Johann wrote:The guarantees that nuclear weapons provide are political, not military. But those guarantees are far from comprehensive.
This is much more valid for those countries that don't face an active military threat including nuclear threat to their mainland. This doesn't apply to India.
The world's greatest nuclear power, the Soviet Union found itself first defeated in Afghanistan, and then watched its own political collapse and the demise of the CPSU, which held the trigger. Nukes could do nothing.
I have a strong objection when people imply (not necessarily you) that these kinds of military engagements are "wars". Many of these so called wars are ritual bashings of a minor military player by a big daddy while other big daddies try to queer the pitch. These are military games, not worthy of being termed wars.
In no way Soviet mainland was ever threatened during the Afghanistan conflict. That was just soviets and US supported groups playing around in a 3rd country, while keeping their homesteads secure. Soviets made the choice that costs of using nukes were not justifiable for possible gains in Afghanistan. Their calculations of using nukes would have been vastly different if their mainland had been threatened.
Similarly US is not really fighting a war in Iraq or Afghanistan. These are limited engagements, and bear no direct military threat to US mainland and therefore don't justify using nukes. But if US mainland is ever threatened, would any one wager that US wouldn't consider using nukes?
India's situation is the most unique in the world. India doesn't have the luxury to play those remote controlled military games. Any war that India will fight, either with Pakistan or China, WILL threaten Indian mainland. And both these opponents are nuclear powers, are actively hostile to India and are in cahoots. Any future wars involving India are HIGHLY likely to turn nuclear. This is not the case with other powers that merely engage in remote controlled military engagements in 3rd countries.
India's need for a working nuke arsenal is much more justifiable than most of the P5.
Nuclear weapons only guard against certain, very specific types of threats. In the end the only rationale to acquire them and hold them is that other people have them.
Again this type of thinking is natural for those who live in relatively secure countries. For example, Europe is pretty secure that no nuclear wars are imminent on their lands. Russia, France and UK have arsenals, but there is no foreseeable chance of a nuclear war starting on the soil of any European country.
For India, it is a much more personal. India is in a similar state where Europe and USA were during the cold wars. Just because cold war has ended for Europeans, doesn't automatically mean that India has to pretend that India's nuclear neighborhood also has changed, and automatically accept the same thought processes that may be fashionable in Europe at present.
It is also premature to extrapolate from relatively limited military engagements the world has seen since WWII that nothing big will ever happen. What happens when we find ourselves in WWIII? When countries possessing nukes find their mainlands threatened, would they still think that nukes are just "political" weapons? Once the nuclear genie is out, it can turn very ugly very fast. We are all counting on deterrence holding. But why should only few of the countries be allowed to be militarily prepared for the eventuality when the deterrence breaks down, while India is expected, even by many Indians, to just pray for deterrence to hold.