India’s Nuclear Doctrine

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March 20, 2017
3 years

Why in news?

Former national security advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon has shed new light on India’s nuclear doctrine.

What is India’s nuclear doctrine?

  • India’s nuclear doctrine was first enunciated following a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting in January 2003.
  • Some of the main features of India’s nuclear doctrine are -
  1. Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent
  2. A No First Use posture i.e nuclear weapons to be used only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere,
  3. Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be “massive” and designed to inflict “unacceptable damage”.
  • The concept of “credible minimum deterrence” is used in conjunction with the concepts of “No First Use” and “Non Use” against nuclear weapon states.
  • It clearly indicates that India envisages its nuclear weapons as only a deterrent merely for defensive purposes and not as a means to threaten others.

What is the view of former NSA?

  • In his book he indicates that India’s threat of massive retaliation need not involve nuclear strikes against enemy’s urban centres (i.e counter-value or CV strikes).
  • Instead, India’s massive response could take the form of targeting enemy’s nuclear arsenal (i.e counter-force, or CF strikes).
  • This will the enemy with a diminished capability of striking back.
  • He carefully differentiates between first use and first strike, which refers to a disarming CF strike aimed at leaving an adversary without nuclear recourse.
  • So the disarming CF strike need not amount to a ‘massive’ response, which might include civilan population too.

What are the issues?

  • The effectiveness of India to execute a disarming CF strike that takes out most of Pakistan’s nukes is also under question.
  • Pakistan is building up its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country. It is currently estimated to have 120-130 nuclear warheads.
  • It is difficult for India to target are Pakistan’s small, highly mobile Tactical Nuke Warheads (TNWs) that are basically truck-mounted, tube-launched artillery.
  • Furthermore, any impression in Pakistan of Indian counterforce strikes would incentivize their early use.


Source: Business Standard

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