Thirdly, is Pakistan serious when it enunciated that it will use TNWs on its own soil in a deteriorating situation, when an Indian military action is more likely to penetrate through Pakistan’s defences (or has already breached the main defence line causing a major setback to the defence) which cannot be restored by conventional means ? Does it imply that Pakistan will nuke its own soil when Indian forces are in contact threatening the defences of its population centres such as Lahore or Sialkot? What about the casualties to the civil population of Pakistan?
After islamization of Pakistan Army by the former president Zia-ul-Haq, absolute loyalty of some of these may be debatable. The chances of accidental detonation too would be far more when hundreds of such weapons are thrown out into the field.
According to a calculation by one expert, Pakistan would have to use a 30-kiloton weapon on its own soil, as this is the minimum required to render ineffective fifty percent of an armored unit. Using Lahore as an example, a 30-kiloton weapon used on the outskirts of the city could kill over 52,000 persons. As Indian troops move closer to Lahore and as the population increases, such a weapon could kill nearly 3,80,000.
Further, given the omnipresence and omnipotence of jehadists and terrorists in Pakistan, there is greater possibility that these TNWs may be stolen by any of these groups increasing the burden on the State with respect to security of these assets. One of the main focuses of the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington was the concern about threat of nuclear warheads; particularly of small tactical variety fielded in the battle field, or fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists. Pakistan is reported to have delegated the authority to launch these weapons to lower level field commanders for timely decisions during the fog of war. After islamization of Pakistan Army by the former president Zia-ul-Haq, absolute loyalty of some of these may be debatable. The chances of accidental detonation too would be far more when hundreds of such weapons are thrown out into the field.
To summarize, will Pakistan benefit strategically from these tactical nuclear weapons as perceived by them or are they a liability? C. Chrisine Fair in a recent article of his opined that the tactical nuclear weapons confer only limited utility to Pakistan. He appropriately concluded that, ” Even if Pakistan fully inducts these weapons in its arsenal, it still has an army that can’t win a conventional war against India and nuclear weapons it cannot use. This leaves only an industrial farm of terrorists as the only efficacious tool at its disposal. And given the logic of the above scenario, India and the international community should consider seriously calling Pakistan’s bluff. The only logical Pakistani response to a limited offensive incursion is to accept the fait accompli and acquiesce”.
India perhaps may the only major country in the world which does not have a clearly defined national security Doctrine or strategy laying down the nations security interests…
Use of nuclear weapons is a very serious business fraught with very grave consequences. In terms of present day ground realities, no country in the world could even venture to think of using the nuclear weapons which are at best political tools for nuclear deterrence and a ‘threat in being’ against nuclear coercion.
Indian Response and Future Course
Many in international community are skeptical about the nature and timely delivery of India’s ‘Second Strike’ and as well about its operational management. The pointers towards credibility are not against India’s weaponization in terms of quality, quantity or the delivery means, nor are these related to any apprehensions about the components of its ‘Triad” . The issue concerns more about India’s nuclear command and control structure, the speediness of decision making and communications within, lack of projection of our nuclear capabilities and a firm and updated nuclear policy proclamation, all of which would convey to the adversary the certainty and efficacy of a ‘Second Strike’.
Since many years, the Services as well as members of the strategic community have been highlighting the serious voids in India’s national security structure and the need for defence reforms. Successive governments have paid lip service to these issues. To begin with, India perhaps may the only major country in the world which does not have a clearly defined national security Doctrine or strategy laying down the nations security interests and the way to achieve these duly integrating and leveraging the nation’s capabilities in terms of military, diplomatic, finance, commerce and industry.
The same can be said about nuclear doctrine and weapons development programme. The Manmohan Singh Government had created a specialized ‘Strategy Programme Staff’ (SPS) (on the same lines of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division) to work on a perspective plan for India’s nuclear deterrent in accordance with a 10 year cycle. Presently there does not seem to be much traction towards nuclear strategy and the effective functioning of SPS is suspect. Institutions like SPS which are long term strategic nuclear planning and advisory bodies should be made more active as catalysts with a well defined mandate and empowerment, sans which we may lose control and direction in our nuclear strategy.
It is time that New Delhi take a holistic look at the whole gamut of ramifications and spell out clearly its nuclear doctrine.
The Indian Nuclear Doctrine and its operationalization was first articulated in a paper in 1998 and was later proclaimed by the government in 2003. Though a period of more than 13 years had passed since then, disconcertingly, the doctrine was neither revisited nor updated. The nuclear doctrines are not static but more dynamic requiring to be periodically reinforced with changing contours based on global developments and adversary’s capabilities and threats. This requirement is more pronounced and over due in Indian context after Pakistan had inducted tactical nuclear weapons into its inventory and expressed its proclivity to use them. A great deal of debate was generated about India’s NFU policy with inconclusive results. It is time that New Delhi take a holistic look at the whole gamut of ramifications and spell out clearly its nuclear doctrine.
Perhaps, the most glaring void in the chain of command & control is non-appointment of Chief of Defence Staff. Though many committees and studies pointed out the urgent need for early appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, this is yet to fructify. The Chief of Defence Staff as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) and as the controlling authority of Strategic Forces Command is a vital interface between the defence forces and the Government, providing a single point of professional advice on matters military. In nuclear context, ha acts as the link between the three services and the Strategic Forces Command and also as the interface between defence forces and the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) of the nation headed by the prime minister.
The present dispensation of having a skeleton nuclear cell under the National Security Advisor (NSA) who chairs the Executive Council of NCA is at best ad-hoc, too centralized in authority and cannot be a substitute for the professional institution of Chief of Defence Staff and the interface it provides between the defence forces operating on the ground and the NCA. The NCA and NSA by location, composition and infrastructure will not have real time information about the evolving situation in the battle field and will be constrained in timely decision making which is so critical in the nuclear context.
In the changing strategic and operational challenges of 21 Century battle field, it is but essential to integrate the three services into integrated theatre commands for optimization of capabilities, resources and manpower.
There is also the conjectural possibility that in the absence of Chief of Defence Staff, the Strategic Forces Command may completely bypass the military chain of command and operate directly under the NCA and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This, of course raises many more serious issues.
Other organizational issues related to national security architecture and defence reforms which need wider deliberation and determined action perhaps include :-
Vitalization and strengthening of national security institutions such as National Security Council (NSC) and National Security Advisory Board (NSAB). The NSC supposed to be the hub for deliberations and decision making relating to national security and meant to oversee the formulation of country’s nuclear strategy does not meet as often as desired. The term of NSAB tasked to undertake long term analysis and provide perspectives on issues of national security ended in January 2015 and was not reconstituted by the Government which is reportedly contemplating to close it, which perhaps is not desirable.
In the changing strategic and operational challenges of 21 Century battle field, it is but essential to integrate the three services into integrated theatre commands for optimization of capabilities, resources and manpower. Despite resistance from services, the need of the hour is integration up to the command level.
To be able to achieve effective deterrence, it is not just sufficient to have robust nuclear command & control set up, streamlined operational procedures and weapons capability for retaliation but must be perceived to be having all these and as well the will to use nuclear weapons if so required. These must be clearly signaled, projected and placed in national and international domain, without going into specifics, to be able to establish the credibility of our nuclear deterrence. The Government may consider making periodic statements about up gradations and accretions to our nuclear arsenal and streamlining of our structures including alternate command structure. Government officials, members of various policy formulation and advisory councils, members of our strategic community and research students should be encouraged to take part in discussions at home and abroad to project our nuclear deterrence without being warmongering.