Strate­gic re­straint

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Shahzad Chaudhry

THE Strate­gic Re­straint Regime (SRR), when Pak­istan first of­fered it to In­dia in 1998 for durable peace in South Asia, was es­sen­tially com­posed of three defin­ing el­e­ments - sta­ble de­ter­rence, pro­por­tion­ate re­duc­tion in the armed forces and a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of all lin­ger­ing dis­putes. In essence, it en­com­passed those political, mil­i­tary and nu­clear dy­nam­ics that had over time un­der­lined the con­flict be­tween the two, or had the po­ten­tial to erupt into a con­fla­gra­tion.

The tax­on­omy as in­deed the doc­tri­nal aspects of de­ter­rence only evolved with time, but there was an acute sense of har­ness­ing the de­struc­tive power of the nu­clear bomb that had found an open ex­pres­sion in May 1998 by both In­dia and Pak­istan. Such a mo­ment im­pelled both sides to move to­gether to evolve a com­mon frame­work which could elim­i­nate the need for use of such de­struc­tive power. The SRR was thus pro­posed and came un­der dis­cus­sion in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the nu­clear blasts. It was still a mal­leable propo­si­tion by the time A B Va­j­payee met Nawaz Sharif in Fe­bru­ary, 1999. In­dia re­fused the of­fer. It needed more states­man­ship than was per­haps avail­able at the time.

Pak­istan's think­ing on sta­ble de­ter­rence through the pro­posed SRR was meant to keep South Asia out of a nu­clear arms race. The crud­est com­po­si­tion of this lit­tle un­der­stood con­cept of de­ter­rence only counted match­ing num­bers on both sides.

It was stated by Gen KM Arif, the then VCOAS, that Pak­istan ex­pected In­dia to have around a 100 nu­clear war­heads - which re­ally meant that Pak­istan too would have a match­ing num­ber in its arse­nal. Sim­ple con­cep­tions were thus sim­ply stated. The nu­ances, doc­tri­nal evo­lu­tions and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments since have led to bloated in­ven­to­ries on both sides. Not by far, though. Terms such as the Cred­i­ble Min­i­mum De­ter­rence (CMD) and the Full Spec­trum De­ter­rence (FSD) - both lo­cal con­no­ta­tions - are fre­quently quoted.

CMD is in­her­ently dy­namic in its for­mu­la­tion. The cred­i­bil­ity of de­ter­rence as per this con­cept is an in­ter­ac­tive process with the ad­ver­sary, which per Pak­istan's procla­ma­tions is only the In­dian threat. So if the In­dian ca­pa­bil­ity un­der­goes change in ei­ther de­vel­op­ing a more of­fen­sive ca­pa­bili- ty or a more as­sured de­fen­sive one against its vul­ner­a­bil­ity to a Pak­istani nu­clear at­tack, Pak­istan will tweak its own pro­gramme to re­tain its threat­en­ing po­ten­tial to re­gain the cred­i­bil­ity of its de­ter­rence. Were Pak­istan not to do so and were the de­ter­rence to be di­luted, it would open it­self up to the dom­i­nat­ing In­dian threat of In­dia's over­whelm­ing con­ven­tional su­pe­ri­or­ity. In this sta­bil­ity-in­sta­bil­ity paradigm of de­ter­rence, the nu­clear pro­grammes on both sides con­tinue to con­stantly evolve.

That doesn't mean though that the num­ber of weapons is in­creas­ing; there is ev­ery like­li­hood that the arse­nal size on both sides has tapered to around 125.It is just that the qual­ity of the arse­nal in terms of ranges, yield, ef­fect and em­ploy­ment op­tions con­tin­ues to op­ti­mise. The pro­grammes are thus in a qual­i­ta­tive flux. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of the de­liv­ery means and op­tions is what is of con­cern. In­dia, with its ac­tive space pro­gramme, is ahead in many ways and has a num­ber of dif­fer­ently ranged ve­hi­cles ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing nu­clear weapons over vast ranges. Pak­istan has re­stricted its pro­gramme to what will de­liver its throw-weight only within In­dian con­ti­nen­tal lim­its.

The FSD is of even greater perti- nence. It es­sen­tially in­cludes de­ter­rence that can thwart In­dia's of­fen­sive po­ten­tial across the en­tire range of force ap­pli­ca­tion. Shal­low thrusts by In­dia across the Pak­istani bor­ders per its ex­ist­ing op­er­a­tional doc­trine - meant to avoid trig­ger­ing strate­gic re­sponse through deeper in­cur­sions - are now neu­tralised by Pak­istan through its short-range, lowyield nu­clear weapons of 60 km range. This has kept In­dia's armed bel­liger­ence at bay, and de­liv­ered to South Asia the long­est pe­riod of ab­sence of a con­ven­tional war be­tween the two war­ring neigh­bours.

When In­dia and the US ask Pak­istan to do away with its 'tac­ti­cal' nu­clear weapons, it is akin to forc­ing Pak­istan to re­veal its win­dow of vul­ner­a­bil­ity al­low­ing In­dia to ap­ply its su­pe­rior con­ven­tional force in a lim­ited war against Pak­istan. Any es­ca­la­tion from even a lim­ited force en­gage­ment only means an un­con­trolled hur­tle to­wards a full-blown nu­clear con­flict. So to avoid a dev­as­tat­ing war, 'tac­ti­cal weapons are good. This frus­trates In­dia, but keeps peace in South Asia. The US has other rea­sons for con­cern on Pak­istan's lim­ited range weapons. Its own ex­pe­ri­ence of th­ese weapons in­forms th­ese fears. In the US' his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons were lo­cated close to the in­tended users of th­ese weapons, which in Europe was prac­ti­cally a case of de­ployed forces against the for­mer War­saw Pact and hence del­e­gated in pos­ses­sion and con­trol to that level for im­me­di­ate use. In the Pak­istani con­text how­ever, the weapons are hardly 'tac­ti­cal' de­spite be­ing short-range and lim­ited in ef­fect be­cause their con­trol, own­er­ship and pos­ses­sion re­mains out­side the purview of de­ployed forces and within higher con­trol like for all other weapons. Sim­i­larly, their de­ploy­ment and use will be au­tho­rised as for any other strate­gic weapon. It is more ac­cu­rate to char­ac­terise the 'tac­ti­cal' as 'short-range strate­gic' weapons, at least in Pak­istan's case. That makes them pro­lif­er­a­tion proof within the same sense of se­cu­rity that ap­plies to Pak­istan's com­plete arse­nal. Non­de­ployed, non-mated weapons are the surest means of keep­ing South Asia from a knee-jerk over­re­ac­tion, as well as avoid­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of mis­use. Pak­istan seeks to ' avoid' war with its de­ter­rence; In­dia 'seeks' a win­dow to ap­ply its su­pe­rior con­ven­tional ca­pa­bil­ity.

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