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India adheres to ‘no first use’ nuke doctrine, future depends on circumstances

The defence minister said this on Twitter after visiting Pokhran where India carried out nuclear tests in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Aug 19, 2019, 10.13 AM IST
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What happens in future depends on circumstances: Rajnath Singh on India's nuclear policy
What happens in future depends on circumstances: Rajnath Singh on India's nuclear policy
NEW DELHI: India’s ‘no first use’ doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons is open for change in the future, defence minister Rajnath Singh has indicated, reflecting thinking within the establishment that no policy is writ in stone and could be modified to deal with current realities.

In a short comment during a visit to the Pokharan ranges where India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998, the senior leader said that India has been committed to the doctrine that it would use nuclear weapons only if attacked first but hinted that it could be changed in the future.

“Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atalji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the no first use doctrine. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances,” Singh, who is a member of the powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) said.

Sources said that while the comments need not be seen particularly in the context of current tensions between India and Pakistan, they reflect a larger thinking within that policies of the past that have outlived their utility and purpose can be revised and relooked.

The government has already demonstrated through several actions within the past five years that that current challenges have to be met with a new approach.

Sources pointed out that with the surgical strike of 2016, the government conveyed that the sanctity of the Line of Control (LoC) which was upheld by Prime Minister AB Vajpayee during the Kargil war in 1999 no longer applies when it comes to action against terrorism.

Similarly, air strikes on a terror training camp located within undisputed Pakistani territory at Balakot showed that India will not let international boundaries come in the way when it comes to protecting its interests. The swift action on removing article 370 and changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir is being seen as yet another example that policies of the past will not come in the way of change.

On the ‘no first use’ doctrine, India had maintained a consistent line till now, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioning it during his address when the nuclear triad was achieved in November last year after the first deterrence patrol by indigenous nuclear armed submarine, INS Arihant.

Are lease by the PMO had then stated that India is committed to the doctrine of credible minimum deterrence and no first use.

In briefings after the patrol, top government sources had also gone to lengths to emphasise that the Prime Minister firmly believes in the no first use policy.

However, one insight into the BJP’s thinking on the strategic programme came in its 2014 election manifesto that promised that its government will study the nuclear doctrine in detail and “revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.”
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