No re­vi­sion of the nu­clear doc­trine

SP's MAI - - MILITARY FEATURE - [ By Ran­jeet Kumar ]

Com­pul­sions of do­mes­tic pol­i­tics en­cour­aged the drafters of the elec­tion man­i­festo of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the last par­lia­men­tary elec­tions to prom­ise to re­vise the nu­clear doc­trine which in fact was enun­ci­ated by the BJP-led NDA Gov­ern­ment headed by Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee in 1998 after the Pokhran nu­clear tests. How­ever, re­alpoli­tik forced the BJP Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to take a U-turn and de­clare its ad­her­ence to the nu­clear doc­trine pro­mul­gated in 1998, be­fore his de­par­ture for Tokyo for a his­toric sum­mit with Ja­pan, which is ex­tremely sen­si­tive on nu­clear-re­lated is­sues. Since In­dia wanted a nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with Ja­pan Prime Min­is­ter Modi chose the Ja­panese me­dia to clar­ify In­dia’s stand on nu­clear doc­trine.

After the Pokhran nu­clear tests In­dia had de­clared a no first-use pol­icy and an­nounced a nu­clear doc­trine based on cred­i­ble nu­clear de­ter­rence, which means that the coun­try will main­tain an ef­fec­tive arse­nal which will give con­fi­dence in strong re­tal­i­a­tion if at­tacked by a nu­clear bomb by the en­emy. For this In­dia de­clared that the coun­try’s armed forces will have a sec­ond strike at­tack ca­pa­bil­ity from land, air or sea. Though the coun­try has ac­quired means of nu­clear de­liv­ery from ground and air, the ca­pa­bil­ity to launch a nu­clear mis­sile from the sea is yet to be achieved, though de­fence au­thor­i­ties claim that they have ad­vanced a lot in achiev­ing this ca­pa­bil­ity.

The draft of the doc­trine as­serted that nu­clear weapons were mainly for de­ter­rence and if need arises In­dia will pur­sue a pol­icy of re­tal­i­a­tion only. The doc­trine also as­serted that In­dia will not be the first to ini­ti­ate a nu­clear first strike, but will re­spond with puni­tive re­tal­i­a­tion should de­ter­rence fail. The BJP elec­tion man­i­festo played a dif­fer­ent tune and said that it will be re­vised and up­dated. It specif­i­cally said, “Study in de­tail In­dia’s nu­clear doc­trine, and re­vise and up­date it to make it rel­e­vant to the chal­lenges of cur­rent times and will main­tain a cred­i­ble min­i­mum de­ter­rence that is in tune with chang­ing geo­static re­al­i­ties.”

How­ever, Prime Min­is­ter Modi made it a point to clar­ify to the Ja­panese me­dia, “In­dia’s nu­clear doc­trine was adopted dur­ing the pre­vi­ous NDA Gov­ern­ment and has in gen­eral gov­erned our nu­clear weapons pos­ture since then. While ev­ery gov­ern­ment nat­u­rally takes into ac­count the lat­est as­sess­ment of strate­gic sce­nar­ios and makes ad­just­ments as nec­es­sary, there is a tra­di­tion of na­tional con­sen­sus and con­ti­nu­ity on such is­sues. I can tell you that cur­rently we are not tak­ing any ini­tia­tive for a re­view of our nu­clear doc­trine.”

When specif­i­cally asked on any pos­si­bil­ity of In­dia ac­ced­ing to the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT) or the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Modi replied, “In­dia’s po­si­tion on the NPT and the CTBT is well known and needs no re­it­er­a­tion. There is no con­tra­dic­tion in our mind be­tween be­ing a nu­clear weapon state and con­tribut­ing ac­tively to global nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion. In­dia re­mains strongly com­mit­ted to univer­sal, nondis­crim­i­na­tory, global nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment. Our track record of non-pro­lif­er­a­tion is im­pec­ca­ble. We will con­tinue to con­trib­ute to the strength­en­ing of the global non-pro­lif­er­a­tion ef­forts. In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of the four in­ter­na­tional ex­port con­trol regimes will be con­ducive to this. As to the CTBT, we are com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing a uni­lat­eral and vol­un­tary mora­to­rium on nu­clear ex­plo­sive test­ing.”

Ob­servers point out that In­dia has al­ready com­mit­ted to the lead­ing nu­clear power coun­tries with whom it has signed civil nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion treaties on main­tain­ing its no first-use nu­clear doc­trine and mora­to­rium on all nu­clear tests. Ob­servers are of the opin­ion that In­dia may not have signed NPT or CTBT but in let­ter and spirit is ad­her­ing to its pro­vi­sions. In­dia has shown its com­mit­ment to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion and its record as non-pro­lif­er­a­tor has been in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cepted as cred­i­ble. On the ba­sis of th­ese com­mit­ments In­dia has inked nu­clear treaties with coun­tries like the United States, UK, France, Rus­sia, etc.

In­dia has moved too far on the road to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion com­mit­ments and at this stageit can be re­versed at the cost of its na­tional in­ter­ests. On the ba­sis of th­ese com­mit­ments In­dia had en­tered into power re­ac­tor agree­ments with France and the United States. France is set­ting up six nu­clear power plants in Jaita­pur (Ma­ha­rash­tra) and com­mer­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions with the West­ing­house to es­tab­lish two nu­clear re­ac­tors are un­der­way. If le­gal ob­sta­cles like the Nu­clear Li­a­bil­ity Law are clar­i­fied to the full sat­is­fac­tion of the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries, In­dia’s nu­clear power pro­gramme can run full stream in the com­ing years. If all the hur­dles are cleared and no am­bi­gu­ity re­mains among the nu­clear pow­ers of the world, the coun­try can achieve the tar­get of gen­er­at­ing 60,000 MW nu­clear power by the end of 2030, which in all will en­tail an in­vest­ment of more than $300 bil­lion.

In­dia needs en­ergy from var­i­ous sources to aug­ment its power sup­ply to its boom­ing econ­omy and if the gov­ern­ment cre­ates any con­fu­sion re­gard­ing its nu­clear pos­tures, this may re­sult in back­lash among nu­clear pow­ers who may re­nege on all nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with In­dia and may with­draw support to In­dian nu­clear power pro­gramme.

Ob­servers also point out that only on the ba­sis of coun­try’s cred­i­ble nu­clear pos­ture, the lead­ing nu­clear pow­ers can whole heart­edly push for In­dia’s case in four lead­ing nu­clear clubs of the world viz., the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group, the Wasse­naar Ar­range­ment, the Aus­tralia Group and the Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime.

Coun­tries like China have been op­pos­ing tooth and nail In­dia’s en­try into th­ese clubs and they should not be given any ex­cuse to veto In­dia’s en­try to th­ese high ta­bles of nu­clear czars. In­dia has achieved the de­sired level of nu­clear de­ter­rence and go­ing beyond this by declar­ing to re­vise the nu­clear doc­trine would harm In­dia’s na­tional in­ter­est. Prime Min­is­ter Modi has thus taken a prag­matic stand by once again com­mit­ting to the world com­mu­nity through the Ja­panese me­dia that there will not be any di­lu­tion of In­dia’s com­mit­ments to var­i­ous nu­clear agree­ments.

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