Home Contact Us  
   

Indo-Pak - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4256, 13 January 2014
 

The Strategist

Strategic Non-Nuclear Weapons: An Essential Consort to a Doctrine of No First Use
Vijay Shankar
Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Forces Command of India & Distinguished Fellow, IPCS
 

Politico-Military thought often harbours a puzzling phenomenon when it organises concepts and institutions in a mosaic of sometimes antithetical notions. Contrary ideas are indeed intrinsic to the art of political sagacity, but when form is defined by a belief, in apparent conflict with content, then there appear distortions more illusory than what logic would suggest. So it is with the emergence of strategic nuclear weapons. They are destructive to the extent that the purpose of warfare is itself obliterated, underscoring a compelling theory of war avoidance. By its side are strategic non-nuclear weapons whose intent is to target nuclear weapons that, ironically, seek a (precarious) stability.

Conventional savvy will first suggest that non-nuclear weapons can neither deliver the requisite high explosive payload to assume a counter-force role against silo-based or caverned nuclear systems; nor do they come with the probability of kill that is demanded with such a role. But just around the technological corner lurks high impact penetration and shaped charges that make a mockery of hitherto simple overpressure reckoning. Second, nuclear pundits will insinuate that a partially successful counter-force strike may in point of fact catalyse escalation to a full blown nuclear exchange; both contain candour of their own.

But strange is our circumstance when on the one hand Pakistan presents us with a nuclear nightmare which when articulated is a hair-trigger, opaque deterrent conventionalised under military control, steered by a doctrine obscure in form, seeped in ambiguity, and guided by a military strategy that carouses and finds unity with non-state actors. The introduction of tactical nuclear weapons into the battle area further exacerbates credibility of their control. It does not take a great deal of intellectual exertions to declare that this nightmare is upon us. However, the very nature of the power equation on the subcontinent and the extent to which it is tilted in India’s favour will imply that any attempt at bringing about conflict resolution through means other than peaceful is destined to fail. In this context it is amply clear that the threat of use of nuclear weapons promotes only one case and that is the Pakistani military establishment’s hold on the nation. On the other hand is a Janus-faced China which, in collusion with Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme, has not just entrenched proliferatory links, but also doctrinal union that permits a duplicitous approach to the latter’s declared No First Use (NFU) posture and an option to keep the South Asian nuclear cauldron on the boil. Also significant is the alliance bucks the existing global non-proliferation structure.

What may be derived from the current state of affairs, with any conviction, is the political and military unpredictability that prevails. This denies hope for stability and the expectation of fitting conditions into a convenient model, let alone providing for security guarantees. Governments faced with such a conundrum more readily prepare for a worst case scenario than try and reconcile the true dimensions that uncertainty introduces. It is preparedness, therefore, that endows the only tool that can deter possible confrontation of a nature that has earlier been designated as nightmarish.

India today is in a position to impress upon its adversaries a deterrent relationship based on nuclear war avoidance, with the proviso that the rationale of nuclear weapons as a political tool and a means to preclude a nuclear exchange are recognised and adhered to. China’s galloping entwinement with the rest of the world makes this proposition a real probability; contingent upon our resolve and policies of seeking mutuality with like-minded nations to rally around the single point of preventing reactionary overturning of the status quo. This despite the unilateral tensions that China has precipitated in the East and South China Sea over sovereignty, air defence identification zones and the right to control fishing.

Pakistan is, however, a different cup of tea for it portrays a perilous uncertainty, as would any nation under military control that perceives in nuclear weapons the ultimate Brahmastra. As with that weapon of mass destruction, answers lay not just in the promise of disproportionate retaliation but also in the credible ability to prempt and counter its use. India has in place nuclear weapons driven by a doctrine of NFU and massive retaliation. What its strategic forces must now equip itself with is select conventional hardware that tracks and targets nuclear forces (all under political control). This would provide the pre-emptive teeth to a deterrent relationship that leans so heavily on NFU.    

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
The Value of a Declared No First Use Nuclear Policy

The CPEC: Corridor to Chinese Coffers

Forecast 2017: Carnage Ahead?

Perils of Nuclear Paranoia

The Catechism of a Minister

Hillary's Nuclear Policy: A Time of Change, Dithering, or Sameness?

The Misshapen Pivot

The Blind Men of Hindostan

Rewarding Thugs

South China Sea: China’s Double Speak and Verdict at The Hague

There is a New Symphony at Play

Barbarism and the Smell of Cordite

To Steer the Stream of Time: The Crisis of Verge Powers

Forecast 2016: Pakistan, Aberrated Strategies and Strategic Stability

What is Strategic Stability?

Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence

Falun Gong: The Fear Within

China: The January Storm

State of Play: Non-Proliferation, Fissile Material Cut-Offs and Nuclear Transparency

Swabbing the Bleakness of Subcontinental Nuclear Instability

The Af-Pak Entity: Seduction to Armageddon?

Maritime Combat Power in the Indo-Pacific

Of Lawrence, Sykes-Picot and al-Baghdadi

Strategic Estrangement: An Odd Bedfellow to Economic Engagement

The Islamic State Caliphate: A Mirage of Resurrection

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.