The debate within the USA and among its allies regarding President Obama’s proposal to adopt No First Use (NFU) makes interesting reading, coming at a time when the Indian Security Establishment is also considering amendments and tweaks to its Nuclear Doctrine.
It brings to fore, not only the decision dilemma faced by leaders across the world, but also the double standards associated with policies on nuclear weapons. While statesmanship demands that World Powers take the lead in initiatives aimed at a ‘Nuclear Free World’, there are serious internal concerns regarding own security in case their adversaries do not reciprocate, or are dishonest in implementing similar commitments. Therefore, to a certain extent, the umbrage caused by this initiative is understandable.
It may be too early to come to a conclusion regarding the final outcome of Obama’s pitch towards adoption of NFU by USA. However, there are a few lessons for India in the midst of our own balancing act to prove our ‘Responsible Nuclear Power Status’ to support our case for entry into the NSG on one hand, as also find answers to deal with a belligerent Pakistan’s aggressive nuclear policies, on the other.
Firstly, the concept of NFU as a national policy not only remains relevant, but possibly the best way forward towards maintaining nuclear equilibrium. Secondly, concerns regarding adversaries reneging on their stated policies would always remain. We need to be prepared to deal with such situations by developing comprehensive capabilities and capacities – diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military, so as to maintain deterrence. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, for a nation with Global Power ambitions such as India, a firm and unwavering stance on national security issues is a Sine Qua Non; our position on NFU is one such example. Considering the fact that even the USA is looking at adopting a policy we have maintained ever since India became nuclear, we must continue to stand by it and find ways, means and options to strengthen it.