by Dr. Rajkumar Singh 29 August 2019
An extraordinary situation has arisen in India -Pakistan relations since the Indian Government abrogated Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India. Although it has been done in the name of the development of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, it fuelled much internal and external reactions following the same. It brought both countries almost on war-path in diplomatic and strategic spheres. The new arrangements made by the Government of India is likely to continue but Pakistan is not getting any relief from any side and is anxious over its decade-long policy of promoting proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. In the circumstances, it often threatens to use even nuclear weapons against India, an option neither possible nor feasible for a country like Pakistan. At the juncture, India has also hinted to reconsider its No-first Use policy made earlier in the light of changing regional equation and its tense relations with both-China and Pakistan.
Background of the policy
On 19th March 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister of India as a head of the BJP-led coalition government and fulfilled the promise of nuclear test made in the election manifesto. After 24 years India had conducted successfully on 11th and 13th May 1998 five nuclear tests, three and two respectively. Going by numbers, most experts have projected the Indian capability to build nuclear weapons to be somewhere between 15 to 60 Hiroshima-type warheads. The Indian Prime Minister in an announcement said, ‘‘today at 3.45 pm conducte d three e underground nuclear tests in the Pokharan range. The tests conducted were with the fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values.’’ The opposition leaders, the former Prime Ministers : V.P. Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Inder Kumar Gujral and other prominent leaders were stunned by Vajpayee’s daring gamble but at the same-time unwilling to differ with him.
Vajpayee’s government had perhaps tested India’s nuclear weapons in order to enhance the country’s security in the face o f m o u n t i n g e v i d e n c e o f S i n o – P a k c o l l a b o r a t i o n i n t h e development of nuclear weapons and missile. This time Pakistan not only criticised bitterly India for explosions, but as expected, evened its nuclear test account with India by exploding five nuclear test on 28th May 1998. Islamabad exploded one more test on 30th May 1998, and became ahead of India in this regard. Shamshad Ahmed, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary in a statement said that Pakistan was willing to enter in talks to resolve all issues, including prevention of nuclear proliferation in the region. Pakistan’s decision to exercise nuclear options is only for self- defence and to deter aggression. In general, Pakistan had two basic compulsions for this nuclear tit-for-tat. First, Islamabad had to prove to India in particular and the world at large that its nuclear capability was not a fib but very real. Second and far more vital to the survival of Nawaz Sharif government, was the dire need to reply to India’s test with an exactly identical display of nuclear prowess.
Policy of No -first Use
In India’s policy of no-first use and retaliation only the survivability of our arsenal is crucial. This is a dynamic concept related to the strategic environment, technological imperatives and needs of national security. The doctrine aims at clearly stating in unambiguous terms that any threat of use of nuclear weapons against India shall invoke measures to counter that threat and that any nuclear attack on India and its forces shall result in punitive retaliation with nuclear weapons to inflict damage unacceptable to the aggressor. With this aim in view, several experts consider that there are good reasons for creating a nuclear triad, which simply refer s to the three legs that comprise most nuclear forces, the land-based international ballistic missiles (ICBMs), strategic bombers, and submarine- based long-range missiles. All nuclear powers have had, or aspire to create such nuclear triads. Despite their individual advantages and disadvantages taking together they tend to cancel out the various disadvantages to create a robust, safe, and relatively invulnerable deterrent force. For example, land- based strategic bombers are large and soft targets. Land-based missiles are similarly vulnerable, because their locations can be kept secret from energy spy-satellites. But land-based missiles, usually deployed in underground soils, can be hardened to a certain degree so that they can survive anything but a direct hit. Likewise, a submarine-based nuclear deterrent force has also advantages and disadvantages: Submarines, especially nuclear missile submarines which rarely come to the surface, are notoriously difficult to detect and track, which makes them the most invulnerable leg of the nuclear triad. Thus, a nuclear triad, which includes all the legs of the triad, reduces the dangers, vulnerabilities and insecurity associated with any single leg. Because India will never see any merit in using nuclear weapons to strike first, it is fundamentally crucial for us with our defensive doctrine and a no-first use philosophy to e n s u r e s u r v i v a b i l i t y o f t h e n u c l e a r a r s e n a l t o e n a b l e retaliation. It is this capability which will deter the aggressor from taking recourse to war and hence provide deterrence and peace and tranquillity so essential to the development of the nation.
The draft of India’s nuclear doctrine issued in August 1999 was subsequently formalised with some modifications in 2003. It explicitly stated that the country is pursuing nuclear deterrence though this was qualified as a minimal one. It also warns that “nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.” Unacceptable damage, in plain English, means that these nuclear weapons would be dropped on cities, each killing lakhs or millions of innocent people. But India, unlike the cold warriors of the fifties, embarked on making nuclear weapons not as a war fighting arsenal or for use in a massive first strike, but only as an instrument of minimal nuclear deterrence. This deterrence was to be achieved with “……sufficient nuclear weapons to inflict destruction and punishment that the aggressor will find unacceptable….” This policy has been repeatedly underlined and reiterated several times by the government of the day.