India’s Nuclear Doctrine

Context: India again reiterated that nuclear weapons should be abolished in a step-by-step non-discriminatory process.


  • Addressing the High-level Meeting to Commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (26th September), India said it remains committed to “No First Use” against nuclear weapon states.
  • India espouses the policy of ‘No First Use’ against nuclear weapon states and non-use against non-nuclear weapon states. India is a key partner in global efforts towards disarmament and strengthening the non-proliferation order.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine

What is No First Use doctrine, and how did it come into being?

  • In January 2003, when Vajpayee was India’s Prime Minister, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met to review the progress in operationalizing the country’s nuclear doctrine. An official release issued that day summarized the decisions that were being put in the public domain.

Major Features:

  • Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere.
  • India’s nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  • In the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.
  • Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.
  • The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council.
  • While the Executive Council is chaired by the National Security Advisor (NSA), the Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  • India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  • India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.
  • An important aspect of India’s nuclear doctrine is credible minimum deterrence (CMD), which refers to the quantity of nuclear forces that India needs to deter potential nuclear adversaries.
  • Issues such as terrorism and Tactical (nonstrategic) nuclear weapons (TNWswere not mentioned in the Indian nuclear doctrine.
  • Note: Pakistan, by contrast, has openly threatened India with the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions beginning from the time the two nations were not even acknowledged nuclear powers.
  • India is one of two countries — China being the other — that adheres to a doctrine of No First Use (NFU).

Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs)

  • Tactical nuclear weapons are low-yield short-range nuclear bombs that can be used to stall the progress of troops.
  • They typically refer to short-range weapons, including land-based missiles with a range of less than 500 km and air- and sea-launched weapons with a range of less than 600 km.
  • TNWs are the least-regulated category of nuclear weapons covered in arms control agreements.

Limitations of TNWs

  • TNWs are extremely costly and complex to manufacture.
  • These are difficult to transport, store and maintain under field conditions due to their intricate electronic components.
  • TNWs are also vulnerable to battlefield accidents and are susceptible to unauthorised use (‘Mad Major Syndrome’).

Cold Start Doctrine of India

  • The Cold Start doctrine sought to prepare the army in such a manner that offensive operations could be undertaken within 48 hours of the orders being issued, enabling the Indian troops to take their Pakistani counterparts by surprise.
  • It is also known as ‘Proactive Offensive Operations’ doctrine.
  • India has officially denied that the Cold Start doctrine exists.

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