NEW DELHI/NEW YORK – Defense Minister Rajnath Singh warned Friday that India’s continued adherence to its “no first use” policy for nuclear weapons will depend on the situation, a comment that is likely to fuel tensions with Pakistan over their territorial dispute.
In a Twitter post, the defense minister cited India’s past commitment to the doctrine, but said that “what happens in future depends on the circumstances.”
Shortly after the comment, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference that “the timing and substance of the Indian defense minister statement is highly unfortunate and reflects India’s irresponsible attitude and belligerence.”
The Pakistani minister added that government officials met at the Foreign Ministry to deliberate over the statement’s implications.
Since carrying out five nuclear tests at Pokhran in Rajasthan in May 1998, India has maintained the doctrine that it would not be the first party to deploy a nuclear weapon in any conflict.
“The Indian defense minister statement has corroborated Pakistan’s stance that Kashmir can become a nuclear flash point,” Qureshi told reporters.
Also Friday, the U.N. Security Council held an unofficial meeting to discuss the rising tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir row, but adjourned without any clear consensus.
Poland, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, declined to issue a statement in light of the differing views among members.
Although China, one of the five veto-wielding council members, supported Pakistan’s view of the dispute as an international issue, many other members characterized the row as a bilateral matter and sought to distance themselves from it, according to Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy envoy to the United Nations.
While India and Pakistan did not join Friday’s meeting, U.N. envoys from both countries stressed their respective positions at separate press conferences.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said the Security Council had effectively rejected India’s claim that the Kashmir dispute was an internal matter, as the council’s decision to meet had in itself acknowledged the issue as international.
Pakistan had requested the Security Council meeting on the matter.
On the other hand, India’s Ambassador to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin dismissed such a view, saying that any country can call for debate in the Security Council.
In a related move, U.S. President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan talked over the phone on Friday and discussed “regional developments.”
During the talks, Trump “conveyed the importance of India and Pakistan reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue,” according to the White House.
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed South Asian countries have been running high due to competing territorial claims over the Kashmir region.
The dispute has caused two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.