Our Failing Deterrence Equation: Choosing Appeasement Over Reaction

Pakistan is currently under the weight of numerous issues. It is undoubtedly one of the hardest times we have faced as a nation in history. The leadership of country is greatly failing whilst losing its popularity and legitimacy robustly. Furthermore, issues that add fuel to this fire is the tremendously deteriorating economy, a great daily increase in cases of the ongoing COVID pandemic and shortage of vitals needed respectively, shortage of petroleum due to stocking of the reserves, scandals relating to sugar and wheat industry, failing policies, locusts’ outbreak, imprudent decision making to resolve these issues and many more to count. We are going through a severe phase of a national economic crisis. All these aside, one of the biggest strategic hurdles we are facing nowadays is the eccentric Indian escalation threat.

India has been exercising an peculiar conflict policy in its border region, may it be the lengthy Ladakh region with China, border with Nepal or Kashmir with Pakistan.  India did not take any lessons from an embarrassing defeat at the Ladakh region by the hands of China very recently that it wishes to pursue similar harder policies in other conflicted territories, including Kashmir.

India usually adopts this policy to satisfy the domestic audience and to regain support of the hyper national sentiment, where usually the government in power creates a security crisis while depicting it to be in favor of India to win again domestic support. This has been the case from the Indians nuclear explosion of 1998 to Balakot strikes of 2019 to present day dynamics.

Pakistan armed forces have reportedly been preparing themselves for the situation turning volatile for the past two months, where high alert situation within the armed forces is shown. The preparedness of Pakistan is acknowledged by both the leaderships of the armed forces as well as the civilian government. This analysis was gathered through responses to the continuously ongoing skirmishes at Kashmir and reoccurring threats from Indian leadership. Both the leaderships agree to “give a great come back” to any escalation from India.

What needs to be critically analyzed at this point is that Pakistan is at no position to endure even the slightest of escalation from the Indian side. Pakistan’s economy is already under a great blow, breathing its last before finally collapsing, which is being predicted in the coming days. The lack of trust between the government, the armed forces and the people stands as yet another great factor that Pakistan may not be able to sustain any escalation at least in current times. We can not think of ourselves equal to China and Ladakh because we simply lack the stability China has recently adopted by an again growing economy and reversing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are raising a retaliation rhetoric when we do not have enough petroleum reserves for local use. Let alone military use.

Pakistani leadership needs to understand that the deterrence equation of South Asia has already been shattered to a great failure from a relatively stable equilibrium, right after the Pulwama attacks of 2019, where two nuclear armed nations somehow muster up the courage to attack deep within each other’s territory with air strikes- a phenomenon unique only to India and Pakistan- being nuclear powers. We have come much ahead of the limit where nuclear weapons states should be present at in a security stability dynamic. The equilibrium has been shifted to a much more volatile, yet, dangerous point, where both the nations may escalate at any moment at a larger conventional scale or a limited nuclear tactical scale. This is the most dangerous fact, which would be greatly harmful for both parties involved.

It is no time for Pakistan’s leadership to be equally threatening to an eccentric viewpoint the leadership of India stand on. It is prudent at this moment of sensitivity to use the least liked options to handle the current dynamic of India- Pakistan by all factions of military, leadership or the government- a process of appeasement, and interplay of effective diplomacy.

It is high time where we need excellent and effective diplomacy to appease India’s war rhetoric and not reply an eye for an eye strategy for the current period, where Pakistan is in no position to sustain the retaliation to the ongoing series of Indian threats. Pakistan’s economy, leadership, government or policy makers are in no position to handle a blow of an escalated tension. We need effective policy making, effective diplomacy, and a very prudent handling of Indian threats at the moment rather than equal harsh replies which may go out of hand at any given time.

It is understandable that the continues skirmishes at the Line of Control of Kashmir or India’s current strategic policies, in fact frustrates the military and civil leadership of Pakistan, urging the need of a response. But certainly, this is not the right and the prudent decision to be taken  in current times.

It is greatly hoped that this time of heightened sensitivity and tension manages to de-escalate sooner rather than turning violent any time soon. Something Pakistan simply would not be able to afford, militarily as well as economically. 

Hareem Aqdas
Hareem Aqdas
Researcher at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad and student of International Relations and Politics at Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad.