Why Pakistan is pursuing Full Spectrum Deterrence against India

  0 comments   |     by Beenish Altaf

Pakistan’s former envoy to United Nations, Amb Zamir Akram said that Pakistan is not seeking parity with India in terms of nuclear weapons, but is rather pursuing Full Spectrum Deterrence to ensure that there are no gaps in its deterrence capability. It is the need of the hour, while looking at the growing Indian aspirations of becoming a giant South Asian nuclear power. It includes both the nuclear weapons development and the missile development.

The number of nuclear weapons, enough to maintain nuclear deterrence, has continued to trouble nuclear deterrence theorists, strategists and policymakers since the post-Cold War period. Meanwhile, the world’s nuclear weapons stockpile is estimated to be at 16,000 approximately, and all states possessing nuclear weapons, in one way or another, are constantly modifying and modernizing their nuclear inventories. No state will place a number or cap on what it considers to be a sufficient nuclear force for credible deterrence.

In South Asia, India and Pakistan, nuclear armed rival neighbors, have estimated stockpiles of 90-110 and 100-120 respectively, according to estimates from the SIPRI Yearbook 2015. Both countries have committed policies of minimum nuclear deterrence and no-nuclear arms race. While India seeks to maintain a nuclear force sufficient to deter mainly China and Pakistan, Islamabad maintains that it seeks a deterrent equilibrium vis-a-vis New Delhi and not nuclear parity.

Amb Akram, with a practical command on the subject, viewed that the threats were growing in the region due to large scale acquisition of military hardware by India, its public rejection of the policy of No First Use of nuclear weapons, determination to carry out disarming strikes against Pakistan, and its espousal of dangerous and destabilizing doctrines like the Cold Start Doctrine.

Ironically the revolving ongoing speculation on the transformation of NFU policy of Indian Nuclear doctrine is getting a lot of hype nowadays. The strategy might be to keep all options open by putting ambiguity in its nuclear doctrine. Diplomatically, the Indian doctrine is only to show the international community that New Delhi has maintained a responsible use of its nuclear weapons by declaring a written doctrine, which, paradoxically, was never credible enough.

Only due to the abovementioned espousing weaponry expansion and military enlargement, ‘this has required us to move towards Full Spectrum Deterrence for responding to threats at the tactical level, the counter-force level, and the counter-value level. We need to cover all levels of threat.’ It should be taken into account that the strategic stability in South Asia was not just about Pakistan and India, but also involves China and the US in the sphere.

Referring to a recent statement by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholar Vipin Narang, and assertions by former Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon in his book suggesting that India could shed its No-First Use doctrine and carryout disarming pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan, the former envoy said this did not come as a surprise because Pakistani security quarters never believed in an Indian declaratory statement of No-First Use, which could not be verified.

It is important to note here that India is the largest arms importer, and is engaged in several nuclear deals worldwide for which US is the biggest helper. An evidence estimated that for the US it would be desirable if a friendly Asian power beat Communist China to the punch by detonating a nuclear device first for which the very likely country was no other than India. So, the US assisted by helping India acquire nuclear explosive, for balancing communist China that is evident from the recently declassified Sept 1961, top secret memorandum from State Dept official George McGhee to Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

There were various national and international factors behind the Indian nuclear program. Internationally, New Delhi perspective is that its program was driven by its reservations about China, which had nuclear weapons, and its desire to achieve “great-power status”.

Nevertheless, posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence has remained a principle option of Pakistan’s nuclear policy. This principle is based on the concept that Pakistan’s nuclear policy is driven by its perceived threat to its security from India and is therefore India-centric. Deterrence is the sole aim and a small arsenal is considered adequate for satisfying it. But ironically this is also a fact that with the introduction of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in the region or with the introduction of battlefield weapons is actually a modernized advancement in the inventories. Those are ironically meant to balance out this superiority complex.

So, it could be concluded that it is only when states feel threatened they opt for defending their territory and sovereignty that actually compels them to maximize their security measures under the perceived threat of vulnerability. But for maintaining a deterrent posture, according to my understanding, the quantitative number is not necessary, as the possession of a nuclear weapon is itself enough for crafting deterrence. Because even by possessing one nuke, the nuclear aggression from the other state can be discouraged. So the question of numeric parity or nuclear sufficiency does not make sense. Therefore, it would not be in correct to conclude that credible minimum deterrence is not the same as nuclear parity and nuclear supremacy.

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