India this week sought to assure the international community that
it will pursue a responsible nuclear policy of "no first use" of
atomic weapons - even as it continues to build a much larger military
capability, including a new defense strategy to deliver nuclear
weapons by missile, plane, ship, and submarine.
India's first nuclear doctrine, announced Tuesday, indicates a
further break from the moral policy of pacifism dating to founder
Jawaharlal Nehru and long professed by India. It reflects a new and
emerging Indian realpolitik in which status as a great economic and
political power is seen as dependent on modern military capacity.
Moreover, the announcement comes at a time when the overall
climate in South Asia is under increased scrutiny, following nearly
three months of fighting in late spring between India and Pakistan in
the Himalayan mountains of Kashmir. Only last week, India downed a
Pakistani military plane it claims crossed a disputed border along
the Arabian Sea, and relations between the neighbors are at a low
India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons 15 months ago, marking
them as the first new members of the nuclear "club" in decades.
Western nations uniformly condemned the tests, arguing they would
increase the possibility of other states breaking the existing
nonproliferation regime. But Clinton administration efforts to talk
the two sides out of nuclear weapons development have so far failed -
a point made resoundingly clear by New Delhi's Tuesday press
Until this week India had not made clear its nuclear doctrine,
which also states that the prime minister alone may pull the nuclear
trigger, and lays out what supporters term a "muscular" strategy of
land, sea, and air delivery systems. Pakistan has not yet renounced
the "first use" of nuclear weapons.
US State Department spokesman James Rubin said Tuesday that the
policy "does not enhance" the security of the region. Western
observers in Delhi stated it was "difficult to tell" from the
language of the doctrine whether "this means we are in for an arms
race in South Asia or not." However, military analysts here seized
on India's new intention to develop ship and submarine delivery
systems as the most significant part of the announcement. India's
submarine capability is still years off, but ships could be more
quickly fitted to deploy India's smaller "Prithvi" missile in a
manner hard to detect.
"If I am a strategic planner in Jakarta, or Tehran, or Saudi
Arabia, or Australia - suddenly India's nuclear program has a lot
more meaning than before," says a Western analyst.
Along with pointing to a potential threat from Pakistan, which
tested only after India in 1998, Indian officials say nuclear weapons
are a deterrent against China - a greater long-term threat, say some
Old antimuclear policy
For years, India, as a member of the "nonaligned nations," touted
a Gandhian antinuclear doctrine and eschewed the development of
catastrophic weapons as immoral, illegal, and irrational. Indian
opponents of the new doctrine described it as a betrayal of Indian