NEW DELHI: Indian defence minister hinted on Friday that New Delhi might change its "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons, amid heightened tensions with fellow atomic power Pakistan.
India committed in 1999 not being the first to use nuclear weapons in any conflict. Among India’s neighbours China has a similar doctrine. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made the comment on Twitter after visiting Pokhran, the site of India’s nuclear tests in 1998 under then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"Pokhran is the area which witnessed (Vajpayee’s) firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of No First Use," Singh wrote.
"India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on
the circumstances," Singh tweeted. The statement comes as tensions rise with Pakistan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped the Indian-Held Kashmir of its autonomy, a move sharply condemned by Islamabad.
Singh’s comments prompted considerable noise in both India and Pakistan, with Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari tweeting that India "need to stop lying.
"India’s claims to NFU ended when on Jan 4, 2003 Indian govt declared it would use nuclear weapons against any (even Chemical or Biological) attack against India or Indian forces anywhere," she said.
Observers said Singh’s statement is the clearest so far with regard to a change in India’s nuclear doctrine. Vipin Narang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tweeted it was the "highest level declaration that India may not feel indefinitely or absolutely bound to No First Use."