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Emergence of the South Asian Nuclear Weapons Order: Legal Ramifications, Complementarities, and Frameworks

The evolving nuclear-weapons order in South Asia is remarkably striking. The region's nuclear weapon states - India and Pakistan - have, since the start of the twenty-first century, been following the rival 'credible minimum deterrence' and 'full spectrum' pathways to secure strategic stability.

The diametrically opposite or rival posture, however, widens the spectre of a nuclear-flash and increases the plausibility of a holocaust. In fact, they call into question the true intention of the parties and cast a shadow of doubt over the pledge to use nuclear weapons as 'the instrument of last resort'.

This paper deciphers India's 'credible minimum deterrence'; disentangles Pakistan's 'full spectrum; and examines the resultant consequences. It argues that the rival deterrent postures are the result of mutually reinforcing elements present in the respective nuclear paradigms.

Introduction
India and Pakistan, the regional nuclear powers, are in a truss of mutually assured destruction. The chosen paths, however, are (apparently) distinct: 'credible minimum deterrence' [1]and 'full spectrum deterrence'. [2]Irrespective of the chosen paths, the ultimate fate will be analogous though - total destruction.

Whether a credible minimum deterrence or a full spectrum posture, it promises obliteration of 'the enemy'. Yet, India's deterrence posture is, strictly speaking, neither credible nor minimum as it cannot be credible and minimum, simultaneously. Correspondingly, Pakistan's full spectrum posture most certainly is not 'full' in any substantive comparison either.

The cumulative effect of such yet-to-fully-blossom and diametrically opposite postures on strategic stability is daunting. And, it ought to be understood in depth if one wants to find a prudent paradigm to enhance the prospects of stability. This paper deciphers India's 'credible minimum deterrence'; disentangles Pakistan's 'full spectrum; and examines the resultant consequences.

The central argument is - the rival deterrent postures have sprung from mutually reinforcing elements present within the respective nuclear paradigms. The paper has five sections - the first deciphers India's 'credible minimum deterrence; the second disentangles Pakistan's 'full spectrum'; and the third stipulates mutually reinforcing complementarities. The fourth section elucidates the resultant consequences, while the fifth concisely sketches India's policy choices.

India - The Credible Minimum Deterrence

Deterrence as a concept, according to Barry Buzan, aims to impede an unprovoked action by the antagonist before it occurs, and is comprised of both 'denial' and 'retaliation'. [3]The core message to an antagonist is that the cost of an unprovoked action is going to be greater than the perceived rewards. Such an unequivocal message demonstrates not only a protagonist's understanding of the antagonist's motives, decision-making process, places, procedures and modes of delivery system and political resolve, but also one's own ability to influence the antagonist's cost-benefit calculus.

The credible deterrent, simply worded, involves systematic calculation of one's own threat capacities as to assured punishment through nuclear means.[4] Here, the judicious point is an 'assured retaliation' or second-strike capability with or without a rider such as 'minimum deterrence'.

Even if minimalist riders are attached to underscore the defensive nature of deterrence, it means little in the operational sense of the term. Moreover, a minimalist orientation fused with credible deterrence is a conceptual device to keep a leeway for arsenal expansion, if necessary. It is in this context, that one tries to decipher India's so called 'credible minimum deterrence'.

As the term indicates, it has two key components-credibility and minimalism[5] Credibility, conceptually speaking, connotes an exceptional combination of operational prudence, systemic sturdiness and political resolve to undertake assured retaliation, if provoked. The other related imperative is survivability - the capability to circumvent the first strike and the will to retaliate in a large way. The minimalism, on the other hand, is about size, posture, cost and strictly monitored delivery of arsenal. Such a minimalist rider, nonetheless, does not mean much from an operational standpoint.

The liaising concept between credibility and minimalism is the 'no first use' of nuclear weapons (NFU). [6]The NFU is premised as an acceptance, albeit hesitantly, of the fact that it will absorb the first nuclear strike on its soil assuming it as the necessary evil or price to be paid for a defensive posture. On taking a nuclear hit, the NFU constraint is swiftly suspended and a massive realisation ensues. Despite recent debates surrounding resultant benefits and viability of unequivocal NFU, India continues to adhere (as of now) to the NFU, if not in practice but rhetoric. [7]

One, however, needs to put India's repetitive insistence on credible minimum deterrence in perspective. First, India's adherence to credible minimum deterrence is inherently rhetorical. Second, the repetitive insistence is theoretically realistic and methodically rational.

Third, India's deterrence targets China, a far bigger and more powerful adversary. By highlighting a minimalist orientation of deterrence, India is probably trying to pacify China's strategic anxieties. Fourth, India hopes to insulate the border dispute with China from a nuclear weapons standpoint as it could hardly expect a decisive win against China.

Finally, India may also be trying to forestall prospects of China's direct involvement in India-Pakistan confrontation in the future. In other words, India's credible minimum deterrence is truthfully an outcome of fact-induced analysis, not merely a self-serving moralistic proposition. While Pakistan is definitely a factor in India's nuclear calculus; however, India's proven conventional superiority is probably being perceived by policy makers as sufficient to tackle any Pakistani nuclear misadventure.

Accordingly, India has patiently been developing, updating and/or enhancing delivery vehicles, surveillance systems, cyberspace security and command and control architecture of its nuclear weapons programme[8]The nuclear weapons programme has four key components - arsenals, missiles, aircrafts and submarines. India, for example, possesses around 130-140 nuclear warheads and about 150-200 warhead-equivalents of fissile material.

The preferred delivery vehicles include short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles - Brahmas 1 (300km) land-attack cruise missiles; Prithvi-1 & 2 (150 and 250km) short-range ballistic missiles; and Agni-1,2,3 (700, 2000, and 3200km) medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles. Other delivery vehicles are aircrafts - Mirage 2000H, Jaguar IS/IB and MiG-27.

India also has a ballistic submarine project comprising K-15 Sagarika (SLBM) with a range of 750km and a longer-range 3500km K-4 SLBM. Besides, India has the capability to carry out manned/unmanned reconnaissance using IAI Searcher Mk II (300km) unmanned aerial vehicles, IAI Heron (1000km) remotely piloted vehicles, and a range of satellites such as Cartosat-2 Series - national imagery satellites; Digital Globe Worldview-4 - commercial imagery satellites; RISAT-1/RISAT-2- - national radar satellites; and TerraSAR-X -commercial radar satellites.

Pakistan - The Full Spectrum Posture

The full spectrum deterrence posture [9] theoretically speaking, is an amalgamation of three elements. The first is perceptual. It means, the full spectrum distributes nuclear arsenals, platforms, delivery vehicles, surveillance and command and control spatially - on land, air and marine, and this complicates the task of detecting, tracking, disarming and destroying them. Moreover, this raises the possibility of misinformation, miscalculation and systemic malfunction across the spectrum.

The second element is quantitative-qualitative. Quantitatively, the full spectrum splinters the arsenal by increasing numbers and qualitatively makes them small and sturdy. This enhances, in real time, plausibility of accident, theft and unauthorised use. The third element is the low nuclear threshold.

The full spectrum deterrence posture lowers the nuclear threshold by deploying low-yield nuclear devices close to the battle zones. In other words, nuclear arsenals, as the taboo goes, are not the means of war but of deterrence. The full spectrum posture could, however, undermine this much desired restriction by spreading nuclear arsenals all over the battlefield.

Pakistan, as stipulated by official statements has shifted from 'strategic' to 'full spectrum posture' so as to extricate its conventional military equation with India by increasing dependence on nuclear arsenals.[10] The full spectrum is also being justified as a befitting reply to India's limited war strategy against Pakistan, the Cold Start Doctrine. [11]The CSD is believed to be designed to penetrate Pakistan without crossing its nuclear threshold.

The oft cited scenario when Pakistan might resort to use of nuclear arsenal is when India invades a sizable chunk of Pakistani territory, the 'space threshold'; India knocks out a large Pakistani land or air force, the 'military threshold'; India tries to weakenPakistan's economy, the 'economic threshold'; or India subverts Pakistan's domestic stability, the domestic destabilization threshold. In short, the full spectrum is a comprehensive, castigatory and focused paradigm aimed at nullifying India's conventional superiority.

The 'full spectrum deterrence', can also be viewed as strategic, operational and tactical.[12] At the strategic level, Pakistan possesses multiple medium and intermediate range missiles: Ghauri (1300km), Shaheen-II (2000km), and Shaheen-III (2750km) ballistic missiles. This ability, reportedly, enables Pakistan to strike any target in India. At the operational level, short-range missiles (Nasr) can also contribute. The Nasr is a surface-to-surface multi tube ballistic missile with a range of 60 km. It is said to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads with a shoot and scoot feature.

In addition to Nasr, the operational short-range systems include the subsonic Babur Land Attack Cruise Missile (700km), Raad Air Launched Cruise Missile (350km), Abdali (180km) and Ghaznavi (280km). At the tactical level, the most potent devices are 'Tactical Nuclear Weapons' (TNWs). The TNWs, the battlefield nuclear weapons, are principally crafted to obliterate large military formations of the enemy.

One, however, needs to view Pakistan's shift from 'strategic' to 'full spectrum' from a counterbalance standpoint. This rectifying standpoint, in the nuclear weapons context, refers to an ability of the protagonist to raise, organise and incessantly maintain appropriate levels of force or a combination of forces. The main objective of counterbalance is to be able to match, in the broad sense of the term, the balance of power of the antagonist. Such a counterbalance has to be of such character and design that it will be enough to manage, contain or dismantle the fighting ability of the antagonist.

Pakistan's full spectrum is believed to be of the same character. As with any other counterbalance strategy, Pakistan's goal to manage India's conventional superiority using an increased nuclear defence posture is as insubstantial as any similar attempt elsewhere in the world. Pakistan, nevertheless, continues to rely on nuclear deterrence to stand up to India with all related advantages and disadvantages.

Mutually Reinforcing Elements - The Complementarities

India's credible minimum deterrence and Pakistan's full spectrum have a number of mutually reinforcing elements. The first is India's conventional superiority vis-�-vis Pakistan [13]India's ability to overpower Pakistan on account of conventional superiority is pervasive, besides being politically advantageous. Similarly, the great desire to somehow overcome Indian superiority is also equally pervasive in Pakistan.

Crucially, Pakistan's parity desire, and India's superiority complement one another. For example, anti-Pakistan or anti-Indian rhetoric, across the dividing line, is a potent tool to stroke nationalist sentiment in order to gain electoral and/or political mileage.

This is probably one of the main reasons why they discredit one another in every possible way and in every plausible field. The deterrent postures are symptoms of this self-serving rhetoric. Moreover, whether defensive or offensive, the deterrent postures cannot exist in a vacuum. Rather, they demand political, cultural and nationalist complementarities that perpetuate them, and both India and Pakistan seem to have plenty of it.

The second reinforcing element is India's desire to teach Pakistan a lesson [14]and Pakistan's ambition) [15]to daunt Indian designs to mutilate Pakistan, as it did in 1972. Indian leaders, cutting across ideological divides, strive to punish Pakistan for its support to militancy in Kashmir which often continues to cause deaths and destruction. Indian leaders, therefore, vow to teach Pakistan a lesson.

Likewise, Pakistanis elite seem equally determined to defeat India's designs to mutilate Pakistan, and it views support for militancy in Indian Kashmir as an indispensable pressure tactic. In a nutshell, the pervasive Indian desire to teach Pakistan a lesson and Pakistan's ambition to deter India's anti-Pakistan activities is prompting both sides to build a nuclear muscle.

The third reinforcing element is Pakistan's policy of challenging India's regional hegemony[16] and the analogous Indian policy of ruining Pakistan economically. India, for reasons not difficult to fathom, desires to rise and rule the subcontinent. The Indian elite, cutting across most party lines, assert that India was, for millennia, a great power and that the time has come to reclaim that status. According to this account, India had lost its power status due to the British invasion.

Nevertheless, India is now rich and powerful enough to bear the cost of reclaiming the past glory. The reclaiming endeavour demands acquiring, augmenting and exhibiting all dimensions of power and nuclear weaponry is one of the momentous ingredients of power. Conversely, Pakistan challenges India's power-position in the subcontinent.

However, Pakistan lacks the means of denial. It does, nevertheless seek support from competitive powers. China is plausibly the most relevant competitor who unconditionally supports Pakistan. India's reply is to run down Pakistan economically. The desired methods include trapping Pakistan into a conventional and non-conventional arms race; depriving Pakistan of development opportunities and imposing trade barriers on Pakistani imports. Indian strategists probably believe that a poorer Pakistan will eventually mend its ways.

The fourth reinforcing element is India's endeavour to raise the prospect of limited war against Pakistan [17]and Pakistan's embrace of "tactical nuclear weapons".[18] India intends to conjure up conventional forces which will seriously harm, in the shortest time possible, Pakistan's strategic assets. In response, Pakistan has lowered the nuclear threshold with the TNWs. The TNWs are smaller and sturdier devices and Pakistan believes that they will jeopardise India's limited war strategy. This policy in India is known as 'cold start doctrine' and in Pakistan as 'pouring cold water on cold start'.

Finally, the dispute of Kashmir,[19] in the view of both nations, could decisively be resolved using the ultimate instrument - a nuclear bomb. In fact, they had publicly stated that the real intent behind the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal was to change the Kashmir equation. The entire enterprise of acquiring, augmenting and organising nuclear capability, the proponents argue, was to alter in their favour the situation in Kashmir.

It calls Kashmir's accession to India a 'stab in the back' and demands its return saying Kashmir's accession violates the agreed principle of partition - all Muslim majority regions were to become parts of Pakistan. In other words, Kashmir is a major irritant in India-Pakistan relations and a real nuclear flash point.

The Consequences
The adverse consequences of the evolving nuclear-weapons order are many; however, this section explicates the major ones: The most visible consequence is regional segregation. The prospect of sustainable development, in this era of globalisation, global finance and melting glaciers, hinges on how the countries integrate themselves in a regional (supranational) single market, common currency and defence policy, besides being willing to shake hands with anybody who is able and willing to support welfare endeavours. The European countries, for example, have more or less integrated themselves into a regional forum and now boast of a single market, currency and defence policy.

South Asia, in fact, has its own regional arrangement, the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC, however, turns out to be a failure [20]because of India-Pakistan strategic rivalry. The diametrically opposite nuclear deterrents are a manifestation of this rivalry which has adversely affected regional affluence, welfare, and otherwise attainable prospects of regional integration.

Moreover, the rival deterrent postures and resulting strategic acrimony have rendered millions hostage to a potential nuclear holocaust; for, no country will be immune from a nuclear fallout, given their cultural, economic and geographical proximity. SAARC, an otherwise promising concept, has therefore not been able to take off [21]

Another adverse consequence is seen in the economies of the region. The whole of South Asia, for millennia, had been a closely knit economic entity, the strings of which were the traditional trade-routes that connected key cities, towns, ports and trade centres. The colonial masters, the British in particular, had extended the road and rail network to a significant extent, but carelessly disrupted it, during the process of partition.

Nevertheless, the subcontinent, more or less, remained economically connected as regional economies struggled to salvage dwindling profits by accessing each other's raw material and ready markets. Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh were and still are dependent on access to ready markets in India. Pakistan had also been part of this regional network until it became a separate political entity.

Moreover, the regional economies, India and Pakistan included, faced analogous economic problems, challenges, constraints and opportunities and were very keen to boost trade. The India-Pakistan rivalry has however been hampering regional economies and is being blamed in part for the region's poor performance. [22]In a nutshell, without meaningful involvement of the region's two largest economies - India and Pakistan - sub-continental integration remains an illusion.

The evolving nuclear weapons equation has also adversely affected the domestic politics of India and Pakistan. India's domestic politics is essentially a caste, creed, language and region-based process, despite some tall claims of India's political pundits. It is affected by social segregation, discrimination and violence between communities, especially before and during election periods.

The incidents of intimidation, disproportionate presence of security forces during elections in the name of security, particularly in border areas, are too common to ignore. Such a domestic environment lends itself to easy exploitation to milk maximum political benefits [23]by politics of polarisation.[24]The bickering between India-Pakistan becomes useful for predatory political forces.

The Pakistani domestic scene [25] is not very different either. The same tactics are deployed in Pakistan as well - social segregation, discrimination, violence against religious minorities. In fact, Pakistani political actors share remarkably similar socio-cultural and structural attributes with their Indian counterparts. The consequences are often comparable for polity, politics and society. The ever-deepening rivalry and the consequent postures, thereof continue to add fuel to fire in domestic domains.

Finally, the consequence of the rival deterrent postures is also visible on the military machines of both the countries. However, the Pakistan military appears to influence its security policy more than their Indian counterpart. The difference, nevertheless, is more in style than substance, for both the militaries have acquired a dynamic of their own and revel in an unprecedented level of freedom.

The Pakistan military, due to historical, political and strategic reasons, has been driven to oversee the process of national reconstruction, economic development and social cohesion by directly seizing power again and again, apart from preserving the country territorially.

These unique circumstances have been utilised smartly by the Pakistani military leaders to position themselves as the sole guardians of the other governing institutions - the legislature, executive and judiciary[26], as a result, have been left with little option but to collaborate with the armed forces.

In practice, this means accommodating the military's viewpoint with regard to national stability, security and foreign relations and any other issue that the army brass perceives as imperative for preserving Pakistan. Subsequently, the national security policy, including the nuclear weapons programme has become the prerogative of the military.

The Indian military, though formally under civilian control, has also grown by leaps and bounds. It is now a powerful establishment that no political dispensation could afford to displease. The Indian military's rise is an outcome of consistent political support since political independence in 1947.

Yet, it has smartly carved out a niche of its own, where any interference, including political, is fiercely resisted. India's Kashmir policy, for instance, is largely influenced by the defence forces, particularly the army. The around-the-clock surveillance of civilians use of pellet-guns against protesters, burning peoples' houses for flushing out militants, unlawful abductions, custodial deaths and encounter killings reveal the legal, political and operational latitude earned by the army. In short, the Pakistani and Indian military machines have been instrumental in forging the security, strategic and foreign policies of their respective countries, including the nuclear deterrent postures.

India's Policy Options
Though India has several options for achieving nuclear-weapons stability, the most logical one is to crystallise and adequately anchor the existing credible minimum deterrence, including the NFU. First, the crystallised deterrence expunges ambiguity by elucidating theoretical, organisational and operational elements.

Such deterrence meticulously postulates the textures, tasks, technologies and targets intended. The Indian deterrent, nevertheless, lacks adequate clarity. Indian pundits, for instance, have lately been arguing about the so called inherent flexibility present in its deterrence doctrine as to the NFU. This, however, erodes 'assured retaliation'. A demonstrative deterrence is all about assured reprisal and not about a straight or veiled threat of 'pre-emptive strike'.

Second, India must place in the public domain all theoretical as well as practical elements of its nuclear deterrence - arsenal diversity, institutional accountability, operational integrity, readiness of surveillance systems and relevant delivery modes. This does not however mean revealing everything.

The concrete elements in the public domain nevertheless fetch substantial dividends in the form of positive opinions, endorsement and support. For instance, if the public is aware of the probable numbers of weapons, spatial spread of delivery platforms, distribution of liability across institutions, and command and control architecture, the anticipated goal of nuclear weapons will be more widely appreciated.

Finally, the deterrence posture needs to be properly anchored. The purported deterrence delivers intended outcomes only when it enables wider acceptability, while enduring wider contemplation. This, nonetheless, requires a concerted campaign to raise public awareness, coupled with a commitment to avoid actual use of nuclear weapons. India's deterrence, at the moment at least, does not appear to enjoy wider appreciation due to inadequate, improper and deficient anchoring in the larger audience.

Conclusion
The evolving nuclear weapons situation in South Asia is unquestionably obstructive for nuclear stability, for the parties concerned seem more interested in undermining the credibility of their own deterrence by espousing a protracted notion of 'counter-force' (pre-emptive strike) as opposed to 'assured retaliation'.

The peaceniks, however, hope that the parties - India and Pakistan - will eventually recognise the dangers associated with nuclear weapons and appreciate each other's strategic concerns by issuing categorical official statements that nuclear weapons are not weapons of war but tools of deterrence.

End-Notes:
  1. Mishra, 1999.Draft Report of National Security Advisory Board on India Nuclear Doctrine. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from Ministry of External Affairs
  2. Pakistan Defence Forum. (2015, September 10). What is Pakistan's Full Specrum Deterrence Doctrine? Retrieved August 27, 2019, from Pakistan Defence: https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/what-is-pakistans-full-spectrum-deterrence-doctrine.396951/
  3. Buzan, 1987.Introduction to Strategic Studies: Military Technology and International Relations. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd
  4. Johnson, 1998 .Nuclear Deterrence. Encyclopaedia of Applied Ethics
  5. Lewis J, 2008 Minimum Deterrence. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Vol.64,No.3, pp-38-41
  6. Security Dialogue. 1986 No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons. Bulletin of Peace Proposals; Vol.17 Issue: 3-4 , 375-385.
  7. The Hindu, 2019 Unclear Doctrine On 'No First Use' Nuclear Policy. Hyderabad: The Hindu
  8. Clary & Narang, 2018/19 India's Counterforce Temptations: Strategic Dilemmas, Doctrine, and Capabilites. International Security;Vol, 43, No. 3 , 7-52
  9. Jaspal, 2018.Full Spectrum Deterrence: Capability and Credibility. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from Pakistan Politico: http://pakistanpolitico.com/full-spectrum-deterrence-capability-and-credibility/
  10. Khan, 2018.Understanding Pakistan's Full Spectrum Deterrence. Journal of Strategic Affairs; 109-153
  11. Khattak, 2011.Indian Military's Cold Start Doctrine: Capabilities, Limitations and Possible Response from Pakistan. South Asian Strategic Stability Institute
  12. CSIS Missile Defence Project. (2018, June 14). Missiles of Paksiatn. Retrieved August 28, 2019, from Missile Threat: https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/pakistan/
  13. Bott & Odell, 2019.How India and Pakistan Compare Militarily. New Delhi: Financial Times) and a consequent Pakistani desire to seek parity with it. (Haqqani, H. (2015) Pakistan's Elusive Quest Parity. Washington: Hudson Institute
  14. The Times of India. (2019). Teach Pakistan a Lesson once and for all. Mumbai: TOI.
  15. Shankarn, 2014.Destroying Pakistan to Deter India? Bulletin of the Automic Scientists; Vol.70,No.4, 74-84
  16. Cohen, 2009.Rising India has a Pakistan Problem. The Brookings Institute
  17. Ahmed A., 2012.India's Limited War Doctrine: The Structural Factor. New Delhi: Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis
  18. Ahmed, 2016.Pakistan's Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Their Impact on Stability. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  19. Wani, 2018; Issue No. 261.The Kashmir Conflict: Managing Perceptions and Building Bridges to Peace. Mumbai: Observer Research Foundation.
  20. Majid, 2017.Pakistan-India Rivalry Hampering the SAARC to Become a Worthwhile Forum. Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan; Vol.54, No.2 , 1-14.
  21. Ahmed Z. S., 2016.Pakistan's Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Their Impact on Stability. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.)
  22. The World Bank, 2019.One South Asia. Retrieved September 2, 2019, from Boosting Trade Relations in South Asia: https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/south-asia-regional-integration
  23. Ahmed & Shanker, 2019.The Pakistan Factor in the 2019 General Elections. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from The Diplomat: https://thediplomat.com/2019/01/the-pakistan-factor-in-the-2019-indian-general-elections/
  24. Kumar, 2013.Pakistan Factor in India's Domestic Politics. South Asian Survey; Vol.18, No.1, 63-80
  25. William, 1983.Pakistan Factor in India's Domestic Politics. South Asian Survey; Vol.18, No.1, 63-80
  26. Zaidi, 2005.State, Military and Social Transition: Improbable Future of Democracy in Pakistan. Economic and Political Weekly, 5173-5183
Written by: Nadiya Ayyan

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