The vice-like grip of Pakistan’s nuclear choreography is so mesmerising that India seems to be unable, or unwilling, break free of the spell it has cast, and so be able to evaluate hard facts and logical, eminently sensible, inferences in shooing the hobgoblin of strategic fears away. Maybe a time has come for India to shed her petrified inertia and end this exasperating farce. Hobgoblins, after all, are but big bubbles of void, and having no material or mass, are liable to be consigned to oblivion with just a slice of whip in the air.
Pakistan’s nuclearisation is one such hobgoblin which seems to hover over India’s lines of strategic thinking…
A Strategic Hobgoblin
Hobgoblins germinate in one’s mind and then fanning out to assume overbearing forms in the hapless owner’s pseudo-consciousness, loom threateningly to scare the wits out of him. That is a situation in which a captive’s mind is goaded into self-petrified paralysis. Pakistan’s nuclearisation is one such hobgoblin which seems to hover over India’s lines of strategic thinking. Thus, over the past decade we are struck with many cliché-riders that seem to have ensconced into our strategic perception and even if proved stale and irrelevant after many debates, continue to behold many of us to certain self-inflicted bindings.
The vice-like grip of Pakistan’s nuclear choreography is so mesmerising that India seems to be unable or unwilling, break free of the spell it has cast and so be able to evaluate hard facts and logical, eminently sensible, inferences in shooing the hobgoblin of strategic fears away. Maybe a time has come for India to shed her petrified inertia and end this exasperating farce. Hobgoblins, after all, are but big bubbles of void, and having no material or mass, are liable to be consigned to oblivion with just a slice of whip in the air.
Pakistan’s nuclearisation, as it is made out to be, is not just a simple matter of her survival against a neighbourhood enemy who is ostensibly out to gobble her up, as her rulers claim. It was and continues to be founded on certain self-realisations among Pakistan’s ruling class. These are: one, an innate impulse that would never let Pakistan reconcile with Kashmir or any part of it, being a part of India; two, the purported ordination that calls for them to ‘reclaim’ Muslim rule over the Indian sub-continent and three, a similarly ordained hostility towards the followers of Hindu faith – with which they are compelled to identify India just to keep their moribund ‘two nation’ theory alive. That these propagations are misplaced and nothing to do with Islam, does not improve the situation, implanted deep as these have been into the psyche of their citizenry and nurtured over the generations to merge into their gut. Pakistan’s state policies are but the manifestation of that innate compellence – that of compulsive anti-India obsession.
Pakistan’s state policies are but the manifestation of that innate compellence – that of compulsive anti-India obsession.
Pakistan’s rulers realise that their gut-ingrained anti-India obsession would never permit them to let India live in peace; that is but a culture and a habit to which they have converted their nation and from which there can be no escape. In other words, their core conviction implies that the ‘idea of Pakistan’ cannot flourish unless it is founded upon gross animosity towards the ‘idea of India’. It is, therefore, a foregone conclusion that just as they are compelled by their nature to undermine India no matter what misery it might bring to them, India too would be left with no option but to retaliate aggressively whenever an opportunity came her way. Break up of her Eastern wing in 1971, even if triggered by her own misdeeds, was thus viewed as a manifestation of India’s opportunistic intent. The Pakistani nation is thus trapped in an instinctive compulsion from which there can be no relief in the foreseeable future.
It is in reaction to that compellence that Pakistan had to go nuclear “even if we have to eat grass”, as Bhutto had promulgated and then continue to disproportionately expand her arsenal. The purpose is to acquire a safety-shield in the same manner that any habitual offender fortifies to save himself from the adverse consequences of what he cannot refrain from doing; if an opportunity ever comes to use that shield in destroying the enemy, so much the better.
Pakistan’s Nuclear License
The nuclear shield, even if made up of bits acquired by theft, black-marketing and pawning sovereign rights, has enamoured Pakistan’s strategists to no end. The satisfaction is particularly well served when her nuclearisation is viewed with more fear than it was ever expected to – by the Americans, Indians, and now even the Chinese. But even then, Pakistan’s rulers are smart enough not to lay store on that fear alone; they have undertaken to exacerbate that fear to the level of seizure. Thus setting out the nuclear hobgoblin to seize the Indian mind, they have proceeded to goad the expediency-driven Western powers to wean India away from whipping that hobgoblin into oblivion.
The ‘idea of Pakistan’ cannot flourish unless it is founded upon gross animosity towards the ‘idea of India’…
The many self-effacing analyses that one reads and hears in the Indian discourses emanate from that kind of psychological conditioning that is initiated by Pakistan’s strategists and their captive benefactors – mainly the USA and her lackeys and China. Ironically, in all such analyses, Pakistan’s ruling class, intransigent, irrational and rogue as they may be, come out as clear winners in their performance of nuclear choreography. India, on the other hand, is tutored by her Western sympathisers on the spirit of sublime propriety and so is expected to cower under the debris of nuclear devastation and desist from retaliating after Pakistan has fulfilled her promise of ‘first use’ across a ‘threshold’ that is to be determined by Pakistan’s rulers as and when they are inclined to do so! That is the farce of Pakistan’s nuclear licence.
Let us now put to test some of the most debilitating theories regarding the nuclear equation in our neighbourhood that often circulate in spoken and written discourses.
Narrative on Future War
The foremost argument regarding the reason for Pakistan’s nuclearisation has already been discussed in the preceding paragraphs. To reiterate, Pakistan has gone nuclear not to save herself from India’s ‘aggression’ even if that is the narrative she parrots for the consumption of the world and her own people. That step has been taken to fortify herself from the consequences of her uncontrollable urge to keep gnawing at India’s core nationhood which would at some stage oblige India strike at her offending hand.
Therefore, the idea, that Pakistan’s nuclearisation has negated the prospects of military confrontation between the two neighbours, is banal. For that welcome situation to manifest, Pakistan’s rulers, and more importantly, their brainwashed citizens who have now come to be counted, have to break free of their anti-India obsession. Notwithstanding the hug of cosmetic bonhomie which is played out whenever the elites of the two nations meet, that situation is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future. Pakistan’s torment of India and consequently the prospects of an Indo-Pakistan war therefore exist as ever. If it was not so, then Pakistan, having no other enemy – barring the terrorists owned by her – would be foolish to so assiduously continue to build up her conventional, India-centric military power.
The idea, that Pakistan’s nuclearisation has negated the prospects of military confrontation between the two neighbours, is banal…
Narrative on Limited War
It is propagated that Pakistan has had to take to nuclearisation to blunt what is claimed to be India’s ‘conventional military superiority’. The purpose, it is claimed, is to prevent India from applying that superiority to bring about the collapse of the Pakistan state. The reason for India to indulge in such a strange venture is left unstated, of course. The interesting part is that this idea has rattled many Indian analysts, who when confronted with the unnerving prospects of finding little employability for India’s 1.2 million military establishment, literally have to plead a proposition that, as it is pronounced with some sagacity, “There is still left a space for limited war under the nuclear overhang” (sic).
On their part, Pakistani analysts seem to accede to the entreaties of their Indian counterparts. In so doing, they refer to certain unspecified ‘threshold’ crossing of which by India’s conventional forces would trigger Pakistan’s ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons. Both sides having thus found their cause celebre, there is satisfaction all around. That leaves the matter of Pakistan’s ‘threshold’ in deliberate ambivalence; at some point, India’s so-called ‘occupation’ of Kashmir or insinuated ‘diversion’ of Jhelum waters could well be construed by Pakistan to be on the wrong side of her ‘threshold’!
The point is that having her conventional deterrence repudiated thus, it is India which stands to lose. If India’s conventional military strength and her national resources are to be brought to bear to deter a habitually intransigent Pakistan, this argument of “some space for limited war… etc.” has to be discarded in favour of prosecuting war, if and when unpreventable, in which duration, intensity, depth and spread of operations would be decided in consonance with India’s advantages at that juncture.
There is no sense in India speculating about Pakistan’s ambivalent ‘threshold’ and imposing deterrence upon herself in the process. All wars, even the ‘all-out’ variety, are ‘limited’ in some sense or the other in any case, and therefore, it is by default that the more powerful party decide that ‘limit’ to which it will go to punish its enemy. Allowing a lesser power to set a ‘threshold’ is but a travesty of a nation’s strategy.