I was already planning to write a paragraph or two about Robert Haddick’s piece in Foreign Policy on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and then I came across this piece by @filterc at NI’s website, so thought of addressing both of them together.

The ‘hyperbole’ that India has never threatened Pakistan or that it maintains a no-first use policy on nuclear weapons are moot points, even if we don’t consider the violent history between the two nations. No nation maintains its weapons capability keeping in mind the ‘intentions’ of its natural adversary alone, which can always change but instead its capabilities. Furthermore, India’s policy of no-first use only deals with states which do not possess nuclear weapons, which automatically makes the point irrelevant in case of Pakistan.

Let me put it across bluntly, what Pakistan threatens India with is exactly what India threatens China with, and what China threatens the US with i.e unacceptable pain without any particular gains on the ground.

Now, in case of Pakistan such strategic status quo is increasingly dependent upon its non-conventional weapons program as opposed to its conventional fighting capability, since India is taking strong strides on the economic front which are resulting in it upgrading its armed forces’ both conventional and non-conventional weapons capabilities (MMRCA, FGFA, AMCA, new subsonic and supersonic cruise and ballistic missile programs, nuclear subs et al).

And hereby @filter_c argues that

No, the explanation is neither the most obvious, nor enduring.  Because it presupposes and rationalizes the argument that Pakistan must gain strategic parity with India under all circumstances. 

Keeping in view of the above mentioned reality, it can be argued that Pakistan cannot afford to, nor will ever seek to achieve parity with India. So then, how does it maintain the status quo? Essentially by upgrading its non-conventional weapons capabilities.

When I refer to the word ‘upgrading’, it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in the ‘number’ of nuclear weapons but instead better and more accurate delivery platforms, more plutonium (instead of uranium) based warheads for its ballistic and cruise missiles (because they ensure a better ratio of yield versus weight of the fissile material used per warhead) and an ensured second nuclear strike capability by deploying plutonium based warheads on its subs. The idea is not to achieve parity – but to maintain the status quo.

This is where Pakistan’s strong objections to FMCT come into play. The idea behind the delay and the sudden increase of plutonium reactors is to enable Pakistan to accumulate sufficient plutonium stocks before Pakistan can no longer postpone entry into the FMCT.

It would also be prudent to note that Pakistan’s current plutonium reserves versus those of India, which has maintained a strong plutonium based nuclear weapons program since the 1970s, are akin to peanuts.

While India may not have converted its fissile stocks into warheads, it means nothing, since this can be done at a short notice. India has already ‘officially’ announced building a ‘triad’ (sea, air, land) of 400 operationally deployed nuclear weapons, which includes a second-strike capability, in its nuclear doctrine. These many number of weapons, including a sea-based second nuclear strike capability does have effects on ‘acceptable deterrence’ capability of an adversary nation, which is a dynamic and essentially a psychological concept.

  • Greatgamaii

    Hmm.. your take has indeed been ‘limited’.

  • http://mitchell.tel Anthony Mitchell

    If nuclear weapons are serving to prevent aggression between Pakistan and India, then both sides can and would have cut spending on conventional forces. The fact that spending continues to spiral upwards negates arguments about the utility of expanding nuclear arsenals.

    During Kargil, neither side showed evidence of following the traditional logic of nuclear deterrence. Both were (and are) capable of shifting into Kissinger’s ‘Mad Dog’ mode at the slightest confrontation.

    Strategic planners and commanders could be sent off to attend academic courses in the logic of nuclear deterrence, but I doubt that would be enough to change institutional responses during fast-moving conflicts.

    Neither India nor Pakistan have given enough thought to the tactical impacts of nuclear weapons. The effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) on both conventional and nuclear forces will render solid-state electronics and large swaths of C3I infrastructure useless after a nuclear detonation. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the receiving side of an attack to respond or to refrain from retaliation. It also means that one side may only be able to use a handful of nuclear weapons, at most, during even the most catastrophic scenario of missile exchanges.

    It can be argued that nuclear weapons will become largely obsolete once more sophisticated energy weapons are developed. Emerging technologies will allow one side to neutralize opposing forces without loss of life. Rather than living in the past, India and Pakistan could be looking at safer, more effective means of ensuring security and stability.

    The most affordable and achievable means of improving security would be to dramatically increase bilateral trade and investment. People-to-people contacts will do more to diffuse tensions and misunderstandings than legions of diplomats ever could. India and Pakistan have all the necessary ingredients to become powerful economic and political allies — and to transform the world for all.

    • http://wccftech.com Saad

      Anthony, no country will simply pull a plug on developing its conventional weaponry, simply because it uses nuclear weapons as a deterrent. The Great Britain tried it and has largely found the exercise in vain and hence the Type 45 destroyers, the new subs and the F-35.

      The increased expense by India and Pakistan on conventional weapons is partly also explained by the fact that their armed forces have largely been using obsolete weaponry, until very recently. They are both under-going a revamping exercise.

      Isn’t this exactly what the US is trying to do, by developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, while it has a stockpile of over 5000 deployed weapons? The deterrent was already working for the US, but the fact that weapons do tend to get obsolete over time, needs be factored into that equation. No?

      As for directed energy weapons – the technology is still a good few decades away from coming to South-Asia.

      • http://mitchell.tel Anthony Mitchell

        Just because Britain, the United States, France, Israel and other colonial or wanna-be-colonial powers have nuclear weapons does not justify other countries following suit.

        The ridiculous nature of Britain’s ongoing spending on nuclear weapons is driven by an equally ridiculous self-image that it remains a world power. Britain over-extended its colonial reach and distorted its economy with unsustainable military adventurism, much as the United States continues to do in Afghanistan.

        I fail to see the logic of imitating Britain’s self-inflicted demise by devoting a large portion of one’s national economy to unproductive military spending, especially given the natural disasters that continue to cause extensive personal suffering and macro-economic insecurity.

        Britain is not my role model. It doesn’t deserve to be Pakistan’s role model either.

        On the question of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal serving as a deterrent to India, I am unconvinced that Pakistan will be able to mount a coordinated retaliatory strike with land-based nuclear weapons. India must be knowing exactly where all of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal resides and can easily pinpoint those sites in a first strike. Highly protected sites can be neutralized with EMP after the first strike, such as with hourly air detonations to the west and southwest of Rawalpindi.

        If land-based nuclear weapons are incapable of delivering a retaliatory strike, why have any land-based nuclear weapons at all? Answer: for the purpose of launching a first strike, which then increases your risk of being on the receiving end of a first strike—regardless of the no-first-use doctrine currently articulated by New Delhi for its own convenience.

        The sparse attention paid to anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities by Pakistan further reinforces the first-strike profile of Pakistan’s arsenal.

        India is undeniably capable of delivering a retaliatory strike, although any general officer will tell you that it’s better to be the one that delivers the first strike.

        Your deterrence is lopsided and generates instability for all. Pakistan’s offensively oriented arsenal invites a first strike by India against land-based targets in Pakistan.

        Instead of being protected by nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s people serve as human shields, as disposable collateral in disputes that Pakistan may be unable to survive and can never win.

        My advice would be to deny India any excuse to use nuclear weapons against the people of Pakistan. If you believe that you need deterrence, use ship-based weapons.

        Instead of maintaining a huge conventional force to respond to a land invasion, form active reserves or ‘weekend warriors’ that can be called up instantly, as needed. Offer short active-duty enlistments rather than stressing career service options.

        Have the military establishment take the initiative to open Pakistan’s borders to free trade and increased population mobility. Rely on Pakistan’s greatest resource — its people — as the nation’s first and last defence.

        I am not saying that you should defend yourselves less. Instead, by recognizing modern deterrence theories, and their limitations, and by broadening Pakistan’s approach to national defence, you have the power to strengthen Pakistan’s security while promoting economic development and prosperity. It’s a win-win for everyone.

  • Sanasalimmalik

    Woaaah! I feel like I’m one step ahead and in on weaponary etc ;)
    You should write more often, please! As for the analysis, think you summed it up here:
    ” what Pakistan threatens India with is exactly what India threatens China with, and what China threatens the US with i.e unacceptable pain without any particular gains on the ground” Think war strategy would be a lot more simpler if we were just focusing on that bit.
    & this in terms of the first use policy
    ” No nation maintains its weapons capability keeping in mind the ‘intentions’ of its natural adversary, which can always change but instead its capabilities”

  • Pierre_fitter

    There are two sections related to no-first-use: 2.4 and 2.5.

    You’ve highlighted 2.5, which in short states: India will never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

    You’ve conveniently forgotten 2.4:
    The fundamental purpose of Indian nuclear weapons is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any State or entity against India and its forces. India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.

  • Trickey

    Saad conveniently ignores Pakistani military’s own intentions when he questions Indian intentions.
    Pakistan seeks to alter the status quo by force, although it’s current military capability is woefully inadequate in this regard(Pakistan military needs to be several times larger in capability than India’s given it’s relative territorial and population disadvantage.. just to be on par. Acquiring an invasive capability is going to take an order of magnitude larger capability than that.).
    If Saad’s argument is that the Pakistani military is entirely defensive and has no invasive intentions (belied by the Kargil war) then there is absolutely nothing to worry about. India-Pakistan can already be BFF!

    The capability argument is silly. Indian, Chinese and American military capabilites are proportional to their global and economic clout and well within their means. Pakistan’s capability most definitely exceeds it’s clout and significance. It’s robbing your people out of any surplus they create.Pakistan already has a begging bowl in hand. How long will you continue to “upgrade” an oversized and useless military capability that you cannot afford?

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  • Ankur Kothari

    “Let me put it across bluntly, what Pakistan threatens India with is
    exactly what India threatens China with, and what China threatens the US
    with i.e unacceptable pain without any particular gains on the ground.”

    Of course, among these examples, there is only one where one country’s citizens (abetted by its intelligence) attack the other country’s citizens.

    • OS

      Right. And RAW never initiated a campaign of bomb blasts in train stations and other civilian locations in the 90s.

      And India never supported the insurgency in Balochistan.

      Right. Spot on.