From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ASAT
Mains level : Relevance of arms race and disproportionate cost of it.
Indian PM announced that India had carried out a successful anti-satellite missile test (ASAT), Mission Shakti. It might lead to a arms race in the subcontinent.
Reliance on Deterrence to enhance security
- After ‘Mission Shakti’ — India’s anti-satellite test — there is a feeling that India needs this form of deterrence for its security.
- To be visibly strong in order to deter any enemy from attacking is a concern that goes back to pre-historic times.
- But when this ancient urge is exerted by nations with nuclear weapons, it must be an occasion to revisit the arms race, the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine and their long-term implications.
The emergence of the doctrine of deterrence
- The doctrine emerged during the Cold War in the mid-20th century when the U.S. and the erstwhile U.S.S.R. had stockpiled so many nuclear weapons that if launched, the weapons could destroy both nations many times over.
- Since there was eventually a ‘détente’, or a relaxation of hostilities between the two, it is tempting to think that MAD is a valid doctrine that should continue to be applied by all countries with nuclear weapons capability.
HIgh spending on Arms
- Globally, the annual spend on armaments is now estimated to stand at about $1.7 trillion.
- Estimates of the total number of nuclear weapons in the world range from 15,000 to 20,000, with each one of these weapons being far more powerful than the bombs dropped by the U.S. on Japan in 1945.
- The U.S. and Russia still maintain about 1,800 nuclear weapons in a state of high alert, ready for launch within minutes.
- According to the Global Peace Index, in 2017, the economic impact of violence globally was estimated at about $14.76 trillion, which was 12.4% of global GDP.
- Since 2012, there has been a 16% increase in the economic impact of violence largely due to the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Does deterrence work?
- It is vital to note that having competing weapons, in terms of quality and quantity, has not acted as a deterrent either in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or in the Syrian war or the prolonged conflict in Colombia.
- What did finally end the conflict in Colombia, after almost 50 years, was a protracted process of negotiation between all parties of the conflict.
- The Global Peace Index also shows that over the last 70 years the per capita GDP growth has been three times higher in more peaceful countries.
- This is partly why, compared to 10 years ago, 102 nations are spending less on the military as a percentage of their GDP.
- According to the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons.
Mutually assured destruction’s impact
- Theoretically, MAD is supposed to eliminate the incentive for starting a conflict but it also makes disarming almost impossible.
- This is partly why, long after the Cold War ended, the U.S. is poised to spend enormous amounts of money over the next 10 years in updating and modernising its nuclear arsenal.
- The tragic irony of this trend is that nuclear defence actually deepens insecurity in both countries by causing millions of lives to perpetually be at the risk of instantaneous annihilation.
Opposition to MAD Doctrine
- All through the Cold War and even now, the MAD doctrine has been opposed on both moral and practical grounds by a variety of disarmament and peace groups.
- The most prominent of these, War Resisters’ International (WRI), which will turn 100 in 2021, has 90 affiliated groups in 40 countries. Such groups ceaselessly serve as a counter to all those who glamorise or justify war or an arms race.
- Above all, they constantly draw attention to the fact that the only true security lies in dissolving enmity by going to the roots of any conflict.
Once the joy about India’s technological achievements, in the realm of missiles, has settled down, perhaps attention can shift to the much bigger challenge of seeking answers to a key question: what really makes us, the world a whole, more secure?