Nuclear Restraint and Stabilization
Revelation 15: Lack of Nuclear Restraint
By Shamshad AhmadPublished: July 4, 2014
The writer is a former foreign secretary
Today’s world is in turmoil. South Asia is at the root of most of its problems ranging from interstate conflicts to unresolved disputes, human tragedies, violence, extremism and terrorism. With its overt nuclearisation, South Asia’s problems are no longer an exclusive concern of the region itself. They now have a worrisome global dimension, which raises major powers’ stakes in the issues of peace and security in this region.
If the turbulent history of this region had any lessons, the world’s engagement in this region must have been aimed at promoting strategic balance rather than disturbing it. A stable nuclear security order is what we need in South Asia. Any measures that contribute to lowering of the nuclear threshold and fuelling of an unnecessary arms race between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are no service to the people of this region. India’s triad-based nuclear doctrine, its aggressive ‘Cold Start’ strategy and its introduction of anti-ballistic missile system constitute ‘overkill’ for the region’s stability.
With Narendra Modi’s India now opening its doors to the world’s military industries, the region faces a spectre of an apocalyptic arms race with far-reaching implications for the world’s peace and security. A nuclearised region cannot afford any more adventurism, not even a limited conventional war that India’s devious Cold Start doctrine seeks to impose on Pakistan through quick and intense conventional offensive. What could be the response of any conventionally weaker state to such a threat? The only credible response has to be a counter force, which in the India-Pakistan scenario means tactical warheads.
Obviously, in the face of India’s fast developing capabilities, including its dangerous weapon-inductions, aggressive doctrines and devious nuclear cooperation arrangements enabling diversion of nuclear material for military purposes, equally dangerous options in response are inevitable. The situation is being aggravated by growing nuclear and military disparities in the region as a result of country-specific preferential treatment that India is receiving in terms of its access to nuclear technology in violation of the global non-proliferation regime.
This brings into focus the US-India nuclear deal and the subsequent carte blanche that India has received in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for access to nuclear technology in violation of equitably applicable criteria. India is also seeking exemption in the FMT similar to those it has been granted under the iniquitous US-India deal. This enables India to keep its eight ‘civil’ nuclear reactors and the breeder programme outside IAEA safeguards which can produce a significant amount of weapon-grade plutonium. Pakistan is opposed to any FMT exemptions and is also concerned over NSG’s discrimination against it.
It was indeed ironic that the NSG, which was set up in response to the first act of nuclear proliferation by India’s first nuclear test in 1974, and works on the basis of consensus to prevent further proliferation, decided unanimously to reward the perpetrator of such proliferation. Given the consensus rule, any one of these 46 nations could have blocked this decision. The fact that they did not do so was because their profit motives got the better of their principles or they simply lacked the courage of their convictions.This discriminatory country-specific waiver undermines the international non-proliferation regime and detracts from its credibility and legitimacy.
Against this backdrop, issues of nuclear and strategic stability in this volatile region need to be predicated on the principle of indivisible security. Only criteria-based approaches on the basis of equality and non-discrimination between the two defacto nuclear weapon states would be sustainable. The NSG must rectify its lopsided approach and allow a criteria-based treatment to Pakistan on a par with India. Its discriminatory approach does not serve the cause of peace and stability in the region and weakens the global nuclear security process.
The policymakers in world’s major capitals, especially Washington, should also have been working ‘extra time’ to promote a sense of security and justice in this region by eschewing discriminatory policies in their dealings with the India-Pakistan nuclear equation, the only one in the world that grew up in history totally unrelated to the Cold War. It was a direct offshoot of a long-standing legacy of India’s conflictual relationship with its two immediate neighbours. Surely, India and Pakistan, as part of their Composite Dialogue, have already agreed on a number of nuclear and conventional CBMs, including risk-reduction measures.
They must now move to CBMs on conflict prevention and avoidance of arms race. This they can do only if India is not encouraged or abetted in its Maha Bharata designs and is instead nudged to return to the dialogue table for genuine peace in the region. South Asia needs an environment of peace and security to be able to divert its resources for the economic wellbeing of its people. This requires India and Pakistan to maintain the lowest level of armament. The world’s major powers, too, have an obligation not to widen nuclear disparities in the region and must follow an even-handed approach in dealing with this nuclear equation. In evaluating the doctrinaire approach of the two countries, one thing becomes abundantly clear. India’s nuclear doctrine is status-driven whereas that of Pakistan is security motivated. Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine, though not declared, is based on credible minimum deterrence and strategic restraint and responsibility.
Pakistan’s long-standing proposal for nuclear and missile restraint, conventional balance and conflict-resolution will go a long way in promoting nuclear and conventional restraint and mutual stabilisation. Likewise, non-induction of ABMs and other destabilising systems could also serve as an arms limitation measure. Arms reduction could follow in due course later as the two sides build up trust and confidence. States may have extra-regional concerns. But to the extent that their force potentials are specific to the regional states, arms limitation and other CBMs can be pursued. They are not mutually exclusive.
India, unfortunately, remains averse to Pakistan’s proposals for strategic restraint and stabilisation in the region. In doing so, it keeps citing its extra-regional concerns although its force potential largely remains Pakistan-specific. On its part, Pakistan’s main concern has always been to offset India’s superior conventional strength. Since Pakistan’s actions in the nuclear and missile fields at each stage are force majeure in response to India’s escalatory steps, an element of mutuality in restraint and responsibility is required for nuclear and conventional stabilisation in our region.
The international community, on its part, should be taking steps that encourage India-Pakistan rapprochement and conflict-resolution, and help promote nuclear restraint and stabilisation in the region. This can be done only through a non-discriminatory, criteria-based approach in dealing with the two nuclear-weapon neighbours.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2014.
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