“What happens in the future depends on circumstances,” Rajnath Singh said while visiting Pokhran to pay homage to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his death anniversary.

Defence Min Rajnath hints at changing Indias No First Use policy on nuclear weapons
news Nuclear Policy Friday, August 16, 2019 - 15:26

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday stated that India reserves the right to change its decades-long nuclear policy of ‘No First Use’. Rajnath Singh, who had visited Pokhran to pay homage to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his first death anniversary, said that India had firmly stood by the ‘No First Use’ policy but “what happens in the future depends on circumstances”.

“Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atal Ji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances,” Rajnath Singh said in a tweet.

Rajnath Singh’s comments come at a time when tensions with Pakistan have increased lately due to the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir. India has repeatedly claimed that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is an internal issue. Meanwhile, Pakistan has approached the United Nations Security Council asking for their intervention in the matter.

No First Use policy refers to a pledge made by a country to not use the nuclear weapons in its possession to wage war unless first attacked by the enemy with nuclear weapons. 

The No First Use policy has been the bedrock of India’s nuclear weapons policy since 1998 after the second round of nuclear tests conducted at Pokhran that year. Pokhran-II was carried out when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government was in power.

Since then, India has maintained that it developed and tested nuclear weapons primarily to establish deterrence. However, Rajnath Singh is not the first to hint at changing the No First Use policy. In July 2018, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had also hinted at changing the policy.

Ahead of the civil nuclear deal with Japan, Parrikar had said, “It is not change in any government policy, I am also an individual. As an individual, I get this feeling sometimes. Why should I say I am not going to use it (nuclear weapons first)? I am not saying you have to use it first just because you don’t decide that you don’t use it.”

Soon after the general elections, Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated and the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed in the Parliament.

Tensions between India and Pakistan soared after a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suicide bomber attacked an Indian Army convoy at Pulwama earlier this year which killed 40 soldiers. Days later, India sent fighter jets into Pakistan's Balakot to bomb a suspected terror training facility. Following this, an aerial dogfight ensued between the two countries as Pakistani fighter jets came into Indian territory. 

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