Dancing with India

Spearhead Analysis – 17.05.2016

India-Pakistan-FlagIn a recent article Ms Manpreet Sethi made three points against Pakistan. These are given in italics below and under each is the Pakistani point of view.

—For Pakistan—-nuclear weapons serve the purpose of deterring India’s conventional superiority. The Indian conventional strength bothers Pakistan because it fears its coming into play in response to its continued support for terrorism on Indian Territory. In one sense then, the objective of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is to provide it with the space and the immunity to continue its policy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts while shielding itself against a conventional Indian response.—Ms Manpreet Sethi

Not true. Pakistan tested in response to India’s tests because India’s conventional superiority plus nuclear weapons would have become an unacceptable threat to Pakistan given the distrust and the unresolved issues between the two countries. Given the asymmetric power situation Pakistan will not provoke India but India has a Cold Start Doctrine that means a sudden strike against Pakistan if there is a terrorist event in India and India determines that it has been sponsored by Pakistan.

—No first use (NFU) supported by massive retaliation is, therefore, the bedrock of Indian nuclear strategy. In contrast, the Pakistani nuclear strategy is premised on brinksmanship. It projects first use of nuclear weapons including their battlefield use, thereby threatening to take a conventional conflict to the nuclear level. This brinksmanship is projected through build up of ‘full spectrum’ deterrence – weapons of all yields, spread across all platforms, and from the tactical to the strategic type—Ms Manpreet Sethi.

Not quite correct. Pakistan would be foolish to premise a policy on brinkmanship. Pakistan does not project first use of nuclear weapons. It would resort to such use only when India threatens its survival as a state and the red lines that it does not want India to cross are well known to India. This also applies to ‘battlefield weapons’—these are a response to India’s Cold Start Doctrine. Now that India has brought BMD (ballistic missile defense) into the sub continent by testing an interceptor missile not only does full spectrum deterrence make sense but the spectrum has to be expanded–

—So, while India desires strategic stability in order to rule out the possibility of inadvertent or mistaken nuclear escalation in case of crisis, Pakistan would rather raise this risk to have India cowering—Ms Manpreet Sethi.

Not rational. Pakistan wants strategic stability in its relations with India as well as Afghanistan because its own internal stability and prosperity depends on strategic stability. Pakistan also wants to rule out inadvertent or mistaken nuclear escalation in case of a crisis. Pakistan does not want India cowering or crowing. Pakistan has proposed a bilateral Strategic Restraint Regime but India does not want to discuss it. Pakistan is ready for a Joint Crisis Control Mechanism to rule out inadvertent or mistaken nuclear use and escalation but India does not want it. As recent events have proved it is India that is actively involved in covert operations to destabilize Pakistan through RAW created networks and funding elements of a political party. India’s post event handling of the Pathankot attack does inspire hope that India and Pakistan can move towards cooperation and joint investigations/operations against terrorists in the future. Pakistan wants dialogue to resolve issues and build trust but India does not reciprocate.

Comment: India is the bigger country with bigger ambitions. India needs to have a big heart. Now that both India and Pakistan are nuclear weapon states they should break out of past mindsets and take steps to give each other the kind of reassurance that will eliminate the need for covert actions and asymmetric responses. It is time to focus on the people, on business and commerce and trade and travel. For this to happen there has to be dialogue and resolution of issues through dialogue so that trust can be built to the extent possible. CBM’s (Confidence Building Measures) to avert mistaken or inadvertent nuclear escalation will also come through dialogue.