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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 22:18 GMT
'Keep Indian nuclear arms underwater'
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2000
Mr Putin and Mr Vajpayee are fostering close relations
India's naval chief has said India should put some of its nuclear weapons at sea in order to protect them from attack.

Admiral Madhvendra Singh's comments come ahead of a visit to India by Russian President Vladimir Putin.


It doesn't make sense to keep nuclear weapons on land - if you keep them on land, they are going to be targeted

Admiral Singh
But Admiral Singh refused to confirm or deny Indian newspaper reports that a long-negotiated deal to lease an Akula II class nuclear submarine from Russia was near completion.

India currently uses only diesel-powered submarines and would require a nuclear-powered submarine to store its weapons underwater.

Weapons storage

The Akula submarine, which displaces nearly 11,000 tonnes, could carry cruise missiles that could hit targets up to 300 kilometres (186 miles) away, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

By storing weapons underwater, India could bolster its defensive position in relation to Pakistan which has refused to declare a "no-first-use" nuclear policy due to its inferiority in conventional military terms.

Short-range Prithvi missile
India is vigorously pursuing its missile programme
"If you look around the world, the strongest arm of a [nuclear] triad is at sea, not only at sea but underwater," Admiral Singh said.

He added: "It doesn't make sense to keep nuclear weapons on land. If you keep them on land, they are going to be targeted."

Joanna Kidd, Naval analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies told the BBC no country has so far succeeded in putting nuclear weapons on diesel powered submarines.

"It is technically possible but extremely difficult," she said.

Tight-lipped

Draft guidelines, released by a government-appointed security advisory group in 1999, recommended a nuclear arsenal based on aircraft, missiles and ships.

But the Indian Government has said very little about how far the plans have progressed.

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is due to begin two days of talks in India on Tuesday - the meetings are likely to be dominated by defence issues and trade talks.

The two countries are expected to sign a declaration of co-operation.

Final negotiations are also due to take place on the price of the Russian-built aircraft carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov.

See also:

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