Syllabus Section: International Relations/ Paper II            


A nuclear doctrine is a set of principles that guides a nuclear weapon state regarding how to administer the nuclear weapons during the war and peace time. India’s nuclear doctrine is based on the principle of credible minimum deterrence with No first use policy. India is following the same doctrine since last two decades.

However, in the changing global order, creation of protective and deterrent environment for a country is equally important as the other nuclear powers are moving with their aggressive policies. Therefore, the nuclear doctrines have been emerged as dynamic processes that evolve with exigencies of time and security environment.

Key features of India’s nuclear doctrine:       

1. Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent.

2. A posture of "No First Use policy”: Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian Territory or on Indian forces anywhere.

3. Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.

4. Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorized by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.

5. Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states;

6. However, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons;

7. A continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participation in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continued observance of the moratorium on nuclear tests.

8. Continued commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapon free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

Concerns related to India’s nuclear doctrine:

• With respect to No first Use policy: The major factor behind the questioning of the Nuclear Doctrine stems from concerns about No first use policy and the dissatisfaction with our NFU posture is continuing since past decade.

Doctrine relied only  for retaliation purposes: The assumption among critics has been that a policy that relied on retaliation only, in which India will wait until it is attacked before it uses its nuclear weapons

India is at a disadvantageous position: In India the NFU policy has been called into question on the grounds that it allows Pakistan and other countries to take the first initiative and puts India in a disadvantageous position.

No first use principle is not universally accepted:  Above all, No first use policy is not universally accepted principle by all countries, so why should India follow it sternly? Questions one section of people.

Controversial from the beginning:  India adopted a No First Use (NFU) nuclear doctrine in 2003, but the counter-intuitive logic of the doctrine was controversial from the very beginning.

In the wake of above concerns and as the world is undergoing rapid changes in terms of nuclear postures with major transformations, Recently there was a demand surfed in the news to revisit India’s nuclear doctrine based on the present needs the security environments.

Implications in revisiting India’s nuclear doctrine:

Abrogates the universal goal of nuclear disarmament: Revisiting the doctrine may abrogate India’s commitment to the universal goal of nuclear disarmament and upset the regional balance in the sub-continent.

India will lose its status as a responsible nuclear power: Withdrawing the NFU policy and making a declaration to that effect can affect India’s status as a responsible nuclear power.

Entry to Multilateral nuclear groupings will become difficult:  Support for our entry into Nuclear Supplier Group, other multilateral nuclear export control regimes as well as our civil nuclear cooperation agreements will be under threat.

Budgetary and expenditure constraints: It would enormously complicate and increase the expenditure incurred by us in regard to our command and control mechanisms which would have to be reconfigured to engage in calibrated nuclear war fighting.

May encourage the use of tactical nuclear weapons:  It would encourage the use of tactical nuclear weapons against us under the illusion of no massive response

Although revisiting the doctrine may be a good step for enhanced protection but Instead of doing so, India can potentially make use of available alternative mechanisms like Interceptor missiles to face no notice nuclear threats and then can attack further effectively.

In this regard as a responsible player to promote the global peace, India can further diplomatically conduct dialogues with all the other nuclear countries to establish a uniform global nuclear doctrine which is the need of the hour.