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In The Context of Constant Nuclear Threat Form Pakistan, India Should Revise Its Nuclear Doctrine of ‘No First Use’

India is a nation known for its peaceful and non-violent revolts. India has been a peace loving nation. Since years back India has been strong supporter of ethics and morals, this also led India towards the misery of 350 years. These 350 years led India to uncountable sufferings even for the very basic necessities as well as dignity.

But even today if we look at Indian policies they are based on peace and non-violence and ‘No first use’ policy is a big example of it. But recurring efforts of India regarding friendship with Pakistan prove that India is just interested in maintaining peace rather than hatred. Although, Pakistan has created such an image by past incidents that it is blameworthy of unfair and unacceptable activities and even after knowing this India has always tried to maintain peace.

The mandal theory of great Indian administrative thinker Kautilya is so fit regarding the relations of neighbour countries. His theory clearly stated that the very next country is never friend, although proves to be an enemy and similar are the relations of India and Pakistan.

Following are few strong reasons which prove that India should revise its Nuclear doctrine of ‘No First Use’.

  • India is among the countries who have pledged to ‘No First Use’ nuclear doctrine and China and North Korea have too pledged it. The intimate relations of China and Pakistan are not hidden and the remarkable growth of China in these recent years cannot be ignored too. Hence, we can see that Pakistan and China both have common intentions of creating internal disturbance in India. Terrorism and issue of Jammu and Kashmir are fuelled by Pakistan with help of China just to hinder growth and peace of India.
  • Secondly, India has the policy of ‘minimum deterrence’ that means not keeping weapons more than of use. This policy is good in terms of morals, but if we watch it from the view of current scenario where relations with neighbour countries are deteriorating day-by-day and every time nuclear threat is posed by Pakistan then it can become weakness for India. So to make India capable of facing nuclear emergency at any time we need to revise our No First Use policy.
  • Pakistan is among the countries who have signed the policy of using nuclear weapons only defensively but can Pakistan be trusted ? As it is quite clear that Pakistan is a hub of terrorism. A country with such a large number of people like India can’t take risk just for the sake of morality.
  • India can suffer a heavy loss of men and material if it continues to follow nuclear doctrine of ‘No First Use’. The news of brutal killing of Indian soldiers by Pakistan is not hidden from anyone and no such peace is appreciable that brings misery to our own countrymen. Is it really justifiable that every time India suffers because of its peaceful behaviour and the countries who are selling terrorism in shade of religion are left uncaught and unpunished. Is blood of Indian soldiers so waste to us that we are shedding it every now and then just for the friendship of a country like Pakistan where terrorism is flourishing at its best.
  • No tolerance regarding terrorism should be the new policy of India. It should be shown clearly that neither we are afraid nor incapable, hence any harm to our countrymen will cost too much to Pakistan. ‘No First Use’ and pledging to use nuclear weapons only defensively can create enough threat to stop the immoral activities of Pakistan and finally put an end to the continuous loss of soldiers once for all.

It finally can be concluded as : India is a nation with population of 1·311 billion and Pakistan with 194·9 million hence the difference in population can be seen and eventually the loss of men and material in any attack can also be calculated. Hence, lives of 1·311 billion countrymen can’t be kept at stake just for a nuclear doctrine.

Hence, it can be stated that there is a serious necessity of some strong and effective steps regarding safety and self defence and the prime initiative can be amendment in nuclear doctrine from ‘No First Use’ to ‘First Use Policy’.


                                   —Rakesh Kumar Khanagwal

Pakistan’s expanding nuclear arsenal has been a matter of considerable concern to the international community in the recent years. Its adoption of short-range, low-yield tactical nuclear weapons in the face of India’s conventional military superiority have pointed to the possibility where Pakistan uses a nuclear weapon against Indian conventional armed forces to stave off imminent military defeat. However, the possibility that India might use nuclear weapons first directly contradicts the key pillar of Indian nuclear thinking since the publication of its official nuclear doctrine in 2003 : a no-first use policy. Successive Prime Ministers, including Narendra Modi, have affirmed this. Indeed, a major revision of India’s public doctrine will fly in the face of its long history as a reluctant nuclear power. At a time when there are growing calls inside India to revisit its nuclear doctrine, it is worth keeping in mind that India’s doctrine already allows considerable space for innovation. India’s extant doctrine can absorb the consequencies of future Pakistan related contingencies without any major changes.

By relying on a minimal arsenal for deterrence, India offers a credible threat of a massive retaliation against an adversary that strikes first with nuclear weapons. India’s commitment to nuclear deterrence rules out threats of nuclear use to shift the course of a conventional conflict. India’s a no first use stance should be read as a pledge to not use nuclear weapons as an instrument of state-craft. India’s nuclear arsenal is as small as it can be to make the threat of a massive retaliation as credible as possible. As such, the size of the arsenal will vary with time depending on the requirements of credibility.

The Nobel winning game theorist Roger Myerson argues that a deterrent strategy is effective because it is a combination of restraint and resolve in pursuing the same. Myerson defines restraint as a “reputational commitment to act cooperatively”, in pursuance of a deterrent strategy, while resolve is a similar commitment but to act aggressively when deterrence demands it. India’s public doctrine seeks to do both. It conveys the impression that India is a responsible nuclear power with a public pledge to not use nuclear weapons first. Also, by explicitly laying down India’s nuclear redlines coupled to its no first-use pledge, India effectively promises any adversary that it will cooperate in terms of not using nuclear weapons first—as long as the adversary too chooses to do the same by not crossing those redlines. But the doctrine is also a statement of resolve in that it deliberately does not spell out what follows deterrence failure beyond a promise of some kind of massive retaliation.

If India leaves out the exact details of its retaliatory response, potential adversaries will imagine the ‘worst’ possible outcome. Taking Pakistan as an example of an adversary, what ‘worst’ means is in Islamabad’s mind alone and could change during the course of a conflict. Both India and Pakistan may have different conceptions of what the latter values the most, and hence wants to protect. For example, India might think Pakistan values its population centres the most, but Islamabad may in fact value its crown jewels more. Therefore, if India was to keep its retaliatory responses ambiguous beyond the fact that there will be massive response, its commitment to act aggressively will be enhanced in Pakistan’s mind, irrespective of whether India has any intentions of doing what Pakistan thinks it would.

The value of nuclear weapons lies in the persuasive threat they pose to an adversary, even if little of value could accrue to oneself by implementing this threat. What matters is that Pakistan has to consider a range of retaliatory responses from India. Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons use would effectively free India to undertake a comprehensive first strike against Pakistan.

Since India has conventional superiority over Pakistan, the incentives for a true Indian first use are weak—a basic argument behind India’s no first use posture. India’s public nuclear doctrine declares that “Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.” American nuclear jargon makes a clear distinction between a ‘first strike’ and ‘first use’, the former having a strictly counter-force interpretation and the latter denoting the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict in any way. To publicly signal that India’s retaliatory posture is not tied down to a single option would create uncertainty in Pakistan’s calculations, all the while staying faithful to the public doctrine.

Since 1998, a key pillar of India’s nuclear policy has been a pledge not to use nuclear weapons first. After considering the utility of individually negotiated bilateral or multilateral agreements committing to No First use (NFU) of nuclear weapons, by August 1998, the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, opted to unilaterally announce that India would, “not be the first to use nuclear weapons.” In 1999, the draft nuclear doctrine proposed by the National Security Advisory Board reiterated that “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike” and went so far as to assert that “the very existence of offensive doctrine pertaining to the first use of nuclear weapons constitutes a threat to peace, stability and sovereignty of states.” India’s non-nuclear military forces are superior to Pakistan’s and there is very low risk of major ground war with China given Indian conventional deterrence buttressed by the defensive stopping power of the Himalayas. There are no possible scenarios for which the first use of nuclear weapons might be useful.

Public commitment to no first-use makes crisis more stable because adversaries do not have to fear that India will initiate nuclear use and threaten the survivability of their own nuclear forces, which might tempt them to use nuclear weapons early and massively against India. The policy, therefore, injects a critical buffer in the decision-making cycle so that a state like Pakistan does not have an even more dangerous itchy finger on the trigger, and has the time and space to consider the catastrophic consequences of using nuclear weapons and facing the full brunt of India’s nuclear retaliation. Also, such a policy substantially eases India’s peacetime management of nuclear weapons because they can be maintained in a relatively recessed state oriented strictly for strategic retaliation.

Prior to the 2014 elections, the BJP manifesto pledged to ‘revise and update’ the nuclear doctrine, which many observers took to mean re-evaluating, among other things, no first-use policy. This was put to rest when Shri Narendra Modi publicly settled the issue, stating that, “No first use was a great initiative of Vajpayee, there is no compromise on that.”

Plenty of nuclear states, including the United States, introduce ambiguity into their nuclear doctrines as to when and under what conditions they may employ nuclear weapons in order to improve deterrence. India stated such ambiguity in its 2003 doctrine that it reserved the right to respond to chemical or biological weapons use with nuclear retaliation but did not bind itself in doing so. Crisis stability between nuclear states depends critically on a mutual understanding of where each state’s nuclear red lines lie. The logic of the Indian doctrine lies in dissuading use of nuclear weapons and not as implied by some for retaliation either preemptive or as a riposte. In a number of strategic gaming exercises, with Pakistan and others in critical contingencies, there is a great degree of posturing of shallow thresholds but seldom has the Pakistani side ventured actual use. Given the credibility of vastly improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, India will get a fair degree of warning about Pakistani deployments. Cold war history points out that pretensions of massive strikes to preempt Soviet Union attack on continental US would have resulted in massive Russian retaliation, engulfing the entire European continent into radioactive clouds.

Strike calculations based on simulations highlight that it is virtually impossible to take out all weapons through a preemptive strike, more so in the case of India-Pakistan where precision strikes are constrained by the ac curacies of geo-reference systems. A state of advanced or even hair-trigger alert is going to prevail when preemptive use would be contemplated. This means that in the event of deterrence breakdown by either side, there would be an immediate response. Efficacy of credible preemptive strike is too much of a chance unless the country is prepared for an all-out nuclear war. Such a chance both Indian and Pakistani leadership are unlikely to take. Having been in nuclear dialogue with Pakistani Generals for the last five years, it can be said with credibility that cold logic applies in their calculations, not their impulsiveness. Rethinking on India’s nuclear behaviour cannot be restricted to ideological leanings of any particular government in power India is a responsible nuclear country and No First Use policy is a reflection of that responsible nuclear behaviour.

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