Thirteen Years After
Pakistani nuclear weapons are said to be for defense and Indian nuclear weapons are for power projection and acquiring global status. With the addition of the Indian doctrine of Cold Start, these are enough reasons to worry about the stability of South A
Nuclear weapons have been a factor in Indo-Pak relations since 1980s. They figured prominently during the Brasstack exercise and 1990 compound crisis. Due to conventional superiority of the Indian armed forces, nuclear weapons became the ultimate security guarantor for Pakistan. In 1998, New Delhi tested its nuclear capability for the second time and Islamabad followed suit. Since 1998, India and Pakistan have strengthen their nuclear programs, established command and control structures, continue to work on missiles as main delivery vehicles and faced at least two major crises. A closer look at the nuclear developments in the region illustrates the fact that while Pakistan continues to follow the policy of credible minimum deterrence, India is working on a nuclear triad and working hard to get the latest technology such as the ballistic missile defense, enhance its missile capability and increase its fissile material, stockpile size.
New Delhi’s nuclear policy can be summarized as follows: • Building and maintaining a
credible deterrent; • No First Use (NFU); • Retaliatory attacks only to be authorized by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA); • Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states; Retaining the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack against India or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons; • A continuance of controls on ex- port of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies, participation in the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations; • Observance of the moratorium on nuclear tests, and universal nuclear disarmament.
Islamabad has not officially announced a nuclear doctrine yet one can work out a policy from the statements and articles written by knowledgeable and policy relevant personalities. Islamabad’s nuclear doctrine has three pillars: credible minimum deterrence, first but of last resort use and undeclared nuclear threshold. The Director General of the Strategic Plans Division, Gen. (retd.) Khalid Kidwai, once stated that Pakistan might use nuclear weapons if: India attacks Pakistan and takes a large part of its territory, India destroys a large part of Pakistani armed forces, India imposes an economic blockade on Pakistan, and India creates political destabilization or large-scale internal subversion in Pakistan.
The former Pakistani national security advisor and ambassador to
USA, General (retd.) Mahmud Durrani stated that there are four objectives of Pakistan’s nuclear policy: • Deterrence of all forms of external aggression that can endanger Pakistan’s national security. Deterrence will be achieved through the development and maintenance of an effective combination of conventional and strategic forces, at adequate levels within the country’s resource constraints. Deterrence of Pakistan’s adversaries from attempting a counterforce strategy against its strategic assets by effectively securing the strategic assets and threatening nuclear retaliation should such an attempt be made. Stabilization of strategic deterrence in the South Asia region. Setting up a robust nuclear command and control is a key to nuclear stability hence both India and Pakistan have worked out their command and control set ups. Pakistan took the lead and announced the establishment of its National command Authority (NCA) on February 2, 2000. The NCA is responsible for nuclear strategic policy formulation and exercises control over the employment and development of all strategic nuclear forces and strategic organizations. The NCA is comprised of the Employment Control Committee (ECC) and the Development Control Committee (DCC), as well as the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which acts as Secretariat.
On January 4, 2003, New Delhi announced the establishment of its Nuclear Command Authority (NCA). Indian NCA is responsible for deployment, control and safety of Indian nuclear weapon assets. The NCA comprised a Political Council, and an Executive Council. It comprises the Political Council, the Executive Council and Commander-in-Chief of Stra- tegic Forces Command.
Although the establishment of command and control structures brought much needed confidence and stability in nuclear South Asia, both countries faced two armed crises since the 1998 nuclear tests. Kargil happened just one year after the nuclear tests during May-July 1999. Islamabad, it is argued by a number of analysts attempted to test the deterrence value of its nuclear weapons by deciding to up the ante in Kargil. In December 2001 during the Operation Parakram (Valour), India mobilized its military threatening to attack Pakistan. This was an Indian effort to test Pakistan’s fear of India’s superior nuclear capability. Both attempts failed to provide desired results. Indian Army, due to its expanding interaction with the western especially American military in increasingly getting uneasy with the way it is treated by the Indian leadership, blamed the failure of the 2002 mobilization on their indecisiveness. In April 2004, Indian Army gave the idea of Cold Start doctrine. The aim of this limited war doctrine is to initiate such a conventional strike against Pakistan that would cause a significant harm to the Pakistan Army before the international community could intervene to solve the dispute. Under the Cold Start doctrine, the Indian army will be divided into eight smaller division-sized “integrated battle groups” (IBGs). The major element of the Cold Start doctrine is speed. By rapid mobilization, Indian army will achieve its objectives before the outside powers like U.S. and China can intervene on behalf of Pakistan. However there are certain anomalies in it: Can India do this without crossing Pakistani redlines? Although many Indian strategic thinkers would like to believe that they are aware of the Pakistani redlines, the fact is, they are not. In all likelihood, in keeping with the already widening conventional imbalance between India and Pakistan, an operational Cold Start capability could lead Pakistan to lower its nuclear red line, or perhaps consider other measures such as developing tactical nuclear weapons. Another important point is why would Pakistan play the game according to the Indian rules? What if Pakistan decides to expand the war? After all, why should Pakistan limit the war, if it is not in its interests?
Many believe that the Cold Start doctrine is basically related to the civil-military relations in India and hence has little applicability to the strategic stability in South Asia as it is not easy to actually implement it since it is not clear whether the Indian Navy and Air Force are fully onboard on this or not. How successful was this in postMumbai short lived escalation is also not clear.
Nuclear South Asia has been mostly stable since 1998 despite Kargil and 2002 standoff because both sides are fully aware of the dangers. Pakistani nuclear weapons are for defense and Indian nuclear weapons are for power projection and acquiring global status. Even during the two post nuclearization conflicts, nuclear weapons were used as a psychological weapon than a military weapon. However, there are a number of reasons why one can worry about the stability of nuclear South Asia and prime amongst them is the Indian Cold Start. It is high time that the strategic community in India and Pakistan address this problem. The writer is a doctoral candidate at the department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia and a former Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor of Politics, IAS, University of Bristol, UK. He is also a visiting scholar at Brookings Institution and is currently working on a book on the Strategic Culture of Pakistan.
It is high time that we learn to live in peace and harmony with each other.