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PSIR 2B-7 India and the Nuclear Question – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1]“India’s Nuclear policy is deeply influenced by its cultural beliefs and the pragmatic approach of its foreign policy.” Discuss. [2023/20m/250w/7a]

India’s nuclear policy is indeed shaped by a combination of cultural beliefs and a pragmatic approach to foreign policy. This dual influence has been a defining feature of India’s nuclear posture.

India’s cultural beliefs and historical context have contributed to its nuclear policy. India has a tradition of non-aggression and non-use of force, rooted in its cultural and philosophical history. This is reflected in India’s “no first use” (NFU) nuclear doctrine, which underscores its commitment to using nuclear weapons only as a last resort in self-defense.

On the other hand, India’s foreign policy is driven by a pragmatic assessment of its security environment. India faces significant security challenges, including regional rivalries and threats from nuclear-armed neighbors, such as China and Pakistan. In this context, India developed a credible minimum deterrence posture, which is informed by pragmatism and the need to ensure national security.

India’s nuclear policy is shaped by the geopolitical realities of South Asia. The nuclear tests in 1998 were driven by strategic considerations, as India sought to establish a credible deterrent in response to regional security concerns. This pragmatic approach to nuclear policy underscores India’s commitment to safeguard its national security interests.

India’s nuclear policy represents a careful balance between its cultural values and pragmatic considerations. While it upholds the principles of non-use, non-proliferation, and disarmament, it also acknowledges the need for a credible nuclear deterrent to ensure national security in a volatile region.

India’s nuclear policy is also influenced by its aspirations for global leadership and responsibility. India has actively sought a role in global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. It recognizes that, as a nuclear-armed state, it has a role to play in shaping the global nuclear order and promoting responsible nuclear behavior.

In conclusion, India’s commitment to its cultural values of non-use and non-proliferation while addressing the security challenges and geopolitical realities it faces, positions it as a responsible nuclear-armed state with a credible deterrent while advocating for global disarmament and non-proliferation. [326 words]

2] Discuss the reasons behind India’s refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). [2022/15m/200w/6c]

Today, India is one of the only five countries that either did not sign the NPT or signed but withdrew, thus becoming part of a list that includes Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan.

Time and again India has reiterated its stand of not signing the NPT as it creates a world of nuclear haves and have-nots, creating one more power bias in an already hierarchical society. This is because Articles II and IV of the treaty require countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The NPT creates a divide, between countries that did develop nuclear power before 1967 and those that didn’t develop nuclear power before 1967. It only gives the ‘Permanent 5’ the right to hold weapons. Although it permits the use of nuclear energy for constructive purposes, it puts all the other nations at risk.

India, despite being a nuclear weapons state, would have had to sign the treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state, and in addition, has to undergo inspections. The NPT, in India’s opinion, doesn’t explain the need for this distinction.

In India’s case, New Delhi considers the balance of power with China to be lopsided in China’s favour, not only because of India’s previous lack of a nuclear deterrent but also because of China’s place as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Hence, India admits that one of the reasons for testing its weapons was to gain the trappings of a great power that it believes is denied India by the United Nations and the international nonprolif¬eration regime.

India believes that NPT makes for a set of “externally prescribed norms or standards” on issues that are contrary to its national interests or infringe on its sovereignty. Although India has not signed the treaty, it fully understands and is committed to the real spirit of NPT as reflected in its nuclear doctrine and ‘no first use’ policy. [331 words]

3] Examine the evolution of India’s role in the global nuclear order. [2021/15m/200w/7c]

India’s nuclear journey began shortly after its independence in 1947. As a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), India advocated for disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy. It opposed nuclear weapons and pushed for nuclear disarmament on a global scale.

However, to combat nuclear disparity, India embarked on the development of a peaceful nuclear program for civilian purposes in the 1950s itself. It sought to harness nuclear energy for electricity generation, agriculture, healthcare, and other developmental needs. India focused on establishing a domestic nuclear infrastructure, including research reactors, nuclear power plants, and scientific institutions.

In the late 1960s, India faced security concerns and regional tensions, particularly with China and Pakistan. These factors led to the development of a nuclear weapons program. In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test, known as the “Smiling Buddha” test, which demonstrated its nuclear capabilities to the world. While India maintained a policy of minimum deterrence, it did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Following the Pokhran tests, India faced international criticism and diplomatic isolation due to its nuclear weapons program. The major nuclear powers, particularly the United States, imposed sanctions and restrictions on India’s nuclear and defence-related activities. India was seen as a nuclear outlier outside the mainstream global nuclear order.

Later, the landmark India-US Civil Nuclear Deal, signed in 2008, facilitated cooperation in civil nuclear energy and recognized India as a responsible nuclear power. It allowed India to engage in civilian nuclear trade, even though it remained outside the NPT framework. Subsequently, India received a waiver from the NSG, allowing for nuclear commerce with other countries.

Recently, India has pursued strategic partnerships and civil nuclear agreements with various countries, including France, Russia, Japan, and Canada.

India’s evolving role in the global nuclear order reflects its pursuit of a balanced approach to nuclear issues. While maintaining its nuclear weapons program, India has actively engaged in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, pursued international cooperation, and contributed to non-proliferation efforts. [327 words]

4] Discuss the efficacy of India’s ‘no first use’ policy (nuclear weapons) in the context of the evolving strategic challenges from its neighbours. [2020/15m/200w/7c]

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

The proponents of the policy say that as Indian nuclear weapons are for deterrence purposes, it automatically meant that there is no logic to using them first. Retaliation, by definition, could only be for an action that was already taken. Hence, no first use. They add that NFU means tighter political command over nuclear weapons and a much safer nuclear arsenal.

Moreover, first use can have a non-nuclear deterrence purpose but only if a non-nuclear threat to national survival exists or is perceived to exist. There is no such strategic logic for an Indian nuclear first-use doctrine.

Answering the criticism of NFU that it limits India’s options, the supporters of the policy say what could India possibly do with options. Any Indian first use of power means the certainty of nuclear retaliation which would be devastating.

There is also some understandable frustration in India about Pakistan’s adoption of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) as well as its recourse to terrorism as a state strategy. While the frustration is understandable, abandoning the NFU will provide little relief. Terrorism and TNWs are both an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s conventional military weakness. Threatening to use Indian nuclear weapons first in response is so disproportionate that it will lack any credibility. Considering both the strategic logic of India’s NFU policy, as well as the futility of abandoning it, NFU policy is uniquely suited to India’s circumstances — a preponderant power in its neighbourhood that faces no existential threats. [264 words

5] Given the recent developments in the region, do you think that there is a need to change India’s ‘No First Use (NFU)’ nuclear policy? [2019/15m/200w/8c]

India faces two nuclear adversaries on its western and northern fronts. recently, India has had violent interactions with both Pakistan and China. Consequently, there have been proposals to shun the tag of ‘No First Use’ for India’s nuclear policy.

The critics of the current policy say that it presents India as having strategic passivity and idealism. The NFU lets Pakistan escape terrorism. Moreover, Nuclear deterrence did not prevent the violent engagement of 1999 between the two countries. The policy restricts India’s options in a conflict with Pakistan and India is suggested to adopt the policy of ‘nuclear pre-emption’, destroying adversaries’ nuclear weapons early in the conflict.

On the other hand, the supporters of the NFU policy reason that India has no existential crisis like Israel nor any fear of surprise attack like the US and Russia. According to the scholar Rajesh Rajagopalan, India’s doctrine is based on the recognition of the limited purpose that nuclear weapons can serve, that of national survival. And this was possible by ‘threatening retaliation’. Moreover, the no first use has maintained larger peace in the region and any change may disrupt the same. it may inculcate a sense of fear in India’s smaller neighbours and push them closer to China.

Shiv Shankar Menon in ‘India and Asian Geopolitics’’ writes that India’s nuclear weapons have served their declared purpose of deterrence. But he also suggests a regular review of India’s nuclear doctrine. [236 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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