India’s position on nuclear question has been full of contradictions.
Views of Pandit Nehru.
He called nuclear weapons as satanic. Gandhi called nuclear weapons as most diabolical use of science. India formed NAM. One of the major agenda of NAM was to oppose nuclear arms race.
However according to Stephen P. Cohen, Nehru’s atomic energy program was never entirely peaceful.
What reasons can be given?
1] India’s atomic energy program was made secret, beyond the purview of press.
2] Home Jahangir Bhabha was made the head of the program, he had made it clear that he was not against the development of nuclear weapons for India’s defense.
3] George Perkovich through his research has shown that Pandit Nehru did recognize the importance of nuclear weapons for India’s defense.
Views of C Rajamohan.
May be India’s position on nuclear weapons was a puzzle for international community, however Indian leaders were very much fearful about possessing nuclear weapons. If for international community, the puzzle was whether India will acquire nuclear weapon or not, the only dilemma which Indian leaders faced was not whether India will acquire but when acquire. Thus the right time to posses nuclear weapons was a critical issue.
India conducted its 1st peaceful nuclear explosion, titled ‘Smiling Buddha’ in 1974. India had to face sanctions against its nuclear program after the testing.
According to Prof. Vipin Narang
It is not clear as to why Indian elites waited for so long and why they had chosen the year 1998 to declare itself as nuclear weapon state.
C Rajamohan in his book CROSSING THE RUBICON has explained the reason for the testing in 1998. What was the reason? Indian elites knew that there will be economic sanctions against India but they could make the calculation that the time has come when international community cannot continue with sanctions for long. Why? The attraction for Indian economy. The changed nature of India-US relations where USA started looking at India as a swing state. US strategists felt that nuclear India is better balancer than non-nuclear India.
Prof. Vipin Narang has also raised the question as to why Indians took long time to release its official doctrine. The draft nuclear doctrine was introduced in 1998, Indian strategic expert K Subramaniam is a architect of India’s draft nuclear doctrine. Govt. of India had released the formal doctrine on 4th January 2003. All features of India’s nuclear doctrine are not made public, hence the secrecy of nuclear doctrine give reason to international community to be unsure about India’s approach to nuclear weapons. So far India has maintained lot of secrecy and ambiguity.
What are the salient features of India’s nuclear doctrine and what are the debates associated with it?
The doctrine explains India’s posture and rationale behind acquiring nuclear weapons. The doctrine is based on ‘defensive realism’ and reflects India’s pacific culture. According to Raja Menan, India’s nuclear doctrine reflect not so much of India’s strategic choice, it rather reflects India’s culture.
According to Rajesh Basrur, India’s nuclear doctrine is as per India’s strategic culture. (Strategic culture means – defensive culture.
Features of nuclear doctrine of India.
1] No first use.
However later on it has been clarified that in case there is a use of chemical or biological weapons on Indian territory and Indian forces anywhere, govt. has an option to use nuclear weapon.
Ambiguity also emerged because former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon in one of his speeches mentioned that ‘No first use posture is only against non-nuclear weapon states’. However later on he retreated under official pressure.
2] India will maintain credible minimum deterrence. It means India will go for development of second strike capacity i.e. buidling nuclear triad.
3] In case of nuclaer attack on Indian territory and Indian forces, India will respond by massive retaliation.
4] Command and control of nuclear weapons will be under civilian authority.
5] Despite acquiring nuclear weapons, nuclear doctrine mentions that India continues to believe that Indian security is served better in nuclear weapon free world, India will continue to work for disarmament.
6] No use against non nuclear states.
Debates on India’s nuclear doctrine.
BJP in its manifesto of 2014 election mentioned that if they will come to power, they will change ‘no first use’ to ‘first use’. This has led to the beginning of debate among the scholars over the policy of no first use. There are arguments for and against.
Arguments in favour of first use.
1] Strategists like Bharat Karnard favour first use policy.
2] No first use is relevant only for the country that has extreme confidence in the survivability of its nuclear forces. No first use requires efficient ‘crisis management’. Efficient crisis management is not the forte of India. Indian bureaucracy is manifestly incapable of crisis management.
3] Views of Former Lt. General B. S. Nagal. Former commander in chief of strategic forces command.
No first use is morally wrong, it puts our population under huge threat. There is no logic to accept large scale destruction in the first strike.
Arguments against first use.
3] Views of Shivashankar Menan. In his book CHOICES: INSIDE THE MAKING OF INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY has given reference to the views of K Subramaniam who held that deterrence is all about perception rather than posture. The first use posture may be highly provocative. It may force country to attack to save itself from attack, no first use is better for deterrence.
4] According to Shivashankar Menan, first use policy would destabilize the security environment in South Asia. What is important is survivability. He gives the example of China. Despite asymmetry with USA, China maintains no first use. Thus has credible deterrence.
5] Views of Manpreet Sethi. No first use policy has following advantages.
No need to have expensive nuclear weapon infrastructure. Onus of escalation is on adversary. There is no need to keep nuclear forces on trigger. India can keep the weapons in disassembled form, no need to build security system required to prevent unauthorized use.First use capabilities require huge investment in research and development, at present India does not have that much capacity.
Rakesh Sood. India does not have actual capacity to handle the complexities and expenditures involved in first use. No first use reflect India’s traditional abhorrence towards nuclear weapons.
There is also a debate over India’s position that India will maintain ‘credible minimum deterrence’. It has been held that India should declare what is minimum. The purpose of including the term ‘credible minimum deterrence’ is ambiguous.
What can be the purpose of ‘credible minimum deterrence from India’s viewpoint?
To communicate the adversaries that India is not in arms race. However once India does not disclose what is minimum, it is natural for Pakistan to go for acquiring more and more weapons, fissile material to maintain the credibility of its deterrence.
1] Former ambassador Jayant Prasad suggest that instead of credible minimum deterrence, India should go for minimum credible deterrence.
2] According to K Subramaniam, credibility has no relation with number. Credibility depends on the command, control and ability to respond. Hence credible minimum deterrence is the right posture.
3] According to the experts like Raja Menan, the biggest challenge is administrative. There is a lack of coordintion among different departments. There are also infrastructural issues which put questionmark on our ability of 2nd strike.z
4] As India is acquiring Agni 5, INS Arihant, Triumf S400, INS Chakra (Akula), India is moving to build credible deterrence and 2nd strike capability.
5There is also a debate on the doctrine of ‘massive retaliation’. Massive retaliation denotes targeting civilians. India should go for flexible response. India should go for ‘counter force strike’ rather than ‘counter value strike’.
It has been emphasized that India should focus more on crisis management, surviability, building nuclear triad, addressing the loopholes, developing infrastructure rather than changing to first use. India is the only nuclear armed country which lacks a permanent chief of defence staff. It is necessary to introduce the post for better command and coordination. According to P K Chari, nuclear doctrines need not to be static, it should be a work in progress. If needed, required changes should be made. According to him, there was no need for India to go for ‘no first use’ when according to Indian leadership, the purpose of nuclear weapons was to achieve deterrence against China. When India has no first use, It does not give enough deterrence, there is a huge probability of conventional war. Like Pakistan India needed 1st use approach against China. Similarly he suggests that we have used our nuclear weapons to gain deterrence only in case of nuclear attack whereas Pakistan’s nuclear weapons give it deterrence in all conditions. i.e. from conventional to proxy war and from proxy war to nuclear war. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are explicitly for military purposes. India’s nuclear weapons are primarily for political purposes. (Permanent seat in UNSC).
India’s position on Disarmament
India has always made the posture for comprehensive, verifiable, universal disarmament. India has utilized he platforms of NAM and UNGA. In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi presented ‘Rajiv Gandhi action plan’. It was widely appreciated by international community.
Features of it.
Time bound elimination of nuclear weapons.
Countries should adopt phased approach. (3 stages) and in stage there will be verification.
Countries should take binding commitments.