Is India still committed to its no-first-use nuclear policy?


On 16 August, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hinted that India might abandon its no-first-use policy: ‘Till today, our nuclear policy is “no first use”. What happens in future depends on the circumstances.’

Singh was speaking on the anniversary of the death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was India’s prime minister when it conducted five tests in May 1998 and declared itself to be a nuclear-weapon-possessing state. Singh had travelled to Pokhran, the site of the 1998 tests, for that purpose.

The defence minister’s comments came only days after India annulled Kashmir’s special status and provoked a flurry of apocalyptic warnings from Pakistan, which rejects no first use, about a nuclear conflagration. Moreover, Singh took over the portfolio in Narendra Modi’s second cabinet only after the May elections, so his comments are best viewed as more of a thought bubble than considered policy.

The same is true of similar off-the-cuff questioning of the no-first-use policy by the late Manohar Parrikar in November 2016, when he was defence minister. Read More

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