April 30, 2014
In determining whether or not it is necessary to revisit India’s nuclear doctrine it would be relevant to examine how it evolved, its main features, the reasons behind the calls to revisit it and the factors which militate against so doing.
Evolution of India’s Nuclear Doctrine:
India’s nuclear doctrine was first enunciated following a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting in January 2003 – over four and a half years after the May 1998 tests. It contained few surprises being largely built around the pronouncements made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee following the tests to the effect that India’s nuclear weapons were meant only for self defence, that India was not interested in arms racing, and encapsulating concepts such as “no first use” of nuclear weapons and their “non use” against non nuclear weapon states. Apart from these pronouncements, several entities, notably the Armed Forces, the National Security Council Secretariat and the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), made detailed contributions to the Government, on the nuclear doctrine, through 1999 and 2000, which were considered by it in firming up its views on the subject.
Main Features of India’s Nuclear Doctrine:
The main features of India’s nuclear doctrine were summarized as follows in the CCS press release of January 4th 2003:
- Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent;
- A “No First Use” posture; nuclear weapons to be used only “in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”;
- Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be “massive” and designed to inflict “unacceptable damage”.
- Nuclear retaliatory attacks to be authorized only by civilian political leadershipthrough the Nuclear Command Authority.
- Non use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapon states.
- India to retain option of retaliating with nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack against it with biological or chemical weapons;
- Continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participation in FMCT negotiations, continued moratorium on testing;
- Continued commitment to goal of nuclear weapon free world, through global, verifiable and non discriminatory disarmament.
Expose on “Credible Minimum Deterrent”:
The concept of “credible minimum deterrence” is the cornerstone of India’s nuclear doctrine. It, used in conjunction with the concepts of “No First Use” (NFU) and “Non Use” against nuclear weapon states, clearly indicates that India envisages its nuclear weapons as only a deterrent merely for defensive purposes and not as a means to threaten others, that it is not in the business of building up a huge arsenal and that it will not engage in arms racing.