Defence and Security

Revisiting India’s nuclear doctrine

Mar 27, 2017
Calls for reassessing India’s nuclear doctrine are a regular feature of our strategic landscape. Depending on where the person asking for this reconsideration sits on the strategic spectrum, the demand for revision rests either on scepticism about India’s commitment to a No First Use posture or the intention to retaliate massively to any nuclear first strike, no matter what the yield of the weapon used first. What seems to receive much less attention, however, is the declaration that India reserves the right to nuclear retaliation “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons”. In doing so, we are clubbing together nuclear first use — which has not occurred since 1945 — and biological and chemical first use which, especially chemical, continues to occur sporadically, whether by state or non-state actors. The further question of degree, as in “major attack”, only further muddies these already murky waters.
 
Use of chemical weapons
 
The dramatic assassination in Malaysia last month of North Korean Kim Jong-nam by the chemical agent VX, which was almost certainly orchestrated by elements within the North Korean state, adds another layer to questions about making sponsors of chemical attacks accountable. The ease with which deadly chemicals can be transported across state borders, as demonstrated by the assault, gives further pause. This is not to try to equate a political assassination with a military attack using chemical weapons. The fact remains, however, that the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention has succeeded in only partly making their use utterly reprehensible; their use is beyond the pale but will not alter the course of history in the manner that we expect will follow a nuclear explosion. Quite simply, there is a fairly strong norm governing the non-use of nuclear weapons; the norm against the use of chemical and biological weapons is still coalescing.
 
Read more at: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/revisiting-indias-nuclear-doctrine/article17668024.ece
 
The Hindu, March 27, 2017

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