and Pakistan got involved in a broad-based engagement on 19-20 June 2004 for
evolving nuclear CBMs aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear confrontation. Tariq
Osman Haider, Pakistan’s additional secretary in the Foreign Office, heading an
eight-member delegation met Sheel Kant Sharma, additional secretary
(International Organisations) of the Indian MEA and others at New Delhi. India
and Pakistan, after maintaining an overt nuclear posture for six long years,
since the May 1998 tests, finally met together to address the possibilities of
reducing nuclear danger.
two-day dialogue on nuclear CBMs was preceded by the Lahore Declaration of 1999.
On 21 February 1999, former Indian Foreign Secretary, K. Raghunath and his
Pakistani counterpart, Shamshad Ahmed, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
wherein both countries pledged to engage in bilateral negotiations on security
concepts for shaping CBMs on nuclear matters.
Lahore MoU, however, received a setback due to a series of unprecedented events.
Problems that arose over the Kashmir issue exacerbated when the Kargil conflict
broke out in May 1999 between the nuclear neighbours. Matters worsened when a
terrorist squad stormed the Indian Parliament in December 2001. India-Pakistan
relations reached an impasse when a million Indian and Pakistani soldiers were
mobilized for 10 months on the international border. These debacles proved
highly detrimental to India-Pakistan relations.
recent change of government in India offers a significant opportunity to
reconsider India-Pakistan nuclear policy. The United Progressive Alliance
Government in its manifesto has declared that it “will take the initiative to
have credible, transparent and verifiable confidence- building measures in
treaty form to minimize the risk of nuclear and missile conflict with Pakistan
and China.” Pakistan has also been actively propagating for a “strategic
restraint regime” in the sub-continent. In a quest for developing a
nuclear-safe, if not nuclear weapons-free zone, India and Pakistan identified
areas of convergence in order to make the nuclear dialogue result-oriented.
two-day talks concluded on a positive note with India and Pakistan enunciating a
seven-point programme for building nuclear confidence. These include upgrading
the existing hotline between the Directorate Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs);
establishing a dedicated and secure hotline between the foreign secretaries to
prevent misunderstandings; reiterating unilateral moratorium on further nuclear
tests; notifying missile flight-testing; working towards the implementation of
Lahore MoU; engaging in bilateral consultations on non-proliferation issues and
holding regular working-level meetings among all nuclear powers to address
issues of common concern.
the optimism, one cannot but question the efficacy of the measures aimed at
reducing the risk of nuclear danger. The proposal for establishing foreign
secretaries’ hotline which existed between 1991 and 1994 cannot be expected to
function effectively unless serviced by a control room, equipped and manned by
competent officers round the clock. Else, it will serve merely as an additional
means of communication. On the issue of further upgrading and securing the
hotline between the DGMOs, former army officials claim that the existing hotline
is secure enough. Ambiguity, thus, exists on the matter of hotlines. Prior
notification on missile flight-testing has little relevance when the nuclear
neighbours have reiterated their six-year old moratorium on nuclear tests.
a well researched article titled “Minimum Nuclear Deterrence Posture in South
Asia: An Overview”, Rodney W Jones, claims that India and Pakistan have nuclear
warheads in the ratio of 2:1. This is a matter of serious concern. The widely
prevalent view that nuclear powers do not engage in conventional war has been
falsified twice ? by Kargil and when India mobilized its forces on the border in
‘Operation Parakram’ to wage a limited war ? betraying a stability-instability
paradox. India and Pakistan have, however, realized their enormous
responsibility to promote a stable environment. To this extent, a secured
hotline between the foreign secretaries would prevent misunderstandings and
reduce accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. Talks must also be
negotiated by more senior level officers than just additional secretaries.
reaffirming their commitments on unilateral moratorium on conducting further
nuclear tests will only strengthen mutual confidence between both nations.
Perhaps, the greatest scope for confidence-building provided by the talks lies
in a better understanding of each other’s nuclear doctrines. This increases the
possibility of exploring a common nuclear doctrine in the sub-continent. Regular
working-level meetings among world’s nuclear powers would imply recognition of
India and Pakistan as legitimate nuclear powers. It might also pave the way for
China to accept India’s proposal to evolve a common nuclear doctrine between New
Delhi, Beijing and Islamabad.
two-day nuclear talks constitute a small but helpful nudge to a nascent peace
process that began in February 1999. It is significant that a thaw has set in
between India and Pakistan. However, it cannot be claimed that this round has
made a substantial advance. It is to be hoped that subsequent rounds will usher
in prospects of rapidly reducing the possibility of nuclear exchange between the