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Defense

On Nuclear Madmen and Their Perilous Bluffs

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During the Cold War, and in particular, the Nixon era, the US’s Nuclear Deterrence Strategy had at times flirted with the idea of its leadership playing the role of an unpredictable ‘madman’ in charge of one of the world’s most destructive nuclear arsenals. This strategy, that has since been defined as a more aggressive or coercive form of diplomacy, went as far as loading American long-range bombers with thermonuclear weapons and flying them over the north pole for eighteen hours in a holding pattern. This was done in a bid to signaling to the Soviet Union, the US’s seriousness and intent in ending the Vietnam war via any means necessary. However, as both history as well as a number of analysts have since concluded, the entire exercise did more to heighten the risks of an unnecessary global catastrophe than extracting any real or proven political or diplomatic concessions.

This signaling of unpredictability and even irrationality on the part of US leadership have been echoed in the assertions and fiery rhetoric of several other global leaders over the last few decades. These range from North Korean, former Iranian, Indian, and even perhaps to a certain extent a former Iraqi leader all of whom based their entire image on the notion of being dangerous and unpredictable with their finger readily on the nuclear button. Not to mention the current US President and his penchant for compulsively tweeting threats of all-out destruction to his adversaries. (Although the jury is still out on whether the current US President’s irrational behavior is part of a deliberate policy or quite simply an actual condition).

All in an all, appearing as irrational or even dangerous as part of a diplomatic ploy to exact concessions based on fear or through sheer terror is not something exclusive to the advent of the atomic era either. Similar ploys have been advocated by the likes of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu where such posturing and deceptive saber-rattling has been deemed an important part of a robust politico-military strategy. Yet, one wonders what such strategists contemplating warfare in the medieval or ancient periods would have thought of when facing the possibility of putting the entire human race at risk, simply for the pursuit of certain restricted political gains. Especially when the stakes and repercussions of failure are so much higher, does a ruthless realism or pragmatism stand justified in the case of nuclear brinkmanship? 

Leaving aside the imagined reservations of classical military strategists, such projected notions of madness or unpredictability still remain very much a reality within our world today. Its latest incarnation can be witnessed in the case of South Asia where escalating tensions between age-old rivals and nuclear weapons capable India and Pakistan, have led to a serious assessment of what a nuclear engagement between the two would look like. While the global dangers of nuclear war are mostly common knowledge, the simple fact that such dangers need to be emphasized and need reminding of speak volumes of the precariousness prevalent in our world today.

This holds especially true when considering that just a few months ago, the world witnessed its first aerial dogfight between two nuclear weapons states over the skies of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. This dogfight which was a culmination of years of escalating tensions and bellicose rhetoric particularly from Indian leaders was followed by even more incendiary rhetoric referring directly to the use of nuclear weapons. References alluding to the mother of all bombs or to a purported ‘night of slaughter’ can all be seen as premeditated and highly calculated attempts by PM Modi to not only appear tough, but even a tad unhinged. What’s more, both the above references were made at election rallies as part of projecting a carefully crafted image of a strong leader that was ready to depart from the calculated restraint shown by his predecessors. Instead, it was his readiness to all but embrace the destruction and irrationality associated with the use of nuclear weapons that proved instrumental in projecting this image. An image of a leader, who by pandering to his electorate’s basest fears and insecurities was capable of belligerently challenging Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent.

It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan’s response to such open provocation has remained forcefully measured. In balancing both its resolve and credibility, against the need to come off as a responsible nuclear weapon’s state, Pakistan has had to project itself as the rational actor against the more irrational, near nonsensical rhetoric coming out of the other half of the South Asian nuclear dyad. This is despite immense internal pressures and criticism that has deemed adopting such a course as akin to showing weakness in the face of such brazen threats.

While there are many in Pakistan that would want their country to adopt a tougher, even perhaps irrational stance keeping in mind their nuclear weapons capability, there is however a certain overarching wisdom that lends a sense of clarity to this whole affair. This is perhaps best encapsulated in one of Sun Tzu’s oft quoted maxims in which the great strategist advises to ‘appear weak when strong, and strong when weak.’ In this simple yet eloquent couplet, one finds not only the basis for the measured restraint being adopted by Pakistan at the present, but also the desperate madness exhibited by the likes of a Nixon or Modi when threatening the end of humanity.

Research Associate and Program Coordinator for the China Study & Information Centre (CS & IC) at the Strategic Vision Institute, a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad. He can be reached at waqas[at]thesvi.org

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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