India’s nuclear arsenal is shrouded in excessive secrecy. While some of this is inevitable, the complete lack of information on the Indian nuclear weapons inventory, delivery options and command and control is somewhat disconcerting. However, as of 2017, it can be safely said that the Indian arsenal — under the control of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) is at present, land-based and consists of air-delivered weapons and land-based ballistic missiles. While India has made significant strides in developing a submarine-based deterrent, the INS Arihant and her K-4 missiles are a considerable distance away from attaining operational status. In the medium term, these systems will become relevant but at this juncture, India would plan its nuclear deployment and delivery systems around manned aircraft and a mix of short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles. It is also to be noted that with the Nirbhay cruise missile facing development challenges and the BrahMos system’s nuclear payload (if any) being in the realm of pure speculation, Indian nuclear-armed cruise missiles cannot be counted on being part of the Indian arsenal at this juncture but are certainly prospectively so.
Given the fact that India has an avowed no-first-use policy, this imposes a number of challenges for India to ensure the survivability of its deterrent. Having a nuclear triad is one way to ensure survivability but the individual components of this triad must themselves be suffi