When you have a neighbour like Pakistan and a leader like Imran Khan at the helm of affairs, being assisted by hawkish courtiers to the likes of Sheikh Rasheed and Fawad Chaudhry, a prospective nuclear war cannot be ruled out. Imran Khan Niazi, the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan has been a constant reminder of Islamabad’s capabilities to nuke nations at will. Khan, despite leading an economically ruptured economy, has kept fuelling his aggression with calls for nuclear war. Recently, at the altar of his country’s nuclear capabilities, he maligned the UNGA podium to threaten the world with the consequences of war if India hits his country to the threshold. Although, he keeps forgetting the fact that there’s Qamar Javed Bajwa who will preside over the proceedings when Pakistan would require to nuke India.
Unlike Pakistan, there are nations like India and the United States which have a set of guidelines to follow when nuclear option becomes the final retort. India conducted her first nuclear test in 1974 in Rajasthan’s Pokharan with the operation being code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’. India since then has conducted a series of nuclear tests with the recent being ‘Operation Shakti’ in 1998.
In India, the final decision over launching a nuclear attack on any adversary will be taken by Nuclear Command Authority. In 2003, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) constituted the Political Council and the Executive Council of the NCA. The Executive Council is headed by National Security Advisor while Prime Minister heads the Political Council. Executive Council is tasked with the role to give inputs to the Political Council. The NCA has been constituted in such a way to make sure that the Indian nukes remain in civilian control and it also provides a mechanism which prevents the accidental or unauthorised use of it. In the present scenario, Narendra Modi heads the Political Council of NCA while NSA Ajit Doval is the chief of Executive Council.
In normal circumstances, it appears pretty clear that if India is faced with a nuclear attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have the final authority to press the nuclear button after receiving the due briefing from NSA Doval. But let’s imagine a different situation. What will happen if any country decides to nuke India in the absence of PM Modi? The official communique by the Office of President of India lists Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s name above Amit Shah in the list of council of ministers. It can be speculated that Rajnath Singh will be the go-to person in absence of the prime minister.
After getting the green signal from the Nuclear Command Authority, its directives are executed by the Strategic Forces Command headed by a Commander-in-Chief of the rank of Air Marshal. The Strategic Forces Command has the role to operationalise the directives of NCA.
However, if India and Pakistan engage in nuclear war, more than 100 million people are likely to die, followed by global mass starvation, according to a study. "Such a war would threaten not only the locations where bombs might be targeted but the entire world," said co-author Alan Robock of Rutgers University-New Brunswick in the US. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at a war scenario that may occur between India and Pakistan in 2025.