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India’s NFU Policy

Topics covered:

Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

India’s NFU Policy

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key facts on India’s nuclear capability.

For Mains: NFU- need, concerns and why have it?

 

Context: The Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh has given major hints about a possible review of the policy of ‘no first use‘ of nuclear weapons and said it will depend on circumstances in future.

 

India’s NFU:

In 1998, India conducted nuclear tests under Pokhran-II and in 2003, it declared its nuclear doctrine based on credible minimum deterrence and a NFU policy while reserving the right of massive retaliation if struck with nuclear weapons first.

 

What is no first use nuclear doctrine?

It refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. Earlier, the concept had also been applied to chemical and biological warfare.

India first adopted a “No first use” policy after its second nuclear tests, Pokhran-II, in 1998. In August 1999, the Indian government released a draft of the doctrine which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of “retaliation only”.

The document also maintains that India “will not be the first to initiate a nuclear first strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail” and that decisions to authorise the use of nuclear weapons would be made by the Prime Minister or his ‘designated successor(s)’.

 

Why India should retain this policy?

  1. Adopting a no-first use policy enables New Delhi to keep the nuclear threshold high, especially as Pakistan tries to lower the threshold by developing tactical nuclear weapons, the Hatf-9 with 60km range.
  2. It must also be noted that New Delhi is not bordered by just one nuclear weapon state. China adopts a no-first use policy and, in spite of calls for Beijing to revise its no-first use doctrine, it is unlikely to do so. Hence, if New Delhi gave up its no-first use doctrine, it could give Beijing a chance to adopt a first strike policy and shift blame on India.
  3. In fact, India’s adoption of a first strike policy would be an easy excuse for Beijing to give up its no-first use doctrine against the United States and Russia as well.
  4. Moreover, India has always promoted herself as a responsible nuclear weapon state. Hence, a first strike policy would severely damage India’s reputation as a responsible nuclear weapon state.
  5. Also, it is India’s no first use doctrine that has enabled both Pakistan and India to keep their nuclear arsenal in a de-mated posture rather than a ready deterrent posture. This means nuclear warheads are not mated with the delivery systems. This reduces the chances of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan and also reduces the likelihood of an accidental launch of a nuclear weapon. A first strike policy by India may not have allowed Pakistan to keep their nuclear arsenal in a de-mated posture.
  6. A first-strike policy, coupled with a ballistic missile defense system, could provoke Pakistan to launch a nuclear pre-emptive strike against India.
  7. By adopting a no-first use doctrine, New Delhi has also made it evident that nuclear weapons are indeed the weapons of last resort. Abandoning this doctrine would make it evident that India considers the option of using nuclear weapons in the initial phases of the conflict.

 

Sources: the hindu.

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