The Foreign Office has taken issue with reports of India mulling a change in its nuclear policy. There are several indications that India is shifting from “no-first use” to using pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear installations as deterrence in the case of escalating hostilities.

Announcing that it is abandoning its no first use policy may not be much more than a display of bravado on India’s part, meant to give Pakistan pause. In any case, a change in the nuclear doctrine of the neighbouring country would actually be served much better if it is kept under wraps, which is why the statements of pre-emptive strikes may not be much more than hot air.

A short time after taking office, Manohar Parrikkar, India’s Defence Minister, stated that India would “not declare one way or another” in terms of whether it was looking to change its no-first strike nuclear doctrine announced by the Vajpayee government in 1999. Hardliners across the border blame that government for being vocal about this policy, claiming that this emboldened Pakistan. Perhaps then the hints coming in from India are a means to reverse that ‘blunder’ – as it is perceived by many – and keep India’s position ambiguous and hence keep Pakistan at bay.

While obviously there are no guarantees of what could happen in the event of an all-out war, Pakistan tactical missiles, capable of being launched from vehicles that can change position would mean that India’s first-strike capability is not a sure-fire way to protect its own cities because Pakistan has second strike capability. Both countries then, have a reason to not strike, and the principle of nuclear weapons as a deterrent still stands.

Hawks on both sides of the border would love to claim that their side would emerge victorious in the event of a nuclear war, but there are no winners in this sort of conflict. Both neighbours with nuclear warheads aimed at each other are bound to lose out if one of them presses the trigger. While referring to the nukes is a great way to garner votes or improve national morale, considering their use would be beyond ridiculous and destructive for both countries in the extreme.