Nuclear deterrance in era of disruption

As Pakistan celebrates Yaum e Takbeer and pays homage to her scientists, the leadership and people of Pakistan, it may be appropriate to discuss Nuclear deterrence and how it affects the balance of power in South Asia in the backdrop of the current era of disruption.

Before we venture into the concept of deterrence in the era of disruption, there is a need to discuss to why the 21st century is increasingly witnessing flux and disruption in societies’ nations and international relations.

Taking a cue from Raisina Dialogue held in India in Jan 2018 which had the main theme on managing disruptions, the main drivers of the era of disruption in present times are appended below:

Change is both constant and unrelenting, its pace has quickened with the spread of technology.

International relations today are characterized by sharp departure from longstanding assumptions and practices. Some of that certainly reflects structural trends, that have led to the rebalancing of the global economy, and consequently, of international politics. This is particularly true with respect to Asia. In response to a combination of security, economic, and social developments, globalization itself is in retreat politically. The manner in which the world identifies and prioritizes challenges is no longer the same. In many ways, neither is the conduct of international relations, especially in its shift away from multilateralism and alliances.

Notable in this transition has been the impact of disruptive phenomena on it. This includes disruptions within societies, as well as between them.

Nations and regions may well function in their individual contexts, but some broad trends are nevertheless discernible. Within societies, both opportunities and challenges have had disruptive implications.

Governance is becoming challenging due to technology and space of participation available to a common person through social and digital media. Populism and nationalism are raising their head and affecting strategic decision-making.

After defining the broad contours of ‘Era of Disruption’ we can now discuss how Nuclear deterrence plays in international relations, especially in a volatile region like South Asia. It is always better to relate a practical example so that it becomes easier to understand a complicated concept. Recalling our article published in the Nation on 20 March 2019, few days after PAF’s Swift Retort, we will try to expand and explain linkages between Nuclear Deterrence and the era of disruption.

While Indian and Pakistani militaries stared at each other after 48 hours of a hot air show over the lofty mountains of disputed Kashmir, the world watched with breathlessness as two nuclear-armed neighbors slugged it out. The Cold War military strategy espoused by General Andre Beaufre and Lawrence Freedman as well as many who followed had established that nuclear weapons were primarily for deterrence and there could be no nuclear strategy which may be applied in wartime; however they, probably, had not catered for a populist Hitler like Narendra Modi operating in Post Truth era. Despite being predictable, the Indo-Pak Military standoff raised new questions and highlighted the efficacy of conventional military deterrence to forestall a nuclear Armageddon.

First is the escalation ladder, despite previous thinking on Indian side that they could manage the escalation ladder on a more predictable and gradual slope, events after 26 Feb 2019 clearly indicated that the slope was neither predictable nor gradual, it was almost vertical. Events on the emerging steep slope climbed so fast that in first 48 hours, India resorted to strategic posturing, and as stated by Pakistani leadership, India conveyed the intent of missile strikes.Pakistan responded in the same coin and jumped the escalation ladder by many rungs to show the intent of retaliating with more missiles. Doval-Modi circus pushed by some foreign powers and few jingoistic generals in Indian military did not realize that they had brought South Asia on the brink of a nuclear Armageddon within 48 hours of the first skirmish.

Imagine nuclear-powered and armed submarines lurking and hugging the coastline of South Asia and frenzy gripping the crews staying underwater for weeks, with orders passed in advance and waiting for a nod from their higher commands, or, missile crews readying their primed warheads to hit opposite sides within 40 seconds. In our view, this was worse than Cuban missile crises, especially when reaction time between India and Pakistan had reduced to less than 30 seconds.How could Indian head honchos in South Block and Raksha Mantralaya contemplate such a drastic move? While RSS leaders and insane Indian generals were boasting about calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and trying to justify their reckless strategy, they had to sit down and think about how Pakistan’s conventional response, re-established nuclear deterrence within 24 hours.

Pakistan also displayed her ability to fulfill the intent of political leadership, do remember Imran Khan’s words, “Pakistan will not think once, Pakistan will retaliate”. This displayed capability through PAF Counter-Strike also established the new normal in South Asia, irrespective of the bravado and threat of use of force, Pakistan will not only retaliate to Indian aggression but also dominate the escalation ladder through full spectrum of deterrence.

Second question relates to Jingoistic cabal gathered under the RSS ideology; what do you do with a narcissist Modi or likes of Major Gen GD Bakshi, when you have intentionally built a mob of millions nurtured through RSS warmongering. Current political leadership in India has put the absurd republic on a hate train with a one-way ticket to a nuclear crevasse. 

Third question relates to some countries providing ill advice to warmongers in the Indian establishment, why did they push Modi and Indian Military establishment into a military confrontation with Pakistan? Whatever the larger design, one thing is certain that these countries had no worry on the possibility of things getting out of control. If the aim was to embarrass the Pakistani military and create an environment of Indian Hegemony in the region, they badly failed and actually embarrassed Indian Military.

Another important factor that emerged out of this crisis was the public pressure on leadership though call for immediate action. It appeared as if the entire region became a theater of absurdity where emotionally charges the public  through social media gossip and anger started affecting decision-making by politico-military leadership.

We had highlighted in our article “Republic of Absurdity” published on 3rd March 2019 in the Nation that public sloganeering and barbershop gossip became a strong driver for a narcissist Modi to use such irresponsible rhetoric like,”Ghuss ke maren gay”. Did the international community realize that Modi was behaving like a vagabond in this crisis of gigantic proportions and this ignoramus and ninny heading the MAD(Modi-Amit- Doval) circus had become a serious threat to regional and international peace? Can this cabal of warmongering besots be entrusted with reins of the so called “biggest democracy in the world”, armed with nukes?

Saner voices within India and the international community must realize that when you condone misplaced swashbuckling and lunacy of a modern-day Hitler and encourage RSS goons due to corporate interests, and, when you look the other way on human rights abuse of 12 million innocent Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir, this MAD Circus will think it has gained legitimacy for anything.

Last year South Asia had become a spectacular hippodrome, where 1.75 billion people became frenzied spectators for their own extinction. Surveys done by Indian media asked some absurd questions after 26 Feb ‘Tree Strike’ by Indian Air Force, one option was “Dill mange More” and 70% Bhakts responded in favor of it. These hate train drivers like General GD Bakshi and Arnab Goswami pampered by RSS political goons had brought South Asia closer to a nuclear winter.

For the Pakistani public, and especially those who keep on questioning the defence forces for getting so called ‘disproportionate share of budget’, this crisis had a basic lesson. Conventional deterrence and preparation for war are essential as this is the only recipe to ward off the threat of a nuclear war in South Asia. If the Indian military and Modi are crying like babies for more funds and Rafale aircrafts, despite the fact that current defence allocation stands at almost 62 billion dollars, why Pakistani military is criticized for a fair share of defence budget which is seven times lesser than Indian allocation. The current standoff between India and Nepal and India and China is a reminder that Nuclear deterrence in an era of disruption can put the leadership on a slippery slope, especially when populism drives the policy. Pakistan must draw its conclusions and synchronize the aspect of nuclear deterrence in the policy review.

The authors are freelance journalists and regular contributors to this newspaper.

Conventional deterrence and preparation for war is essential as this is the only recipe to ward off the threat of a nuclear war in South Asia.

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