ISLAMABAD: Playing down Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s decision to revisit “no first use” doctrine on nuclear weapons after its expected victory in Indian elections, speakers at a meeting here described it as an election stunt.

India had practically abandoned its no-first-use policy in January 2003 when it operationalised its nuclear doctrine, Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, who has authored the book ‘Indian Nuclear Deterrence: Its Evolution, Development and Implications for South Asian Security’ said.

He was speaking at a public talk on his book, which also challenges the fallacy that BJP was the one that opted for having nuclear weapons. The book has been published by Oxford University Press.

The BJP announcement, it is thought, was meant to tell voters that if voted into power it would get tougher with arch-rival Pakistan.

Mr Modi is essentially saying that since Pakistan does not have a no-first-use policy, his party after coming into power would review Delhi’s stated position of not being the first to carry out a nuclear attack.

Dr Cheema referred to provisions of Indian nuclear doctrine, which state: “However, 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.”

This he said was in contravention of the traditional view of no-first-use, in which the subscribing state commits to respond with nuclear weapons only when attacked by nukes.

Dr Cheema, who also heads the Strategic Vision Institute, said that Indian no-first-use position was ambiguous and a look alike of the US policy.

He contended that BJP did not by itself decide to conduct nuclear weapons test in May 1998, rather the move was prefigured in India’s strategic continuum whose genesis dates back to 1950s.

Dr Cheema in his book maintains that the technological foundation of a weapons option was designed within the structural framework of civilian nuclear programme during Nehru’s government.

His research work reveals that Indian nuclear policies followed by Nehru’s successors, starting from Lal Bahadur Shastri until now, are a continuation, not a departure from where Nehru had left. The differences, if any, Dr Cheema emphasises, are in nuance rather than substance.

“The May 1998 India’s nuclear tests unveiled a long drawn out cloak of ambiguity in India’s nuclear weapons policy and it declared itself a nuclear weapons state.

Nehru envisioned a ‘Greater India’, which would play a great power role in world affairs commensurate with its size and power potential. He was instrumental in defining the aims and objectives of Indian foreign and security policies within which Indian nuclear policy was developed and pursued,” Dr Cheema said. Others, who spoke on the occasion, included Dr Rizwana Abbasi of National Defence University and Brig (Dr) Tughral Yamin of National University of Science and Technology.

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