Compiled by: S. Sadia Kazmi
STRATEGIC VISION INSTITUTE (SVI), ISLAMABAD
Deterrence and strategic stability in South Asia is viewed by the regional and international professional experts as the pivot of peace, security and regional political order in South Asia. Equilibrium of nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan is the underpinning of South Asian strategic stability. However, there are different and divergent viewpoints on the state of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability in South Asia and its implications for the regional nuclear order and international political system. A dominant viewpoint within and outside South Asia held by ‘nuclear optimists’ is that the introduction of nuclear weapons and deterrent capabilities has stabilized the security architecture in South Asia. There is another view that questions the stabilizing influence of nuclear weapons on the South Asian political order. Both India and Pakistan follow policies of minimum credible deterrence. However, since 2003 partial operationalization of Indian nuclear doctrine, India seems to have departed from “no-first use policy” to “pre-emptive first strike”. There is a shift in India’s doctrinal policy and its objectives aim at strategic build-up forcing an arms race in the region. Pakistan is compelled to rely on the employment of nuclear weapons owing to conventional military asymmetry. India’s aggressive limited war ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ (CSD) left no choice for Pakistan but to introduce SRBM albeit Nasr (TNW). Introduction of SRBM in Indo-Pak nuclear deterrence equilibrium is subject to divergent interpretations wherein, Pakistan’s strategic deterrence is supplemented by tactical nuclear deterrence culminating into Full-Spectrum Deterrence. Pakistan views it as a stabilizing addition to the prevailing deterrence equation. However, most Indian and some Western perspectives consider it destabilizing the deterrence stability. Conversely, India is introducing new systems and technologies e.g. maritime strategic forces, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, aiming at complete strategic nuclear triad, and Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) which is further complicating the issue of deterrence equilibrium and strategic stability in South Asia. Resultantly, the developing regional dynamics compel Pakistan to strengthen its minimum credible deterrence by adding SRBM, MRBM (Shaheen III), cruise missiles (Babur 3) and Multiple Independently Reentry Target Vehicle (Ababeel). Nuclear Command and Control structures of both countries, their effectiveness, likely patterns of deployments, and India’s aggressive posturing are major determinants of the state of strategic stability in the region
with all its extra-regional implications. New policy contours have also emerged where the US decision making and Western politico-academic echelons suggest brackets to be imposed on Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability and deterrence posture while India is encouraged and assisted in increasing its conventional military capabilities multifold and further promote its strategic capability to act as a great power in the Asia Pacific region. This whole scenario required a dispassionate review of nuclear deterrence and strategic-stability for which the SVI organized a two-day international conference on the “Nuclear Deterrence and Strategic Stability in South Asia”.Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) organized a Two Day International Conference on “Nuclear Deterrence and Strategic Stability in South Asia” on 6th and 7th November 2018 at the Islamabad Serena Hotel. The conference was attended by the bureaucrats, scholars, academicians, journalists, students, foreign and national scholars, and members of civil society.
Ms. Ahyousha Khan (Research Associate, SVI) performed the duties of Master of Ceremony. The conference began with a recitation from the Holy Quran, after which Ms. Sadia Kazmi (Director Academics, Policy and Programs, SVI), gave a brief introduction to the SVI. She apprised the audience with the aims, objectives, and functions of the SVI and gave a brief account of various research and academic activities that the SVI has been engaged with over the last five years. After these preliminaries Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI) formally welcomed the august audience and offered his gratitude to the Chief Guest Lt. Gen (R) Khalid Kidwai NI, HI, HI(M)(Advisor, National Command Authority (NCA), Pakistan),for affording time from his busy schedule and gracing the occasion with his presence. Dr. Cheema acknowledged the fact that Gen. Kidwai specifically came from Karachi to address the audience on the issue that is not only critically significant for South Asia but for the regions across. Only Gen. Kidwai could have been the most relevant person in Pakistan to deliberate on the topic as the Chief Guest for the occasion owing to his services since 1999 as the architect of Strategic Plans Division (SPD) until he retired and became Advisor to the National Command Authority (NCA). Dr. Cheema stated that it is Gen. Kidwai’s monumental contributions for the formulation and development of strategic thinking in Pakistan without which Pakistan’s policy and state of strategic stability in South Asia would not have been what it is today. It is his vision that enabled the SPD to take crucial contingency plans on behalf of NCA with the aim to engage in the formulation of strategic thinking within Pakistan’s national security policy on nuclear deterrence. His foresight also allowed the evolution of Pakistan’s doctrinal thinking by shifting from Credible Minimum Deterrence to Full Spectrum Deterrence.
Elaborating on the importance of the subject of the conference, Dr. Cheema opined that this is the area upon which not only hinges the security of South Asia, but it also ensures the state of peace and development between India and Pakistan. Arms race is another offshoot of the topic with implications for the future generations of the region and state of their development and prosperity, which eventually depends upon how responsibly India and Pakistan deal with the possession of nuclear weapons.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema while discussing the objective of holding the conference, explained that the main aim has been to contribute to the national and international discourse on regional stability, nuclear deterrence, and strategic stability. However, he added it doesn’t mean that the SVI is the only think tank striving to make such contributions. Indeed, there are others working equally hard on discourse development. He made it a point that the SVI is dedicatedly making its part of contribution complementing the efforts of other institutions and is not in competition with any research think tank. SVI only believes in offering a cool minded, dispassionate and objective analysis whenever the time allows in order to ultimately enrich the debate and discourse on nuclear deterrence, security, and peace and development in South Asia.
It is for this very purpose that an array of distinguished national and international experts was invited to enlighten the audience that was keen to learn from their views on critically important subject. Dr. Cheema briefly made a mention of international speakers which included Mr. Antoine Levesques, Prof. Dr. Shen Dingli, Dr. Kenneth Holland, Dr. Dale Walton, and the distinguished Russian panel including Dr. Anton Khlopkov joined by Col. Gen. Evgeny Meslin whose presence was duly acknowledged, while Dr. Bhumitra Chakma participated through Skype. Dr. Cheema also acknowledged the national speakers for being highly qualified and one of the best in their fields holding important position as professors, Dean, and Head of department at the universities. He expressed hope that in view of highly distinguished panel of speakers, the conference would provide an informed debate on issues of deterrence equilibrium and strategic stability.
Dr. Cheema further pointed out some of the issues that the SVI intended to explore in the debate expected to be generated through this particular international conference. He enumerated four critical areas: one, doctrinal issue; second, the issue of capabilities and what impact does it have on policy orientation of South Asian nuclear states; third, the issue and role of technologies such as Ballistic Missile Defence (BMDs) and MIRVs; and fourth, the role of regional powers in charting out the course of events within and outside the South Asian region, and the over-all impact on the strategic stability in South Asia.
While highlighting the doctrinal issue, he opined that there is an evident gradual shift in India’s doctrinal position from Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999. First amendment came in January 2003 which stated that if the Indian armed forces and its people are attacked with the chemical and biological weapons, India reserves the right to use nuclear weapons. This was a clear tempering of No First Use (NFU) declaration which in any case Pakistan didn’t believe in since the beginning. Pakistan had always been aware that the so called NFU policy by India was not a binding agreement but just a statement, which a country may or may not adhere to. Following this, some semiofficial and academic strategists hinted at a “preemptive splendid strike” being deliberated upon within Indian strategic circles. This policy expounded that if in India’s assessment, Pakistan showed any intention to use nuclear weapons in a contingency situation, India would not allow that and will resort to splendid first strike on Pakistan, keeping it from causing any damage to Indian nukes. This again is reflective of a clear shift in Indian nuclear doctrine. Simultaneously, there has been a shift in Pakistan’s nuclear posture from strategic deterrence based on the concept of minimum credible deterrence to what is known as full spectrum deterrence within the same premise. In other words, Pakistan has made an addition of tactical deterrence to strategic deterrence with the introduction of Nasr missiles essentially in response to India’s Cold Start Doctrine. There is a strong belief that the Nasr short range ballistic missile is a weapon of deterrence solely aimed at avoiding the war between India and Pakistan. This should be seen as Pakistan’s contribution to peace where it has effectively been able to deny a space for war and has instead encouraged peace to take place in the region.
Talking about the third issue i.e. the impact of introduction of new technologies in the region, Dr. Cheema mentioned that the BMD, MIRVs and other technologies are increasingly being procured and developed by India and Pakistan, casting significant imprint on the technological landscape of the South Asian region. India has contracted to buy a BMD from Russia which wouldn’t come without consequences for deterrence equation in the region. However, some are of the view that India will take roughly 7 to 8 years to be able to produce, procure, and install this system by which time Pakistan would have mustered enough resources to evolve a credible response to such an initiative. In this way Pakistan would be able to plug the deterrence gap. It is also quite unfortunate that ever since Modi’s government has come into power, the negotiations between India and Pakistan have come to a standstill. There is no communication between the two nuclear rivals instead India has been resorting to and leading an arms race causing Pakistan to respond according to its economic and technological capability trying to meet the minimum requirement of responding to India’s aspirations. Some are of the view that India is intentionally trying to drag Pakistan into an arms race with an aim to further weaken its already unstable economy making it to eventually collapse under the economic burden just like the former Soviet Union. Dr. Cheema stated that all of these issues and a lot more are included in the agenda of the conference, which will be further discussed and deliberated upon by the speakers.
In the end Dr. Cheema mentioned that the SVI intends to publish the papers of the conference in a book form; a reliable volume containing policy papers covering the issues of nuclear deterrence, deterrence equilibrium, and strategic stability in South Asia. He requested for everyone’s support and blessings in this endeavor.
After his introductory remarks, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema invited the Chief Guest to deliberate on the subject.
The Chief Guest Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai began with offering thanks to Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema for organizing a timely conference on an issue of utmost strategic importance to Pakistan. He was pleased to notice an array of international scholars and experts in the conference, expecting their papers and views to enrich the proceedings and conclusions of the conference through their international and country perspectives. He acknowledged the Pakistani participants being respected names not only in Pakistan but also in the international conference circuit. He expressed hope that the two categories of outstanding scholars together would do full justice to the important subject.
Lt. Gen Kidwai shared his views on the subject of the conference and the linkages of the concept of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability with the ground realities in South Asia. He based the views on his hands-on experience of the last two decades dealing with a variety of elements of nuclear deterrence in the Pakistani and international environments.
He opined that the nuclear deterrence in South Asia as a bedrock concept of strategic stability between Pakistan and India has invariably been under varying degrees of stress ever since the two countries took their respective decisions to develop nuclear weapons. Looking at the era of sixties in case of India, or the early seventies in case of Pakistan, or considering Pokhran-I of 1974 as a watershed, or May 1998 as a milestone, the reality is that the introduction of nuclear weapons in the security paradigm of South Asia irrespective of the preferred date has changed the dynamics of political and military strategies and has influenced political and strategic attitudes and approaches to the prevailing conflicts and their resolution options profoundly. It is also a reality that the tangible quantitative and qualitative nuclear capabilities of Pakistan and India because of the ever increasing and ever improving respective nuclear weapons inventories, has put brakes on conventional war and kinetic war options. This reality is borne out by the absence of a major war since December 1971, which is almost half a century now. Despite close calls and occasional rush of blood, the on-ground sanity has continued to prevail with nuclear weapons as background reminders. Lt. Gen. Kidwai’s implied conclusion was that the nuclear deterrence has served as the great equalizer in an operational environment of relative conventional asymmetry.However, he maintained that it didn’t imply that the peace has broken out in the sub-continent or that hostilities have ceased. Far from that, the presence of unresolved conflicts and jostling for gaining regional advantages in a larger strategic environment where the use of force as a problem-solving technique has become near-redundant, has pushed South Asia into a comfort-discomfort position of no-war-no-peace. In this comfort-discomfort position of no-war-no-peace, the on-ground reality is that the Kashmir dispute remains at the front and center stage whichever way one may look whether from the prism of India or Pakistan or the hapless Kashmiris. All roads to stability or instability in South Asia, irrespective of the route, lead to Srinagar. The sub-continent is frozen in a time warp of 1947, the unfinished agenda of partition. Nonetheless, fortunately for peace in the region, however fragile, nuclear deterrence continues to play a critical role in the retention of varying degrees of strategic stability.
Lt. Gen Kidwai pointed out that while the resultant tensions between India and Pakistan continue to simmer, and the Valley and the Line of Control remain hot and active, the mutually strong nuclear deterrence capabilities have given rise to more or less three standard phenomena, almost as routine practices of a Standard Operating Procedure manual:
a. One, under stressful situations, there is an increasing tendency to resort to rhetorical escalatory ladder as a convenient outlet for letting out steam. This includes threats of phantom surgical strikes with display of limited military activity here and there, followed by equally strong counter threats for quid pro quo retaliation. Thereafter, relative quiet and silence.
b. Two, the larger pent up hostilities are deflected and articulated elsewhere into more serious areas of sub-conventional and hybrid warfare.
c. And three is, what now has become a standard pattern of diplomacy, Pakistani offers of a comprehensive dialogue for engagement aimed at resolution of disputes, and prompt rejection of such a dialogue, or any dialogue, by India.
Owing to such a situation, the stalemate or status quo continues where if the door to one method of warfare has been closed, the doors to other methods have opened to continue the conflict by other means. Such has been the strategic effect of nuclear deterrence. Strategic stability in South Asia as such, while being dependent on the state of nuclear deterrence, is now an on-again-off-again phenomenon. Unfortunately, due to the absence of a serious political will to address core issues of conflict, true strategic stability which will allow peace to prevail on a long-term basis remains illusory; while a pattern has been learnt to live with the alternating cycles of strategic stability and strategic instability.
He emphasized that in the backdrop of such a prevailing environment, the strategic balance that Pakistan must maintain vis-à-vis India is the critical determinant of the state of strategic stability or strategic instability in South Asia. He further mentioned that the history of Pakistan’s strategic force development clearly indicates that it has never allowed the balance to be disturbed to its disadvantage and has always found effective solutions to redress induced imbalances from time to time. He expressed confidence that Pakistan will never allow the effectiveness of its nuclear deterrence to be eroded notwithstanding efforts to undermine it, the latest example being the Indo-Russian deal to induct five systems of the S-400 in the Indian Air Force by 2020 with implications for strategic stability.
He was of the view that much hype has been created around this particular technology induction and some have gone to the extent of calling it a game changer for South Asia. He strongly refuted the hyped up impression and stated that the induction of the S-400 is no game changer; the games being played out in South Asia are bigger than an odd military technology. The S-400, to put things in perspective is but another advanced technology induction like so many others that have come and gone over the last seven decades in the Indian and Pakistani inventories – nor will it be the last. Pakistan remains unfazed and as before, it has adequate response options which will disallow any disturbance of the strategic balance or strategic stability. That fundamental policy will prevail. In a sense therefore one may surmise that the responsibility of ensuring strategic stability in South Asia invariably falls on Pakistan – to which he ensured that Pakistan will continue to shoulder that responsibility – with responsibility and restraint – so as to ensure that imbalances and strategic stability injected into an otherwise balanced nuclear deterrence equation does not become for the other side an incentive for adventure. He offered a food for thought for the audience by raising a pertinent question that taking the logic a step further from the determination and argument, should we draw the conclusion that maintenance of peace in South Asia has become a Pakistani responsibility per se? Leaving it at that and having shared his views on the linkages of nuclear deterrence with strategic stability and peace in South Asia, he presented a review of broader international and regional environments, the challenges and threats which confront Pakistan today so as to place the role of Pakistan’s nuclear capability in the larger national and South Asian context.
He explained that while strategic location and military geography has placed Pakistan’s strategic defence and deterrence postures in a position of relative advantage, the contemporary global and regional geo-political environments and the resultant power realignments as they have evolved since the end of the Cold War, have presented multiple challenges and opportunities to Pakistan’s strategic planners. A careful scan of these realignments show that South Asia is directly affected by the strategic fallout of the post-Cold War reorientation of global power shifts.
The emergence of China as a global power, moving sure footedly towards its destined position of pre-eminence by 2035 and 2050 as outlined in 2017 at the Communist Party Congress, presumably places it in direct economic and military competition with the United States, identified as such in the US National Defence Strategy 2018. The trade war, presently limited to a tariff-for-tariff attrition, and the raising of the pitch in South China Sea, will only buttress this competition further with direct and indirect fallout for South Asia in the geo-political domain and perhaps in the economic domain at some stage. These might compel India and Pakistan to take clearer positions in this emerging great game. The re-emergence of the mutli-polarity of Russia and China from the unipolar world of the US exerts a powerful influence in South Asia as well with consequences for regional strategic stability. Russia has interests in South Asia and President Putin’s recent visit to India and the resultant agreements signed are a manifestation of reclaiming some of those interests. The position of the US paradoxically is somewhat unclear as it appears to be caught up somewhere in between the policies of Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” and Trump’s “America First” often leaving the rest of the world in a state of second guessing.
India’s policy of aligning itself to the US, including attempts to strategically stretch or even over stretch all the way to the Pacific, is generally recognized as an attempt to address its concerns regarding rising China. On the other hand, Pakistan’s time-tested relationship with a physically close and rising global power China has historical roots of friendship, security, and economic cooperation. In this scenario, Pakistan’s response choices to the challenges have followed pragmatic and realistic options in line with its national interests. Pakistan remains cognizant of the emerging global dynamics of big power competition that has created and will continue to create fallout effects in South Asia with consequences for strategic stability. He believed that Pakistan is on the right side of history as the circumstances unfold before the eyes and will stand to gain geo-political and geo-economic advantages in the future.
Therefore, taking into account the emerging geo-political scenario in the region together with the presence of unresolved conflicts which keeps South Asia in a permanent state of near-war readiness, it must be appreciated that Pakistan’s determination to maintain strategic stability at the minimum levels through retention of a robust nuclear capability becomes the sole guarantor of strategic balance and thereby of peace in South Asia. He further emphasized on the need to understand the genesis and rationale of Pakistan’s nuclear policies and strategies.
Lt. Gen. Kidwai opined that in the prevailing security environment especially in the backdrop of relative conventional asymmetry, there is an enhanced reliance on Pakistan’s ability to maintain the credibility of its nuclear deterrence and ensure regional stability. The nuclear capability is a defensive response to the ever-evolving security challenges; there are no aggressive overtones to Pakistan’s capability. However, over the years Pakistan’s nuclear policy has transited to the concept of Full Spectrum Deterrence while remaining within the larger philosophy of Credible Minimum Deterrence as a response to the evolving nature of threat. He reiterated that Pakistan will maintain peace and security in South Asia at the lowest levels of deterrence with a conscious decision of not getting into an arms race.
Talking about the scenario post May 1998 nuclear tests, he mentioned that Pakistan adopted the policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence in the prevailing objective conditions at the time. The policy was dynamic enough to respond to regional dynamics and evolving threat. There was never a doubt on part of Pakistan that in the generally adverse international environments for nuclear Pakistan, it had to lookout for itself – boldly and unapologetically. In the last eighteen years therefore, Pakistan developed a strong indigenous nuclear infrastructure which allowed it the freedom to conceive and develop strategic capabilities as is deemed fit in the interest of Pakistan’s security. Pakistan today is comprehensively self-reliant in the nuclear field.
Also as a consequence of persistent and aggressive attempts at destabilizing the strategic balance by India, including the adoption of the provocative war fighting Cold Start Doctrine, the pursuit of the Ballistic Missile Defence, the sea based nuclear capability leading to the nuclearization of the Indian Ocean, to mention a few, Pakistan felt confident and capable of transiting to the policy of Full spectrum Deterrence while remaining within the larger philosophy of Credible Minimum Deterrence. The policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence served as well up to a point in time. With the development and availability of a variety of nuclear weapons in the strategic, operational, and tactical domains it was only logical to adopt the policy of full spectrum deterrence. This was formally pronounced by Pakistan in 2011.
Specifically, the policy of Full Spectrum Deterrence implies some of the following:
That Pakistan possesses the full spectrum of nuclear weapons in all the three categories: strategic, operational and tactical, with full range coverage of the large Indian land mass and its outlying territories, there will be no place to hide.
That Pakistan possesses appropriate weapons yield coverage, and the numbers, to deter the adversary’s pronounced policy of massive retaliation; the “counter-massive retaliation” punishment will therefore be as severe if not more.
That Pakistan enjoys the liberty of choosing from a target rich menu, the full spectrum of Indian counter value, counter force and battlefield targets.
After sufficiently highlighting the strategic and military context, he emphasized on the importance of economic security. He maintained that Pakistan realizes that having secured a strategic balance in the military field against a larger adversary, it has to be the economic resurgence alone that will buy Pakistan its security and prosperity. Similarly, the future dynamics of the region are going to be both challenging and competitive. Pakistan enjoys innumerable advantages of its central geo-political location and fair power potential in addition to being a nuclear power. It is to be seen how well it will be able to exploit these potentials in order to remain relevant and emerge as a strong regional power.
Talking about the future prospects he raised a logical question as to what is next for Pakistan. While predicting the future is never easy, he voiced his belief that while the doors to kinetic war between India and Pakistan have been closed primarily due to Pakistan’s strong nuclear capability, adversarial relations between the two countries will continue to govern the future for as long as one can see. Kashmir, hot and cold, will decidedly remain the divisive issue. While Pakistan has occasionally toyed with flexibility, the Indian approach remains tightly rigid. Riding the high horse of global support and a good enough economy, there is unlikely to be an incentive for India to consider a serious dialogue on Kashmir.
The comfort-discomfort, no-war-no-peace and the blunting of India’s military options have already deflected the hostilities towards sub-conventional warfare to Pakistan’s under bellies, and for some time now, launching of hybrid warfare against Pakistan. This pattern for the foreseeable future is likely to continue. He stressed upon the need to wait for vision and realism, which will respond to the call of history to pursue peace of the brave so as to give the people of South Asia a chance to develop economically and socially to respectable international levels.
He wrapped up with the hope that while the respective nuclear deterrence capabilities have literally imposed and dictated that there will be no war in South Asia, there will be people and leaders who would recognize the opportunity to carve out conflict resolution for a truly peaceful South Asia.
Lt. Gen (R) Khalid Kidwai once again wished the participants the very best with their discussion and debate on various subjects of the conference. He expressed hope that the conclusions reached would be most beneficial for leading the way to a rich discourse. Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai’s talk was followed by a few interactive questions and discussion.
Question & Answer Session
Mr. Raza Khan (Correspondent, PTV World News) asked Lt. Gen. (R) Khalid Kidwai as to why Pakistan has not yet thought of building nuclear submarine or leased it from China or Russia, especially when there is ever growing Indian naval nuclearization and alarming statements coming from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that INS Arihant is a great response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmailing? Lt. Gen. (R) Khalid Kidwai emphasized on the need for everyone to understand the difference between technological developments and political statements. He explained that the Indian statement about nuclear black mailing is a political statement and it should only be responded to at the political level. INS Arihant is not a new development which would suddenly threaten strategic stability of the region. Moreover, Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence is a loaded concept with the ability to handle wide array of threats. Hence, Pakistan’s responses in the form of full spectrum deterrence are there and will always be reemphasized.
Mr. Antoine Levesques (Research Fellow for South Asia, IISS, London, UK) asked whether the CPEC would play any role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons vis-à-vis India? Lt. General. (R) Kidwai maintained that CPEC is essentially an economic corridor and not a military or nuclear corridor. All the projects of CPEC are related to infrastructure and industry. Hence there are no linkages between the CPEC and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Dr. Rizwana Abbasi (Associate Professor, Dept. of IR, Bahria University, Islamabad), posed two questions to Lt. Gen. (R) Khalid Kidwai. First was regarding Pakistan’s views on changing nature of war and crisis due to the inclusion of smarter conventional and non-conventional technology. In the second question she asked if there is a possibility of Russia and China replacing the US as crisis managers in South Asia? Lt. Gen. (R) Kidwai explained that technological advancement and evolution is a never-ending phenomenon and smart technology is continuously being inducted by the states. Pakistan’s responses whether defensive or offensive, involve smart technology and its planners are very well aware. In response to second question he said that the US always had a role in South Asia as a crisis manger and that role comes with neutrality. However, with the changing nature of the alignment and realignment in the region, a pattern is quite clear in which India and the US are more closer on one hand and Pakistan and China are more aligned on the other hand. Due to the changing nature of alliances in South Asia the relative neutrality to some extent has been compromised for example in the case of Kashmir. Hence, indeed the roles are changing with the shift in alignments.
Second session on “Contemporary Strategic Environment of South Asia” was chaired by Brig. Zahir ul Haider Kazmi (Director General, ACDA, SPD). The panel of discussants included Prof. Dr. Shen Dingli (Center for American Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai, China), Mr. Antoine Levesques (Research Fellow for South Asia, IISS, London, UK), Dr. Anton Khlopkov (Director, Center for Energy and Security Studies, Moscow, Russia), and Dr. Rizwan Naseer (Asst. Prof. IR, Dept. of Humanities, COMSATS Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan). Brig. Kazmi gave a brief introduction of each speaker and highlighted the significance of this session as instrumental in setting the stage for the subsequent discussion on nuclear doctrine/posture, weapon capabilities, deterrence equilibrium, and strategic stability in South Asia. The session also offered different perspectives such as Chinese, Russian, Pakistani and International perspective on these issues. Having said that, Brig. Kazmi invited the first speaker of the session Prof. Dr. Shen Dingli to share his views with the audience.
Prof. Dr. Shen Dingli talked about “Contemporary Security and Strategic Environment: Chinese Perspective”. He began with highlighting the fact that any debate about the security and strategic environment of South Asia will not be complete without discussing the role of great powers including the US, China and Russia. Hence, he preferred to discuss the regional dynamics of South Asia in light of the role played by external powers since it is very much being shaped up and influenced by the mutual interaction of these states with each other and with the regional states. Talking about the security setting in the region, he mentioned that there has been a gradual improvement witnessed especially because of the effective measures taken by Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Russia and China have collectively set the stage for regional cooperation through the platform of the SCO. It serves as a visionary organization initially meant to address the political security of the member states. However, its responsibilities do not just end there, instead it further extends into economic domain, but primarily sticks to addressing the security issues such as eradication of terrorism etc. It is the mutual vision of both China and Russia to make all the member states take part in this joint endeavor, otherwise the SCO mission would essentially be incomplete. Dr. Dingli expressed pleasure on the recent development in which Pakistan and India also joined the organization. He stated that collectively all can now work together for the peace and security of a much larger geographical region. The other orientation of China is to actively work towards expanding its economic influence with an ultimate aim of uplifting the downtrodden economies of the world. In view of this ambition, China’s economy reflects swift ascendancy over the last decade. He shared that in the year 2000, China’s economy has grown ten times. In 2000 China’s GDP was merely US $ 1.21 trillion and only last year it was noted at US $ 12.2 trillion. US GDP on the other hand has only increased to 1 percent during the same time period. Although these figures show China’s huge potential to gain the status of global economic power, but this is not enough. China needs to continue to work out a policy to generate more and more revenues. For this purpose, China launched its own initiative in the form of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Indeed, China is interested in increasing its economic potential through investment but first and foremost it stands for the collective benefit of all. It is for the same purpose that the President Xi Jin Ping conceived the Belt and Road initiative and continues to deliberate upon how to involve other states in mutually constructive process through interactive consultation and shared benefits. He also mentioned the recently held first time ever China International Import Expo which was inaugurated by Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan and was attended by 130 countries. This shows China’s commitment to supporting the idea of mutual cooperation and mutual benefit unlike the US where one government under Obama pushed for JCPOA and the later government under Trump seems to be totally indifferent to the deal. Contrary to such a casual behavior, China stands for the well being of all stakeholders. China aims to further improving the investment opportunities by lowering the tariff rates. Dr. Dingli stated that China doesn’t support setups like the WTO which only looks after the interest of one nation state and sabotage the efforts for global development. He maintained that China is here to extend the helping hand while still be able to reap benefits from the BRI, which will not only enhance economic integration across the globe but will also inculcate the spirit of trust and dependency among the member states of BRI. Once Prof. Shen Dingli concluded his talk, Brig. Kazmi thanked him for his brilliant take on the contemporary security and strategic environment of South Asia. He summarized his speech by highlighting Dr. Dingli’s point about the win-win paradigm in South Asian and in larger Eurasian region. While Dr. Dingli expressed hope for the regional development he also raised concern about the possibility of great powers falling into the Thucydides trap. Brig, Kazmi further reiterated Dr. Dingli’s points where he opined that history has always been economics in motion, and a peaceful common destiny can only be achieved if a win-win paradigm is carved out for all. Moving on with the session, Brig. Kazmi invited the second speaker Mr. Antoine Levesques who presented his views on “Contemporary International Strategic Environment/International Order”.
Mr. Antoine Leveseques began with expressing his pleasure for being back in Pakistan especially after the PM Imran Khan took office promising a new start for the country. He offered thanks to the conference organizers especially Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema for hosting such a high profile and timely confer close to his area of interest and specialization. He mentioned that as Europe commemorates the centenary of the end of the Great War, it is important to recall the contributions of those who came from what is today Pakistan to join so many from elsewhere to fight for the cause of openness and democratic values side by side Britain and France. Looking at the contemporary strategic environment, events of that time resonate with us today as a cautionary tale in Europe and also globally including in this region. That was a time of unchecked, near mechanical interstate escalation, of erosion of strategic trust between the largest powers of the time, of ideologies of nationalist predestination reckoning up national interests, and technological breakthroughs with innovative applications for warfare. All of these added to the fog of war resulted in massive loss of life on a unique epochal scale. This precipitated the reversal of a historic trend of globalization and economic interdependence and led to the durable global powers’ dislocations and redistributions. He maintained that this history matters. The policy is hardly well served if it is equalized on crude anachronisms and on sort of ex post facto reading of events which can almost tell any story. Yet forgetting history, can also be a recipe for repeating the mistakes. He claimed that the world in 2018 is becoming more dangerous. There are economic roots to this danger which cannot be ignored. A change is also visible in terms of US security defence preeminence over world affairs which is still overwhelming in relative terms. But simultaneously, today, the erosion of rules based Westphalian international liberal order has appeared to accelerate in such a way that the strategic stability tend to rely more on the power as a currency rather than on accommodation and compromise. Unilateralism is undermining the letter and spirit of the agreements and institutions even though it is written in the intentional law. The notion of spheres of influence is reemerging or shaping into new geographies. There is a rise in “tolerant warfare”, a great phenomenon wherein the non-western states test the tolerance of the US and its allies for different forms of aggression. At the same time, a return to statecraft has been enabled by technology and the growing resurgence of intelligence in foreign and security policy making. Notions of responsibility and burden sharing are also shifting. Major power rivalries is now the top priority over terrorism. Despite some residual debate about how important it actually is, the latter remains a risk to manage.
Talking about the role of great powers, he first mentioned the US, which under the Trump administration has gained unpredictability in the last year, including the unprecedented use of economics as a tool to achieve strategic effects in today’s globalized economy. Yet,he believed that the politics and strategy of hedging bets with the US poses sharpening dilemmas for foes, allies and partners alike. He maintained that the long term positive and negative impact of “America First” is still too early to judge. However, the country continues to make efforts to renew the foundations of its ability to innovate for future defence of its own interests. Meanwhile the Middle East or West Asia is witnessing a strategic interstate, intra and cross regional competition blending and recombining with domestic political forces with potential for reshaping regimes and their foreign policies. Neighbours, like Pakistan, are looking anxiously at what this means for security policy making opportunity. On the other hand, an assertive Russia in 2018, as per the views of Mr. Levesques, chooses to continue provokingly to challenge the foundational norms of international behavior, dangerously risking rolling back post-Cold War scenario. In addition to this, Russia and China continue to reinstate themselves as converging major powers of emerging multipolar order, not only as a matter of tactical affinity but increasingly as a matter of a broader strategic understanding including in this region. Mr. Levesques believed that China’s Belt and Road Initiative has drawn a chorus of criticism which may further peak. He maintained that there is hardly any doubt about China’s intention to secure Eurasian trade routes for its geopolitical and geo-economic advantage.
Talking about the nuclear order, he stated that a change is perhaps coming, slowly but surely. Nuclear non-proliferation treaty as well as the basic principles of deterrence and engagement are still applicable to the nuclear weapon states. The gains of the SALT talks in the 1970s, the START treaties, provisions of chemical, biological and toxin weapons conventions, and modernization of national nuclear enterprises and armories continues with major but as yet insufficient intellectual and coordinated policy efforts. Also, technology is at times pushing nuclear weapon states into leapfrogging to development of their force structures. While at the same time there are a mix of doctrine in defence postures which is only organically and more slowly evolving. This creates new risks while sharpening the older ones. He pointed out that South Asia follows a mid-elections cycle, which hampers political leaderships’ engagement with the neighourhood.
Mr. Antoine Levesques mentioned that the Wuhan Summit between President Xi and PM Modi identified conspicuous change in India-China relations which also carries implications for the region. India seems to recognize China’s agencies in the region but at the same time opposes China’s BRI. PM Modi emphatically indicated at IISS Shangri-La dialogue last June that India has its sights set beyond the Indo-Pacific region in effect to extending its strategic gains.
Talking about the case of India, Pakistan, and the West, he mentioned that it is the interest if not the concern for the upkeep of strategic and crisis stability in the region, serving as a factor behind western engagement in the equation. For instance, even before India announced its first nuclear deterrent petrol of the sea, the western partners were aware that the maritime dimension of Indo-pacific will sooner rather than later converge with the slow motion but a real momentum between India and Pakistan to take nuclear weapons to the Indian Ocean global common. However, he presumed that these dynamics surrounding the Indo-pacific will change the way UN Security Council permanent members including China respond to the next possible crises between India and Pakistan.
Another significant arena he mentioned was Afghanistan where a major Two Track initiative meanwhile serves to provide new momentum to the over one-year old US’ Afghanistan-South Asia strategy. This two track strategy is about talks with the Taliban, the outcome of which is as yet unclear.
Mr. Antoine Levesques concluded by mentioning that the friends, partners and well-wishers of Pakistan are eagerly waiting for the present government to deliver on its 100 days promise. Second, there is an understanding that Pakistan’s relation with India cannot be subject to any breakthroughs until India emerges from soon to be held elections. Third, fighting terrorism remains Pakistan’s top security priority which gets it an important international role. He mentioned that there is a genuine desire in Pakistan for respectability and political and economic normality and the wish to be seen as a state doing the right thing. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s clock was partly set back on these accounts because of the actions of the AQ Khan network. Finally, suggesting a way forward for Pakistan, he suggested that Pakistan must try to improve on a design of CPEC and adopt a role that can truly fulfill the service to all participating countries in the BRI.
Birg. Kazmi thanked Mr. Antoine Levesques for his brief and focused discussion on the topic. He summarized the important point of his speech by mentioning that one cannot ignore the fact that the Great War led to great dislocations. However, it is quite unfortunate that the tendency to learn from history is missing. War has been a constant of history; and mankind being pugnacious in nature continues to repeat the same mistakes. Emphasizing on Mr. Levesques ideas on nuclear order he laid stress on retaining and maintaining the post Westphalian rule based order. Brig. Kazmi particularly highlighted the deterrence petrol incident mentioned by Mr. Levesques and raised a pertinent question as to whether it was just a nuclear submarine or a nuclear armed submarine? Since there is no information available on that could it possibly be another case of surgical strike with a lot fan fair and hype but nothing in it? In the end Brig. Kazmi appreciated Mr. Levesques for his critical and thought provoking points about the way forward for Pakistan.
He invited the third speaker Dr. Anton Khlopkov to share views on “Contemporary Security and Strategic Environment: Russian Perspective”. Dr. Khlopkov explained that the world order and the international security system are at the crossroads. There is a steady erosion of the institutions and arrangements that have served as the foundation of the international security system for many decades. As these institutions and arrangements crumble, no new ones are being built to replace them. The former system of checks and balances in international relations is disintegrating. The core principle that no one should strengthen their own security at the expense of the security of others is failing by the wayside. Foreign and security policy has become hostage to domestic political rivalries and power tussles in many cases. All of this diminishes predictability in international relations and increases security risks.
In this context, he particularly focused on the current situation with nuclear non- proliferation and arms control. He opined that the US is now pursuing a course that could eventually destroy the entire system of international legal instruments in this area. This is despite the fact that the US is one of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty depository states and, as one of the world’s two greatest nuclear powers, bears special responsibility for upholding peace and stability.
Taking stock of what has happened over the past few years, Dr. Khlopkov shared that in May 2015, the US, backed by two of its allies, blocked the adoption of the Final Document at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference, even though all the other participants in the Conference were ready to support it. Efforts by 150 + other delegations to find a compromise and arrive at a document reflecting four weeks of discussion at the Conference were essentially wasted. Meanwhile, Washington unleashed a storm of criticism at the Middle Eastern states because they called for convening, as soon as possible, a conference on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. He particularly mentioned that July 1, 2018 marks50 years since the NPT was opened for signature. In February 2018, the US adopted a new edition of its Nuclear Posture Review which says that Washington will not seek ratification of the CTBT, one of the key treaties in the area of non-proliferation and arms control. It is not to be forgotten that in 1996, the US was the first country to sign the treaty.
Dr. Khlopkov pointed out that the situation from then onwards went from bad to worse. In May 2018, the US declared its unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to settle the situation with the Iranian nuclear program. Washington accused Tehran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, even though the IAEA–the international body authorized to verify Tehran’s compliance with its obligations under the July 2015 agreements – had repeatedly confirmed that Iran was in full compliance. Then on November 4 – only two days ago – Washington imposed sanctions on Iran that greatly undermine efforts by the other states – Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia – to save the JCPOA even after the US withdrawal.
He also quoted a much recent example of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the US in 1987. For many years, the US and Soviet Union kept accusing each other of violating some of the treaty’s provisions. But for a long time, and despite Moscow’s insistence, Washington refused to specify how exactly Russia was in violation of the treaty, in its position. Only last October did the Department of the State submitted a list of questions to Moscow regarding the treaty, but several days later – and without waiting for answers to its questions from the Russian Federation Ministry – the US leadership announced plans to withdraw from treaty. It accused Russia of being in violation, and China of not wanting to join the treaty.
There is a clear impression that Washington is pursuing a deliberate strategy to withdraw from at least one nonproliferation or arms control agreement every three months, all the while blaming other countries for its own decisions. Owing to the situation he was reminded of an old joke about a patient who comes to a doctor, pokes his finger at his own head, his chest, his belly, and says that it hurts everywhere. To which the doctor says: actually, there is nothing wrong with your chest or your belly – it hurts because your finger is broken!
Unfortunately, instead of working to strengthen the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Washington is increasingly becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution. The US has yet to formulate its policy on the future of the New START Treaty, whose term expires in 2021. The treaty includes an option for a 5-year extension, but the signals coming from Washington are often contradictory.
He mentioned that on the other hand there are recent examples of the United States playing a positive role in reducing international tensions and seeking solutions to the most pressing nuclear and international security problems. Washington has been instrumental in helping South Korea peninsular this year. As recently as last December, there were high chances of crossing the line beyond which the risks of a military conflict breaking out would become very high and entirely uncontrollable. The North Korean armed forces were put on high alert, and foreign embassies in Pyongyang were seriously considering the need to upgrade their bomb shelters. American diplomacy – including the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un – has been an important part of the progress made since then. Now it is important to make those positive developments sustainable. In the end Dr. Anton Khlopkov also shared his views on Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. He expressed his surprise when he learnt about abstinence of Pakistan’s delegation during the vote at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly on 26 October 2018, on whether to include Russia’s proposal to consider the draft resolution on INF Treaty compliance on the agenda. While the Russian proposal was backed by 31 states, Pakistan was not among them. That creates an impression that Pakistan is indifferent to the risk of an arms race escalation in direct proximity to its own borders. While winding up he welcomed if anyone among the Pakistani scholars and colleagues would like to further elaborate on this specific issue.
Fourth speaker of the session Dr. Rizwan Naseer offered his thoughts on “Security and Strategic Environment: Pakistan’s Perspective”. He talked in detail about the challenges to the strategic and security environment of Pakistan. A quick glimpse into the history reveals how the concept has emerged which basically varies from country to country. For the great powers the sense of security is quite different from what it is for the medium and the rising powers, and for the weak states. He identified the US as a hyper power that even though enjoys immense security still feels insecure, having over extended commitments all over the world with the sole aim of securing itself. On the other hand, China as an example of emerging player in the international politics appears to be pretty smart with the realization that no conflict may be resolved without the economic strength. Hence, China is committed to flexing its economic muscle as much as it can. In the process, it offers an economic model to the world as a rising power. Looking at Pakistan, there are serious challenges it has been facing with regards to its security primarily from India. Dr. Naseer made it clear that the Indian aggression is the biggest threat to Pakistan while Pakistan itself never resorted to the policy of aggression neither on India nor on the weaker states. The smaller states might not be having ideal or cordial relations with Pakistan they never had to feel threatened either. That very security concern compelled Pakistan to be part of security arrangements such as SEATO and CENTO. In another turn of events when India tested the nuclear weapons in 1974, it came as a direct threat to the very existence of Pakistan, especially when in 1971 Pakistan had already faced India’s aggression culminating into dismemberment of Pakistan’s Eastern wing. Now was the time for Pakistan to formulate a strategy which could ensure its survival. This led Pakistan to adopt a line of action which would end India’s monopoly on nuclear weapons, and that is where a shift was witnessed in the strategic environment of South Asian region.
Elaborating on the strategic dynamics of the region, Dr. Naseer specifically mentioned the ill-fated events of 9/11 which didn’t leave any country of the world unaffected, Pakistan, being the most affected nation in this part of the region. Not only did it emerge as a front line state in the US War on Terrorism (WOT), it also fought this war as one of the major stakeholders. Unfortunately, Pakistan continued to face threats from archrival India in the East, Afghanistan being an unstable state in the West, and frail Iran under long imposed Western sanctions. In this backdrop of multidimensional threats, Pakistan stood as a country which lost numerous lives and millions of dollars in the war against terrorism. It was the same time when India on the other hand was thriving economically and was forging lucrative political commitments with other states. This whole situation contributed a great deal in cultivating an economic, military, and political asymmetry between the two countries, with Pakistan on the lowest tier of the equation. To make things worse, the US continued to doubt Pakistan’s commitment despite the innumerable losses it incurred in the WOT. The “Do More” mantra of the US became a constant policy orientation vis-à-vis Pakistan. The situation worsened to the extent where Pakistan was put on the FATF grey list, posing yet another challenge to Pakistan.
Nonetheless, despite all these challenges, Pakistan has always been striving to maintain the strategic stability in South Asia by essentially adopting defensive policies and doctrines. Dr. Rizwan Naseer stressed on the fact that Pakistan never provoked India and always demonstrated the policy of restraint. India on the other hand has often been found not adhering to the strategic nuclear responsibility. The bellicose behavior of India is instead provocative with clear intention of prompting a war with Pakistan. What if the war actually happens? The confrontation followed by Nuclear Winter will engulf all and sundry leading to a mutual assured destruction. Not just that but the unintended consequence of war according to certain estimates will be the loss of 10 to 40 % of yields of wheat, corns, and rice in Europe and the US. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would affect 90 % of the global population which should be viewed as a greater threat to human civilization. He raised a question as to why the international community is not taking notice of such a possibility and instead continues to arm India, adding to the growing asymmetry between India and Pakistan, trying best to undermine the strategic stability.
He made a mention of a parallel debate that Israel considers Pakistan a nuclear threat. Dr. Rizwan Naseer maintained that Pakistan doesn’t have any direct or territorial conflict with Israel. However, Pakistan doesn’t recognize Israel’s de jure status owing to a principled stand against Israel’s illegal and forced occupation of Palestine. The fact of the matter is that there is no real threat to Israel from Pakistan. Instead Israel has adopted this farce stance just to raise international concern against Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. It is solely aimed at disrupting Pakistan nuclear capability and undermining its security and safety. Dr. Naseer urged the international community to open its eyes to the ground realities and make efforts to maintain the strategic stability of the region as the war would not just be limited to India and Pakistan but will eat up the global civilization.
Further highlighting upon the threats for Pakistan specifically emerging from India, Dr. Rizwan Naseer mentioned Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s statements claiming Pakistan to be an ordinary state purposefully undermining the strategic stability. Simultaneously, there has been an immense criticism on Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs). One must keep in mind that TNWs are not a new phenomenon. They have been there since 1950s, developed by the US, to be used against the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, Pakistan’s sole purpose of having TNWs is to defend itself against the aggressive Indian overtures.
In the end he offered some suggestions to the international community that would help maintain strategic stability in the region. He emphasized that both countries should be extended equal treatment. This can specifically be demonstrated by adopting a just policy on the issue of NSG candidacy for which both the countries have been pursuing the membership. Similarly, SCO has emerged as a new platform which can be effectively utilized to provide a cooperative podium to the two countries. A possibility could be generated where India and Pakistan are brought together to discuss mutually beneficial ventures of economic cooperation and development. Hence the negative energy can be channelized into much more productive realm of economic deterrence. He also stressed upon the need for having a vibrant arms control regime in South Asia, finding out pragmatic ways to cut down on the weapons. The need for developing a Cyber Nuclear Doctrine was also highlighted by him in view of serious threats coming from non-state actors including hackers who can easily launch an attack on strategic weapons by causing them to jam and affect them in multiple ways. Lastly, he advised that since neighbours cannot be changed and one has to live with them, the efforts can be made to change the attitudes instead by productive and result oriented engagement. Sino-Indian model is an ideal example where despite the age-old rivalries and contentious unresolved issues, the two have still been able to exploit the common ground for win-win cooperation. Sino-Japan is another such example where massive bilateral trade exists despite some serious differences on geographical issues. Dr. Rizwan Naseer concluded his talk by suggesting that India’s stubborn refusal to hold talks with Pakistan will not yield benefit, neither to India nor to the regional peace.
Brig. Kazmi applauded Dr. Rizwan Naseer for an all-encompassing speech highlighting the threat of nuclear winter in case of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan and appreciated speaker’s message for the international community to positively intervene in South Asia. Brig. Kazmi then opened the floor for question and answer session.
Question & Answer Session
Dr. Muhammad Munir (Assistant Professor, Strategic Studies Department, NDU, Islamabad) asked Dr. Rizwan Naseer about his views on the enhanced strategic relationships between India and the international powers and the motives behind this equation. He asked if their actions are being driven under the ideals of Hegemonic Stability Theory, wherein a regional hegemon India is perceived by the great powers a requisite for stability in South Asia. Dr. Rizwan Naseer responded that hegemonic stability theory is applicable to the global order and not at the regional level because any regional hegemon would inevitably invite counter balancing from other regional power and that would rather be detrimental to the strategic stability, resulting in clashes dragging the region into war.
Mr. Hasnat Naqvi (Student, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad) asked about the possible alternative options to engage with India since Sino-Japanese and Sino-Indian cooperation models are clearly not working in the South Asian setting. Dr. Naseer suggested that Pakistan needs to wait till India realizes that war is not a solution and recognizes the need for dialogue for more conclusive and meaningful engagement. He suggested that the Sino-Japanese and Sino-Indian cooperation models have been working despite the existence of unresolved territorial disputes. There is no reason to be disappointed especially when both India and Pakistan share cultural and lingual affinities.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal (Professor, SPIR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad) posed a question to Mr. Antoine Levesques regarding the INF treaty and asked him about Britain’s point of view on the US withdrawal from the treaty. Mr. Levesques said that Russia is involved in breaching of the INF treaty and British Defence Secretary also gave statement in support of the US decision.
Third session on “South Asian Nuclear Doctrines/Postures” was chaired by Prof. Dr. Zulfqar Khan (HoD, Strategic Studies Dept., National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan). The panel of discussants included Dr. Ghulam Mujadid (Acting Dean, Dept. of Aero Space & Strategic Studies, Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan), and Dr. Mansoor Ahmed (Senior Research Fellow, Center for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan; Associate, Managing the Atom Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, USA).
Before inviting the speakers to deliberate on their respective topics, Dr. Zulfqar Khan flagged a few critical issues confronting South Asian security situation. First, the growing conventional and nuclear asymmetry between India and Pakistan. He explained that recently a report by International Bulletin of Atomic Scientist indicated that Indian nuclear arsenals have roughly reached the count of 200 in addition to a number of nuclear weapon systems, and almost around 140-150 assembled nuclear devices. Yet another serious issue is the growing role of India in the Indo-pacific region as a pivotal player in league with the US and its other allies as part of the US strategy of offshore balancing. At the same time, India’s Cold Start Doctrine tends to enhance the probability of preemptive strike, wherein it is keeping forward deployed forces along the Pakistani borders supported by Indian Air force. India also has dedicated mountain corps and two types of Integrated Battle Groups, where one type of group is commanded by a Brigadier and the other is headed by a two star General. Another issue is the Indian threat of limited war under the nuclear overhang generating a situation tantamount to risking a general war.
He further stated that strategy is a complex affair and extremely unpredictable to manipulate especially under a crisis situation. The power to hurt can increase the bargaining power. Talking about the posturing of both states, he mentioned that the current Indian deterrent force posture broadly covers Indian apparent restructuring of Draft Nuclear Doctrine with an addition of flawed strategy of Cold Start Doctrine. India has also inducted a number of BMD systems, S-400, and MIRVs. On the other hand Pakistan follows the Full Spectrum Nuclear Deterrence policy, and also possesses Ababeel and Babur as part of its second strike stability. However, one cannot ignore the fact that India has achieved the assured second strike capability in the form of Arihant submarine and pursues an ambitious program of developing more nuclear weapon submarines. It is essentially due to the nuclear revolution in South Asia that India’s evolving deterrent force posture has led to the crafting of effective counter strategy by Pakistan i.e. FSD. He emphasized on the need to understand that India is only bent upon operationalizing the CSD thereby bringing the MAD into play in the present day South Asian security equation by enhancing the mutual vulnerabilities.
In order to further explore the prevalent security environment of the region, Dr. Zulfqar Khan invited the first speaker of the session Dr. Ghulam Mujadid who presented his views on “Indian Nuclear Doctrine/Strategic Posture: Impact on Strategic Stability”. He started by sharing the scope of his presentation which covered the debate on Trinity and sociology of war, concepts of nuclear doctrine and strategic posture, India’s nuclear doctrine and strategic posture (evolution, salient features, new trends), implications on strategic stability, critique, and implications for Pakistan and South Asia.
While explaining the Trinity and Sociology of War (society, government, and military), he explained that since the beginning of recorded history, organized fighting between human groups has been a frequent occurrence. The fact of conflict is undeniable whilst its external manifestations vary. There have been as many different organizations for conflict as there have been different human societies. He maintained that this should not come as a surprise since the organization of resources required to deliver violence is a social process which necessarily reflects the prevailing culture of the society from which it springs. Therefore, it is the richness of culture, economy, society and legitimacy of the government that is cardinal; and not merely the military means including nuclear weapons. It implies that nuclear deterrence depends on quality of society, economy and government and not solely on the size, sophistication and destructiveness of nuclear weapons. As the old teaching goes “war is fought to achieve a better state of peace for the society- it is not waged to put the society in peril”. Bernard Brodie also warned against understanding nuclear deterrence in “easy to understand paradigms”. Nuclear deterrence is indeed a complex phenomenon and is linked with technical, technological and deep seated psychological domains.
Dr. Mujadid shared that India is a large country with 1.3 billion people; about 3,300,000 sq km territory, land frontiers running over 15,000 km and a coastline of over 7,516 km. The national air space spans a much larger sphere and is estimated to be over approximately 40 million cu km. India is aspiring for a greater role as is evident from one of its strategic documents which states that “The size of our nation, our continental relevance as well as our strategic location at the “head and heart” of the Indian Ocean gives us tremendous leverage to preserve peace, promote stability, and maintain security”.
Talking about the nuclear doctrine, Dr. Mujadid explained that it is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions; taught principles in nuclear force development, employment, deployment and governance. Doctrines are enunciated to provide basis for development and operationalization of a nation’s nuclear capability.
He further elaborated that on 17th August 1999, the then National Security Advisor of India Mr. Brajesh Mishra announced the Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND), which continued to be the main policy document even today. In January 2003, another policy document was issued but it retained the cardinal aspects of DND which maintains that India shall pursue a doctrine of Credible Minimum Nuclear Deterrence; India will have ‘no first use’ policy but will respond with punitive retaliation should the deterrence fail; India will maintain sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces capable of shifting from peacetime deployment to fully employable force in the shortest possible time; a robust command and control system with effective intelligence and early warning capabilities would be established for which space based and other assets shall be created; authority for the release of nuclear weapons will vest in the person of Prime Minister of India or his designated successor(s); India will demonstrate the political will to employ nuclear forces; highly effective conventional military capabilities will be maintained to raise the threshold of outbreak of both conventional as well as nuclear war; India will have effective, diverse, flexible and responsive nuclear forces based on a triad of land based missiles, aircraft and sea based assets; survivability will be ensured through redundancy, mobility, dispersion and deception; India will not accept any restraints on its R&D capability and will continue to conduct sub-critical nuclear tests even if it decides to sign the CTBT at a future date; India will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state, other than those which are aligned to any nuclear power.
Talking about some of the salient features of Indian nuclear doctrine, Dr. Mujadid stated that India maintains credible minimum deterrent against China and Pakistan. It follows a posture of “No First Use”: nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. But this does not and never did foreclose the option of “pre-emptive self defence” for India. Another feature of the doctrine is that a nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage. It also maintains that the nuclear retaliatory attacks would only be authorised by the civilian political leadership. The doctrine supports the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states. Lastly, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.
Dr. Ghulam Mujadid shared a verbatim from Indian Joint Armed Forces Doctrine of April 2017. He stressed that it is not the CSD but this particular document which describes the Indian posture which stated that “India has moved to a pro-active and pragmatic philosophy to counter various conflict situations. The response to terror provocations could be in the form of ‘surgical strikes’ and these would be subsumed in the sub-conventional portion of the spectrum of armed conflict”. It further states that the “Conflict will be determined or prevented through a process of credible deterrence, coercive diplomacy and conclusively by punitive destruction, disruption and constraint in a nuclear environment across the Spectrum of Conflict”. “Therefore, undertaking ‘Integrated Theatre Battle’ with an operationally adaptable force, to ensure decisive victory in a network centric environment across the entire spectrum of conflict in varied geographical domains, will be the guiding philosophy for evolution of force application and war fighting strategies”.
Dr. Mujadid made a special mention of the coercion and deterrence dimension to the Joint Armed Forces Doctrine which claims that “Coercion and Deterrence aim to counter threats to our security by communicating to potential adversaries the consequences of their anticipated action or inaction. Deterrence and Coercion strategies will only succeed if an opponent understands that the threats (or incentives) are credible. Effective deterrence and coercion strategies comprise of four principles: credibility; communication; comprehension; and capability”.
The Joint Armed Forces Doctrine also addresses the issue of Cyber power and states that the “Cyber Power is the ability to use cyberspace freely and securely to gain an advantage over the adversary while denying the same to the adversary in various operational environments, uninterrupted”. “Space bestows immense force multiplication capability on the Armed Forces, and the dependence on space assets for military operation is rapidly increasing. Leveraging space power would include protection of our national space assets and exploitation of space to enable defence capabilities across the conflict spectrum.”
Dr. Muajdid explained what Space entails for India and stated that it enhances effectiveness of assertive control by Indian NCA. It also provides assured national C4I2SR capabilities to the Strategic Forces Command (SFC). Space also can be utilized to locate China and Pakistan’s launch sites, nuclear installations and nuclear order of battle. It can be employed to detect missile launches and provide early warning, battle management and network centricity, and enables strategic decision making in real time, as well as enables better escalation control.
He maintained that operationally India seems to have a “Differentiated Deterrence” posture. Against China, Indian deterrence is balanced and rests on “mutual vulnerability; which maintains strategic stability. India-China nuclear deterrence is stable also due to absence of non-state actors who could cause deterrence break down between them. Against Pakistan, Indian deterrence is supported by its space and cyberspace capabilities. That impels India towards counter force and first use options. This is problematic for strategic stability. India-Pakistan deterrence is marred by non-state actors who could disrupt regional peace and tranquility.
Talking about the India-China stability-instability paradox, Dr. Ghulam Mujadid explained that in 2017, Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in an unprecedented tense standoff at Doklam that lasted for 73 days. Modi and Xi held an informal summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on 27-28 April 2018. Two sides agreed to “respect each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations” and maintain peace and tranquility along their common but yet to be demarcated frontiers. This also shows that instability at lower level caused stability at higher level of deterrence in case of India and China. India-Pakistan stability-instability paradox however seems to cause estrangement at the strategic levels. India’s competition with China fuels Indo-Pakistan competition while New Delhi’s efforts to counter Beijing appear threatening to Pakistan. Indian policy to progress far enough with its weapon and delivery programmes to feel secure against China without appearing overly threatening to Pakistan has not worked well. Consequently, Islamabad has to respond to every Indian advance with its own military developments. This vicious circle complicates strategic stability. India is vigorously pursuing a second strike capability along with Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield and high tech weaponry, which alters the strategic equilibrium in favour of India. This would drive the region towards an unending arms competition. Such a specter is less supportive to strategic stability.
Dr. Muajdid discussed the implications of Indian doctrinal posture for Pakistan and maintained that it has led to increased vulnerabilities of regional states thus instigating instability and missile race. Policy option for Pakistan to counter the instability against Indian missile development is to improve it’s early warning and missile detection capabilities without affecting credible strategic symmetry and avoiding an arms race. Over-emphasis on nuclear weapons needs to be replaced with emphasis on even more effective command and control system that could ensure country’s dignified existence in the face of threats from states or alliance of states.
Dr. Ghulam Mujadid concluded by suggesting that Pakistan must stabilize its internal environment: must stabilize its society, reinvigorate its economy and have an effective representative government in order to have a credible deterrence. Dr. Zulfqar Khan congratulated Dr. Ghulam Mujadid for an extremely insightful discussion and invited the second speaker of the session Dr. Mansoor Ahmed to present his views on “Pakistan Nuclear Doctrine/Strategic Posture”.
Dr. Mansoor Ahmed mainly focused on three aspects: drivers that shape Pakistan’s strategic program and posture; the state of strategic balance or imbalance in South Asia, and implications for deterrence stability in the region. He pointed out that Pakistan’s doctrinal evolution came in the wake of 1998 tests. Initially it was said that Pakistan was pursuing a policy of minimum deterrence, and so was India. Subsequently over the past 15 years the nomenclature of the doctrine, although Pakistan doesn’t have a declared doctrine, has moved towards Credible Minimum Deterrence, and lately to Full Spectrum Deterrence. However, the general perception is that FSD has been a radical departure from the policy of CMD, and also probably FSD is about nuclear war fighting and pulling the nuclear trigger too early in a conflict. The fact of the matter is that FSD clearly has a lower end and a higher end in terms of the capabilities that Pakistan has, from the 60-70 km Nasr and the shaheen-III ballistic missile system. Its overall posture remains within the framework of maintaining a certain level of CMD against India. Minimalism has been a constant over the years which is enforced by resource constraint and self imposed strategic restraint.
Dr. Ahmed also enlightened the audience with the choices and options that Pakistan has gone for with regards to developing its strategic posture. He stated, theoretically Pakistan might have the capability to build ICBM but because its posture is India centric it has not chosen to do so. Neither it announced any policy to go for nuclear submarines or aircraft carriers nor has it enunciated the integration of any tactical nuclear weapons for war fighting but only for deterrence purposes. After the introduction of Nasr missile, there have been parallel conventional military exercises as part of the comprehensive response doctrine to meet the Indian Cold Start threat at the conventional level. So, the nuclear and conventional capability compliment and supplement each other. However, that doesn’t necessarily imply that Pakistan is trigger happy and would be the first to use nuclear weapons at the time of conflict. Pakistan will use nuclear weapons firs tif and when its thresholds are breached, if and when the sovereignty of the state is under threat or the security of the state is under threat but until such time it retains sufficient conventional forces to meet the threat at the conventional level.
Dr. Mansoor Ahmed noted that the resource imbalance is exponentially growing in India’s favor which will not only eventually affect the strategic stability but also Pakistan’s choices in the future. In terms of GDP, India’s defence budget as compared to Pakistan’s US $10 billion right now is US $53.5 billion and is projected to reach US $300 billion by the year 2030. This proves that India has the economic muscle to easily fuel such buildup, as is evident from the fact that it has already earned the status of one of the top importers of high tech conventional weapons and surprisingly enough India is the only state that has successfully been able to acquire high tech weapon systems from Russia, European suppliers, and the US.
He further mentioned that central to the strategic imbalance in South Asia is the fissile material asymmetry and India’s and Pakistan’s triad that depends upon the availability of fissile material. He quoted figures from the international panel on fissile materials to apprise the audience on the situation. In terms of weapon grade highly enriched Uranium, Pakistan and India are almost equal although India’s percentage of Uranium 235 is about 1 ton and Pakistan has 3 tons, India is increasing its centrifugal enrichment capacity many times which will exceed the legitimate requirements of its naval nuclear propulsion and will free up any excess amount for weapons application. In terms of weapon grade Plutonium, Pakistan has only about 150-200 kg as per the open source estimates. India on the other hand has already crossed about 1 ton. The most critical imbalance is in civil Plutonium which remains unsafeguarded. However, he made a special mention that Pakistan has no unsafeguarded civil Plutonium stockpiles. India’s reactor grade or civil Plutonium stockpile is about 15 tons which is weapon useable. Out of 15 tons, almost 6 tons have already been separated or reprocessed. Plutonium holds significance as it allows for greater miniaturization of warheads, which can be employed for counter force platforms and are suitable for arming MIRVed missiles. Sharing some public estimates, Dr. Ahmed stated that the total production capacity of fissile material per year in case of Pakistan is about 22 warheads while in case of India the figure is whooping 260 warheads. This capacity is further likely to increase over time.
Along with all this, Dr. Ahmed pointed out another area of gross asymmetry having implications for strategic stability and for Pakistan’s force posture i.e. Space and ISR. He explained that India already has about 13 dedicated military satellites, its own GPS, and is acquiring all sorts of high tech weapon systems and electronic warfare capabilities from weapon suppliers. These are critical for real time intelligence and target acquisition not only for India’s MIRV program but for its emerging counter force nuclear posture as well. He believed that this technological and quantitative imbalance may lead to deterrence failure in South Asia which is fueled by growing India-US strategic collaboration. India is aiming for an escalation dominance strategy and first strike capability due to its conventional and nuclear counter force overlap. However, on the face of it India still maintains the policy of CMD and NFU which is in direct contrast to the kind of acquisitions being made, the kind of exercises that are being conducted, and the kind of platform that are being inducted e.g. the Indian Strategic Forces Command now has inducted BrahMos equipped Sukhoi SU 30 fighters and their forthcoming Rafael fighters will have the capability of launching standoff weapons for the counter force strikes. India is moving towards the development of supersonic and hypersonic BrahMos missile with vertical attack capabilities. Similarly, India’s development of the BMD shield will give India a false sense of security that it can probably absorb Pakistan’s first strike and retaliate.
There has also been growing conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan. Pakistan Navy is quite weak in front of existing and projected force posture of Indian Navy and runs the risk of having its surface fleet eliminated quite early in a conflict if Pakistan is not able to meet the growing imbalance over time. India has already acquired the anti-submarine aircraft from the US. It also has just announced that Arihant is now operational. Whether it is operational or not remains to be seen as India would still need at least 3 boats for an assured second strike capability. It is not yet clear as to what kind of challenges there would be for Indian command and control. The same applies to Pakistan’s case as well. So, both countries are essentially moving towards a learning curve of developing a nuclear triad wherein the asymmetry will have a psychological impact of undermining deterrence in South Asia. Given this scenario Pakistan has no choice but to allocate its limited fissile material stockpiles to its available counter value and counter force missile systems. The Ababeel series is set to be MIRV capable. In the face of S400 and the emerging Indian BMD shield, Pakistan will require a greater number of MIRV warheads which however will put more pressure on Pakistan’s fissile material production.
Dr. Mansoor Ahmed highlighted the fact that final warhead estimate in Pakistan’s case will directly depend on the availability of fissile material and weapon designs. So, ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s arsenal against a splendid first strike will require dispersal, mobility, camouflage, and deception. Nevertheless, the strategic assets will be employed as a last resort once the NCA decides to act, if in case anyone of the four thresholds are breached. Pakistan will have to continue with subcritical testing in order to develop new designs of warheads. It must also build hyper and supersonic classes of cruise missile systems in the face of growing BMD threat from India in addition to standoff systems. There is also a need for the Armed Forces Conventional Development plan to be implemented with full vigor because conventional asymmetry cannot completely be compensated with nuclear weapons.
This however, doesn’t bode well for arms control in South Asia. Pakistan has offered India a bilateral moratorium for nuclear testing which India has denied probably because India wants to retain the option of testing. Dr. Ahmed suggested that both Pakistan and India need to test again even if only for technical reasons, for reliability and dependability of warheads designs.
Dr. Mansoor Ahmed pointed out that the comprehensive composite dialogue is also stalled wherein India seems to be marching in pursuit of developing not only its CSD but an effective counterforce strike option. Pakistan’s Nasr missile became a subject of debate in the international community. On the other hand, India has been developing more potent short range tactical ballistic missile systems. India has also expressed the intent to tipping its Pinaka rockets with nuclear warheads. In the end Dr. Mansoor Ahmed suggested that this whole scenario requires Pakistan to focus on selected areas of force multiplier technologies to plug the gaps. This can only be possible through proactive diplomacy and though bandwagoning with other new international players such as Russia. Pakistan should also try to work for robust economy, which is going to be the basis of maintaining credible minimum deterrence. Until such time Pakistan will continue to exercise restraint and will only exercise the options that are available to it within the framework of its strategic doctrine and policy. Dr. Zulfqar thanked him for a comprehensive wrap up of the subject and opened the floor for question and answer session. Question & Answer Session Mr. Hasnat Naqvi (Student, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad) asked Dr. Mujaddid that since Pakistan possesses space technology and satellites for different purposes, can those space assets be utilized for dual use i.e. military and civil purposes? Dr. Mujaddid affirmed that Pakistan’s space technology and satellites do possess dual use technology and can be utilized for both purposes.
After the question and answer session, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI) was invited to deliver his Keynote address. Due to shortage of time Dr. Zafar Cheema gave his brief remarks and kept it short. He started off by acknowledging the nature of India-Pakistan relationship which compels the two countries to invest into their military and nuclear program despite widespread poverty they both are grappling with. There is a discontinuation of dialogue between the two, essentially owing to India’s stubbornness. Any proposal suggesting bilateral conventional or nuclear disarmament has been emphatically rejected by India. So far almost seven to eight proposals have been offered to India by Pakistan regarding bilateral or regional denuclearization, signing of NPT, FMCT, CTBT etc. but India discouraged the initiatives maintaining that these are not regional rather global issues and should instead be addressed only at the global level. All efforts by Pakistan to resume the composite dialogue have also been brushed aside by Modi led regime in India. Dr. Cheema also stressed on the need to understand that India’s civil nuclear and nuclear weapon programs are at least 25 years ahead of Pakistan and Pakistan’s is mostly responsive in nature. One also needs to understand that no conventional weapon can provide defence against an adversary that possesses nuclear weapons. Hence, the conference discusses and deliberates on the need for nuclear weapons as a source to maintain peace and strategic stability in the region. In the South Asian regional setting, an effective way of maintaining peace is through deterrence. This approach might be seen by some as relatively risky as opposed to defensive approach, but one may recall the Western political stalwarts Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan who termed nuclear weapons as the anchor sheet of peace in Europe without which there possibly couldn’t have been peace in Europe. Hence nuclear weapons can in fact be the tool to ensure stability owing to their massively destructive occupation. It is their destructive quality that keeps the adversaries from resorting to war which eventually opens the option for relative peace.
He further explained that India and Pakistan have fought three major wars between 1948 -71. There have also been several crisis situations including the continued situation on Kashmir issue, Kargil conflict which was contained, and operation Parakram etc. all of these stopped short of war essentially due to the existence of nuclear weapons and the fear that their use would be too destructive.
With regards to the doctrinal postures, Dr. Cheema highlighted that there is a shift witnessed in India’s nuclear posture which was first outlined in 1999 as Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND) having NFU as the major highlight of the doctrine. Later in January 2003 the doctrine was amended to modify the NFU policy and making it more ambiguous. Dr. Cheema referred to a book written by India’s former Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon who stated India’s official stance on the use of nuclear weapon that India would never allow Pakistan to first use nuclear weapons against India. This statement was also endorsed by India’s former Defence Minister.
This makes one concerned about the fact that Indian nuclear doctrine is undergoing a constant process of change.
Another factor that cannot be ignored in this equation is India’s relatively larger size in terms of its geographical landmass, its large economy, its population and human resource etc. Hence whatever policy option a major country like India resorts to or adopts, comes with implications for other regional states specifically for Pakistan. It becomes a constant concern for Pakistan to devise an appropriate response. India also has been found acquiring and deploying the weapon systems, major part of which is deployed along the borders of Pakistan. There is no intentional effort by India to not create an atmosphere of threat or harassment for Pakistan. Instead Indian forces are deployed in massive numbers posing a looming threat to Pakistan’s security. Even though it is quite clear to India that Pakistan would never resort to offensive measure. So far Pakistan has only made efforts to defend itself in case the war is imposed on it by India. Initially it relied on strategic deterrence but when it was faced with Cold Start Doctrine, it had to opt for tactical deterrence which is in fact part of Minimum Credible Deterrence or Full Spectrum Deterrence. Nonetheless, all of these are defensive measures. Pakistan has made it absolutely clear that it will not use tactical nuclear weapons as part of offensive operations against India. Pakistan’s tactical weapons are its Cold Start specific response and only if India resorts to military operation such as Cold Start, Pakistan may threaten to use nuclear weapons. Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema opined that tactical nuclear weapons, short range ballistic missiles, and low yield nuclear weapons etc. are the weapons of deterrence. They are not to be used like conventional weapons. Therefore, there is nothing wrong if a couple of low yield, or short range, or ballistic missiles are deployed to deter India from launching an operation premised on Cold Start Doctrine. This is definitely not provocative but a self defence measure.
The proceedings of first day of the SVI two day international conference came to an end with Dr. Cheema’s keynote address.
Second day of the conference began with the recitation from the Holy Quran and welcome address by Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI).
Fourth session on “Nuclear Weapon Capabilities and Deterrence Equilibrium in South Asia” was chaired by Dr. Syed Hussain Shaheed Soharwordi (Chairman, Dept. of IR, University of Peshawar, Pakistan). The panel of discussants included Dr. Dale Walton (Associate Professor, Lindenwood University, Saint Charles, Missouri, USA), Amb. (R) Zamir Akram (Former Permanent Representative, Conference on Disarmament/UN, Geneva), and Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal (Professor, SPIR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan).
Dr. Soharwordi invited first speaker of the session Dr. Dale Walton who presented his views on “Deterrence Equilibrium in South Asia: An International Perspective”. Dr. Dale Walton began with thanking the SVI and especially Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema for the hospitality extended to him making his first time visit to this part of the world incredibly memorable. He maintained that since he was not an expert on South Asian politics, he will be looking at the subject as an outsider to the region, which should still add value to the contents of the conference as he will be presenting the international perspective regarding what really an outsider tends to see including educated strategic studies experts.
Most outsiders tend to believe that there is a high degree of strategic stability in South Asia based on the developments and trends that took place in the recent decade. This largely comes from the absence of clear nuclear crises as there has been no equivalent of Cuban missile crises. Another observation he shared was about relations between the two countries India and Pakistan particularly with regards to Kargil episode. He recalled that he was in Washington at the time of Kargil conflict and was shocked to notice the degree of clam there towards this crisis. A possible reason could be that it was 1990s and the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong in the world was very much alive in Washington at that time. There prevailed a general belief that certainly things will remain under control, there will be no nuclear weapon use, and no wider conflict. Indeed, that’s essentially what happened. Hence, it further reinforced the belief that there is no great nuclear danger in South Asia. One also witnesses an increased complacency, which continues to exist till today within the world community about the nuclear matters related to South Asia. Dr. Walton stated that mostmost Western policy makers do not have a particularly strong understanding of the nuclear dynamics of the region. Even those working on the area of nuclear security and deterrence, mostly focus on the knowledge about Soviet-American Cold War, which according to Dr. Walton is a dubious example to use when talking about the future of nuclear weapons not just in South Asia but worldwide.
Dr. Dale Walton said that the problem that is generally confronted when one considers this particular issue is the fact that standard risk assessment isn’t really a very useful tool when dealing with the potential nuclear conflict. The complexity of international relations creates complex problems that defy a simple straight forward analysis. Referring to a book entitled “Black Swan” by Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Dr. Walton felt it quite relevant to mention though it primarily deals with the matter of mathematics and science of complexity. The science of complexity essentially explains that there are systems which once get to a certain degree of complexity become unpredictable. This observation was discovered by a scientific research with the help of a simple experiment with sand. The researcher expected that if single individual grains of sand are taken and added together to create a cone, the cone will eventually collapse, which anyone would be able to predict. However, it turned out that predicting the whole process wasn’t actually possible, only the eventual collapse of the cone was the expected eventuality but how and in which direction it would collapse couldn’t possibly be predicted. He drew similarity with the idea of an avalanche where no one knows which snow flake will create the avalanche but the avalanche happens nonetheless.
He opined that in the same way International Relations have many of these characteristics. He quoted the example of WWI as a wonderful and terrible example of complexities in systems. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in 1914, all the educated people in the community of international affairs believed that this problem would be dealt with and peace would continue. That general view was held in most of the capitols of Europe. However, the crisis continued and grew worse and worse only to eventually culminate into WWI. Observing the timeline between 1914-45, Dr. Walton noticed an incredible waste of human potential. Unfortunately the tendency to learn from the history is highly lacking while the human stupidity continues all along. He expressed his concern that even after 100 years since the war, the world is becoming much like the same as it was in 1914, where people were growing richer and new technologies were enabling faster travel and communication. Similarly today, we have a world where all these things are present with a higher degree of sophistication. However, he suggested that one should not be too skeptical as the overall trends show some positive signs such as: in terms of percentage, the number of people near absolute poverty in the world is dropping slowly and steadily. It is a time when the human potential is being unlocked economically, academically, and in many other ways.
However, there is always the problem of “Black Swan” which compels one to worry about a future where the world again might have to face a 1914 situation. He noted that the debate and deliberations on nuclear doctrine indeed is important in nuclear matters, but it is also worth recalling that it is the people who are always involved in nuclear decision making. So, particularly when one is talking about a nuclear crisis, it may well mean the “individuals” who are essentially tired and stressed under the psychological pressure. Hence the information flowing under stress tends to be mostly false, people may be acting under assumptions that are completely untrue or partly true, and as a result one may see the crisis easily spinning out of control. Dr. Dale Walton believed that in some ways the Cuban missile crisis spoiled the world because it was relatively slow moving, happened between two actors which knew each other fairly well, each had a sophisticated intelligence establishment with a relatively good understating of the other, and yet it turned out to be a sharp dangerous crisis. Now replicating the same setting with something more in characteristic with 21st century and more chaotic, such as “terrorist attack”, one has to be mindful of the possibility of bad or wrong information coming about the attack, as well as accusations about who is behind it. Today these things have further been made more complicated with the role of social media in our everyday lives. Social media, in many ways has created an entirely different dynamic where the governments of all kinds are now compelled to respond to the pressures from their populations in ways they didn’t have to in 1914 or even in 1960s Cuban missile crisis. All these things create confusion and can lead to unwanted and undesired outcomes. There is a tendency to assume, based on past experience that humans will act in a certain rational way. However, he expressed a genuine fear that when there will be a nuclear competition anywhere in the world and in South Asia, there will be military decisions spiraling out of control.
Dr. Walton believed that there is a lot of wishful thinking in the democratic peace theory which maintains that democracies do not fight each other. This generality is only based on a small number of countries over a relatively small period of time. It is also true, even more so, of nuclear matters. The danger is of the assumptions built on past data which is then applied to the situation which are inherently unpredictable.
While wrapping up his speech, he once again referred to the concept of “Black Swan” which originated with the Romans and the phrase later made its way into the English language to represent something that is impossible. It was indeed an accurate expression for the Romans in the world they knew because for them the black swan didn’t exist. The Roman Empire didn’t extend to Australia, if it did, they would have known that black swans do actually exist. He closed his remarks on this interesting point as a food for thought for the audience, advising them to be concerned as well as be open to the possibilities that might be out there but are not generally appreciated. He suggested that the way out for both India and Pakistan as well as for all the countries is to take into account and show great caution in their strategic competition in general, but particularly in nuclear competition. The ideals of more openness and talks, over the long run, carry potential for bringing the adversaries closer to a certain degree by allowing the understanding of other side’s decision making, while being able to have discussion on crisis situation with some basis of trust.
Second speaker of the session Amb. (R) Zamir Akram presented his views on “Nuclear Order and Deterrence Equilibrium in South Asia”.
Amb. (R) Zamir Akram maintained that in order to evaluate the nuclear order and deterrence equilibrium in South Asia, it is important to first identify and fully understand what these two phenomena are based on. He explained that the nuclear order is based on i) managed system of deterrence; and ii) managed system of abstinence. Both are to be achieved through multilateral or bilateral agreements, processes of dialogue and moratoriums. Similarly, deterrence equilibrium is ensured through effective deterrence requiring i) credibility or certainty; ii) severity; and iii) swiftness/celerity. Both are dynamic not static; depending upon changes in policy doctrine, strategy, tactics and technological developments. One thing that needs to be clearly understood is that Nuclear Order and Deterrence Equilibrium are inter related and inter dependent; one is not possible without the other. In South Asia both have been affected by bilateral relations between Pakistan and India such as deteriorating situation in IOK; and by global developments such as US-China rivalry.
Talking about the nuclear order in South Asia, he explained that following the Indian nuclear test of 1974, there has been no managed system of deterrence with Pakistan; there is an increased security threat for Pakistan given Indian numerical superiority in conventional weapons backed by potential nuclear weapons capability. Pakistan on its part sought international arrangements for nuclear order based on proposals for no war pact; nuclear weapons free zones i.e. managed system of abstinence; but India has been repeatedly rejecting those proposals. Hence, Pakistan was forced to pursue nuclear weapons capability; opposed by the US and allies; therefore pursued clandestine programme. He mentioned that the nuclear order was somewhat established following the 1998 nuclear tests by India and then by Pakistan with the agreement on non-attack on nuclear facilities; Lahore agreement; and unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests; as well as various CBMs. But Pakistan’s proposal for Strategic Restraint Regime was rejected by India and the opportunity for stable nuclear order was readily lost. There is an increased confrontation across LoC and massive Indian repression in IOK. Nuclear Order is further destabilized by impact of emerging global developments such as US-China rivalry; US-India strategic partnership; nuclear waiver for India; and continuing discrimination against Pakistan.
Talking about the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia, Amb. (R) Zamir Akram mentioned that in the post 1998 nuclear tests scenario, there was comparative deterrence equilibrium in South Asia based on counter-value weapons. But Indian rejection of SRR opened avenues for disequilibrium essentially owing to Indian development of destabilizing weapon systems such as BMD, and SLBMs etc. By the year 2006-08 the Indo-US strategic partnership further destabilized deterrence equilibrium and encouraged India to pursue Cold Start. Simultaneously, an increase in the Indian inventory of nuclear arsenal is witnessed due to NSG waiver. It was able to develop BMD; acquire nuclear powered submarines; and was able to invest in the Triad of delivery system including air, land and sea based short, medium and long range missiles; MIRV capability and is now even working on the possibility of thermo-nuclear weapons. India has also rejected comprehensive dialogue including on stabilizing nuclear order and has instead adopted a more aggressive nuclear stance in the form of No First Use and Splendid First Strike policy; surgical strike claim; and intent for sub-conventional confrontation Amb. (R) Zamir Akram also elaborated on Pakistan’s responses which are solely aimed at ensuring deterrence equilibrium and nuclear order in South Asia. First and foremost, Pakistan’s pursuit of Full Spectrum Deterrence ensured deterrence at all levels: strategic, conventional and theater levels at the minimum required level; which means that Pakistan is not seeking quantitative parity with India. In addition to counter value nuclear weapons, Pakistan developed low yield nuclear weapons for counter-force purposes as an effective response to neutralize Cold Start and to prevent the outbreak of conflict at all level. Pakistan, in order to ensure its own security and sovereignty has also developed short range and medium range missiles with full Triad capabilities including MIRV and cruise missiles to cover all Indian territory and capabilities, including BMD. Consequently deterrence equilibrium has been ensured. But will require continuous response to emerging environment from Indian actions and technological developments, relatively new being the Cyber warfare. He concluded by saying that despite all this Pakistan is always ready to resume dialogue with India in bilateral and/or multilateral format to ensure stable and sustainable nuclear order.
Third speaker of the session Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal presented his views on “Indian Ballistic/Cruise Missile Capabilities and India’s BMD vs. Pakistan’s MIRV Capability: Deterrence Equilibrium in South Asia”. Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal stated that nuclear arms race as a trend is quite evident in the regional setting of South Asia as well as at the global level. Deterrence and the efforts to ensure it, is once again becoming the major preoccupation of the states, while at the same time arms control has essentially been eroded. However, one must note that these trends were never missing in South Asia. Dr. Japsal opined that there are obvious similarities in the global and regional nuclear order in that there is a “disorder” existing as an identical feature. He pointed out three caveats to be kept in mind when evaluating the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia. One, India and Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities including missiles are on a vertical proliferation trend. Second, India’s BMD system; which necessitates Pakistan’s counter response or counter measures. Third, is the missile race between India and Pakistan that has a great potential to destabilize the prevailing strategic stability in the region. In this backdrop he suggested to focus on how the military capabilities have been used for mustering the support of the voters in India.
Talking about missile development drivers in South Asia, he considered the nuclear optimist school of thought as the major driver. He explained that nuclear optimist in both state are quite dominating and they believe that the nuclear weapons ensure the strategic stability of the region. Pakistan perceives that a low yield, short range, battlefield weapon is serving the cause of strategic stability. Same sentiments are found on the Indian side where they view Prahaar in the same context. The nuclear optimist on both sides also hold the belief that both states are rational and are able to avoid initiatives which have the tendency to destabilize. Hence such arguments tend to justify states’ investment in the realm of missile development. The second important driver that Dr. Jaspal pointed out is the scientific bureaucracy, which holds important position and say in the decision making circles on both sides. When the scientific bureaucracy is strong there is always a tendency to resort to inventions which in this case is taking place mostly in the military sector as both the states are jealously working to safeguard their own defences. The third important driver which cannot be ignored is the transition in the global politics within which exists yet another driver i.e. the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy in which India holds an integral position. Conventional asymmetry between two South Asian rivals is another factor which prompts the action-reaction phenomenon wherein Pakistan’s military, nuclear, and missile development policy is more reactive and defensive in nature.
The two states also pursue vibrant ballistic missile programs e.g. India has Prithvi missile, and its Agni series is increasingly becoming successful with its solid propellants and guided system. It also boasts of BrahMos which is bound to be further strengthened owing to India’s recent membership of MTCR. In addition to this, India is also focusing on its 1000km range cruise missile Nirbhay. Similarly, in case of Pakistan, there is an extremely reliable ballistic missile Shaheen series, recently in October Pakistan conducted Ghouri test which although is a liquid propellent but is still quite significant. Pakistan also takes pride in its Babur series with a recently conducted test of submarine launched Babur ballistic cruise missile. It shows that both states have technological sophistication and are incorporating state of the art missile technologies along with preparing to develop capabilities to conduct underwater operations through underwater control propulsion advance guidance and navigation features including the subsonic capabilities. At the same time both states are investing in their MIRV capabilities too. Hence, in the backdrop of these developments, the regional situation somewhat reflects the state of equilibrium guaranteeing stability in the region.
However, Dr. Jaspal pointed out that there are some other developments which simultaneously serve as the destabilizing factors for strategic equilibrium and coincidently India enjoys a certain level of advantage in these areas of development. First is the Space program, where India comes about as a space fairing state, possessing the capability to manufacture and launch satellites, whereas Pakistan although expresses the will to acquire this capability it still lags far behind.
Second destabilizing development is India’s BMD capability. Although the BMD capability is yet to be proven in the battlefield, India is ambitiously developing it on two tiered defence system. First according to open sources is the Prithvi air defence system to address high altitude threats and the second is advance air defence system interceptor program for low altitude threats. It was reported that the Indian DRDO is also working to develop a third tier i.e. Prithvi vehicular defence system which has a greater range and speed and maximum interception capability. It is being claimed by some sources as almost similar to the American THAAD anti-ballistic missile defence system.
Third factor that has a destabilizing impact is the way the international community especially the three technologically advanced states i.e. Russia, the US, and Israel have been investing and selling the technologies to India. Russia recently concluded S-400 deal worth US $ 5.4 billion with India which will be delivered by 2020. This is further going to strengthen India’s defence system. S-400is the4th generation weapon/air missile defence system and according to some estimates it seems to be even better than patriot PAC-3 of the US. At the same the US has granted India the STA-1status which will be instrumental in enhancing their military to military transfer of technology cooperation. Israel also had US $2 billion deal with India to purchase certain missile components. This would further be helping India enhance its offensive strike capability. Dr. Jaspal highlighted the fact that Israel and India have had a clandestine understanding on the transfer of aeromissile technology. Initially there were mixed signals on this particular issue from the Bush Administration which on one hand upheld the notion and on the other hand indicated India’s non-membership of MTCR as a problem in this aspiration. Nonetheless, India has now gained the MTCR membership which has essentially solved this problem for India.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal also pointed out the Indian membership of MTCR, Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement as the fourth development carrying destabilizing effect on the region. Out of all these, Wassenaar Arrangement, according to Dr. Jaspal, holds the most significance as it permits India to purchase dual use technology. Pakistan on its part has so far been able to adopt the reactive and defensive policy to India’s ambitious developments. At the same time Pakistan’s response has essentially been impacted by economic constraints and difference with the US on regional and international developments. It is mostly in this backdrop that Pakistan has been pushed to rely more and more on its ingenious military and nuclear missile inventory.
Dr. Jaspal expressed concern that although Pakistan’s responses so far have been appropriate, it may eventually find itself entrapped in the arms race.
He also highlighted some challenges that the deterrence equilibrium confronts in the South Asian region. First is the nuclear weapons proliferation which not only raises concern for the security and safety of these weapons but also increases the chances of accidental or inadvertent use. There is also a real time decision making burden on the command and control with regards to the handling of nuclear weapons. Referring to the nuclear pessimist point of view, Dr. Jaspal mentioned that they advocate the probability of a nuclear Armageddon between India and Pakistan which cannot be ruled out. They believe that the strategic competition between India and Pakistan has been stimulating and sustaining the arms race which could be dangerous for the nuclear deterrence stability. Another challenge is PM Narendra Modi’s threatening and war mongering statements such as surgical strikes. He maintained that it appears that this stance has been adopted by the Indian government in order to muster maximum support in the upcoming general elections. These factors hold significance because such sloganeering undermines the rationality aspect. He concluded by stating that there should be no doubt that Pakistan may use cruise missiles and MIRVs to defy Indian BMD and S-400 system, but this wouldn’t come without a cost. He also suggested that in order to ensure sustainability and for the continuity of deterrence equilibrium, Pakistan has to invest more resources in the defence sector.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal’s talk was followed by a question and answer session.
Question & Answer Session
Mr. Antoine Levesques asked the panel as to how Pakistan is able to manage its heavy defence expenditures despite its poor economic performance? Amb. Zamir Akram responded that Pakistan’s defence expenditures are not that high for which the availability of funding should be a problem for Pakistan. Its technological developments are indigenous and Pakistan is not in favor of wasteful expenditure. It does not seek parity with India and it wants to maintain the strategic stability in the region by taking cost effective measure to counter Indian Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal added that Pakistan’s objective is to enhance the credibility of deterrence and it is mindful of the fact that dialogues and transparency in nuclear doctrines is an essential tool. Pakistan and India have Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in place since 2005 and Pakistan’s military force is capable of inventing, testing and deployment of its indigenous missiles to deter all challenges. Pakistan has its own Uranium (it is not purchasing), human power and materials are also indigenous hence, while calculating the expenditure of Pakistan’s defence, it is important to take into account that technology is indigenous, material is indigenous and human power is indigenous. Pakistan indeed has been facing financial problems since it conducted its first nuclear test and was pushed under US sanctions. Since then Pakistan is managing its defence budget independently which is around US $9 billion as compared to India’s defence budget which is around US $52 billion.
After the question answer session, Mr. Khalid Banuri (Former Director General, ACDA, SPD) was invited to deliver the Keynote address. Mr. Banuri began by thanking Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema and the SVI for taking up this subject of utmost strategic importance. He explained that even though the state of strategic stability in South Asia is fragile, there are some positive dimensions too such as despite being fragile it is not precarious. Today despite prevalent serious animosities in South Asia, unlike the Cold War, nuclear weapons are not on hair trigger alert. There are no “Launch-on-warning” doctrines. Both India and Pakistan have a position on following Credible Minimum Deterrence. However, there are other issues emerging today such as nuclear weapons are more potent in their kill potential, South Asia has inherently a low strategic warning time, and there is more problematic territorial dispute as the violence continues to simmer in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). Hence the three core areas the conference has deliberated on and still need to look further into are: doctrinal issues, emerging technologies, and also fleeting references to the human factor which is involved in various aspects. Talking about the postures, he stated that the postures leave much to be desired. They are essentially driven by typical security dilemma that this region is caught up in. A state feels threatened and does something for its security; the other state finds it inherently dangerous for its security and does something opposite. This becomes a never ending cycle. This may be the easiest way of explaining the Cold Start Doctrine and how it affected Pakistan’s thinking and eventually led to Full Spectrum Deterrence. Technology is yet another factor. Several technological developments are destabilizing, among them are canisterization of missiles, acquisition of S-400 missiles, and the nuclearization of the Indian Ocean. He mentioned that India has had many firsts to its credit. It was the first to introduce nuclear weapons in South Asia, first to begin nuclear testing, and fielding nuclear weapons at the sea, and most recently admitting the deployment of nuclear weapon systems during peacetime, which is also a first. This raises many questions as to how and where it is heading. How it is viewed by India within its minimum deterrence criteria? Given the history of naval accidents and limited experience in fielding this capability, would this not pose risks for other operators in the Indian Ocean? Who exactly does this “deterrence patrol” deter? Also, what is the level of training of the Indian naval officers in matters of nuclear command and control? But of the most concern is the jingoism with which India is portraying these ideas. Some of these questions in the future would need to be deliberated upon and thought through. Another important aspect is the technological evolution with more emphasis on the cyber or hybrid weapons, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and lethal autonomous weapons, etc. which collectively bring about another dimension of concern. These also impact leadership and human factor among other aspects. For instance within the US there is a growing debate and concern whether Donald Trump can be trusted with the rational decision-making specifically with regards to nuclear weapons. This concern is coming from within their system. US Vice President Michael Pence signaled on leaving out the probability of weaponization of space with NWs. These notions are bringing out certain surge of ideas. Two trends in this respect can be disturbing: PM Narendra Modi with his baggage of ruthlessness as Chief Minister of Gujrat earlier and his unbridled ambitions. Hence, there is a kind of similarity in the leadership behavior here. There are some ideas that the US brought out in India which it in some ways tries to emulate e.g. the US came out with air and space dominance and soon India is also seen harping on those ideas. This could either be by design or otherwise but nonetheless raises questions. Looking at what Pakistan has done so far, he expressed confidence that Pakistan has done rather well. Pakistan builds around its positions on three R-s: Resolve to safeguard sovereignty, Restraint, and Responsibility.
He moved on to highlighting the Paradox of deterrence and mentioned that Pakistan believes nuclear weapons are political weapons and hence must never be used. In order to ensure this they need to be ready, survivable and there should be a political will. However, the problem remains that there are two nuclear weapon states that are not talking to each other – with onus clearly being on India. In this backdrop, he raised a question as to whether there are any areas that can potentially be helpful in such a setting? He elaborated that emerging alliance and regional groupings have the potential to offer an opportunity. However, sadly enough South Asia is still caught up in endemic hostility where India refuses to come to the table and the region remains stuck into the classic notion of conflict. Pakistan on its part continues to deal with the security dilemma posed to it, as best as it could. Mr. Banuri maintained that nuclear weapons are clearly a balancer but there is a need for substantial peace. While effort for conflict resolution cannot wait, India wants to wait for when and if any global development could happen and prefers the status quo. Lastly, Mr. Khalid Banuri maintained that in this backdrop, all Pakistan expects from international
community is fair play and neutrality.
Fifth session on “Challenge/Threats to Strategic Stability in South Asia” was chaired by Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI). The panel of discussants includedDr. Kenneth Holland (President, American University of Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan), Dr. Bhumitra Chakma (Senior Lecturer, Director of the South Asia Project and Programme Director for BA Politics and IR, University of Hull, UK), and Dr. Zafar Khan (Asst. Prof. Strategic Studies Dept., National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan).
First speaker of the session Dr.Kenneth Holland presented his views on “Challenges/Threats to Strategic Stability in South Asia: An International Perspective”. He pointed out that strategic stability depends upon three main factors: confidence building and trust, threat reduction, and resolution of territorial disputes. Within the context of what does the international community expect to see happen in South Asia, he identified seven goals. First, to make both India and Pakistan reach a peace settlement, including resolution of the Kashmir question. Second, India and Pakistan must maintain nuclear deterrence, which so far has worked well between the two nuclear rivals. Third, both the nations should cooperate to defeat terrorism. Fourth, South Asian nations should cooperate to end the production and export of narcotics. Fifth, the two states are also expected to secure their nuclear weapons so they don’t fall into the hands of extremists. Sixth, the nations should cooperate to end insurgency in Afghanistan. Finally, the nations in South Asia become stable and prosperous, able to deliver basic services to the people, defend their borders and maintain order. He displayed the map of Central South Asian region for the audience and urged them to focus on the geographic access, which is essentially North-South as opposed to East-West. This was in reference to the new North-South Silk Route that was mentioned by Sect. of State Hillary Clinton. The North of the region hosts energy rich states which can supply for the grueling energy needs of South Asia. He noted that the region holds immense significance and efforts are underway to connect the two regions through various trade and investment agreements and construction of transportation infrastructure, including: Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline, Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) Natural Gas Pipelines, Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) electricity project, Ports of Chabahar in Iran and Gwadar in Pakistan, railways, highways, and air links.
Dr. Holland further noticed that nothing in this region happens without the participation of the three great powers namely the US, China and Russia. He discussed the great power perspectives on strategic stability in South Asia and stated that the Sub-continent has been under the influence of great powers for decades. First talking about the Chinese perspective, he mentioned that the rise of China is the most consequential regional security issue since the end of the Cold War in 1991. China is competing with the US to be the dominant power in South Asia. In response to Indo-US strategic co-operation, China and Pakistan are making strong partnership in economic, military and nuclear fields. In October, for example, China reached a major deal to send military drones to Pakistan, just days after Russia and India signed a multibillion-dollar arms sale, in a display of defiance to the US. China is also the largest source of arms for Pakistan. The US was once the largest exporter of weapons to Pakistan. However the weapons sales to Pakistan by the US, however has dropped by 76 percent in the past five years. China now provides 70 percent of weapons to Pakistan. As a result of which the US is the second-largest arms supplier with 12 percent, while Russia is third with 6 percent.
Dr. Holland also talked about the Chinese goals in this region and mentioned that it needs help from Pakistan in defeating insurgency among Uighurs in Xinjiang Province and Islamic extremism. China also wants to gain access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean through a corridor connecting China with the Port of Gwadar in Baluchistan province of Pakistan. China would like to include Afghanistan in its Belt and Road Initiative, including rail lines connecting China, Afghanistan and Central Asia. China also wants to support Pakistan’s efforts to secure membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group membership while blocking India’s bid, supported by the US.
He discussed the BRI essentially as a development strategy and not a military or political strategy. He maintained that China is aiming to create a modern industrial society and wants to move from its successful urbanization campaign to the developing world as well. So in this backdrop the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy adopted by the Chinese government involving infrastructure development and investments in countries of Europe, Asia and Africa. “Belt” refers to the overland routes, or the Silk Road Economic Belt; whereas “road” refers to the sea routes, or the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is one of the six land corridors. CPEC is unique because it is the only North-South corridor unlike any other.
Moving on to discussing Russian perspective he emphasized on the fact that Russia inherited a long-standing alliance between the Soviet Union and India. Russia also continued the Soviet Union’s practice of being India’s major source of modern weapons and military equipment. Hence, today Russia remains the largest supplier of arms to India. However, the break-up of the Soviet Union meant the loss of the Central Asian Republics. So Russia has been trying to regain and maintain its influence over Central Asian republics. Russia also fears the threat that these republics pose to its battle against Islamic extremists and separatists. Russia is also wary of the fact that narcotics grown in Afghanistan make their way into Russia via the Central Asian republics.
In this backdrop, Dr. Kenneth Holland shed light on the goals that Russia has for this part of the world. First and foremost Russia wants to stop Afghanistan from being a source of Islamic extremists and narcotics. Russia believes that the ISIS has moved from Syria and Iraq and have found basis in Afghanistan. So, the elimination of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan is another goal where Russia wants to play its part. At the same time it wants to continue to be the major arms supplier to India. Isolating the US in Afghanistan and erode Washington’s influence in South and Central Asia, is evidently another prime objective of Russian leadership. Last but not the least, because of European and US sanctions following its annexation of Crimea, Russia is looking for alternative markets for natural gas and wants to capitalize on the growing energy demand in South Asia. He pointed out that Russia also manages gas fields in both Turkmenistan and Iran.
Dr. Kenneth Holland further talked about how Russia seeks to undercut US interests in South Asia. It is mainly by supporting the Taliban and highlighting the threat to regional security posed by the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. Russia is also trying to cooperate with Iran in supporting the Taliban attempt to overthrow the US backed Afghan government, following the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement and re-imposition of sanctions on Iran. Russia also hopes to seek closer ties with Pakistan in light of India’s embrace of the US and punitive reduction of US aid to Pakistan for not doing enough to suppress the Taliban and Haqqani Network. Simultaneously Russia is not ruling out the possibility of joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative, thereby reducing the US influence in Central Asia, which is increasingly dependent on Chinese and Russian investment.
Russia is also involved in the Afghan Peace process and like other great powers believes that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. It is attempting to play a leading role in brokering a peace settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. In April 2017, Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan. US was invited to that meeting but did not participate. Again, on November 3, 2018 Russia announced that it will host international talks on Afghanistan on November 9 with representatives of both the Afghan government and the Taliban for which it reportedly has invited representatives from the US as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia to take part.
He then discussed the American perspective on South Asia and mentioned that during the Cold War the US was allied with Pakistan and the Soviet Union was with India, the alignment which today however has been switched. At the end of Cold-War India-US bilateral ties were strengthened by economic and defense co-operation. Also, since the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, by a trans-border extremist group, al Qaeda, planned and implemented in Afghanistan, the US has strengthened even further its ties to India. In addition to all this, the rise of China’s regional power and influence has led to a fundamental shift in the American view of which nation, Pakistan or India, can best partner with the US in mitigating the Chinese threat. The administration of Donald Trump clearly favors India.
Highlighting the Trump Administration’s South Asia Policy that was announced by President Trump on August 21, 2017, Dr. Holland pointed out that the US is vocal about keeping troops in Afghanistan along with its NATO allies, indefinitely, until victory is achieved. US makes it clear to Pakistan that it will suffer a loss of American economic and military aid if it continues to offer safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan. At the same time the US expects Pakistan to “do more” to stabilize Afghanistan. Dr. Holland also discussed the Trump Administration’s Indo-Pacific trategy and mentioned that the term “Indo-Pacific” used by Trump means that India, the US, and other major Asian democracies, especially Japan and Australia, will join in curbing China in the new framework of US-Chinese rivalry, including conflict over the South China Sea. The purpose is to contain China’s rise and safeguard US leadership in the region. India is one of the most important advocates of the concept of an “Indo-Pacific Strategy”. It presents India with the opportunity to strengthen its political, economic and military cooperation with the US and its allies, including Japan and Australia, and comprehensively increase India’s influence in international affairs. While concluding, Dr. Kenneth Holland emphasized that the key to strategic stability in South Asia is building of trust and confidence between India and Pakistan, based on mutual benefit. Short of this trust, nuclear deterrence is so far maintaining the strategic stability. South Asia’s stability, however, is strongly affected by the security and economic interests of three great powers—China, Russia and the US. The rivalry between China and the US is the strongest force affecting South Asia’s stability, one consequence of which is that India is an ally in the American Indo-Pacific strategy.
Second speaker of the session Dr. Bhumitra Chakma joined from Hull, UK through Skype and presented his views on “Challenges/Threats to Strategic Stability in South Asia: Indian Perspective”. Talking about Indian perspective of challenges to strategic stability in South Asia, he opined that for New Delhi while Islamabad’s ambiguous nuclear doctrine and postures pose challenges to strategic stability in South Asia, its immediate worry is Pakistan’s use of non-state actors against India to serve its strategic goals. Also, Pakistan’s strategic alignment with China and the fear of encirclement by two hostile nuclear neighbours is a key strategic worry proclaimed by New Delhi. While Pakistan is the immediate concern, China continues to be the long-term strategic problem for India.
Talking about China as a long-term strategic challenge for India, Dr. Chakma highlighted that the two countries are key regional players, long-standing rivals and aspirant global players. Their rivalry is set to continue in the years and decades to come. So, New Delhi’s China problem is long-term which will continue to be a key driver of its strategic policy. He added that China is also often considered as one of the key factors of India’s nuclear development owing to the triggering impact that China’s first nuclear test in 1964 had on the ‘Great Nuclear Debate’ in Indian history and contributed to the launching of the clandestine ‘subterranean Nuclear Explosive Program’ which eventually culminated into the first Indian nuclear test in 1974.
New Delhi is also wary of Beijing’s assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear development and the role it plays as an extra-regional balancer in South Asia. This may have further generated a fear of encirclement in New Delhi. The triangular dimension of South Asia’s nuclear relationship complicates strategic stability in the region.
In recent years, China-Pakistan relationship has grown even closer in view of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). New Delhi views the BRI more as a politico-strategic project than an economic one. Given this context, a particular concern of India is China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and Pakistan’s assistance to the Chinese drive.
Dr. Chakma maintained that at the core of the South Asian strategic stability challenges is the regional nuclear security dilemma which is complicated and has an extra-regional dimension. Over the decades, it has evolved and intensified as a consequence of the nuclear policies pursued by both India and Pakistan. He evaluated the nuclear doctrines and policies of both states and offered suggestions to deal with the prevalent security dilemma.
He pointed out that the believers of nuclear deterrence are convinced that robust deterrence is the only pathway to strategic stability in South Asia while pessimists posit that the only pathway to avoid disaster is to remove nuclear weapons from the arsenals of India and Pakistan. The first group is complacent about the efficacy of nuclear deterrence without delving into nuances. The latter group is over reactive without taking into account the reality that there is little prospect of nuclear disarmament in South Asia at least in the short to medium term.
Pragmatism, according to Dr. Chakma, should guide the policies of India and Pakistan with nuclear disarmament as its eventual goal and in the interim the two countries should pursue genuine minimum deterrence. In this formulation it is argued that there is a third way or a middle path in which, the efficacy of nuclear deterrence is acknowledged while simultaneously the dangers of nuclear weapons are appreciated. Minimum deterrence should be pursued until the universal goal of nuclear disarmament can be achieved. Such a strategy should primarily aim to prevent inadvertent or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons.
Dr. Chakma maintained that New Delhi’s unilateral arms buildup in quest of security is nothing but a futile exercise because it is almost an unachievable goal in a nuclear environment. New Delhi’s pursuit of building missile defence is also futile because of the fact that it will simply not work, particularly due to the geographical proximity of the two states.
He explained that in this backdrop the construction of short- range missile systems, i.e. the Nasr, is justifiably adding to the strategic stability of the region as is the view point from Pakistan that it is essentially built it in reaction to India’s so-called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine.
Dr. Bhumitra Chakma stated that the challenges to strategic stability in South Asia are multi-dimensional. South Asia’s nuclear security dilemma is complicated not least because of India-Pakistan enduring rivalry, it is also complicated because of its extra-regional dimension.
Pakistan and India both are engaged in nuclear arms buildup. It is unlikely that it will be reversed in the foreseeable future, for many reasons. In particular, in an environment of no political understanding, any arms control initiative is a daunting proposition. Hence, deterrence stability will remain challenging as long as the two countries cannot come to a political understanding.
For India, China is a long-term and a bigger threat than Pakistan. The threat for India gets larger because of the deep strategic partnership between China and Pakistan. The latest manifestation of their partnership can be evidenced in the CPEC project. New Delhi fears encirclement as their partnership deepens. In the end Prof. Dr. Bhumitra Chakma suggested that a triangular dialogue on nuclear doctrinal and operational issues involving China, India and Pakistan is needed to find a solution to the strategic instability in South Asia. As nuclear disarmament is a difficult proposition in the current climate of international relations, minimum deterrence is the only way out for strategic stability in South Asia.
Third speaker of the session Dr. Zafar Khan presented his views on “Challenges to Strategic Stability: Pakistan’s Perspective”. He mentioned that there are multiple challenges South Asian nuclear rivals confront despite the induction of and passion for more nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems. Many of these contemporary challenges to the broader strategic stability of South Asia are: hybrid warfare, evolving risk of cyber-attacks, non- state actors, proxies, terrorism, and safety and security issues of nuclear related materials. These are not only the challenges to the strategic stability, but also evolving issues to nuclear deterrence where neither India nor Pakistan can contemplate using threat of nuclear weapons against these rising challenges at the sub-conventional level. He pointed out that even though the assigned title of his discussion is too broad, he would fundamentally focus on two emerging challenges i.e. 1) the induction of new era of counterforce nuclear strategy in South Asia, and 2) the absence of strategic restraint regime in South Asia.
Dr. Khan went on to explain that after two-decade of South Asian nuclearization there appears to be consistent arms race between India and Pakistan and both have developed many nuclear weapons along with the required delivery systems to deter each other under the declared principles of credible minimum deterrence. While confronting two adversaries, India attempts to be doing much more than Pakistan by increasing its potential for more warheads and fissile materials that in turn could help India develop more sophisticated deterrence forces chalking a way out for dangerous and risky deterrence posturing in South Asia. For example, on the one hand India has been developing multiple mega projects through its Defense and Research Development Organization (DRDO) such as Multiple Independently Reentry Targetable Vehicles, Ballistic Missile Defense system with a possible inclusion of S-400 from Russia, development of more submarine launched ballistic missiles after developing nuclear powered submarines, supersonic missiles such as BrahMos, Prahaar, and acquisition of advanced air, land, and sea launched delivery systems including that of Cold Start Doctrine. Since India might be considering significant changes in its Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND) that has been a DRAFT for many years with policy changes in 2003, India’s security leadership might deeply be contemplating of and planning for a comprehensive counterforce targeting strategy against Pakistan’s deterrent forces. On the other hand while closely monitoring what its adversary does, Pakistan is expected to produce effective countermeasures in order to retain the credibility of its deterrent forces that in turn may help restore deterrence stability in South Asia.
As these challenges loom large for the South Asian strategic stability, the question then is: why India wants to go for a full spectrum counterforce strategy against Pakistan and what is it that India wants to achieve? There can be a couple of plausible reasons that India could eventually bring dramatic shifts in its nuclear strategy by using its deterrent forces for counterforce targeting posturing:
One, since most of Indian deterrence force development are designed for counterforce targeting strategy including that of its BMD systems, India will have the incentives to preempt Pakistan’s deterrent forces even before Pakistan could have the chance to use its nuclear forces. This will require India to produce more fissile materials, number of warheads and, delivery systems. According to the recent report by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, India is heading in the similar direction.
Two, many in India might contemplate that compared to India Pakistan is too small geographically and its deterrent forces are minimum.
Three, although it cannot be similar to the Cold War nuclear powers’ attempts for damage limitation and escalation dominance strategy against each other that neither side would attempt to outpace the other, India might be contemplating for a similar Cold War type nuclear strategy to retain escalation dominance against Pakistan so that Pakistan remains exhausted and may never outpace what India develops.
In the challenging new era of counterforce strategy, it is imperative to question if India will successfully be able to preempt all of Pakistan’s deterrent forces without provoking Pakistan to use them? Even if India locates most of Pakistan’s deterrent forces, is it guaranteed that India will entangle a risk of preemptive strike against Pakistan possessing credible and survivable nuclear weapons? Will it be acceptable for India if Pakistan uses in retaliation few of its nuclear weapons left unharmed by India’s initial full scale nuclear attacks? While closely monitoring India’s mega projects aimed for counterforce preemptive targeting, Pakistan falls in an acute security dilemma by inculcating that the increase of India’s security decreases the security of Pakistan. Pakistan in search for producing effective countermeasures will have two broader strategic options to cope with these emerging challenges to the South Asian strategic stability: 1) retain a balance and 2) opt for a nuclear parity. However, both of these options could have specific challenges. First, by opting for parity, Pakistan will get itself dragged into a bigger arms race that Pakistan may not be interested in, in the first place. Second, by keeping a rough balance, Pakistan will need to convince itself that all of its countermeasures are effective, reliable, and survivable. In doing so, Pakistan will still be in an arms race that is complex to control unless some form of strategic restraint regime (SRR) is created between India and Pakistan. The absence of SRR is yet another emerging challenge for South Asian strategic stability.
It is imperative to note that although Pakistan offered India for producing SRR between the two rivals and many may still desire the creation of restraint regime in South Asia with the broader aim to reduce the intensity of arms race, sustain deterrence stability, and prevent the risk of war in South Asia, but India rejected it. Learning from the Cold War nuclear period when both the Soviet Union and the US had and still continue to have best practices of arms control regime, India and Pakistan can work for demonstrating restraint against bigger arms race in South Asia. Nevertheless, this can be challenging, complex, and difficult to achieve for plausible key reasons:
One, India may still continue to disagree with Pakistan for establishing SRR because it may desire the inclusion of China who continues to be a strategic rival despite the increasing trade volume between the two nuclear rivals. Since India is engaged in multiple mega projects for acquiring more nuclear warheads and sophisticated delivery systems, it will be difficult to expect India on some form of restraint regime despite two-decade of South Asian nuclearization.
Two, China may not become part of the proposed strategic restraint regime unless it may be discussed at the quadrilateral level where the US is also considered to be a regular and serious stake holder because China considers that most of the US deterrent forces including that of the US BMD systems specific to Asia are part of the US extended deterrence to undermine the credibility of the Chinese deterrent forces.
Three, at the quadrilateral level, the US would desire other nuclear weapon states to be on board for broader arms control and disarmament initiatives. The US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) 2018 clearly mentions Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran as threat to the US and its allies and partners. Despite having bigger number of deterrent forces, sophisticated delivery systems, plenty of oversea bases, and modernized conventional power capability, the US does not agree on a deep reduction in general and nuclear disarmament in particular.
Four, considering all this, it will become extremely difficult for Pakistan to convince India and many others to frame a strategic restraint regime in South Asia particularly when there appears to be mistrust between nuclear weapons states and each will have a security threat from the other. The vicious cycle of arms race continues to persist. One of the biggest hurdles for Pakistan to agree on strategic restraint regime would be India’s rejection of the proposed SRR in the first place and India’s consistent development of various mega deterrent force projects that aim for counterforce targeting strategy, maximization of power, and power projection in the South Asia region.
Dr. Zafar Khan summarized his remarks and stated that while considering the nuclear revolution and thinking about strategic stability for South Asia, these challenges can still be surmounted by
1) creating some form of restraint regime in South Asia,
2) strictly maintaining hotline communication during both peace and crisis time,
3) following the imperatives of all the credible CBMs and NCBMs,
4) retaining nuclear moratorium,
5) understanding the illogic of nuclear superiority,
6) recognizing the illogic of war fighting strategies in the presence of nuclear revolution/nuclear age,
7) urging the South Asian rivals to resolve outstanding issues including the core issue of Kashmir, and
8) paving ways for more cooperation and economic integration that in turn can reduce the high possibility of war and mitigate security dilemma.
Dr. Zafar Khan’s speech was followed by a question and answer session.
Question & Answer Session
Mr. Suleman Afzaal (Student, SASSI University, Islamabad) asked Dr. Kenneth Holland’s view on whether Russia is still an ally of India in South Asia or is inclined to play a neutral role in South Asia? Dr. Holland stated that Russia is cautiously keeping a balanced approach. It is the major supplier of weapons to India despite being under sanctions. At the same time it wants to maintain good relationship with Pakistan to neutralize the role of the US in the region. Russia is also interested to promote peace dialogue between Pakistan and India.
Mr. Atitq ur Rehman (Assistant Professor, IR Department, NUML) asked Dr. Holland what are the US calculations for state of strategic stability in South Asia while it is actively supporting India in multi-dimensional strategic affairs? Dr. Holland responded that the US is indeed enhancing its relationship with India but Pak-US partnership in war on terror cannot be ignored. Pakistan has sacrificed a lot to eradicate terrorism in the region and its contribution in the war on terror is appreciable.
Mr. Bilal (SPD) asked Dr. Holland how he views the future of deterrence, strategic stability and equilibrium in South Asia in the backdrop of the biased approach of the superpowers, absence of dialogue and CBMS, irrational approach of Indian government and absence of conflict management system by international organizations. Dr. Holland answered that the international community and the US always talk about the promotion of prosperity, democracy, peace and stability throughout the world but in reality it is quite difficult to achieve.
After the question and answer session, Mr. Ross Masood Husain (Chairperson, SVI) presented his brief remarks as a rapporteur and appreciated the efforts of the SVI and all the participants for their contributions in the conference. He highlighted that the conference comprehensively covered four major issues in five fairly divided conference sessions, including the Inaugural session and appreciated the fact that several learned scholars made insightful presentation in two days covering the areas of i) cotemporary strategic environment; 2) the nuclear doctrines and postures and the changes that have been taking place from time to time; 3) the weapons capability of major stakeholders; and 4) the challenges and threats in the future. He offered his sincere thanks and utmost gratitude to the local and international speakers for having found time to participate and urged for the timely submission of their papers to be published in form of book so that the conference acquires the permanence that it intends to have.
In the end Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI) delivered a vote of thanks offering gratitude to the Chief Guest and all the worthy national and international speakers for their highly prolific academic and policy oriented contributions in last two days. He acknowledged the large number and active participation of the audience on both days as one of the determinants of the success of the conference. He also appreciated the hard work of the SVI team for making this conference possible.
Print and electronic media covered the proceedings of the conference as is evident from the hyperlinks given below:
Day 1 (6th Nov 2018):
Day 2 (7th Nov 2018):
Electronic Media Coverage:
Day 1 (6th Nov 2018)