Ne­go­ti­at­ing de­ter­rence

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Shahzad Chaudhry

WHEN Pak­istan first pro­posed the ' Strate­gic Re­straint Regime' to In­dia fol­low­ing the nu­clear blasts by both na­tions, it was an in­cip­i­ent ef­fort to sta­bilise de­ter­rence be­tween the two. It was aimed at elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of an of­fen­sive op­tion by one against the other. If ac­crued suc­cess­fully it would have meant a vir­tual no-war pact. A 'per­fect' de­ter­rence must elim­i­nate war. In the event, the op­tion was not taken by In­dia, which had other con­sid­er­a­tions.

Clearly this was not the first time that the two neigh­bours were toy­ing with the idea of a no-war pact. The ef­fort had started early in 1949 af­ter the two had gone into their first war over Kash­mir, at the con­clu­sion of which a no-war dec­la­ra­tion was first men­tioned by In­dia. In­ter­est­ingly, the pro­posal was alive and kick­ing with both sides shar­ing de­marches and re­sponses on the is­sue till as late as 1985 when a Ra­jiv Gandhi-Zi­aul Haq sum­mit in New Delhi tried to give it one more push.

Some­where along the way, it wa­tered down to a non-ag­gres­sion treaty built on the prin­ci­ples of non-align­ment (In­dian po­si­tion) and the 're­sort to ar­bi­tra­tion of all points of dif­fer­ence' (Pak­istani po­si­tion in 1951), later amended to bi­lat­eral mech­a­nism as in­cluded in the Simla Agree­ment of 1972. But it never got con­cluded. A G Noorani has chron­i­cled the var­i­ous stages of the process well in his Fe­bru­ary 27, 2016 piece in 'Dawn'. Along the way, Pak­istan and In­dia fought the 1965 and 1971 wars, as well as suf­fered In­dian ag­gres­sion in Si­achen in 1984.

If the Zia-Ra­jiv hud­dle of 1985 had in­deed pulled off this agree­ment, South Asia would have been a dif­fer­ent world. As a con­se­quence, South Asia con­tin­ues to strug­gle with man­ag­ing a nu­clear regime be­tween two neigh­bours who tag each other as the ' en­emy' and con­tinue to har­bour ' use of force' as a vi­able medium of re­solv­ing con­flicts. In such a state of im­pend­ing doom, the world has urged re­straint and dis­avowal by both of their desta­bil­is­ing el­e­ments of the arse­nal - tac­ti­cal nukes for Pak­istan and In­dia's grow­ing de­liv­ery op­tions, es­pe­cially its nu­clear sub­marines - and a con­certed com­mit­ment to a Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile De­fence. All surely es­ca­la­tory man­i­fes­ta­tions of the sta­bil­ity-in­sta­bil­ity paradigm - while they sit atop a tin­der­box.

There is some­thing to learn from the US and the USSR ex­pe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing to avoid a nu­clear war and re­duce arse­nal sizes to min­imise the pos­si­bil­ity of an Ar­maged­don. Set into a two-block global for­mu­la­tion that emerged af­ter WW II, both the US and the USSR chose to tem­per things down through a change of pol­icy seek­ing de­tente. Meant to 'un­freeze' re­la­tions, the for­eign pol­icy ob­jec­tive sought ac­com­mo­da­tion and con­cil­i­a­tion un­der a rubric of en­gage­ment meant to mit­i­gate hos­til­ity be­tween the two cold-war pro­tag­o­nists.

In 1969, pres­i­dents Nixon and Leonid Brezh­nev be­gan a se­ries of con­sul­ta­tions that even­tu­ated into a Strate­gic Arms Lim­i­ta­tion Treaties, SALT I and II, which paved the way for a se­ri­alised re­duc­tion of de­struc­tive means both in de­liv­ery ve­hi­cles and in nu­clear war­heads.

Along­side came what would sta­bilise de­ter­rence when the Anti-Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Treaty was con­cluded. Both of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive mea­sures were put to a con­trol to sus­tain de­ter­rence con­sid­ered es­sen­tial to main­tain sta­tus quo and a forced peace be­tween the two most de­struc­tive mil­i­tary pow­ers in hu­man his­tory. The INF treaty of 1989 also forged the path to elim­i­nat­ing what was con­sid­ered su­per­fi­cial to the larger is­sue of de­ter­rence. The in­ter­me­di­ate range weapons thus in the Na­toWar­saw Pact con­text (range: 500-5000km) were thus ex­or­cised from the two in­ven­to­ries in 1989 be­tween Pres­i­dents Rea­gan and Gor­bachev. Europe, es­pe­cially, be­came less dan­ger­ous.

The jour­ney thus has con­tin­ued. SALT was fol­lowed by START (Strate­gic Arms Re­duc­tion Treaty), three of which have been fi­nalised. The ar­se­nals that num­bered 50,000 nu­clear weapons at one time are now headed to be re­duced to only 4,000 each. In this game of mu­tu­ally as­sured de­struc­tion, nay com­plete an­ni­hi­la­tion, the gains are only rel­a­tive and in­cre­men­tal.

Lest we gloss it over, Mikhail Gor­bachev gave fur­ther mean­ing to the de­tente by two ex­plicit political corrections in pol­icy through 'glas­nost' and 'per­e­stroika' - 'open­ness' and 're­struc­tur­ing'. Gor­bachev's political ini­tia­tive ush­ered the break­down of the 'Iron Cur­tain'; the Ber­lin Wall came down; East Europe, long un­der Soviet con­trol, gained free­dom; while the Soviet Union's Near Abroad in Asia, the 'stan' states found their in­de­pen­dence from Soviet hold. USSR had to with­draw from its long war in Afghanistan, and the Sovi­ets' vir­tual em­pire crum­bled.

Per­haps the most seis­mic political event to change global pol­i­tics in the 20th cen­tury was the even­tual melt­down of the Soviet Union. Along­side such political ref­or­ma­tion, and the de­tente of the 70s, came ini­tia­tives such as ' arms lim­i­ta­tion' and 'arms re­duc­tion' treaties.

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