New Delhi: India on Sunday took its first visible step towards acquiring a capability to fire nuclear-tipped missiles from under water.
The launch of its first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, at Vizag brought it closer to a triad of nuclear weapons which can be fired from land, air and sea. As India caught up with the big powers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was defensive.
“We do not have any aggressive designs nor do we seek to threaten anyone. We seek an external environment in our region, and beyond that is conducive to our peaceful development and the protection of our value systems," he said.
Singh has sought to assure the world that India will not rattle its nuclear sabre. But it's a fact that the underwater missile firing capability is the key to India's deterrence. Only when an adversary knows that India's nuclear arsenal will survive a decapitating first attack will he be deterred. Weapons have maximum survivability under the water.
The launch of the ballistic missile firing boomer was itself a very gentle and traditional affair. It is believed that a woman launching a submarine will save it from misfortune. And so, Gursharan Kaur, wife of the Prime Minister, broke the coconut on the hull and launched the Arihant to chants from the Atharvaveda.
The Prime Minister also openly acknowledged Russia's contribution to this programme. Russia is believed to have played a key role in the miniaturisation of the submarine's nuclear reactor.
The Arihant was tugged out of its cradle for harbour trials. The nuclear reactor will turn critical in this phase, which will be followed by sea trials and weapons firing. The submarine should be in operational use by 2011.