Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

What is Havana Syndrome?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Havana syndrome

Mains level : Threats of microwave warfare

Nearly four years after a mysterious neurological illness started to affect American diplomats in Cuba, China, and other countries, a report has found “directed” microwave radiation to be its “plausible” cause.

Q.Microwave warfare is the new nuke. Discuss.

The ‘Havana syndrome’

  • In late 2016, US diplomats in Havana reported feeling ill after hearing strange sounds and experiencing odd physical sensations in their hotel rooms or homes.
  • The symptoms included nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss, which have since come to be known as “Havana Syndrome”.
  • Cuba had denied any knowledge of the illnesses even though the US had accused it of carrying out “sonic attacks”, leading to an increase in tensions.

Possible factor: Microwave Weapons

  • “Microwave weapons” are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • People exposed to high-intensity microwave pulses have reported a clicking or buzzing sound as if seeming to be coming from within your head.
  • It can have both acute and long-term effects — without leaving signs of physical damage.
  • These weapons are considered to be the cause of the “syndrome” whose symptoms include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties.

How did researchers deduce that?

  • The researchers have examined four possibilities to explain the symptoms — infection, chemicals, psychological factors and microwave energy.
  • The experts examined the symptoms of about 40 government employees.
  • The report concluded that directed pulsed RF (radio frequency) energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases among those that the committee considered.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Conference on Disarmament (CD)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Conference on Disarmament (CD)

Mains level : Nuclear disarmament

India has supported the holding of negotiations on a Comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention at the Conference on Disarmament (CD). It reiterated its commitment to the disarmament of nuclear weapons in a step-by-step non-discriminatory process.

List out various factors which are preventing the nuclear disarmaments amongst the nations.

About the Conference on Disarmament (CD)

  • The CD is a multilateral disarmament forum established by the international community to negotiate arms control and disarmament agreements based at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
  • The Conference meets annually in three separate sessions in Geneva.
  • The Conference was first established in 1979 as the Committee on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.
  • It was renamed the Conference on Disarmament in 1984.

Recent developments from India

  • India has not revised its key principles regarding the weapons in its arsenal.
  • Raksha Mantri has earlier hinted at a possibility of changing the No First Use (NFU) principle by declaring that ‘circumstances’ will determine the “No First Use” stance.

India stands committed

  • India believes that nuclear disarmament can be achieved through a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework.
  • India remains convinced of the need for meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons, for building trust and confidence.
  • India also remains committed to negotiations regarding a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the CD on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator or CD/1299 which dates to March 24, 1995.


India’s No first use doctrine

For India, Nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of war and their sole purpose is to deter the use of nuclear weapons by India’s adversaries. India has nit only established itself as a responsible nuclear state, but guided the world about how to be a responsible nuclear state through No first use policy.

Features of India’s nuclear doctrine:

  1. Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent.
  2. A “No First Use” policy i.e. nuclear weapons to be used only in case of any nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere.
  3. Non use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  4. Nuclear retaliatory attacks to be authorised only by civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.
  5. Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  6. India may retaliate with nuclear weapons to retaliate against attack  with biological or chemical weapons.
  7. Strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies.
  8. A commitment to goal of nuclear weapon free world.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Issues with the nuclear deterrence


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Nuclear deterrence and issues with it

On 6 August 1945 world witnessed the destructive potential of the nuclear weapons. Today’s nuclear weapons are several times more destructive than the one used there. This calls for the close scrutiny of the idea of the nuclear deterrence. This article dwells over the same issue.


  • While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been the last two cities to be destroyed by nuclear weapons, we cannot be sure that they will be the last.
  • Since 1945, several countries have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that have much more destructive power in comparison to those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


  • Over 1,26,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age.
  • There is no realistic way to protect ourselves against nuclear weapons.
  • The invention of ballistic missiles has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched.
  • Neither fallout shelters nor ballistic missile defence systems have succeeded in negating this vulnerability.
  • Nuclear weapon states are targets of other nuclear-weapon states, but non-nuclear-weapon states are vulnerable as well.

Idea of nuclear deterrence

The idea of nuclear deterrence consists of following two proposition.

  • 1) That nuclear weapons are so destructive that no country would use them.
  • 2) Such use would invite retaliation in kind, and no political leader would be willing to risk the possible death of millions of their citizens.

Issues with the idea of deterrence

  • 1) It is claimed that nuclear weapons do not just protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others, but even prevent war and promote stability.
  • These claims do not hold up to evidence.
  • 2) The apparent efficacy of deterrence in some cases may have been due to the more credible prospect of retaliation with conventional weapons.
  • 3) Implicitly, however, all nuclear-weapon states have admitted to the possibility that deterrence could fail.
  • they have made plans for using nuclear weapons, in effect, preparing to fight nuclear war.
  • 4) The desire to believe in the perfect controllability and safety of nuclear weapons creates overconfidence, which is dangerous.
  • Overconfidence is more likely to lead to accidents and possibly to the use of nuclear weapons.

So, what prevented the nuclear war if not deterrence?

  • While a comprehensive answer to this question will necessarily involve diverse and contingent factors, one essential element in key episodes is just plain luck.

Consider the question “What are the problems involved in the idea of nuclear deterrence. Also, examine the factors responsible for the failure of nuclear disarmament.”


Humanity has luckily survived 75 years without experiencing nuclear war, can one expect luck to last indefinitely?

Original articles:

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

SIPRI Report on Nuclear Stockpiles


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OST, INF Treaty, New START policy

Mains level : Global nuclear stockpiles and its threats

All nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year, according to a latest report by Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international institute based in Sweden, dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • Established in 1966, the Stockholm based SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

Practice question for Mains:

Q.“Nuclear disarmament of the world seems a distant dream”. Comment.

Nuclear arsenals are on rise in ‘thy neighbourhood’

  • China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal.
  • It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.
  • China’s nuclear arsenal had gone up from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 in 2020, while India’s went up from 130-140 in 2019 to 150 in 2020.
  • Pakistan’s arsenal was estimated to be between 150-160 in 2019 and has reached 160 in 2020.
  • Both China and Pakistan continue to have larger nuclear arsenals than India.

A general decline across the globe

  • Together with the nine nuclear-armed states — the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020.
  • This marked a decrease from an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.
  • The decrease in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the U.S., which together possess over 90% of the global nuclear weapons.

Major issue in reporting: Low levels of disclosure

  • The availability of reliable information on the status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the nuclear-armed states varied considerably, the report noted.
  • The U.S. had disclosed important information about its stockpile and nuclear capabilities, but in 2019, the administration ended the practice of publicly disclosing the size of its stockpile.
  • The governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests but provide little information about the status or size of their arsenals, the report said.

New START seems to ‘STOP’ very soon

  • The U.S. and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.
  • However, discussions to extend the New START or negotiate a new treaty made no progress with the U.S.’s insistence that China must join any future nuclear arms reduction talks, which China has categorically ruled out.
  • The deadlock over the New START and the collapse of the 1987 Soviet–U.S. Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) in 2019 suggest that the era of bilateral nuclear arms control agreements between Russia and the U.S. might be coming to an end.
  • Russia and the U.S. have already announced extensive plans to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
  • Both countries have also given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalisation of nuclear weapons.

Back2Basics: INF Treaty

  • Under the INF treaty, the US and Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km.
  • It exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.
  • The INF treaty helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe.
  • It also built some trust between Washington and Moscow and contributed to the end of the Cold War.

New START Policy

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • If it falls, it will be the second nuclear weapons treaty to collapse under the leadership of US President Donald Trump.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IAEA and its mandate

Mains level : Nuclear ambitions and its rise

The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA’s governing body began meeting as a row brews over Iran’s refusal to allow access to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss the role of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in enhancing nuclear accountability of the world.

Concerns over Iran

  • The latest row over access comes as a landmark deal between Iran and world powers in 2015 continues to unravel.
  • If IAEA passes a resolution critical of Iran, it would be the first of its kind since 2012.
  • Even though the two sites are not thought to be key to Iran’s current activities, the agency says it needs to know if past activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.

About IAEA

  • The IAEA is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It was established as an autonomous organisation on 29 July 1957.
  • Though established independently of the UN through its own international treaty, the IAEA reports to both the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council.

Functions of IAEA

  • The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
  • The programs of the IAEA encourage the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, science and technology, provide international safeguards against misuse of nuclear technology and nuclear materials, and promote nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards and their implementation.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

World at the edge of a new nuclear arms race


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CTBT, New START, INF etc.

Mains level : Paper 2- CTBT and reasons for India's decision to withdraw from the talks.

The focus of this article is on the possible revival of the nuclear arms race among the US, China and Russia. In this context, the purpose and present status of the CTBT, which was aimed at ending the nuclear arms race is also discussed. The article ends by predicting the beginning of new arms race and possible demise of the CTBT.

What were the findings of US compliance report?

  • State Department Report: In mid-April, a report was issued by the United States State Department on “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report).
  • Tests with low yields by China: The report raised concerns that China might be conducting nuclear tests with low yields at its Lop Nur test site.
  • And these tests are conducted in violation of its Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban treaty (CTBT)
  • Violation by Russia: The U.S. report also claims that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that produced a nuclear yield and were inconsistent with ‘zero yield’ understanding underlying the CTBT.
  • Though it was uncertain about how many such experiments had been conducted by Russia.
  • Russia and China have rejected the U.S.’s claims.
  • New nuclear arms race: With growing rivalry among major powers the report is a likely harbinger of a new nuclear arms race.
  • The demise of CTBT: This new nuclear arms race would also mark the demise of the CTBT that came into being in 1996 but has failed to enter into force even after a quarter-century.

Background of the CTBT

  • Test ban-first step: For decades, a ban on nuclear testing was seen as the necessary first step towards curbing the nuclear arms race but Cold War politics made it impossible.
  • A Partial Test Ban Treaty was concluded in 1963 banning underwater and atmospheric tests but this only drove testing underground.
  • By the time the CTBT negotiations began in Geneva in 1994, global politics had changed. The Cold War had ended and the nuclear arms race was over.
  • The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR, had broken up and its principal testing site, Semipalatinsk, was in Kazakhstan (Russia still had access to Novaya Zemlya near the Arctic circle).
  • In 1991, Russia declared a unilateral moratorium on testing, followed by the U.S. in 1992.
  • By this time, the U.S. had conducted 1,054 tests and Russia, 715.
  • Negotiations were often contentious.
  • Eventually, the U.S. came up with the idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests but not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests.

Make note of the points mentioned under “entry-into-force” provision given below. The reasons for India’s withdrawal from the negotiation are important from the UPSC perspective.

“Entry-into-force” provision and India’s objections to it

  • Another controversy arose regarding the entry-into-force provisions (Article 14) of the treaty.
  • Why India withdrew from negotiations? After India’s proposals for anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework did not find acceptance, in June 1996, India announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiations.
  • Unhappy at this turn, the U.K., China and Pakistan took the lead in revising the entry-into-force provisions.
  • What is “entry-into-force” provision? The new provisions listed 44 countries by name whose ratification was necessary for the treaty to enter into force and included India.
  • India’s objection: India protested that this attempt at arm-twisting violated a country’s sovereign right to decide if it wanted to join a treaty but was ignored.
  • The CTBT was adopted by a majority vote and opened for signature.
  • Of the 44 listed countries, to date, only 36 have ratified the treaty.
  • Signed but not ratified: China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified.
  • China maintains that it will only ratify it after the U.S. does so but the Republican-dominated Senate had rejected it in 1999.
  • Not signed, not ratified: In addition, North Korea, India and Pakistan are the three who have not signed.
  • All three have also undertaken tests after 1996; India and Pakistan in May 1998 and North Korea six times between 2006 and 2017.
  • The CTBT has therefore not entered into force and lacks legal authority.

An organisation to verify CTBT

  • Even though CTBT has not entered into force, an international organisation to verify the CTBT was established in Vienna with a staff of about 230 persons and an annual budget of $130 million.
  • Ironically, the U.S. is the largest contributor with a share of $17 million.
  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) runs an elaborate verification system built around a network of over 325 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic (underwater) monitoring stations.
  • The CTBTO has refrained from backing the U.S.’s allegations.

The revival of the nuclear arms race

  • End of the unipolar world for the US: The key change from the 1990s is that the S.’s unipolar moment is over and strategic competition among major powers is back.
  • The U.S. now identifies Russia and China as ‘rivals’.
  • Its Nuclear Posture Review asserts that the U.S. faces new nuclear threats because both Russia and China are increasing their reliance on nuclear weapons.
  • The U.S., therefore, has to expand the role of its nuclear weapons and have a more usable and diversified nuclear arsenal.
  • The Trump administration has embarked on a 30-year modernisation plan with a price tag of $1.2 trillion, which could go up over the years.
  • Concerns of Russia and China: Russia and China have been concerned about the U.S.’s growing technological lead particularly in missile defence and conventional global precision-strike capabilities.
  • Russia has responded by exploring hypersonic delivery systems and theatre systems while China has embarked on a modernisation programme to enhance the survivability of its arsenal which is considerably smaller.
  • Cyber capabilities being increased: In addition, both countries are also investing heavily in offensive cyber capabilities.
  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits U.S. and Russian arsenals but will expire in 2021
  • And U.S. President Donald Trump has already indicated that he does not plan to extend New START.
  • Instead, the Trump administration would like to bring China into some kind of nuclear arms control talks.
  • But China has avoided such talks by pointing to the fact that the S. and Russia still account for over 90% of global nuclear arsenals.

Context of the US backtracking from negotiated agreements

  • Both China and Russia have dismissed the U.S.’s allegations.
  • They pointed to the Trump administration’s backtracking from other negotiated agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal or the U.S.-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)
  • Tensions with China are already high with trade and technology disputes, militarisation in the South China Sea and most recently, with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • The U.S. could also be preparing the ground for resuming testing at Nevada.

In the context of the latest developments, a question can be asked by the UPSC, for ex- “In the light of the latest developments on the global platform which are pointing to the revival of the nuclear arms race, how far India’s decision to not sign the CTBT is justified?”


New rivalries have already emerged. Resumption of nuclear testing may signal the demise of the ill-fated CTBT, marking the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race. 

Back2Basics: What is “zero-yield test?”

  • This means that the agreement prohibits all nuclear explosions that produce a self-sustaining, supercritical chain reaction of any kind whether for weapons or peaceful purposes.
  • The decision not to include a specific definition of scope in the Treaty was a deliberate decision by the negotiating parties, including the United States, made to ensure that no loopholes were created by including a highly technical and specific list of what specific activities were and were not permitted under the Treaty.
  • A thorough review of the history of the Treaty negotiation process, as well as statements by world leaders and the negotiators of the agreement, shows that all states understand and accept the CTBT as a “zero-yield” treaty.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

[op-ed snap] An end to arms control consensus


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CTBT, NPT

Mains level : Implications of INF treaty withdrawal


The U.S. formally quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) pact. The agreement obliged the two countries to eliminate all ground-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.

Background of US-Russia nuclear relations

  1. In 1985, the two countries entered into arms control negotiations on three tracks.
    1. The first dealt with strategic weapons with ranges of over 5,500 km, leading to the START agreement in 1991. It limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads. 
    2. A second track dealt with intermediate-range missiles and this led to the INF Treaty in 1987. 
    3. A third track, Nuclear, and Space Talks was intended to address Soviet concerns regarding the U.S.’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) but this did not yield any outcome.

Success of INF

  1. The INF Treaty was hailed as a great disarmament pact even though no nuclear warheads were dismantled.
  2. As it is a bilateral agreement, it did not restrict other countries.
  3. By 1991, the INF was implemented. USSR destroyed 1,846 missiles and the U.S. destroyed 846 Pershing and cruise missiles. 
  4. Associated production facilities were also closed down. 
  5. INF Treaty was the first pact to include intensive verification measures, including on-site inspections.

US history of nuclear behavior

  1. With the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the USSR in end-1991, former Soviet allies were joining NATO and becoming EU members. 
  2. The U.S. was investing in missile defense and conventional global precision strike capabilities to expand its technological lead. 
  3. In 2001, the U.S. announced its unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty).
  4. The US also blamed Russia for not complying with the ‘zero-yield’ standard imposed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This may indicate the beginning of a new nuclear arms race.

Working of INF treaty

  1. The INF Treaty had been under threat for some time. 
  2. The U.S. started voicing concerns about Novator 9M729 missile tests. Russia began production of the missiles. 
  3. Russia blamed the U.S. for deploying missile defense interceptors in Poland and Romania, using dual-purpose launchers that could also launch Tomahawk missiles.
  4. The U.S. used its technological lead to gain an advantage. Russia began modernisation and diversification of its nuclear arsenal.
  5. The U.S.’s 2017 National Security Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) sought a more expansive role for nuclear weapons
  6. With the geopolitical shift to the Indo-Pacific, U.S. believes that the INF Treaty was putting it at a disadvantage compared to China which is rapidly modernising and currently has 95% of its ballistic and cruise missile inventory in the INF range. 


  1. The 2011 New START lapses in 2021 unless extended for a five-year period. It may meet the fate of the INF Treaty. 
  2. The 2018 NPR envisaged the development of new nuclear weapons, including low-yield weapons. 
  3. China is preparing to operate its test site year-round with its goals for its nuclear force. 
  4. CTBT requires ratification by U.S., China, Iran, Israel and Egypt and adherence by India, Pakistan and North Korea. It is unlikely to ever enter into force. 
  5. A new nuclear arms race could just be the beginning. It may be more complicated because of multiple countries being involved. 
  6. Technological changes are bringing cyber and space domains into contention. It raises the risks of escalation.


[Prelims Spotlight] NPT, CTBT

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

[op-ed snap] An intervention that leads to more questions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NFU, NSG, MTCR, Australia Group, Wassenaar Arragement

Mains level : Nuclear doctrine of India


Defence Minister tweeted that India’s ‘future’ commitment to a posture of No First Use of nuclear weapons ‘depends on the circumstances’

Background of NFU

  1. India is one of the two countries that adhere to a doctrine of No First Use (NFU) along with China.
  2. India has maintained that it will not strike first with nuclear weapons.
  3. But India reserves the right to retaliate to any nuclear first strike against it (or any ‘major’ use of weapons of mass destruction against Indian forces) with a nuclear strike ‘that will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage’.

How it benefited us

  1. NFU simply raises the nuclear threshold in order to bring stability to a volatile environment.
  2. The adoption of the nuclear doctrine came soon after Operation Parakram (2001-02).
  3. The public adoption of the doctrine an attempt by India to restate its commitment to restraint and to being a responsible nuclear power.
  4. India used this restraint to repulse the intruders in Kargil and regain occupied land. despite India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests of 1998.
  5. It gave India the space for conventional operations and gained it sympathy in foreign capitals despite the fears of nuclear miscalculation.
  6. India’s self-proclaimed restraint brought it into the nuclear mainstream
    1. the initial application for the waiver in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group
    2. membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group
    3. ongoing attempts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Need for change in stance

  1. Revoking the commitment to NFU does not necessarily equate with abandoning restraint
  2. Many advocate a more muscular nuclear policy for India. Bharat Karnad, a member of the first National Security Advisory Board considered NFU ‘a fraud’ which would be ‘the first casualty’, if war were to break out.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Explained: India’s doctrine of Nuclear No First Use


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the doctrine

Mains level : Time-test of India's NFU doctrine

  • Raksha Mantri has said that while India has strictly adhered to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons, it can be reconsidered on future circumstances.
  • It was not immediately clear if policymakers are willing to revisit it.

Doctrine in making

  • A commitment to not be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict has long been India’s stated policy.
  • India first adopted a “No first use” policy after its second nuclear tests Pokhran-II, in 1998.
  • In August 1999, the govt. released a draft of the doctrine which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of “retaliation only”.
  • Pakistan, by contrast, has openly threatened India with the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions beginning from the time the two nations were not even acknowledged nuclear powers.

No First Use doctrine

  • Among the major points in the doctrine was “a posture of No First Use”, which was described as follows:
  1. Nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”.
  2. India’s nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.
  3. Also in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.
  4. Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority. (The Nuclear Command Authority comprises a Political Council and an Executive Council. The Political Council is chaired by the PM.)
  5. India would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
  6. India would continue to put strict controls on the export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participate in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, and continue to observe the moratorium on nuclear tests.
  7. India remains committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

Why in news?

  • The successive governments are following Vajpayee’s doctrine and have directly or indirectly reaffirmed their commitment to NFU.
  • However, the doctrine has been questioned at various times by strategic experts in domestic policy debates, and the idea that India should revisit this position has been put forward at various high-level fora.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

2019 Yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SIPRI

Mains level : Progress in nuclear disarmament

  • A report by a think-thank has found that the worldwide total of nuclear warheads has decreased since 2018 but countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

Worldwide nuclear arsenal

  • The 2019 Yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is part-funded by the Swedish government.
  • It said that nine nuclear-armed countries (including India) had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons at the start of 2019, which is a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons from 14,465 at the start of 2018.
  • Figures for North Korea were not added to the total on account of uncertainty.
  • The report separately counts “deployed warheads” (warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces) and “other warheads” (stored or reserve warheads and retired warheads awaiting dismantlement).

Why decrease?

  • It attributed the decrease mainly to Russia and the US.
  • They together still account for over 90 per cent of all nuclear weapons.
  • They are further reducing their strategic nuclear arms pursuant to the implementation of the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START).


New START Policy

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • If it falls, it will be the second nuclear weapons treaty to collapse under the leadership of US President Donald Trump.
  • In February, US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Moscow of violating the agreement.

By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

Here’s what we are going the explain in this writeup:

  • The Backstory
  • What is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)?
  • What does India need to do to get in?
  • Does joining the MTCR make getting missile technology easier?
  • Does the MTCR actually stop the spread of missile technology?
  • Are there any sanctions for breaking MTCR rules?
  • Does the MTCR actually stop the spread of missile technology?
  • Why does India want to be in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?
  • Why does the US want India in the NSG?
  • Why doesn’t Pakistan want India in?
  • And what is China’s problem?
  • Why then did China go along with the NSG waiver in 2008?
  • Why does India want to join Proliferation control regimes?
  • Why is India’s Bid for NSG being criticized?


The Backstory

  • Since 2008, India has been pushing forward to become an NSG member, where decisions are consensus based and not based on majority votes
  • It has also been looking for membership of other groups such as MTCR
  • India recently became the Member of MTCR, however its bid for getting membership of NSG was not successful because of opposition from China and 12 other NSG members

#1. All about MTCR

What is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)?

Established in April 1987, it is a voluntary association of 35 countries and 4 “unilateral adherents” that follow its rules: Israel, Romania, Slovakia, Macedonia.

The group aims to slow the spread of missiles and other unmanned delivery technology that could be used for chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.

The regime urges members, which include most of the world’s major missile manufacturers, to restrict exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km, or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction.

How does one become a member of MTCR?

  • Prospective members must win consensus approval from existing members. United States policy had been that members that are not recognised nuclear-weapon states — including India — must eliminate or forgo ballistic missiles able to deliver a 500 kg payload at least 300 km
  • The US, however, made an exception in 1998 for Ukraine, permitting it to retain Scud missiles and, in October 2012, South Korea was allowed to keep ballistic missiles with an 800-km range and 500-kg payload that could target all of North Korea
  • For India, the US have waived these terms, allowing it retain its missile arsenal

Does joining the MTCR make getting missile technology easier?

  • There are no special concessions for MTCR members. But India hopes its MTCR membership will be one more reason for the US to consider exporting Category 1 UAVs, Reaper and Global Hawk, which have been key to counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen
  • These drones have so far been sold to only one country, the UK, though unarmed versions have also been made available to Italy and South Korea
  • The US has been rethinking rules on exports, aware that competitors in Israel, Russia and China are working on similar products — and India wants to be at the head of the queue when the Reaper and the Global Hawk go on the market

Are there any sanctions for breaking MTCR rules?

  • Rule breakers can’t be punished.
  • However, US law mandates sanctions for companies and governments that export MTCR-controlled items. The sanctioned entity can’t sign contracts, buy arms and receive aid for two years or more.

Does the MTCR actually stop the spread of missile technology?

  • Yes and no. North Korea, Iran and Pakistan acquired ballistic missile technology from China. But then, China began to feel the pinch of US technology sanctions — and announced, in November 2000, that it would stop exporting ballistic missile technology.
  • Four years later, it applied for MTCR membership — but has been denied entry because of suspicion that some companies in the country are secretly supplying technology to North Korea.
  • Many others dropped missile programmes because of MTCR pressure: Argentina abandoned its Condor II ballistic missile programme (on which it was working with Egypt and Iraq) to join the regime. Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programmes. Poland and the Czech Republic destroyed their ballistic missiles.

It is possible China may now seek some kind of bargain, whereby it is given entry to the MTCR in return for letting India get into the NSG, where it wields a veto.

What after MTCR?

  • Admission to the MTCR would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology
  • It will also make India’s aspiration to buy state-of-the-art surveillance drones such as the U.S. Predator, made by General Atomics.

#2. All about NSG

Why does India want to be in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?

Following India’s 1974 nuclear tests, the US pushed for setting up a club of nuclear equipment and fissile material suppliers.

The 48-nation group frames and implements agreed rules for exporting nuclear equipment, with a view to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons; members are admitted only by consensus.

India has been trying, since 2008, to join the group, which would give it a place at the high table where the rules of nuclear commerce are decided — and, eventually, the ability to sell equipment.

Many countries that initially opposed its entry, like Australia, have changed stance; Mexico and Switzerland are the latest to voice support. India’s effort has been to chip away at the resistance, leaving only one holdout — China. But until China accepts India’s entry, there is no hope of membership.

Why does the US want India in the NSG?

The answer lies in the US effort to strengthen the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, whose centrepiece is the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, or NPT.

The NPT defines “nuclear weapons states” as those that tested devices before January 1, 1967 — which means India cannot ever be one.

India — like Israel and Pakistan — thus refused to sign the treaty. From 2005, though, President George W Bush’s administration sought ways to deepen strategic cooperation with India.

Nuclear energy was a key means to strengthen cooperation, but since India wasn’t a member of the NPT, technology couldn’t be shared. Then, a way forward was found — the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement.

India agreed to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes, and put the civilian part under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

India also changed its export laws to line up with the NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, and Australia Group — the 4 key nuclear control regimes.

The US agreed to shepherd India’s entry into these regimes, which meant India would for all practical purposes be treated like an NPT member, even though it wasn’t one.

Why doesn’t Pakistan want India in?

The Pakistani argument is that giving India easy access to fissile material and technology for its civilian nuclear programme means it would have that much more material for its military nuclear programme.

Thus, Pakistan says, the move to give India NSG membership is fuelling a nuclear arms race.

But this argument falls apart because Pakistan is resolutely opposed to a key international agreement called the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), which would cap the military nuclear stockpiles of all countries. The FMCT ought to put an end to Pakistan’s fears, but Islamabad has refused to sign.

Why has China opposed India’s Bid for NSG?

Chinese diplomats say Beijing wants NSG entry to be norm-based , in other words, whatever rules govern Indian entry should apply to others too.

Norm-based entry would, presumably, help Pakistan gain entry, something many in the NSG are certain to resist because of the country’s record as a proliferator of nuclear-weapons technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Why then did China go along with the NSG waiver in 2008?


The 2008 one-time waiver allowed nuclear commerce between NSG members and India — the agreement that now allows Westinghouse, and its competitors in France or South Korea, to bid to set up civilian reactors in India.

The waiver came only after President Bush rang President Hu Jintao and called in a favour. Back then, US-China relations were riding high — on the back of surging trade, and a common vision of how the international order should be structured.

Today, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping are at odds over Chinese muscle-flexing in the South China Sea. The odds of a phone call changing the state of play are next to zero.

Why does India want to join Proliferation control regimes?

  • India’s membership of the NSG and other proliferation control regimes notably the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement is important in order to shatter the myth of it being an “outlier” to the non-proliferation regime as also to facilitate its trade, both imports and exports, of nuclear, missile and other related sensitive technologies.
  • Membership of these regimes will enhance India’s status in this critical area from merely an adherent to a rule maker.
  • It will also enable India to ensure that these regimes perform their mandated role of promoting non-proliferation effectively and not hurt its commercial interests.

Why India’s recent NSG bid is being criticized?

  • Many experts believe that after the clean waiver of 2008 and the 2011 amendment of the NSG rules (that non-NPT countries would not be entitled to the transfer of the reprocessing and enrichment technology), there is not much merit in seeking a membership of the NSG.
  • The worst outcome of this aggressive bidding was that at NSG forum India’s nuclear regime got hyphenated with Pakistan. It has taken a great deal of effort on the part of successive governments in India to kill the idea of that hyphenation.
  • It suits China ideally to put India in the same bracket as Pakistan. However for India it is diminishing to get itself compared with rogue state like Pakistan who have a dismal track record with respect to Nuclear Proliferation.


By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

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