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India sets up Strategic Forces Command
Josy Joseph in New Delhi | January 04, 2003 21:44 IST
After much procrastination, the Centre on Saturday set up the Nuclear Command and announced an eight-point Nuclear Doctrine, which reiterated its commitment to 'no first strike'.
The government also said that India will not launch a nuclear attack against a non-nuclear state. But it reserved the right to launch nuclear weapons against nations that carry out chemical or biological warfare against India or its forces.
After a two-hour meeting, the Cabinet Committee on Security announced the setting up of the Strategic Forces Command. The command will, as of now, report to the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, which comprises of all the three service heads.
Sources said Air Marshal Teja Mohan Asthana, till last week the air officer commanding of the Southern Air Command, will be the first chief of the Strategic Forces Command. "We were waiting for the CCS announcement setting up the Strategic Forces Command. Asthana's name will be forwarded for a formal approval," an air force officer told rediff.com
In a statement issued after the CCS meeting, the government said any decision to launch a nuclear attack will be taken by the political leadership and executed through the nuclear command. It also approved the appointment of a commander-in-chief for the Strategic Forces Command.
The command, the CCS said, will 'manage and administer' all 'nuclear and strategic forces'.
The CCS said the Nuclear Command Authority will comprise a political council chaired by the prime minister and an executive council headed by the national security advisor.
The statement said the CCS reviewed and approved arrangements for alternate chains of command for retaliation in 'all eventualities'.
The doctrine envisages building a credible minimum deterrent for maintaining a 'second strike capability', which will be 'massive' and designed to induce 'unacceptable damage' on the enemy.
India reiterated its commitment to control export of nuclear and missile-related material and technology, and pledged to participate in negotiations of the Fissile Material Control Treaty.
The CCS also announced India's commitment to the moratorium on further nuclear testing.
The doctrine reiterated India's commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons through 'global, verifiable and non-discriminatory disarmament'.
The CCS meeting, attended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy Lal Kishenchand Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes and Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, had the three service chiefs in attendance.
The CCS also reviewed the progress in operationalising the nuclear doctrine, including the state of readiness, targeting strategy for retaliation and operating procedure.
India's nuclear weapon systems, primarily land-based missiles and precision-guided aircraft launches, are currently with the army and the air force.