Indian Party Backpedals on Provocative Nuclear Policy Remarks

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 9, 2014, 5:11 a.m.

Fol­low­ing a me­dia up­roar, the Bhar­atiya Janata Party is mov­ing to quell spec­u­la­tion that it wants to end In­dia’s long­stand­ing no-first-use nuc­le­ar arms policy.

An elec­tion mani­festo re­leased on Monday by the lead­ing op­pos­i­tion party prom­ised to “study in de­tail In­dia’s nuc­le­ar doc­trine, and re­vise and up­date it” — word­ing that some took to mean that the no-first-use pos­ture, long the pil­lar of In­dia’s nuc­le­ar weapons doc­trine, could be thrown out. In re­sponse to those con­cerns, seni­or BJP of­fi­cials are now sug­gest­ing the party has not made a de­cision on the fu­ture of the policy.

BJP mem­ber Ravi Shank­ar Prasad, who man­ages the party’s me­dia strategy, in an in­ter­view with the Hindus­tan Times on Wed­nes­day em­phas­ized the party mani­festo is not meant to get in­to is­sue de­tails.

In de­vel­op­ing its cam­paign plat­form, the Bhar­atiya Janata Party “con­sul­ted vari­ous ex­perts,” Prasad said. “Some of them felt In­dia had not op­tim­ally ex­ploited its thori­um re­serves to boost its ci­vil­ian nuc­le­ar pro­gram. But the nu­ances of all these as­pects of nuc­le­ar doc­trine can­not be dis­cussed in a party’s mani­festo. The [In­di­an gov­ern­ment] Cab­in­et Com­mit­tee on Se­cur­ity has to take a call after con­sid­er­ing the facts be­fore it.”

The Bhar­atiya Janata Party ac­cuses the gov­ern­ing Con­gress Party of not cap­it­al­iz­ing on the stra­tegic ad­vance­ments made by the na­tion’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram in the 1990s un­der an earli­er BJP-led co­ali­tion gov­ern­ment. The op­pos­i­tion party prom­ises that if it wins na­tion­al elec­tions, as is widely ex­pec­ted, one of its top goals will be to re­in­vig­or­ate both the coun­try’s ci­vil­ian and mil­it­ary atom­ic pro­grams.

In­dia’s nuc­le­ar weapons doc­trine was de­veloped by the BJP-led gov­ern­ment shortly after the coun­try car­ried out its first nuc­le­ar tests in 1998. The doc­trine is largely premised on the prom­ise by In­dia that it will nev­er be the first to use nuc­le­ar arms, but if at­tacked with such arma­ments would re­spond with “massive re­tali­ation.”

Man­oj Joshi, a fel­low at the Ob­serv­er Re­search Found­a­tion in New Del­hi, in a Wed­nes­day blog post said he found the BJP mani­festo to be “quite mod­er­ate and clear” and no cause for alarm.

“The BJP’s com­mit­ment needs to be seen in the con­text of the fail­ure of the [Con­gress Party-led co­ali­tion] gov­ern­ment to up­date In­dia’s nuc­le­ar doc­trine … and evolve a strategy which would in­teg­rate the coun­try’s con­ven­tion­al war-fight­ing po­ten­tial with its nuc­le­ar weapons cap­ab­il­ity,” he wrote.

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