India is working toward having a sea-based nuclear deterrent capability within next three years, the country’s security adviser says.

The work on the development of the “third leg of the triad [of nuclear delivery systems], which is submarine-based, is in progress,” says Shyam Saran, chairman of the country’s National Security Advisory Board. “It is expected that a modest sea-based deterrence will be in place by 2015 or 2016.”

India already has land-based surface-to-surface nuclear missiles with its Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III, along with the Prithvi-I and Prithvi-II missile variants. The country also can launch airborne nuclear missiles from Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft.

India has previously tested its submarine-launched missile — dubbed “Sagarika,” or K-15 — which can carry nuclear warheads. It would join the U.S., the U.K., China, Russia and France in having submarine-launched nuclear weapons.

India’s nuclear policy, which was formally adopted in 2003, is guided by the current territorial situation, especially with its south Asian neighbor Pakistan relentlessly building up its nuclear arsenal in recent years.

“India does have a credible theory of how its nuclear weapons may be used and that is spelled out in its nuclear doctrine,” Saran says.

Mirage 2000 photo: IAF