ISLAMABAD: Experts fear an intensified arms race in South Asia if India alters its first-use nuclear policy (NFU).
They spoke at a round table conference organized by the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), a group of experts based in Islamabad that focuses its research on strategic balance in the region.
The discussion was organized in the context of the recent indications of Indian leaders that they could end their No-First Use (NFU) nuclear weapons policy.
Speculation about an imminent change in the NFU policy of India was significantly renewed by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh amid intense tensions between Pakistan and India following the annexation of Kashmir occupied by the latter.
Mr. Singh, during a visit to Pokhran, the site of nuclear tests in India, said: “Until today, our nuclear policy is“ No first use. ”What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” More later reaffirmed that opinion through a tweet.
The CISS Conference examined the possibilities for India to change its declared position on the NFU, the factors that motivate Delhi to move in that direction and its implications for the strategic stability of the region.
The central argument of the three presentations at the round table meeting was that the end of the NFU would be accompanied by India increasing its nuclear arsenal, which would then be followed by other countries in the region that would review their minimum numbers to maintain credible deterrence. .
The principal investigator of the CISS, Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, said that after the change in NFU policy, India can update its conventional and strategic forces, thus producing "more warheads and delivery systems."
He explained that "the apparent change of India in its NFU flows from the military technologies that it has acquired and developed in the last two decades."
He believed that the statement of the defense minister of India reflected the "confidence of his government in the new capabilities" that are geared towards a "climbing domain strategy" adapted for a "full spectrum conflict" with Pakistan and China.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the CISS ambassador, Ali Sarwar Naqvi, said: "Such doctrinal developments are alarming to the main adversaries of India, especially Pakistan, who would be forced to take contrary measures and increase the level of sufficiency to ensure the credibility of his deterrent stance. " observed.
He recalled how India had already substantially diluted its NFU policy since 1999. In the first instance, a warning was added in 2003 stating that nuclear weapons can be used in case of chemical and biological weapons attack against India or Indian forces in any place.
Later, in 2010, India's National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, reformulated the NFU to "not use it first against states that do not possess nuclear weapons", and then, in 2013, the Security Advisory Board Coordinator National of India, Shyam Saran, said that India would retaliate massively regardless of the size of any nuclear. attack on her, he said.
The principal investigator of the CISS, retired brigadier general Dr. Naeem Salik, said the statement by the Indian defense minister could not have been a surprise to Pakistan because he never believed in the NFU statement of India. He recalled that Indian leaders and officials had been talking about leaving NFU for some time.
Published on Dawn, August 27, 2019