In the late 1990s, when Pakistan was struggling to streamline its democratic identity through the political process, India detonated its second nuclear device in Pokhran, complicating the environment in the region. Meanwhile, the US was playing an important role between the two countries to sponsor a wide-ranging and reasonably objective agenda for Pakistan-India talks, which went into a stupor as a result of the Indian detonation. One thing was crystal clear. Pakistan’s reciprocal nuclear tests established nuclear parity, though at a cost that still haunts us unnecessarily. Thereafter, the US found it a good time to close down the parallel dialogue conducted by them with Pakistan and India.
Since Kashmir is the core foundation for the rallying of a nuclear programme by Pakistan, the solution of this long-standing issue lies, essentially, in asking Pakistan to lower its nuclear guards. Without doing so, the situation will not improve as desired by India and other global powers. The Kashmir conundrum is further convoluted when it is pooled in with ‘terrorism’ and the lack of international pressure on India regarding the religious fanaticism of the RSS. Such a one-sided approach by the global powers is not likely to address the nuclear deterrence phenomenon.
During her stints in power, Indira Gandhi cited Hidutwa as a right-wing threat to India’s solidarity and integrity, a challenge she believed had the support of the West — in earnest, the US. Indira Gandhi’s idea of Hindutva, a great challenge supported by the US, proves correct today because the US has compelled the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)members to accommodate India without catering for related nuclear protocols and relaxing regulations.
Yet again, new proposals are being mounted on Pakistan to restrict its testing and deployment of short- and long-range missiles, accept protocols of fissile materials being cut-off and even to unilaterally sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, without waiting for India. In exchange, officials and think-tanks in the west, specifically in the US, have been offering to support Pakistan’s desire to be treated as a ‘normal’ state in its quest for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. To press further this demand from Pakistan, the US has asked Australia and Japan to accelerate supplies to India under a previously finalised civil nuclear deal. Pakistan’s early warnings that the Indian build-up would oblige it to enhance reliance on its nuclear and missile capabilities has already been brushed aside by the US which, regrettably, has continued attempts to restrict Pakistan’s defensive response rather than India’s aggressive armament. In view of this growing asymmetry, the National Command Authority has rightly reiterated the national resolve to maintain Full Spectrum Deterrence Capability in line with the dictates of Credible Minimum Deterrence to deter all forms of aggression, adhering to the policy of avoiding an arms race.
The subsequent quest for membership of the NSG is a fool’s errand. In Western eyes, Pakistan will never be a normal state as long as it is an Islamic and nuclear power. It is unlikely to be granted entry into the NSG without major concessions. In the Indo-Pacific field, China is not the only regional giant that is investing in nuclear systems, but it is chiefly India that is also at various stages of development, especially of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons aimed at Pakistan and China. India has hence enacted the necessary defense procurement reforms needed to equip Cold Start, with the tacit support of a variety of regional and global powers. The US and UK are in forefront in empowering India while Australia, Japan and Israel have provided necessary technology and expertise to enable India to carry out interdiction operations inside Pakistani territory under its well-articulated doctrine. Most importantly, Cold Start has already received political support required for it from the incumbent government led by Mr Modi. The US’s raised eyebrows at Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals and the subsequent agreement on providing F-16s, indicates its carrot-and-stick approach towards Pakistan.
Since the doctrine is not absolute, it must be continuously checked in light of improvements in technology and changes in the threat environment. From a military standpoint, the doctrine for the use of tactical nuclear weapons must be operationally credible so as to enhance deterrence. Pakistan’s need for a doctrine in specific regard to tactical nuclear weapons is rooted in these challenges, which are all genuine due to growing Indian conventional and nuclear capabilities. In such a situation, Pakistan has no option but to continue its nuclear doctrine while enhancing strategic relations with China and Russia.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2016.