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India and Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrines

India and Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrines : A Comparative Analysis By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal*

*The author is a Consultant Policy and Strategic Response, IPRI; he is former Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force.

Doctrines of the two countries are mismatched. India intends to deter nuclear use by Pakistan while Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are meant to compensate for conventional arms asymmetry.

India’s existing nuclear doctrine can be broken down into three key elements: deterrence, reassurance and nonproliferation. This combination of factors is meant to simultaneously discourage adversary(ies) from attacking and soothe international concerns about India’s nuclear arsenal. To accomplish this, successive Indian governments have committed themselves to building and maintaining a “credible minimum deterrent” and have promised massive retaliation in the event of a nuclear attack— both these points are contradictory.

Now, the threat of nuclear retaliation has been expanded to allow for use in response to a biological or chemical weapon attack. India is looking for excuses to revoke its “no first use” option, and holding back is due to its commitments given to NSG for grant of country specific waiver. India’s performance is evaluated periodically against those assurances and adherence to ‘no first use’ is one of them. That’s why India is desperate to get full membership of NSG, because after that it will not be liable to such periodic reviews.

Both India and Pakistan are seeking the group’s membership. In the nuclear realm, both Pakistan and India share a number of common features, like: both are nuclear weapon sates; are non-members of NPT and CTBT; since 1998, both are abiding by their unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing; are proponents of global disarmament; their force goals are governed by minimum credible deterrence; both have a potent nuclear regulator and stringent export control regimes etc. Moreover, both counties have evolved a number of bilateral CBMs related to nuclear and missile activities, like advance warning of nuclear test and missile launch, and annual exchange of list of nuclear installations etc. The membership would greatly enhance the acceptance of these two countries as nuclear weapons states and give them a say in how countries should conduct trade in nuclear-related exports. Moreover, both will stand answerable to NSG for their conduct on nuclear trade.

Therefore, any criterion based expansion of the group would mean simultaneous entry of both the countries. Any country specific effort to have India in and Pakistan out will render the group dysfunctional and ineffective. That’s why Pakistan is pursuing for a non-discriminatory criterion based approach for the expansion of NSG. Giving India membership and denying it to Pakistan would be discriminatory and would not serve global non-proliferation and other strategic objectives; moreover, it could throw-up a number of operational and functional lacunae which shall be difficult to reconcile. India already has a partnership arrangement with the NSG, and grant of membership to India alone would elevate its status disproportionately. Moreover, since the group operates on consensus, membership would give India a perpetual veto over any future decisions involving Pakistan.

Pakistan does not subscribe to country specific expansions and proposes that membership to all strategic regimes should be criteria based. Whenever such expansions are criteria based, Pakistan shall have no problem in qualifying for full membership of all strategic trade regimes due to the mentioned similarities in the nuclear profiles of India and Pakistan.

The way forward in the India-Pakistan setting is in engaging substantively to narrow the perceptional gaps and address the issues that lie at the root of both countries’ security predicaments. Indeed both should look forward to graduate from a nuclear triad to a triad of peace, progress and prosperity.

Nuclear powers do not define their relations by threats or bluster. The only answer to the dilemmas created by the region’s nuclearization is to engage, seriously and constructively, to build a better understanding of each other’s conventional and nuclear policies, doctrines and postures through meaningful confidence building measures both in nuclear and conventional military spheres. Pakistan’s proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime has three interlocking elements designed to achieve strategic stability – measures for nuclear restraint, conventional military balance and resolution of disputes. The proposal is still on the table and presents a way forward in a win-win manner.

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