It is generally held that if terrorists got hold of some nukes, they will intentionally annihilate the bulk of human population within a short span of time. However, the experts question the experience and ability of terrorists to develop nukes orto assemble nuclear warheads, if they get access of some to thosein future. Nuclear Terrorism is a new subject for nuke speakers to spread panic among the peace-loving people across the globe who do not have enough knowledge about the dichotomy between the authorized and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
Many experts have argued that the emerging from the chances of a nuclear exchange is more likely to involve the nuclear states rather than from terrorists using nukes to eliminate their enemies. There are no confirm reports or evidence regarding theft of an intact nuclear weapon by non-state actors or terrorists. Despite theorists knowing about the lethality of nukes, irrationality from head of states and military officers, nuclear mafia, and poor governance of nuclear weapons in some nuclear states altogether have largely supported the nuclear weapons for deterrence.
Severaltheorists have championed the deterrence theory with the support of realists and neo-realists.Hans Morgenthau, Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, Kenneth Waltz, Sumit Ganguly, and John Mearsheimer have largely supported nuclear weapons for deterrence or for avoiding major wars between the belligerent states. However, Vipin Narang is of the view that these theorists have undermined the nuclear postures of respective states. For instance, India and Pakistan’s nuclear doctrines are challenged by numerous experts on the grounds that both nuclear states have unclear and provocative nuclear postures that can easily culminate into a nuclear winter between the two enemy states.
The states of India and Pakistan have crossed the nuclear threshold in May 1998 by denoting 11 nuclear devices. Subsequently, both states have provided clarifications about their nuclear tests and claimed loudly to be responsible nuclear weapon states. After the nuclear explosions, optimists argued that nukes will stabilize the tensions between the two states, however, Timothy Hoyt writes that South Asia still remains a dangerous place contrary to the arguments put forward by certainanalysts that nuclear weapons would induce stability. He further arguesthat the divide between India and Pakistan hascreated a distrust owing to non-resolution of Kashmir dispute.
The studies on India-Pakistan nuclear doctrines have presented a negative message for world peace because of the several loopholes highlighted by the experts in the nuclear policies of the two countries.Scott Sagan presents a worrisome picture of about the organizational biases in the context of Indo-Pak nuclear relationship. He argues that both the states have exchanged nuclear threats during the crisisand Kargil War of 1999, and cannot be trusted to behave rationally in future. Sagan explicitly states that there are “imperfect humans inside imperfect organizations” in India-Pakistan nuclear relationship and in the nuclear deterrence might fail in the future.Similarly, Vipin Narang portrays the interest of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s nuclear superiority over Pakistan the role it plays to accelerate India’s nuclear arsenal in order to dominate Pakistan and counter China. The nuclear arms race might result into the mismanagement of nuclear warheads due to organizational biases in the context of India and Pakistan as well. From Narang’s statement it is quite apparent that minimum deterrence pledge taken by both states will not be implemented because of the intense rivalry and trust deficit between the two states.
There is no official nuclear doctrine of Pakistan. However, Lt. General Khalid Kidwai identifies four thresholds for Pakistan’s use of nukes: First, Space Threshold: If India occupies a large portion of Pakistani territory. Second, Military Threshold: If India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land or air forces. Third, Economic Threshold: If India tries to strangle Pakistan’s economy. And fourth, Political Threshold: If India destabilizes Pakistan’s domestic political system. As nuclear warheads of Pakistan are Indo-centric, it declares that it will use its nuclear weapons on its first strike against conventional attack from India.
India disclosed its nuclear doctrine with no-first use pledge and minimum deterrence posture in 1999. However, the 2003 revision of India’s nuclear doctrine diluted the no-first useclause by countenancing nuclear first use against a ‘major attack’ using the other two weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons. The other changes in 2003 revision included the shift from minimum deterrent to credible minimum deterrent posture and posture of no-first use of nukes, nukes will be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. The word ‘anywhere’ was added to the 2003 doctrine, that underscores the possibility that Indian soldiers could be fighting a conventional war inside Pakistan.
One can easily understand why India have added the word ‘anywhere’ to the 2003 doctrine andhas disclosed the Cold Start Doctrine as a limited war option under the nuclear umbrella after the 2001-2002 stalemate between India and Pakistan. India’s nukes have failed to deter Pakistan in 1999 Kargil war and other sub-conventional conflicts. That is why a limited war doctrine was disclosed by India to warn Pakistan to halt cross-border terrorism. However, Pakistan explicitly stated it will use its Nasr Missile, a tactical nuclear weapon on its own soil against Indian troops.
Indian leaders warned Pakistan several times to destroy it completely by massive retaliation (unacceptable damage) after Pakistan threatened to nuke India. However, Sumit Ganguly and Devin Hagerty argue that India’s no-first use pledge is nothing but a ‘rhetorical device’. Raja Menon argues that there is inter-service rivalry in India as Indian Air Force (IAF) might not wait for Pakistan’s first strike. As per IAF planning study, Vision 2020, IAF is planning for first strike capability in future. Sagan also states that no-first strike does not mean that India doesnot have a first strike capability. He also points outthat the Indian Nuclear Air Command is working towards having a first strike capability. Similarly, Vipin Narang argues that India will not allow Pakistan to nuke it first. The pre-emptive strike option was always in the minds of Indian decision makers during the crisis situations.
The most alarming source in South Asian region is never ending nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. The minimum deterrent posture is no longer a valid option for both states. According to the 2017 worldwide nuclear report by Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris,there are nearly fifteen thousand (15000) nuclear weapons in the world. The source of alarm is that amongst the 15, 000 nuclear weapons, 1800 are on high alert and ready for use at a short notice.The report also mentions that both India and Pakistan are qualitatively and quantitatively increasing their nuclear arsenal. The nukes have been increased to provide a boost to nuclear deterrence.
John Mearsheimer sounds confident about the success of nuclear deterrence due to mighty ocean barrier between the US and Russia. However, he is of the view that nuclear deterrence might not succeed in those belligerent states which share close borders. For instance, India and Pakistan do not have enough time to decide whether an attack is deliberate or accidental, the response will be catastrophic as a retaliation. Due to an advantage of missile defence systems, the belligerent states might opt for a nuclear war. Harmen Kahn has explicitly stated that nuclear war can be won because of missile defence systems, evacuations, shelters, and shells.
Similarly, the missile defence system might not function well in the context of India and Pakistan because massive first strike of missiles will break down the defence system easily. The missiles will travel in few minutes, there are also chances of failure of alarming system to judge the incoming missile. Rajesh Rajagopalan interestingly argues that Pakistan possesses missiles which are superior to that of India due to an assistance to Pakistan from China and North Korea in making missiles. According to experts the Nodong missiles and Ghauri missiles are same. Similarly, Narang argues that some missiles were directly received by Pakistan from North Korea.
The other source of concern is the poor accountability of nuclear weapons and nuclear mafia that is operating in both states as Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are under the strict control of military. During the Kargil Warthe then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was told by Bill Clinton about the deployment of nukes by Pakistan military of which Sharif was totally unaware of. The head of the Strategic Plans Division is responsible for nuclear planning,command and control system in Pakistan. Itis true that political leaders had been making provocative public statements about using nukes against India. Samina Ahmed, however, clears these provocative statements that the issue of prestige is also evident in Pakistan’s equal desire to stand with India. The nuclear threats sometimes were exchanged for domestic determinism and prestige which Sagan calls a normative factor. However, Pakistan military perceives India as a potential enemy that is why nuclear weapons were seen as an object rather than a means for national security argued by Sagan.
India too has alerted its nuclear capable missiles during the Kargil War. The Chief of Indian Army Staff, General V.P. Malik has confirmed that missiles were positioned at high trigger alert during the Kargil War to annihilate Pakistan. Raj Chengappa claims that, “India [then] activated all its three types of nuclear delivery vehicles and kept at what is known as Readiness state 3-meaning that some nuclear bombs would be ready to be mated with the delivery vehicles at short notice.” He further states that, “at least four of them (Prithvi ballistic missiles) were readied for a possible strike. Even an Agni missile capable of launching a nuclear warhead was moved to the Western Indian States and kept in a state of readiness.”
It is clearly understood that both the states cannot be trusted for behaving sensibly in future. We are alarmed about the unauthorized use of nukes, however, several reports from the experts upset us with the fuzzy nuclear postures and irrationality of India and Pakistan that might trigger an authorized use of nukes. India rejects the Pakistan’s offer to explore a nuclear free-zone area in South Asia, Vajpayee clearly responded to Pakistan that “we have to keep in mind developments in other neighbouring countries as well”. Vajpayee further stated that “though we believe in a minimum credible deterrent, the size of the deterrent must be deterred from time to time on the basis of our own threat perception. This is a judgement which cannot be surrendered to anyone else.”
Pakistan is also not in a mood to roll back its nuclear programme. Pervez Musharrafargues that “only a traitor would think of rolling back.” Similarly, Abdul Satar argues “…in order to ensure the survivability and credibility of the deterrent, Pakistan will have to maintain, preserve and upgrade its capability”.
Due to the poor management of nuclear weapons, the international community is concerned about the Jihadi networks in Pakistan who might steal the nukes for their own purposes. Stephen Cohen is worried about the zeal of Jihad against Unbelievers that Pakistani military always encourages the Jihadi’s to target India. Cohen argues that the nuclear attack on non-combatants in urban areas in India is one of the aim of Jihadi organizations in Pakistan. Similarly, India’s nuclear doctrine also talks about the ‘unacceptable damage’ that means a nuclear attack on civilian areas.
Surprisingly, anIndian army officer suggested George Fernandes, Defence Minister of India, to denote a nuclear device in Siachen to drown Pakistan completely to settle the Kashmir dispute once for all. The Indian Chief of Army Staff, General S. Padmanabhan’s statement on January 11, 2002 to nuke Pakistan was a surprising statement that uproar the Indian Prime Minister Office.Nobody can deny the fact that there is possibility of irrational behaviour (nuclear exchange) between the two belligerent states.
Thus, it is clear with the help of several studies on India-Pakistan nuclear brinkmanship that there is possibility of nuclear omnicide in South Asia. The organizational biases, blurry nuclear doctrines of no-first use and first-use of nukes, poor accountability of nukes, advantage of missile defence systems, intense rivalry, unresolved Kashmir dispute, and close borders might become the reasons for the failure of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
South Asian Geopolitics: Saudi Arabia: 1 Iran: 0?
It may be reading tea leaves but analysis of the walk-up to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit and his sojourn in Islamabad suggests that Pakistan may be about to fight battles on two fronts rather than just the Indian one in the wake of this month’s attacks in Kashmir.
Prince Mohammed’s expressions of unconditional support for Pakistan coupled with his promise of US$20 billion in investments in addition to US$6 billion in desperately needed financial aid raise the spectre of a shift in Pakistani efforts in recent years to walk a fine line in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
That fine line included a 2015 Pakistani refusal to send troops to the kingdom in support of the Saudi military intervention in Yemen.
Speaking to the Arab News this week, Major General Asif Ghafoor, head of the Pakistan army’s media wing, suggested that Pakistan’s commitment to Saudi Arabia was equally unconditional. “Pakistan is committed to standing by its Saudi brethren,” Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi seemed to fine tune the officer’s statement by not mentioning Yemen in his remarks to the Saudi paper and limiting Pakistan’s commitment to the kingdom itself. “If anyone would create chaos in or attack the Kingdom, Pakistan would stand by its brethren Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Qureishi said.
The stakes for Pakistan that borders on Iran and is home to the world’s largest minority Shiite Muslim community could not be higher.
Concerned that Pakistan’s position may be shifting, Iran this week dialled up the rhetoric by warning that Pakistan would “pay a high price” for last week’s attack in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan that killed 27 Revolutionary Guards.
Like with India in the case of Kashmir, Iran asserted that the perpetrators, Jaish-al-Adl, were operating from Pakistani territory with at least the tacit knowledge of Pakistani authorities. In an unusual disclosure, Iran said three of the six perpetrators of last week’s attack, including the suicide bomber, were Pakistani nationals.
In the past, Iran has by and large said that militants who had launched attacks were Iranian nationals rather than Pakistanis.
The tone of Revolutionary Guards chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari’s statement holding Pakistan, alongside the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, responsible for the recent attack reflected Iranian concern with what may flow from Prince Mohammed’s visit.
“Why do Pakistan’s army and security body … give refuge to these anti-revolutionary groups? Pakistan will no doubt pay a high price. Just in the past year, six or seven suicide attacks were neutralized but they were able to carry out this one,”,” Maj. Gen. Jafari said in remarks live on state television.
Initially, Iran had limited itself to blaming external powers rather than Pakistan for the attack.
Indications suggesting that Prince Mohammed’s visit to Pakistan may have been about more than economic cooperation were severalfold and involved gestures that despite Pakistani denials would not have come without a price tag.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan expressed in a little noticed declaration in their joint statement at the end of the crown prince’s visit “the need to avoid politicization of the United Nations listing system.”
The statement was implicitly referring to Indian efforts to get the UN Security Council to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Mr. Azhar is the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group that has claimed responsibility for the Kashmir attack.
China, which at Pakistan’s behest has blocked Mr. Azhar’s designation in recent years, this week rejected an Indian request that it lift its veto. China asserts that Indian evidence fails to meet UN standards.
In another tantalizing incident, Mr. Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, did nothing to distance his country from a statement in his presence by Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir accusing Iran of being the “world’s chief sponsor of terrorism“
Similarly, in preparation of Prince Mohammed’s talks, retired General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani commander of the Saudi-based, 40-nation Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), flew from Riyadh to Islamabad for talks with prime minister Imran Khan and Pakistani chief of staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Pakistan agreed to General Sharif’s appointment as commander despite its refusal to join the coalition in the belief that the 2017 Saudi request that he be seconded put the South Asian nation between a rock and hard place.
Pakistani military officials argued at the time that while the appointment would irritate Iran, refusal of the Saudi request would expose Pakistan to criticism from many more in the Islamic world.
Neither the Pakistani government nor the IMCTC gave details of General Sharif’s discussions. The IMCTC, however, said in a tweet that “salient contours of IMCTC’s domains and initiatives in the fight against #terrorism were discussed.”
The tone and gestures during Prince Mohammed’s visit contrasted starkly with positions adopted by Mr. Khan during his election campaign and immediately after he took office last year.
In his first post-election televised speech Mr. Khan made a point of discussing his country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“We want to improve ties with Iran. Saudi Arabia is a friend who has always stood by us in difficult times. Our aim will be that whatever we can do for conciliation in the Middle East, we want to play that role. Those tensions, that fight, between neighbours, we will try to bring them together,” Mr. Khan said.
The geopolitical fallout, if any, of what for now amounts to symbolism will likely only be evident in the weeks and months to come.
Beyond Iran’s toughening stance towards Pakistan in the wake of the attack on its Revolutionary Guards, tell-tale signs would be a closer Pakistani alignment with the Saud-led anti-terrorism coalition and the degree to which Pakistan-based militant launch attacks inside Iran.
Middle East scholar Michael Stephens, who heads the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) operation in Qatar suggested that reading the tea leaves may best be done with a grain of salt.
“Geography is what it is, and Pakistan will always have to maintain a relationship with Iran (economic and security) regardless of how much cash it gets from Riyadh… Pakistan will do what’s best for Pakistan, and not Riyadh, the US or Tehran. Telling everyone what they want to hear is kinda how this all works,” Mr. Stephens said.
The Indo-Pak Conundrum: Victims to their Own Narratives
As tensions between nuclear armed India and Pakistan once again escalate in the wake of the devastating attack on Indian paramilitary personnel in Pulwama, one can’t help but bemoan the Sisyphean manner in which both countries seem locked in extolling the same narratives over and again. This applies not only to those aiming to broker some semblance of peace between the two age-old rivals, but also those capitalizing on the ensuing discord and enmity for their own benefit. There seems as a result an inescapable script which both the Indian and Pakistani sides seem condemned to follow.
For those unaware of the above reference, it is perhaps better to give a brief account of Sisyphus in order to understand its relevance to Indo-Pak ties. Sisyphus of Ancient Greek legend was condemned by the Gods to rolling a giant boulder up-hill only to watch it roll back down, repeating the tasked infinitum. This punishment, meted out to Sisyphus against his hubris has since often come to denote the futility of human action, in a harsh and unforgiving world. This idea has since been presented by many artists and thinkers in relation to mankind’s own search for the very meaning of existence.
In the near timeless case of India and Pakistan, Sisyphus’s punishing task which he is doomed to carry out eternally, bears a striking resemblance to the futility faced by statesmen and policy-makers from both sides in reaching an agreement over Kashmir. Their inability to break free from the decades old vitriol and bad blood, and to resort to the same threats of war and retaliation have come to characterize the narrative underlying Indo-Pak ties following every major Kashmir linked attack that has taken place in India. The Pathankot and Uri attacks from two years back, the Gurdaspur attack from 2015, the 2008 Mumbai attacks as well as the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi have all served to crystallize the animosity between both countries.
All and any efforts made towards even just normalizing relations have been as a result instantly derailed. It’s as if the recent strides made at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Katarpur corridor, the designation of Most Favored Nation (MFN) status with regard to trade, and the decades of people to people ties built around cultural and cricket diplomacy by countless artists, writers, poets musicians and professional athletes from both sides of the border; has all been rendered meaningless in just a matter of days following Pulwama.
It is extremely unfortunate that based on these dynamics, the very idea of brokering a sustainable and lasting peace between the two countries has itself reached mythic proportions. This gap has further widened based on the willful construction of a nationalist identity and narrative that is directly premised on the politics of ‘otherness’ both within and across the borders dividing India and Pakistan.
In the case of India, this aspect of otherness has reached an unprecedented scale with the rise of far right nationalist discourse premised on the principles of the BJP led Hindutva movement. In direct tension with the secular foundations of Indian democracy, many have attributed India’s descent into a religious inspired nationalism as a worrying precursor to regional instability. As the ruling BJP government comes to increasingly resort to the politics of otherness as part of its bid for re-elections, many have accused it of willfully spurring anti-Pakistan sentiments in an attempt at uniting a diverse and divisive electorate against a singular common enemy.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his recently televised official statement on Pulwama, addressed this very issue and directly attributed it to the reason behind the bellicose rhetoric being espoused by Indian leaders. In the same speech he also reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to retaliate and defend itself should tensions escalate to the point of military conflict.
This entire diplomatic exchange represents thus the same narrative that both sides have remained locked in as a result of Kashmir. The BJP led government in India, constrained by its inability to move beyond pandering to its core electorate, seems perhaps more unable than unwilling to break free from its own set narrative. On the other side, Pakistan’s position has more or less been characterized as being dominated by its influential military to which its foreign policy on India has widely been accused of being held hostage from its civilian government. Both narratives are in turn deeply ingrained in the above discussed politics of otherness, to which both sides seem condemned to repeating over and again.
However, if one was to go back to Prime Minister Khan’s inaugural speech from September last year, he has repeatedly claimed that both the Pakistani government and its military are on the same page with respect to its regional interests and foreign policy. Even in his statement on Pulwama, he offered in clear terms Pakistan’s commitment to working with India against terrorism across the region. He has clearly indicated that he is willing to move beyond these set narratives and work towards attaining the much illusive peace between the two countries. Whether Imran Khan is successful in bridging this ever growing divide between the two countries remains to be seen. However, the fact that he has willfully acknowledged and taken up this Sisyphean task for what it is, presents some hope for those worryingly looking at the war clouds looming over the South Asian region once again.
Breaking Down the South Asian Dynamic: Post Pulwama attack & Saudi Prince’s visit
The political and strategic activities of the South Asian region have been on a high for the past week or so. The region faced a very unfortunate incident on 14th February, 2019 when 40 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack in Pulwama, India. The already torn region of Kashmir faced yet another blow and has been in turmoil since the attack. The 14th February attack somehow translated into more violence against the innocent civilians of Kashmir. Not only Kashmir but other cities of India have also been actively involved in hate crimes against Muslims, particularly Kashmiri students. BBC news reported the violence against students from Kashmir in various universities across the country and how they were being thrown out of their residences.
The attack has been condemned by all alike, however, the Indian nation has assumed Pakistan to be behind the attack. The Prime Minister Nirendra Modi has given his two cents on the matter and his words seem to be clearly motivated by his desire to cash this unfortunate incident for a win in the upcoming Indian general elections. India’s highest Diplomat in Pakistan has also been called back and the action has been reciprocated by Pakistan as well. As we break down the current rush of hostilities between the two nuclear neighbors there are mainly two theories revolving around. The Indian theory is short and bitter, it claims Pakistan is responsible because it is an irresponsible state that provides safe havens to terrorists. The group linked to this attack has also been declared close to Pakistan’s agencies on many occasions. The theory is evidently childish and sounds like it is being repeated for the 100th time with no solid proof or credible information yet again. The mere allegations have brought no good but unfortunately India’s higher names are set on fueling the age old fire for their petty gains.
We have a theory from Pakistan’s side as well. Although it is not an official theory nor has it been discussed by any of the higher leaderships publicly but it is nonetheless doing the rounds in the policy circles. It claims Indian officials themselves were involved in not only the Pulwama attack but the less spoken of, Iran attack as well. Both the attack were significantly close to Pakistan’s Eastern and Western borders. This is something the state of Pakistan would not bring upon itself at such a crucial time when the security situation of the state was desired to be at its best for the arrival of the Saudi crown prince, Muhammad Bin Salman. The visit was not only a remarkably significant diplomatic achievement for Pakistan but was also very significant for the South Asian region and Muslim countries around the globe. In times like this when the state of Pakistan was consumed in making preparations for the arrival of the Prince it would be a rather immature strategic move to involve itself in something so disastrous and fragile at the same time. However, some believe Indian officials planned this to create unrest in the region as an attempt to halt the Prince’s visit.
The visit, however, took place anyway and was a rather successful one. Not only were MoU’s signed between the leadership of Pakistan and the Royalty of Saudi Arabia but mechanisms to implement the MoU’s were also chalked out. The spontaneous release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi prisons n the request of Pakistan’s prime minister was a clear show of the blooming Saudi-Pak relations. It not only took the friendship and trust between the two nations to new heights but created a new sense of love and respect for the Prince amongst the general public of Pakistan which has not been seen so evidently before. The prince being awarded with the highest civil award of Pakistan marks the utmost success of the visit which did not settle well with many of the self-proclaimed key players of the region.
The prince has plans to visit India as well where it is expected that peace between India and Pakistan would be suggested as a key desire. It can also be expected that India’s leadership would take this opportunity to trade peace in return of other favors from the Saudi delegation. Regardless of the absurd reaction from the neighboring country, Pakistan has remained calm and acted with utmost maturity during the entire blame game. Regardless of knowing very well how capable the Pakistani army is, the state has made no loose remarks and has also recorded its reservations against India’s escalating remarks in a letter penned down by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to the General Secretary of the United Nations. Pakistan always has, still does and always will promote peace and prosperity in the region.
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