John Mearsheimer is a R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago and a household name in International relations and great power politics and strategy. He regularly delivers lectures and talks in academia and think tanks across the globe and a much sought after scholar of our times. Last year in March, he delivered a talk at the Center for Security Studies Georgetown University on the subject of Theory & Practice of Security as a key note speaker.
Although his major talk focused on Great Powers, he did relate the possibility of use of Nuclear Weapons and the theory of deterrence for medium sized powers as well. His argument rested on the fact that great Power contest is back after passing of the ‘Unipolar Moment’ in present times and this will give fillip for great powers to work for ‘Nuclear Advantage’.
As Pakistan observes Surprise day on 27th Feb to mark the Abhinandan Phenomenon that the world witnessed on 27th Feb 2019 and how India was deterred to go further by PAF ‘Swift Retort’, it may be interesting to apply John Mearsheimer’s theory of Nuclear Advantage.
Before that we may also deliberate on the new theory in Nuclear Strategy called the Nuclear Revolution and Existential Deterrance, simply put, since the Nuclear Weapons could obliterate whole countries and nations, it would be futile to talk of conventional war between two nuclear armed states.
As per Technical Insider ‘It’s been decades since the United States dropped the first atomic bomb. Since then, the exponential increase of the destructive power of nuclear weapons is almost unimaginable’.
In our piece ‘Mad Bipin wants MAD’, published in the Nation on 17 Jan 2018, we had argued that ‘since assuming the command of Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat has been displaying intellectual schizophrenia by regularly threatening Pakistan on one pretext or the other. He tried to act like a mouth piece of RSS, with no regards to delicate balance of power in South Asia; he stated, “We will call the nuclear bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff”.
Norman Thomas once quoted J F Kennedy on the power of destruction of nuclear war, “If we had a nuclear war, we’d kill 300 million people in the first hour”. Bipin must know that South Asia is the most dense piece of real estate on God’s earth and one hour of nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could wipe out 500 million people, and as stated by Dexter Gordon, ‘”in nuclear war all men are cremated equal”, Bipin needs some lessons on nuclear war gaming.
Nuclear thresholds are not worked out based on some percentage of loss of territory or military force, especially when faced with a specter of a two front war against heavy odds. The traditional escalation ladder in the mind of Bipin Rawat cannot work in present environment, as Pakistan faces the challenge of ‘Use or Lose’. Pakistan cannot allow itself to be suffocated by slow poisoning on behest of Indian schemers and hyper military politico military leaders like Narendra Modi and Bipin Rawat, who in their hearts have the ultimate desire of dismembering Pakistan and have openly expressed their feeling .
Bipin Rawat belongs to the military cabal of Indian officer who were raised with the frustration of looking at Pakistan as a hard nut, which had become indispensable due to her nuclear capability on one hand, and have to justify the existence of 1.2 million strong Indian Army and a budget of 60 billion USDs on the other.
It may be interesting to quote from a study by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War published in the Telegraph in Dec 2013. “A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would set off a global famine that could kill two billion people and effectively end human civilization”. The study also concluded that black carbon aerosol particles kicked into the atmosphere by a South Asian nuclear war would affect agriculture as far as the United States and South America and adversely affect food production in China as well.
Just to remind Bipin Rawat, a nuclear explosion under the sea near Mumbai could create a tsunami as high as 100 meters drowning the city in one hour; so next time you talk of ‘Calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff’, do read the doctrine of MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction.
Coming back to Mearsheimer’s lecture delivered at Georgetown University.Although the lecture focused on Great Power contest and possibility of limited use of Nuclear Weapons or a motivation to draw Nuclear Advantage, Mearsheimer did agree that during Cold war,both belligerents, Warsaw pact and NATO could not conceive of a nuclear war due to dense environment of the Central Front( Germany and Europe).
Central front was like the Centre of Universe with both sides armed to teeth with conventional and nuclear weapons,even when trying to plan it on the map it was impossible to start a war.
Is Indo Pakistan contest similar to Central Front of Cold War? Taking help from our previous article, we think it id quite similar.
South Asia is the main battle ground between India and Pakistan with densely populated areas dotting every square mile of the real estate. Pakistan has developed a triad of weapons and delivery systems with ability to strike any hostile force within minutes. From Tactical systems like Nasr to IRBMs with capability to strike upto Anadaman Islands, Pakistan has a capability to really incinerate India, if any war is imposed upon its territory.
We think South Asia is even more challenging. While main contenders, US and USSR had some reaction time, in case of India vs Pakistan it’s almost reduced to matter of seconds. Even if conventional missiles or sorties of aircrafts are seen flying to Pakistan or India in a hostile environment, the other side will be left with no time to analyse whether these are conventional or nuclear tipped. So, an automated response will have to be built in the system of forces, meaning a conventional attack may draw a Nuclear response.
Most probably, this scenario played out after 27th Feb.
When we look back at 27th Feb 2019, the notion of Existential Deterrence did play a major role in de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately the IAF ‘Tree Strike’ on Balakot was not given due attention by international community and India thought that she had crossed the Rubicon by attacking mainland Pakistan with Air Force. International community kept quiet on the strike and it appeared that it had quietly condoned Indian belligerence; however PAF responded in broad day light on 27th morning and struck Indian Military targets, drawing an immediate response from IAF and by downing two aircrafts and Abhinandan, displayed to the world that Pakistan had the political will and military resolve to re-establish the nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
Indian politico-military response after PAF’s Swift Retort was just licking their wounds; Narendra Modi and even the IAF chief stated that had there been Rafael with IAF, things could have been different. This statement showed that IAF was probably unfit to fight even a short war with Pakistan and it’s so called numerical and technical superiority over PAF was a smoke screen.
Looking ahead, India has not forgotten about the humiliation suffered on 27th Feb 2019, she is now building more arsenal with induction of Rafael and S- 400 missiles and is trying to address the technical and surveillance capability of IAF. Pakistan will, have to continuously upgrade her forces as well as Nuclear Capability and rethink of military Strategy to fight a short war in nuclear overhang, at least till fear of God is not put in the minds of RSS cabal now ruling the Rajpath and Indian military.
Asymmetry in conventional weapon systems can be addressed through short and long range missiles, swarm tactics and use of drones (something displayed by Iran in a standoff with US) and conveying it to the international community that Pakistan will go all out in case of another absurd mischief by Indian leadership.