India said on Monday its first domestically built nuclear-powered submarine had recently completed a “deterrence patrol,” giving it the capability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air, and sea in the event of any “misadventure” by enemies.
With nuclear-armed China to its north and nuclear-armed Pakistan to its west – both of which India has fought wars with – India’s nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, said the INS Arihant was a “fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail.”
He did not elaborate.
“Amid an increase in the number of nuclear weapons in our surroundings, a credible nuclear deterrence is extremely important for our country’s security,” he told the crew of the submarine in a speech televised nationwide.
“Arihant is an open warning for the country’s enemies, for the foes of peace: Don’t try any misadventure against India.”
- Thomson Reuters
Modi said on Twitter that the “success of the INS Arihant enhances India’s security needs.” Calling it “a major achievement,” Modi added that the sub would protect Indians from “external threats and contribute to the atmosphere of peace in the region.”
“India’s nuclear triad will be an important pillar of global peace and stability,” the prime minister said.
Though India’s relations with China are warming, particularly in the area of trade, ties with Pakistan have nosedived under Modi, who has adopted a more assertive strategy towards the arch rival.
Modi said a successful month-long patrol by Arihant, which was commissioned in 2016, had completed India’s goal of having the capacity to deliver nuclear warheads with aircraft, missiles and submarines, 20 years after conducting its first nuclear tests.
India has said little about the operational details of the Arihant’s first deterrent patrol, other than that it lasted a little more than a month. New Delhi also hasn’t said what kind of submarine-launched ballistic missiles the sub carried or if they were mated with nuclear warheads, according to The Diplomat.
The Arihant is the first of its class of ballistic-missile subs, with three or four more expected. It can carry up to 12 K-15 short-range ballistic missiles, which have an estimated range of about 460 miles, or four K-4 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which have an estimated range of 2,200 miles. Both missiles are nuclear-capable.
- Narendra Modi/Twitter
The Arihant was not designed for regular patrols and has largely been used for training. The sub also severly damaged in early 2017, when an external hatch was left unsecured while the boat submerged, allowing water to flood the sub.
The next sub in the class, to be named the Arighant, was launched in November 2017 and is expected to be commissioned in 2020 or 2021. It will have double the missile tubes of the Arihant and is expected to be quieter.
India is also working on acquiring nonnuclear subs to bolster its undersea forces. Delhi has grown increasingly concerned about Chinese submarines operating in the Indian Ocean. India is also developing its presence in the area and considering buying more P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.
(Reporting for Reuters by Krishna N. Das)