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Evolution of India’s Nuclear Policy

Evolution of India’s Nuclear Policy

Evolution of India’s Nuclear Policy: India conducted its first successful nuclear weapon test in 1974, leading to the formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) the same year to prevent nuclear proliferation. In 1998, India conducted a series of five nuclear tests, declaring itself a de facto nuclear weapon state. India adopted a draft nuclear doctrine in 1999 based on the principle of “NO FIRST USE” (NFU) policy.

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Key features – Evolution of India’s Nuclear Policy

  • India pledged not to initiate a nuclear attack on any country.
  • India’s nuclear arsenal would serve solely for defensive purposes, deterring external nuclear attacks.
  • India aimed to establish a nuclear triad model, enabling nuclear attacks via land, air, and water.

Do we need a change in Doctrine?

No change is necessary
  • India’s current doctrine, including its No First Use policy, has facilitated significant international agreements such as the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) waiver as part of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal in 2008.
  • Despite Japan’s strong anti-nuclear stance, India recently secured a nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan, showcasing diplomatic agility and strategic maneuvering.
  • India’s pursuit of NSG membership as a permanent member marks a doctrinal shift, potentially complicating its relations with China, which may seek to delay India’s entry into the group.
  • The No First Use policy enhances deterrence by providing a credible assurance of nuclear retaliation in response to a nuclear first strike, thereby promoting stability in the region.
Change instance will create issues
  • The international standing gained by India through its restrained nuclear posture could be lost if there’s a shift in nuclear doctrine.
  • Such a change would necessitate significant reconfiguration of command and control mechanisms, leading to increased expenditure.
  • There might be an increase in the use of tactical nuclear weapons, mistakenly believing there won’t be a massive retaliation.
  • This could result in portraying South Asia as a nuclear hotspot, inviting foreign interference.
Change is needed 
  • Such an approach unnecessarily kept India on the back foot and on the defensive and made it axiomatic that India would have to face the consequences of a first strike before being able to respond. Moreover, it prevented India from keeping a potential adversary off balance.
  • Despite being party to formulating the no-first use policy in 2003, the time has come to re-examine it. It has been 15 years since we adopted the doctrine, a lot has changed since then
  • There is increasing evidence of Pakistan’s proclivity to use tactical nuclear weapons against India.


  • In China, there’s a debate between proponents of “minimum deterrence” and advocates for “limited deterrence“.
  • The “limited deterrence” camp supports counterforce operations and expanding nuclear war-fighting capabilities.
  • They argue for a more diverse arsenal to enhance flexibility in nuclear strategy.
  • In India, there are calls to reconsider its No First Use (NFU) policy.
  • Some suggest aligning India’s nuclear doctrine with established Nuclear Weapon States, allowing for nuclear weapon use in sub-nuclear conflicts.

Way forward

  • Periodic affirmations regarding the enhancement and modernization of India’s nuclear arsenal and systems, alongside the development of alternate command structures.
  • A commitment to ensuring that India’s nuclear arsenal will be sufficiently robust to deter all potential adversaries, with a projected scale reaching the mid triple digits.
  • Appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff to streamline military operations and enhance coordination among different branches of the armed forces.
  • Strengthening of the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) to serve as a proficient apex technical agency, capable of promptly detecting any threats against India and facilitating swift and decisive nuclear retaliation, thereby ensuring deterrence by demonstrating the ability to inflict unacceptable damage on aggressors.

Nuclear testing

To prepare and test advanced thermonuclear weapons designs in a laboratory setting, two crucial steps must be taken. Firstly, the laser inertial confinement fusion facility at the Centre for Advanced Technology in Indore requires urgent refurbishment. Secondly, a dual-axis radiographic hydrodynamic test facility needs to be built.

Read also: National Security Doctrine

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