The latest biannual defense white paper (2013) omitted, for the first time, a promise never to use its nuclear weapons first, meaning China is prepared to use nuclear missiles against India.
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India became a nuclear weapon power on May 11-13, 1998, when it carried out a series of nuclear detonations. The country has just celebrated its 25th anniversary of what was then called the “Shakti” tests.
But does India have a clear nuclear doctrine? Not really. Interestingly, in its manifesto for the 2014 general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised to review India’s nuclear policy. But despite being in power for nine years, the BJP government led by Narendra Modi has not undertaken any such steps.
I think it is a part of our strategic culture that we in India love to keep things and policies as ambiguous as possible, leaving them to many interpretations. Unlike the cases in many leading countries, our leaders hesitate to enunciate clear policies or doctrines.
What we have actually is a “draft nuclear doctrine,” released on August 17, 1999, by the then national security advisor Brajesh Mishra. Some clarifications on this draft were “shared with the public” on January 4, 2003, through a press release by the then Cabinet Committee on Security. I do not think any major power will ever deal with such a sensitive issue in such a cavalier manner.
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Be that as it may, the BJP manifesto had said: “The strategic gains acquired by India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on the nuclear program have been frittered away by the Congress. Our emphasis was, and remains on, the beginning of a new thrust on framing policies that would serve India’s national interest in the 21st century.”
That, according to the manifesto, would mean “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times,” “maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing geostatic realities, and “invest in India’s indigenous Thorium Technology.”
However, nothing has happened so far with regard to the above promise by the BJP.
India’s draft doctrine at the moment has the following key features:
1. While committed to the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world through global, verifiable, and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, India, till the realization of this goal, will possess nuclear weapons.
2. India will build and maintain a credible minimum deterrent.
3. India will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
4. India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. But if it is attacked through nuclear weapons in its territory or on Indian forces anywhere, its nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage to the aggressor.
5. In the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will also retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.
6. India will continue strict controls on exporting nuclear and missile-related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue observing the moratorium on nuclear tests.
7. India’s nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Prime Minister chairs the Political Council. It is the sole body that can authorize the use of nuclear weapons. The National Security Advisor chairs the Executive Council. It provides inputs for decision-making by the Nuclear Command Authority and executes the directives given to it by the Political Council.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is reportedly leading efforts to reclaim all objects ‘trafficked’ out of India since Independence and plans the repatriation of the famous Kohinoor Diamond from the UK.
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