India and Pakistan Nuclear Doctrine: A Comparative Analysis

15 Sep, 1999    ·   260

Dr Subhash Kapila says in South Asia, Pakistan may be more prone to press the nuclear button due a low nuclear threshold

India and Pakistan became overt nuclear weapons states in mid-1998. Since nuclear weapons have their own logic and are unique in terms of their use and effects, they call for separate strategic doctrines as distinct form conventional weapons. Nuclear strategies are also unique in that they have to be evolved in a strategic vacuum I,e, with no past evolutionary strategic experience to back them. In the case of India and Pakistan , nuclear doctrines, perforce have to borrow from Western concepts, which could  evolve in the 40 years of the Cold War. 



While India has unveiled a draft Indian Nuclear Doctrine in August 1999, Pakistan has yet to announce one, stating that they are in the process. However, enough printed material on the thinking of the Pakistan elite on the subject is available, especially of the Pakistani armed forces officers. A comparative analysis of the two nuclear doctrines is therefore possible.



Indian Nuclear Doctrine 



India 's Draft Nuclear Doctrine has to be viewed as a "declaratory policy" giving out broad guidelines for the proposed development and use of its nuclear arsenal-existance and under development. Hence Indian domestic critism of its not spelling out "employment strategy" or "configuration of nuclear capability" or costing" are misplaced. These aspects will never be spelt out as intentions and capabilities are always "TOP SECRET."



The major policy declarations made in the Draft Nuclear Doctrine are:



1. Fundamental purpose of Indian Nuclear Weapons is to deter the use of and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any a state or entity against and its forces.



2. India will not resort to use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons state or those not aligned with nuclear weapon powers.



3. India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike.



4. India shall pursue for a credible minimum, deterrent. Any nuclear attack on India and its forces shall result in punitive retaliation with nuclear weapons.



5. Nuclear weapons shall be tightly controlled and released for use at the highest political level. 



6. India 's nuclear arsenal will be based on the triad concept i.e. land based ballistic missiles, sea based assets and air borne platforms.



The significance of the draft Nuclear Doctrine of India lies in its 'declaratory policy' i.e. that India will employ nuclear weapons should operational considerations so dictate, but within the guidelines and framework spelt out. India 's domestic debate cannot change this nor the prevalent Indian public mood would allow a debate on this, even, if the government changes.



Pakistan 's Nuclear Doctrine



Proponents of Pakistan 's nuclear doctrine point the following backdrop which should form the basis of enunciating the official Pakistani Nuclear Doctrine:



1. Pakistan 's nuclear arsenal is India specific and designed to off-set India 's conventional and nuclear weapons superiority.



2. Pakistan 's nuclear deterrence against India will endure as long as it has enough nuclear war heads and delivery systems to inflict a deterrent punishment. Should deterrence fail, Pakistan 's conventional forces should be strong to prevent a nuclear weapons strike. 



3. Pakistan should not be lured into an arms race, but she must develop a secure, second strike capability. 



Pakistan 's nuclear doctrine would therefore emerge as a hybrid mix incorporating various elements of NATO's nuclear strategies of "Mutually Assured destruction," 



Pakistani analysts oppose acceptance of any "Not First Use" pact with India as they feel that its acceptance would negate their deterrent capabilities against India . It is also being advocated that Pakistan should not sign it until such time enough fissile materials for Pakistan 's requisite number of warheads in the India-specific context is stockpiled.



In terms of command and of nuclear weapons, no clear recommendations are emerging in the Pak analyses on the subject. The talk is of apex body centered on the Defense Committee of the Cabinet. In 1994, the former Pakistani Army Chief had talked of a "National Nuclear Command Authority" (NNCA) comprising the President PM and the Army and Air Force Chief's. In effect the de-facto control will lie with the Pak Army Chief and the collegium of Pak Army's nine Corps Commanders. 



Pakistan 's nuclear weapon weapons are unlikely to be based on the "TRIAD" concept. Delivery system will essentially comprise of land-based ballistic missiles and aircraft. The absence of the Naval Chief from the NNCA is a pointer in the direction. 






India 's strategic perspective for its nuclear doctrine encompass a wider perspective than South Asia in keeping with its strategic potential. Pakistan 's perspective as presently evident seems to be India-specific.



India swears by the "no-first-use ' principle. Pakistan is averse to this.. It would not give any such guarantees, feeling that it negates its deterrence against India .



India nuclear weapons system will be "TRIAD" based. Pakistan currently gets limited to land based and aircraft delivery systems.



India and Pakistani doctrines, both emphasis a 'credible minimum deterrent." However, Pakistani capabilities in this direction may be questionable.



India nuclear arsenal will be under civil political control. Pakistani's nuclear arsenal will under defacto control of the Army Chief.






Nuclear Weaponisation of South Asia is a reality. It can neither be wished away nor rolled back even by external pressures. India has done well by being the first one to come out with its "declaratory policy." Pakistan 's inability to do so far indicates differences on opinions in its hierarchy and an existent mis-match between economic resources and development of a nuclear arsenal, comparatively.



Irrespective of the rhetoric that may emerge in any forth coming official Pakistani nuclear doctrine-two dangers need to be noted by concerned international observes. Firstly, in South Asia , Pakistan may be more prone to press the nuclear button due a low nuclear threshold. Secondly, in the pursuit of nuclear arsenal symmetry with India , Pakistan could end up as a "failed state."