India

Unclear doctrine: On ‘No First Use’ nuclear policy

‘No First Use’ is integral to India’s nuclear doctrine and leaves no space for ambiguity

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has been somewhat careful in speaking of envisioning a change in India’s nuclear deterrence posture. In place for 16 years, since January 4, 2003, when the doctrine was adopted formally, New Delhi has said consistently that India’s nuclear weapons were based on staggering and punitive retaliation, in case deterrence failed. The retaliation to a nuclear strike, any nuclear strike, whether by tactical or theatre weapons or something bigger, would be crushing enough to deter the possible use of nuclear weapons by an adversary. So the theory goes. On the first death anniversary of former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, and in the nuclear proving ground in Pokhran, the Minister said two things: that the no-first-use has served India well so far, and that what happens in future depends on circumstances. There ought to be no scope for confusion here. Security is, after all, a dynamic concept. It was the security environment in the neighbourhood coupled with the pressure brought by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that forced India out of the nuclear closet and, at the same time, to adopt the no-first-use posture. The structures

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