These are dismal times for peace. Since the tests of May and their overt nuclearization, Pakistan-India relations have visibly deteriorated. Crisis has followed crisis and nuclear weapons have played an increasingly prominent role.
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The massive military mobilisation and threat of war in spring of exposed several important features of the dynamics shaping nuclear South Asia, especially the repeated use of nuclear threats and the apparent fearlessness of policy makers and the public when faced with the prospect of nuclear war.
The context for these developments is a growing unwillingness among political and military leaders in South Asia to confront changed realties but as Einstein famously remarked, the bomb has changed everything except our way of thinking. An arms race is growing, in fits and starts, as best as the two states can manage. Military doctrines are inter-linked in ways that lead inexorably to nuclear war.
The poor are uneducated, uninformed and powerless. The well-to-do are uninformed or possessed by the religious fundamentalism - Islamic and Hindu - that is rapidly changing both countries. These forces are now being wedded to nationalism in ways that suggest restraints that were at work in previous India-Pakistan wars and crises may increasingly be over-ridden or suppressed. We are moving down a steep slippery slope whose bottom we have yet to see.
The efficacy of nuclear deterrence is predicated on the ability of these weapons to induce terror. It presupposes a rational calculus, as well as actors who, at the height of tension, will put logic before emotion. Recent events in South Asia have put all these into question. We therefore fear that perhaps a new chapter may someday have to written in textbooks dealing with the theory of nuclear deterrence. Time is short. The role of the United States is key. It has begun to worry more about the spectre of nuclear armed islamic terrorism than the prospect of a South Asian nuclear war.
But the Bush administration's unconstrained, unilateral, imperial vision has little space for restraint, treaties, and undermines the possibility of peace and disarmament for all. There are a few steps that may begin to take us down the path to safety. There is a fundamental link between crises and nuclear weapons in South Asia. Soon after the defeat of Pakistan by India in the war, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto called a meeting of Pakistani nuclear scientists in the city of Multan to map out a nuclear weapons program. Pakistan was pushed further into the nuclear arena by the Indian test of May , seen as a means to further consolidate Indian power in South Asia.
Extended Deterrence and US Nuclear Doctrine
Challenged again in May by a series of 5 Indian nuclear tests, Pakistan was initially reluctant to test its own weapons out of fear of international sanctions. Belligerent statements by Indian leaders after the tests succeeded in forcing it over the hill. But success brought change. Pakistan saw nuclear weapons as a talisman, able to ward off all dangers. Countering India's nuclear weapons became secondary. Instead, Pakistani nuclear weapons became the means for neutralizing India's far larger conventional land, air, and sea forces.
In the minds of Pakistani generals, nuclear weapons now became tools for achieving foreign policy objectives. The notion of a nuclear shield led them to breath-taking adventurism in Kashmir. Led by Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan sent troops out of uniform along with Islamist militant fighters across the Line of Control to seize strategic positions in the high mountains of the Kargil area.
The subsequent Kargil war of may be recorded by historians as the first actually caused by nuclear weapons. As India counter-attacked and Pakistan stood diplomatically isolated, a deeply worried Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to Washington on 4 July , where he was bluntly told to withdraw Pakistani forces or be prepared for full-scale war with India. Bruce Reidel, Special Assistant to President Clinton, writes that he was present in person when Clinton informed Nawaz Sharif that the Pakistan Army had mobilized its nuclear-tipped missile fleet 1.
If this is true, then the preparations for nuclear deployment and possible use could only have been ordered by General Pervez Musharraf at either his own initiative or in consultation with the army leadership. Unnerved by this revelation and the closeness to disaster, Nawaz Sharif agreed to immediate withdrawal, shedding all earlier pretensions that Pakistan's army had no control over the attackers.
Despite the defeat in the Kargil War, Pakistan political and military leaders insisted that Pakistan had prevailed in the conflict and that its nuclear weapons had deterred India from crossing the Line of Control or the international border. This belief may be especially strong in the military, who would otherwise have to accept that their prized weapons were of no military utility. On 13 December , Islamic militants struck at the Indian parliament in Delhi sparking off a crisis that has yet to end.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee exhorted his troops in Kashmir to prepare for sacrifices and "decisive victory", setting off widespread alarm. It seemed plausible that India was preparing for a "limited war" to flush out Islamic militant camps in Pakistan administered Kashmir. Although an embattled Musharraf probably had little to do with the attack on the Indian Parliament, India cut off communications with Pakistan. The Indian ambassador in Islamabad was recalled to Delhi, road and rail links were broken off, and flights by Pakistani airlines over Indian territory were disallowed.
Such Indian reactions have played into the hands of jihadists in Kashmir who now operate as a third force almost autonomous of the Pakistani state this operational autonomy is typical of such large scale covert operations, where there is a political need for the state patron to be able to plausibly deny responsibility for any particular action taken by such forces - the U.
There is a real possibility that jihadists will commit some huge atrocity - such as a mass murder of Indian civilians. Indeed, their goal is to provoke full-scale war between India and Pakistan, destabilize Musharraf, and settle scores with America. Nuclear threats started flying in all directions. In May , as fighter aircraft circled Islamabad, in a public debate with one of us PH , General Mirza Aslam Beg, the former chief of Pakistan's army, declared: "We can make a first strike, and a second strike, or even a third.
You've got to die some day anyway. As India began to seriously consider cross-border strikes on militant camps on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, it became convenient for those urging action to deny Pakistan's nuclear weapons by challenging its willingness and ability to use them.
This is not the first time this notion has been exercised, but it has now gained astonishingly wide currency in Indian ruling circles and carries increasingly grave risks of a misjudgment that could lead to nuclear war.
As a member of the delegation, one of us PH expressed worries about a nuclear catastrophe on the Subcontinent. Gujral repeatedly assured PH - both in public and in private - that Pakistan was not capable of making atomic bombs. The Prime Minister was not alone. Senior Indian defense analysts like P. Chari had also published articles before May arguing this point, as had the former head of the Indian Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Raja Ramana. Although Pakistan's nuclear tests had dispelled this scepticism, senior Indian military and political leaders continue to express doubts on the operational capability and usability of the Pakistani arsenal.
Still more seriously, many Indians believe that, as a client state of the US, Pakistan's nuclear weapons are under the control of the US. The assumption is that, in case of extreme crisis, the US would either restrain their use by Pakistan or, if need be, destroy them.
Strategic deterrence redux: Nuclear weapons and European security
At a meeting in Dubai this year in January, senior Indian analysts said they were "bored" with Pakistan's nuclear threats and no longer believed them. Subrahmanyam, an influential Indian hawk who has advocated overt Indian nuclearization for more than a decade, believes that India can "sleep in peace. It is an enormous leap of faith to presume that the United States would have either the intention - or the capability - to destroy Pakistani nukes.
Tracking and destroying even a handful of mobile nuclear-armed missiles would be no easy feat. During the Cuban missile crisis, the U. Air Force had aerial photos of the Soviet missile locations and its planes were only minutes away, yet it would not assure that a surprise attack would be more than 90 percent effective.
Strategic deterrence redux: | FIIA – Finnish Institute of International Affairs
More recently, in Iraq, U. No country has ever tried to take out another's nuclear bombs. It would be fantastically dangerous because one needs percent success. Nonetheless, there are signs that India is boosting its military capability to where it might feel able to overwhelm Pakistan. Since the nuclear tests, there have been very large increases in Indian military spending. A further increase of 4. In a paper entitled "Vision ", the Indian Air Force has laid out its requirements - it proposes increasing the number of squadrons from 39 to 60 by and replacing the aged MiG planes with more modern fighters, such as the Russian Sukhois, or the Mirage or Rafael fighters from France.
A missile regiment to handle the nuclear-capable Agni missile is being raised. Pakistan's generals would like to keep up with India in this effort but the economy is faltering and cannot stand the strain. A recent World Bank report is worth quoting at length 8 :. Land may be coveted, but it is not grabbed Only on occasion does it become necessary to move to the direct, explicit threats commonly associated with a deterrent posture. Is deterrence really all that it's cracked up to be?
Is its success quantifiable? Freedman from his book again emphasis added :. It was indisputable that the event that was supposed to be deterred [a nuclear attack, of course -- RW] during the cold war had not occurred. The superpowers, they contended, 'overdosed' on deterrence.
Then Freedman cited respected disarmament writer Scott Sagan, who has written about a "parallel narrative of hair-raising stories," such as "the close calls in the nuclear history of the United States Meanwhile, at DisarmamentActivist. He questions whether it's ever actually been tested:. Perhaps most frightening, Sagan reminds us: "a president's deterrent threat does not just reflect a commitment to retaliate; it creates a commitment.
In a recent International Security article, Francis Gavin explains:. Today's "rogue" states and terrorist organizations. Their leaders may not be as rational; they might value human life so little that they would be willing to use nuclear weapons despite the threat of retaliation; or they could find nonconventional and nontraceable ways of delivering nuclear weapons.
It's tough to argue against deterrence because, except for its likely ineffectuality with terrorists, it's so darned intuitive. Maybe, instead, the answer lies in explaining to the public that it can be made more effective. More nuclear weapons? No, but deterrence does settle for too little -- instead of domination, standoff. Nuclear weapons, the great equalizer, furnish lesser military powers that possess them with the power of life and death over the United States. To a nation with our overwhelming conventional military superiority, that should be a source of national humiliation.
Nuclear Deterrence: Hardest Argument in the World to Refute
Besides, it makes a mockery of the security we think we're buying with the vast amount of money we spend on conventional weapons. They nullified the influence of other, more traditional forms of power, such as conventional forces and economic strength, allowing the Soviet Union to minimize the United States' enormous economic, technological, and even "soft power" advantages.
In such a world, there would be a "great premium on resolve. In other words, to the foolhardy may go the game. Once again fear leaves us much less safer than, by all rights, we ought to be.
First posted at the Faster Times. US Edition U. News U.
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