Social Scientist. v 14, no. 155 (April 1986) p. 56.


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The Fallacies of Nuclear Ambiguity

EVENTS OVER the last year or so strongly suggest that a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan may be beginning. Despite official declarations

in Islamabad that Pakistan has no intentions of manufacturing the 'bomb', its nuclear programme built with American support seems to have achieved nuclear or near-nuclear capability.

The developing circumstances pose difficult choices for India's national nuclear policy. For the past few decades, the renunciation of nuclear weapons has been a part of this policy, though, Indian nuclear capability has demonstrably existed for over a decade. In brief, official policy till the present has been to keep the nuclear option open, but not to exercise it. Faced with the developing nuclear capability of Pakistan, and the political realities of India-Pakistan relations, can this position be maintained for long? If not, what are the other options?

All available indications suggest that current national nuclear policy is one of nuclear ambiguity. This may be described as follows : develop nuclear capability at various levels, including the means of delivery; keep open the nuclear option; give contradictory signals to the adversary such as making official declarations denying weapons manufacture while simultaneously asserting that the adversary's moves will be met with an 'appropriate i ^spon-se* or 'fitting reply'. Under such circumstances, a country may either actually refrain from building nuclear weapons or else clandestinely build a small arsenal. It is pertinent to note that Pakistan is aLo following its own version of the strategy7 of nuclear ambiguity.

The consequences ot this state of affairs are not difficult to foresee. Faced with Pakistan's growing nuclear capabilities, Indian policy makers cannot assume that these capabilities will not be put into effect for the acquisition of nuclear weapons. If Pakistan has the bomb, then what are the demands of India's national security? Since there is no conventional defence against nuclear weapons, the only defence is to maintain a deterrent posture, which means to acquire the capability to inflict comparable damage in a retaliatory strike. The country can then either develop this deterrent capability on its own or by entering under someone else's nuclear umbrella. Since the latter option is unpalatable, the choice narrows down to exercising one's own



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