[Answered] “No first use nuclear policy has helped India to establish itself as a responsible nuclear nation.” In light of this discuss whether India should change its nuclear policy or not?

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Nuclear doctrine of India and analyse no first nuclear policy.
Conclusion. Way forward.

For India, Nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of war fighting and that their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by India’s adversaries.

Features of India’s nuclear doctrine:

  1. Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent.
  2. A “No First Use” policy i.e. nuclear weapons to be used only in case of any nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere.
  3. Non use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  4. Nuclear retaliatory attacks to be authorised only by civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.
  5. Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  6. India may retaliate with nuclear weapons to retaliate against attack  with biological or chemical weapons.
  7. Strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies.
  8. A commitment to goal of nuclear weapon free world.

Argument that favours NFU:

  1. NFU policy help to deter nuclear wars.
  2. If a nuclear weapons state is powerful and is at advantage with respect to its enemies in non-nuclear capabilities, it does not need to threaten first use of its nuclear bombs. India is a stronger conventional power as compared to Pakistan.
  3. India today has access to much better technology than it had in 2003 when it released its nuclear doctrine. New Delhi now has more missiles which are more accurate. It has high quality surveillance platforms.
  4. If India shifts to first use policy, then it will lead to competition and adversaries may seek to develop and deploy more sizeable and quickly useable nuclear forces/weapons. This will lead to nuclear arms race, as happened at the time of Cold War.
  5. India’s missiles have enabled it to move towards canister systems for storing its land-based ballistic missiles. Such systems can reduce turnaround time. Canister has further enabled India’s nuclear deterrent to move to the seas.
  6. With INS Arihant, a nuclear propelled ballistic missile submarine. India has a credible sea-based deterrent. With a couple of more SSBNs, it can boast of a genuine nuclear triad. Sea-based deterrence thus increase the strain on NFU policy.

Argument against NFU:

  1. When China was conventionally stronger, India felt somewhat protected due to difficult terrain on the Himalayan border. Now, China’s impressive infrastructure and massive military modernisation have effectively eroded the Himalayan buffer. This is putting immense pressure on India’s NFU policy.
  2. India’s conventional advantage has been impacted by Pakistan through a clever use of terrorists and threat of using tactical nuclear weapons against any Indian conventional response to a 26/11 type of an attack. India’s nuclear doctrine, that professes massive retaliation even against use of small nuclear weapon, does not help.
  3. Pakistan is rapidly increasing its arsenal size and improving the survivability of its nuclear weapons.
  4. NFU is not good for war like situation, because it requires India to first absorb a nuclear attack before responding. It may result in unacceptably high initial casualties and damage to Indian population, cities, and infrastructure.

India should maintain its NFU (no-first-use) doctrine, as it has helped India in gaining many benefits at international level. It was due to India’s nuclear prudence, that Japan has recently signed nuclear deal. India plans for first use policy, then preparation and expenditure would be required for complex command and control and sophisticated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, which targets to hit first, etc.

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