The principle of "no first use has not been adopted by any of the five nuclear powers except China which has attached several conditionalities to it. Our nuclear neighbour, Pakistan, has declared that it does not recognise the "no first use" proposition since India has an overwhelming superiority in conventional arms.

During the Kargil war Pakistan's Prime Minister had hinted about the use of nuclear weapons if things went out of control. Certain nuclear analysts had warned that in the event of a conflict between India and Pakistan going decisively against Pakistan, it would resort to a nuclear attack against India.

This means that the triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets will be constantly upgraded in keeping with the technological changes. The nuclear submarines, the proposed Agni-II missiles, the neutron bomb etc., may will be covered by the technological imperatives." Thereby it would be an open-ended nuclear force system in all its multiple forms.

The nuclear doctrine does not identify any country as a potential nuclear aggressor, but if India's nuclear forces are to be based on a triad of air, land and sea based systems, they are meant to be against a major nuclear power which may tum an aggressor. 

We have to identify our potential nuclear aggressors before we finalise the doctrine. China need not necessarily be one and this is where diplomacy comes in. The border between India and China has remained peaceful ever since Mr Rajiv Gandhi's visit to Beijing in 1988, and the peace and tranquillity aggrement signed by India and China in 1993 during the Prime Ministership of P.V. Narasimha Rao.

The border dispute can be resolved and the parameters are all known. We have to live in peace with China and on its part, China had shown signs of reconciliation in the postKosovo phase. It was even prepared to consider the Strategic Triangle concept put forth by Mr Primakov of Russia.

The cost factor of all this exercise has been left out but several analysts have come out with their guestimates. Mr K. Subrahmaniam, an acknowledged security expert who was closely associated with the nuclear doctrine, wrote in February, 1992 that nuclear deterrence was comparatively cheaper and it might cost about Rs 10,000 crore at current prices over a period of seven years. 

Two well-known analysts gave their estimates a few days back. One of them puts the cost at a minimum of Rs 26,680 crore and a maximum of Rs 67.140 crore, over a period of 10 years. In addition, another Rs 25,000 crore may be required, over 10 years, for modernisation of the conventional forces.

which is considered imperative after the Kargil conflict. The second estimate ranges from Rs 70,000 crore to Rs 770,000 crore over a period of 30 years for nuclear forces alone. Since these estimate are for 10 to 30 years, the inflation factor should also be taken into account. In short, it may work out to about 10 to 15 thousand crore per annum for several years.

One shudders to think the import of these astronomical figures and their impact on Indian economy. Can India bear this finanical burden? India stood 138th out of 175 countries in the scale of human development published by the UNDP in 1997. 

India will be passing the 100 crore population mark by Oct. 1999 and we may not be able to feed our growing population even with all the scientific methods for additional yield of crops. Half of the word's illiterate live in India and one-third of the entire population live in poverty. The Indian Human Development Report put out by the NCAER last month has given more details.

Before India decides upon a nuclear doctrine, let us consider the case of the Soviet Union. The US and the USSR went on competitive building of nuclear arsenal and while the US could afford it because of its enormous economic strength, Russia was depriving the economy and diverting the resources for arms building. 

The ten-year long Afghan war and economic chaos in the countryside led to the inevitable break-up of USSR and Gorbachev and Yeltsin merely carried out the formalities. Russia is still the second largest nuclear power after the US but its economy is in a shambles and has to be rescued frequently by the IMF. 

In the Kosovo war unleashed by NATO the Russian protests and warnings were ignored and Russia could not protect Serbia or prevent the relentless bombing which almost wiped out its infrastructure.

A panel of experts met in Beijing in July under the auspices of the World Econmic Forum. MR Zhang Yunling, Director, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, one of the participants, said that if China attempted to become a major military power, the society and economy would collapse and cited the experience of the Soviet Union. 

He drew attention to Deng Xiaoping's advice that China needed a long-term peaceful environment to feed the people and make a smooth transition to modernisation. These words are equally applicable to India. India has to plan for total literacy, a population growth rate under one per cent and an economic growth rate of 9 percent. 

The economic reforms should proceed without hindrance and the poverty line should be reduced from the present 30 per cent to 10 per cent or even less. All these would require an outlay of money but if we are to find fabulous amounts for a dynamic nuclear deterrence as proposed, it may be an impossible proposition.

Pakistan is India's potential nuclear aggressor and our plans have to be made accordingly. Mr K. Subrahmaniam wrote, in the same article in 1992, that once Pakistan got recognition as a nuclear weapon power, thereby achieving nuclear equality with India, it might settle down to negotiate mutual arms reduction. 

"It is enough if India were to develop a minimum deterrent arsenal of a few scores of weapons and appropriate survivable mobile delivery systems, irrespective of what Pakistan or China possess. The world has come around to the view that a nuclear war cannot be fought and won. 

No one today believes in the spurious doctrine of counter-force, nuclear war fighting and worse still, of destroying the fabric of adversary's society. "Such exotic doctrines of western strategists were rationalisations for continuous production of successive generations of warheads running into tens of thousands. 

A war involving use of such arsenals needed an extremely expensive multi-redundant command and control, communications and intelligence systems. All these are not needed for exercise of simple deterrence without contemplating the criminal folly of fighting a nuclear war. 

Neither China nor Pakistan will consider it worthwhile to fight a war with India for any objective conceivable in the present context." Well said, but the nuclear doctrine nullifies all these sensible formulations.

Pakistan's former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg has stated that Pakistan should not try to emulate India's nuclear doctrine and enter into an arms race, and that India should enter into negotiations with 'Pakistan on the basis of minimal credible deterrence by both countries. 

The Defence Committee of the Pak Cabinet has come out with a similar statement. India and Pakistan had agreed at Lahore to discuss their nuclear programmes and security imperatives. They should therefore enter into detailed negotiations recognising the fact that both are nuclear states. India and Pakistan cannot afford to take on undue burden and make the people of the countries suffer endlessly.