New Delhi has been carefully following its ‘no first use’ policy on nuclear weapons, but it “depends on the circumstances” if that will continue, India’s defense minister warned amid escalating hostilities with Pakistan.
“It is true that till now, has strictly adhered to the ‘No First Use’ policy. What happens in future depends on the circumstances,” Rajnath Singh was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Symbolically, he was speaking at Pokhran, a military site where India held its nuclear tests back in 1974 and 1998.
Nevertheless, India remains “a responsible nuclear nation,” which eventually became “a matter of national pride for every citizen of this country.”
The timing of the veiled threat comes particularly on the heels of spiraling tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Their decades-long animosity took a new turn in August after New Delhi stripped the Jammu and Kashmir state of its special autonomy status. The move sparked outrage in Pakistan, and has led to sporadic clashes along the Line of Control in recent days.
Earlier this year, the simmering confrontation over Kashmir risked snowballing into an open military conflict when a Pakistan-based terrorist group attacked Indian security troops, killing over 40 soldiers. India retaliated by ordering cross-border airstrikes to which Pakistan responded by scrambling fighter jets and shooting at least one intruding aircraft.
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Later, it was reported that New Delhi threatened to launch missiles at Pakistan in the middle of the standoff, while Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over.” Both countries managed not to cross the line, although there were sporadic artillery duels in which several civilians were killed on both sides of the border.
India has a sizeable strategic force with short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles able to hit any location in Pakistan. Likewise, the Pakistani military has an array of similar-class rockets enabling retaliatory strikes if all-out war breaks out.