Various experts have been demanding a revision of India’s nuclear doctrine which they claim to be not in tune with the current realities and security situations.
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What is India’s Nuclear Doctrine?
- India’s Nuclear Doctrine was formulated following a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting in 2003 which was four and a half years after the 1998 Pokhran II nuclear tests.
- Some of the key features of the doctrine are as follows
- Building and maintaining a Credible Minimum Deterrence which includes
- Sufficient and Survivable nuclear forces both in terms of warheads and means of delivery and will be able to inflict considerable damage.
- Nuclear forces must be operationally prepared at all times.
- Effective intelligence and early warning capabilities.
- An effective Command and Control System.
- The will to employ nuclear forces.
- Communication of deterrence capability.
- A No First Use Policy, which means the nuclear weapons to be used only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on the Indian Territory or on Indian forces. Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict considerable damage.
- Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
- Thus the doctrine clearly indicates that India wants its nuclear weapons as only a deterrent for defensive purposes and not to threaten others.
Why should India revisit its nuclear doctrine?
- Pakistan in recent days is showing an aggressive military strategy and continues to increase the size of its nuclear arsenal.
- It has not accepted the No First Use (NFU) Policy and takes advantage of its nuclear might to support and sponsor terrorist activities in India without any fear of retaliation.
- Moreover, there is a growing concern for the China-Pakistan Nuclear Axis in building nuclear delivery capabilities, often violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). For example, Pakistan’s medium-range ballistic missiles Shaheen I and II closely resemble China’s M series ballistic missiles.
- All of these issues calls for India to focus on its nuclear principles and improve its nuclear readiness.
- There is also a debate in western circles that there is a shift in India’s doctrine to an offensive nuclear posture rather than its traditional minimum deterrence stance.
- But there is no official indication that India intends to keep its nuclear forces at a “higher readiness level”.
Why should India continue the NFU policy?
- Despite being a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), its policies are consistent with provisions of NPT.
- It helps India establishing and further strengthening ties with other countries since India uses nuclear weapons only as a deterrent.
- It improved trade in nuclear technology and nuclear infrastructure with other countries. For example, India and Japan signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2017.
- It enables India to import Uranium (the critical component for nuclear power generation) from countries such as Australia and Canada.
- If India adopts First Use Policy then it will lead to nuclear war as the nuclear weapon will be seen as a weapon of war rather than a weapon of deterrence.
- Declaring the first-use policy would create instability for either side due to ‘use it or lose it’ syndrome.
- First Use policy would remove all the gains enjoyed by India in the international community such as termination of sanctions, entry into multilateral export control regimes and civil nuclear cooperation agreements due to its NFU policy.
- First Use policy would make South Asia a nuclear threat in the world and thereby encourage foreign meddling.
What is the way forward?
- Indian defence planning should incorporate an expanded role for nuclear weapons without affecting ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence’.
- It should formulate the right response for any challenges and security risks. It can be done by evaluating all conventional and unconventional approaches.
- The risk of nuclear escalation cannot be contained by the revision of India’s minimum deterrence policy, but with a change in Pakistan’s behaviour. India should strongly persuade other countries to restrain Pakistan’s offensive behaviour with respect to its nuclear policies and state-sponsored terrorism. And make Pakistan realize that nuclear weapons are meant to deter, not to initiate a nuclear war.