Parrikar’s remarks can be mistaken: Experts

No first use has been the hallmark of India's effort to build an image as a responsible nuclear power.

November 12, 2016 01:37 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:14 am IST - NEW DELHI:

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 17-06-2016: Union Defense minister Manohar Parrikar at the inauguration of Sardar Vallabhai Patel Cantonment general hospital, Bollarum in Secunderabad on Friday... Photo: K.V.S. Giri

HYDERABAD, TELANGANA, 17-06-2016: Union Defense minister Manohar Parrikar at the inauguration of Sardar Vallabhai Patel Cantonment general hospital, Bollarum in Secunderabad on Friday... Photo: K.V.S. Giri

Experts on Friday said that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s > remarks on India’s ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy on nuclear weapons could prove detrimental to India’s interests and that the comments can be interpreted as official policy by India’s adversaries.

Speaking at a book release function on Thursday, Mr. Parrikar expressed his “personal opinion” that if a written down strategy exists on a nuclear aspect, “we are actually giving away our strength in nuclear.” “..Why do lot of people say that India has NFU policy? Why should I bind myself,” he had asked.

No first use has been the hallmark of India’s effort to build an international image as a responsible nuclear power, observed Toby Dalton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Unpredictability could in theory strengthen India’s deterrent, but not necessarily at the low end of the spectrum, where the instability is currently located. The question is whether the potential deterrence gains from ditching no first use would outweigh the reputational costs,” he told The Hindu .

Monika Chansoria, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies questioned the timing of Mr. Parrikar's comment. “Mr. Parrikar questioning Indian NFU policy at this stage is critical, when India seemingly is exploring newer layers of signalling in deterrence and response options. After all, the surgical strike has managed to introduce an element of surprise, whereby India acted far from the anticipated line of action,” she said.

NSG entry The comments came at a time when India has put in all diplomatic energy to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the exclusive grouping which regulates global nuclear commerce.

India has put in place its nuclear doctrine with NFU and massive retaliation forming its core tenets soon after it tested nuclear weapons in the summer of 1998. The concept of maintaining a minimum credible deterrence and a nuclear triad for delivery of nuclear weapons based on aircraft, missiles and nuclear submarines flow from that.

Vipin Narang, Associate Professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said that there is an official doctrine, and it has been reviewed internally multiple times by both the UPA and the BJP governments since 2003. “Each time, the conclusion was not to alter or dilute NFU,” he observed.

Noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had publicly endorsed NFU, Dr. Narang felt that Mr. Parrikar, by speaking in his “personal capacity,” created “confusion” by voicing a contradictory position. “Mr. Parrikar is the Defence Minister. His personal opinions run the risk of being interpreted as official policy on this matter, which I can assure you now China and Pakistan will do,” he added.

Our Special Correspondent from Panaji adds:

Clarify policy on nuclear weapons: Digvijay

The Centre should come clean on whether the country’s stated policy on use of nuclear weapons has changed in view of the recent comments by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, said All India Congress Committee(AICC) general secretary Digvijay Singh here on Friday.

He was responding to Mr. Parrikar’s lound thinking on Thursday questioning the merits of being bound to the 'no-first-use' doctrine vis-a-vis nuclear weapons.

“The Prime Minister and the government of India must come clean on this. Have they changed the stated policy of the government of India as far as first use of nuclear weapons is concerned?” Mr. Singh asked on the sidelines of a Congress meeting here. Mr. Singh is in-charge of Congress affairs in Goa.

"First use of our nuclear arsenal is contrary to the stated policy of the government. We are a land which believes in the Gandhian principles of non-violence and we have always believed in the disarmament policy by Rajiv Gandhi,” Mr. Singh said.

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