Roundtable on ‘Global Nuclear Developments and India’s Policy challenges'
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On 8 January 2020, the Vivekananda International Foundation organised a roundtable on Global Nuclear Developments and India’s Policy challenges. Dr Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF, opened the floor by laying the purpose of the roundtable, which is to analyse the global nuclear environment and how India should respond to it. Nuclear developments I 2019 indicate that the nuclear arms race has started again and arms control agreements are collapsing.

Earlier, there was an understanding that the nuclear arms race would slow down especially through nuclear risk reduction measures sponsored and led by the United States of America and Russia. Now, there is debate about the utility of strategic arms limitation talks and pushing for regional approaches to de-nuclearisation. The INF treaty has collapsed and START talks are making no further progress. The U.S, Russia and China are making newer types of lethal weapons.

The world is going towards horizontal and vertical proliferation. This is amplified by Iran’s attempts for nuclear weapons, which would lead to an arms race in the Middle East. Talking about India’s approach to new challenges, there was a general view of all participants that India should not change its nuclear doctrine of ‘No first use’ as this adequately protects India’s security and foreign policy interests. India should once again focus on treaties or resolutions on nuclear arms reductions and arms control that create trust and facilitate moving towards de-nuclearisation.

Nuclear weapons, according to one of the participants, should not be used in limited war scenarios. The U.S nuclear posture, now indicates though, of using tactical/small nuclear weapons in a limited war. There is also, unfortunately, a trend of countries not taking international treaties or resolutions seriously. India needs to strongly advocate adherence to major arms control treaties.
As we enter the new decade nuclear weapons have started to gain traction in security strategies. Technological changes have also increasingly blurred the lines between conventional and nuclear weapons. There is also a view that economic sanctions might lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or the knowledge of the same, or to making a dirty bomb. Nuclear disarmament seems distant looking at the current global situation.

While pursuing its global nuclear arms control and disarmament posture, India needs to take notice of the new technological changes and start focusing on the research and development on new forms of weaponry for its security and deterrence. Nuclear weapons delivery systems are getting more relevant and sophisticated with each passing decade. India should also take stock of China’s focus on technological advancements and the application of the same in military systems. For India, regional de-nuclearisation approach might be difficult considering the region that also includes China.

The world can expect that over the next 30-40 years, the security challenges will increase due to the multiplicity of capabilities, as mentioned by one of the participants. Pakistan and its close nuclear and missile collaboration with China is also an essential factor for India to consider. There is unfortunately, on global level, some acceptability of Pakistan’s posturing, which leads it to expect India to be more tolerant to Pakistan’s bellicose attitude. India’s new discourse should be able to cope up with the current and future nuclear challenges including the emerging discourse.

The Director, Dr Arvind Gupta was hopeful that the Ministry of External Affairs would collaborate with think tanks for such discussions on pertinent issues on global security situation, to evolve adequate policy responses.

Event Date 
January 8, 2020

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