If the purpose is just deterrence, then it is better to seek a balanced deterrent posture
“Deterrence is the art of producing, in the mind of the enemy, the fear to attack.” — Dr Strangelove, 1964.
Essentially, every country has to maintain certain policies in order to meet its security concerns both globally and internally. While defining the tasks for adopting a certain set of principals or policies, Henry Kissinger stated that the aim of choosing certain policy options is to translate “the power into policy”, so that states know “what objectives are worth contending for and determine the degree of force appropriate for achieving them.”
In Pakistan’s context, it had two choices while shaping or designing its nuclear deterrence, one was the war denying deterrence and the other was the war fighting deterrence. Both choices had a different pattern of implications, including developmental strategies. War denying deterrence required the minimum number of weapons, while the war fighting deterrence needed large amounts of nuclear arsenal, a variety of delivery means and missile defence programs etc. Pakistan’s economy and strategic interests allow only the pursuit of the war denying deterrence. This is the reason the Pakistan does not believe in the need for nuclear parity and is just seeking to maintain a deterrent equilibrium or, more precisely, is just balancing the threat created by the conventional superiority of the enemy. Pragmatically, if one state has to adopt a war fighting nuclear doctrine, then it is desirable for that state to opt for nuclear parity with its adversary. However, if the purpose is just deterrence, then it is better to seek a balanced deterrent posture. Resultantly, Pakistan principally decided to adopt the option of credible minimum deterrence. Now, minimum deterrence and its credibility comes into question.
While defining the minimum deterrence, Rodney W Jones stated that “the term minimum rapidly became a fixture of the public nuclear discourse in South Asia. Neither India nor Pakistan officially clarified what the term minimum means leaving this open to speculations. Does minimum imply the sufficiency of small numbers of nuclear weapons; Nuclear weapons held in reserve; low reading or alert rates of a nuclear force; renunciation of nuclear war fighting or mainly counter-value targeting? Or does the minimum merely make a virtue of today’s facts of life in the subcontinent — limited resources, scarce weapons material, unproved delivery systems, and still undeveloped technical military capabilities?”
Since Pakistan is a minor nuclear weapon state of the second atomic age, the term minimum is only used to send a satisfactory message to the international community. Depending upon smaller nuclear weapons is comparatively more manageable in terms of deployment, maintenance, command and control systems etc. Certainly the minimum minimises the dangers of inadvertence and the misuse of nuclear weapons. The term minimum also mollifies the proliferation concerns of the international community. The term credibility has been added in order to add ambiguity, perhaps for psychological comfort or to leave room for modernising the weapon inventories. Paradoxically, policy makers in Pakistan feel convinced that this ambiguity serves the purpose of deterrence well. A credible system would, in such circumstances, help keep a psychological check on the adversary. Also, it would provide the protagonist an additional cushion of comfort, as viewed by Ms Sadia Tasleem in her essay entitled “Towards an Indo-Pak Nuclear Lexicon-II: Credible Minimum Deterrence”. The emphasis on the word credible was meant to reinforce the importance of credibility. It does not suggest a shift from the minimum deterrence policy.
The posture of credible minimum deterrence has remained the principle option for Pakistan’s nuclear policy. This principle is based on the concept that Pakistan’s nuclear policy is driven by its perceived threat to its security from India and is therefore India-centric. Deterrence is the sole aim and a small arsenal is considered adequate to satisfy it. But ironically, the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons and battlefield weapons in the region is actually a modernised advancement in the inventories. These weapons are meant to balance out the inferiority complex. So, it could be concluded that it is only when states feel threatened that they opt to defend their territory and sovereignty, which actually compels them to maximise and enrich their security measures under the perceived threat of vulnerability. But to maintain a deterrent posture, according to my understanding, a large number of weapons is not necessary because the possession of a nuclear weapon is in itself enough for crafting deterrence. Even by possessing one nuke, nuclear aggression from the other state can be discouraged. So the question of numeric parity or nuclear sufficiency does not make sense in this case. Therefore, it would not be incorrect to conclude that credible minimum deterrence is different from nuclear parity and nuclear supremacy.
The writer works for the Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Crafting Deterrence for Nuclear Policies | Beenish Altaf