Listen Text

Prepared by   

Mr. Akash Shah, Ms. Komal Khan

The workshop was conducted on December 17 and 18, 2022, where Executive Director SVI Dr. Naeem A. Salik, Director Research Dr. Nasir Hafeez, Dean FASS Dr. Adil Sultan, and Dr. Mansoor Ahmed were the speakers. Participants included teaching faculty members and students, primarily from MS and PhD levels, from different universities in Islamabad, including Quaid-i-Azam University, National Defence University, Air University, NUST, Bahria University, SZABIST, and NUML University.

Executive Summary

Dr. Naeem Salik (Executive Director SVI), in the first session, titled “Military Strategy and Technology: Challenges for Future Warfare”, discussed the relationship between technology and warfare and addressed the question on the evolution of military technology and its impact on the ways warfare has been conducted over the years. He stated that military technology has five important aspects concerning development: firepower, mobility, protection, communication, and intelligence. Moreover, he emphasized that distinction between the war-time and peacetime blurred because of war planning by the military bureaucracy/ general staff during peacetime. In the second segment of the first session on “Nuclear Revolution and its Impact on Strategy/Warfare,” he said that whenever technological advancements take place, it leads to initial excitement; however, it is a transitory period where countries are discovering the ways in which emerging technologies could be used. At the same time, the antidotes of these technologies are also being developed. In the case of emerging technologies, the cost is prohibitive in itself, with very few states possessing these technologies. The non-state actors can only have access to cyberspace even without the involvement or knowledge of states. Significantly, nNuclear weapons made deterrence the cornerstone of the strategy. Pakistan incorporated Full Spectrum Deterrence to deter aggression at all level of conflicts.

In his discussion on “Evolution of Nuclear Strategy/Deterrence in South Asia,” Dr. Nasir Hafeez stated that the Indian Nuclear weapons program is driven by prestige. However, its nuclear doctrine is gradually shifting away from the No First Use policy. Strategic stability in South Asia cannot be pursued unilaterally by Pakistan. Furthermore, strategic stability in South Asia rests on crisis stability, linked with the recognition and resolution of disputes. The current Indian strategy of coercive options has the potential to escalate.

Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, in his discussion on “Great Power Competition and National Security Challenges for Pakistan,” stated that China’s massive strides in the maritime domain are challenging the status quo. To counter that, the US is practicing the traditional American way of building alliances and correlations. The US correlated with India to share the burden of policing in the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the India-US strategic partnership is primarily driven by India’s rising economic potential making it a lucrative market for the sale of weapons and power reactors. The problem with the India-China dyad is that any capability India builds against China can be used against Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan’s deterrence requirements must be sensitive to and cognizant of maintaining the level of deterrence.

Dr. Adil Sultan, in his discussion on “South Asian Security Dynamics and the Role of Nuclear Weapons“, stated that even a limited conventional war would bring pressure on Pakistan and India to resort to extreme measures, and any use of nuclear weapons by India or Pakistan would directly affect both the countries. India’s Cold Start Doctrine is a challenge to the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence, wherein responding with full force could be considered disproportionate, while not responding to it would discredit Pakistan’s deterrence posture. Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) is not a quantitative but a qualitative response to deter a full spectrum of tactical, operational, and strategic threats. 

In the last session on Strategic Foresight and Scenario Planning, Dr. Nasir introduced the subject and engaged the participants with various practical activities, which attracted the great interest of the audience in perception management and understanding of the concepts of strategic significance.

The participants’ response has been overwhelmingly positive, and they expressed the willingness to be part of the future activities of the SVI. SVI outreach activity for the shortlisted universities was assessed to be successful based on the survey conducted at the end of the workshop.

Proceedings of the Workshop

Day One

Session I

Military Strategy and Technology: Challenges for Future Warfare

Speaker: Dr. Naeem Salik

Dr. Naeem Salik (Executive Director SVI), in the first session, titled “Military Strategy and Technology: Challenges for Future Warfare”, discussed the relationship between technology and warfare and addressed the question of the evolution of military technology and its impact on the ways warfare has been conducted over the years. He stated that military technology has five important aspects concerning development: firepower, mobility, protection, communication, and intelligence.

Coming to land warfare, 1830 can be taken as the baseline year in which the development of military technology started with two significant developments: i. invention of steam power leading to the steam railway; and the electric telegraph system. Moreover, he stated that Napoleon’s operational strategy during the Napoleonic wars revolutionized warfare. The French Revolution introduced the general conscription that led to large armies. The distinction between war-time and peacetime blurred because of war planning by the military bureaucracy/ general staff during peacetime.

Significantly, whenever technology advances, it leads to initial excitement; however, it is a transitory period where countries are discovering how emerging technologies could be used. At the same time, the antidotes of these technologies are also being developed that are more lethal such as drones. The post-Second World War period saw advancements in automation, precision guidance, communications and real-time information due to satellites and other means of intelligence.

Coming to naval warfare the third dimension in naval warfare is submarines. Today, there are nuclear-powered submarines. Due to the inherent constraints of underwater communications, the type of weapons the submarine carry along with the warhead, data, and operational orders with required activation code; pose a risk of inadvertent escalation in future warfare.

The emerging technologies, sometimes called disruptive technologies, are believed to be capable of changing the nature of warfare; however, they would also be managed in time, and their counters would also be developed, as is happening in the Ukraine War, where both the parties to the war shot down each other’s drones using high power laser guns. The potential of technology projected into the future will change, as witnessed in the past when many technologies did not live up to expectations. They have potential, theoretically; however, when produced, they were countered by identifying their shortcomings.

The problem lies with the lethal autonomous weapons that are based on AI: how it is going to impact the command and control and the ethics of war. Three situations maybe faced due to AI human in the loop, human on the loop, and human out of the loop; which is a dangerous situation. Limited monopolies over possession of technologies hinder restricting and regulating them under law. Widespread use of these technologies would lead to agreeable SOPs to regulate their use. With micro-satellites and drones, the mobile missile launchers, which provided security against a pre-emptive strike, would be neutralized, thus affecting the surety of the second strike. On the other hand, the maritime drones would detect and hit the submarines, thereby impacting the assured second-strike capability, which is currently based on submarine-launched weapons. Therefore, such weapons have disruptive effects.

Dr. Naeem Salik continued the first session of Day 1 with his second lecture on ‘Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence”. He gave an overview of the role of nuclear power in national security, the concept of Deterrence and the evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Post-Cold War Deterrence Paradigm and Contemporary Nuclear Policies and Strategies. He began with describing the impact that nuclear weapons have on the war strategy and the concept of international security. Due to the large scale and unfathomable damage, nuclear weapons brought a paradigm shift in strategic thinking as war could no longer be seen as a means of achieving political objectives. Hence, it revived the concept of limited war to keep the escalation under control so as not to cross the nuclear threshold, which could lead to total annihilation. Ultimately nuclear weapons became the centrepiece in the strategic calculus where deterrence became the cornerstone of the strategy. It impacts the international political order as the development of a de facto regime of superpower prudence, with avoidance of nuclear war as the common interest.

Session II

Nuclear Revolution and its Impact on Strategy/Warfare

Speaker: Dr. Naeem Salik

In the second part of the first session on “Nuclear Revolution and its Impact on Strategy/Warfare, Dr. Salik elaborated on the concept of deterrence for the understanding of the participants. He said that deterrence is intended to stop an adversary from taking a certain course of action using the threat of inflicting unacceptable costs on the adversary. In this way, the negative consequences of taking the particular action on part of the adversary overshadow the expected positive outcomes and the adversary refrains from committing the act. He then further explained different types of deterrence. ‘Deterrence by Punishment’ manipulates the behaviour of the adversary by posing the threat of the use of force to prevent the adversary from going through with an action, while ‘Deterrence by Denial’ works on the principle of making the adversary believe that the intended objectives of the actions would not be allowed to succeed through active fighting/resistance. Other variants of deterrence include ‘Extended Deterrence’, which implies commitments to protect allies and partners if they are threatened by a third party and ‘Intra-war Deterrence’, which involves a process of explicit or tacit bargaining within an ongoing war that is aimed at restoring deterrence.

Similarly, the concept of ‘Minimum Deterrence’ implies possessing a small number of nuclear weapons, which a state believes would be enough to deter the adversary, and the speaker gave the example of France, with its concept of proportionate deterrence, to reiterate this point. Cross Domain deterrence is the use of capabilities of one domain to counter threats or combinations of threats in another domain to prevent an undesirable attack. Then he briefly explained the concept of the three Cs in deterrence. For deterrence to work, the adversary needs to be communicated what actions are proscribed, the state must have the demonstrated capability to inflict unacceptable damage, and finally, the threat of force needs to be credible enough for the adversary to refrain from taking any action.

Dr. Salik enlightened the participants regarding the evolution of nuclear strategy during the cold war. In the wake of the Korean war, the Eisenhower administration gave the first nuclear strategy in January 1954 by then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. The Strategy of Massive Retaliation, as it was called, rested upon the use of nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union if it resorted to conventional aggression anywhere in the world. It was followed by the Strategy of Flexible Response under President Kennedy, which relied on graduated options for responding to the aggression by the Soviet Union. Then in the mid-1960s, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara disclosed the Strategy of Assured Destruction (MAD), focusing on total annihilation and making the war a lose-lose phenomenon. Limited Nuclear Options Strategy shifted the focus of nuclear options from counter value to counter force where the military installations and infrastructure of the enemy would be targeted. In January 1979, the concept of Countervailing Strategy first appeared in the U.S. Department of Defense’s annual report. It called for maintaining the capacity for matching Soviet aggression at every level to deny it victory. This was followed by Reagan’s prevailing strategy aimed at ensuring U.S victory in all eventualities. Dr. Salik also mentioned Strategic Defense Initiative, a program aimed at shielding the United States against incoming Soviet ballistic missiles.

Talking about nuclear strategy post-cold war, the speaker mentioned Nuclear Posture Reviews of 2002, 2010, and 2018. The salient postulates of NPR 2002 included the possible use of nuclear weapons in case of a chemical/biological attack against the U.S or its allies, the inclusion of non-nuclear weapon states such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria as possible nuclear targets and declaring the intent to develop low yield, earth-penetrating nuclear warheads to be used against deep underground bunkers. NPR 2010 focused on preventing Nuclear Proliferation and Nuclear Terrorism, reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy and maintaining Strategic Deterrence and Stability at reduced nuclear force levels. Moreover, NPR 2018 reiterated the assurance to allies and partners to provide deterrence against nuclear and non-nuclear attacks and focusing on achieving the U.S. objectives if the deterrence fails.

In the last section of his lecture, Dr. Salik talked about the situation of nuclear strategy in South Asia. He began by emphasizing that the idea of controlled escalation does not hold ground in the fog of war as both parties tend to misinterpret an action, leading to large scale destruction. The speaker talked about Indian Nuclear Doctrine released on 4th January 2003. The document talks about maintaining minimum credible deterrence, a posture of No First Use (NFU), not using nuclear weapons against Non-Nuclear Weapon states and responding to a chemical and biological attack against India or its forces with the nuclear weapons. After discussing the major postulates of the document, he said that Pakistan has never believed India’s No First Use commitment. Speaking of the development of Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy, he said that Pakistan would not be embroiled in an arms race with India and would continue with the policy of credible minimum deterrence. It will refrain from nuclear testing, continue to support international arms control regimes which are non-discriminatory. Pakistan will strengthen existing controls on the export of nuclear technology through administrative and legal mechanisms. The speaker concluded the talk with a brief explanation of India and Pakistan’s nuclear command and control structure.

While answering the question about futuristic technologies like Project Thor, where heavy metal rods are dropped from space and create the same impact as that of a nuke without a radiation hazard, Dr. Salik was asked why Pakistan is not working on these technologies. In response, Dr. Salik said that these technologies are theoretical in nature and they need to be operationalized to have the desired impact. Nuclear weapons create deterrence because the adversary knows they have tested potential and can be used. Secondly, there is a consensus that space should not be weaponized; hence it is also a confounding variable.

Another participant stated that in the current scenario of great power competition, Pakistan is close to China while India is building a partnership with the United States. Why does Pakistan not continue its engagement with the United States while maintaining its ties with China, as it is still the most powerful country in the world? Dr. Salik answered that international relations do not correspond to the personal relations that one has to decide between one person or the other. Rather states engage one another based on their strategic interests, rarely severing the ties with a country completely. The Americans did not want the partition of the subcontinent, but once it happened, they tried their best to influence India rather than Pakistan to join their camp. They only built a partnership with Pakistan based on their strategic interests. Hence Pakistan will also continue to engage the United States where the interests align. However, we must acknowledge that we must build our economy, institutions and overall image of the country so they may consider a long-term strategic partnership with us. One of the reasons for India’s excessive diplomatic and strategic outreach is the size of its market. Hence countries have the incentive to have good relations with India.

While answering the question on the role of doctrine, or recording events and procedures related to the evolution of warfare and use of emerging technologies, Dr. Salik stated that ‘ideas do not remain confined to an area, they are universally available due to improvement in communication. There is a cross-pollination of ideas. An idea, once generated, cannot be destroyed. Communism as an idea cannot be scratched away from history. It might make a comeback in future. Similar is the case of fascism. Therefore, ideas get transmitted across societies.’

In response to the question on humans on the loop situation related to AI weapons, it was asked how far humans trust the artificial intelligence capacity to function and prevent their disruptive use? Answering the question, Dr. Salik stated that these technologies need to be more mature to some extent. The Output of AI technologies depends on the dataset on which it works. It has to have a reference point. The greatest problem comes in a nuclear war where no dataset is available, making AI unreliable. Moreover, machine learning combined with AI can lead to dangerous outcomes, thus making emerging technologies disruptive and necessitating some human-on-the-loop intervention in AI weapons.

Session III

Evolution of Nuclear Strategy and Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia

Speaker: Dr. Nasir Hafeez

Dr. Nasir Hafeez, Director Research SVI, held the third session on “Evolution of Nuclear Strategy and Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia“. He initiated the session by establishing the causality and determinants of war from a historical perspective. He said that war has always been a part of human civilization and will continue to be a means of achieving political objectives. Protecting honour, values and ideology, fear of an adversary, and securing the national interest are the major causes of war. The advent of nuclear weapons has brought an unprecedented paradigm shift in understanding war dynamics. Nowhere in history could an example be found of such a potent weapon capable of destruction without any substantial defense against it. Hence, nuclear weapons have been termed “the greatest equalizer” because the parity of conventional means of power seizes to matter once nuclear weapons are brought into the war equation. The impact of nuclear weapons on achieving political objectives through the war as a means has led to an extension of the preservation of the status quo, and the political disputes between the nuclear countries have witnessed stalemate in nuclear-capable countries all around the world.

 Dr. Nasir then explained the importance of strategy in the war, saying that it is the requisite guiding principles, processes and procedures that bridge the gap between means and ends. Strategy is key to winning the war as it is the scale on which the available means of warfighting are calibrated and utilized per their respective strengths and weaknesses. The objective is to achieve the desired political results and strategy is the way through which the particular objective could be achieved. Strategy in general and military strategy in particular could be divided into three levels; Strategic, Operational and Tactical. Strategic level deals with the broad goals and objectives at the national level. The operational strategy then narrows it down to the corps level which compliments the national level. The last level is tactical, where specific actions are devised and delegated to contribute to the preceding strategy chain. Nuclear strategy is distinctive to the existing strategic understanding as now the focus is on the existence of the means, without having to use these, to achieve the political objective, i.e., use of non-use. The nuclear strategy has been overlaid with the existing notions of strategic thought and the lessons learned during both world wars.

Day Two

Session I

Great Power Competition and National Security Challenges for Pakistan

Speaker: Dr. Mansoor Ahmed

Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, in his discussion on “Great Power Competition and National Security Challenges for Pakistan,” stated that China’s massive strides in the maritime domain are challenging the status quo. To counter that, the US is practicing the traditional American way of building alliances and correlations. The US correlated with India to share the burden of policing in the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the India-US strategic partnership is primarily driven by India’s rising economic potential making it a lucrative market for the sale of weapons and power reactors. The problem with the India-China dyad is that any capability India builds against China can be used against Pakistan.

Great power competition has never been as dramatic in history as it is now. The strategic competition between the U.S. and China underscores the fact that the world is moving from a uni-polarity to a multi-polarity, thereby creating friction in the international system. While this destabilizes the status-quo powers, it also offers opportunities and challenges for middle powers, including Pakistan. China’s remarkable rise and economic growth, particularly over the past two decades, lifting 800m people from poverty to prosperity, is unprecedented in history. This has transformed into greater military muscle and a more aggressive and confident foreign policy, especially in Asia. China’s phenomenal economic and military rise has shifted the focus of great power competition from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific. In contemporary great power competition, South Asia (referred to as Southern Asia by the Indians, which is irrelevant as geography cannot be changed) is fast emerging as the second most specific arena in their global competition. In 2013, the document the Chinese government released demarcated Pakistan as the Western edge of the Chinese sphere of influence. The U.S. has been the sole dominant geostrategic power in the Asia Pacific, primarily because it defeated and occupied Japan and became responsible for the security of Japan and South Korea also. The U.S. has been the unchallenged military power in the Indo-Pacific since 1945, and it is only now that China’s massive maritime power is challenging the status quo. However, in terms of the relative importance of South Asia, this region is of interest to major powers, which may be divided into six different dyads: Three competitive and three cooperative dyads. The competitive dyads include the China-U.S. dyad, the China-India dyad, and the Pakistan-India dyad. The cooperative dyads include India-U.S. dyad, India-Russia dyad, and the Pakistan-China dyad. These dyads are also overlapping and supplementary, with competition and cooperation taking place at the same time.

The India-Pakistan dyad can only be understood holistically with the involvement of other great powers. Addressing the question of threat perception, he stated that the policies of Russia and China increasingly drive the deterrence requirements of the U.S. According to the U.S., China presents the most significant threat to the U.S. interests across the world because China is the only state that can challenge the U.S. influence in terms of economic, military and also soft power. The Chinese have the soft power influence the Russians never had in the Cold War era. These dyads’ complex and overlapping nature in South Asia will produce a complex set of consequences.

The U.S. – India dyad has three primary dynamics: first, influx of high-end technology; second, the cascading effect of the India-U.S. nuclear deal; and third, the question of the geo-political clout that India has developed on its own and how the U.S. is propping up India as the net security provider. This dyad has resulted in India’s greater economic potential. The size of India’s GDP is growing at an average rate of 6-7% every year. This has offered two opportunities to the American: first, a huge Indian market for investments and sales of conventional weapons and power reactors, and this is why they see India as the only meaningful competitor to China in the Indian Ocean Region; and second, India’s well-placed diaspora caused India’s soft power influence in the West in the U.S. and Western think tanks and universities that place India as the most effective economic and strategic counterweight to China before the Congress and the U.S. national security establishment. Ashley Tellis and Vipin Narang being the prominent examples. Pakistanis cannot be seen abroad in policy, security, and nuclear research areas. Their visibility can only be seen in the fields of civil-military relations and insurgencies.

India is the key member of the QUAD partnership against China, notwithstanding India’s robust and long-term defence collaboration with Russia. One of the reasons behind the India-U.S. nuclear deal was that the American nuclear industry was going bankrupt. Therefore, the U.S. considered India as an emerging market for power reactors. This provided India with an NSG waiver and a de-facto recognition of India’s nuclear programme as a nuclear weapon state outside the NPT with none of the obligations of the NPT signatories. Consequently, the research in the West is now greatly focused on what India can deliver, especially in the context of a two-front war scenario. Therefore, the four foundational agreements between the U.S. and India directly impact Pakistan’s security. In 2016, the U.S. designated India as a major defense partner, putting India at par with the closest U.S. defense allies. The 2+2 ministerial dialogue between the U.S. and India was coupled with a ground for strategic trade authorizations for Tier 1 status for India. Since 2008, India has purchased 21 billion dollars of net military hardware. India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) started making significant strides, particularly after the United States concluded these defense and military agreements with India. The conclusion of the India-U.S. nuclear deal and the NSG were followed by a sudden discovery of large deposits of domestic Uranium, which could now be used directly for nuclear weapons.

India-Russia strategic dyad is the most difficult challenge for Pakistan because Russians have assisted India in building up India’s defense capability, nuclear programme, and missile programme. Since India’s defense agreement with the Soviet Union, India has been one of the most significant allies for Russia. More than 70% of the hardware in the Indian army is of Russian origin. Much of India’s offensive capability, including Brahmos, is from Russia. India’s missile programme has benefitted from the India-Russia collaboration.

Similarly, in the nuclear domain, there is no parallel to India-Russia cooperation, for instance, in the nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear reactors cooperation. Pakistan has been trying unsuccessfully to warm up to Russia. However, the problem is not that Russia is unwilling to sell high-tech military equipment to Pakistan, but it is about Pakistan’s financial instability. Pakistan can get high-tech equipment on credit from China but not from the Russians. With more defense budget, India would capitalize more on high-tech military equipment. While he was in Delhi, Putin recognized India as a great power. India is the only state in the world that has successfully been able to import high-tech military equipment from the U.S., Russia, South Korea, France, European Suppliers, and Israel simultaneously.

Hence, great power competition offers challenges as well as opportunities at the same time. The opportunity for Pakistan is that there is much-untapped potential here. If the economy is put on track, the growth potential is immense, with major investment opportunities in the field of science and technology and defense. The idea that India-West defense cooperation restricts European cooperation with Pakistan within defense is debatable. However, the counter-precedents exist in the form of cooperation between Israel and Egypt and Turkey and Greece, who are competitors and adversaries but can get high-tech equipment from the same suppliers simultaneously. With the U.S., India is engaged in cooperation for high-spectrum technologies such as lasers, space programmes, intelligence sharing, and naval programmes.

The designation of India as the net security provider by the U.S. is because of the size of the Indian navy, as it offers a counter-force to the PLA navy. The U.S. chose India to share the burden of policing in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. policy is to keep the PLA out of the Indian Ocean to remain focused on South China and the Asia Pacific. It has produced unintended consequences also. The two-front war scenario has caused a near-parity in land and air power between India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s naval modernization, with the support of China and Turkey, is unprecedented in history and doubles the surface fleets and submarine technology. Pakistan perception as China’s plan B is an opportunity, regardless of its economic instability. Another consequence is that now-onwards, India would concentrate more on its nuclear capability, as witnessed in the change in India’s language regarding its nuclear doctrine. There is much talk about what India might achieve from the AUKUS deal. However, India’s naval nuclear programme would stay on course based on Russian assistance and India’s indigenous programme. India’s indigenous realization of minimum reliance on U.S. assistance is met with India’s policy of indigenization and replication despite India’s inefficient domestic industry.

India is becoming more belligerent in its nuclear talk because it has the U.S., Russian, and the European backing to counterbalance China’s nuclear programme. Secondly, there is enormous latent nuclear potential in India outside IAEA safeguards, which directly relates to the number of warheads India produces. The international focus on Pakistan’s nuclear buildup gave India time to build its nuclear programme. India and China are both working on dual-use civilian nuclear energy programmes. The Indian three-staged civil nuclear energy programme was kept outside safeguards as part of the India-U.S. nuclear deal and approved by the IAEA.

Since the Doklam crisis, a two-front war has become a nightmare for Indian strategic planners, which is an advantage for Pakistan. The problem with the two-front war scenario is that any capability India builds against China can be used against Pakistan. It pressures Pakistan to respond to the dynamics of military buildup in the region. Therefore, Pakistan’s deterrence requirements must be sensitive to and cognizant of maintaining the level of deterrence. An arms race is not an option; however, maintaining a reasonable level of deterrence is required. To make deterrence credible, it has to have a conventional component and not just nuclear weapons because of the introduction of strategic non-nuclear weapons.

Hence, the contemporary great power competition offers opportunities and challenges. If Pakistan can put its economy back on track, it is the single most important thing, as only then Pakistan would have practical relevance for the great powers where Pakistan would be able to benefit from great powers without actually compromising on its national interests. If it does not happen, Pakistan’s geostrategic location may become a liability.

While answering the question regarding the role of Five Eyes in great power competition, Dr. Mansoor stated that the Five Eyes is a reflection of the U.S. strategy of correlation building. It is about maritime domain awareness and building capability against the PLA because China’s confident aggressive posturing is being perceived as a threat by states like Australia, Japan, and others in the region.

When states calculate the probability of going into the conflict, they calculate the legitimacy and favorability from the international community as it happened in case of Ukraine. Applying this equation on the India-Pakistan relationship, Dr. Mansoor Ahmed was asked about the way forward for Pakistan to deter the non-military belligerent actions of India. He answered that legitimacy derives from the state’s relative position in the international system. Russia attacked Ukraine because according to Russia, Ukraine was becoming de-facto ground for NATO to conduct belligerent activities. Ukrainians justify their attack as per the right of self-defence under the UN Charter. Legitimacy is a subjective concept. Russia is more consequential to India’s military buildup than the U.S. Ukraine has been a defence equipment supplier to Pakistan. Therefore, it is the national interest that matters. Moreover, the reputational cost has consequences. If Pakistan had diplomatic leverage, which itself is a function of economic potential, then Pakistan would have been in a position to respond to India’s actions related to Articles 35-A and 370. The credibility gap decides what a state can do.

When asked about the possibility of an extended deterrence strategy between Pakistan and China against the India-U.S. partnership, Dr. Mansoor Ahmed stated that being a nuclear power, the state does not need another state for extended deterrence. When India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, Pakistan asked for nuclear guarantees from all the permanent members of the UNSC. No state was willing to be helpful in this regard. A state can go for extended deterrence. However, that results in subservient states such as Japan and South Korea. Therefore, it is a matter of choice.

Session II

South Asian Security Dynamics and Role of Nuclear Weapons

Speaker: Dr. Adil Sultan

Dr. Adil Sultan spoke on ‘South Asian Security Dynamics and Role of Nuclear Weapons’ on day two of the workshop. He said that the South Asian region has a long history of nuclearization, with India starting its nuclear program in the 1950s and conducting its first nuclear test in 1974. The main objective of India’s nuclear program has been to establish itself as a global power and a credible adversary to China. On the other hand, Pakistan began its pursuit of nuclear weapons in 1975 and declared itself a nuclear power in 1998. The main objective of Pakistan’s nuclear program has been to deter conventional and nuclear conflict with India. India and Pakistan are now strengthening their nuclear capabilities for various reasons, including security, prestige, and domestic politics.

Talking about the variations in both scenarios, Dr. Sultan said that differences between the Cold War and South Asia are significant. During the Cold War, the struggle for global leadership and supremacy was the main driver of nuclearization, with security assurances for allies and technology driving strategy. The US and USSR had full spectrum capabilities, ranging from zero yields to thermonuclear weapons. The two sides could engage in limited conventional wars without crossing each other’s red lines, and the limited use of nuclear weapons in the European theatre was possible without affecting their territories. In contrast, the nuclearization of South Asia is essentially a bilateral competition, with the added factor of China. There are no security assurances for either India or Pakistan, and the scope of their nuclear programs is different. Even a limited conventional war between India and Pakistan would bring pressure on both sides to resort to extreme measures, and any use of nuclear weapons would directly affect both countries.

He said that the role of nuclear weapons in South Asian crises has evolved. During the pre-nuclearization period, the Exercise Brasstacks crisis in 1986-87 was a significant event. In the post-nuclearization period, the Kargil crisis in 1999 raised questions about the stability/instability paradox. The 2001-02 military stand-off between India and Pakistan saw nuclear deterrence play a role in preventing major escalation. The 2008 Mumbai crisis was characterized by conventional deterrence, with the threat of counter-surgical strikes. Some considered India’s 2016 Uri surgical strike to be the new norm, while Pakistan denied India’s claim. The 2019 crisis saw conventional deterrence restored, despite the asymmetry in India and Pakistan’s capabilities.

Speaking of the lessons learnt during these crises, he emphasized that while deterrence has helped prevent major wars, it does not provide immunity from all possible crises. This is known as the stability-instability paradox, which refers to the idea that nuclear deterrence can create stability in some cases but can also increase the likelihood of instability in others. The credibility of nuclear deterrence depends not only on the capability of a state’s nuclear arsenal but also on several other elements of national power, such as leadership, public support, and the economy. Since nuclear weapon states cannot afford to fight wars with each other due to their destructive potential, they should remain engaged in a conversation to avoid miscommunication and establish confidence-building measures (CBMs). The existence of nuclear weapons has made war an unthinkable option, but due to conventional military advantage, a state may still consider the possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang. In this case, India may continue to explore this possibility.

Dr. Adil explained Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence in light of India’s Cold Start doctrine. India’s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) is a military strategy that aims to reduce the mobilization time for conventional Indian forces and exploit the possibility of a conventional conflict below Pakistan’s perceived nuclear threshold. To operationalize the CSD, India has reconfigured its strike formations into 8-10 Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), designed to cross the international border within 72-96 hours and move deep into Pakistani territory (50-60 km). The implications of the CSD include the challenge to the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence. If Pakistan were to respond to an incursion by Indian forces under the Cold Start Doctrine with full force, it could be perceived as disproportionate, or excessive, given the limited scope of the incursion. On the other hand, if Pakistan were not to respond, it could discredit its deterrence posture or its ability to deter future attacks through the threat of retaliation. Therefore, Pakistan would need to find a way to respond to an incursion that is both proportionate and effective in maintaining its deterrence posture.

Dr. Adil Sultan concluded the talk by mentioning several destabilizing trends in South Asia that can potentially increase tension and conflict in the region. These include:

  • Growing conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan: As the two countries continue to develop and modernize their military capabilities, the gap between their respective military capabilities have grown, with India generally having a stronger military. This asymmetry can create a sense of vulnerability on one side and a sense of superiority on the other, which can increase the likelihood of conflict.
  • Introduction of new military technologies: The development and deployment of new technologies such as ballistic missile defense systems (BMDs), hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs), and anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) can change the balance of power and create uncertainty about the capabilities of different countries.
  • Extremist tendencies among India’s decision-making elite: Some individuals within India’s decision-making circles may have extreme views or tendencies, as seen in recent years, that could impact the country’s foreign and security policies.
  • India-US strategic partnership: The growing strategic partnership between India and the US can potentially increase tension with other countries in the region, particularly if it is perceived as being directed against them.
  • New security alliances: The development of new security alliances and the concept of “integrated deterrence” could further complicate regional security dynamics and increase the risk of conflict. Examples include the 2002 General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between India and Japan, the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between India and the US, the 2018 Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between India and the US, and the planned 2022 Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD or “Quad”) between the US, India, Japan, and Australia.

When questioned about the impact of emerging technologies on nuclear deterrence, Dr. Adil stated that the emerging technologies do have an impact; however, it is overstated and cannot cause a major change. However, such a capability would not have more deterrence effect than nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons always remain primary. However, the enabling technologies have been making the security frameworks more complex, thereby adding to the deterrence in one way or another and introducing new concepts such as cross-domain deterrence.

Strategic Foresight, Scenario Planning, and Perception Management

Conducted by Dr. Nasir Hafeez

In the last session on Strategic Foresight and Scenario Planning, Dr. Nasir introduced the subject and engaged the participants with various practical activities, which attracted the great interest of the audience in perception management and understanding of the concepts of strategic significance. He stated that strategic foresight and scenario planning are methods for understanding and anticipating the future. The approach of transformative foresight involves six pillars: mapping the past, present, and future; anticipating future trends through identification of weak signals and emerging issues; timing the future by understanding grand patterns of history; deepening the future through analysis of underlying myths and worldviews; creating alternative futures through analysis of critical uncertainties and archetypes of change; and transforming the future by articulating a preferred future and developing pathways and action steps to achieve it. The methodologies associated with these pillars include shared history, environmental scanning, futures triangle, emerging issues analysis, futures wheel, microhistory, causal layered analysis, scenario planning, visioning, back casting, and action learning.

He further stated that the future landscape is a framework for understanding the different time horizons and types of futures that organizations may consider in their planning. It consists of four dimensions: the jungle, representing short-term survival-oriented priorities; the chess set, representing strategic planning; the mountain tops, representing broader, big-picture possible futures; and the plant, representing the emergent future being created from the present. The star represents the vision and purpose of the organization, providing direction for the future. This framework helps organizations to contextualize their strategic planning within a changing external and internal world.

Elaborating the concept of Causal Layered Analysis (CLA), he stated that it is a methodology for understanding and analysing issues at four levels: the litany, or day-to-day official rendering of events; the systemic level, representing the structure that causes or supports particular realities; the worldview level, representing the mindsets and paradigms behind systems and litanies; and the myth-metaphor or narrative level of analysis. According to CLA, all four levels are equally real and important for social and policy change, and lasting change requires shifts at all levels.

Moreover, CLA can be used in a variety of ways, including: to understand a particular issue at all four levels; to map contesting views of the future by identifying stakeholders and their worldviews and analyzing their policy solutions; to deconstruct and reconstruct a particular future or create an alternative preferred future; to create an inner map of one’s own litany, system of selves, dominant worldview, and contending narratives and create an alternative preferred life story; to deepen scenarios during the incasting phase; and as an evaluative tool to analyze suggested litany, systemic, worldview, and narrative changes during the implementation process.

Furthermore, the primary role of Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) in predicting the future is to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the various factors and forces that shape the present and influence the direction of future developments. By analyzing issues at multiple levels (litany, systemic, worldview, myth-metaphor), CLA can help to identify key drivers and uncertainties that may shape the future and inform scenario planning and decision-making. Additionally, CLA can be used to deconstruct and reconstruct particular futures or create alternative preferred futures by analyzing and shifting the underlying narratives and worldviews that influence them. Overall, while CLA may not directly predict the future, it can help organizations to better anticipate and navigate potential futures by providing a more comprehensive and multi-dimensional understanding of the factors that shape them.

There are several techniques used in the scenario planning such as double variable, multivariable, organizational and integrated scenario method. These techniques can be used to anticipate and plan for potential futures by analysing different drivers and assumptions, and by considering the perspectives of key stakeholders. They can be used to understand the potential consequences of different drivers and disruptions, and to identify the preferred future and develop strategies for achieving it.