Pak Claims on N-Weapons Indicates a Govt of the Least Qualified 

Unlike in Pakistan, the politico-military establishment in India is better placed to command its nuclear arsenal.

4 min read
US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during their meeting at  Blair House in Washington, Wednesday, October 21, 2015.(Photo: PTI)

It is well known that the Indian nuclear weapons programme was steered by a close-knit group of scientists referred to as “the strategic enclave” which involved specialists from the armed forces to operationalise the weapon while control was exercised by the former.

The barren civil-military relations was the root cause of keeping the service headquarters out of the loop. In contrast, due to dominance of the military in Pakistan’s polity, the opposite model continues to prevail. A recent statement emanating from authoritative Pakistani sources indicate that tactical nuclear weapons have been cleared for use to neutralise any rapid advances made by the Indian military.

Given that the statement has been timed with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the US, quite obviously it is meant to leverage Pakistan’s bid for nuclear parity with India. However, while deployment of tactical nuclear weapons may appear to be an effective counter to Indian moves, the Cold War experience may hold some sobering lessons for the kakistrocratic government in Pakistan.

Pak Claims on N-Weapons Indicates  a Govt of the Least Qualified 

Cold War Experience

During the Cold War, NATO forces carried out extensive studies on the use of tactical nuclear weapons to prevent numerically superior land forces of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact countries from invading Western Europe. Gaming, simulation and field studies indicated that the use of tactical nuclear weapons against a conventional force increased the possibility of a strategic nuclear war rather than decrease it.

Simply put, the use of tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional scenario escalates the engagement to a full-fledged nuclear war. Weapons such as nuclear tipped missiles, artillery shells, neutron bomb or the reduced radio activity (RRR) bomb of the tactical warfare component, ended up escalating the threshold.

Second, unlike the use of centralised command and control facilities for strategic nuclear weapons, decentralisation is a necessity for tactical use of such weapons. It imposes an enormous burden on the officers in the field while also imposing astronomical costs on equipping the entire force with NBCD gear.

This file picture shows  General Raheel Sharif to the left of then Pakistan army chief General  Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Left).  (Photo: Reuters)
This file picture shows General Raheel Sharif to the left of then Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Left). (Photo: Reuters)

Politico-Military Interface

Energising and engineering the whole architecture of the politico-military interface for nuclear asset management would become mandatory. Hence, if the use of tactical nuclear weapons has the potential to invite the wrath of a strategic response by India, the following factors bear scrutiny;

· Use of nuclear weapons are the last resort of a desperate leadership completely unaware of the dire consequences of ‘first use’ of such weapons. Indeed there will be no victors in such a war which can at best result in a pyrrhic victory.

· The non-first use of the weapon enunciated by India is predicated on a massive retaliation should a nuclear attack be carried out on India. Given the relative size of the two countries, India would survive a possible attack due to its sheer geographic spread and the soon-to-be-acquired triad capability. Pakistan could well be wiped out.


The Nuke Threat

  • Statement emanating on nuclear weapon timed with Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the US
  • Use of nuclear weapons, the last resort of a desperate leadership oblivious of the dire consequences
  • Political leadership in both countries needs to be exposed to weapons realities on a regular basis
  • Institutional checks and balances as also regular drills needed for the political leadership
  • There cannot be loose structures of decision making in India; armed forces must be integrated in it

Drills for Policy Makers

There is little doubt that all authorities connected with nuclear policy formulations in both countries need to be exposed to nuances and consequences of a nuclear confrontation. The political leadership needs to be exposed to weapons realities on a regular basis.

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

The US president reportedly goes through drills to aid in decision making of such complex nature. No longer can we remain complacent on the ability of the political leadership in the sub-continent to decide the options without ensuring that they have the skills to handle such a situation.


Institutionalised Mechanisms

In the South Asian context, the biggest challenge may well lie in the ability to prepare in peacetime so that there is less bleeding in war. Institutional checks and balances as also regular drills and gaming is a necessary part of the system as a whole. This cannot be left only to the military to prepare for such eventualities. The current approach, ipso facto, assumes that collective wisdom of the politico-military interface would succeed even without intense preparation and drills in peace time.

We cannot afford to have loose structures of decision making. Integrating the armed forces is necessary to have a single operational authority reporting to the prime minister through the defence minister. Similarly, integrating the armed forces with the ministry of defence is bound to enhance the interaction with the political leadership and, consequently, contribute to mutual trust and enhancement of operational effectiveness of our assets.

The above also underlines the need for India and Pakistan to expedite the process of bringing conventional and nuclear CBMs to the table without further delay.

(The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command.)

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