Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said that India has always adhered to its “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons but “what happens in the future will depend on circumstances”.

Singh was in Pokhran to pay tribute to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his first death anniversary. Pokhran, in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, was the site of the nuclear tests conducted by India in 1974 and 1998 – the second one was when Vajpayee was the prime minister.

“Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atal ji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’,” Singh tweeted. “India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances.”

He added: “India attaining the status of a responsible nuclear nation became a matter of national pride for every citizen of this country. The nation will remain indebted to the greatness of Atal Ji.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy said the defence minister has correctly warned about a possible review of “no first use” policy. He said the leadership in Pakistan was “more crazed” than what it was in 1998. “First use is required now on if we get credible evidence that Pak faced with ignominy may go for first strike,” said Swamy. “We must pre-empt that.”

Singh’s comments came amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave Jammu and Kashmir its special status. The central government, on August 5, declared that the region would be split into two Union Territories. India has repeatedly described the developments in Jammu and Kashmir as its internal matter. However, Pakistan has raised the matter in the United Nations Security Council.

Pakistan has also sought the help of China, which claims part of Ladakh as its territory. Several reports said China backed Pakistan’s request and urged the Security Council to meet behind closed doors to discuss the matter.

Congress asks for clear stand

In response, the Congress said it will stand behind the government on the nuclear policy but it needs to be spelt out clearly, PTI reported. Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “If by this somewhat ambiguous statement, the defence minister either intends to keep us guessing or seeks to announce a change in policy, then the country would be happy to know what the new policy is. Not in ambiguous half phrases, but in a full one paragraph declared policy.”

Singhvi said the government should refrain from “word play” on something as important as nuclear policy.