One is not quite sure, given the dissonant and discordant voices emerging from Pakistan, as to whether our search for a peaceful way forward has once again been completely stymied or has just hit another speed- breaker. Time, and actions by the Pakistani establishment, will tell. The fact, however, cannot be disputed, whatever spin the opposition may like to put, that Prime Minister Modi made a genuine and path breaking attempt to get the dialogue jump started.
Let us also not forget that Mrs. Indira Gandhi despite holding 92000 prisoners of war was unable to carve out a more favourable accord at Simla to end the Kashmir imbroglio.
If dialogue has indeed been stalled, as the Pakistan High Commissioner has stated, then Pakistani motive is incomprehensible given that Mr. Modi would have been attending the SAARC summit to be held there in a few months from now. Certainly such an action would put a question mark on Mr. Modi’s willingness to be seen interacting with a political establishment that obviously has little control over issues that matter. If that were to happen, there seems little possibility of the Summit being taken seriously, becoming no more than just another talking shop.
The Opposition, and chiefly the Congress party, would have us believe that Mr. Modi’s policy towards Pakistan has been one that was neither consistent nor progressive, wavering from an utter refusal to meet to an effusive and casual visit to the Nawaz Sharief ancestral home. There is however, no gainsaying the fact that in all its years in power, the Congress and its allies were not very different and in fact completely lacked the toughness that Mr. Modi exhibited in responding to cross-border firing as also the boldness he showed in permitting the Special Investigation Team from Pakistan to visit Pathankot. Let us also not forget that Mrs. Indira Gandhi despite holding 92000 prisoners of war was unable to carve out a more favourable accord at Simla to end the Kashmir imbroglio. Let alone that, she was unable to get all our POW’s home, reportedly fifty four of them still remain at the mercy of the Pakistani government and our uncaring political, bureaucratic, media and judicial establishment, apart off course from the public that shows more interest in the fate of ‘B’ grade actors from Bollywood.
In whatever manner the Indo-Pak tango plays itself out is unimportant in the short term as there can be no change in the status quo. However, there is one vital issue, even more important than the fate of Kashmir that cannot wait for the dialogue process to restart. This is the issue of tactical nuclear weapons that Pakistan is working hard to acquire, an issue that was also discussed at great length in the recently concluded Nuclear Summit in Washington. Such weapons of extremely low yields and limited impact radius and consequently lesser ability to cause damage are only effective if deployed in penny packets in the likely theatre of operations. Such deployments not only adversely impact on its command and control because authority for its use is obviously delegated, if it is to be effectively utilized, but also because their physical security is bound to be less than fool-proof as many such systems have to be secured.
Given the numerical superiority of conventional forces that India has and also the nullification of its nuclear umbrella, the only viable option left with Pakistan was to consider the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons…
There would then be every possibility of their security elements and processes being compromised, especially in view of the Jihadi threat that afflicts that country and also given the fact that radicalization within its forces is not unknown. A specific dialogue to convince Pakistan of the inadvisability of deploying such weapons is of utmost importance as once they are deployed the world will face a host of challenges that can only make this region infinitely more dangerous.
The simple fact is that Pakistan has decided to deploy these weapons only after the Indian Army revealed its “Cold Start” doctrine. One may recall that one of the major lessons that emerged after “Operation Parakram” ended was that the failure of our strike elements to move into their launch pads in a viable time frame robbed India of any offensive options. The only manner in which this issue could be suitably addressed was to reorganize our holding formations in such a manner as to give them limited offensive capability that could be set in motion very quickly. The adoption of this doctrine once again gave the initiative in our hands as we had built up the capability to quickly set in motion offensive operations along a very wide front capable of ingressing into Pakistan up to a limited depth of somewhere in the region of 10-15 Kms.
Most importantly, this was a viable punitive option for dealing with any future event like the attack on Parliament or the Mumbai Attacks. Also, the limited advance into Pakistan also precluded the possibility of Pakistan using its nuclear option against us. While international analysts were unimpressed by this doctrine and didn’t hesitate to suggest this, Pakistan understood its true import as it would result in Pakistan losing approximately 1500-2000 sq. Kms of territory in five or six areas, all within Punjab, a totally unacceptable scenario.
Given the numerical superiority of conventional forces that India has and also the nullification of its nuclear umbrella, the only viable option left with Pakistan was to consider the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and adopt the erstwhile NATO doctrine of “graduated response”. That is if conventional forces were facing defeat to then graduate to the using of tactical nuclear weapons and if that did not lead to a cessation of hostilities a massive nuclear attack. This response had not been accepted by the Soviet Union at that time, which insisted that any use of nuclear weapons would be met with massive retaliation. India too has not made any changes in its nuclear doctrine enunciated in 2003 in which it has threatened massive retaliation against any use of nuclear weapons against it.
…India must cease the initiative and take necessary credible action to renounce its cold start doctrine unilaterally, thereby forcing Pakistan to reconsider its deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.
In addition opinion among the military hierarchy in India suggests that it is unwilling to be cowed down by deployment of tactical nuclear weapons which they feel can be neutralized by using higher proportion of NBC protected mechanized forcesand targeting areas in the vicinity of Pakistan’s border cities so that those cities would also bear the brunt of nuclear fallout if such weapons were used. Whether such confidence is misplaced or not is a difficult question to answer and best avoided by erring on the side of safety and progress.
While militaries of both sides continue to play a game of chicken- of who yields first. The truth is that game theory suggests that the worst outcome occurs when both sides do not yield and it is thus too serious a matter to be left unattended. It is a matter of simple logic that India must cease the initiative and take necessary credible action to renounce its cold start doctrine unilaterally, thereby forcing Pakistan to reconsider its deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. Towards this end, India must take the help of the international community to force Pakistan to accept the status quo. While such an action will adversely impact our punitive capability against Pakistan to some extent, it must be kept in mind that we have the most to gain by Pakistan not deploying tactical nuclear weapons.
Moreover, this was just one option that we had postulated and it should not be difficult for us to come up with other options that do not scare the Pakistani military establishment to the extent this has.