By Rameez Raja December 23, 2017
It is generally held that if terrorists got hold of some nukes, they will intentionally annihilate the bulk of human population within a short span of time. However, the experts question the experience and ability of terrorists to develop nukes orto assemble nuclear warheads, if they get access of some to thosein future. Nuclear Terrorism is a new subject for nuke speakers to spread panic among the peace-loving people across the globe who do not have enough knowledge about the dichotomy between the authorized and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
Many experts have argued that the emerging from the chances of a nuclear exchange is more likely to involve the nuclear states rather than from terrorists using nukes to eliminate their enemies. There are no confirm reports or evidence regarding theft of an intact nuclear weapon by non-state actors or terrorists. Despite theorists knowing about the lethality of nukes, irrationality from head of states and military officers, nuclear mafia, and poor governance of nuclear weapons in some nuclear states altogether have largely supported the nuclear weapons for deterrence.
Severaltheorists have championed the deterrence theory with the support of realists and neo-realists.Hans Morgenthau, Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, Kenneth Waltz, Sumit Ganguly, and John Mearsheimer have largely supported nuclear weapons for deterrence or for avoiding major wars between the belligerent states. However, Vipin Narang is of the view that these theorists have undermined the nuclear postures of respective states. For instance, India and Pakistan’s nuclear doctrines are challenged by numerous experts on the grounds that both nuclear states have unclear and provocative nuclear postures that can easily culminate into a nuclear winter between the two enemy states.
The states of India and Pakistan have crossed the nuclear threshold in May 1998 by denoting 11 nuclear devices. Subsequently, both states have provided clarifications about their nuclear tests and claimed loudly to be responsible nuclear weapon states. After the nuclear explosions, optimists argued that nukes will stabilize the tensions between the two states, however, Timothy Hoyt writes that South Asia still remains a dangerous place contrary to the arguments put forward by certainanalysts that nuclear weapons would induce stability. He further arguesthat the divide between India and Pakistan hascreated a distrust owing to non-resolution of Kashmir dispute.
The studies on India-Pakistan nuclear doctrines have presented a negative message for world peace because of the several loopholes highlighted by the experts in the nuclear policies of the two countries.Scott Sagan presents a worrisome picture of about the organizational biases in the context of Indo-Pak nuclear relationship. He argues that both the states have exchanged nuclear threats during the crisisand Kargil War of 1999, and cannot be trusted to behave rationally in future. Sagan explicitly states that there are “imperfect humans inside imperfect organizations” in India-Pakistan nuclear relationship and in the nuclear deterrence might fail in the future.Similarly, Vipin Narang portrays the interest of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s nuclear superiority over Pakistan the role it plays to accelerate India’s nuclear arsenal in order to dominate Pakistan and counter China. The nuclear arms race might result into the mismanagement of nuclear warheads due to organizational biases in the context of India and Pakistan as well. From Narang’s statement it is quite apparent that minimum deterrence pledge taken by both states will not be implemented because of the intense rivalry and trust deficit between the two states.
There is no official nuclear doctrine of Pakistan. However, Lt. General Khalid Kidwai identifies four thresholds for Pakistan’s use of nukes: First, Space Threshold: If India occupies a large portion of Pakistani territory. Second, Military Threshold: If India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land or air forces. Third, Economic Threshold: If India tries to strangle Pakistan’s economy. And fourth, Political Threshold: If India destabilizes Pakistan’s domestic political system. As nuclear warheads of Pakistan are Indo-centric, it declares that it will use its nuclear weapons on its first strike against conventional attack from India.
India disclosed its nuclear doctrine with no-first use pledge and minimum deterrence posture in 1999. However, the 2003 revision of India’s nuclear doctrine diluted the no-first useclause by countenancing nuclear first use against a ‘major attack’ using the other two weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons. The other changes in 2003 revision included the shift from minimum deterrent to credible minimum deterrent posture and posture of no-first use of nukes, nukes will be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. The word ‘anywhere’ was added to the 2003 doctrine, that underscores the possibility that Indian soldiers could be fighting a conventional war inside Pakistan.
One can easily understand why India have added the word ‘anywhere’ to the 2003 doctrine andhas disclosed the Cold Start Doctrine as a limited war option under the nuclear umbrella after the 2001-2002 stalemate between India and Pakistan. India’s nukes have failed to deter Pakistan in 1999 Kargil war and other sub-conventional conflicts. That is why a limited war doctrine was disclosed by India to warn Pakistan to halt cross-border terrorism. However, Pakistan explicitly stated it will use its Nasr Missile, a tactical nuclear weapon on its own soil against Indian troops.
Indian leaders warned Pakistan several times to destroy it completely by massive retaliation (unacceptable damage) after Pakistan threatened to nuke India. However, Sumit Ganguly and Devin Hagerty argue that India’s no-first use pledge is nothing but a ‘rhetorical device’. Raja Menon argues that there is inter-service rivalry in India as Indian Air Force (IAF) might not wait for Pakistan’s first strike. As per IAF planning study, Vision 2020, IAF is planning for first strike capability in future. Sagan also states that no-first strike does not mean that India doesnot have a first strike capability. He also points outthat the Indian Nuclear Air Command is working towards having a first strike capability. Similarly, Vipin Narang argues that India will not allow Pakistan to nuke it first. The pre-emptive strike option was always in the minds of Indian decision makers during the crisis situations.
The most alarming source in South Asian region is never ending nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. The minimum deterrent posture is no longer a valid option for both states. According to the 2017 worldwide nuclear report by Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris,there are nearly fifteen thousand (15000) nuclear weapons in the world. The source of alarm is that amongst the 15, 000 nuclear weapons, 1800 are on high alert and ready for use at a short notice.The report also mentions that both India and Pakistan are qualitatively and quantitatively increasing their nuclear arsenal. The nukes have been increased to provide a boost to nuclear deterrence.
John Mearsheimer sounds confident about the success of nuclear deterrence due to mighty ocean barrier between the US and Russia. However, he is of the view that nuclear deterrence might not succeed in those belligerent states which share close borders. For instance, India and Pakistan do not have enough time to decide whether an attack is deliberate or accidental, the response will be catastrophic as a retaliation. Due to an advantage of missile defence systems, the belligerent states might opt for a nuclear war. Harmen Kahn has explicitly stated that nuclear war can be won because of missile defence systems, evacuations, shelters, and shells.
Similarly, the missile defence system might not function well in the context of India and Pakistan because massive first strike of missiles will break down the defence system easily. The missiles will travel in few minutes, there are also chances of failure of alarming system to judge the incoming missile. Rajesh Rajagopalan interestingly argues that Pakistan possesses missiles which are superior to that of India due to an assistance to Pakistan from China and North Korea in making missiles. According to experts the Nodong missiles and Ghauri missiles are same. Similarly, Narang argues that some missiles were directly received by Pakistan from North Korea.
The other source of concern is the poor accountability of nuclear weapons and nuclear mafia that is operating in both states as Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are under the strict control of military. During the Kargil Warthe then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was told by Bill Clinton about the deployment of nukes by Pakistan military of which Sharif was totally unaware of. The head of the Strategic Plans Division is responsible for nuclear planning,command and control system in Pakistan. Itis true that political leaders had been making provocative public statements about using nukes against India. Samina Ahmed, however, clears these provocative statements that the issue of prestige is also evident in Pakistan’s equal desire to stand with India. The nuclear threats sometimes were exchanged for domestic determinism and prestige which Sagan calls a normative factor. However, Pakistan military perceives India as a potential enemy that is why nuclear weapons were seen as an object rather than a means for national security argued by Sagan.
India too has alerted its nuclear capable missiles during the Kargil War. The Chief of Indian Army Staff, General V.P. Malik has confirmed that missiles were positioned at high trigger alert during the Kargil War to annihilate Pakistan. Raj Chengappa claims that, “India [then] activated all its three types of nuclear delivery vehicles and kept at what is known as Readiness state 3-meaning that some nuclear bombs would be ready to be mated with the delivery vehicles at short notice.” He further states that, “at least four of them (Prithvi ballistic missiles) were readied for a possible strike. Even an Agni missile capable of launching a nuclear warhead was moved to the Western Indian States and kept in a state of readiness.”
It is clearly understood that both the states cannot be trusted for behaving sensibly in future. We are alarmed about the unauthorized use of nukes, however, several reports from the experts upset us with the fuzzy nuclear postures and irrationality of India and Pakistan that might trigger an authorized use of nukes. India rejects the Pakistan’s offer to explore a nuclear free-zone area in South Asia, Vajpayee clearly responded to Pakistan that “we have to keep in mind developments in other neighbouring countries as well”. Vajpayee further stated that “though we believe in a minimum credible deterrent, the size of the deterrent must be deterred from time to time on the basis of our own threat perception. This is a judgement which cannot be surrendered to anyone else.”
Pakistan is also not in a mood to roll back its nuclear programme. Pervez Musharrafargues that “only a traitor would think of rolling back.” Similarly, Abdul Satar argues “…in order to ensure the survivability and credibility of the deterrent, Pakistan will have to maintain, preserve and upgrade its capability”.
Due to the poor management of nuclear weapons, the international community is concerned about the Jihadi networks in Pakistan who might steal the nukes for their own purposes. Stephen Cohen is worried about the zeal of Jihad against Unbelievers that Pakistani military always encourages the Jihadi’s to target India. Cohen argues that the nuclear attack on non-combatants in urban areas in India is one of the aim of Jihadi organizations in Pakistan. Similarly, India’s nuclear doctrine also talks about the ‘unacceptable damage’ that means a nuclear attack on civilian areas.
Surprisingly, anIndian army officer suggested George Fernandes, Defence Minister of India, to denote a nuclear device in Siachen to drown Pakistan completely to settle the Kashmir dispute once for all. The Indian Chief of Army Staff, General S. Padmanabhan’s statement on January 11, 2002 to nuke Pakistan was a surprising statement that uproar the Indian Prime Minister Office.Nobody can deny the fact that there is possibility of irrational behaviour (nuclear exchange) between the two belligerent states.
Thus, it is clear with the help of several studies on India-Pakistan nuclear brinkmanship that there is possibility of nuclear omnicide in South Asia. The organizational biases, blurry nuclear doctrines of no-first use and first-use of nukes, poor accountability of nukes, advantage of missile defence systems, intense rivalry, unresolved Kashmir dispute, and close borders might become the reasons for the failure of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
Rameez Raja is pursuing Ph. D at Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He specializes in India’s nuclear policy. His writings have previously appeared in Rising Kashmir, Café Dissensus Everyday, Kafila, South Asia Journal, Foreign Policy News, Modern Diplomacy, Pakistan Observer, Kashmir Observer, and Kashmir Monitor. Email ID: rameezrajaa23[at]gmail.com