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Dangers loom as India changes its N-command.....
by Saima Alvi
30 April 2002 10:20 UTC
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26 April 2002  Friday  

India to hand over N-command in June 

NEW DELHI, April 25: India's nuclear command and control system will be 
placed under a new strategic nuclear command (SNC) structure by June, The 
Hindustan Times reported on Thursday, quoting senior defence ministry 

"The SNC will be in place by June," it quoted one source as saying. This 
development comes even as the 2,500km range Agni-II intermediate range 
ballistic missile (IRBM) is being inducted into a specially raised missile 
unit of the Indian army, the newspaper said. 

The nuclear command will function under the integrated defence staff (IDS) 
setup. The first commander-in-chief of the SNC is likely to be from the 
Indian air force (IAF), "which had gone ballistic at the decision to hand 
over the Agni to the army," the Times said. 

The IAF has shortlisted Air Marshal T.M. Asthana, air officer commanding-in-
chief southern air command, to head the country's nuclear command. 

"While the army has been allowed to raise an Agni missile group, the IAF 
and the navy have been asked to submit proposals for creating missile 
units," a source told the newspaper. 

As recommended by the Arun Singh Committee, an army strategic rocket 
command (ASRC) to handle surface-based nuclear weapons is also on the 
anvil. "An elaborate command and control structure for handling India's 
nuclear arsenal has been worked out," a top official confirmed. 

The nuclear forces chief will report to the chairman of the chiefs of staff 
committee (COSC) until the chief of defence staff is appointed. The final 
authority on decisions regarding nuclear weapons will be the cabinet 
committee on security, headed by the prime minister, which will convey its 
orders to the chairman of the COSC (currently Gen S. Padmanabhan). 

The air force has nursed ambitions of being the sole custodian of India's 
nuclear assets, and when it was denied the pre-eminence it sought, had 
opposed the integration of higher defencemanagement under the chief of 
defence staff. 

The IAF believes that strategic targeting "hitting areas thousands of miles 
away" is an air force role. The air force brass believes that it is not a 
role that suits the army, which according to it "has a 40km perspective."-

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