India’s New First Use Policy (Revelation 8 )

India Nuclear posture, Policy Shift from No First use to First Use

Abdul HaseebJuly 28, 2020

Nuclear weapons have revolutionized the strategic affairs, but the threat of unbearable destruction caused by these weapons persuaded strategic scholars to think about using these weapons for deterrent purposes and prevent their further proliferation. Every Nuclear Weapon State formulates a Policy according to its threatperception. The creation of the Nuclear Weapon and the consequent nuclear capabilitiespositioned at the behest of Nuclear states has produced a significant dilemma for theinternational community. Harnessing nuclear energy has provided acquirers with a destructive force so devastating, that it has alarmed the global intellectual circles. India’s obscure nuclear Doctrine of no first use in its declaratory form has changed partially if not majorly after it was first announced by Nuclear Security Advisory Board (NSAB), a group of non-governmental experts, in 1999.

Later on, though the Indian government claimed that it is not an official paper but what was written in the text of (NSAB), much of it was already being stated within various official statements. The 1999 document was based on minimum deterrent force but which would also be credible and survivable according to the changing strategic environment. The 1999 doctrine emphasized the need for reliable nuclear power, which would be able to survive the first strike against it and as well as underlined the need for strict political control over nuclear forces. NSAB document also emphasized India’s Nuclear disarmament objectives, but with this, it also discussedthe nuclear triad. However, when details of the official Nuclear Doctrine released in 2003, it was the same as the document published in 1999. Still, there were changes also in this new officially crafted document statement. The Indian Nuclear Doctrine asserts that nuclear weapons are only for Deterrence, and Retaliation is a policy which India will pursue in case of any threat. The NFU policy manifests that India will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons, but if attacked by nuclear weapons, it will retaliate massively.The DND clearly announced its NFU posture, whereby nuclear weapons only used as the retaliatory option against nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The No Frist use policy is effectively cashed by Indian diplomats, government spokespeople, and various other groups as proof to show the world their commitments as a responsible nuclear state.

“As a responsible nuclear power, India has a policy of credible minimum Deterrence based on a no-first-use posture and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states… We are prepared to convert these into bilateral or multilateral legally binding arrangements.”

Twenty-two years since the nuclearization of South Asia, the nuclear capabilities and doctrines of Pakistan and India have evolved through considerable alterations.The shift from NFU to FU would have drastic implications for the South Asian region since it could very well disturb the balance of power in the region resulting in the eruption of a nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India. The Indian state has long maintained a minimum credible deterrent, which does not depend on the adversary’s Nuclear stockpile but the ability of the state to ensure a retaliatory strike large enough to inflict “unacceptable damage” and hence ensure Deterrence. The change could also increase the security dilemma in the region, subsequently raising the risk of war through miscalculation. The move from counter-value targeting to counter-force targeting would call for the revamping of Indian nuclear stockpile and nuclear technology. Ensuring the complete detection and elimination of Pakistan’s nuclear capacity would need impressive precision and vast improvements in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. It would require heavy financial backing, putting immense pressure on an already burdened economy. The impact of a nuclear posture change on the foreign policy of the state could be worse since India has long been projecting itself as a responsible nuclear weapon state to the world. This aggressive posture would seriously damage this claim and its standing in the international community. The benign façade has helped India secure crucial international deals such as the NSG waiver as part of the 2008 India-US nuclear deal.

Moreover, India also seeks to join the NSG as a permanent member; the shift would only provide states with substance to stop this from happening. Also, it would give Pakistan a chance to malign India at the international stage accusing it of destabilizing the region’s power balance. India currently does not possess the capability to maintain a high level of accuracy and respond in real-time. Finally, the Indian military nuclear program has been built and structured to suit its no-first-use posture; a change would thus need a complete restructuring of this program and its essential technological factors.

A comprehensive assessment needs to be made by Indian authorities about the policy options at their disposal before taking further action to avoid harm to the Indian state as well as other states in its vicinity. Destabilizing the strategic balance in the region and will result in catastrophe. The nuclear environmentstabilized by India having a no first use (NFU) policy giving India’s conventional strength against Pakistan. So, no scenario needs to use nuclear weapons first against Pakistan. Secondly, India is in a position where their Nuclear forces are in a place to deter nuclear use against it, which enables it to select or adopt no first use policy.

Moving away from no first use policy will have severe implications on India. First is that adopting a FU option will put both India and Pakistan in the dilemma of first-strike instability for which Pakistan might have fear for survivability. India having a policy, is a firewall in a potential conflict between both India and Pakistan.

Further, if India adopts the first-use option, then it will directly affect their global aims and visions. For example, they are continuously striving to get a permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Recently India got wavier from the United States in the case of NSG. All these actions and global aims of India indicate that they are moving towards a liberal environment, and their economy is still rising. So, if they adopt the policy of FU, then their mere focus will be profoundly moving to their nuclear program,which will not besuitable for India in any case. The Strategic Ally of India in the South Asian region is the United States, and one of India’s primary foreign policy goals is to contain China in the region with support from the US. If India shifts its policy of nuclear use option from NFU to FU, then naturally, China will have to adopt the same policy of FU.

Nonetheless, a drastic change in the shift of nuclear policy would not suit the Indian state in the current era. Without any doubt, India’s nuclear posture and expansion are forcing Pakistan, a relatively weak state in terms of conventional capability, into a security dilemma. In any case, the cons outweigh the pros in this case. Hence, sticking to the current nuclear policy with minor adjustments could be suitable for the Indian state, but a drastic change would only damage its interests.

Abdul Haseeb is about to complete his degree in Strategic Studies from National Defence University Pakistan.His major area of interest includes Strategic stability in South Asia. Geo-Politicsin Indo-Pacific Ocean, Program and Policies of nuclear weapon state, Foreign Policy of Pakistan and US, Cybersecurity and National security and Threat Perception

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75th Anniversary of Trinity Nuclear Test & Possible Resumption of Nuclear Testing


4 hours ago


July 29, 2020

Trinity test untethered the nuclear demon with potential apocalyptic power. According to United States, 1945’s Japan needed a psychological shock strong enough to make it surrender unconditionally at the cost of putting future generations on the verge of irreversible calamity. The uncertainty attached with these nuclear tests remain unpredictable even after 75 years with two devastating nuclear attacks, crises like Cuban missile crisis, and more than 2000 nuclear explosive tests. Although nuclear non-proliferation and arms control has a predominant place in nuclear realm to contain the unleashed demon with consequential threats, yet nuclear testing remained a practiced phenomenon.

Trinity test took place under strained circumstances, war pressure and complete uncertainty of results. The uncalculated risks taken at the time of first explosion and unsatisfying anti-radioactive measures following the tests were strong enough to convince the administrative and decision-making body to realize the emerging challenges in the wake of nuclear weapon discovery. Scientist are always afraid of being accused of providing mass destructive means to nations. The committee headed by German scientist James Frank issued the Frank Report, that attempted to first demonstrate the power of the weapons to members of the United Nations. Yet, there were no signs of reconsideration of retreating from use of nuclear bomb and begin with pure deterrence with just a warning of use of nukes. It was due to the fact that Truman wanted to end the war soon and maybe because Japan seemed to be stubborn enough to consider the warning.

United States reserves the pride of being an initiator nuclear weapon state with the legacy of conducting more than half of up-till-date global nuclear device tests. U.S. nuclear testing practice is on a hold since 1992 as a result of nuclear test ban treaty. Recently, U.S. officials alarmed the world with possibility of resuming nuclear weapon tests. The reasons behind are less technical -checking the reliability of nuclear stockpiles- and more political in nature. It is surely another psychological shock from the United States, this time not for any single war mongering state but the whole world.

The assumption that the U.S.’ proposed trilateral arms control initiative would get a strong base to get into reality, through the imposed political pressure on other major nuclear powers, is a mere credulity. Threat of resuming nuclear testing adds to the mistrust among the nuclear weapon states. Following U.S. footsteps, the allied nuclear weapon states could take up the same course, putting rival nations in security dilemma and the domino effect would emerge. It would further devalue the already waning and uncertain future arms control accords. The clear clash of security interests is likely to emerge as a result of United States re-testing while compelling others to follow the course. Resumption of nuclear testing by all existing nuclear weapon states would be resulting in the filling up of nuclear weapons knowledge gap that existed all long the decades providing U.S. with the edge over other nuclear weapon states.

United States needs to address the fact that as a pioneer nuclear weapon state, it is being followed by both, the competitor and friendly nuclear weapon states in its policies and nuclear strategies. Russia and China, as a result, would get more reluctant towards any trilateral approach regarding nuclear arms in near future. In emerging multipolar world post-Covid-19 crisis and potential threats of future crises situation, nuclear testing would stand as an inevitable threat. The decision of resuming nuclear testing would bring about a whole new development in nuclear realm with further weakening of the disarmament cause.

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