Pete Souza
World News /17 Dec 2015
12.17.15

Doctrine of Strategic Restraint and India’s Nuclear Agreement with Japan

The major economic powers have shown confidence and interest in supplying civil nuclear technology and material to India despite India’s consistent opposition to nuclear regimes like the NPT. This suggests that India has evolved as a matured power over the years as it has tempered its goals with a doctrine of ‘strategic restraint.’ This was witnessed when India and Japan signed a MoU for peaceful uses of nuclear energy on December 11, 2015, following the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed satisfaction with India’s unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing.

Though India has resorted to the use of force under certain circumstances, it has observed restraint and pursued limited objectives instead of taking advantage of the weaknesses of its adversaries. This was illustrated during the Indian operation to liberate Bangladesh (then East Pakistan).

Following the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan with Indian military intervention, Indian forces did not swing to the west to assert dominance over Pakistan proper. India did not even use the 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war captured in Bangladesh to control the bilateral relationship or coerce Pakistan into abandoning its claim over Kashmir.

India’s belief in the doctrine of strategic restraint is further illustrated by India’s nuclear policy and ambitions. Though India had started a nuclear program in the early 1960s to meet the challenges emanating from the region, it did not execute a nuclear test immediately after it acquired the capability. The 1962 war with China and the Chinese nuclear explosion in 1964 provided the necessary political and strategic environment for contemplating weaponizing. India tested its first nuclear device in 1974 and called it a peaceful nuclear explosion.

Despite repeated provocations testing India’s strategic resolve, only after 24 years did India conduct another test making its military purpose clear in 1998. India’s sense of insecurity was genuine in so far as Pakistan successfully conducted its nuclear test immediately following India’s test. Had it not been well-equipped with the necessary nuclear technology and material supplied by China over a period time, it was unimaginable for Pakistan to have conducted the test so hastily. However, to allay the fears of the members of the international community, India developed a ‘nuclear doctrine’ combining the principles of ‘no first use’ and ‘credible minimum deterrence.’ To the contrary, Pakistan is not committed to the principle of ‘no first use.’ Perhaps, it was India’s belief in a doctrine of strategic restraint that did not deter the US from clinching the civil nuclear deal even though India is not a signatory to the NPT. It is noteworthy that apart from the MoU on nuclear energy, India and Japan signed 15 other agreements including an agreement for transfer of defense equipment and technology cooperation.

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