Do we need the big bomb?

September 28, 2009

It’s been more than a decade since the Buddha smiled again.

A debate has exploded in the Indian media about the circumstances of India’s hydrogen bomb test, with a group of scientists questioning the yield of the test.

The government claimed a yield of 45 kilotons; while the sceptics say the yield was much less at 25 kilotons.

K. Santhanam who claims the thermonuclear bomb was a ‘fizzle’ called for more nuclear tests to develop hydrogen bombs.

The argument in a nutshell is that if India doesn’t have a bomb big enough with which it can threaten an adversary, then the adversary may be emboldened to carry out a nuclear strike.

However, many experts demur given the changed international environment.

The controversy came right before President Obama made a call for all UN states to ratify the NPT.

The nuclear bomb at Hiroshima had a smaller estimated yield of 14 kilotons and killed 80,000 people instantly.

The logic of having nuclear weapons when other friendly and not-so- friendly countries have it is derived from deterrence theory.

However, strategic analysts differ widely on the size of the deterrent.

To put it plainly a nuclear bomb is as effective as the number of people it can kill.

But a consensus on how many deaths are enough seems to be elusive.

Do we need the big bomb at this stage?

Or do we need more of smaller ones as argued by Manoj Joshi?

Is it possible to agree at the number of deaths that would be unacceptable to the other side and then work back to how many bombs or how big a bomb we need?


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The number of deaths is presumably a crtical proportion of the adversary’s population. But every adversary has different criteria. In some cases, all you have to do is kill (or otherwise obscure) the leader. In others, the whole gang might fight to the death. If you don’t actually incapacitate the adversary – the danger remains of an empty threat. Unless a threat is realised from time to time, its credibility diminishes.

“Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.”

Posted by Tatvam | Report as abusive

India will be bullied every now and then if it does not have the bomb even by countries as petty as Pakistan and
Iran or N.Korea. India need to have VERY VERY POWERFUL
deterrent against china. Most of all india need to cut
ALL trade and investment links with china regardless of
WTO (which is no use considering the type of goods india
makes and exports like diamonds and raw materials which
can sell without WTO); china is India’s #1 enemy that india
is feeding by trade and inv and keep chinese factories
humming while our indian brotheren are starving and jobless

Posted by jjmk4546 | Report as abusive

This just proves that India is an very aggressive and dangous country! It’s the biggest threat to the world peace. Western countries are making huge mistake to praise India’s so-called democracy” where succession is determined along blood line or done within one family. Few countries has as many war records as India has in the post WWII era. India found 3 wars with Pakistan and “swallowed” Sikkim. And India absolutely refuse to joint NPT. History shows that India is an extremely dangouse country.

Posted by India is the bigegst threat to world peace! | Report as abusive

The Government should come out with a White paper on India’s last nuclear tests. If the previous tests have not achieved the desired results, it would be logical to conduct another set of tests after adequate preparations.

A strong and deterrent capable India is MUST in a scenario where a) China is eager to play a more dominant role AND b)inimical militant forces in the neighborhood are trying their best to get their fingers on the nuclear button. A Nuclear Capable India is an absolute necessity for Political Stability of the region, continent and to a certain extent the world itself.

Posted by Menon | Report as abusive


Read the message.

The information’s seems to be understandable.

The message’s seems to be clear.

The country India is the country that believes in the best.

The country India is the country that believes in doing the best.

As that seems to be clear.

As that seems to be understandable.

The belief that India has about the country India.

The message’s might seems to be clear.

The information’s might seems to be understandable.

The relation’s that India has should be within the limits.


Posted by Venkata Krishnan Gopala Krishnan | Report as abusive

India really does not need a big Bomb. Instead India needs to remember it that the country is a peaceful one and need to focus on the 500 Million people in the country living in poverty and removing the multi level corruption that exists today, which has Inflicted great pain in the society for decades, examples of which is very poor roads in the suburbs, sewage directly into the oceans, money wasted on arms.

Posted by J Fernandes | Report as abusive

What say India concentrates more on feeding its people and learning some birth control before spending more money on the bomb. Some storm shelters, good roads and better, capsize proof ferries might be a good idea too.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Any system strives towards the most efficient system of existence.
The evolution from Fission->FBF->TN devices is a given – efficiency in all criteria that govern nuclear warheads

TN is the most fuel efficient and imposes far lesser weight penalties on missiles ( @200kT fission warhead becomes untenable on missiles))

The author seems to have

o forgotten why navies world over strive for a nuclear powered submarine with nuclear tipped missiles.

o the theory behind the NFU policy.

Posted by CM | Report as abusive

Police always needs better guns than thieves and terrorists.

Similarly, democracy always needs a BIGGER BOMBs. For protection, deterrence and survival. Else Commis and Talibs will run over us!

Posted by Robin | Report as abusive

It is not AQ Khan, It is the Chinese, the real proliferators!

Commis are proliferating nukes to Pakistan, N Korea, Iran, Libya since 1970s. rld/asia/article6839044.ece

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive

Commis want to make 20-30 pieces of India. Talibs want all of India, Asia and world. They have stated these publicly in press.

Would China dare to scare Taiwan everyday, had Taiwan nukes!

Do Indians want to live like Taiwanese: 1000s of missiles pointed at India, always living under threats and abuses?

Only way forward for survival Indian democracy and freedom is a BIGGER bomb than commis until we achieve then GLOBAL disarmament.

Posted by Ranbir | Report as abusive

USA survived from USSR because of nuke deterrence!

India will survive from Chinese because of nuke deterrence!

India/US/Japan should share nuke technology with Taiwan and Vietnam. If Chinese, Pakis, Iranians and Libyans are collaborating, why are democracies restrained! How would democracies survive?

Or we take nukes out of the hand of Chinese. China is threatening all it’s neighbors with nukes!

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive

Google ‘Tsar Bomba’ to see what it means to set off a hydrogen bomb. In the first place, it is detonated by a nuclear bomb. Secondly, it is the worst deterrent in the hands of fascists and fundamentalists. Next thing we will say the neutron bomb is cool.

Posted by Casper Lab | Report as abusive

it would be better for the super powers to be rather pragmatic and stop raising fingers over each other and slowly diarm themselves of the nukes

Posted by bibhuti | Report as abusive

I think India should stick to the path showed by Gandhi and immediately disarm it’s defense forces and also police and also commandos guarding gandhians.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

If war could have been won with the help Nuclear Bombs then war will be never won.

Posted by KUTUBUDDIN | Report as abusive

India needs TN(H) bombs of 100 kT or higher to have deterrence against China..Sooner it proves this,better.Why no one talks about the missiles across the Himalayas in Tibet positioned towards India? Is this not a ‘visible’ threat to our security? It is pointless to talk of number of deaths caused by H bombs or fission bombs,since most areas and cities are crowded with high population densities compared to 1945 when the Americans dropped over Hirishima/nagasaki.Why talk of killing 50000 or 80000 in one shot? We are talking about deterrence and second strike capability—not killing people as such!——If need be ,India should do underwater testing from an island near Andamans….Forget about the civil nuclear power treaty with the US,we can carry on by other means for energy needs.

Posted by Dr N K Srinivasan | Report as abusive

as a pakistani, i would say that india does have a right to hold on to a nuclear bomb, as does pakistan. and a “rouge” nation like iran also has the right to obtain a nuclear bomb as well. as long as nations who have a history of starting wars like the U.S and Israel and nations who have a history of colonizing and invading like russia, france, britian,spain and germany, have nukes or the ability to obtain them, then it becomes becomes neccessary for other nations to have them as well. the so called “peace loving ” nations are responsible for the conflicts in the middle east, africa, and tensions between india and pakistan. they have created these conflicts that will last for generations to come. they help create the likes of taliban, al-qaeda, and now they are going to tell the rest of us how “concerned” they are?

Posted by Hassan | Report as abusive

How could India forget the time when USA sent her nuclear submarine USS Enterprise to force India into surrendering to Pakistan(1971). Had Russia not help us at that time with their own Navy, who knows what would have happened. ani_War_of_1971

It is now the same USA who got a taste of her own blood during 9/11 and are now forcing India to cut out a deal with Pakistan.

It’s a bad n mad world out there and our country India is at stake. Not only we need to make bigger and bigger bombs but be ready to use them if the need be so.

Posted by Aaruni Upadhyay | Report as abusive

Kudos Hassan! I fully agrees with your opinion.

Posted by Seth | Report as abusive

A-bombs are dirtcheap. Its much more expensive to by jets

Posted by azad | Report as abusive

something big enough to wipe out half the population should be big enough… might need a couple though.

Posted by bob | Report as abusive

Q.1: Name the ONLY civilized country on earth who dropped the nuclear bomb on other civilized country, killing lakhs of innocent people ? [Marks: 20]

Posted by raja | Report as abusive

I would suggest at least a 3-5 MT bomb in 5 years, however.

Posted by venky | Report as abusive

To have nuclear weapon is to invite others to nuke you first. Its a silly game because even the winner lose.

Posted by why | Report as abusive

even if we have a big bomb, will be we safe? How safe will be we with smaller bombs?

Posted by r | Report as abusive

India does not need bigger or smaller bombs. It needs a different nuclear policy. The no first use policy is just asking for it. It opens up India to Pakistan based terrorism, implicitly backed by Pakistan’s nuclear prowess, and it opens up India to serious threats from China which has no such policy. The policy paints India into a corner.

Those Gandhian principles are great. But they aren’t practical for the real world. India needs a new nuclear doctrine designed to counter the actual threats it faces today. That’ll pay off far more than any improved bomb or delivery technology.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

Of course India needs a bigger bomb and a change to the no first use policy.

Whats the use of making an A bomb and then sitting silently while enemy forces nuke the hell out of you first probably crippling your ability to retaliate with anything let alone nukes.

If one country is allowed to have a nuclear program every other country should have a right to do so as well.

Its quite amusing to see the only country to use an A bomb to go around trying to disarm to or make nuclear deals with other countries.

Posted by John | Report as abusive