Nearly three decades after the Cold War, the present-day hostilities between India and Pakistan have shifted the focus of the threat of nuclear escalation to South Asia. It is in this context that this article seeks to assess the legality of India’s military nuclear doctrine under international law.
Academic literature on the use of nuclear weapons has largely shied away from discussing the legality of specific military doctrines or ‘policies of deterrence’ of the nuclear weapon states, treating them as issues of military strategy that are beyond the realm of international law. This article hopes to challenge that dichotomy.
Though several branches of international law are relevant to any discussion on nuclear weapons, this article shall only examine India’s nuclear doctrine through the lens of jus ad bellum. Specifically, this article shall focus on whether India’s nuclear doctrine constitutes a threat to use force, and if so, whether such threat is lawful. The article concludes that India’s nuclear doctrine can be construed to be a specific threat to use force against Pakistan, and that such threat may be unlawful for contemplating the disproportionate use of force.