India’s Nuclear Journey Nuclear Discourse and Decisions, 1997-2009

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


India is presently debating different nuclear strategies. However, the correspondence of these public debates to nuclear policy decisions has not been significantly investigated. It has further been claimed that India has no strategic culture or substantive defence discourse. This thesis investigates Indian nuclear strategic discourse from 1997-2009. It utilises a discourse analysis methodology, with opinion articles on Indian nuclear policy published in English-language Indian newspapers as its primary sources. It investigates the relationship of policy options as developed in strategic discourse to the following government policy decision, and the major influences on India’s nuclear policy as recognised by strategic discourse, including the role of India’s emerging nuclear force capabilities, and whether these change over the period of study.
It finds that India possesses a nuclear strategic culture, primarily characterised by the organising value of nuclear minimalism. However, this organising value is more pronounced in security crisis discourses and is coming under progressively strong contestation by an alternative organising value of nuclear maximalism in peacetime doctrinal nuclear policy discourses. Strategic culture, which is produced by strategic discourse on specific policy dilemmas, has an input in the policymaking process. The first or second most popular policy option within the discourse, with a strong base of centrist political support, tends to correlate with the policy decision. India’s nuclear force capabilities have a primary, and increasingly maximalist, influence on discourses, as the third most cited influence overall in the study.
These findings importantly develop research on Indian defence, discourse analysis, and strategic culture. To most efficiently safeguard India, New Delhi should recognise the resilience of nuclear minimalism as the dominant organising value of strategic culture when a crisis emerges, and apply this value to its nuclear planning in peacetime, when maximalist values obtain greater support.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorHarsh Pant (Supervisor) & Wyn Bowen (Supervisor)

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