Nukes protect India from blackmail by other powers: Menon

In a delicate balancing act, India Tuesday renewed its pitch for universal nuclear disarmament, but underlined that until the world arrived at "this happy state" it will continue to maintain atomic weapons as they have helped deter others from attempting nuclear coercion or blackmail.

"On at least three occasions before 1998, other powers used the explicit or implicit threat of nuclear weapons to try and change India's behaviour," National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said at a national outreach conference on global nuclear disarmament.

Menon disclosed that after India became a declared nuclear weapons state in 1998, it has not faced such threats.

"So the possession of nuclear weapons has, empirically speaking, deterred others from attempting nuclear coercion or blackmail against India," he added.

The day-long conference, organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs and supported by the external affairs ministry, saw the participation of nearly 1500 students from around 37 universities.

It was held to commemorate the 68th birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who presented a plan for a nuclear-weapons-free world order at the UN General Assembly June 9, 1988.

In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Menon stressed that India has consistently maintained that its nuclear weapons were weapons of deterrence and not war-fighting weapons. "These weapons are for use against an attack on India."

"Unlike certain other nuclear weapon states, India's weapons were not meant to redress a military imbalance, or to compensate for some perceived inferiority in conventional military terms, or to serve some tactical or operational military need on the battlefield," he added.

Menon underlined that said the acquisition of nuclear weapons has imparted an added authority to India's moral authority for universal disarmament on the global fora.

"We spent 24 years after our first peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974 urging and working for universal nuclear disarmament and a nuclear free world," he said.

India argued for a nuclear weapons free world out of conviction that such a scenario would enhance national security and that of the rest of the world, he said.

"But sadly this was a conviction and view that obtained much lip sympathy and verbal support but was actually flouted in practice with increasing impunity by others," Menon said.

"And when the division of the world into nuclear weapon haves and have-nots was sought to be made permanent in the nineties it became clear that possession of nuclear weapons was necessary if our attempts to promote a nuclear weapon free world were to be taken seriously and have some effect," he said.

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