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HomePakistanTactical nuclear weapon Deterrence stability between India and Pakistan

Tactical nuclear weapon Deterrence stability between India and Pakistan

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Associate Professor School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad
India and Pakistan relations have been fraught with conflict since 1947. New Delhi’s recent doctrinal transformation, upsurge in its anti-missile program, and gigantic investment in the conventional weaponry have obliged Islamabad to reciprocate by manufacturing and testing a credible-cum-transparent new weapon-NASR missile on April 19, 2011.
Indeed, to prevent India’s hegemony in South Asia, Islamabad requires an unyielding conventional fence and credible nuclear second strike. The solidification of the Pakistani defensive fence needs three things: strategic vigilance, a sophisticated national military buildup program,1 and above all, finances to bear the burden of military modernization. The first two are easier to accomplish provided the third article is on a positive trajectory.
India’s growing economy encourages colossal investment in its military arsenals. Conversely, Pakistan’s increasing economic fragility and unending war on terrorism limits the latter’s options to invest in the military buildup. This prevalent economic equation obviously facilitates New Delhi to shift the balance of power in its favor. The overwhelming majority in Pakistan believe that if the balance of power were heavily skewed in favor of India, it would be likely to launch a hegemonic war against Pakistan.
The gradual fattening of the Indian military muscle naturally exacerbates the military Vulnerability of Pakistan. Therefore, the latter’s defense planners continuously endeavor to preserve the balance of power to sustain the deterrence stability between the belligerent neighbors in South Asia.
Though Islamabad has limited options to cope with the emerging strategic puzzles due to its economic challenges, it still has room for maneuvering. The economic limitations also necessitate that Islamabad must be vigilant, calculated, and sensitive to India’s bait-and-bleed and bloodletting strategies,2 i.e. a costly arms race, limited war, and luring it into a prolonged struggle with religiously radicalized / extremist groups through its armed forces.3 Nonetheless, India’s doctrinal change entailing military buildup necessitates that Islamabad implement counter measures albeit at a Reasonable cost.
India’s revisionist military strategy and Pakistan’s status quo-oriented tactics at the technical Level of grand strategy may be perilous for the current deterrence stability between Indian and Pakistan. Hence, the subject of deterrence stability between India and Pakistan has been attracting an immense amount of attention to strategic observers since the latter tested its NASR Missile in April 2011.
The NASR missile test has instigated a debate about the tactical nuclear weapons’ (Particularly in Pakistani arsenal) role in the deterrence stability between India and Pakistan. Strategic pundits, intoxicated with the concept of minimum nuclear deterrence,’ confidently plead that India’s military buildup could not destabilize Pakistan’s defensive fence because of its
Nuclear arsenal. They tried to establish that Islamabad’s anxiety over India’s anti-missile program and Cold Start Doctrine, declassified on April 2004, has been due to its strategic alarmist miscalculations.4 Significantly, many analysts concluded that Pakistan’s pursuit of a new generation of nuclear weapon, i.e. tactical nuclear weapon, for its deterrence credibility contains ingredients of instability.
Indeed, a new generation of weapon creates power transition and intensifies the security dilemma between the strategic competitors. The introduction of a newly invented weapon taxes the strategic stability and thereby could jeopardize deterrence stability.
Conversely, in certain cases, if the new generation of weapon is invented and introduced in arsenals as a reaction to the strategic revisionist state’s military buildup, particularly designs to defend or preserve the balance of power or status in the prevalent strategic environment, it bolsters the strategic stability. However, it is a tested verity that the new generation of weapon is a catalyst for arms race. The arms race always fabricates mis-perceptions and miscalculations, which are injurious to deterrence stability between the strategic competitors.
India’s doctrinal transformation obsessed with the revisionist strategic outlook, and Pakistan’s endeavors to seize every opportunity to maximize its power, including new generation of nuclear weapons despite being a military cost-sensitive state, marked that the arms race continues between South Asian nuclear capable states. In addition, New Delhi’s steadfast denunciation of Islamabad’s Nuclear Restraint Regime proposal underlines the absence of solid con-structsarms Control arrangements between the strategic peers of deterrence stability between the belligerent Neighbors.
The threat of the use of nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out completely in the future war between India and Pakistan. In this context, the dueling impact of the tactical nuclear weapon on the deterrence stability between India and Pakistan necessitates an objective analysis.
In the Following discussion, the analysis will be based on intensely debated paradoxes, i.e. the strategic Stability / instability paradox and vulnerability / invulnerability paradox.
Enforcing Stability/Instability Paradox
South Asia has been experiencing fierce India-Pakistan security competition fuelled by the power and fear of a rising India.5 The United States Strategic Partnership with both India and Pakistan has failed to cool the security competition between India and Pakistan. Though Washington played a decisive role in lowering the tensions or facilitated in averting tension escalation into war during the last two decades,6 it has failed to prevent them from military modernization.
Nor has Washington helped constitute a substantial bilateral arms control agreement/treaty. In reality, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and India-U.S. Space Cooperation have had bolstering impact on India’s military modernization. The benign inclination towards India is an outcome of Washington’s global policy of engagement and enlargement’ in the 21st century.
Accordingly, it needs an Asian power to check China’s prospects of becoming a potential regional hegemon in Asia and a peer competitor of the United States. More precisely, India’s military buildup, which is perilous for the regional strategic stability, receives assistance from the United States.
India has been on a path to major military development nuclear weapons, offensive strategic/tactical ballistic and cruise missiles, missile defense system, and conventional arms.
The missile defense system program reveals that India has not been content with the development of its triad of nuclear forces and relying on its nuclear second-strike capability. Although an operational missile defense system is years away, this is certainly a first step in changing the nuclear balance between India and Pakistan. In addition, India’s Cold Start doctrine and military purchases signify the increasing conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan. These developments reinforce stability/instability paradox in the region.
Absence of Arms Control
between India and Pakistan
The intellectual and political movements in favor of a nuclear-weapon-free South Asia suffer from unconvincing rationales, inherent contradictions, and unrealistic expectations. They have failed to bring about any shift in the perceptions of India-Pakistan nuclear optimists.
Hence, the vertical proliferation of nuclear capabilities is inevitable in India and Pakistan due to the emerging South Asian regional security architecture. Indeed, Islamabad proposed to New Delhi a nuclear restraint regime with a concrete proposal to prevent missile race between them.
Unfortunately, India-Pakistan belligerency and New Delhi’s obsession with regional superiority have prevented New Delhi and Islamabad from chalking out a bilateral arms control agreement. India’s Cold Start Doctrine and missile defense program further minimized the possibility of an arms control arrangement between India and Pakistan.
The strategic calculations indicate that the fattening of one party’s military muscle obliges the other party to take equal actions in order to solidify its defensive fence.
Minimum Deterrence: Unconvincing
Both New Delhi and Islamabad reiterate credible minimum deterrence doctrines. Theoretically, minimum deterrence offer clarity, but practically, it is more intangible. The inbuilt abstraction in the concept does not only defy the literal meaning of minimum deterrence, but also creates a space for the strategic alarmists’ fascination with the worst case scenario in the strategic discourse.
Therefore, instead of adopting a minimalist approach, India and Pakistan have been executing maximal’ deterrence doctrines, which continuously build up their nuclear arsenals qualitatively and quantitatively. The gradual fattening of India and Pakistan nuclear muscle immensely dented the strategic notion that nuclear deterrence is not about numbers.’
India’s nuclear devices, offensive and defensive missiles, conventional arms development, and procurement manifest that it has no faith in the mere possession of nuclear capability at the limited scale, and thereby it has been very much uncomfortable in the strategic environment constructed by the balance of power (?) due to the nuclearization of belligerent neighbors in May 1998.
New Delhi’s endeavor to overcome its prevalent strategic anxiety necessitates Pakistan to adopt certain measures for the sustainability of the status quo, i.e. strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. These measures defy the philosophy of minimum deterrence that prevents arms race between the strategic competitors.

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