Anger Mars Reason - Nuclear Rationale Ignored

30 May, 1998    ·   100

Lt. Gen. A. M. Vohra (Retd.) argues that with policies of minimal deterrence, stability in South Asia would be enhanced; Indian and Pakistani leaders should recognise this and refrain from making inflamatory statements

On 18 May 1998, India ’s Home Minister L. K. Advani said, " Islamabad should realize the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world…". He referred to India ’s "bold and decisive step" which has brought about "a qualitative new stage in Indo-Pak relations".



Pakistan ’s foreign minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, observed at about the same time that by carrying out nuclear tests, India has created "a war-like situation in the region". When asked about the possibility of a nuclear attack on Pakistan ’s nuclear installations, he stated that there was a very strong possibility and added, "Our reply will be swift and sharp that the Indians would remember for centuries". In elaboration he said, " India is threatening us with Prithvi…. We have small cities with small populations while Indian cities are big. We will retaliate with Ghauri".



The nuclear and missile capabilities of India and Pakistan have been recognized for some years now. Their development and refining is a continuing process; Hatf, Prithvi, Ghauri, Agni are the manifestations of these. These dual nuclear and missile developments have provided stability; nuclear deterrence is already operative. The boast of Mr. Advani is school-boyish and the anger of Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan loses sight of the fact that, in two full-scale wars in 1965 and 1971, neither country has targeted cities. The two countries have also signed a treaty prohibiting attacks on each other’s nuclear installations.



India ’s tests have been accompanied by assurances that it views nuclear weapons purely as a means of deterrence and NOT as weapons of war. It has also emphasized that their use is visualised only in retaliation. This is, ipso facto, a declaration of "no first use." Pakistan ’s concern at India ’s display of a proven capability for weaponisation, designing nuclear weapons of different yields and improved computer simulations for carrying out sub-critical tests, is understandable as is its desire to carry out its own tests. Angry outbursts even in response to bravado or provocative questions serve no national or international purpose.



Minimal proliferation will continue in spite of the rigours of the NPT regime. A nuclear weapon-free world has therefore been a course advocated to safeguard the world against weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The debate on the CTBT dashed all hopes of universal nuclear disarmament. Tactfully, this is put across not as a difference in objective but rather of timing; it is proclaimed that nuclear weapons are needed for another fifty years or so. In these circumstances of legitimization of nuclear weapons, Indian Government’s tests are a step both to reassure itself and the people of its scientific cum technological capability. Tests by Pakistan would also be justified for similar reasons. India can’t have any objection.



At the time of this writing, news has just come of the tests carried out by Pakistan . If the nuclear strategic rationale is correctly applied in the cause of deterrence, the new status of India and Pakistan as nuclear weapons states will aid stability. Statements by political leaders that ignore this rationale should be replaced by meaningful dialogue to evolve safeguards and confidence building measures in the field of nuclear security. As the dust at Pokhran and Chagai settles, the prime ministers should give practical shape to their calls for talks and a non-aggression pact.



A nuclear weapon arms race is not an issue in South Asia as the nuclear strategy of both is minimum deterrence. We have the background of NATO and Warsaw alliances abandoning the strategy of nuclear war fighting and reducing their arsenals. The overt nuclear status of India and Pakistan and the controlled weaponisation that is likely to follow are a blow indeed to the non-proliferation concerns of the USA , but the preservation of monopoly forever was a vain hope.