The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nuclear chain keeps button with PM

New Delhi, Jan. 4: India today formalised and announced its nuclear command and control structure, four years after declaring to the world that it was a nuclear power.

Pakistan had announced its nuclear command and control structure earlier, a few months after their retaliatory (Chagai) nuclear tests in 1998.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), at a meeting this evening, announced that a Nuclear Command Authority was being put in place. The nuclear button will be in the hands of the civilian-political leadership headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Nuclear Command Authority will also comprise an executive council chaired by the national security adviser.

A separate Strategic Forces Command is being created. This will be the military authority in operational charge of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. However, there was no formal explanation forthcoming from the government immediately on the composition of each of these committees.

The CCS also expounded the country’s nuclear doctrine. The brief handed out by the CCS does not suggest that there is a departure from its stated policy of no-first-use unless there is an attack by an enemy using biological and chemical (or nuclear) weapons. India’s nuclear doctrine states:

n Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent

n A posture of “no-first-use”: nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere

n Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage

n Nuclear retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority

n Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states

n However, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons

n A continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile-related materials and technologies, participation in the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations and continued observance of the moratorium on nuclear tests

n Continued commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.

The CCS also reviewed existing command and control structures, states of readiness, the targetting strategy for a retaliatory attack and operating procedures for various stages of alert and launch, an official release said. It reviewed and approved arrangements for alternate chains of command for retaliatory nuclear strikes in all eventualities.

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