Sunday, 22 May, 2022
HomeDefenceAmid Pulwama row, Manmohan Singh lauds India’s commitment to no-first-use nuclear policy

Amid Pulwama row, Manmohan Singh lauds India’s commitment to no-first-use nuclear policy

Manmohan Singh was speaking at the launch of a book, Nuclear Order in the Twenty-First Century, edited by former diplomat Rakesh Sood.

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New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described India as a unique nuclear state, saying it is the only country that has exercised restraint after effectively demonstrating its nuclear prowess to the world.

“In many ways, India is a sui generis (a class of its own) nuclear weapon state,” Singh said here Sunday, at the launch of a book, Nuclear Order in the Twenty-First Century, edited by former diplomat and Observer Research Foundation distinguished fellow Rakesh Sood.

“It is a reluctant nuclear weapon state, unlike others that began their nuclear quest with a military rationale,” he added.

Singh said India was the only country that had an extensive and advanced peaceful nuclear programme before it was “compelled” to direct its nuclear policy towards addressing growing security threats, lauding the fact that every government had maintained its commitment towards a no-first-use policy.

Here is the full text of his speech:

Author of the book Shri Rakesh Sood,  Shri Shyam Saran, Shri Raja Mohan, Shri Manpreet Sethi, Shri Shekhar Gupta, Chairman and President of Observer Research Foundation, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am extremely happy to be here with you all to be associated with the release of the book, “Nuclear Order in the 21st Century”,  authored by Shri Rakesh Sood.  I have  long association with Shri Rakesh Sood from the days when he was serving in different capacities in various Indian Missions abroad and then as Indian Ambassador  to Afghanistan, Nepal and France.   He has in-depth knowledge on India’s foreign policy, its economic dimensions and regional and international security issues.

This publication could not have come at a more opportune moment because once again, the world is becoming increasingly concerned about growing nuclear risks. The existing nuclear order is coming under strain. Some of the old arms control agreements are being consigned to history. Many countries are modernising their nuclear arsenals with tactical and low yield weapons, increasing the likelihood of their use. The goal of nuclear disarmament seems to be receding. Nuclear deterrence theories, developed to address the US –USSR Cold War rivalry, are being redefined by strategic thinkers in a world grappling with the threats of rising nationalism, extremism and terrorism.

Also read: Suicidal Pakistan should know Modi may not be scared of its nuclear button

Just as the political dynamics of the 21st century have changed dramatically compared to the Cold War era, so has the technological arena. Nuclear science and technology has matured over the last seventy years and is easier to access and acquire. This generates new proliferation risks and challenges. Moreover, new uncertainties are being created, thanks to developments in Artificial Intelligence, and growing space and cyber vulnerabilities. Many leaders are concerned that these lead to greater unpredictability and compress the time lines for decision making. It can lead to unintended escalation, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear strike, something the world has not seen since 1945.

This publication stresses that if we want to ensure that nuclear weapons do not get used, then we need to create a new nuclear order, an order that is more aligned to the new political and technological landscapes. The power equations of the 21st century are very different from those during the Cold War. Multipolarity has become a reality in the global economy but the political structures have yet to overcome the inertia of outmoded thinking. That is why it is often said that the hardest thing to change is the human mind.

It is quite natural that an Indian think tank, the Observer Research Foundation has taken the initiative for this publication because we understand instinctively that a new nuclear order will not be shaped by the Cold War prescriptions. In many ways, India is a sui generis nuclear weapon state. It is a reluctant nuclear weapon state, unlike others that began their nuclear quest with a military rationale.  India is the only country that had an extensive and advanced peaceful nuclear programme before we were compelled to shift in response to security threats and the only one that exercised nearly a quarter century of restraint after having demonstrated its technical capability. This is why we decided to base our nuclear doctrine on a credible, minimum deterrent and successive governments have also reiterated India’s commitment to a no-first-use policy.

Nuclear stability requires the establishment of clear red lines and predictability to reinforce deterrence. Our doctrinal approach has accordingly reflected a degree of continuity. The special waiver given to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 is a clear acknowledgement of our impeccable non-proliferation credentials and our responsible posture. It is a matter of deep personal satisfaction that my government was able to bring the long negotiations with the US and other major powers to a satisfactory conclusion that has enabled India to conclude over a dozen agreements for civilian nuclear commerce and cooperation during the last decade.

The Cold War nuclear order was shaped by the rivalry of two nuclear super-powers, the US and the USSR, their nuclear parity and mutual vulnerability. Today’s nuclear age is best described as an age of asymmetry, asymmetry in terms of doctrines, arsenals and technology. This is why the most important challenge today is to ensure that the nuclear taboo that has prevented its use since 1945 continues to be preserved.

The contributors to this publication offer different perspectives on today’s challenges but they share a common objective – on the need for discussion and dialogue on what is one of the most critical global challenges facing us today – managing nuclear risks and preventing nuclear annihilation even as countries rely on nuclear weapons for deterrence and security. This book is a useful resource for both academics and practitioners and a useful contribution to the dialogue process.

Also read: Why India is developing nuclear capability beyond what is required for retaliation


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  1. Now we have understood (?) the difference between an in depth knowledge and a shallow one, a person who speaks less and an orator. I don’t know much of politics but when I watch the current PM who has extremely tall claims and then the former PM speaking only when required, I pray hard, may god do anything to save my country from divisive forces.

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