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Non-Proliferation, Nuclear Doctrines, Deterrence and Strategic Stability in South Asia

Compiled by: Ahyousha Khan
Reviewed and Edited by: S. Sadia Kazmi

Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) organized a One Day Seminar/Capacity Building Workshop on “Non-Proliferation, Nuclear Doctrines, Deterrence and Strategic Stability in South Asia” on 10th July, 2018 at Karakoram International University, Gilgit-Baltistan. The seminar was attended by selected members of strategic community, bureaucracy, academia including mid-career professionals, faculty and students of KIU.

Inaugural Session

Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President/Executive Director Strategic Vision Institute delivered inaugural/introductory remarks in which he expressed his gratitude to the audience for their presence. Dr. Cheema explained why it was important to create awareness and national narrative on the concepts of nuclear deterrence, doctrines, arms control and strategic stability all over Pakistan. He said that the field of Strategic Studies is relatively newer than the fields of International Relations or Political Science however it is an independent and viable discipline which has sound theoretical foundations by which it can explain the ongoing developments/events. Thus, a branch of study which can explain the reasons behind certain events on the basis of theoretical foundation is entitled to be a discipline. However, within Pakistan the discipline of Strategic Studies is not well disseminated and at times it is also not well understood at national level because mostly these issues are debated and remain confined to Islamabad. There is a dire need to create awareness in all parts of Pakistan on nuclear deterrence, doctrines, non-proliferation, arms control and strategic stability to highlight national narrative because in present times propaganda against Pakistan‟s nuclear capability is strong. He further added that ever since the development and first usage of nuclear weapons, they are considered as one of the most deadly weapons ever made. Thus, there is a debate in international community regarding nuclear weapons that they should be banned from international community in view of their destructiveness and immorality. Scholars, researchers, academicians, and policy makers who believed in this argument against nuclear weapons are considered as “nuclear pessimist”. They believe that if (God forbid) the nuclear weapons are used again, the havoc will be worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dr. Cheema further added that during the height of Cold War the two super powers had developed various kinds of nuclear weapons with the capability to destroy whole world three times over. However, there is a group in international system known as “nuclear optimists” who believes in the flip side of nuclear weapons unlike nuclear pessimists. Nuclear optimists are of the view that due to fear of self-annihilation, states refrain from using nuclear weapons. Thus, according to them if nuclear weapons are placed under adequate command and control structure, headed by mature leadership, these weapons can maintain peace better than the conventional weapons. Lastly, Dr. Cheema added that the nuclear weapons are indeed destructive and annihilative but there is no conventional defense against nuclear weapons. The only way to avoid threat of use of nuclear weapons is deterrence, which enables state to have such outstanding capability that the adversary would have to think twice before attacking because of the fear of unacceptable damage.
At the end of his inaugural remarks Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema thanked the audience, media and faculty of KIU once again.

Dr. Muhammad Ramzan, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, KIU, in his inaugural remarks stated that in order to achieve prosperity and stability it is necessary to identify hurdles first. In the past few years we as a nation made sufficient progress yet there are areas which require attention and combined national effort. Dr. Ramzan said that for so many years Pakistan continues to be a victim of climate change and water scarcity but efforts at societal, provincial and national level are missing. Thus, to for the sake of development, prosperity, peace and stability, it is necessary to have problem solving approach. He expressed the hope that all the issues of national significance are brought into the public sphere and practical joint efforts are made to solve them. Moreover, he acknowledged that such seminars and conferences should be carried out on regular basis in far flung areas of the country to create awareness among students and local public.

Session II

Dr. Ghulam Mujadid, Acting Dean Department of Aerospace Sciences and Strategic Studies, Air University, Islamabad chaired the second session on “National Security, Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Deterrence”. He welcomed all the guests, audience and distinguished speakers. The panel of discussants included Ms. Saadia Beg, Assistant Professor, Department of IR, KIU; Mr. Iftikhar Ali, Assistant Professor, Department of IR, KIU; Ms. Ahyousha Khan, Research Associate, SVI; and Dr. Rizwan Naseer, Assistant Professor, COMSATS.
First speaker of the session Ms. Saadia Beg, deliberated on “National Security and CPEC: Role of Gilgit-Baltistan”. She started her presentation by defining the concept of National Security in simplest terms as “a state of security of the nation-state”. She explained that the national security also entails the security of the national territory (including air-space and territorial waters), protection of the lives and property of population, existence and maintenance of national sovereignty, and exercising the basic functions of society (economic, socio-political, cultural, ecological, and social etc.). However, nowadays the concept of national security is a complex affair and all the complexities should be considered in order to achieve comprehensive security. To attain national security, an important pre-requisite is the national power which depends on political stability, social cohesion, and economic productivity in addition to the number of troops, tanks, planes, ships, missiles, and nuclear warheads a country possesses.
While elaborating on Pakistan‟s national security Ms. Beg mentioned that there is a growing realization globally as well as in Pakistan that due to the altered dynamics of international politics, national security and economy have increasingly become interwoven. This has also been evident by a recent statement by COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is of the view that “due to its weak economy, Pakistan has had to compromise on its foreign policy and in turn eventually on its national security”. Thus, in an increasingly globalized world it is imperative that Pakistan should integrate its political economy, military policy, and defense strategy. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); the flagship project of China‟s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); is an attempt by Pakistan to strengthen its economy. CPEC has made a good progress so far wherein the “early harvest” projects have been completed and “medium to long-term” projects have been prioritized for swift implementation. The corridor will connect the province of Kashgar in China to the Gwadar port in Baluchistan, Pakistan through the Karakoram Highway. Ms. Beg added that although CPEC is essentially a bilateral agreement but it was mentioned in a speech by former Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif that so far 52 countries including Iran, Afghanistan and Russia have shown interest to join the project. Hence, this joint venture has the potential to become an economic hub for the markets of Central Asia, South Asia and Middle East. Although this aspect of CPEC faces multiple strategic challenges, the economic development in Pakistan resulting from CPEC will prospectively establish peace and security that will flow to the region as a whole.
Ms. Saadia Beg further added that CPEC project holds great significance for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) because it is through CPEC that the Karakoram highway will be completely reconstructed and overhauled, cross-border optical fiber cables between China and Pakistan will be constructed, Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Maqpoondas will be made and it is also expected that Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. Moreover, the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC revealed in 2017, calls for actively considering the potential advantages of the tourism resources in the regions especially along the China-Pakistan border areas and for jointly researching the development and construction of cross-border tourist routes.
Ms. Beg argued that although CPEC is the necessary project for economic security of Pakistan but there are a few genuine concerns of community residing in Gilgit-Baltistan which need to be addressed. She said that most of the people in Gilgit-Baltistan are well educated, bear good understanding of the CPEC, socially active, and have an interest in the socio-political-economic issues that concern them directly and indirectly. Thus, there is a concern that inspite of having the potential to generate enough energy, most of GB suffers from energy crisis which has a direct impact on the economic development of the region. Furthermore, certain pro-climate change groups in GB have highlighted the detrimental effects of vehicle-based pollution on the region‟s local environment, which is globally renowned for its highest snowcapped peaks, compact glaciers, clean water and fresh air. In her concluding remarks Ms. Beg opined that though there are concerns over CPEC but there is no doubt that CPEC has the immense potential to transform the economy of Pakistan, in general, and of GB in particular. Moreover, a vibrant civil society can play a positive role by being politically, socially and economically active. Hence, by proactively addressing the concerns particularly regarding economic and political issues, the state can ensure the important elements of national security i.e. social cohesion, economic development, and political stability.

Second Speaker of the session Mr. Iftikhar Ali shared his views on “Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia”. He said that nuclear non-proliferation is an effort to eliminate the spread of nuclear weapon technology and to reduce existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Global Non-Proliferation Regime (GNPR) is comprised of norms, accepted rules, procedures and agreements that provide basis or outline for the behavior of international organizations and actors in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, along with peaceful applications of nuclear technology. He explained that apart from the notable multilateral arms control and disarmament treaties like the NPT, CTBT (still to be enforced) and FMCT (still to be concluded), several multilateral formal and informal Nuclear Export Control Regimes (ECR) for example IAEA, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) are also part of the international non-proliferation efforts. He further added that the non-proliferation instruments are legal or political agreements between the states and NPT is the most widely adhered to instrument with over 190 states party to it. While explaining the second part of his topic, Mr. Iftikhar Ali was of the view that nuclear weapons in South Asia came as a result of “Domino Effect” which was initiated by India. Resultantly Pakistan also had to acquire nuclear weapons in order to create deterrence vis-à-vis India. Mr. Ali presented the definition of deterrence by Bernard Brodie to create better understanding among the audience: “thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.” He opined that Pakistan acquired deterrence to avert any kind of external aggression against its territory and its strategic assets. He quoted Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema while elaborating on the objectives of Pakistan‟s nuclear posture. The fundamental objective of having nuclear weapons is to deter rather than fighting a war with India. Other objectives of Pakistan‟s nuclear posture are to maintain an overall strategic equilibrium and to neutralize conventional military asymmetries against India with a view to safeguarding its territorial integrity and upholding its political sovereignty. Pakistan‟s strategic wisdom rests with Minimum Credible Deterrence which aims at maintaining an adequate stockpile of nuclear warheads and dependable means of delivery, which can survive the first strike. Pakistan does not subscribe to the policy of No First Use (NFU) and reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if its very existence is threatened.
However, Deterrence in South Asia has been challenged by unprecedented developments in Indian defense posture. To create room for conventional conflict India has introduced Cold Start Doctrine to exploit Pakistan in a low-scale conflict. Thus, to counter this flawed and risky doctrine of India, Pakistan has developed short-range ballistic missile commonly known as Nasr. Mr. Iftikhar Ali concluded his remarks by adding that Pakistan needs to have an advanced and well equipped military might to maintain effective deterrent against its adversary because India‟s aggressive designs have tilted the balance of power in India‟s favor which must be acknowledged before the gap widens. Moreover, an effective strategy is required by Pakistan to counter the ongoing hybrid war.

Third speaker of the session Ms. Ahyousha Khan spoke on “Introduction to Nuclear Doctrines in South Asia”. To explain the doctrines, Ms. Khan used the definition by Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema provided in his book titled “Indian Nuclear Deterrence”. According to that “the doctrines are a set of principles or rules governing the employment of a capability, which may be theological, ideological, political, military or strategic”. But, if one goes into specifics, the nuclear doctrines relate to the deployment, employment, threat or use of nuclear weapons, depending upon the peace or wartime scenarios, crisis situation and strategic environment, which the leadership of country confronts”. Moreover, according to Horelick “Nuclear doctrine enables state to employ nuclear weapons capability, threat or use of force if deterrence were to fail”. Unlike military doctrines, nuclear doctrines considering the destructiveness of nuclear weapons shifted the prime focus of states to deterrence rather than war-fighting. So, two prime functions of doctrines are: first; all nuclear doctrines endorse the deterrence, and second; they enable the state to use or threaten to use its nuclear capability if deterrence were to fail. One significant factor Ms. Khan mentioned in the formulation of doctrine was that whether they are conventional or strategic, states adopt them under the imperatives of geographical constraints, the size of population, economic potential including the availability of strategic raw materials and advanced industrial units. Usually the nuclear doctrines are taken similar to nuclear force posture and nuclear strategy. But, nuclear force posture deals with structural capabilities and focuses less on policy intent. Moreover, it also involves structuring and development of nuclear force. On the other hand nuclear strategy also differs from nuclear doctrines because it deals with planning and directing military operations which are not to be shared publicly or are largely kept secret. Furthermore, doctrine is not a strategy rather they form the bedrock for any military strategy. After elaborating on the nuclear doctrines, nuclear force posture, and nuclear strategy, salient feature of South Asian nuclear doctrines were explained to the audience. India was the first one to come up with a declared nuclear doctrine when it‟s National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra announced Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND) to the public in 1999. India‟s DND adhered to the principle of Credible Minimum Deterrence, “no first use” and “punitive retaliation”, if attacked with nuclear arsenal. However, article 2.6 elaborates the requirements of Credible Minimum Deterrence as “sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces”. In addition to this the article 3 of the same document declares „nuclear triad‟ for its strategic forces as an essential requirement.
Thus, both articles deny the claims of credible minimum deterrence adopted by India in DND as it clearly encourages strategic build-up. Later on, Indian nuclear doctrine was reviewed on January 4, 2003 by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security. The 2003 document introduced some new dimensions including the declaration of the option to use nuclear weapons against the threat or use of Nuclear, Chemical or Biological weapons against Indian territory or Indian armed forces anywhere in the world. This declaration did not only extend the threshold of nuclear usage but also expand its geographical scope. These provisions have virtually nullified the „no first use‟ commitment by India. On the other hand, Pakistan does not have a fully declared nuclear doctrine. However, sifting through the statements made by Pakistani leaders, institutions, and senior government officials, certain principles, which have been found instrumental in governing the state‟s nuclear policy, are:
 Policy of minimum credible deterrence
 Pakistan will avoid getting embroiled in a strategic arms race with India.
 Continue to support the international arms control regimes which are non-discriminatory in nature.
 Pakistan‟s nuclear policy will be conducted with „restraint‟ and „responsibility‟.
 Pakistan will refrain from further nuclear testing. However, this commitment is subjected to change in case India decides to resume testing.
Furthermore, unlike its regional counterpart, Pakistan does not follow the policy of NFU rather it reserves the right to use nuclear weapon first against any imminent nuclear weapon or conventional threat from India as a last resort. Nuclear doctrines, policies and strategies are not static in nature. State reserves the right to change them or mold them according to changing strategic environment. Thus, in the back-drop of Indian adoption of Proactive Operation Doctrine, Pakistan molded its nuclear policy and introduced some new dimensions to it.
In 2013, National Command Authority of Pakistan approved Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD), which is the principal policy making body on research, development, production, use, and security of the country‟s nuclear program. Policy of FSD is also in line with the policy of Minimum Credible Deterrence. Recently through development of short range ballistic missile (Nasr) Pakistan extended its nuclear deterrence at tactical level to counter threats arising from India at all spectrums of conflict. Fact to reckon here is that although Pakistan has developed the policy to extend deterrence at all levels of conflict, its national policy discourages arms race in the region. Ms. Khan said in her concluded remarks that unlike Pakistan, India in its doctrinal statements never adheres to constraint regarding its overwhelming strategic buildup. Thus, due to emerging new technologies, military modernization and constant attempts by India to overcome deterrence, new nuclear doctrines and postures in South Asia are evolving.

Fourth speaker of the session Dr. Rizwan Naseer, shared his views on “Non-Proliferation Regime, NSG and FMCT: Pakistan-India‟s Case” and stated that the international system is anarchic in nature and states pursue their national interests at the expense of other states. Moreover, international system is also divided into sub categories where some states are global powers, some are middle powers and some are rogue states. In this entire context, South Asia is a region with two adversaries that have potential to solve their disputes. However, with the passage of time relations between the two have only deteriorated due to various factors. If the efforts of both states regarding non-proliferation regime is analyzed, one would realize that initially Pakistan had a favorable stance towards Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as part of its desire to declare South Asia a nuclear weapon free zone. However, the often disappointing attitude by India towards such initiatives forced Pakistan to develop a deterrent of its own. Another reservation which became the reason to not join NPT was the inherited discrimination; only five states were given the status of de-jure nuclear powers. Thus, rest of the states even if they become member of NPT would not be accepted as nuclear powers. Later on, after overt nuclearization in 1998, Pakistan‟s then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged at the UN that Pakistan would sign the CTBT by September 1999 to wave off the international pressure. However, considering the asymmetry it would create between India and Pakistan, CTBT was not signed by Pakistan. On FMCT Pakistan‟s stance was according to the December 1993 UN General Assembly resolution calling for negotiations on a “non-discriminatory multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons”.
However, these multilateral forums are often discriminatory in nature wherein the Indo-US nuclear deal, sanctions on Pakistan after 1998 tests, and propaganda against safety and security of Pakistan‟s nuclear assets are a few examples highlighting the discrimination Pakistan is facing at the hands of international community. Another significant instrument of nonproliferation regime is Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which is a 48 nation body that governs trade in nuclear-related exports and aims to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military use. Nowadays, India which is also a non-NPT state is striving to become a member of NSG on the basis of merit based approach. However, Pakistan‟s stance is that if non-NPT states are being given accession to the export cartel it should be done on the basis of criteria, according to which every state aspiring to become a member could fit in. Even though the NSG is an instrument to non-proliferation regime, yet the waiver it gave to India in 2008 allows it a legal access to fissile material which threatens Pakistan‟s security.
Dr. Naseer concluded his remarks with the point that until NPT changes its discriminatory nature, Pakistan and India are unlikely to sign it. Moreover, the US support for India‟s entry into NSG is likely to trigger arms race that will undermine strategic stability in South Asia. He added that Pakistan needs to wage diplomatic campaign more effectively and efficiently in order to improve nuclear security (Nuclear Security Summit).
Afterwards, the chair of the session Dr. Ghulam Mujadid opened the floor for discussion/Question & Answer session. Mr. Sardar Aziz (Professor, Agricultural Studies, KIU) referred his question to Ms. Saadia Beg and asked what do the planners of CPEC have in mind regarding the development of GB in the longer run. Ms. Beg acknowledged the concerns of Mr. Sardar and community of GB regarding the future of CPEC. However, she encouraged the audience of KIU and GB to take initiatives on their own regarding shaping the future of CPEC in their area rather than waiting for China if the Government of Pakistan to come up with the plan.
Mr. Mir Usman (Student, KIU) asked Dr. Rizwan Naseer if nuclear non-proliferation is possible in South Asia considering the ongoing rivalry and unresolved disputes between India and Pakistan. Dr. Naseer opined that nothing is impossible if both neighbors could just realize the fact that they can gain more by living in harmony rather than continuous arms race, the non-proliferation would be quite possible in South Asia.
Col. Riffat Kaleem (Senior Fellow, SVI) referred to Mr. Iftikhar Ali‟s talk and asked how could the South Asian nuclearization be considered as domino effect? In his response Mr. Iftikhar Ali said that it is true that Pakistan‟s nuclearization occurred in reaction to India‟s nuclearization. Hence through this very fact it can be easily deducted that the South Asian nuclearization has the domino effect dimension to it.
Mr. Jameel Shah (Student, KIU) raised his concerns about national security issues such as climate change and environmental degradation in Gilgit-Baltistan. In response to his concern Dr. Ghulam Mujadid reasoned that the national security has become an increasingly complex phenomenon in the 21st century. Thus, all the issues of national security are difficult to extrapolate in one sitting. Therefore, in this particular seminar, thes environmental degradation and its impact on national security are not discussed, but that does not mean that these issues are any less important than the issues of non-proliferation and deterrence.

Ms. Qura tul Ain Hafeez (Research Associate, SVI) inquired about the prospects and impact of Afghanistan‟s potential entry into CPEC and on the overall national security of Pakistan. In her answer Ms. Beg clarified that although her presentation incorporated only internal threats to CPEC and national security of Pakistan, but if Afghanistan is to become part of CPEC the national security of Pakistan will not be affected by it.
Mr. Fateh Ali (Student, IR, KIU) asked what if the CPEC might turn out to be another East India Company? Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema asserted that CPEC is not and cannot be an East India Company. In CPEC the security of all the projects and routes is being looked after by the armed forces of Pakistan. On the other hand, East India Company used to work on a completely different model where it first sent in its forces to the Subcontinent to capture the local resources and then used to send the looted resources back to the European main land. CPE clearly doesn‟t follow this model.
Mr. Waqas Ahmed (Student, KIU) asked about the diplomatic initiatives of Pakistan to end international discrimination and isolation. In response to this question Dr. Naseer said that as far as Pakistan‟s efforts to eliminate the international isolation is concerned, Pakistan has already taken the initiative by appointing Amb. Maleeha Lodhi as Permanent Representative to the UN. However, this is not it; Pakistan needs to promote its narrative to the world against Indian propaganda more effectively. Ms. Saima Aman Sial (Senior Research Fellow, CISS) also gave her brief remarks on the diplomatic initiatives of Pakistan to end discrimination against its nuclear program. She said that although Pakistan‟s nuclear diplomacy is working under restraint but it has successfully blocked the Indian accession into the NSG in 2008 and therefore the case for India is still pending. Mr. Bashir Ahmed (Student, KIU) raised a valid point that NPT is considered as mother of all treaties yet there are concepts like de-facto and de-jure nuclear states which discourage the participation of states like Pakistan. He asked for Dr. Naseer‟s views on this particular aspect of NPT. Dr. Naseer agreed that the NPT is a flawed treaty with many loopholes in it. In the 21st century when many states have acquired nuclear weapons and yet cannot become a member because of the de-jure and de-facto clauses for nuclear states, then it only means that the treaty cannot resolve the contemporary issues, hence is increasingly becoming irrelevant. Dr. Naseer further added that initially Pakistan wanted to join NPT to make South Asia a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone but upon realizing India‟s intentions it was impossible for Pakistan to give up on its right of self defence.

Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema also made brief remarks on NPT and about the reality of arms race in the international system. He said that NPT became a treaty after United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution. Moreover, even though Pakistan has not signed the treaty, as per the treaty clauses it is viewed as a de-jure nuclear weapon state. While elaborating on vertical and horizontal proliferation Dr. Cheema added that the arms race is fueled by vertical proliferation of developed states rather than the horizontal proliferation of developing states because weaker states acquire these weapons of mass destruction merely to protect themselves against the external aggression from major powers. Mr. Azad Ahmed (KIU, IR) asked Ms. Ahyousha Khan how successful has been Pakistan‟s choice of opting for tactical nuclear weapon (Nasr) against India. In her response Ms. Ahyousha Khan said that Pakistan developed its short range ballistic missile (Nasr) because India was ambitiously pursuing its proactive doctrine of CSD, in which it wanted to exploit the lower levels of nuclear threshold with its conventional power. Thus, Pakistan which is not as big a conventional power like India, resorted to its strategic reserve in order to deter India and so far Pakistan has been successful in deterring India from any kind of pro-activeness.
Mr. Shoukat Ali (KIU, IR) asked why Pakistan and India are in a constant state of tussle to maximize their power. Moreover, why both nations cannot solve disputes like Siachen and Sir Creek in a dignified manner. Dr. Ghulam Mujadid said that one reason could be because they belong to the region where security is the first priority. Thus, in order to achieve security against the other there is a constant game of maximization of power through military build-up. Secondly, the disputes are not being resolved in a dignified and moral manner because we live in an intrinsically anarchic system where adversary never reciprocates the good will gestures.

Session III

Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema chaired the third session on “Nuclear Doctrine, Deterrence and Strategic Stability in South Asia”. Speakers of the session included Dr. Ghulam Mujadid, Acting Dean, FASSS, Air University, Islamabad; Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President/Executive Director SVI, Islamabad; and Ms. Saima Aman Sial, Senior Research Fellow, CISS, Islamabad.
First Speaker of the session Dr. Ghulam Mujadid gave an “Overview of India and Pakistan Nuclear Doctrines/Deterrence Posture”. He said that the nuclear doctrine and posture of both India and Pakistan are changing and diverging from credible minimum deterrence. Indian credible deterrence is igniting arms race and instability in the region and Pakistan‟s credible minimum deterrence is highly elastic which is converting into full spectrum deterrence. Indian nuclear doctrine can be seen under its image of being a global power. Moreover, India has swayed away from No First Use option and its tendency of nuclear war fighting is highly dangerous for regional stability. Dr. Mujadid further added that there is a significant room for arms race, crisis instability and inadvertent escalation in South Asian context. Moreover, the role of non-state actors in igniting the nuclear escalation cannot be ignored. At the same time both states need to realize the meaning of deterrence which is the aversion to war rather than fighting the war. Thus, the deterrence doctrine should be based upon the mutual vulnerability because if it is based on unequal vulnerability it would be inherently destabilizing and dangerous. Thus, for the way forward, both India and Pakistan need to address the issue that lie at the root of both countries‟ security concerns so that both states can move from triad of nuclear forces to triad of peace, progress, and prosperity.

Second speaker of the session Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema while deliberating upon the “Overview of Deterrence Equilibrium in South Asia” stated that deterrence equilibrium is not guaranteed by equal number of nuclear weapons and it is not necessary to have exact number to number match with the enemy. State can achieve deterrence just with acquiring nuclear weapon. Instead what is important is the element of credibility. Nuclear weapon, unlike conventional weapon, is a qualitative weapon but a state must have a credible delivery system with which one can destroy the center of gravity. One thing that is important to recognize here is that the delivery system must not only be credible in your eyes but also in the eyes of your enemy. A country with ten nuclear weapons with credible delivery vehicle can create equilibrium vis-à-vis the one having fifty nuclear weapons. Today North Korea has suddenly gained importance in the eyes of US after test firing the Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). He further added that although it is not a verifiable fact that North Korea has Hydrogen Bomb which it could deliver with its ICBM, still the US has been successfully deterred from attacking North Korea; such is the power of deterrence equation.
Highlighting the importance of nuclear weapons Dr. Cheema added that these weapons of mass destruction are not the next generation weapons, which are preceding their ancestors but they are rather new kind of weapons with different qualities and technology. He said that other weapons are based on further variations of gun powder. However, nuclear weapons are based on fusion or fission of radioactive materials such as Uranium and Plutonium. Since the nuclear weapons are not conventional weapon, a country with fifty nuclear weapons can easily be deterred with about twenty nuclear weapons. In case of South Asia, both Pakistan and India are practicing deterrence equilibrium, which has so far successfully prevented an all-out war between both states. Dr. Cheema used the example of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by former Soviet Union and US to illustrate how mutual vulnerabilities help in maintaining deterrence equilibrium.

Third speaker of the session Ms. Saima Aman Sial deliberated upon the “Strategic Stability in South Asia”. She started her presentation from the conceptual foundation of strategic stability and explained that the term was conceptualized during the Cold War to describe the antagonistic relationship between the two super powers during that time. She quoted Thomas Schelling and Morten Halperin who defined strategic stability as “a situation where the probability of war is minimal because neither side sees any advantage in striking first, reduced incentives for the first strike provides assurance of a second strike and rules out situations where either side will be compelled to act hastily on the basis of incomplete or unverified information or to prematurely move or deploy its forces in a way that might be viewed as provocative by the other”. Ms. Sial also mentioned the views of Henry Kissinger on strategic stability “as a condition that requires to maintain strategic forces of sufficient size and composition (so) that the first strike cannot reduce retaliation to a level acceptable to the aggressor…we need a sufficient number of weapons to pose a threat to what the potential aggressors value under every conceivable circumstance.” She told the audience that strategic stability largely depends upon three elements, which are: deterrence stability, crisis stability, and arms race stability. Deterrence stability is a condition where each side is credibly deterred by the other and there is no uncertainty in the mind of either each side about the pillars on which deterrence rests. Moreover, deterrence is stable when political events, internal or external to the countries involved, technological change, accidents, false alarms, misunderstandings, crises, limited wars, or changes in the intelligence available to both states are unlikely to disturb the incentives to sufficiently make deterrence fail. While explaining the second element of strategic stability Ms. Sial said that stability must be robust during crisis as well. But, what is crisis? A crisis can be defined as “period of unanticipated threat to the core norms, values and interests, characterized by time urgency and the risk of imminent escalation to the nuclear level”. She told the audience that crisis instability could lead to first strike as the antagonists believe that the outcome of the conflict can be improved by resorting to a first strike. Third element of strategic stability is arms race stability, which must not be undermined by trends in arms developments (qualitative, quantitative or both), including the development of new technologies. Definition by Barry Buzan was used by Ms. Sial to explain arms race to the audience. According to him arms race is “a self-stimulating military rivalry between states, in which, their efforts to defend themselves militarily, cause them to enhance the threats they pose to each other.” Arms race is also explained through the Action-Reaction model which implies that states increase their armaments quantitatively as well as qualitatively, because of the perceived threats from other states. India-Pakistan relationship has historically been dominated by action-reaction syndrome. Arms race instabilities play huge role in effecting strategic stability of the region and they arise when states perceive the need to compete with their rivals in making quantitative and qualitative force improvements. However, there are other factors that play an important role including domestic political pressures, bureaucratic rivalries and technological imperatives.
Thus, in such an environment, efforts by one state to augment its defences against another state are viewed as threatening to its security by a third state, which in turn, takes countermeasures to mitigate its concerns thus causing further insecurities for its adversary. This complex security matrix is a hindrance in conceiving bilateral stability regimes within any dyadic security relationship because these restraints will not apply to the third state for instance, triad of security linkages between India, China and Pakistan.
While addressing the current situation of strategic stability in South Asia Ms. Sial said that at best it is tenuous. There is no progress on composite dialogue to resolve issues. On top of it the growing partnership between India and the US is reducing the incentives for India to deal equitably with Pakistan. At regional level India is trying to create a niche for itself at the cost of Pakistan‟s legitimate security interests in Afghanistan. Moreover, belligerence of Indian leadership is increasing day by day resultantly India has been continuously challenging the credibility of Pakistan‟s nuclear deterrent at doctrinal level, technical level and also at politico-diplomatic front. Currently, India and Pakistan are practicing some stabilising measures such as Agreement on non-attack of each other‟s nuclear installations, Agreement on pre-notification of ballistic missile flight, Hotline between the two foreign secretaries and Agreement on reducing the risks from nuclear accidents. However, these are not enough and there are many horizons which could be explored such as overarching strategic restraint/stabilisation regime, Agreement on Prohibition of Cyber Attacks on Nuclear Command and Control and other nuclear installations, Negotiations for a South Asian ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty to impose restrictions on development and deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems, Joint declaration to refrain from adopting provocative military doctrines and Agreement on avoidance of incidents at sea.

After the talks Dr. Cheema invited the Question and Answers from the audience.

Mr. Yasir Hussain (Student, SPIR, QAU) asked Ms. Saima Aman Sial about the future of strategic stability in South Asia and how will Pakistan be able to maintain nuclear parity with belligerent India. In response Ms. Sial said that Pakistan does not need to have weapon to weapon parity with India. All Pakistan needs is a credible deterrent to maintain deterrence equilibrium. Moreover, it is fine if India refuses to come to the dialogue table, though it will be a challenge for the strategic stability but even then the credible deterrent would be there to avert aggression. Hence, it needs to be understood that Pakistan is not dying to hold negotiations but in order to achieve strategic stability, we must give it a try. With this the one day seminar/capacity building workshop organized by Strategic Vision Institute came to an end. Participation certificates were distributed among the successful participants by the President/ Executive Director SVI and Dean Social Science KIU.

Media Coverage:

The event was widely covered by the print media as is evident from the links provided below.

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