Prelims cum Mains

“No First Use” nuclear doctrine is not rigid, says Rajnath Singh

In News:

  • Although India has strictly followed its ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine, “circumstances” will determine what happens to this policy in the future, Defence Minister said.

News Summary:

  • August 16, 2019, marks the first death anniversary of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under whose government India conducted nuclear tests in 1998.
  • The Indian Defence Minister marked the day at Pokhran, the area which witnessed the nuclear tests.
  • A while after the nuclear tests of 1998, India operationalized the doctrine of No First Use (NFU) in relation to the nuclear weapons.
  • So far, India has strictly adhered to, and repeatedly reiterated, the doctrine of NFU.
  • Now, the Indian Defence Minister said that “circumstances” will determine what happens to this policy in the future. 
  • The Defence Minister’s comments are significant considering that Pakistan has over the years openly threatened India with the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions.

About: No First Use doctrine:

  • A No First Use (NFU) policy would make it the policy of the country not to use nuclear weapons first, which means that nuclear weapons would only be used to respond to a nuclear attack against it.
  • An NFU policy would lower risks by assuring nuclear-armed adversaries that they don’t have to worry that a country will use nuclear weapons first during a crisis.
  • It would formalize that nuclear weapons are only for deterrence, not nuclear war-fighting.

NFU and India:

  • In 2003, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) under Vajpayee finalized that the country’s nuclear doctrine involved “a posture of No First Use”.
  • India has put in place its nuclear doctrine with NFU and massive retaliation in response to any nuclear strikes on it forming its core tenets.
    • NFU: The NFU policy was described as follows: “Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”.
    • Massive Retaliation: The doctrine also made it clear that India’s “nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage”. It also noted that, “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons”.
  • The concept of India maintaining a minimum credible deterrence and a nuclear triad for delivery of nuclear weapons based on aircraft, missiles and nuclear submarines flow from that.

Other key points from India’s Nuclear Doctrine:

  • Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority. The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  • India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  • India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

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