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Whither Nuclear Decision-making?

Modi at the Helm

Nuclear decision-making, when examined at the institutional and individual levels, suggests that India’s case is fraught with shortcomings. This adds to the complications for regional security, already present on account of Pakistan’s nuclear decision-making being military dominated. The aggravated institutional infirmities of India’s nuclear decision-making structures and the authoritarian tendencies in India’s primary nuclear decision-maker, the Prime Minister, heighten nuclear dangers in future crises and conflicts.

The Rafale deal reworked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to Paris early in his tenure has come under scrutiny recently. Critics have it that the jettison of the original deal—in which India was to get 18 aircrafts and assemble 108 separately—in favour of getting only 36 aircrafts in a fly away condition, albeit with India-­specific enhancements, has been to India’s disadvantage (Sinha et al 2018). The decision figures alongside the sudden demonetisation as another landmark decision by Modi. Critics have it that both cases lacked due diligence in processing. While then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was seemingly out of the loop on the shift in the Rafale deal (Dutta 2017), it remains unclear which officials were consulted on demonetisation (Indian Express 2017). What do such major decisions bespeak of India’s ability to handle arguably the most fraught decision, that on nuclear weapons use?

The last four years have provided adequate insight into the workings of the Modi government. The Rafale deal, demon­etisation, and the roll-out of the goods and services tax are taken as the leitmotif on its decisiveness (Hindu 2018). These provide enough grounds to suspect that decision-making on nuclear weapon employment could well be problematic. This is troubling, particularly as the government is about to approach the voters once again for another five years at the helm.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2018

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