On Thursday, India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had occasion to wonder why India had adopted a policy of “no first use of nuclear weapons” but then qualified it by saying it was his “persol” opinion. What is significant perhaps is that the Defence Minister should have had reasons to question a policy that is not likely to be supported or approved by a lot of people, considering that the policy takes away India’s initiative to be the initial striker even in the face of overwhelming possibilities of an enemy attack according to military intelligence. The Defence Minister’s question is likely to be a source of embarrassment to the ruling party at the Centre because India’s nuclear weapons policy was structured by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2002. But that is not the only reason why his question is likely to cause some embarrassment to the ruling party. The more important reason would be that such a question should come from the Defence Minister of the country. And since it comes from the Defence Minister, the government would find it difficult to skirt around suggestions that the Modi administration is reconsidering India’s nuclear weapons policy structured in Vajpayee’s time. The timing of Parrikar’s statement is also significant. It comes at a time when Indian and Pakistani troops have been firing at each other since Pakistan’s September 18 attack on an Indian garrison in Uri, in which 19 soldiers were killed, and the September 29 “surgical strikes” by the Indian Army. It also coincides with Prime Minister rendra Modi’s visit to Japan where New Delhi and Tokyo are likely to be close to an agreement for a civilian nuclear pact. “Why should I bind myself? I should say I am a responsible nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly. This is my thinking,” Parrikar said on Thursday. “Doesn’t mean India has to use nukes, but why rule out the options?” And this is precisely what most Indians are thinking: “As long as we use our nuclear power responsibly, why should we debar ourselves from the advantage of a first strike when the situation so demands?