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Rajnath Singh recently said that ‘No First Use’ nuclear doctrine may change

In News Recently, The Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, has hinted that India might change its ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy regarding nuclear weapons. What happens in the future depends on the “circumstances”. The statement was made at Pokhran, Rajasthan, where he was visiting on the first death anniversary of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A Major Shift The statement is a major shift from the past. Since 2003 India has officially adopted ‘No First Use’ Doctrine for the use of Nuclear weapons. In 1998, shortly after India tested nuclear weapons at Pokhran, the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, speaking in a debate on foreign policy in the Lok Sabha categorically stated that India will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States and not be the first to use them against nuclear States. The Defence minister hints this policy might change in the future depending on the situation. Background India declared itself a nuclear weapons power after conducting five underground tests in May 1998 at Pokhran. India needed a deterrent against nuclear-armed China, at the time of the tests but was also concerned with Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. Pakistan in retaliation conducted 6 nuclear tests a few days after India. In 1999, India explicitly stated its nuclear doctrine that committed of No First Use — that is it would never carry out a nuclear first-strike. India’s nuclear doctrine says "nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere" Thus, the NFU policy went along with credible minimum deterrence. No First Use No first use (NFU) refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. The concept applies to chemical and biological warfare. Countries pledging No First Use China became the first country, after conducting the nuclear tests in 1964, to come up with the No First Use pledge. India, in August 1999, released a draft of the doctrine which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of "retaliation only". However, the only official version of the pledge comes from the press statement of 4 January 2003, following a Cabinet Committee on Security discussion. Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France say they will use nuclear weapons against either nuclear or non-nuclear states only in the case of invasion or other attacks against their territory or against one of their allies. They are not committed to NFU. No First Use- Its need and how it has served India? India adopted the NFU policy at the time of its nuclear tests as a broader diplomatic project of mainstreaming India as a nuclear power, which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). There was a diplomatic pressure building up on India from major world powers such as the United States to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which India termed as discriminatory. The civil nuclear deal with the US in 2005 and 2008 waiver by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to a non-NPT signatory country is seen as a major success of the NFU doctrine and places India in the list of responsible nuclear States. NFU doctrine is cheaper to implement in a developing country like India which has many economic targets. Arguments for Revisiting the NFU doctrine Security has always been dynamic concept. The geopolitical and economic situation has changed drastically since India first stated this policy in 1999. Experts believe NFU isn't dead, but it's now meaningless. The development of Pakistani Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) and its repeated statements that it would not hesitate to use such weapons first in the event India crossed its red lines has made India be concerned about a shift in its strategy including the NFU. NFU was only a political decision that every country revisits according to the need of the hour and it has never been binding but a unilaterally stated policy of our country. Concerns It is not a matter of dropping the word ‘No’ from NFU but the real concern is making the first use of nuclear warheads credible. China might seize this opportunity to denigrate India’s status as a responsible nuclear power. It might create a problem for India which aims a membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Sources: Wikipedia and various news analysis



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