Home Contact Us  
   

South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5029, 16 May 2016
 

Strategic Space

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan
Manpreet Sethi
ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)
 

On 11 and 13 May, India completed 18 years as a nuclear-armed state. A couple of weeks from now Pakistan will do so too. And yet despite sharing the same age as overt nuclear weapons states, the two countries are far apart in their understanding of nuclear issues and behaviours. Both have chosen dissimilar objectives for their nuclear weapons, are pursuing diverse capability trajectories, and projecting deterrence in disparate ways. As China continues to block India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and seeks the same treatment for its 'all weather friend' Pakistan, it would be a good idea to understand some of these stark differences that undercut the very demand for uniform treatment.

The first and most evident difference lies in the purpose of the nuclear weapon in the national security strategies of the two countries. For India, the nuclear weapon performs a narrow, limited role of nuclear deterrence - to deter only the nuclear weapons of the other side. It is for this reason that acceptance of universal nuclear disarmament also comes naturally to India since if there were no nuclear weapons with the adversary India would not need such weapons either. For Pakistan, on the other hand, nuclear weapons serve the purpose of deterring India's conventional superiority. The Indian conventional strength bothers Pakistan because it fears its coming into play in response to its continued support for terrorism on Indian territory. In one sense then, the objective of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is to provide it with the space and the immunity to continue its policy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts while shielding itself against a conventional Indian response.

With the purpose of nuclear weapons being what it is, the second difference shows up in the approach of the two to establish credible deterrence. Seeking to deter only the use of nuclear weapons, India has a strategy of deterrence by punishment whereby it eschews the first use of such weapons but promises punitive retaliation in case of their use by the adversary. No first use (NFU) supported by massive retaliation is, therefore, the bedrock of Indian nuclear strategy. In contrast, the Pakistani nuclear strategy is premised on brinksmanship. It projects first use of nuclear weapons including their battlefield use, thereby threatening to take a conventional conflict to the nuclear level. This brinksmanship is projected through build up of 'full spectrum' deterrence - weapons of all yields, spread across all platforms, and from the tactical to the strategic type.

Given that Pakistan's deterrence strategy is premised on uncertainty and projection of quick nuclear escalation to deter an Indian conventional response to an act of terrorism traced back to the Pakistan deep state, the country believes in keeping the adversary unsettled. In its thinking, arriving at a modus vivendi with strategic stability is not desirable because the more stable the relationship, the more constrained is its policy of support to acts of terrorism. Stability at the nuclear level will concede space to India to conduct conventional war without the risk of nuclear escalation. So, while India desires strategic stability in order to rule out the possibility of inadvertent or mistaken nuclear escalation in case of crisis, Pakistan would rather raise this risk to have India cowering.

While Pakistan considers such a nuclear strategy justified given its threat perception of India as its foremost enemy, the problem lies in the risks it thence creates for regional and international security. The requirements of full spectrum deterrence and credible first use with TNWs will lead to larger and larger requirements of fissile material and delegation of nuclear command and control. While there are currently no international treaties or regional/bilateral measures that hold Pakistan's hands on this, the fact of the matter is that a country as severely infested with terrorist networks as it is, the situation threatens to spill beyond the control of its own commanders, as much as beyond the region.

It would therefore behove China as also the rest of the supporters of granting equal treatment to Pakistan, to not encourage irresponsible nuclear behaviour and its attendant risks. India can manage without an NSG membership till such time as the members realise the futility of keeping a major nuclear player out of the arrangement, but do regional and international security have the luxury of repeatedly condoning dangerous behaviour and still expect consequences to turn out less dangerous?

18 is the age when youth become eligible to vote in both India and Pakistan. Will Pakistan now like to vote for a different future for itself? One in which it can shed its self-created paranoia against India, and one in which it has not handed over the reins of the future of the country to nuclear weapons? The potential of Pakistan as a middle level power is immense. If only it would allow its nuclear adolescence to transition into a mature and responsible adulthood.

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
Indian Nuclear Policy and Diplomacy

New NPR: Can It Break New Ground?

US-North Korea Military Swashbuckling and China's Role

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Forecast 2017: Unclear Nuclear Pathways

Limits of Practising Nuclear Brinksmanship

Presidential Elections and US Nuclear Policy: Clinton Vs Trump

Preparing for Radiological Emergencies and Terrorism

Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross–Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends

JCPOA’s First Anniversary: Significance and Future Challenges

Entry into the NSG: Getting Past the Doorman

Nuclear Security Summit Process: Progress and Prognosis

Pak's Nuclear 'Normality' through External Deals: Chasing a Chimera

Forecast 2016: Nuclear Issues That Will Dominate the Year

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

Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

A Strategic Review for India

Indian Ratification of the Additional Protocol: Mischievous Reports Miss its Significance

Time for India-China Nuclear-speak

India and No First Use: Preventing Deterrence Breakdown

Nuclear Security Summit 2014: Shared Risk, Shared Responsibility

US, China and the South Asian Nuclear Construct

Responding to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Strategy for India

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.