Agni 4 missile
Agni 4 missile

Nuclear weapons have revolutionized the strategic affairs, but the threat of unbearable destruction caused by these weapons persuaded strategic scholars to think about using these weapons for deterrent purposes and prevent their further proliferation. Every Nuclear Weapon State formulates a Policy according to its threatperception. The creation of the Nuclear Weapon and the consequent nuclear capabilitiespositioned at the behest of Nuclear states has produced a significant dilemma for theinternational community. Harnessing nuclear energy has provided acquirers with a destructive force so devastating, that it has alarmed the global intellectual circles. India’s obscure nuclear Doctrine of no first use in its declaratory form has changed partially if not majorly after it was first announced by Nuclear Security Advisory Board (NSAB), a group of non-governmental experts, in 1999.

Later on, though the Indian government claimed that it is not an official paper but what was written in the text of (NSAB), much of it was already being stated within various official statements. The 1999 document was based on minimum deterrent force but which would also be credible and survivable according to the changing strategic environment. The 1999 doctrine emphasized the need for reliable nuclear power, which would be able to survive the first strike against it and as well as underlined the need for strict political control over nuclear forces. NSAB document also emphasized India’s Nuclear disarmament objectives, but with this, it also discussedthe nuclear triad. However, when details of the official Nuclear Doctrine released in 2003, it was the same as the document published in 1999. Still, there were changes also in this new officially crafted document statement. The Indian Nuclear Doctrine asserts that nuclear weapons are only for Deterrence, and Retaliation is a policy which India will pursue in case of any threat. The NFU policy manifests that India will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons, but if attacked by nuclear weapons, it will retaliate massively.The DND clearly announced its NFU posture, whereby nuclear weapons only used as the retaliatory option against nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The No Frist use policy is effectively cashed by Indian diplomats, government spokespeople, and various other groups as proof to show the world their commitments as a responsible nuclear state.

“As a responsible nuclear power, India has a policy of credible minimum Deterrence based on a no-first-use posture and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states… We are prepared to convert these into bilateral or multilateral legally binding arrangements.”

Twenty-two years since the nuclearization of South Asia, the nuclear capabilities and doctrines of Pakistan and India have evolved through considerable alterations.The shift from NFU to FU would have drastic implications for the South Asian region since it could very well disturb the balance of power in the region resulting in the eruption of a nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India. The Indian state has long maintained a minimum credible deterrent, which does not depend on the adversary’s Nuclear stockpile but the ability of the state to ensure a retaliatory strike large enough to inflict “unacceptable damage” and hence ensure Deterrence. The change could also increase the security dilemma in the region, subsequently raising the risk of war through miscalculation. The move from counter-value targeting to counter-force targeting would call for the revamping of Indian nuclear stockpile and nuclear technology. Ensuring the complete detection and elimination of Pakistan’s nuclear capacity would need impressive precision and vast improvements in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. It would require heavy financial backing, putting immense pressure on an already burdened economy. The impact of a nuclear posture change on the foreign policy of the state could be worse since India has long been projecting itself as a responsible nuclear weapon state to the world. This aggressive posture would seriously damage this claim and its standing in the international community. The benign façade has helped India secure crucial international deals such as the NSG waiver as part of the 2008 India-US nuclear deal.

Moreover, India also seeks to join the NSG as a permanent member; the shift would only provide states with substance to stop this from happening. Also, it would give Pakistan a chance to malign India at the international stage accusing it of destabilizing the region’s power balance. India currently does not possess the capability to maintain a high level of accuracy and respond in real-time. Finally, the Indian military nuclear program has been built and structured to suit its no-first-use posture; a change would thus need a complete restructuring of this program and its essential technological factors.

A comprehensive assessment needs to be made by Indian authorities about the policy options at their disposal before taking further action to avoid harm to the Indian state as well as other states in its vicinity. Destabilizing the strategic balance in the region and will result in catastrophe. The nuclear environmentstabilized by India having a no first use (NFU) policy giving India’s conventional strength against Pakistan. So, no scenario needs to use nuclear weapons first against Pakistan. Secondly, India is in a position where their Nuclear forces are in a place to deter nuclear use against it, which enables it to select or adopt no first use policy.

Moving away from no first use policy will have severe implications on India. First is that adopting a FU option will put both India and Pakistan in the dilemma of first-strike instability for which Pakistan might have fear for survivability. India having a policy, is a firewall in a potential conflict between both India and Pakistan.

Further, if India adopts the first-use option, then it will directly affect their global aims and visions. For example, they are continuously striving to get a permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Recently India got wavier from the United States in the case of NSG. All these actions and global aims of India indicate that they are moving towards a liberal environment, and their economy is still rising. So, if they adopt the policy of FU, then their mere focus will be profoundly moving to their nuclear program,which will not besuitable for India in any case. The Strategic Ally of India in the South Asian region is the United States, and one of India’s primary foreign policy goals is to contain China in the region with support from the US. If India shifts its policy of nuclear use option from NFU to FU, then naturally, China will have to adopt the same policy of FU.

Nonetheless, a drastic change in the shift of nuclear policy would not suit the Indian state in the current era. Without any doubt, India’s nuclear posture and expansion are forcing Pakistan, a relatively weak state in terms of conventional capability, into a security dilemma. In any case, the cons outweigh the pros in this case. Hence, sticking to the current nuclear policy with minor adjustments could be suitable for the Indian state, but a drastic change would only damage its interests.