War Sans Arms
Beyond developing conventional and nuclear arms, Pakistan must work on its image and reduce extremism and intolerance. To do this, it needs a wise, competent, honest and visionary leadership.
Pakistan beats the war
drums but does bot bother about much else.
Since the overt nuclearization of South Asia in May 1998 till today, the dynamics of the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan have tended to raise several questions. What is India’s nuclear doctrine vis-à-vis Pakistan? How is India’s nuclear strategy successful in dragging Pakistan into an arms race with its eastern neighbour? Is India capable of withstanding first strike from Pakistan and to what extent is its “cold start” doctrine aiming to match Pakistan’s first strike capability? Is it a reality or a posture? These are the questions which are raised from time to time in the context of the nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia.
First strike capability means when a nuclear armed state is able to launch an attack on the enemy target in such a manner that the enemy is not able to retaliate. Second strike capability means that a state survives the first strike and is able to retaliate in the form of a second strike. The dynamics of first and second strike capabilities is a cold war phenomenon when nuclear weapons possess the ability to inflict an unacceptable level of damage on the other side. Unlike the Soviet Union and the United States of America, whose mainstream cities were located thousands of miles away, this is not the case with India and Pakistan who are immediate neighbours and their major cities along with their capitals are within short strike distance. Therefore, the use of nuclear weapons in the event of an IndoPak war will cause millions of deaths within hours. According to Zafar Iqbal Cheema in his book, Indian Nuclear Doctrine Its Evolution, Development and Implications for South Asia Security “Pakistan has not given up its right of first use of nuclear weapons, partly because it perceives that it would undermine its (nuclear) deterrence.” A lack of proper territorial depth of Pakistan further deepened its resolve for a first nuclear strike in case of a cogent threat to its security and survival as a state.
India’s nuclear strategy for the last several decades is two-pronged: first, to counter the nuclear threat emanating from its northern neighbour Peoples Republic of China and second to deal with the nuclear threat arising from Pakistan. If Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is primarily India-centric, New Delhi’s nuclear strategy and doctrine has an international character. In both cases, the outcome of overt nuclearization of South Asia is the unleashing of a nuclear and missile arms race threatening the very framework of nuclear war avoidance in the region. If
Pakistan pursued the policy of minimum nuclear deterrence, India followed the approach of credible nuclear deterrence and both sides justified their versions of deterrence on the grounds of national security. The end result of the IndoPak nuclear standoff is a deepening of a nuclear arms race at the expense of human development and security.
Unlike Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine, which doesn’t rule out a first strike if attacked by the enemy, India has no such policy. According to Gurmeet Kanwal, a renowned Indian defence and security analyst, “after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, the government issued a statement on January 4, 2003, spelling out India’s nuclear doctrine and the operationalization of its nuclear deterrent. The salient features of the government statement included the following: India will build and maintain a credible nuclear deterrent; follow a no-first-use-posture; and will use nuclear weapons only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. It was also affirmed that nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage; retaliatory attacks will be authorized only by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority; nuclear weapons will not be used against nonnuclear weapon states; and India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack against it with biological and chemical weapons.” Pakistan’s strategy to cover the whole of India with the range of its nuclear missiles has been highly successful. Missile tests of Shaheen-III and Ababeel show they can target all major Indian cities. Pakistan’s lack of territorial depth has certainly exposed the country to a massive Indian conventional and nuclear attack, which Islamabad has been able to counter by advancing its nuclear missile program but Pakistan tried to compensate for its lack of territorial/strategic depth by gaining an edge vis-à-vis India on the long and medium range missiles.
India tried to counter the modernization of Pakistan’s missile program with a two-pronged strategy. First, by launching its cold start doctrine and second by propelling a tirade against Pakistan that its nuclear weapons were unsafe and could get into the hands of Islamic terrorist groups. As far as the Indian cold start doctrine is concerned, in the event of an armed conflict with Pakistan, Indian conventional forces will swiftly move and occupy a territory without risking a nuclear war. The seizure of Pakistani territory by the Indian forces will, however, require their deployment close to the borders so that the strike corps can swiftly move and capture territory before the UN Security Council intervenes for a ceasefire. However, the question of a successful Indian military strike against Pakistan and capturing a territory needs to have a practical dimension. Will Pakistani forces allow Indian strike corps to penetrate deep inside their territory and occupy a piece of land so as to prevent Pakistani retaliation with nuclear weapons? While surgical strikes are aimed to destroy the sanctuaries of infiltrators, the cold start doctrine aims to prevent Pakistan from proceeding with a first strike.
As far as the question of the safety of Pakistani nuclear arsenal is concerned, since quite long, there exists nuclear command and control authority (NCCA) which is responsible for the safety of its nuclear assets in case of any possible terrorist attack. Furthermore, NCCA also aims to ensure nuclear safeguards and protection. In fact, the perception about the lack of proper command and control of nuclear weapons in Pakistan was reinforced when terrorist attacks took place at the Army General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, the Mehran Naval Base in Karachi, the PAF Kamra Air Base and the Karachi Airport. But, Pakistan has repeatedly ruled out any possibility of an encroachment of its nuclear arsenal by terrorist organizations. Furthermore, for long the myth of an ‘Islamic Bomb’ is being talked about in different world capitals. Israel’s insecurity vis-à-vis the ‘Islamic Bomb’ held by Pakistan was also exploited by India with the possible plan of a joint Indo-Israeli raid on Pakistani nuclear installations, which Pakistan has termed as wishful thinking in view of what the Pakistani military establishment terms as ‘ impregnable’ defence of its nuclear installations. But there exists a gap in Indian nuclear strategy and posture. New Delhi has regional and international power ambitions which require the acceleration of its nuclear weapons program.
To a large extent, India is successful in dragging Pakistan in an expensive nuclear arms race. This arms race has become so dangerous that Pakistan’s spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revealed that India was building a nuclear safe city in order to protect its leadership and important personalities in case of a nuclear war. Nuclear safe cities and nuclear bunkers are cold war phenomenon and cannot be replicated in the Indian and Pakistani context because of the costs involved. However, the statement of the Pakistan Foreign Office about India building a nuclear safe city was immediately denied by New Delhi as it called it
Unless, Pakistan puts its own house in order, it will be impossible on its part to cope with threats emanating across the borders.
devoid of facts. India thinks that in view of Pakistan’s fragile economy, luring its eastern neighbour into a nuclear arms race will be a severe drain on its resources. Likewise, by modernizing its conventional forces, India hopes to drag Pakistan in a full-fledged nuclear and conventional arms race much to the detriment of its economy. But, what are Pakistan’s options and choices? Can Pakistan continue with its doctrine of minimum nuclear deterrence while disregarding the modernization of Indian nuclear forces?
One wise option for Pakistan is to improve and strengthen its economy and modernize its infrastructure. With a vibrant economy, a better quality of life of the people, modern infrastructure, good governance and the rule of law, most of the issues which cause human insecurity will be taken care of. Otherwise, if Pakistan tries to match with the Indian conventional and nuclear arms race with a fragile economy and internal political discords, it will be counterproductive and dangerous for its survival as a state. Furthermore, Pakistan must better its image at the international level by eliminating those forces who are involved in extremism, intolerance, militancy, radicalization, violence and terrorism. Unless, Pakistan puts its own house in order, it will be impossible on its part to cope with threats emanating across the borders. This would require a wise, competent, honest and visionary leadership to put Pakistan on the road to meaningful development and progress.
The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations and Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi.