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‘No First Use nuclear doctrine an article of faith with Indian governments’


New Delhi, April 16 :

India’s no first-use (NFU) nuclear doctrine “remains an article of faith” and has remained so with successive governments, a government’s expert on the subject said Wednesday days after the BJP said in its election manifesto that it will “revise and update it (India’s nuclear doctrine) to make it relevant to challenges of current times” if it comes to power.

Rakesh Sood
Rakesh Sood

Rakesh Sood, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister for Disarmament & Non-Proliferation Issues, addressing a lecture said that he did not think there was a case for revising the No First Use doctrine by the next government.

Speaking at a session on ‘Nuclear India – Retrospect & Prospect’ at the India International Centre, he said “No first use remains an article of faith, and has remained so with successive governments.”

The no first-use was implemented by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under whom India joined the nuclear club after it conducted the nuclear tests in May 1998.

Sood said that India is the only country where its nuclear programme has originated out of a civilian programme,

“We are a defensive state, and have always maintained that the role of nuclear weapons deterred the use of nuclear weapons and is not for war.. It is consistent with the fact that we don’t want to get into a race, there is a consistency about our nuclear doctrine,” Sood said at the event organised by Ananta Aspen Centre.

He said if India wants it can revise the no first use doctrine, but for that the country will need to revise not only the doctrine, but its “posture, arsenal, operational aspects and a whole range of related aspects”.

C. Raja Mohan, who is head, Strategic Studies and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, said that Prime MInister Manmohan Singh at a recent speech had emphasised the importance of no first use doctrine.

Sood said it is “premature” to think that the BJP would jettison the no first use.

He said the rationale behind a nuclear doctrine is not just military security related but it is also a political weapon. “It is partly political, partly strategic and only partly military,” he said.

“I don’t think one should look at it as a magic weapon.. I don’t think nuclear weapons is the answer to all of India’s security challenges,” he added.

On the civil nuclear liability law, and the tough conditions it imposes on suppliers, Raja Mohan said the law has made it difficult for countries that have inked civil nuclear agreements with India to set up a reactor.

Sood said that “supplier liability cannot be open ended or ambiguous.. We need to sit down, look at the legislation and the notification issues and see how without moving away from the main principle we can address the legitimate concerns of the supplier community, which also includes a large number of Indian suppliers.”

Raja Mohan expressed hope that the next government would do a review of the liability act and “rebuild some kind of consensus when the new parliament meets.”