Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

There’s No Place Like CounterPunch

There's no place like CounterPunch, it's just that simple. And as the radical space within the "alternative media"(whatever that means) landscape continues to shrink, sanctuaries such as CounterPunch become all the more crucial for our political, intellectual, and moral survival. Add to that the fact that CounterPunch won't inundate you with ads and corporate propaganda. So it should be clear why CounterPunch needs your support: so it can keep doing what it's been doing for nearly 25 years. As CP Editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, succinctly explained, "We lure you in, and then punch you in the kidneys." Pleasant and true though that may be, the hard-working CP staff is more than just a few grunts greasing the gears of the status quo.

So come on, be a pal, make a tax deductible donation to CounterPunch today to support our annual fund drive, if you have already donated we thank you! If you haven't, do it because you want to. Do it because you know what CounterPunch is worth. Do it because CounterPunch needs you. Every dollar is tax-deductible. (PayPal accepted)

Thank you,
Eric Draitser

Nuclear Weapons, No First Use and India’s Bharatiya Janata Party


“… no-first-use pledges constitute a declaratory policy without military significance.” – Therese Delpech, French Foreign Office, in The Nuclear Turning Point (1999), 335

So much stock can be placed on a word, or its emphasis. The Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund may well have claimed his Latin was above grammar, but when it comes to the wording of manifestoes, structure and emphasis can be kings. The election manifesto of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is particularly important on a few points. Some of them are unsurprisingly polemical, rubbing various groups, notably Muslims, the wrong way, while encouraging a Hindu-Nationalist line. The stance on Jammu and Kashmir is predictably dangerous and dissatisfying, revealing why bullies tend to be jaundiced, not progressive.

Its leader, Narendra Modi, was chief minister in Gujarat in 2002 when massacre and mayhem broke out between Hindus and Muslims. That blood, at least for some, has dried. Modi’s wily and canny politics has sparked a sense of optimism in a party that, in opposition, was regarded as a walking, talking disaster.1 Indian commentators such as Gucharan Das obsess about the “demographic dividend” and how Modi will use it. If he might be a touch extreme, then so be it. “There will always be a trade-off in values at the ballot box and those who place secularism above demographic dividend are wrong and elitist” (Times of India, Apr 6).

Then there is the issue about what to do with the nuclear stockpile. Such weapons have a perverse quality – they are desired, but are, in a sense, a desirable redundancy. They cannot be used, but they might be used in a fit of unreflective enthusiasm. It is the consummation that should never take place, even if the prospects are advertised in capital letters. It is a eunuch’s mandate.

“No first use” is the outgrowth of such insensible dynamics, a doctrine that gets the strategists more excited than members of the public. New Delhi did, after some pondering in 1998, embrace the position that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. The BJP, however, released a rather aggressive cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting in its manifesto that the stance was up for revision as “the strategic gains acquired by India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on the nuclear programme have been frittered away by the Congress”. Pakistan, by way of comparison, has no such policy.

Former US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher2, is jittery about the potential revision. “What does it do for India? Nothing really, although it would introduce a small, probably destabilising, element in the calculations of nuclear adversaries.” Boucher’s theory here is that India’s main threats could hardly trigger a nuclear solution. “India’s nuclear strategy ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.” His reservations are far more a matter of form than substance.

Other diplomats and analysts are also in a flutter, noting India’s strides in the last 10 years in being rehabilitated as a good nuclear citizen. It has signed nuclear pacts with the US, Russia, and France and obtained reactors under deals it would not otherwise have received. Not embracing no first-use is tantamount to unacceptable lunacy. (There are always acceptable and unacceptable forms of nuclear lunacy.) An anonymous Western European diplomat is quoted in the Indian Telegraph3 as being concerned that “a BJP government will attempt any repeat of what it did in 1998”. South Asia expert Michael Kugelman4 fears that such a revision “could well cause stress in Pakistan’s security establishment”.

In one way, the Pakistani position is the more honest one. No first use policies reflect the acceptable hypocrisy of good manners, rather than the authentic appreciation for bad manners. Nuclear armed states may despise each other, but that is not necessarily a reason to use nuclear weapons. No first use, in a sense, is the rhetorical question since no state genuinely wants to be the first one to pull the trigger.

Therein lies the problem. State who embrace such a policy tend to be hedging, qualifying and dithering over an admission that they will use such weapons, even if they just might be the first ones to do so. Boucher himself stated in February 2002, while discussing the US policy on non-first use, that the US “reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or any other troops, its allies or States towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon State, in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.”5

Such an unforgivably long statement suggests how obtuse non-first use is – it need not necessarily require a nuclear strike to get a nuclear strike in retaliation. It keeps the door open for states to use their doomsday weapons, notwithstanding the faux restraint present in their doctrines.

Where Pakistan fits into this revision throws the no first use idea into sharp relief. Scrutinisers of the manifesto have tried to find clues about how long held resentment will translate into policy should Modi win office. “By avoiding inflammatory rhetoric on Pakistan in the manifesto, the BJP has sought to dampen the speculation around the world that Modi’s leadership of India will lead to an inevitable confrontation with Pakistan” (Indian Express, Apr 7).

It doesn’t pay to jump to standard conclusions on Indian politics. Assessing the next government’s foreign policy direction through bomb and Pakistan is not necessarily useful. The Hindu nationalist party may well rubbish and slander their neighbours and target Muslims, but that doesn’t mean no conversation takes place. The nuclear toting Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP made the journey to Pakistan twice during his six years as Prime Minister. The Congress Party’s Dr. Manmohan Singh, more the flavour of Western governments and advocate of civilian nuclear energy, has not done so once in 10 years in the same office.

The latter’s reticence and reluctance may well be attributed to the shackles placed by the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008. Acts of terrorism do wonders to narrow fields of engagement, even as they demand political figures to transcend them. The Congress Party stance on this is to “deliver on accountability for 26/11 as well as dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani soil.” The BJP, rather cleverly, embraces “zero tolerance” even as it wishes for “friendly relations” with Pakistan. Perhaps that stance is for the best – Modi and the BJP may well have discovered that dealing with both Pakistan and notions of nuclear doctrine are matters of appearance and theatre more than substance and reality.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians