‘No-first-use’ policy: India’s nuclear doctrine has become almost ineffective, says expert

Published: April 10, 2014
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Deputy spokesperson says talks with Taliban an ‘internal matter’. PHOTO: FILE

Deputy spokesperson says talks with Taliban an ‘internal matter’. PHOTO: FILE

A defence expert has said that the anticipated revision of India’s “no-first-use” doctrine on nuclear weapons would not change much.

“India for practical reasons is already not adhering to the policy”, Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said while giving a talk on his book “Indian Nuclear Deterrence: Its Evolution, Development and Implications for South Asian Security” at the Oxford University Press shop on Wednesday.

India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is likely to form the next government, has announced to give up “no-first-use” policy on nuclear weapons, once in government.

The Strategic Vision Institute President recalled that addition of at least two clauses to the doctrine at the time of its operationalisation in January last had already made the policy ineffective.

According to Indian nuclear doctrine, any large scale attack on it or its interests anywhere in the world and strikes by chemical and biological weapons can be retaliated by nuclear weapons.

This position, Dr Cheema contended, was not consistent with the traditional “no-first-use” policy under which a country commits to using nukes only in response to a nuclear attack.

Dr Cheema has in the book established that the decision to conduct nuclear tests in May 1998 was not originally that of BJP. It was a step prefigured in India’s strategic continuum whose genesis dates back to 1950s, he believes.

Dr Cheema maintains that the technological foundation of a weapons option was designed within the structural framework of civilian nuclear programme during Nehru’s government.

His research work reveals that Indian nuclear policies followed by Nehru’s successors, starting from Lal Bahadur Shastri until now, are a continuation, not a departure from where Nehru had left. The differences, if any, Dr Cheema emphasizes, are in nuance rather than substance.

“The May 1998 India’s nuclear tests unveiled a long drawn-out cloak of ambiguity in India’s nuclear weapons policy and it declared itself a nuclear weapons state.”

Nehru envisioned a ‘Greater India’, which would play a great-power role in world affairs commensurate with its size and power poten¬tial. He was instrumental in defining the aims and objectives of Indian foreign and security policies within which Indian nuclear policy was developed and pursued,” Dr Cheema concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Kayyum
    Apr 10, 2014 - 9:30AM

    Don’t worry India, Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Before you finish us, we’ll finish ourselves. Just be gentle upon us when you write about us in the books of history.

    Recommend

  • Zaid Hamid
    Apr 10, 2014 - 9:48AM

    “Indian Nuclear Deterrence: Its Evolution, Developement and Implications on Soulh Asian Security”
    India can be/has been attacked (you can fix the point of time) not just from South Asia. Families have guns to protect themselves from robbers & dacoits . A gun holder can be an attacker or defender. India can be either(history proves something).Recommend

  • Areeha
    Apr 10, 2014 - 10:14AM

    Revisiting the NFU policy and making a declaration to that effect makes little strategic sense, since it will damage so called India’s status as a “responsible nuclear power” which is not aggressive and is not ready to attack any other country. Such a step will abrogate India’s commitment to the universal goal of nuclear disarmament and upset the regional balance in the sub-continent. The NFU policy is a sound pillar of India’s nuclear doctrine. The no-first-use policy is premised upon an assured second strike capability, that is survive a first strike and retain sufficient warheads to launch massive retaliation upon the adversary. As long as this second strike capability is not degraded there is no reason to abandon the NFU posture. And obviously for changing the policy of NFU to first use, alot more is required to spend on military buildup, and rapid developments and expansions will not make Pakistan and China to sit idly and watch the theatre. This thing will definitely arouse a sense of retaliation and also eagerness to reply India in the same way thus triggering arms race in the region.

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  • Eshaal
    Apr 10, 2014 - 10:29AM

    Although, we are living in a digital age but major foundations of Indian statehood are the same been followed as they were at the time of inception. The very state followed the foot prints of its ancestors in policy making at large. India moulds all the traditional concepts as it suits to its national interests of “hegemony and interests”. Following strategic autonomy and non-aligned membership India enjoyed benefits of friends and foes at the same time. There is a huge difference between written words in documents and things come to practical ends. The manifesto of BJP to bring change in nuclear doctrine is yet to be awaited. The concern of Pakistan remains same to keep intact its sovereignty and dignity against all the odds from neighbourhood and this what country follows since day one. Indian hostility and threatening nature towards Pakistan remains same no matter whosoever comes in. So, Pakistan moves in the direction to curb every kind of thereat to its state particularly.

    Recommend

  • Zallae
    Apr 10, 2014 - 11:11AM

    Although, we are living in a digital age but major foundations of Indian statehood are the same been followed as they were at the time of inception. The very state followed the foot prints of its ancestors in policy making at large. India molds all the traditional concepts as it suits to its national interests of “hegemony and interests”. Following strategic autonomy and nonaligned membership India enjoyed benefits of friends and foes at the same time. There is a huge difference between written words in documents and things come to practical ends. The manifesto of BJP to bring change in nuclear doctrine is yet to be awaited. The concern of Pakistan remains same to keep intact its sovereignty and dignity against all the odds from neighborhood and this what country follows since day one.

    Recommend

  • Feroz
    Apr 10, 2014 - 11:31AM

    India will retain its “No First Use Policy” for Nuclear Weapons because it is a Democracy and has to abide by what its citizens want and believe in. It is in National Interest as defined by its citizens who run the country. Whether BJP comes to Power or anyone else, this policy is unlikely to change. Dr Cheema can believe whatever he wants and and continue to spin his web of fantasy but the impact on Indian Nuclear Doctrine will remain at zero.

    Recommend

  • antanu
    Apr 10, 2014 - 2:50PM

    @Kayyum:
    but what holds you back giving your very obvious identity. ..and for your information. ..The name you chose to wear starts from Q and not K.Brother we are Indians…and very forthright. ..so tell clearly that we will finish you instead of Us.

    Recommend

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