While our Prime Minister plays the conjuror with war clouds and the mysteries of lightening strikes, a grave and potently disastrous possibility of an armed Indo –Pak conflict is being peremptorily dismissed, through mere warnings of the most awful consequences of a nuclear war. The more responsible approach of ensuring that the use of nuclear weapons is prevented at all costs, particularly by those who have the capacity to do so, is being deliberately sidestepped. The world cannot permit the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima to revisit mankind again in the 21st century. The members of the nuclear club- ‘recognized’ and ‘yet to be recognized’- have a moral responsibility to all of humanity-a responsibility that cannot be shrugged away under the garb of diplomacy or the niceties of international relations. The consequences are far to grave.
Pakistans nuclear weapons program was conceived as a strategic necessity against India”¦ Instead of being a back up or “˜a last resort capability to be used when all else has failed, it has been recklessly paraded as a “˜first choice- weapon.
At a fundamental level the philosophy of nuclear warfare as it has evolved through the ‘cold war’ had come to recognize that while nuclear weapons have a great deterrent value bordering on the ‘absolute’, they are not really usable when deterrence fails. The afore said position has an inherent contradiction and has been debated at considerable length, but the centrality of the premise that nuclear weapons, in the ultimate analysis are weapons that are not meant to be detonated remains. A self- imposed restraint accompanies the acquisition of nuclear capability.
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was conceived as a strategic necessity against India. In the backdrop of the breakup of the country in 71, our nuclear test in 74 and its unfinished agenda of wresting Kashmir from us, this was justifiable. But its nuclear policy and its practice seems to have gone awry from the time Pakistan first acquired its nuclear weapons fabrication and delivery capability, howsoever rudimentary that might have been. Instead of being a back up or ‘a last resort’ capability to be used when all else has failed, it has been recklessly paraded as a ‘first choice- weapon’.
And, instead of frowning on such irresponsible brinkmanship, most of the ‘first world’ went along and as a matter of fact,assisted Pakistan in its bizarre gamesmanship, for some frivolous or imaginary gains in the cold war calculus. With the fading away of the ‘cold war’ shouldn’t a fresh appraisal reveal the flaws of pursuing old policies like the recent appearance of the story in the American media (and faithfully reproduced by us) of the nuclear shadow boxing that Pakistan indulged in, during the Kargil War? Unfortunately, much to our dismay, the West has not been able to jettison its old mind-sets; otherwise its tone and tenor would have been markedly different to the current crisis that engulfs the Indian Sub Continent.
“¦Pakistan thinks that it can indulge in nuclear brinkmanship to pursue unimpeded, its covert war in Kashmir- a sub conventional war diabolically designed to draw sustenance from terrorism across India.
The contours of Pakistan’s nuclear strategy began to unfold from the latter half of the eighties when the first hints of a possible nuclear flashpoint appeared in the Western media as tensions built up over the Indian Army’s deployment for ‘Exercise Brass Tacks’. The hint graduated to a clear threat in 1990 again conveyed to us by Washington and London. From then onwards, in concert with its covert war in Kashmir, its nuclear blackmail has continued to get increasingly brazen; even if you sneeze I will bomb you. And what is truly lamentable is that the West actively endorses this strategy; never even a hint to Pakistan to exercise caution and restraint and refrain from beating the nuclear war drums at the drop of a hat.
Some felt that the transition from the covert to the overt status in 1998 would introduce an element of maturity and responsibility in the Country’s philosophy of nuclear deterrence. Instead their propensity to gamble and precipitate nuclear flashpoints has increased and finds blatant expression in the statements of its leaders. One does not have to try and read the fine print of the messages emanating from Pakistan. Since April, beginning with the interview of President Musharraf by a German news magazine, India has been subjected to a barrage of brazen threats. Compare this with the Indian disposition. Not a word on the subject. But it would be a fatal mistake if the silence were read for submission.
India has been the patient and forbearing victim of aggression for more than a decade. Its Nationhood is at stake if it does not act to stop the aggression.
The attempted strategic overreach through nuclear weapons by Pakistan is a reflection of that Country’s inability to rationally bridge the gap between its ambitions and its capability. In recent years, among a small cross- section of Pakistani society the realization is sinking in, but the wider majority still does not wish to abandon its emotional moorings tethered to the dream of annexing Kashmir from India by force. Consequently we have Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine that borders on the unreasonable. Firstly and justifiably Pakistan expects its nuclear arsenal to give it the requisite defensive capability against a nuclear threat from India. Secondly, and this is where the problem begins, it believes that the growing conventional disparity with India can be neutralized by its ‘first use’ doctrine. Thirdly, as logic gets sacrificed to wishes, Pakistan thinks that it can indulge in nuclear brinkmanship to pursue unimpeded, its covert war in Kashmir- a sub conventional war diabolically designed to draw sustenance from terrorism across India. It is for these reasons that India’s attempts to lower the nuclear temperature have not yielded results. Our offer for a ‘no first use’ agreement was spurned. Instead, knowing that our nuclear program had other threats to address, Pakistan countered with the proposal for a mutual agreement to abjure the possession of nuclear weapons.
After more than a decade of mythical blackmail, Pakistan to its dismay is now discovering that its nuclear deterrence doctrine is beginning to backfire. The near certainty of India’s imminent military response to Pakistan’s covert war has finally put Pakistan’s nuclear philosophy to its first severe test. Its deterrence has definitely failed on two principal counts: first-prevent India from using its conventional force to counter Pakistan’s covert war in Kashmir and second – to neutralize India’s conventional superiority by the threat of ‘first use’. The collapse of its nuclear shield coupled with its awareness that it cannot militarily match India puts the Pakistani leadership in an extremely precarious position. It can only be hoped that under such circumstances prudence and a consciousness of their responsibility towards the people of their country will govern their actions.
The Indo-Pak nuclear equation is not yet in a state of equilibrium. As of now there are uncertainties about our mutual capabilities. They range from the number of warheads to the type of warheads, their yields, the reliability of the trigger mechanism, the dependability of the delivery systems, the mating of the warhead with the delivery system, the safety locks and keys and the command and control system. Matters are compounded by the short time of flights to each other’s targets and the absence of the grammar for nuclear signaling and escalation control. To this inherently unstable cauldron if we add rash and reckless threats the recipe will be ripe for disaster. Brinkmanship can work only up to a point. The possibility of a preemptive response to blackmail should not be ignored. Sagacity lies in knowing when to step back. The Nuclear Club must take urgent stock of these issues, for drift under the circumstances may not be able to avert disaster.
It is time for Pakistan to seriously introspect and for the West to reevaluate its position in order to save mankind from another nuclear holocaust
In the current crisis the role of the World’s only super power merits attention. When the US moved into Pakistan in the build up to its campaign in Afghanistan its concern for the keys of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands was widely reported. A little later it was also reported that appropriate measures have been taken to ensure the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The implications are obvious. Subsequently the Americans have also been claiming that they are exercising control over most of Pakistani air space in order to ensure the safety of American and Allied troops operating against the Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With this kind of an overarching hold and influence of the US over Pakistan many of the US and British actions and statements in the build up to the current crisis defy explanation.
India has been the patient and forbearing victim of aggression for more than a decade. Its Nationhood is at stake if it does not act to stop the aggression. After painstakingly exhausting all options to convince Pakistan to abandon cross border militancy and terrorism it has now reluctantly decided to contemplate the use of its conventional military capability. It’s been a very deliberate decision and it is wholly unlikely that at this stage nuclear threats will deter India. It is time for Pakistan to seriously introspect and for the West to reevaluate its position in order to save mankind from another nuclear holocaust.