This is a significant development as India now joins the select club of nations, along with the US, Russia, France, the UK and China that have completed the nuclear triad. Being the only Asian country, apart from China, to achieve this feat, it gives India a powerful second-strike nuclear capability. Though India has a firm No First Use policy, it’s joining the nuclear triad club, would certainly provide a credible minimum deterrent against its nuclear neighbors, China and Pakistan.
What is also significant is that the Arihant, which in Sanskrit means “Slayer of Enemies”, is the result of an indigenous program that India embarked in the early 1980s, at a time when the country was faced with various technology denial regimes. The submarine, developed in collaboration between India’s Defence Research Development Organisation, the Indian Navy, the Department of Atomic Energy and other private partners, thereby is a confirmation of the country’s defence technological expertise as well as its ability to synergize between public and private players to accomplish such goals. This achievement is also likely to have phenomenal spin offs for the country’s conventional submarine building programme and the local industry.
The nuclear reactor of INS Arihant went critical in August 2013 and the submarine completed its deterrence patrol in October 2018, i.e. in 5 years. As compared to China and other members of the elite nuclear triad club, this timeline is one of the fastest. According to latest Indian media reports the submarine is 110 mtrs long, making it one of the smallest ballistic missile submarines in the world, thus difficult to detect and target in the vastness of the oceans.
There is no doubt that INS Arihant has dramatically enhanced India’s security infrastructure. The country is already in the process of building its second SSBN, which will further add to its credible seagoing nuclear deterrence. Coming at a time when China is flexing its muscle in the Indo-Pacific, India’s entry into the nuclear triad will provide the much need counter force in the region, while fulfilling its goal of strategic invulnerability.