The colossal events of 1971 and India’s role

The simmering Indo-Pak rivalry and dangers
of an Armageddon were epitomized by the recent war of words between the
militaries of both countries. “We will call the nuclear bluff of Pakistan. If
we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we
are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear
weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff,” said the Indian Army Chief,
General Bipin Rawat while delivering the annual Army Day lecture. Expectedly,
the spokesman of the Pakistan Army, Major General Asif Ghafoor retorted and
said:” Well,
it’s their choice. Should they wish to test our resolve they may try and see it
for themselves.
The only thing stopping them is our credible nuclear deterrence.” The
Indian version of “fire and fury” and the quick rejoinder by Pakistan, are
causes of concern for watchers of the region’s security dynamics. There is as
to why incendiary statements from the makers and executioners of security
policies in India and Pakistan, can lead to crisis instability: Pakistan’s
ambiguous nuclear threshold. Changing threat perceptions and bellicosity are
making a strong case for Pakistan to hasten its evolution toward a War-fighting
nuclear doctrine.

 

Deterrence
through Ambiguity: Undefined Redlines

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After the overt nuclearization of South
Asia in 1998, the Indo-Pak theater has often been referred to as a nuclear flashpoint
owing to the continuation of casus belli in shape of the Kashmir conflict.
However, the possession of what Bernard Brodie called the “absolute weapons”
has deterred both countries from escalating skirmishes from the tactical and
sub-strategic levels to conflicts at the higher end of the conflict
spectrums.  A flared-up Line of
Control(LoC) or Working Boundary for that matter, cannot point toward the
failure of strategic deterrence but shows that there is space for carrying out
military engagements below the N-threshold. This compels us to highlight the
importance of the highly-touted nuclear threshold. While even a cursory look at
India’s Nuclear
Doctrine
gives a lucid indication of India’s assimilation of the No-First-Use Policy,
Pakistan has left an element of ambiguity as regards its nuclear doctrine and
red lines. As a weaker state that is still beset with the colossal events of
1971 and India’s role in them, Pakistan has adopted deterrence through
ambiguity.  Pakistan’s former COAS,
General Aslam Beg was a firm
believer in using ambiguity to enhance deterrence.

According to then spearhead of the
Strategic Plans Division(SPD).Lt. Gen Khalid Kidwai, Pakistan will use nuclear
weapons if four thresholds are reached. Loss of large parts of territory
(spatial threshold); destruction of large parts of land or air forces(military
threshold); economic and political thresholds.

At best, these red lines are not defined
and in the event of a conflict, may be lowered depending on the dynamics on the
ground. It is noteworthy to mention a few aspects of the Cold Start Doctrine
and their effect on the escalation ladder. With sharpness as
its defining feature, Cold Start calls for
reshuffling the old Holding and Strike corps. The former would create shallow
bridgeheads into Pakistani territory. It would be followed by Integrated Battle
Groups (IBGs) attacking along various axes to further ingress inside Pakistan.
Thereafter, in tandem with air support the 3-strike corps would concentrate on
firepower. In order to avoid a nuclear retaliation, forces will bite and hold
territory up to 25 kilometers inside Pakistan. Cold Start has the propensity to
reach the spatial and military threshold; hence, despite running the risk of
risk of deriding strategic deterrence, the TNWs do provide Pakistan with a
cushion at. lower rungs of the ladder.

 

A
War-fighting Doctrine?

Despite not enunciating an official
nuclear doctrine, Pakistan had one based on Credible Minimum Deterrence and
First-Use policy. Both of these constants had suited Pakistan’s meagre
resources and lack of geographical depth. However, as Moltke’s military adage
says: “Every plan meets that of enemy,” Pakistan brought about dynamism in its
doctrine, ostensibly to fill the deterrence gap. During a talk at the Carnegie
Endowment  for International , Lt.Gen
Khalid Kidwai, widely-regarded as the country’s doyen in nuclear strategy,
asserted the importance of Full Spectrum Deterrence in great detail. He said:”
What they(Indians)
were finding attractive, and what was probably encouraging them to find the
space for conventional war, below this gap, was the absence of a complete
spectrum of deterrence, if I may. That is what we have been calling the Full
Spectrum Deterrence. Kidwai’s lecture came on the heels of the successful test
launch of Shaheen III surface to surface ballistic missile, capable of  delivering nuclear and conventional warheads
at a distance of 2,750 . Kidwai said that the missile could reach the
prospective strategic bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The utterance
from the man who had remained in the thick of things, amplified the fact that
Pakistan is treading toward a war-fighting nuclear doctrine.

Last January, Pakistan’s successful tests of the Submarine
Launched Cruise Missile , Babar III and the surface-to-surface MRBM Ababeel
missile, were definite steps towards bolstering the country’s second-strike
capabilities. The ability to withstand a first strike and then retaliate is not
only a linchpin to deterrence but is a cornerstone of a war-fighting strategy.

Pakistan’s quest for Full Spectrum
Deterrence is commensurate with mounting threats from its eastern neighbor. As
long as both countries will not have an assured second-strike capability,
verbal references to nuclear clashes will only lead to crisis instability,
something that can result in rapturing the even-otherwise tenuous strategic
stability in South Asia

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