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Indian Opposition Leader Urges Change to “No-First-Use” Policy

March 17, 2011


A senior member of India’s main political opposition party on Tuesday called for changing the nation’s longstanding policy of “no-first-use” of its nuclear arsenal, the Indian Express reported (see GSN, Nov. 1, 2010).

(Mar. 16) – Indian Bharitaya Janata Party lawmaker Jaswant Singh, shown last year, on Tuesday urged his country to alter its “no-first-use” nuclear weapons policy (Farooq Naeem/Getty Images).

“I am of the view that the policy-framework that the [National Democratic Alliance] devised in 1998 is very greatly in need of revision because the situation that warranted the enunciation of the policy of ‘no-first-use’ or ‘nonuse against non-nuclear weapons [states],’ ‘credible deterrence with minimum force,’ etc. has long been overtaken by events,” said Bharitaya Janata Party legislator Jaswant Singh, who has served as India’s external affairs minister and in other Cabinet posts.

Singh emphasized during a parliamentary meeting that he was discussing his individual opinion and not that of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“You cannot continue to sit in yesterday’s policy,” Singh said. “We need to readdress it. Therefore, I ask you to please hold broader consultations with whosoever you want but do revise this policy.”

The lawmaker noted his support for an international drive to destroy all nuclear arms. He did not specify whether he wanted India’s nuclear posture changed to allow for a “first-use” strike.

Singh compared India’s nuclear posture to that of strategic rival Pakistan, which is not believed to have declared an official “no-first-use” policy (see GSN, Nov. 24, 2008).

Islamabad in recent years is believed to have greatly ratcheted up nuclear weapons production and to have significantly increased its stockpile of fissile material (see GSN, Feb. 18).

“There is another important and vital reason why I say this [has] to be done. It is not good enough now. … Pakistan is already in possession of about 100-110 nuclear warheads that are deliverable whereas I know that India has 50 to 60,” Singh said.

“I do not know why we are keeping these facts hidden,” he added. “The U.S. does not know where the nuclear weapons of Pakistan are kept. It has better delivery system transported by China and North Korea … time will not wait for us.” (Indian Express, March 16).

On Wednesday, Indian national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon said he would reach out to Singh regarding his thoughts on different nuclear posture options, the Indo-Asian News Service reported.

“We will ask him what is the alternative and take it from there,” Menon told journalists.

New Delhi’s present “no-first-use” policy is focused mainly on states without nuclear deterrents of their own. The South Asian state has not ruled out using its nuclear arsenal in the event of a large-scale chemical or biological weapons assault. The country last updated its nuclear posture in January 2003 (Indo-Asian News Service/Sify.com, March 16).

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna indicated on Wednesday there would be no change to the government’s position, the Business Standard reported.

“Government remains committed in taking effective steps to strengthen India’s defense and to maintain credible minimum nuclear deterrence,” Krishna told lawmakers.

“On nuclear doctrine, I would only like to say that there is no change in our policy. We are committed to universal, nondiscriminatory nuclear disarmament and we remain firm on the commitment,” he said (Business Standard, March 16).

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