Question – Should India revise its Nuclear Doctrine? Comment on it. – 24 July 2021
- There is a very interesting debate going on in India regarding nuclear policy. Its need has also increased considerably due to many reasons. The country has a right-wing government that is not shy about making dramatic changes in India’s foreign and defense policy. At the same time, India’s strategic thinkers are expressing concern about Pakistan’s dependence on strategic nuclear weapons, and on that the ties between Pakistan and China are getting stronger. These factors have not only reduced India’s options, but also changed the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The no-first-use (NFU) policy has been the cornerstone of India’s nuclear policy and the BJP-led government has so far made no proposal to change it. But it promised in its 2014 election manifesto that it would “study India’s nuclear policy in detail and revise it and adapt it to the current changes.” On the other hand, Manohar Parrikar, who was the country’s Defense Minister till a few weeks ago, had questioned India’s policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. He had said, “Why do a large number of people say that India has a policy that it will not use it first… I must say that I am an accountable nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly, and a person As in, there are times I wonder why I say I’m not going to use it in the first place. I’m not saying you have to use it first just because you haven’t decided that you don’t have to use it first. By this sly forces can be controlled.”
- But what has sparked controversy these days is an excerpt from a recent book by Shiv Shankar Menon, former National Security Advisor of India, in which he wrote: “India can use its nuclear weapons against any other Nuclear Powered Nation (NWS). There is no complete clarity about when to use it for the first time. Circumstances are such in which India may find its first use useful in some cases. For example, against an NWS that declares that it will definitely use its weapons and makes India feel certain that it is definitely going to be used by the opposing side.
- This has led many to argue that this is a major shift in India’s nuclear policy and that New Delhi may under certain circumstances abandon its NFU policy. When it feels that Islamabad is going to use weapons against it, it can attack Pakistan first. Many in the West see this as a significant change in India’s attitude that could be very important for the strategic stability of South Asia.
- But till date, the New Delhi government or the Prime Minister’s Office has not given any indication that there is going to be any change in India’s nuclear policy. Rather, it would be highly illogical for New Delhi to do such a thing at a time when it is struggling so diplomatically to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Any such initiative could threaten India’s identity as a responsible nuclear power.