New Delhi: Defence minister Rajnath Singh said while India was “firmly committed” to its “no first use” doctrine on nuclear weapons, what happens in the future “will depend on the circumstances”.
Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda (Retd) said every doctrine needs a regular review.
“We should be ready to review our nuclear doctrine. I think the defence minister is right... You cannot have a doctrine written in stone and that cannot be changed. I think we should remain flexible on how we look at our doctrine,” Gen. Hooda added.
Lt. Gen. Satish Dua, a former chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), said when the nuclear doctrine was formed “we were assuring the world... and that assurance still remains”. “What the defence minister is essentially saying is that if there is a situation that demands that we take a fresh look, then it can be considered. We are not saying we are going to nuke. We are saying that option is not off the table if the context changes,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in the course of the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign that India had “not kept the nuclear bombs for Diwali”.
It may be recalled that in 2016, then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said India should say it will use its nuclear powers “responsibly” instead of stressing on “no first use”. “Why should I bind myself? I should say that I am a responsible nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly,” he had said. However, the defence ministry had later clarified that Parrikar’s comment was his personal opinion, and did not reflect the government’s policy.
The Congress said that the government should clearly spell out its nuclear policy, and remove any ambiguity over it.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said his party and the entire country stood behind the government on the country’s nuclear policy, but it needed to be spelt out clearly.
“If by this somewhat ambiguous statement, the defence minister either intends to keep us guessing or seeks to announce a change in policy, then the country would be happy to know what the new policy is. Not in ambiguous half-phrases, but in a full one paragraph declared policy,” Mr Singhvi said.