Should India discard No First Use Nuclear Doctrine?

Those who may be interested in the subject but missed the online debate, it is available on at

The discussion on this important topic hosted by “Argumentative Indians” is scheduled for 7 PM IST today –Sunday, July 17, 2022.

Those among the readers of this blog who have nothing scheduled for this evening may care to join in, in the live, on-line, debate.

The link is

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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15 Responses to Should India discard No First Use Nuclear Doctrine?

  1. Pradeep says:

    Before discarding the No First Use policy, India needs to develope an edge in the Nuke environment for effective deterrence and also ensure PP for safety of citizens, towns and so forth.
    Surving is first strike is essential and critical.

  2. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    “There is this new phenomenon called cloudburst. This is what happened in the Godavari region which caused the flood. There are reports that these cloudbursts are a conspiracy by foreign sources. They first did a cloudburst in Leh-Ladakh, then in Uttarakhand, and now in Godavari region. There are theories that these cloudbursts are being done to destabilise the country,” the chief minister claimed.

    An excerpt from the following;

    It’s crystal clear that KCR is referring to China here.

    Professor Karnad as well as fellow readers, what’s your opinion about the aforesaid?


    Dear Dr Karnad

    Thanks a lot for your wonderful presentation. I have been observing events in Pakistan since the end of the Mr Imran Khan’s government there.

    These are some of my observations looking at things from the Internet.

    1. Pakistani middle class or lower middle class is very much politically aware. The most interesting thing about the attitude of this particular class towards India is that they while they vehemently oppose things like article 370 removal or other negative events that involve Muslims in this country however at the same time they are very much appreciative of how India could say no to the US when it came to the purchasing of the Russian oil.

    India-style independent foreign policy that prioritizes Pakistani interests is the aspiration for this class and not kowtowing to China, Saudi/UAE or US irrespective of whatever the generals/bureaucrats/Aman ki asha aunties in Pindi, Lahore or Islamabad thinks.

    2. India purchasing oil from Russia at a lower rate is something that is now almost obsessively discussed in almost all segments of Pakistani media particularly the ones on internet. This trend surely signifies growing Pakistani aspiration to diversify trade with Russia and Iran in order to reduce the energy import bills which lead Pakistan to go beg to the IMF in every 2-3 years.

    3. The one politician who embodies these aspirations best for the Pakistani middle class is Imran Khan. It is for this reason , we should expect him to continue to be relevant for India-Pakistan relations in future.

    So my question to you Dr Karnad, do you feel that at this time of history it is in Indian interest to have a democratic Pakistan that will not kowtow to either US or India ?

  4. Amit says:

    On nuclear policy, you make very good arguments on NFU. I watched about half of the video, but couldn’t agree more. If loss of Ladakh and AP is not existential, then what is? Will + capability = deterrence. India should build its capability apart from projecting the will to use nuclear weapons. While Indian will has improved in the last few years, agree with you that India should develop higher quality nuclear weapons – tactical, regular and thermonuclear. India does not have the numbers to deliver a devastating second strike. So increase their number. Also develop the full range of weapons and make the policy more clear about their use against China.

    This will also have the additional effect of making Pakistan more economically unstable, as it is sure to respond to an updated Indian nuclear stance. And it will send a strong deterrent signal to China, which also won’t have the capacity for a spectacular nuclear first strike against India. Plus it will send a signal to the US that the constraints they placed on India in the 2008 agreement, don’t hold anymore. What can they do? Not much IMHO. Actually, a strong Indian nuclear deterrent against China is also in US interests. And if costs are not an issue as you argue, then it makes eminent sense to increase the quality and numbers of Indian nuclear weapons, and make their use case against China more clear.

  5. Ayush says:

    “escalate to de-escalate ” doctrine has completely blown over Putin’s face.The US has laughed past Putin’s near daily nuclear threats which is strikingly similar to what Mao did back in 1969.US is clearly in direct conflict with russia. Unlike Mao’s case,Putin doesn’t have the capability or simply the guts to hit back i.e. fire a few cruise missiles at those supply bases across the polish border,which are IMHO a very legitimate military target from russia’s perspective.US has undeniably succeded in both “escalation dominance” and “escalation control”.This is also very similar to what the PLA has done to us in Ladakh.Both US and CHINA have successfully dominated russia and india ,respectively at all military levels and domains .These two terms will certainly appear alien to 95% of our armchair “experts” and the countless JNU indoctrinated babus who inhabit the MEA and MOD, all of whose kids are living the “American dream” with ivy league college degrees(for ex. jaishankar).The single biggest takeaway from the RUS-UKR war is that you need both conventional and nuclear deterrence,with a bit more preference to the former.The lack of any of these will lead to certain catastrophe.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Ayush- Russia is winning the war. Check out the map. Ukraine has already lost huge territory to Russia.

      Putin has all the time in the world. He doesn’t have to contest any elections.

      Inspite of open/heavy support of US and NATO to Ukrainians for almost five months (from the initiation of hostilities on February 24) Putin is succeeding in his mission.

      US and it’s puppies of NATO have ended up with the egg on their faces.

      I recommend you to read Scott Ritter’s compositions on the aforementioned conflict. He provides an excellent analysis.

  6. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    China and India on Sunday held the 16th commander-level talks, the third this year, which marked an overall positive atmosphere between the two neighbors, although it will take some time for the two countries to figure out a solution both sides can accept, observers pointed out.

    An excerpt from the following;

    This means that as expected no breakthrough has been achieved in the latest round of meeting as well.

    Sixteen of such meetings in more than two years. Each one lasting 13-14 hours. Carry on the drama 🎭



    On the point of yours that Pakistan is influenced by Indian nuclear posture, since I regularly watch Pakistan through their internet outlets, I am amazed at the level of positive influence India wields on them. In fact looking at the coverage of some of their channels in the recent by-elections in Punjab, I never felt I was looking at a people who are of different culture than India. It is the same vibe that we see in any Indian elections on a election day. Even the internet memes that they spread seemed to me inspired by Bollywood as well BJP/AAP.

    In contrast to the above, whenever I see US presidential elections coverage on the Internet, I always feel that I am looking at the alien culture of a far distant land with very little similarities with us although the US politics in recent times consist of a lot of Indian faces.

    As I have mentioned previously, do you agree with my assessment of the aspiration of Pakistanis to become like India ie having a vibrant democracy as well as having independent foreign policy ? Do you think India should be happy with a Pakistan that is having vibrant elections as well as pursuing independent foreign policy goals ?

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

  8. Ayush says:

    To get the record straight,Scott ritter is a convicted sex offender.He is the kind of guy who is talking about an imminent Ukrainian surrender since day 1.for instance,He had blamed Ukrainian police for Bucha.Forget about western media,Republic TV’s reporters entered the city exactly the moment Russians left,saw bodies scattered everywhere.They actually filmed the Russian vehicles leaving the town.This was undeniable evidence which even somebody like Arnab couldn’t refute.This was responsible for the radical shift in his position.Now, I m no human rights advocate but how much credibility this guys claims have is quite clear.

    Just look at Russian MOD claims.According to their figures, Ukraine is better armed than US.They have destroyed many times more equipment than there is in both Ukrainian and NATO stockpiles combined.Most of the advance they have made was in the first week.
    Regarding Donbas, these people have advanced “670 sq km” as per the reports submitted to Putin.And that too, it took them three months and WW1 tactics.In fact, his statement that “our soldiers must rest” is a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that most units have been bled white.Even Shoigu has acknowledged the devastating impact brand new American rocket launchers are having, which all but crushed their offensive capabilities.Moreover, they have made a mockery out of the so called S-400 which all well connected Russian telegram channels have acknowledged.Yes, i actually read some of them occasionally(for ex. Rybar) with the help of google translate.US has demonstrated absolute military superiority over the Russians.I am not predicting the endgame here.

    • Sankar says:

      “Russia pounds Ukraine, uncertainty swirls”
      “Russian forces have shelled eastern and southern Ukraine after Washington said it saw signs Moscow was preparing to formally annex territory it has seized during nearly five months of war….
      … Citing US intelligence, White House national security spokesman John Kirby accused Russia of laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory it had seized since the start of the war on February 24, an assertion the Russian embassy in Washington said mischaracterised what Moscow was trying to do….”

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Ayush- Even if you don’t take Scott Ritter seriously there is no denying the fact that Ukraine is losing badly.

      This article is from a couple of months back but sums it up nicely. A few excerpts;

      The longer this war rages on, the more Ukrainians will flee their homeland, and the more devastation will be wrought upon their homes, cities, industry and economy. Yet the west’s current approach of supporting Ukraine’s war aim of defeating the aggressor, and providing arms for that purpose while pointedly avoiding direct military intervention, is guaranteed to prolong the war. Russia’s progress may be slowed, but it’s highly unlikely to be stopped, far less pushed out of Ukraine, and in the meantime the grinding destruction and hideous war crimes will continue.

      No day goes past without some senior western politician proclaiming that Ukraine will be “successful” and that Russia is “failing”. This is certainly morale-boosting. But it is clearly nonsense.



    Please look at this interview by the Russian ambassador in Pakistan. He clearly says that Russia (this was in mid June) was controlling about 25 percent of the Ukrainian territory. This actually supports what Gaurav Tyagi has been saying.


    Dear Dr Karnad

    Looking at the West Asian region right now, we can clearly say that there are two clear unofficial alliances growing. One of them is I2U2 (this consists of India Israel US UAE) and another informal alliance brewing between Turkey Iran and Russia. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are sitting in the middle between these two camps deliberating about where to go. Pakistan in my view will be closer to the Iran-Turkey-Russia entente if the generals in Pindi are given the right incentives by Russia ie cheap energy and cheap arms. Considering that Iran Russia Turkey as well as Pakistan are all civilization states I believe this will be a huge victory for Russia to bring these three heavyweights from the Muslim world on the same camp. It is ironical that Iran and Turkey (maybe Pakistan in future) coming within the same camp alongside Russia considering that both Iran Turkey as well as Pakistan were part of CENTO and Baghdad pact , the first US-led strategic alliance in West Asian region.

    Do you think India was right to join the I2U2 given her growing trade ties with both Iran and Russia ?

  11. Ayush says:

    @ debanjan
    We indians are extremely obsessed with Pakistan.Contrary to the bombast on their ISI controlled media and the saber rattling of some of their ISI lapdog politicans (imran khan),these people are very firmly under western(american) control. LMAO , even current pak finance minister and also sherry rehman have acknowledged that pak’s budget is literally being dictated by IMF(US).The Americans correctly think of pak as a pliant,easy-to-bribe monkey planted on our shoulders by our former british colonial masters.Whenever,we play them false they activate the Pakistan card.For instance, they are bringing PAk out of FATF grey list,which is undeniably a devastating blow for india.This is clearly a response to our continued purchase of russian goods/energy.FATF is another US controlled organization, no body can enter the grey list or leave it without US’ direct approval.Something which Pak officials have publicly acknowledged.

    Whether the pseudo-nationalists in this forum acknowledge or not,India is militarily, absolutely NO MATCH for a joint china-pak integrated military command.Only around 2030 or so ,will we able to fight the chinese in a conventional conflict.Till then we have to reluctantly rely upon the US to keep Pak at check and also to stretch China in the SCS.China will never attack india without collusion with Pak.Ironically,it was ISI which provided their chinese masters with the HUMINT which enabled them to swiftly occupy the depsang plains.They are a sworn,implacable enemy.Any hope of “peace” is a delusional fantasy.Pak has to be crushed if India is to become a great power.If we neutralize Pak in a swift, “shock and awe” attack by the end of this decade as per our revised “cold start 2.0” war plans,we can easily awe the chinese into signing off the border dispute.MARK MY WORDS:the dispute with china is not going to end until an spine-chilling display of indian military power.(strike on pak)

    In the short term,we have to revise our redlines.We have to make the public threat of devastating precision strikes against Paki decision making centres/leadership targets if another pulwama were to take place.We finally have the capability to follow up on these threats.Pralay/Shaurya missiles are armed with a 350kg and 1 ton deep penetrating warheads, respectively.It took DRDO several years to develop them.These can theoretically penetrate dozens of metres of concrete,easily capable of destroying all Paki command centres.The top brass in Pak need to know that axe will fall straight on their necks,the next time they dare to needle us.

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