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Complied  by: Waqas Jan

Edited by: Dr. Anjum Sarfraz

Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad

As part of evaluating doctrines and deterrence postures of both India and Pakistan and the impact of evolving nuclear security architecture,  the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) held a bi-monthly seminar marking the 21st anniversary of Pakistan’s successful attainment of Nuclear weapons capability.

Drawing on the unique expertise of a broad range of defense analysts, former diplomats and retired military officials, the event presented a unique look into the prevailing dynamics of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability within the contemporary South Asian Security environment.

Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema

Formally inaugurating the session, Dr. Cheema warmly welcomed all participants and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for their attendance. In his introductory remarks, he highlighted the importance of the occasion in commemorating the Pakistan’s journey from attaining Minimum Credible Deterrence and later achieving Full Spectrum Deterrence in a period of 21 years. A feat that remains truly commendable considering the numerous and diverse range of challenges faced by Pakistan throughout its history.

In contrast, India’s approach has been marked with a significant shift which while apparent in its stance over the last decade is even more visible within the prevailing security environment. This is clearly evident in India’s strategic emphasis on pre-emption, counterforce and Ballistic Missile Defense systems, all of which have  altered the region’s strategic balance. Based on this scenario, the question that thus arises today is to what extent is Pakistan capable of addressing these shifts in India’s nuclear doctrine and the threats that subsequently emerge from it.

If one were to place these developments within a historical context, it is important to understand how the very concept of deterrence had evolved under the US-Soviet rivalry during the Cold War. Initially deterrence between both these nuclear rivals was defined more along the principles and threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and all out nuclear war. This however changed when the US after withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, pursued a strategy that was more reliant on Ballistic Missile Defense. With its roots in Regan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the growing emphasis that was thus laid on pre-emptive and first-strike options as well as the use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons, gave way to a de-stabilizing effect on the strategic balance that had prevailed between the US and former USSR during the Cold War.

Comparing this with the current scenario in South Asia, it is clearly evident that India has been directly copying the US’s Post-Cold War deterrence model. Just like Russia was still dependent on MAD type deterrence in the face of US pressure then, Pakistan too is dependent on the same doctrinal outlook in the face of India’s shifting posture now. Pakistan’s development of MIRVs and other related capabilities serve as clear examples of these dynamics.

Taking  a general view of how these preferences have taken root within global nuclear deterrence, India and the US can be grouped together on one side of this spectrum, with their doctrines laying greater emphasis on counterforce, pre-emption, first-strike and Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities. On the other side we have countries like Pakistan and China which rely more on an approach rooted in Mutually Assured Destruction and counter value targets. Russia is unique in the sense that it lies somewhere in the middle where it has increasingly moved towards developing sophisticated missile defense systems while still maintaining certain aspects of its Cold War doctrine.

The Indian airstrikes that were carried out in the wake of Pulwama for instance were a clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and air space. From Pakistan’s perspective they were a clear act of war. India however, has continued to justify its position by terming it as a non-military strike. This can be seen as nothing short of irresponsible considering the grave ramifications that ensued for the region’s peace and stability. Even history has shown us that such events are extremely rare in nuclear weapon states. The US and Russia never engaged in direct air-strikes or aerial combat.

Based on India’s actions it is clear that India is directly questioning Pakistan’s deterrence capability. This has also long been evident in the kind of rhetoric that has been routinely employed by the Indian Army Chief and Prime Minister Modi. From Pakistan however, no statements regarding Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine or posture have been made at the official level   such as those that were made almost a decade earlier by Ex DG SPD, Gen. Kidwai.

This needs to change. India’s statements on its nuclear posturing need to be responded directly at the appropriate levels. While Pakistan has been sending effective signals in terms of test launches and demonstrated its weapons’ capabilities, India’s provocations in terms of its doctrinal shift also need to be responded directly.

Setting the context for the seminar’s speakers Dr. Cheema posed a series of key questions that he requested to be kept in mind by the speakers when giving their presentations. Directed towards gauging the efficacy of Pakistan’s deterrence framework, he requested the panel to address the reasons behind India’s decision to de-escalate tensions following the aerial dogfight with Pakistan. He stated that Pakistan response was very effective and credible but asked whether Pakistan’s response was punitive enough to deter any future misadventures by India and whether any positive steps could be expected from Prime Minister Modi. These questions thus formed the crux of the tone and context of the debate that ensued throughout the seminar.

Air Chief Marshal (r) Sohail Aman

Speaking as the Chief Guest of the seminar, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman while building on the context laid out by Dr. Cheema explained how both the country’s strategic and conventional forces were strongly linked together to form what has been described as Full Spectrum Deterrence. This he explained was clearly evident in the recent escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan where both Pakistan’s conventional and strategic capabilities worked in tandem to prevent the escalation of hostilities beyond what was witnessed.

In order to answer the questions posed by Dr. Cheema, the former Air Chief elaborated that it was important to first understand the mindset that had led to India’s military actions following Pulwama as well as the long-standing impact these are likely to have on the region’s stability particularly in light of Mr. Modi’s re-election.  This he said was extremely important especially considering the implications these developments are to have within the emerging nexus between the United States, Israel and India.

He agreed with Dr. Cheema that India does try to follow the US in its attempts at unilaterally projecting its power across the region. What it instead needs to do is to re-think along with the US the perils of what such a uni-polar world order have done to global peace and stability. History has shown that US interventionism has done more damage than good in its attempts at unilaterally imposing its will across countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya etc.

If that is the kind of role India is envisioning for itself in South Asia then it is truly mistaken as Pakistan will never allow itself to be dominated by India. There is widespread consensus within Pakistan regarding this and India is aware that due to Pakistan’s military capabilities, both strategic and conventional, it cannot dominate Pakistan the way it does other countries in the region such as Nepal and Bhutan.

This is further evident in the fact, that if it weren’t for Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence, all these incidents related to Uri, Pathankot and now Pulwama would have played out a lot differently. The escalation of hostilities that were witnessed in the aftermath of Pulwama is not the first time India has come knocking at our doors. Similarly, considering the relationship between the conventional and strategic dimensions of Pakistan’s armed forces within this context, the response that was meted out to India had made it clear that any form of aggression will be responded to by Pakistan just like it was done 3 months ago.

Terming India’s decision to carry out its attempted air strikes inside Pakistan as a grave miss-calculation, the Air Chief Marshal went on to question India’s motivation for carrying out the strike in clear violation of international norms and regulations. He compared this decision to how Pakistan following, the APS massacre, while well aware of the location of the perpetrators inside Afghan territory,  chose to address the issue through official diplomatic and military channels at the state level, rather than unilaterally violating their neighbor’s sovereignty. This was despite the fact that even though the Pakistan military possessed both the capability and resolve to attack terrorist targets in Afghanistan, with even public sentiment on its side, Pakistan chose to restrain itself and operated within the realms of international law as a responsible power.

Hence, in answering whether Pakistan’s response to Indian aggression in the aftermath of Pulwama was effective enough, the Air Chief Marshal explained that the response was proof that there was no doubting Pakistan’s deterrence capabilities. Specifically, with regard to the efficacy of its conventional forces and the response that was meted out, it was clear that the gaps which India was seeking to exploit within Pakistan’s nuclear threshold didn’t really exist to begin with.

Hence, as was witnessed, it was this efficacy and readiness of Pakistan’s conventional forces that determines its threshold for nuclear deterrence. It is also worth mentioning that this efficacy has been maintained despite financial constraints as a result of highly successful indigenization efforts which itself are an immense achievement and matter of great pride for the country’s armed forces. It is therefore through a combination of these indigenization efforts, and the armed forces’ unflinching resolve to get its conventional capabilities right that Pakistan maintains an adequate nuclear threshold.

Drawing on his extensive expertise regarding the conventional capabilities of the Pakistan Air Force in particular, the former Air Chief explained how the expansion of the air-force’s overall strength from around 350 to 410 fighter aircraft allows it to remain well at par with India’s present capabilities. This is in spite of the billions of dollars being spent by India as part of its own modernization drive which still remains flawed at best. Commending the determination, skill and operational readiness of the Pakistan Air force, Air Chief Marshal Aman said that it was because of these reasons that Pakistan’s conventional forces posed a formidable match for India despite being outnumbered and subject to financial constraints.

Therefore, it was because of these conventional capabilities that hostilities between India and Pakistan after culminating towards the aerial skirmishes following Pulwama did not escalate any further. What these developments had revealed instead, was a grave mis-calculation on India’s part as it mistakenly overestimated its ability to project hard power over Pakistan. Furthermore, Pakistan’s response also showed that similar attempts by India to target Pakistan’s nuclear sites, or to enact its Cold Start Doctrine as part of its counterforce strategy would be met with the same response.

Hence to answer Dr. Cheema’s earlier question, yes Pakistan’s response was by all means highly effective. Whether it was punitive enough however depends largely on the extent to which India’s political leadership is willing to risk regional peace and stability for their own myopic objectives. Based on this scenario what’s required is sound leadership on both sides of the border that by prioritizing restraint can ensure peace and stability throughout the region.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Speaking on Post-Cold War Nuclear Deterrence and the Nuclearization of South Asia, Dr. Jaspal stated that one cannot really disassociate the Cold War from the Post-Cold War when talking about deterrence. To convey this point, he charted a brief history explaining how the very concept of deterrence had involved throughout history.

He explained that in its earliest phase, when the US had a monopoly on Nuclear weapons the basic idea behind maintaining a nuclear arsenal was directed more towards the concept of preventive war as opposed to deterrence. It wasn’t until the former USSR, after extensive development of its nuclear weapons program, gained a second-strike capability that nuclear parity between the world’s two super-powers was achieved. This parity which defined much of the Cold War was in turn based along the principles of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). With the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (1972), the idea of deterrence was further reinforced.

Hence while the 1970’s were defined as an era of marked cooperation between the US and USSR, the 1980’s saw a re-thinking of this approach with the beginning of the US’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Dubbed as Reagan’s Star Wars, the ensuing developments led to the idea of escalation dominance to be re-visited, specifically keeping in mind the increasing role to be played by Ballistic Missile Defense Systems within this framework. Hence, keeping in mind this history, the way the concept of Nuclear deterrence has evolved and shaped international politics throughout the Cold-War and Post-Cold War world orders, becomes a lot clearer considering the focus of today’s discussion.

In evaluating the impact of this concept within the context of South Asia however, there are seven key factors that set India and Pakistan as markedly apart from the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These entail a common border shared between India and Pakistan, shorter flight times and distances, a history of one to one military conflicts, the first -ever aerial dogfight between two nuclear powers, the long-standing Kashmir issue, active involvement in each other’s internal conflicts, and a semblance of parity of based on the strength of their conventional forces.

Within these dynamics, it can be argued that Pakistan has more or less followed a strategy of appeasement with respect to India. This he argued while directly tied to Pakistan’s attempts at de-escalating tensions has arguably emboldened India into testing Pakistan’s threshold for deterrence. This for instance was evident in the fact that the Indian air strikes following Pulwama were the first of their kind in the history of Nuclear Deterrence. No nuclear weapons states have ever engaged in aerial combat the way Pakistan and India did three months ago.

While clearly instigated by India, the threat or perception of even deploying nuclear capable delivery vehicles within such a scenario is extremely dangerous for regional peace and stability. This is also considerably different from the Cold War scenario where greater distances and longer flight times did not pose the kind of risks being created by the hair-trigger deployments in South Asia. Hence, when applied to the dramatic escalation of tensions that were witnessed during the Pulwama crisis the potential risks of nuclear war are significantly higher here, with even the slightest of mis-calculations posing dire consequences for both Pakistan and India.

In analyzing the impact these factors have had on shaping both countries nuclear doctrines (which is also the title for today’s seminar), there are definitely some extremely worrying trends coming out of India. Especially considering recent developments within their domestic politics, the kind of rhetoric being employed by key government and military officials in India is having a major destabilizing effect on regional peace and security. This consequently multiplies the risks of nuclear war by unnecessarily raising the probability of even accidental launches or errors on either side.

As was made evident in the escalation of tensions over the last few months, India’s rhetoric regarding its capabilities linked to its ‘surgical strikes’ represent a highly risky and unprecedented kind of strategic thinking that is alarming at best. What’s more, the dramatic shift in the role played by external third parties is also extremely worrying considering how instead of playing a more stabilizing role in the South Asian region, they are instead contributing to India’s efforts at de-stabilization. This aspect combined with the previously discussed factors thus pose an even greater threat against the prevailing deterrence framework thus raising the chances of nuclear confrontation even more.

Dr. Zulfiqar Khan

Speaking on how India’s Nuclear Doctrine has transformed over the years, Dr. Khan elaborated on some of the most recent changes that have taken place as apparent in the country’s negative nuclear signaling. He drew parallels with Dr. Jaspal’s overview of the historical development of India’s nuclear program in relation to the very evolution of the concept of Nuclear Deterrence as witnessed during the Cold War. Hence, building on this earlier overview of the history of India’s nuclear capabilities, the focus of Dr. Khan’s discussion was on showing how India’s associated Nuclear Doctrine has gradually moved more towards pre-emption. This he argued was similar to the way the US had changed its doctrine near the end of the Cold War as discussed by Dr. Jaspal.

He explained how over the last decade or two, India while increasingly moving towards indigenously developed research, was directly signaling this clear and broad-scale revision of its nuclear doctrine. Its development of weapons systems while focusing on enhancing the speed and precision of its existing weapons, is geared towards adding new capabilities to its expanding arsenal, further destabilizing the strategic balance in the region. All of these developments point towards a kind of Nuclear posturing that is premised more on the principles of counterforce.

India’s acquisition and development of a multi-tiered Missile Defense system, incorporating increasingly sophisticated systems such as the Russian S-400 Ballistic Missile Defense system also stand as cases in point. Similarly, the deployment of the nuclear submarine Arihant by the Indian Navy also presents a clear indication of India’s desire to move more towards a strategy based more on pre-emption as opposed to simply maintaining a second-strike capability.

Taken together, such moves towards pre-emption and counterforce, present a highly de-stabilizing impact on peace and stability in the South Asian region. Yet, what’s perhaps even more worrying is the fact that the rhetoric being employed by India’s leadership in promoting such negative nuclear posturing is seemingly ignorant of the immense risks and destabilizing potential of its doctrinal shifts. As has been mentioned by all the speakers so far, India’s aggressive posturing   lead up to and aftermath of the Pulwama crisis have remained focused on signaling these shifts in its doctrine. The narrative built around the use of Surgical Strikes and India’s increasing willingness to exert its hard power capabilities are all evidence of these trends.

Yet, as was shown in Pakistan’s response, India’s allusions to these developments represent a major miscalculation of its projected capabilities on its own part. This combined with the rhetoric being employed represent a highly misguided attempt at challenging Pakistan’s deterrence capabilities. Thus, as has been clearly visible in the kind of rhetoric being used by Prime Minister Modi and his BJP government, ignoring past lessons as well as the future implications of this kind of posturing represents the absence of a key element of strategic decision making which is rationality. Especially considering how the same government and leaders were re-elected in the recent Indian elections, it becomes increasingly worrying when evaluating how these developments are likely to shape peace and stability throughout the region. Hence, in weighing the pros and cons of revaluating India’s Nuclear Doctrine the BJP’s present thinking on this issue appears extremely troubling.

Dr. Shakeel Ahmed

Speaking on India’s recent anti-satellite (ASAT) test and its space capabilities, Dr. Shakeel presented a detailed discussion on these developments speaking from the perspective of arms control and disarmament in outer space. Outlining the implications of the test that was conducted two months ago on 27th March, he explained how India was the only country after the US, Russia and China to have successfully tested Anti-Satellite weapons capability. This however has led to direct and adverse effects on the weaponization of space, the creation of harmful space debris and an overall destabilizing impact on both regional and global geo-politics.

Drawing on his unique expertise, Dr. Shakeel pointed out that these developments carry serious implications for global peace and stability particularly from the perspective of international law. Especially considering how laws governing the use of space are still in somewhat in their nascent stages, there is a definite need to further define the discourse related to the peaceful uses of space within this framework. In this regard it is important to first explain and highlight what has come to be described as ‘lawfare’ in relation to this concept.

Defined as the use and misuse of law as a method of warfare, the concept involves showing how laws have been used to add some semblance of legitimacy to military objectives within contemporary international politics. This he argued formed an integral part of how space warfare was being incorporated into what has now widely come to be known as hybrid warfare. Approaching these concepts from a conflict resolution perspective there is a growing need for enacting a governance mechanism that therefore limits the militarization of space, as well as the adverse impact this poses for international peace and stability.

When viewed from a historic perspective, it becomes clear that the militarization and weaponization of space is simply an extension of the space race that was witnessed between the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War. While the ensuing research and technology that has emerged from then has played a key role in some of the modern world’s most important scientific advances, there is a definite need to ensure the use of outer space remains for peaceful and beneficial purposes. In this regard the United Nations has so far played a leading role in preventing an arms race in space from an international law perspective.

Closely related to this has been the Dr’s own work as part of the McGill University’s efforts in contributing to this overall discourse. This he explained was directed towards helping develop a wide-ranging international legal framework that would help govern the use of space for military purposes. Applying his work to the latest ASAT test by India, Dr. Shakeel argued that India as a result of its actions was thus in violation of a number of laws governing the use of space. These have arisen largely from the harmful space debris and space pollution that have resulted from India’s test that are in clear violation of the use of space for peaceful purposes. Yet, even though these violations have been committed there is little that can be done in terms of any recourse in reversing the threats and dangers already posed by Indian actions. What’s more under the present legal framework, it is also difficult to undertake any punitive actions in the form of imposing sanctions or penalties under the prevailing governance framework. This he argued presents of the one of the clearest examples and justifications as to why a more robust governance mechanism is required to address the growing militarization of space.

Just like how world’s seas and oceans are a common resource that is to be shared by all of humanity, space too is a shared resource that serves as vital to our existence. It is thus imperative that it should be kept that way for the benefit of all of humanity for generations to come.

Dr. Rizawana Karim Abbasi

Dr Rizawana Karim Abbasi, Associate Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences department of Bahria University, Islamabad, spoke on, “India’s Future Strategic Plans and Implications for South Asia Security “. She said that initially there were three main parameters of  Indian nuclear doctrine (1)  credible minimum deterrent to apprise the world that its main purpose is maximization of security ( 2)  no first use ( NFU ), that is keeping nuclear arsenals disassembled or off – alert to maintain safety and civilian oversight ( 3 ) massive retaliation, which  was a normal  gesture to achieve nuclear sufficiency. Since Indian early ballistic missile system lacked accuracy and precision to hit smaller targets, therefore big cities of Pakistan became primary targets of nuclear armed missiles. Presently India is moving from her initial Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND) to a war fighting, counterforce, preemptive, and disarming first – strike posture against Pakistan. Her technological and missile accuracy have improved, the military facilities, missile silos, command control and communication came under deliberation for such attacks. India’s intentions of embracing such a strategy of disarming Pakistan are real and premeditated. India has adopted this preemptive posture in the back drop of shifting global trends, USA has decided to transfigure India into a bigger role for them to stabile the region and navigate China’s growing wealth and power. The new role of India in Asia has allowed her to create footprints in the global technological and broader nuclear order.  Through the adoption of such posture, India aims at dragging Pakistan into a deliberate arms racing problem there by overburdening our economy and inflicting painful psychological impact which may lead to create division and dissatisfaction among institutions on sharing of equal resources with in Pakistan. The speaker also discussed the requirements of counter force mission. It perpetuates the most dangerous characteristics of nuclear forces with weapons kept at high level of alert, ready to launch upon warning of an attack and able to preemptively attack enemy forces. To make the counterforce enduring and credible, accurate information of location of enemy weapons, their production and storage facilities and launchers is considered paramount. It also includes clarity, how the assets can be destroyed, how accurately to attack reloadable targets, duration of attack, minimum collateral damage to civilians and noncombatants, and finally the rational analysis of the outcome of the strike. The counterforce units require precision guided munitions (PGMs). The ideal counterforce strike reduces the time gap between decision to launch and attack. Counterforce weapons should infiltrate unhurt to target and sustain all weather precisions. Currently India holds considerable gaps in its deterrent force capabilities but it is vigorously pursuing to reduce short comings in   counterforce capabilities against Pakistan.

The speaker also talked about the strides India has adopted for counterforce capabilities. She mentioned that India is learning from the US experience on PMGs. India is acquiring new stealth technologies. She is also working on improvement of its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies including satellite sensors. A range of technologies are being developed, like improved seismometers, gravimeters, and remote type sensors. India is also embarked upon deterrent force modernization such as ballistic missile defense (BMD), multiple reentry vehicles( MIRVs), nuclear powered submarines with sub launched ballistic and shortage  missiles. This reflects India’s direction towards comprehensive counterforce war  fighting strategy .India is also improving her conventional warfare capabilities, by employing technologies such as cyber operations, advancement in its sea based intelligence, navigation and guidance system, acquisition of UAVs and SAR satellite systems are visible indicators   in this direction.

The speaker also dwelled upon challenges for Pakistan and regional security as well. Pakistan’s arsenal which is survivable today can become vulnerable in future. Pakistan is to improve research and development with its modest resources to develop effective countermeasures to the full spectrum of emerging means of Indian counterforce. Pakistan needs to improve its mission dedicated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to locate enemy mobile missile launchers and potential hide sites.

While concluding the talk , the speaker said that, Indian counterforce is embroiling the region in an unnecessary nuclear arms race, and is likely to lead to dangerous crisis of instability as well. A new restraint regime may be required to reduce evolving dangerous risks. Both USA and China have a role to play in order to regulate such dangerous war fighting and arms trends.   Cyber norms and laws need to be introduced and implemented. Both India and Pakistan should resume dialogue to deliberate on conflict escalation and de- escalation, management of accidental war and reducing risks and institutionalization of an early nuclear restraint regime.

Dr. Zafar Khan 

Dr. Zafar Khan, Assistant Professor, Strategic Studies Department, NDU, spoke on the topic “Assessing Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine in Contemporary South Asian Security Environment”. The speaker started his talk mentioning the Pulwama episode of February 2019 followed by the Indian air strike while crossing   our International borders and subsequent swift and timely response by Pakistan.   In his views Pulwama crisis 2019 has become a more serious crisis compared to many other crises between India and Pakistan when at least the Indian aerial forces penetrated into Pakistani territory while intending to strike targets they wanted to. One wonders if India will go for more of these types of strikes in the presence of nuclear overhang while gradually eroding nuclear deterrence in South Asia. It is more alarming because this happened at least for the first time since the introduction of nuclear weapons in South Asia that in turn reflects India’s motives for finding a space for limited strikes, developing a capacity for counterforce targeting, and strengthening its escalation dominance, power projection, military coercion, and compellence strategy against Pakistan. In this scenario does Pakistan need to bring changes in its nuclear doctrine the way its adversary India does from time to time?

According to the speaker Pakistan needs to increase the number of warheads, delivery systems and also increase the ranges of nuclear deterrent devices.  Pakistan will need to have a well knitted combination of offense-defense balancing approach. It has to keep ready its retaliatory capabilities than ever before for a strong defensive and deploy some, if not all, of its forces for offensive purposes.  The offense-defense approaches need to be well protected, concealed, and dispersed.   Pakistan should also modernize its conventional forces as well. The robust retaliatory conventional force response stopped Indians for further aggression. If Pakistan had not timely retaliated, then India would have produced more incentives to go for bigger strikes which would not be in the vital security interest of Pakistan and this would have significant repercussion on the South Asian deterrence stability.  To indicate that nuclear   deterrence of Pakistan is robust, comprehensive, and credible, the nuclear signaling may be made routine practice during peace and crisis times.

While concluding the talk the speaker underlined that, it is high time that Pakistan needs to work harder to immediately plug those missing gaps in order to prevent adversary from waging limited strikes/wars. It has to raise the cost of war too high to eventually deny the adversary from even getting tempted for preemptive strikes.

Ambassador (r) Zamir Akram

Ambassador (r) Zamir Akram delivered talk on “Post – Pulwama Deterrence Equation: An Assessment”.  While talking about 26 Feb incident, his views were that Pakistan response was a source of de-escalation of the crisis. Initially there was US / Western support for Indian retaliation to “terrorist attack”; but after Pakistan’s military response and threat to escalation brought international efforts to defuse tensions.  He talked about cold start doctrine and said, that it has never been implemented nor it is practicable between two nuclear states. According to the speaker there was no need to employ full spectrum deterrence, conventional response was adequate. India is talking to develop the mother of all nuclear bombs- thermo nuclear / hydrogen bomb. She needs to test again because earlier test had failed. While talking about Pakistan’s response, his views were to avoid an arms race. No need to go for weapon to weapon competition.  We should focus on quality rather than quantity. Pakistan should develop cruise missiles and MIRVs to penetrate Indians BMDs. Acquire SLBMs and sea launched second strike capability. Upgrade and improve survivability of own nuclear arsenal and delivery systems.

Lt. Gen Talat Masood

The first discussant, while highlighting the importance of 28th May within Pakistan’s overall history, Lt. Gen Talat Masood began his address by explaining how imperative it was to commemorate and  not to forget the immense achievements made by the country as a whole. He apprised the audience of the immense significance of attaining nuclear capabilities that stands as a testament to the country’s technological prowess and resilience in the face of extreme hostility and surmounting pressures.

He drew on his extensive experience and expertise related to the development of the country’s nuclear weapons program as part of the key role he played as the then secretary of defense production, as well as his role as head of Pakistan Ordnance Factories. Providing a first-hand account of the numerous technological, diplomatic and even political challenges facing the country’s development of nuclear weapons, he lauded how the program’s success was a living testament to the country’s resilience and determination, standing as proof of what it could achieve through a united and concerted effort.

Extending this success to other areas of the development and progress however, Gen Talat questioned as to why it was difficult to carry forth this same determination and resilience on to other sectors where it was presently required such as in the country’s economic development. He cautioned that it was the country’s economic strength that formed the very basis which determined the strength of its conventional, strategic and intelligence capabilities all of which were in turn dependent on its economy. This he explained presently stood as one of the country’s most glaring weaknesses, which was even more prone to being exploited by its adversaries than any perceived conventional and/or strategic gaps that may exist at the present.

He argued that within this framework, it was unlikely that India planned on seriously using any of its nuclear weapons. India too wants economic development which it prioritizes to a great deal and would not want to jeopardize its economic growth in the long-run, by engaging in a long and protracted military conflict with Pakistan. What it would instead want to do is weaken Pakistan economically, by forcing it to outspend itself and put undue resources and attention on a never ending and unsustainable arms race. Therefore, while Pakistan’s present nuclear capability which is a tremendous feat in itself is key to deterring Indian designs against it, the need of the hour is to strengthen the country’s economy which remains crucial to Pakistan’s survivability in the long-run.

Lt Gen (r) Naeem Khalid Lodhi

The second discussant Lt Gen (r) Naeem Lodhi started his talk by explaining full spectrum deterrence. He said that full spectrum deterrence includes conventional as well as nuclear deterrence. The nuclear weapons are considered last on the ladder.  While answering the question whether India has punched hole in our deterrence; his answer was that she has not. India was given befitting response and she did not escalate further.  The last question he answered was, is India in a position to carry out preemptive first strike? He answered that India in not in a position to carry out preemptive first strike alone. While talking about Indian cold start doctrine he said that his views were that it has never been practiced nor it is workable between two nuclear state.

Questions and Answer Session

Question by Dr. Rubina: Within the current framework being employed by Pakistan, is there a greater emphasis on escalation control as opposed to conflict resolution?  Can both India and Pakistan resolve their tensions based on these dynamics?

Answer by Zamir Akram: In order to answer whether Pakistan and India can resolve their tensions in an amicable manner, it is important to first understand the changing nature of the role being played by third-parties within the India Pakistan conflict. As was witnessed in the case of Pulwama, the role of the US, UK and France was arguably considerably counter-productive with respect to conflict resolution. The US for instance played a key role in convincing India to respond militarily following the blast in Pulwama. This stands in contrast to the previous roles played by the US in defusing tensions arising from Kashmir, the Kargil crises and even the first alleged surgical strikes from India inside Pakistani territory. These changing dynamics are likely to thus play a key role in how the re-elected BJP government is likely to approach its relationship with Pakistan, especially considering the emerging nexus between US-India ties that was discussed earlier.

Question by Brig (r) Bilal

Brig (r) Bilal asked from Gen Lodhi what he meant by saying that “India cannot launch pre-emptive first strike alone, who will join India”.  The answer given by Gen. Lodhi was that it was highly unlikely that India would take any action without the tacit, if not overt support of an outside power. Considering the prevailing geo-political situation and what transpired at Pulwama, I leave it to your assessment who this might be. But I maintain that India cannot launch alone.



Question to Dr Nawaz Jaspal

A question was asked to Dr Nawaz Jaspal about appeasement policy of Pakistan which he mentioned in the talk. His reply was that in the past few years Pakistan has not been responding to statements made by Indian leaders about nuclear threat to Pakistan. There should have been adequate Reponses from the Strategic Division of Pakistan.

Question by Ms Maria Sultan    

Maria Sultan referring to the 26 Feb strike asked whether Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence had failed resulting in the Indian airstrike. Dr. Cheema in relating her question to the initial query he had posed to the panel during his opening remarks, revisited this question in light of the discussion that had taken place so far. He asked each speaker in simple yes or no terms whether Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence had failed or succeeded within the context of Pulwama, and whether the response meted out by Pakistan was successful in reinforcing it. Responding to this query, all the speakers were in a general agreement that while Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence framework had failed to deter India from carrying out the 26 Feb airstrikes, the response that was given by Pakistan was successful in deterring any immediate escalation. This for instance was highlighted by Ambassador Zamir Akram in greater detail who explained that while India had attempted to create and exploit a gap within Pakistan’s Deterrence framework, this gap was immediately plugged by the Pakistan military’s response.



Lt Gen (r) Syed Muhammad Owais, covered following points as a Rapporteur:

  1. In the prevalent scenario, Pakistan needs to review the adequacy of its full spectrum deterrence.
  2. Indian is pursuing policy to establish hegemony in South Asia, which cannot be accepted.
  3. Keeping in view state of poverty in India and Pakistan, the Leadership of both countries should concentrate more on economic development and wellbeing of their citizens.
  4. Pakistan needs to prepare national space bill and Confidence building measures with India.
  5. Pakistan should improve its intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and cyber security mechanism.
  6. Pakistan should avoid getting into expensive arms race with India.
  7. The response by Pakistan on 27 Feb has amply highlighted requirement of modern conventional weapons.
  8. Conventional forces of Pakistan need to focus on quality rather than quantity.
  9. Pakistan to concentrate on cyber security, AI, and submarine launch missiles.
  10. Pakistan to acquire SLBMs and credible second strike capability

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