Re-examining India's nuclear doctrine

Re-examining India's nuclear doctrine

The Indian Government announced its formal nuclear doctrine on 4 January 2003, almost five years after testing its nuclear weapons capability in May 1998. While the one-page document was vague and subject to interpretation, what was clear was that it reiterated India's 'No First Use' policy.

This Issue Brief is based on proceedings of a workshop re-examining India's nuclear doctrine, organised by the ORF's National Security Initiative and held in New Delhi in August 2014.

The key points that emerged from the discussions are the following:

  • India needs to make its nuclear doctrine public in order to avoid misunderstanding or miscalculation in an ever-changing global and regional security environment. The lack of information in the public domain has created a perception that India lacks a defined doctrine or that if there was, it was flawed
  • India's nuclear deterrent is to deter nuclear threats and attacks. It is not meant to achieve a deterrent against conventional weapons
  • No First Use (NFU) policy takes into account the very specific security environment surrounding India, given the relationship between Pakistan and China
  • Tactical nuclear weapons being deployed by Pakistan will have a strategic impact if used. Any weapon which requires the authority of the national command authority is strategic; no distinction exists
  • in the backdrop of reduced interest on disarmament, countries around the world are making qualitative improvements to their nuclear weapons while reducing the quantitative part of their arsenals
  • doubts exist about China's NFU, and their idea about de-escalation using nuclear weapons is complicated. Their forces are oriented towards retaliation and not nuclear war fighting


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