India hints at ending ‘No First Use’ nuclear policy

India has hinted at the possibility of changing its “No First Use” policy on nuclear weapons, amid escalating tensions with fellow-atomic state Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir.

The hint came from India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday after he visited Pokhran, the site of the country’s successful nuclear tests under the then-Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee in 1998.

“Pokhran is the area which witnessed (Vajpayee’s) firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘No First Use,'” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the policy of not being the first country in a potential standoff to use nuclear weapons.

“India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances,” the Indian defense minister added.

India’s arch-rival Pakistan does not have a similar doctrine.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said Singh’s remark was nothing new.

“India’s claims to NFU ended when on 4 Jan 2003 Indian govt declared it would use nuclear weapons against any (even Chemical or Biological) attack ‘against India or Indian forces anywhere,'” she tweeted.

The indirect back-and-forth came as tensions have been simmering between India and Pakistan since New Delhi stripped Indian-controlled Kashmir of its special autonomy earlier this month. Pakistan has called that move “illegal.”

Kashmir is generally considered disputed territory. It has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. The countries have fought three wars over the territory.