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Pal Sidhu

28 avril 2014

Updating India’s nuclear doctrine

There is a case to review and, perhaps, revise and update the Indian nuclear doctrine, which dates back to 2003

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.” (Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat, BJP’s 2014 election manifesto).

Unsurprisingly, these words have perturbed international strategic experts. Everyone remembers how the party delivered on its 1998 manifesto promise to “re-evaluate the country’s nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons”.

Although the manifesto is not as explicit, it did not prevent outcry that India will abandon its no-first use policy. In a shrill editorial titled A Risk to India’s Nuclear Doctrine, The New York Times warned that in “signalling its willingness to take a more provocative stance toward Pakistan and China, the party does not advance India’s interests”. Predictably this reaction was prompted by the perception of Narendra Modi’s desire to break from the past, despite assurances by him and top party leaders that the no-first use doctrine was intact.

The controversy notwithstanding, there is a case to review and, perhaps, revise and update the Indian nuclear doctrine, which dates back to 2003. Indeed, every other responsible nuclear weapon state had regularly done so.

The US carries out an elaborate quadrennial nuclear posture review and the latest one in 2010, despite President Barack Obama’s Prague plea for a world without nuclear weapons, underlined the continuing role of Washington’s nuclear arsenal. Similarly, every French president reviews the role for its nuclear weapons and the UK is debating the future of its nuclear force. Even China regularly presents white papers to explain its nuclear posture, though the 2013 paper dropped the explicit reference to its long-standing no-first-use policy. Thus India will be in the good company of responsible states.

There are three factors—two external and one internal—that are likely to impact India’s present nuclear doctrine. On the external front, the need to “maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing geostatic realities”, as the manifesto notes, will be determined by Pakistan and China.

Pakistan’s induction of an extremely short-range (60km) battlefield tactical nuclear weapon has undermined the tenuous strategic stability on the subcontinent. This, coupled with Islamabad’s inability to prosecute those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks or to assure that such attacks will not recur, poses a challenge to New Delhi.
Little less known is China’s reported deployment of the highly accurate and mobile DF-25 missile, capable of delivering single or multiple nuclear or conventional warheads to a range of 3,200km, a significant threat to India. This, coupled with China’s growing anti-satellite capabilities (and vulnerability of India’s expanding space assets), also reveals the limits of India’s present doctrine. In the wake of the series of border skirmishes, which are likely to recur, India would be justified in revising its conventional and nuclear posture accordingly.

Finally, India’s imminent deployment of the submarine leg of its nuclear triad makes the current de-mated and de-alerted posture nearly obsolete. As the weapons and delivery systems will be on the same platform (even if they are de-mated) and on a higher degree of alert than on land, the 2003 posture will have to be revisited. Also, delegation of use authority will also have to be considered.
While a revision of India’s nuclear doctrine (though maintaining a no-first use policy) is certainly justified and, perhaps, overdue, the manifesto’s lack of elaboration on why and how this should occur raises concerns about the motives and objectives behind it. Any new government will do well to explain them.

W.P.S. Sidhu is senior fellow for foreign policy at Brookings India and a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University. He writes on strategic affairs every fortnight.

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13 avril 2014

Manifestos : the missing foreign plan

Whatever the hue of the new government, it can afford to ignore the role of foreign policy only at the cost of its domestic agenda .

National elections inevitably focus on domestic issues often to the detriment of international linkages even though it is increasingly evident that in a globalized world the latter has significant bearing on the former. Indeed, there is no nation today whose domestic policy is not determined by events beyond its borders. India is no exception.
Consider just two aspects. First, nearly 50% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is now dependent on international trade. While imports and exports are certainly determined by national policies and domestic decision-making paralysis can have a detrimental effect, it would be naïve to disregard the impact that international developments, such as the prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will have on India’s trade.
Second, as Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan highlighted at a Brookings event the consequences of national US monetary policies was damaging to the economies of emerging markets, such as India. Indeed, this was a critical factor behind the weakening of the rupee and capital outflow.
Thus even if parties want to focus only on national economic policies to promote growth during the elections, they will sooner or later have to contend with the international dimensions that will inevitably influence even domestic decisions.
Yet, the three key manifestos make only tenuous link between the external scenario and prospects for India’s domestic growth. The Aam Aadmi Party, whose ambitious, if populist, list of domestic deliverables is most vulnerable to external exigencies, clearly links the global “ecological crisis” and India’s energy and economic security. However, it lacks details on how to encourage an increasingly energy independent developed world to invest in renewables in dependent India.
The slender Congress party manifesto is, perhaps, the weakest in making this connection. While it promises steps to “promote greater integration with the global economy and encourage foreign direct investment”, this finds no mention in the foreign policy section. In fact, the foreign policy section, which makes perfunctory and obligatory references to reforming the United Nations Security Council, the non-aligned movement and even defunct “socialist countries” is confined almost entirely to South Asia. The manifesto is bereft of any mention of the G-20 or reforming international financial institutions. This is particularly ironic given that Manmohan Singh understood the vital connection between external factors and domestic economic well-being and explicitly articulated it in a well considered speech, even though he could not act on it (A New Panchsheel for the 21st Century , Mint, 11 November 2013).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto, which bears the imprimatur of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, comes closest to making the connection between its domestic agenda and the international arena explicit. Taking a page from Singh’s speech it notes that India’s global strategic engagement will have to include the country’s economic, scientific, cultural, political and security interests.
Though it links the domestic credibility crisis of the Singh government to the “falling rupee and countries riding roughshod over us”, it is not clear that greater Indian credibility would have prevented the US from changing its national monetary policies.
Indeed, the BJP manifesto is also silent on how it will enhance its engagement with the US and the developed world if it wants to manifest its “5 T’s : tradition, talent, tourism, trade and technology” policy. While it is in the interest of Washington to engage with the new administration in India, the Obama administration is unlikely to simply roll over. It will require concerted effort on both sides.
Whatever the hue of the new government, it can afford to ignore the role of foreign policy only at the cost of its domestic agenda.

W.P.S. Sidhu is senior fellow for foreign policy at Brookings India and a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University. He writes on strategic affairs every fortnight.

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Follow Mint Opinion on Twitter at

Dr. Waheguru Pal Singh SIDHU is Senior Fellow at the New York University’s Centre
on International Cooperation (CIC).

Dr. Sidhu has researched, written and taught extensively on grand strategy, the role of the United Nations and regionalism, Southern Asia, confidence-building-measures,
disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation issues. His recent publications include :
Shaping the Emerging World : India and the Multilateral Order ; The Iraq Crisis and
World Order : Structural, Institutional and Normative Challenges ; Arms Control after
Iraq : Normative and Operational Challenges ; and China and India : Cooperation or
Conflict ? He has also published in leading international journals, including Arms Control
Today, Asian Survey, Disarmament Diplomacy, Disarmament Forum, International
Peacekeeping, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Politique Etrangere, and the Bulletin of
Atomic Scientists. In addition he also writes a regular column in Mint (Visit,
a leading Indian business newspaper.

Dr. Sidhu was the consultant to the first, second and third United Nations Panel of
Governmental Experts on Missiles in 2001-2002, 2004 and 2007-2008 respectively. He
was also appointed as a member of the Resource Group setup to assist the United Nations High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in 2004.

Dr. Sidhu earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He holds a Masters in
International Relations from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi and a Bachelor’s degree in History from St. Stephen’s College,
Delhi University, India.

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Les Actes du colloque de la chaire, Grands enjeux stratégiques en Asie, du 02 avril 2015, ont été publiés dans le numéro de juin de la Revue Défense Nationale.