India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Navigating the Path to Deterrence and National Security

China possesses a formidable military force, including a significant stockpile of nuclear missiles. Notably, in the most recent biannual defence white paper released in 2013, the pledge to the No First Use Nuclear Weapons (NFU) policy was omitted, suggesting a potential shift in China’s stance towards the possibility of launching nuclear missiles against India. Furthermore, China has previously stated that its NFU policy would not extend to nations that lay claim to territories China considers its own, such as Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. Consequently, China’s NFU declaration, which asserts territorial rights over these regions, does not extend to India. Finally, it is important to note that Pakistan, India’s other major adversary, also rejects the NFU Policy.


Currently, a territorial conflict exists between India & Pakistan, primarily involving the disputed region of Kashmir, and a similar tension prevails with China in the north-eastern region of India. The relations between India and both countries are presently strained and unstable. In contrast, China enjoys strong ties with Pakistan, characterized by support for Pakistan’s socioeconomic development and prosperity, as well as the protection of its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security. The partnership between China and Pakistan is considered unwavering and remains intact despite any shifts in the global environment, as demonstrated by their consistent actions and collaborations.


China’s close relationship with Pakistan indeed has the potential to impact the India-Pakistan dynamic. China can leverage its ties with Pakistan to exert influence and potentially escalate tensions between India and Pakistan. This influence could manifest in various ways, such as pressuring Pakistan to engage in hostile actions against India while providing military support. In addition, China’s alliance with Pakistan could be used to undermine India’s interests. Consequently, India faces a challenging situation due to these geopolitical dynamics.


India recently marked the 25th anniversary of what was previously known as the “Shakti” nuclear tests. In August 1999, the Indian government unveiled a draft nuclear doctrine emphasizing that nuclear weapons are intended solely for deterrence purposes, with a policy of “retaliation only.” However, it is worth noting that India’s nuclear doctrine lacks a clear definition. The current Indian government enjoys remarkable stability, holding a significant majority in the parliament, which grants it the ability to assert its stance on No First Use (NFU) policies.


Given the current political scenario, there are concerns about the potential for Pakistan and China to initiate a conflict with India. In light of this situation, there is a growing realization that India needs to review and update its nuclear doctrine. India has long been committed to its No First Use (NFU) policy, which means it opposes initiating a nuclear war and views nuclear weapons as a last resort. The primary objective of India’s nuclear arsenal is to serve as a deterrent, discouraging adversaries from employing nuclear weapons first. While this policy has advantages for India, it also risks catastrophic consequences for the country in the event of a conflict.


With a strong mandate, the government is well-positioned to consider and potentially take a stand on the review or reaffirmation of India’s NFU policy. The robust parliamentary support provides an opportunity for the government to address and deliberate upon strategic considerations regarding the country’s nuclear doctrine. Therefore, carefully considering and assessing India’s nuclear doctrine is essential in navigating these complex circumstances.


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