M A I N   N E W S

Special to The Tribune
India, Pak nuclear capabilities ensure stability
News analysis by K. Subrahmanyam, noted commentator on Security Affairs

THE two-day meeting between experts of India and Pakistan has concluded with a joint declaration that is truly astounding and genuinely confidence inspiring. The deliberations and this unprecedented declaration have completely belied the numerous worldwide Cassandric prophecies.

Most of the Western experts used to talk of Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint and of two nuclear neighbours who had already fought four wars and are still disputing actively over Kashmir getting into an escalatory process leading to nuclear exchange. A number of anti-nuclear lobbyists in our own country brought those arguments and used to repeat them.

The one sentence that stands out in the joint declaration is “Recognising the nuclear capabilities of each other, which are based on their national security imperatives constitute a factor for stability”. This is an unprecedented declaration in the nuclear era of 59 years. Never before two nuclear adversaries who have fought four wars and still have active disputes with each other have agreed that they recognised their nuclear capabilities constituted a factor of stability. It did not happen between the US and the USSR, nor between China and the US nor between China and the USSR.

This recognition that the nuclear capabilities constitute a factor of stability is, in turn, rooted in the acceptance of the doctrine of deterrence. India has already talked about minimum credible deterrence and the Pakistani leadership has always asserted that its nuclear weapon programme started in January 1972 following the debacle they suffered in 1971 war was India-specific and meant to deter the conventional superiority of India. Unlike the super powers which took 40 years into the nuclear era till President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev came out with their joint declaration in Geneva in 1985 that a nuclear war was unwinnable and, therefore, should not be initiated, in Indo-Pakistan context there is realisation on both sides that nuclear weapon is a weapon of last resort and is not meant to be used unless a nation’s vital security interest is at stake.

India is very clear that it will never use the nuclear weapon first. Pakistan has spelt out that it will use nuclear weapons only when it loses a large amount of territory, a major force, a major city or faces economic strangulation. None of these things is likely to happen in an Indo-Pak war as revealed in the last four wars.

Neither India nor Pakistan can afford to face international sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter for more than a few days. Those who talked of India having lost its conventional superiority because of nuclear tests just refuse to take note of assertions of successive Indian Army chiefs that India’s superiority over Pakistan which was 1.7 to 1 during 1971 war had fallen lower than 1.2 to 1 and that margin was not adequate to enforce a military decision. In other words, the contingencies envisaged by Pakistan when it might feel compelled to use nuclear weapons are not realistic and unlikely to arise.

No doubt Pakistan tried the Kargil adventure and the prolonged proxy war in Kashmir on the assumption that its nuclear deterrent capability will prevent India from escalating its counter-offensive beyond a point. But the existence of nuclear weapons on both sides of the border enabled India to concentrate enough forces to push Pakistanis out without escalating the conflict by crossing the Line of Control. The same deterrence prevented Pakistan from reinforcing its forces at Kargil heights and compelled it to accept withdrawal.

Increasingly there is realisation in Pakistan that the proxy war — terrorism through Jehadis — in Kashmir is becoming counterproductive. The militant organisations used in Kashmir for terrorism are the ones closer to the Al-Qaida and are now engaged increasingly in terrorist war against General Musharraf himself. International community is aware that Pakistani permissiveness facilitated the strengthening of the Taliban and the Al-Qaida and there is enormous international pressure on General Musharraf to stop facilitating the Jehadi terrorism in Kashmir.

What General Musharraf needs today is stability in Pakistan. He cannot afford to permit the Jehadi outfits a free run on Kashmir even while hoping he will have stability in Pakistan. After all, he also has to support the US in the war on terrorism. The Pakistani nuclear and missile programmes are under intense international surveillance and scrutiny because of the last 20 years of history of proliferation.

In these circumstances the earlier Pakistani tendency of nuclear sabrerattling appears to have been replaced by sobriety. The risks in Indo-Pak nuclear situation are far less than what they used to be between the US and the USSR.

Most of the so-called Western experts who exaggerate the risks in Indo-Pak situation often indulge in deliberate obfuscation. In the Cold War era the two armed forces in central Europe were facing each other eyeball to eyeball with artillery capable of delivering nuclear shells. The local troops were armed with nuclear weapons and they were in thousands. The forces had dangerous doctrines — such as launch on warning, launch under attack etc. They believed in fighting and winning nuclear wars. None of those factors apply to the Indo-Pak situation. Therefore, the two sides are in a position to declare that the weapons contribute to stability.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |