Published: Sat, August 17, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Rajnath Singh hints at nuclear war amid hightened tensions with Pakistan

Rajnath Singh hints at nuclear war amid hightened tensions with Pakistan

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said that India follows "no first use" policy regarding nuclear weapons but said what would happen in future will depend on "circumstances".

India brought out its nuclear doctrine in 1999, declaring a no first use policy-that is, it would not be the first to launch a nuclear weapon, but retained the right to retaliate in response to an atomic strike.

Pakistan has been criticised for loose talk on nuclear weapons.

Over the next decade or so, it managed to convince an initially doubtful world, that the latest official nuclear power was not "mad, bad and dangerous" and was as responsible as the select few other nations with nuclear capability. It is this open-endedness of "intentions" in the second half of his comment on India's nuclear doctrine that could be taken advantage of by those wishing to paint the "responsible nuclear State" as showing signs of irresponsibility. "What happens in the future depends on the circumstances", he said.

"Pokhran is the area which witnessed (Vajpayee's) firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of 'No First Use",' Singh wrote. Singh's statements might be a signal that India will not succumb to nuclear blackmail or the view in Pakistan that its nuclear arsenal will deter New Delhi from using its conventional forces.

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This is not the first time that the Modi government has made a statement regarding its nuclear policy. "Singh is just saying what many, especially China and Pakistan, already believe".

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gives a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on August 16, 2019.

Pakistan will continue to maintain a credible minimum deterrence posture. There has been a debate of sorts within the government about relaxing the no-first-use policy.

Withdrawing the NFU policy, which Mr Singh hinted at, would be meaningless and would make no difference to Pakistan because Pakistani strategists do not believe in it in the first place.

However, in a speech at the National Defence College on October 21, 2010 by India's then National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, the wording was changed from "no first use" to "no first use against non-nuclear weapon states". Singh's statement is full of significance and any move of India in the context is akin to completely re-calibrating the nuclear doctrine.

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