India Hints It May Be Reconsidering Its Doctrine on Nuclear Weapons

Archana Chaudhary

(Bloomberg) -- India today hinted that it may be rethinking its doctrine of “No First Use” for nuclear weapons.

Defense minister Rajnath Singh tweeted to say the South Asian nation remains “firmly committed” and “has strictly adhered to” the doctrine but “what happens in the future depends on the circumstances.”

India is engaged in ongoing tensions with nuclear rival Pakistan over its decision to revoke autonomy of Kashmir region, to which both countries stake a claim. Singh tweeted after visiting India’s nuclear weapons testing site at Pokharan.

The defense ministry spokesman A. Bharat Bhushan Babu didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Since a series of nuclear tests in 1998, India declared a “no-first-use” policy under which it won’t be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with its neighbors, but will retaliate should deterrence fail. Unlike Pakistan, India’s other neighbor and rival China also has a declared no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons.

"This is a clear statement that India’s position has changed and that India may no longer feel bound by the doctrine of No First Use," said Akhil Bery, South Asia analyst at Eurasia Group. "While there have been evolutions in the past, this seems to indicate a strategic shift."

(Updates with analyst comment in last paragraph.)

--With assistance from N. C. Bipindra.

To contact the reporter on this story: Archana Chaudhary in New Delhi at achaudhary2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Unni Krishnan

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