India can now deliver nukes from the sea as well, apart from the land and from the air.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur, keeping up a military tradition of warships being inaugurated by women, launched India’s first nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine. With the launch, India joins an exclusive club of just five other nations – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – which possess similar submarines.
With sacred verses from the Atharva Veda in the background, Gursharan Kaur broke the auspicious coconut on the upper deck of the submarine, giving it its new name, Arihant (destroyer of enemies). Serendipitously it was also the day the country commemorated the 10th anniversary of the end of the Kargil war.
“We do not have any aggressive designs nor do we seek to threaten anyone,” said Singh, addressing the gathering. “Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon us to take all measures to safeguard the country, and keep pace with technological advancements worldwide.”
Tight secrecy surrounded the project — called the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) programme — all through the 11 years it took to complete. Even on Sunday, the Navy did not allow any photographs of the warship to be taken.
Built with the help of Russian consultants, Arihant will have nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, apart from torpedoes and cruise missiles. Another advantage is that it can remain under water for three months at a stretch, unlike India’s existing diesel-electric submarines that have to surface frequently to recharge their batteries, and thus run the risk of detection.