Shifting Disposition of Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia

In the contemporary political and security architecture of south Asia the deterrence discourse has evolved with the passage of time. It was the time when both states India and Pakistan were becoming successful in deterring each other by using various deterring tools (Nuclear Weapons). But changing nature of threats has altered the contours of deterrence stability of south Asia.

Numbers of factors are responsible for changing the nature of nuclear deterrence in South Asia i.e.  Introduction of new strategies and doctrines, acquisition of missile defense shield, technical progress and other secondary factors e.g. the role of media whether it is social media, print media or electronic media. Media, which also has been considered as important entity in India, is playing a very negative role. Rather than making propagandas or giving hype to the sensitive issues media from Indian side should perform wisely and with some maturity.

Policy makers from Indian side who are trying to coin new strategies in order to deter Pakistan and also in quest of hegemonic status for India in the region which in result is changing the existing nature of nuclear deterrence. However, India is formulating new policies and strategies which according to its policy makers would be proved fruitful for India, but policy makers form Indian side should also be mindful of the fact that experiments in such a sensitive business could be proved highly dangerous for not only the fate of India as well as for the whole region.

Furtherance in conventional aspects may also provide justification to each side for launching nuclear weapon. India is continuously expanding its conventional arsenals according to the reports India is a leading buyer of conventional arms. Between 1999 and 2006, India totaled $22.4 billion in arms sales agreements, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. That total made India first among all developing arms buyers during that period. India became the leading global arms importer in the period from 2007 to 2011, accounting for ten percent of total arms imports. This trend is expected to continue, with an increase in defense spending. It is clear from the reports that India is continuously pursuing it malicious ambitions that are highly unfavorable for the region. The steps which have been taken by the India in furtherance of conventional aspects may damage the stability of the region. It would also not be wrong to mention that actually India is confusing the purpose of deterrence. As a bigger state of the region India should lead from the front for the exploration of new horizons of Confidence Building Measures (CBM’S) with Pakistan in order to strengthen the stability of the region.

Pakistan is quite satisfied with the existing pattern of deterrence, which is also currently prevailing to some extent in South Asia. But, question arises, why Pakistan is continuously exploring the ways which ultimately lead towards the possession of low-yield nuclear weapons and advancement of nuclear capabilities. The answer to this question can be addressed in a way that it was India which was strongly portraying its Cold Start Doctrine and also showing its urge of getting defense shield. Keeping in view these initiatives or intentions of India there was no other choice remaining left for Pakistan rather than pursuing low-yield nuclear weapons and advancement of its nuclear capabilities. In other words it would not be wrong to mention that Pakistan is being compelled by the India to follow or adapt such kind of ways or policies.

After the careful study of history and acute consultation of to date existing literature, it can be strongly determined that the only purpose behind possessing deterrence for every nuclear weapon state is just to secure itself from the aggression of adversary state, which in result will maintain the peace. Therefore, it is pretty clear from the origin of deterrence that it is a political tool and sole purpose at the back end of deterrence is the maintenance, furtherance and stability of peace among states, which should be followed by the states that are in race with each other. Deterrence should not be manipulated for the purposes of gaining ultimate supremacy, but India is continuously trying to disturb the existing pattern of deterrence without keeping in view that repercussions would be dire for the whole region. Now question arises that why Pakistan is not following the lines which are being followed by the India? Answer to this question is quite simple that Pakistan doesn’t want to take such steps which ultimately could lead towards arms race, change in deterrence pattern etc. which is showing that how much Pakistan is mature and concerned about strategic stability of region. In other words, it would not be wrong to mention that Pakistan doesn’t want to instigate any adversary state in nuclear manner for the survival of strategic stability of region.

Hafsa Andleeb
Hafsa Andleeb
Hafsa Andleeb is a Research Associate at Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR), Islamabad. She holds master’s degree in Defence & Strategic Studies (DSS) from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Currently pursuing M.Phil. In Defence & Strategic Studies (DSS) from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Her area of research includes Strategic Stability, Arms control and disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Her opinion articles appear in national and international newspapers, blogs and websites. She can be reached at email ID hafsaandleeb.ha[at]