance and C3I system, plus to the capital,'' all of which would require a massive ``state-of-the-art and technically manned infrastructure.''
A decision on what an Indian C3I should comprise is very much a choice between Scylla and Charbides. If the Government chooses to be economical, no adversary will believe that India has an effective second-strike capability. However, if it opts for an elaborate system, the outcome will be an extremely costly programme, which would compel the neighbours to make their systems more sophisticated and so the spiral will grow.
[Source: The Hindu, Wednesday, September 02, 1998, SECTION: Opinion, Pg: 12 :: Col: c ]
The Wages of Armageddon - III
By C. Rammanohar Reddy
IF India's nuclear weaponisation programme is defined as acquiring a second-strike capability comprising a triad delivery of 150 bombs, then certain costs will follow.
It is assumed that weaponisation will be carried out over a decade. All costs are at current prices. No account is taken of sunk costs since the attempt is only to estimate the future costs of nuclearisation. The unit cost figures have been drawn from what little has been published and from discussions with former defence personnel, independent security experts and researchers of nuclear issues.
*Cost of plutonium: At best, India's current stocks of weapons grade plutonium are likely to suffice for no more than 50 bombs. To equip an additional 100 warheads each of 15 to 20 KT, about 800 kg of plutonium has to be produced. Neither the power nor the research reactors can yield so much plutonium in a decade. Hence, a new reactor is required. Of course, it will be a different matter if the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty is negotiated over the next few years and India becomes a signatory. Capital cost: Rs. 700 crores.
*Cost of a missile production facility: A separate establishment has to be set up to produce the 120+ Prithvis, Agnis, Agni-IIs and Sagarikas. Capital cost: Rs. 500 crores.
*Cost of bombs: Estimates of a nuclear bomb of 15-20 KT vary from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 15 crores. According to Mr. Stephen Schwartz of the Brookings Institution, a no-frills 15-20 KT bomb should cost between only $1 million and $ 2 million. On the assumption that the lower end of this estimate is a more realistic one, the cost per bomb will be Rs. 4 crores.
*Delivery systems - aircraft: The IAF's existing fleet of Mirage 2000s, Jaguars and Sukhoi-30s can be used for delivery. However, the aircraft have to be specially fitted for carrying the nuclear bombs. It is assumed that one squadron of 24 aircraft will be equipped for a nuclear strike. The cost of equipping each aircraft is Rs. 2 crores to Rs. 5 crores.
*Delivery Systems - nuclear submarines: The general view is that India needs five nuclear-powered submarines for its nuclear force. However, according to Admiral L. Ramdas, it will be impossible to build five subs in a decade; at best three can be built. But how does one treat the costs of these subs? Brig. Nair, in his exercise, assumed that they were in any case going to be acquired by the Navy, so there was no need to cost them for a nuclear programme. This seems to be an unrealistic assumption. Hence, the cost of three submarines has been taken into account, with another two to be built later. The capital cost per submarine is Rs. 4,000 crores.
*Delivery system - missiles: If, from an arsenal of 150 bombs one IAF squadron is equipped to carry out a nuclear strike, that will leave 126 missiles to be tipped with warheads. A certain hypothetical mix of the missiles is assumed.
Neither the Agni-II nor the Sagarika has been developed as yet. The present indication is that the Sagarika will be a 300-km distance Cruise and not a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Since Agni-II will be a longer range version of the Agni, it has been assumed that it will cost about 20 per cent more than the latter. And that the Sagarika will cost 20 per cent less. Cost of each Prithvi: Rs. 7 crores , cost of each Agni: Rs.50 crores, cost of each Agni-II: Rs. 60 crores and cost of each Sagarika: Rs. 40 crores.
*The C3I systems - The shape of a likely C3I system is not known nor is any information available about the cost of individual components. As a first approximation it is assumed that at the very least the expenditure will be of the magnitude suggested by Brig. Nair in 1992. After adjusting for inflation, this comes to about Rs. 3,525 crores. However, the actual expenditure will be higher since Brig. Nair assumed that much of the cost required for a reliable C3I system would be borne by the ongoing process of modernisation of the defence forces.
One additional item that has been costed here is that of two high-resolution satellites to track developments in China and Pakistan. This is a bare minimum. It is sometimes argued that such systems are meant to ''win'' a nuclear war and are not required for an Indian second-strike capability. This may not be a tenable assumption since without any kind of monitoring or protection, the chances are that the Indian nuclear arsenal will almost be completely destroyed in the first strike itself. Hence, the cost of a C3I system: Rs. 3,525+ crores; the cost of two satellites: Rs. 1,000 crores each.
*Defence systems - It has been argued that the process of modernisation is in any case strengthening the radar and defence systems. Yet, it does not stand to reason that special defences for the nuclear force are unnecessary. Experts such as Lt. Gen. Raghavan argue that to safeguard the nuclear submarine fleet, ``we shall also need a small protective surface naval and aircraft carrier-based capability to ensure the survival of (the) subs.'' No estimates are available of the costs of such a fleet. However, account here is taken of phased array radars and anti- missile batteries to protect four or five missile sites and air bases. Cost: Rs. 5,000 crores.
The total future costs of weaponisation as presented in the table come to Rs. 28,000+ crores at current prices. And this without taking into account all C3I capital costs. However, for a number of other reasons as well, this is a large underestimate of the full burden of weaponisation.
First, the estimate is only of capital costs. The costs of annual operation and maintenance are not available. Second, future R&D costs have not been included. There are certain important components of both the delivery and C3I systems exclusively meant for the nuclear programme which are yet to be developed and whose R&D costs will be substantial. Third, it is assumed that there are no cost or time-overruns. This is an unrealistic assumption since not only in India but the world over, such over-runs are characteristic of all defence programmes. Fourth, there is the capital cost of an additional two submarines (Rs. 8,000 crores) that has been excluded. Finally, if bigger and more powerful bombs like the ones tested in May are built, the costs will be higher.
Once all these costs are added on - as they must be - the total financial demands of nuclear weaponisation will be closer to a minimum of Rs. 40,000 crores to Rs. 50,000 crores over a 10-year period, or Rs. 4,000- 5,000 crores a year.
This is no small amount. Going by current figures, such annual costs will be equivalent to about 0.5 per cent of the GDP for 10 years running. They will consume 5 per cent of the Central Government's tax revenue every year and increase the total annual defence expenditure by at least 10 per cent. The investment costs of weaponisation - Rs. 3,000 crores to 4,000 crores a year - will increase the annual defence capital outlay by about 30 per cent.
There is another way of viewing the financial burden of weaponisation. The cost of each bomb is the same as that of 3,200 houses under the Indira Awas Yojana. The cost of one Agni missile can finance the annual operations of 13,000 primary health centres. The cost of an arsenal of 150 bombs is the same as the Central Government funding of all public health programmes in 1998-99. The annual investment costs of weaponisation are the same as the Central Government funding of elementary education in 1998-99.
The funds required for the true total cost of weaponisation (Rs. 40,000-50,000 crores) are large enough to finance the incremental costs of universal primary education for two years. Alternatively, the annual demands of weaponisation will finance 25 per cent of the yearly incremental costs of sending every Indian child to school. These are the true opportunity costs of nuclear weaponisation.
The choice before the country could not be starker.
Table 1: Investment Costs of Nuclear Weaponisation
1. One Reactor to produce plutonium: Rs.700 crores ($175 million)
2. One Missile Production facility: Rs.500 crores ($125 million)
3. Cost of 150-bomb arsenal: Rs.600 crores ($150 million)
4. Cost of Missiles: Rs. 4,025 crores ($100 million)
55 Prithivis: Rs. 385 crores
30 Agnis: Rs. 1500 crores
25 Agni-Iis: Rs. 1500 crores
16 Sagarikas: Rs. 640 crores
5. Cost of fitting one IAF squadron: Rs. 60 crores ($15 million)
6. Cost of 3 n-submarines: Rs. 12,000 crores ($3 billion)
7. Cost of C3I: Rs. 3,525+ crores
8. Cost of 2 remote sensing satellites: Rs. 2,000 crores ($500 million)
9. Cost of Radar, Missiles, etc to protect airbases/launch sites: Rs. 5,000 crores ($1.25 billion)
Total Cost : Rs. 28,000+ crores ($7 billion)
Including other costs - development, operation and maintenance, etc:
Rs. 40-50,000 crores ($10-12.5 billion)
Table 2: Opportunity Costs of Nuclear Weaponisation
The cost of one nuclear bomb (Rs. 4 crores): 3,200 rural houses under the Indira Awas Yojana (A housing programme of the Govt.)
The cost of one Agni missile (Rs. 60 crores): Annual Operations of 15,000 Primary Health Care centres
The cost of missile production facility (Rs. 500 crores): Cost of providing drinking water to 37,000 villages under the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Scheme
The cost of an arsenal of 150 bombs (Rs. 600 crores): Central Government funding in 1998-99 of all public health programmes (malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS)
The cost of one nuclear-powered submarine (Rs. 4,000 crores): Cost of 1,000 MW power plant
The annual investment cost of weaponisation (Minimum of Rs. 3,000 crores): Central Government funding of elementary education programmes in 1998-99
The true total cost of weaponisation (Rs, 40-50,000 crores): Cost of removing rural housing shortage of 15 million units
The true total cost of weaponisation (Rs. 40-50,000 crores): Incremental Cost of providing universal primary education for all Indian children for four years