Pakistan’s security challenges
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
It does not take a sage to predict that if Prime Minister Modi proceeds to promote the goal of installing a BJP government in Srinagar by manipulation of the state elections underway, tries to scrap Article 370 of the Indian constitution, that accords special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and also moves towards trifurcation of the state into Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir, this could provoke a strong reaction from the people of Kashmir, even spark another uprising.
If that happens, Indian authorities will no doubt use strong-arm tactics to suppress this, as they have done in the past. This will evoke a response from the Pakistani people and risk another major crisis between Pakistan and India, with all the attendant dangers.
India’s hardened posture is not just being driven by the omnipresence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) hardliners in the BJP government, especially around Mr Modi. It is also being encouraged – wittingly or otherwise – by some Western powers by their political pandering to Delhi and by the military supplies and nuclear and strategic cooperation being offered to India.
Washington’s assumption that India will, or can, play the role of regional counterweight to China’s rising power and influence in Asia could prove to be another strategic miscalculation that may come to rival the mistakes the US has made elsewhere in the world.
India, now the world’s largest arms importer, has sought to justify its build up by projecting this as designed to counter China’s growing military capabilities. Yet, the bulk of India’s military capabilities – land, air and sea – continue to be deployed against Pakistan.
India’s arms build up obliges Pakistan to take appropriate measures to retain the ability to deter and, if need be, to respond to a possible Indian attack, including a surprise attack, as envisaged by its Cold Start doctrine. Obviously, Pakistan cannot match India’s conventional arms expansion. Nor should it think of engaging in a conventional arms race with India. Its response will necessarily have to defensive and cost effective.
The maintenance of Pakistan’s ability to defend itself by conventional means is not only in the interest of Pakistan, but also a goal that should be desired by the international community. Without an adequate conventional balance, an Indo-Pakistan conflict could escalate very quickly to the dreaded nuclear level.
Unfortunately, this requirement has been completely overlooked by India’s new arms suppliers and ‘strategic partners’. The growing conventional asymmetry has obliged Pakistan to adopt the posture of Full Spectrum Deterrence, which includes the development of tactical nuclear weapons. Once India deploys Anti-Ballistic Missile systems, Pakistan will feel the need to multiply the number of its nuclear capable missiles to preserve credible deterrence.
Already Pakistan has sought to fill the gaps at the tactical level opened up by India’s provocative war-fighting doctrine, which envisages a limited conventional conflict under the nuclear threshold. This has obliged Pakistan to embark on developing delivery systems for Full Spectrum Deterrence and involved the development of short-range, low yield nuclear weapons aimed at deterring Cold Start and restoring nuclear stability.
In addressing the nuclear danger in South Asia, the efforts of Western policy makers and experts have been focused solely on the “safety” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons alone. The vital issue of the credibility of nuclear deterrence has been completely ignored.
As regards ‘safety’, it is now widely acknowledged that Pakistan’s weapons and nuclear materials are under tight control and its elaborate system of safeguards is better than that adopted by several other nuclear and nuclear-capable countries, including India.
Preserving the credibility of nuclear deterrence between Pakistan and India will depend on the present and potential size and quality of their respective nuclear arsenals and their survivability in the event of a pre-emptive strike. In relations between rival nuclear weapon states, there is always offensive temptation and defensive anticipation regarding a pre-emptive strike.
A survival second-strike capability offers an assurance against adventurist action by either side. India’s continuing strategic build up will compel Pakistan to acquire, if it has not already planned to do so, a second strike capability by enlarging its arsenal and taking a number of actions including dispersal and disguise and protected launch sites.
A clear and present danger that remains largely unappreciated at the international level is this. In the Subcontinent’s volatile environment where a crisis can emerge quite quickly from a terrorist attack or another Kashmiri ‘spark’ there is urgent need for a new understanding between Pakistan and India.
At present, there is no understanding on either force levels and deployments or doctrines that can prevent an escalatory spiral from spinning out of control. During the cold war, the two principal nuclear protagonists found it necessary to have some understanding on these issues, backed by hotlines and other crisis-communication mechanisms.
Here, the two countries don’t have the luxury of distance, so dialogue and mutual understanding is absolutely essential to clarify India and Pakistan’s military and nuclear doctrines and build political and technical barriers to the eruption of conflict, by miscalculation or mistake.
It is irresponsible not to address these vital issues. It is also hard to understand why the international community has done little, if anything, to insist on and promote such an understanding.
Let me conclude this broad review of Pakistan’s security challenges where I started. Although Pakistan has to carefully navigate a fraught and unsettled regional environment, the country’s most critical choices lie within, as do our most urgent problems and their solutions. If we believe that destiny is choice, not chance, then the factors that will shape Pakistan’s destiny lie within. Only an economically strong, internally stable and tolerant Pakistan will have the capacity and confidence to deal with external challenges.
Concluding excerpt from the author’s presentation at a recent defence seminar in Karachi.
The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.