The Pokhran legacy

India nuclearised the Subcontinent in 1974 at Pokhran and it has proliferated the Indian Ocean by building an open-ended triad of nuclear forces. Since 1974 India has been the provocateur and seeks regional hegemony and global status. Indian motivations behind becoming a nuclear weapon state had a high tone of revising the global and regional order, which emanates from its ideology. For this, India has made many counter-productive moves to show its power in the region and beyond. Threatened by these moves, Pakistan has time and again struggled to restore peace and stability in the region.

Indian acquisition of ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield is a case in point. This so-called shield is a two-tiered offensive system of Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) and the Advanced Air Defense (AAD) that collectively provides a high- low cover to any incoming ballistic missiles It is an offensive system because it gives India a false sense of security and the ability to either strike first or go for a decapitating nuclear strike. This is because India has developed sea-based offensive capability, has canister-based missile systems and MIRV capability.

Recent developments in Indian BMD include the test of interceptor missile to intercept and destroy hostile ballistic missiles in space, test of Ashwin missile in 2016 and also the extremely advanced electronics and surveillance vessel, as a missile range instrument, Ship VC 11184 in system trials which is a dedicated element of Phase II of India’s BMD. Pakistan has shown increased concerns regarding BMD development by India as it can provide India a false sense of security, resulting in the Indian Military opting for military adventurism vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Nevertheless, Pakistan has given measured and restrained responses to Indian attempts at eroding deterrence stability in the region. Islamabad also introduced the Hatf VII with a primary purpose to counter Indian BMD shield with Babur-3 submarine launched cruise missile that has a range of 450 km, which is not enough. More measures should be taken in this regard. Pakistan also introduced Pakistan’s Ababeel Multi Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) missile which will restore minimal measures for deterrence equation of the country.

The Indian nuclear triad is also a key security concern for deterrence stability in the region as the completion of the nuclear triad and assured second strike capability by only one adversary acts as a destabiliser.A India has not only tested a 3,000 Km ranged K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and K-15 Sagarika SLBM with a range of 750 Km, but also commissioned a nuclear submarine Arihant – thanks to Russian, Israeli and other generous support. This gives a risk taking and religiously fundamentalist Indian government an edge in the completion of the nuclear triad.

Another Arihant class submarine INS Aridhaman is already under construction and a fleet of six to eight SSBNs would be ready by 2022. Each of these SSBNs will be able to carry twelve K-5 missiles and four K-4 missiles. It is confounding to note that the Obama administration was completely oblivious to the genuine security concerns of Pakistan.

In the past, in case of conflict, Pakistan could be the underdog because, earlier, it didn’t cover the Nicobar, and the Andaman Islands which have also been reportedly used as strategic bases by India, through any missile. Hence, Pakistan opted for an extremely precise response in the shape of Shaheen III, as stated by General Kidwai, to cover the standoff India was trying to build. Pakistan should plug other gaps that India is trying to create in the deterrence equation in order to stabilise it.

Indian growing conventional capabilities along with its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) have also been viewed as a threat by Pakistan. It has been the first time that an Indian Chief of Army Staff, by design or by default, conceded openly to the existence of the Indian pre-emptive strategy. The CSD could have extremely serious repercussions in a state of conflict between India and Pakistan. To mitigate this threat of serious military misadventure by India, Pakistan was forced to develop Nasr missile that is a short-range-low-yield system.

Pakistan has been repeatedly proposing many confidence building measures in the region and has also offered a strategic restraint regime in order to create stability in the region. The introduction of nuclear weapons by India in the sub-continent, and later nuclear modernisation have acted as destabilisers in the region, forcing Pakistan to tailor its nuclear weapons program and responses along geographic and logistical physiognomies.

Before calling it a day, the last US Vice President Joe Biden also singled out Pakistan for making “counterproductive” moves that only heightened the risk that nuclear weapons could be used in a regional conflict. Why was it so important to make this point? India’s unrestrained posture and doctrinal developments have always compelled Pakistan to take measures to maintain peace, stability and deterrence in the region.

Perhaps there should be a balanced approach in calculating numbers for both Asian rivals and it must have acknowledged that Pakistan has always exercised extreme restraint in responding to Indian behaviour.

India’s noxious Pokhran legacy was ignored and Pakistan had to face the consequences and devise response options after cost and benefit analysis. Similarly, Indian military and nuclear weapons modernisation, for example, MIRVing and canisterising of missiles, if goes unnoticed by the states, will create a more drastic impact not only in the region in particular, but also globally. Hence, rather than blaming Pakistan which is trying to ensure peace and security in the region, Trump administration must try to constrain India for revising the global and regional order and become at threat to American security.

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