Vajpayee, Singh, and Modi: the Prime Minister's influence on Indian nuclear strategy

John Macdonald

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Indian Prime Ministers occupy the pinnacle of India's government, national security hierarchy, and nuclear command and control infrastructure, which allows them to make decisions that transform Indian nuclear strategy. However, within India's nuclear decision-making bureaucracy, other actors including India's nuclear scientists and engineers, the military, and democratic processes can also adjust Indian nuclear strategy which creates rivalry. This article argues that the Indian Prime Minister's position gives them the ability to influence and direct these various domestic political actors to make a nuclear strategy that suits the Prime Minister's interests. But as bureaucratic actors actually translate the Prime Minister's directions into policy, it results in influence often falling short of control in setting nuclear strategy. Applying a bureaucratic model to the making of nuclear strategy, the article's findings suggest that Prime Ministers have purposefully guided and overseen India's post-Pokhran-II nuclear strategy beyond a "minimal" credible deterrent outlined in its 1999 official nuclear doctrine.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)307-350
    JournalIndia Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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