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Nuclear Bluster or Dialogue

Nuclear Bluster or Dialogue

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Published by h86
A talk by Dr Maleeha Lodhi about India-Pakistan nuclear equation
A talk by Dr Maleeha Lodhi about India-Pakistan nuclear equation

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: h86 on Jun 18, 2013
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06/18/2013

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013From Print Edition
The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.
What should be made of a distinguished former Indian foreign secretary‟s assertionsabout his country‟s nuclear posture and policy?
In a speech last month in Delhi, Shyam
Saran made several pronouncements about the evolution of India‟s nuclear policy and
the current status of its nuclear deterrent.He cast these remarks as his personal views. But
Saran is current chairman `of India‟s
National Security Advisory Board. Many in India and outside saw his statements asarticulating official policy on a sensitive issue, while maintaining deniability. The Times of
India, for example, said Saran was “placing on record India‟s official nuclear posturewith the full concurrence of the highest levels of nuclear policymakers in Delhi”. And
Islamabad asked Delhi for an official clarification.
Saran‟s assertions
merit careful consideration. It is not surprising that he is irked by
“adulatory remarks” in “Western literature” about the safe and secure custody ofPakistan‟s nuclear assets by the „Strategic Planning Group‟ (presumably he means the
Strategic Plans Division). Insisting this is unmerited as the military has stewardship of theseassets, Saran overlooks the fact that it is the National Command Authority headed by
the prime minister that is Pakistan‟s apex nuclear authority. Saran also
disapproves ofthe int
ernational community‟s growing acknowledgement of the security
-driven nature
of Pakistan‟s nuclear programme. He strains to explain that India‟s nuclear capability is
security not prestige-driven
 – 
an explanation that has come four decades too late.However,
the most consequential part of his speech for Pakistan‟s security policymakersis where he presents a scenario that culminates with India engaging in “massivenuclear retaliation” against Pakistan
. He posits an escalatory ladder that presumablystarts with a sub-conventional event or terrorist attack, after which Pakistan tries to
 
dissuade India from carrying out punitive conventional retaliation, by deploying itstactical nuclear weapons. India responds by using strategic weapons.
Saran warns that any nuclear attack 
 – 
whether by strategic or tactical weapons
 – 
would
be met by “massive retaliation” from India. This will be “designed to inflictunacceptable damage on its adversary”
.
“Any nuclear exchange once initiated, would
swiftly and inexorably esc
alate to the strategic level”. “Pakistan”, he declares, should“be prudent not to assume otherwise as it sometimes appears to do, most recently bydeveloping and perhaps deploying theatre nuclear weapons”
.
Several of Saran‟s assumptions are open to quest
ion. First there is a presumption that
Pakistan‟s decision to develop battlefield nuclear weapons represents a nuclear war 
-fighting option. Official spokesmen have repeatedly said that Pakistan regards thesurface-to-surface solid fuel-based Hatf IX (Nasr), or any additional battlefield weaponthat may subsequently be developed, as primarily weapons of deterrence. Their purpose is to reinforce deterrence and restore nuclear stability that has been disturbedby i) growing conventional asymmetry in the region
as India‟s military build
-upcontinues; ii) provocative Indian military doctrines that aim to bring conventional
military offensives to a tactical level and iii) India‟s development of ballistic missile
defence (BMD) systems, whose purpose is to neutralis
e Pakistan‟s strategic capabilities.
 
As for Saran‟s claim that “significant shifts” in Pakistan‟s nuclear posture have altered
the regional nuclear equation, the fact is that Islamabad remains committed to itsnuclear policy of achieving credible nuclear deterrence at the lowest practical level.The central tenet of its nuclear policy is for its capability to be maintained for thepurpose of deterrence against aggression and war-prevention in all its manifestations,thereby preserving peace. Pakistan also believes that credible deterrence requiresappropriate levels of conventional and nuclear capabilities to be developed andmaintained.Most importantly
Saran‟s escalatory scenario lays bare an underlying frustration thatIndia‟s Cold Start Doctrine, now
 
known as “proactive operations”, has been challenged
 
if not blunted by Pakistan‟s TNW response
.
That is why this emerges as the main thrust of
his remarks and leads him to depict TNWs as “nuclear blackmail” by Pakistan. In doing
so he also reaffirms the Indian intent to preserve the limited war option and preventCold Start from being rendered irrelevant
.That
Saran believes that India can or should consider a punitive war against its nuclearneighbour in retaliation for an act of terror carried out by a non-state actor
isdisconcerting enough. But he then warns that if Pakistan tried to deter an Indianconventional attack by its TNWs, India would retaliate with nuclear weapons. This
represents dangerous thinking. But the strategic hole in Saran‟s escalat
ory scenario isthis.
In holding out the threat of “massive retaliation” he fails to factor in Pakistan‟s fullspectrum capabilities to counter “massive retaliation” not to speak of its potent second
strike capability. It is surprising why this typical but dangerous Mutually AssuredDestruction scenario has not been carefully thought through to its logical conclusion.
One interpretation of why Saran has focused attention on TNWs and declared a
“massive retaliation” Indian response is that this seeks to pl
ay on Western fears aboutthe risks of inducting battlefield nuclear weapons and the nuclear danger this couldexpose the region to. This may be designed to galvanise international pressure onPakistan to abandon the TNW option
. In the unlikely event that this were to happen it
would „restore‟ Cold Start and re
-
establish India‟s conventional military edge over 
Pakistan.
The rationale for Pakistan‟s decision to pursue a TNW capability is well known. It bears
repetition to understand why there appears to be mounting Indian frustration with this
development as indicated by Saran‟s speech. Pakistan perceived a number of rapiddevelopments in the past decade to adversely affect the region‟s strategic equilibrium
established after the 1998 nuclear tests conducted by both countries. They included theIndo-US civilian nuclear deal and the NSG exemption under which India was enabledto conclude fuel supply agreements with many countries. These significantly enhanced
India‟s ability to expand its strategic arsenal and in turn altered Pakistan‟s security
calculations.

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