It would be reasonably in order to assume that the BJP manifesto was drafted after much deliberation and debate involving all the intellectuals of the party and many outside. It would also be fair to surmise that the manifesto, before release, would have been approved by all the senior leaders of the party including its prime ministerial nominee.
Therefore, when the Party President within a few days of the release of the manifesto retracts from his party’s commitment to review our nuclear doctrine there is reason to speculate and also be concerned. Apologetics might in defense argue that the review will happen but will be limited to issues other than the policy of “No first use” (NFU). Will this not make the review a perfunctory and cosmetic exercise?
…national security is never about staying within the comfort zone. It is a challenging business and requires dynamism, innovation, the capacity to take decisions and a whole lot more.
After all, the debate over the doctrine in India has revolved around a few basic issues that include-: NFU, credible minimum deterrence and, massive retaliation versus graduated or flexible response. Another issue that is currently in focus is not doctrinal but something that would flow from a change in the doctrine. That is shift from massive retaliation to the concept of proportionate response (flexible/graduated); and undertake the development of tactical nuclear weapons ( TNW) or sub strategic warheads. It is highly unlikely that the authors of the relevant chapter in the manifesto would have had other ideas about the review. As a matter of fact it is more than likely that the review was contemplated to mainly look at the policy of NFU.
But the big and vital question is – where was the need and the urgency to change your position even before the ink has dried on an undertaking made in the party manifesto. What happens to the credibility of such an important document and the credibility of the leaders who released it?
Should a few articles in the print media expressing concern over the likelihood of India abandoning its NFU policy and the adverse impact that such a change might have on the strategic stability of the region be enough to derail a decision to “review”?. Even if it were not the articles alone but also some hectic persuasion by the entrenched establishment a dilution of the decision to review requires serious introspection, particularly by a party which is promising to be decisive, resolute and unyielding on matters of national interest and national security.
May we delve a little deeper on this subject? Firstly, all countries should and in fact do undertake reviews of their national security structures, their doctrines and, strategic policies. Secondly there are analysts and commentators and official spokespersons who forever are expected to and do keep commenting on all such exercises and decisions thereof. Thirdly, not all comments stem from a sense of objectivity; this needs no elaboration. But no nation abandons such reviews just because someone has commented on the likelihood of adverse fallout if the review concludes that changes are to be made. Everyone is comfortable with the status quo. But national security is never about staying within the comfort zone. It is a challenging business and requires dynamism, innovation, the capacity to take decisions and a whole lot more.
…under no circumstances should we forego the right to review our options. The implications of decision making in today’s interconnected world must be recognized.
Could a fresh assessment of likely costs to national interests have caused the retraction? Determining costs in such matters is never easy and will invariably depend on who is doing the arithmetic; such exercises are extremely subjective. Without going into a detailed analysis it may be contended that costs suspected may be more imaginary than real and may be insignificant when weighed against long term benefits.. Additionally, we should not be too influenced by what others think. Obsession with the desire to occupy the moral high ground, display great maturity and always appear reasonable and responsible can be laudable but such traits can conflict with decisions affecting national interests. Pragmatism and hard headedness are more important..
In this instance it is not my case to argue for or against NFU. My position is that under no circumstances should we forego the right to review our options. The implications of decision making in today’s interconnected world must be recognized. Yet let us not forfeit too much space and retain the maximum autonomy in the exercise of framing policies.