On Wednesday, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna said India would not revise its no-first-use nuclear doctrine, after questions had been raised about its continued relevance in the country’s strategic environment.
Post-World War II, the belief in the deterrent power of nuclear bombs has contributed to the global pursuit of these weapons. The resultant proliferation has made the world a more dangerous place, including India’s neighbourhood. As Gen. David Petraeus of the US has pointed out, a number of terror groups in the region are eyeing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
Yet, calls for a revision in India’s posture often ignore the element of surprise that a no-first-use strategy entails. Nuclear strategy is primarily a game of perception, and the apprehension of a surprise first use lends ample credibility to nuclear deterrence. The minister has done well to signal India’s adherence to this doctrine.