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After Manohar Parrikar stoked a controversy over India’s ‘no first use’ nuclear policy, former NSA Shivshankar Menon on Saturday said the Defence Minister does not have the right to voice his personal opinion on nuclear policy in public, especially when it contradicts the official stand. Menon also said Parrikar’s suggestion that India should give up its ‘no first use’ policy would not be in the country’s interest both in terms of the strategic deterrent role of nuclear weapons as well as their role as weapon of war.
The Defence Minister does not have a right to voice his personal opinion on nuclear policy in public particularly when that opinion contradicts the official policy of the country, he told India Today TV’s ‘To The Point’ programme. Parrikar last week had wondered why India cannot say “we are a responsible nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly” instead of affirming a “no first use policy”, remarks he said were personal in nature.
“Why should I bind myself? I should say I am a responsible nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly. This is my (personal) thinking,” Parrikar had said. Following the nuclear weapons test in 1998, India had declared a ‘no first use’ nuclear policy. Menon said India’s nuclear weapons are “no guard” and no deterrent against Pakistani terror.
Threatening a nuclear response to a terrorist attack from Pakistan “would be like threatening to kill a mosquito with a shotgun and would be unlikely to be understood by India’s own people let alone the international community,” said Menon, who was the National Security Adviser (NSA) from 2011 to 2014 under the Manmohan Singh government.
Menon made the remarks ahead of the launch of his forthcoming book ‘Choices’, which will officially be launched on December 2 by Manmohan Singh. Talking about Indo-Pak relations, Menon said, “India-Pakistan relations are one of the few major failures of Indian foreign policy”. He said India’s Pakistan policy has not always been related to reality.
Talking about India’s “surgical strikes” inside PoK in September, Menon said he believes that going public with them was not in India’s interest. It was designed to appease domestic opinion not to advance a desired outcome with Pakistan, he said. Going public meant that Pakistan was forced to deny the strikes happened and, at a later point, to indulge in a stepped-up cross-border violations, he said.