An effective Indian deterrent against Pakistan and China would require one hundred and fifty nuclear warheads, delivered by missiles or bombers, according to a key advisor to the Indian government on nuclear and strategic issues. Mr. K. Subrahmanyam, a leading member of the National Security Advisory Board, which authored India's Draft Nuclear Doctrine, argues that India should "project a credible deterrence," by working out strategies, policies and a command and control structure. He described India's Draft Nuclear Doctrine as a "most logical, most restrained and most economical" document.

Clearly, Washington does not share this assessment. The Draft Nuclear Doctrine outlines a plan for a triad of nuclear forces, and a "minimum credible deterrent" without offering any numbers on either warheads or costs involved. New Delhi has never formally adopted the Draft as official policy and has been vague on numbers.

India's retired Rear Admiral Raja Menon, author of a "A Nuclear Strategy for India" and proponent of a well-developed Indian nuclear deterrent, estimated in September that India has enough fissile material for about one hundred and fifty bombs. While India has expressed support for negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMTC), the country rejects an immediate moratorium on fissile material production.

In a letter to the U.S. Congress dated November 9, President Clinton said that he has made it clear to New Delhi that the relationship "will not be able to reach its full potential without progress on [U.S.] nonproliferation and regional security concerns." For Indian policy-makers and analysts, the president's letter will be a disappointment on two fronts. One, it is a reminder that despite the multi-faceted and remarkably improved relations with Washington, nuclear differences continue to encumber the relationship. Two, the president's emphasis on India and Pakistan in the South Asian nuclear scenario, without mention of China, will vex New Delhi. Both in terms of threat perception, and perhaps, more importantly, self-image, New Delhi largely sees Beijing as the reference point on its nuclear posture.

The president outlined the benchmarks set before India and Pakistan on the nuclear issue. They include an end to nuclear testing and a prompt, unconditional adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, "constructive engagement" in the FMCT negotiations, and a moratorium on fissile material production until the FMCT is concluded. Further, the U.S. wants India and Pakistan to restraint their respective missile programs, refrain from deploying missiles, and to adopt export controls of sensitive materials and technology consistent with international standards.