'No first use' policy: History and comparison of nuclear arsenals of India, Pakistan

WION Web Team New Delhi Aug 16, 2019, 03.58 PM(IST)

File Photo Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

No first use means India would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in case of a conflict

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said that the "no first use" nuclear policy that India follows depends on the circumstances in the future.

"We have no first use policy regarding nuclear. It will depend on circumstances what will happen in the future," Singh said after paying homage to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his first death anniversary.

"In Pokhran, India emerged as a nuclear power. Despite all restraints, Atal ji gave permission for the nuclear test. India was listed among those countries which have nuclear power," he added.

Singh's comments came in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 from Indian Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has protested India's decision and is trying to internationalise the issue, but has so far been unsuccessful.

India has been following the policy of no first use since the time of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who announced it after the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.

No first use means India would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in case of a conflict. But many experts say the policy is not in sync with the geo-strategic conditions.

Pakistan does not have a "no first use" policy and is building a nuclear weapons programme designed to counter India. It has even miniaturised warheads for use as tactical nuclear weapons in the battlefield.

Comparable arsenals

India has much stronger conventional armed forces than Pakistan, but both countries have comparable nuclear arsenals.

Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads compared to India's 130-140 warheads, according to a 2018 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

They are comparable in the sense that both have the capability to strike each other's territories and cause immense damage and massive loss of life.

India's nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine "INS Arihant" became operational last year, giving the country a "nuclear triad" - the ability to launch nuclear strikes by land, air and sea.

Pakistan is working on sea-launched cruise missiles to complete its own triad.

Pakistan has longer-range nuclear weapons, such as the Shaheen 3 missile that can reach India’s Andaman Islands near Southeast Asia. India is developing long-range ballistic missiles able to strike targets across China.

India also has concerns about China, which has a bigger military and more advanced strategic weapons.


India and Pakistan have taken different paths to develop their nuclear arsenals.

India is believed to have sought nuclear capabilities after its defeat in a brief 1962 border war with China.

For Pakistan, weapons experts say it was the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that led to the independence of Bangladesh and proved a turning point for Islamabad.

Since then, the countries have engaged in an arms race that has outpaced traditional nuclear rivals.

(With inputs from Reuters)