Nuclear Episodes and the Pokhran Legacy

L
ike India nuclearized the Subcontinent in 1974, it has proliferated the Indian Ocean by building an open-ended triad of nuclear forces. Since then, India has been the provocateur and seeks regional hegemony and global status. Indian motivations behind becoming a nuclear weapon state had a high tone of revising the global and regional order, which emanates from its ideology.

For this, India has made many counter-productive moves to show its power in the region and beyond. Threatened by these moves, Pakistan has time and again struggled to restore peace and stability in the region.

Indian acquisition of ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield is a case in point. This so-called shield is a two-tiered offensive system of Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) and the Advanced Air Defense (AAD) that collectively provides a high- low cover to any incoming ballistic missiles It is offensive system because it gives India a false sense of security and the tendency to either strike first or go for a decapitating nuclear strike. This is because India has developed sea-based offensive capability, has canister-based missile systems and MIRV capability.

Recent developments in Indian BMD include the test of interceptor missile to intercept and dedtroy hostile ballistic missiles in space, test of Ashwin missile in 2016 and also the extremely advanced electronics and surveillance vessel, as a missile range instrument, Ship VC 11184 in system trials which is a dedicated element of Phase II of India’s BMD. Pakistan has shown increased concerns regarding BMD development by India as it can provide India a false sense of security, resulting in Indian Military opting for military adventurism vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Nevertheless, Pakistan has given measured and restrained responses to Indian attempt of eroding deterrence stability in the region. Islamabad also introduced Hatf VII with a primary purpose to counter Indian BMD shield with Babur-3 submarine launched cruise missile that has a range of 450 km, which is not enough. More measures should be taken in this regard. Pakistan also introduced Pakistan’s Ababeel, Multi Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) missile which will restore minimal measures for deterrence equation of the country.

Likewise, Indian nuclear triad is also a key security concern for deterrence stability in the region as the completion of nuclear triad and assured second strike capability by only one adversary acts as a destabilizer. India has not only tested a 3,000 Km ranged K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and K-15 Sagarika SLBM with a range of 750 Km, but also commissioned nuclear submarine Arihant – thanks to Russian, Israeli and other generous support. This gives a risk taking and religiously fundamentalist Indian government an edge in completion of nuclear triad.

Another Arihant class submarine INS Aridhaman is already under construction and a fleet of six to eight SSBNs would be ready by 2022. Each of these SSBNs will be able to carry twelve K-5 missiles and four K-4 missiles. It is confounding to note that Obama administration was completely oblivious to genuine security concerns of Pakistan.

In the past, in case of conflict, Pakistan could be under privileged because, earlier, it didn’t cover the Nicobar, and the Andaman Islands which had also been reportedly used as strategic bases by India, through any missile. Hence, Pakistan opted for an extremely precise response in shape of Shaheen III, as stated by General Kidwai, to cover the standoff India was trying to build. Pakistan should likewise plug other gaps that India is trying to create in the deterrence equation in order to stabilize it.

Indian growing conventional capabilities capped with its Cold Start Doctrine have also been viewed as a threat by Pakistan. It has been a first time that an Indian Chief of Army Staff, by design or by default, conceded openly to the existence of the Indian pre-emptive and highly destabilising strategy. The CSD could have extremely serious repercussions in a state of conflict between India and Pakistan. To mitigate this threat of serious military misadventure by India, Pakistan was forced to develop Nasr missile that is a short-range-low-yield system.

Although, Pakistan has been repeatedly proposing many confidence building measures in the region and also offered Strategic Restraint Regime in order to create stability in the region. Nevertheless, introduction of nuclear weapons by India in the sub-continent, and later nuclear modernization have acted as destabilizers in the region, forcing Pakistan to tailor its nuclear weapons program and responses along the geographic and logistical physiognomies.

Before calling it a day, the last U.S. Vice President Joe Biden singled out Pakistan along for making "counterproductive" moves that only heightened the risk that nuclear weapons could be used in a regional conflict. Why was it so important to make this point? Interestingly, unidirectional focus on Pakistan and conveniently outnumbering Indian unrestrained force posture and doctrinal developments have always compelled Pakistan to take minimal measures to maintain peace, stability and deterrence in the region.

Perhaps there should be a balanced approach in calculating numbers for both Asian rivals and must have acknowledged why Pakistan has always exercised extreme restraint in responding to Indian behavior.

Indian noxious Pokhran legacy was ignored and Pakistan had to face the consequences and devise response options after cost and benefit analysis. Similarly, Indian military and nuclear weapons modernization for example MIRVing and canisterizing of missiles, if goes unnoticed by the states, will create more drastic impact not only in the region in particular, but also globally. Hence, rather than blaming Pakistan which is trying to ensure peace and security in the region, Trump administration must try to constrain India for revising the global and regional order and become at threat to the American security.

Anum A. Khan is a Senior Research Fellow at Strategic Vision Institute, Isb Pakistan.. She is an M. Phil Scholar from NDU with majors in Strategic and Nuclear Studies. She has a previous background of Media Studies form International Islamic University Islamabad.

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