Takshashila hosts experts meeting to launch Global No First Use project

The Takshashila Institution launched its Global No First Use (GNFU) project, with a meeting of experts from around the world in Bengaluru on November 2 and 3, 2019.

“Nuclear weapons won’t go away.  We are discussing the credibility of the concept of first strike not just from the perspective of immediate effect but also long-term effects. What we are examining is if the world can be made safer with a GNFU agreement,” said Lt. General Prakash Menon, Director, Strategic Studies Programme at The Takshashila Institution, who chaired the discussions.

Over the course of two days, the experts deliberated on the many challenges posed by nuclear weapons and the feasibility of a GNFU agreement to address them.

Their arguments are being compiled into an upcoming anthology titled The Sheathed Sword: From Nuclear Brink to No First Use, which is being edited by Lt. General Prakash Menon, Director, Strategic Studies Programme at The Takshashila Institution.

The meeting was attended by Dr. Jina Kim, Dr. Manpreet Sethi, Dr. Petr Topychkanov, Professor Rajesh Manohar Basrur, Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan, Dr. Walter Carl Ladwig III and Zhong Ai.

Discussing India’s nuclear NFU policy, Dr. Sethi, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies, argued that it is a policy that “makes sense.” She added that a GNFU will reduce the value of nuclear weapons and therefore aid non-proliferation. Acceptance of GNFU by major powers could possibly persuade others to join. 

China is the only country other than India with a stated NFU policy. Explaining the Chinese view, Zhong Ai, a research associate at the Research Institute for Indian Ocean Economies, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics, argued that China’s no first-use pledge has never been widely recognised, accepted or trusted. She added that “China would not respond to conventional attack with nuclear weapons because the US has nuclear superiority and can dominate escalation.”

Outlining Russian perspectives, Petr Topychkanov, Senior Researcher, Arms Control, Disarmament & Nonproliferation Program at SIPRI, said that Russia was also an early supporter of the idea of a nuclear NFU. But what’s influenced the debate in Russia has been the response of the US and its NATO allies.

Apart from offering country-specific perspectives, the experts also discussed the feasibility of a GNFU agreement in the context of conventional asymmetries between adversaries and its impact on extended deterrence provided by the US nuclear umbrella, along with the need for such a pact given the potentially devastating impact of nuclear weapons use on the world’s climate.

The Takshashila Institution is an independent centre for research and education in public policy. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation that advocates the values of freedom, openness, tolerance, pluralism and responsible citizenship. It seeks to transform India through better public policies, bridging the governance gap by developing better public servants, civil society leaders, professionals and informed citizens.

Takshashila creates change by connecting good people, to good ideas and good networks. It produces independent policy research in a number of areas of governance, it grooms civic leaders through its online education programmes and engages in public discourse through its publications and digital media.

For media queries, write to Asawari Ghatage at asawari@takshashila.org.in