NEW DELHI – India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday that his country could change its “no first use” nuclear policy in the future should the circumstances required it.
Singh’s comments come at a time of escalated tensions with neighboring Pakistan following last week’s scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Singh visited Pokhran in western India on Friday to offer a tribute to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his first death anniversary.
In 1998, India carried out five nuclear tests to showcase India’s nuclear potential in Pokhran while Vajpayee was prime minister.
The tests triggered a response from Pakistan, which carried out five nuclear tests in the southwest of the country.
“Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atal Ji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’,” Singh tweeted on Friday.
“What happens in future depends on the circumstances,” the minister added, leaving the road open to a change of stance in a country that, according to him, has always been “responsible nuclear nation.”
With the nuclear tests of 1998, India and Pakistan showed their nuclear capabilities to the world, something that, according to analysts, had a deterrent effect, avoiding a large-scale war between the two countries.
As part of this strategy, India refused to sign the first treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapon in 2017 and said that it should not be subjected to a legally-binding obligation based on the proposal.
In the treaty, which will enter into force once it is ratified by 50 countries, the signatories commit to not developing, acquiring, storing, using or threaten to use nuclear weapons and other explosive nuclear devices.
Singh’s comments come amid escalated tensions between India and Pakistan following the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370.
Islamabad responded to the action with the “downgrading” of diplomatic relations, the suspension of bilateral trade and made an appeal to the United Nations Security Council for an emergency meeting over India’s decision.
The two countries have fought two wars and have had numerous conflicts over the disputed Kashmir region ever since the partition of the subcontinent and independence from the British Empire in 1947.