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India’s nuclear force doctrine: Through the lens of jus ad bellum

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2019

Isha Jain*
Affiliation:
B.A. LL.B. (Hons.), National Law School of India University, Bangalore
Bhavesh Seth
Affiliation:
B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) student, National Law School of India University, Bangalore

Abstract

Nearly three decades after the Cold War, the present-day hostilities between India and Pakistan have shifted the focus of the threat of nuclear escalation to South Asia. It is in this context that this article seeks to assess the legality of India’s military nuclear doctrine under international law.

Academic literature on the use of nuclear weapons has largely shied away from discussing the legality of specific military doctrines or ‘policies of deterrence’ of the nuclear weapon states, treating them as issues of military strategy that are beyond the realm of international law. This article hopes to challenge that dichotomy.

Though several branches of international law are relevant to any discussion on nuclear weapons, this article shall only examine India’s nuclear doctrine through the lens of jus ad bellum. Specifically, this article shall focus on whether India’s nuclear doctrine constitutes a threat to use force, and if so, whether such threat is lawful. The article concludes that India’s nuclear doctrine can be construed to be a specific threat to use force against Pakistan, and that such threat may be unlawful for contemplating the disproportionate use of force.

Type
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Copyright
© Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law 2018 

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123 See Deeks, A.S., ‘Taming the Doctrine of Pre-Emption’, in Weller, M. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Use of Force in International Law (2015)Google Scholar.

124 Shaw, supra note 120, at 867.

125 The Caroline incident, in which Britain destroyed a ship in US territory in anticipation of an imminent attack to be carried out by that ship, is often cited as an instance of anticipatory self-defence that was accepted as lawful by the international community. The international military tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo cited the Caroline test, which further indicates that the right of anticipatory self-defence existed pre-Charter. Even post-Charter, a number of states have sought to justify their use of force on the grounds of anticipatory self-defence and several UN reports support this approach.

126 Brownlie, I., Principles of Public International Law (2012), 750–2Google Scholar.

127 See Bowett, D.W., ‘The Use of Force for the Protection of Nationals Abroad’, in Cassese, A. (ed.), The Current Legal Regulation of the Use of Force (1979), 39, at 40Google Scholar; Dinstein, Y., War, Aggression and Self-Defence (2011), at 191CrossRefGoogle Scholar: ‘It would be absurd to require that the defending State should sustain and absorb a devastating (perhaps a fatal) blow, only to prove the immaculate conception of self-defense.’; Greenwood, C., ‘International Law and the Pre-Emptive Use of Force: Afghanistan, Al Qaida, and Iraq’, (2003) 4 San Diego International Law Journal 7, at 14–15Google Scholar (listing Franck, Waldock, Fitzmaurice, Bowett, Schwebel, Jennings, Watts, and Higgins as supporting anticipatory self-defence).

128 Rajagopalan, R., ‘India’s Nuclear Policy’, in Boei, B. (ed.), Major Powers Nuclear Policies and International Order in the 21st Century (2009), 95, at 102Google Scholar.

129 Prime Minister’s Office (India), 2003 Nuclear Doctrine, supra note 59, para. III.

130 Saran, supra note 95, at 16.

131 Ibid., at 7.

132 Gray, supra note 75, at 150; Cheng, B., General Principles of Law as Applied by International Courts and Tribunals (1953), 95Google Scholar; Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), Merits, Judgment of June 27 1986, [1996] ICJ Rep. 14, at 363 (Judge Schwebel, Dissenting Opinion).

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135 See Kretzmer, D., ‘The Inherent Right to Self-Defence and Proportionality in Jus ad Bellum’, (2013) 24 European Journal of International Law 235CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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137 Panda, supra note 105.

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142 Ghoshal, supra note 97, at 161.

143 Kristensen and Norris, Federation of American Scientists, supra note 73, noting that none of India’s nuclear weapons are presently deployed.

144 Rajagopalan, supra note 128, at 102.

145 Green, supra note 133, at 27.

146 Bowett, supra note 140.

147 Green, supra note 133, at 35.

148 Prime Minister’s Office (India), 2003 Nuclear Doctrine, supra note 59, para. III.

149 Sagan, S.D., ‘The Commitment Trap: Why the United State Should Not Use Nuclear Threats to Deter Biological and Chemical Weapons Attacks’, (2000) 24 International Security 85CrossRefGoogle Scholar.