Nuclear Doctrine of India

By Hemant Kumar|Updated : March 11th, 2020

A nuclear doctrine states how a nuclear-weaponised state would employ its nuclear weapons during the times of war and peace. By communicating its stated intentions and resolve to the enemy, nuclear doctrines help states to establish deterrence vis-à-vis its adversary during peace and once deterrence fails, guides the state’s response during the war. 

There are some of the principles which are needed to be followed by the Nuclear powers. Except for Israel and North Korea, both India and Pakistan are considered as overt nuclear power states as they are clearly stated nuclear weapon states. In spite of these, there are a total of five Nuclear Weapon states which include the United States of America, China, Russia, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. There are certain situations in which countries frame their doctrine to use nuclear weapons and hence, is considered as the Nuclear doctrine of that particular country. One of the reasons that Nuclear weapons are considered as deterrents because they are not supposed to use in every situation. The countries lacking clear nuclear doctrine are supposed to be practising nuclear ambiguity.

Nuclear Doctrine of India: About; CTBT; NSG; NFU; Benefits; Arguments Against NFU; Implication of its Removal; Way Forward


India tested its first Nuclear Weapons on 18th May 1974 which has been described by our former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi as ‘Peaceful Nuclear Explosion’, followed by second Nuclear test on 11th May 1998 in Pokhran. 

This was the time when India adopted a clear nuclear doctrine and clarified few points which include:

  • Nuclear weapons would be used by India in the form of deterrence only.
  • India will be using its nuclear weapons only against a nuclear weapons state, which uses nuclear weapons against India first.
  • India will not use its nuclear weapons against a non- nuclear state unless it is fighting in alliance with a country having nuclear weapons.
  • The nuclear doctrine also enables the state to resolve its conflicts by communicating with the enemy.
  • How the state is going to react during the time of war, is also guided by the nuclear doctrine.


  • CTBT stands for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and forbids all kinds of nuclear explosions taking place anywhere in the entire world.
  • CTBT was adopted by the UN on September 10, 1996. CTBT provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing.
  • There are more than 180 countries who have signed CTBT. It is considered as the last barrier in developing nuclear weapons. 
  • Human sufferings along with the environmental damages that are being caused due to nuclear testing are also prevented by this treaty. 
  • There also lies a failure to bring this treaty into force.


  • NSG stands for Nuclear Suppliers Group, constituted by those countries which are supposed to control nuclear weapons proliferation in one way or other.
  • It was formed only after India did its first nuclear weapons test in May 1974.
  • Initially, there were 7 countries but in present times, there are a total of 48 countries in this group. 
  • But, India is not a member of NSG due to the reason that it was not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968.
  • Although India applied for its membership in 2016, the attempt was not successful. 


  • NFU stands for No First Use of Nuclear Weapons. 
  • China was the first country, which implemented NFU for the very first time after it conducted its first nuclear test in 1964.
  • It was only after 1998, India declared the policy of No First Use of Nuclear weapons. NFU was adopted officially in the year 2003 when India also declared that Nuclear weapons would be used in retaliating a nuclear attack by any state. 
  • India will never use its nuclear weapons first. 
  • Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister of India said that “India remains committed to ‘No First use’ in using Nuclear weapons but not forever”. Further, in one of his statement, he declared that India takes pride in being a responsible nuclear power. 


  • An onus of using nuclear weapons lies on the adversary and not on the state having NFU doctrine.
  • Minimising the probability of Nuclear Usage and avoiding Arms raise to a certain extent. 
  • NFU avoids any chaos in decision making which helps in avoiding any Nuclear escalation.
  • Strictly adhering to NFU policy will help India to strengthen its image as a responsible Nuclear Power and will boost its claim for NSG Membership and a seat in UNSC. 


  • A risk of unnecessary war is there as the powerful state can attack anytime and drag India into a zone of using nuclear weapons.
  • The NFU policy has been rejected by most of the nuclear weapons states and accepted only at the declaratory level by most of them. 
  • Nuclear weapons are often viewed as an antidote to conventional inferiority as the inferior party will try to deter conventional attacks by threatening a nuclear response.
  • In India, the NFU policy has also been called into question on the grounds that it allows Pakistan to take the initiative while restricting India’s options militarily and puts India in a disadvantageous position.
  • Pakistan makes no claims to NFU and in fact, depends completely on its nuclear deterrent to safeguard its strategic goals.
  • Some scholars are of the opinion that NFU limits India’s options in one way or other.


  • the first use of nuclear weapons will require a massive increment in nuclear delivery capabilities of India and there is yet no evidence suggesting that India’s missile production has increased dramatically in recent times.
  • Nuclear preemption is a costly policy as it requires huge investments not only in weapons and delivery systems but also intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) infrastructure.
  • Image of India as a responsible nuclear power is a central focus to its nuclear diplomacy. Nuclear restraint which India followed via its NFU Policy has allowed New Delhi to get accepted in the global mainstream.
  • The status of India will degrade at the international level as it would be considered as India is not capable enough to tackle the onus of such policies. 
  • Will create instability at the regional level.


The importance of nuclear power both for national security as well as civilians has clearly articulated by our leaders from the time of Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. This is one of the reason that despite all the odds, India is building its nuclear power. One of the examples can be traced over here which includes that INS Arihant, which is considered as the first indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine has completed its first deterrence patrol successfully. But it is the need of an hour to have funds for continuing the programme of nuclear power along with the capability to tackle the upcoming challenges of the future security, efficiently.

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