India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Stirrings of Change

17 June 2014

Missile on a road-mobile launcher with a crowd of people in the background, courtesy HaeB/wikimedia
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India has not reviewed its nuclear doctrine for over a decade. With the election of Narendra Modi firmly in mind, P R Chari outlines why a doctrinal revisit is now due and what issues and circumstances New Delhi needs to consider in the process.

By P.R. Chari for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

This article was originally published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 14 June 2014. Republished with permission.

In the beginning of April 2014, at a conference initiated by the Indian government, Manmohan Singh casually urged the creation of a global convention to forswear the first use of nuclear weapons. Why the Indian prime minister chose to make this major policy declaration in the last hours of his term in office is a mystery.

To unravel this mystery, it is important to note the context. Singh was addressing a conference at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA) titled “A Nuclear Weapon-Free World: From Conception to Reality.” The IDSA is supported by the Indian Ministry of Defense and has been a favored venue for India’s leadership to make important policy declarations on national security. The Indian bureaucracies that deal with foreign policy and security issues often use this forum to articulate their preferences on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament issues. It would be natural if these bureaucracies wished to commend the virtues of continuity in policy to the new Indian government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office in May 2014. Continue reading