India hints at changing 'no first use' nuclear policy

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His statement comes amid India's ongoing bilateral tensions with Pakistan following abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Rajnath Singh followed up his statement to a news agency with a string of tweets to make the same point.

"Pokhran is the area which witnessed (Vajpayee's) firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of 'No First Use",' Singh wrote.

'India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. "But what happens in the future, all that will depend on the circumstances" - may have disturbed the peace embedded in the third criterion mentioned above.

"On Saturday, speaking to the media in the symbolic location of Pokhran, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh became the latest and highest level official to place a question mark over India's "nuclear no first use" (NNFU) pledge, when he stated that India may not feel indefinitely or unquestionably bound to NNFU". That remark had come a couple of months after India carried out the surgical strikes at terrorist launch pads along the Line of Control. "At the moment there is no change in our policy". "India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail", the 1999 doctrine states.

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Running for a second term earlier this year, Modi had said his government had called Pakistan's "nuclear bluff". The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was made in 1974 to prevent India from doing so again.

"India has stopped the policy of getting scared of Pakistan's threats". This, experts believe, had already rendered NFU ineffective.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gives a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 16, 2019. India is in the process of developing a nuclear doctrine based on "credible minimum deterrence". In July 2018, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had also hinted at changing the policy. Singh's statement is full of significance and any move of India in the context is akin to completely re-calibrating the nuclear doctrine.

One doesn't have to be a peacenik to know what lies at the core of any mature - and, certainly, successful - nuclear doctrine: be armed, let it be known to everyone that you are armed, and regularly remind everyone that you will use arms only to defend yourself.

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