ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nuclear Adventurism

Is India's nuclear weapons policy in for a sea change?

India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is known for his rash and highly provocative remarks. Last year, on 22 May, he openly advocated “kaante-se-kaanta-nikaalte-hein” (“a thorn to remove a thorn”) counter-insurgency tactics in Kashmir. “You have to neutralise terrorist through terrorist only,” Parrikar insisted, embarrassing the Indian establishment which knows only too well that this has been the norm in Kashmir since the first half of the 1990s. Obviously, the establishment didn’t consider it prudent to admit to such a policy openly. And now, on 10 November this year, of all places at a book launch, Parrikar called on the government to renounce India’s no-first-use (NFU) policy in the wielding of nuclear weapons. An NFU pledge, according to Parrikar, is tant­amount to “giving away strength.” “Unpredictability,” he argued, is an indispensable element of military strategy. Rhetorically, he queried, “Why should I bind myself?” India would be better served by keeping the first-use option open, he believed.

Indeed, Parrikar went on illustrate the advantage one has when there is an element of surprise, when the enemy is left guessing, as when India, he claimed, opened a new chapter in its dealings with Pakistan in the form of the so-called surgical strikes in late September. And then he went on to scornfully brag that Pakistan didn’t have the guts to make good its threat to repel the “surgical strikes” with the use of tactical (that is, battlefield) nuclear weapons! What provocation, this at a time when the death-count in cross-border firing gets higher. And, when tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomatic staff on charges of spying and other misdemeanours are reaching a point to when the two sides might even withdraw their respective ambassadors.

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