The simmering Indo-Pak rivalry and dangersof an Armageddon were epitomized by the recent war of words between themilitaries of both countries. “We will call the nuclear bluff of Pakistan. Ifwe will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, weare not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclearweapons.
We will have to call their nuclear bluff,” said the Indian Army Chief,General Bipin Rawat while delivering the annual Army Day lecture. Expectedly,the spokesman of the Pakistan Army, Major General Asif Ghafoor retorted andsaid:” Well,it’s their choice. Should they wish to test our resolve they may try and see itfor themselves.The only thing stopping them is our credible nuclear deterrence.” TheIndian version of “fire and fury” and the quick rejoinder by Pakistan, arecauses of concern for watchers of the region’s security dynamics. There is asto why incendiary statements from the makers and executioners of securitypolicies in India and Pakistan, can lead to crisis instability: Pakistan’sambiguous nuclear threshold.
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Changing threat perceptions and bellicosity aremaking a strong case for Pakistan to hasten its evolution toward a War-fightingnuclear doctrine. Deterrencethrough Ambiguity: Undefined RedlinesAfter the overt nuclearization of SouthAsia in 1998, the Indo-Pak theater has often been referred to as a nuclear flashpointowing to the continuation of casus belli in shape of the Kashmir conflict.However, the possession of what Bernard Brodie called the “absolute weapons”has deterred both countries from escalating skirmishes from the tactical andsub-strategic levels to conflicts at the higher end of the conflictspectrums. A flared-up Line ofControl(LoC) or Working Boundary for that matter, cannot point toward thefailure of strategic deterrence but shows that there is space for carrying outmilitary engagements below the N-threshold. This compels us to highlight theimportance of the highly-touted nuclear threshold.
While even a cursory look atIndia’s NuclearDoctrinegives a lucid indication of India’s assimilation of the No-First-Use Policy,Pakistan has left an element of ambiguity as regards its nuclear doctrine andred lines. As a weaker state that is still beset with the colossal events of1971 and India’s role in them, Pakistan has adopted deterrence throughambiguity. Pakistan’s former COAS,General Aslam Beg was a firmbeliever in using ambiguity to enhance deterrence. According to then spearhead of theStrategic Plans Division(SPD).Lt. Gen Khalid Kidwai, Pakistan will use nuclearweapons if four thresholds are reached.
Loss of large parts of territory(spatial threshold); destruction of large parts of land or air forces(militarythreshold); economic and political thresholds. At best, these red lines are not definedand in the event of a conflict, may be lowered depending on the dynamics on theground. It is noteworthy to mention a few aspects of the Cold Start Doctrineand their effect on the escalation ladder. With sharpness asits defining feature, Cold Start calls forreshuffling the old Holding and Strike corps. The former would create shallowbridgeheads into Pakistani territory. It would be followed by Integrated BattleGroups (IBGs) attacking along various axes to further ingress inside Pakistan.Thereafter, in tandem with air support the 3-strike corps would concentrate onfirepower. In order to avoid a nuclear retaliation, forces will bite and holdterritory up to 25 kilometers inside Pakistan.
Cold Start has the propensity toreach the spatial and military threshold; hence, despite running the risk ofrisk of deriding strategic deterrence, the TNWs do provide Pakistan with acushion at. lower rungs of the ladder. AWar-fighting Doctrine?Despite not enunciating an officialnuclear doctrine, Pakistan had one based on Credible Minimum Deterrence andFirst-Use policy. Both of these constants had suited Pakistan’s meagreresources and lack of geographical depth. However, as Moltke’s military adagesays: “Every plan meets that of enemy,” Pakistan brought about dynamism in itsdoctrine, ostensibly to fill the deterrence gap. During a talk at the CarnegieEndowment for International , Lt.GenKhalid Kidwai, widely-regarded as the country’s doyen in nuclear strategy,asserted the importance of Full Spectrum Deterrence in great detail.
He said:”What they(Indians)were finding attractive, and what was probably encouraging them to find thespace for conventional war, below this gap, was the absence of a completespectrum of deterrence, if I may. That is what we have been calling the FullSpectrum Deterrence. Kidwai’s lecture came on the heels of the successful testlaunch of Shaheen III surface to surface ballistic missile, capable of delivering nuclear and conventional warheadsat a distance of 2,750 . Kidwai said that the missile could reach theprospective strategic bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The utterancefrom the man who had remained in the thick of things, amplified the fact thatPakistan is treading toward a war-fighting nuclear doctrine.
Last January, Pakistan’s successful tests of the SubmarineLaunched Cruise Missile , Babar III and the surface-to-surface MRBM Ababeelmissile, were definite steps towards bolstering the country’s second-strikecapabilities. The ability to withstand a first strike and then retaliate is notonly a linchpin to deterrence but is a cornerstone of a war-fighting strategy.Pakistan’s quest for Full SpectrumDeterrence is commensurate with mounting threats from its eastern neighbor.
Aslong as both countries will not have an assured second-strike capability,verbal references to nuclear clashes will only lead to crisis instability,something that can result in rapturing the even-otherwise tenuous strategicstability in South Asia