The Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) organized a roundtable discussion on “Policy Shifts in Indian NFU: Road to Nuclear Brinkmanship” on 23rd August 2019, which was attended by scholars, experts and formers diplomats and senior government officials. The two main speakers of the event were Dr. Naeem Salik and Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, Senior Research Fellows at CISS. Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, Executive Director CISS, initiated the roundtable discussion by revisiting the shifts in India’s No First Use (NFU) declaration. The first significant shift was witnessed in 2003 when India said it could use nuclear weapons if it is attacked with biological and chemical weapons. Later in 2010, Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, in a speech, rephrased NFU to ‘no first use against non-nuclear weapon states.
Dr. Naeem Salik, during his presentation, talked about the drivers that contribute to the formation of a nuclear doctrine. It is a combination of resources, geography, technology, threat perception and geo-politics, among other things. Dr. Salik added, nuclear doctrine is a dynamic phenomenon and is not static; it evolves as it responds to different political, organizational and technological changes. During the Cold War, many doctrinal shifts were witnessed in the nuclear policies of the two main rivals. There was Massive Retaliation, Flexible Response, and Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Dr. Salik also made a distinction between the ‘actual operational posture and declaratory policy.’ Though India had enunciated its NFU declaration only years after it became a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan never took it seriously or believed in its credibility.
Dr. Mansoor, during his presentation, talked about India’s emerging force posture and discussed the key determinants pushing New Delhi to possibly opt out of its declaratory policy of No First Use (NFU). He said the hints of a shift in India’s NFU declaration emanates from military technologies it has acquired and developed over the years. India’s strategic partnership with major world powers and technologically advanced countries (US, Russia, France and Israel) too has contributed to this apparent policy shift in India’s nuclear doctrine. He warned these strategic partnerships have potentially led to the undermining of strategic stability in the region and amplifying the level of threat for Pakistan.