It is our duty to live as long as we can. “George Bernard Shaw, Arms and the men

Bernard Brodie writes in his seminal work,”The absolute weapon: atomic power and world order” that, “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.” Martin Van Creveld also joins the list of sane voices that identified the true revolution in military affairs. When Clausewitz’s trinity of war i.e government, people and army was deconstructed by him, he said that “nuclear strategy is no strategy” and that the only purpose of nuclear weapons henceforth; would be to deter enemy from waging war either through conventional or nuclear means. The above wisdom however is lost obviously on the sub continental leadership especially in India. Despite possessing a most puissant nuclear deterrence both the countries persist in dancing a dangerous minuet of nuclear one-upmanship.

Herman Kahn who came up with his bizarre war fighting concept in the form of 44 rung nuclear escalation ladder started with disagreement as the lowest rung and the “insensate spasm” of war as the highest rung. By deductive logic therefore a disagreement would ultimately lead towards a catastrophic war in a nuclear age. Why does the political leadership of both countries not understand the sheer absurdity of the nuclear war fighting concepts, each one of which, in the inimitable words of Martin Van Creveld, “had choked on its own absurdities?” The latest Indian fetish with Ballistic Missile Defence Shield, is symptomatic of the nuclear madness, holding the decision makers’ mind in thrall of an unwinnable war and an unattainable glory. Russian President Putin is in New Delhi on a two day visit, the focus of which is the clinching of a $5 billion deal to procure Moscow’s most advanced air defence system, the S-400.Despite risk of punitive US sanctions against all those countries buying Russian defence equipment.

The US administration is required under a domestic law, Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, to impose sanctions on any country that has “significant transactions” with Iran, North Korea or Russia. The S-400 deal falls under ‘sanction able transactions’ category. The US President is empowered to issue waivers for specific countries but according to some interpreters of the CAATSA Section 231, the waiver option might not be available to countries seeking qualitative upgrades in technology. Especially the S-400 and missile defence system. However the S-400 deal might not attract punitive sanction against India in view of the $18 billion arms deal with USA. S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system manufactured by “Almaz-Antey” and has been in service since 2007. It can detect targets 600 kms away and is capable of hitting enemy missiles and aircraft 400 km away.

The S-400 radars can detect targets 600 km away which makes them quite a lethal piece of weaponry capable of altering the strategic balance of power in the sub-continent. It is an integrated air defense system, not just a missile that includes radars and launch systems for the missile. The missile system is capable of undermining the nuclear deterrence of Pakistan which is the ultimate guarantor of peace for a smaller protagonist in the sub-continental conflict equation. But if the missiles trigger a new arms race between the two countries it will not take longer than two years, which is the time for delivery of these missiles, for Pakistan to come up with an antidote of its own. India is playing her usual dissimulation games masking her arms build- up by raising China bogey. S-400 is highly effective against legacy 4th and 5th generation fighters like F18 hornet and F16 Fighting Falcon with cross section of 1 square meter but is not very effective against stealth fighters like F35 with a cross section of .005 square meters. Pakistan might have to place more reliance upon its cruise missiles for its nuclear deterrence.
“nuclear strategy is no strategy” and the only purpose of nuclear weapons henceforth; would be to deter the enemy from waging war either through conventional or nuclear means. The above wisdom however is lost obviously on the sub continental leadership especially in India
The United States Air Force has been trying to employ EB-52 stand-off Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) to degrade the Russian SAM system’s fire control radar from a standoff range. Aside from stealth or low observable technology, ECM is the only alternative by which a target aircraft can effectively evade the S-400 within range. The four engined E-3 AWACS has four generators which produce about 240kW of electricity which can be effectively used for ECM besides use of radars like pulse Doppler, Over the Horizon, and Secondary Search for transmission and jamming efficacy. The fact however remains that a series of measures like ECM and cruise missile salvoes might do the trick but by the cost of overcoming the layered S-400 defence would be exorbitant. Where does above leave Pakistan? Confronted by an implacable foe Pakistan needs serious soul searching. The options might range from a matching response to simpler solutions.

While S-400 might be impregnable against air attacks it is not so strong against ground attacks. The ground attacks ranging from conventional combined arms attacks and asymmetric tactics by special operations forces might also be the answer. In the end the cruise missile based nuclear deterrence might come to the rescue for Pakistan that might not be able to match Indians through its own deployment of a similar missile shield. Asymmetric tactics, ECM means, and cruise missile attacks might be few options to restore the nuclear power balance vis a vis a superior foe for Pakistan, but the fact remains that none of these means is a sure fire antidote to a stealth nuclear attack. Hence the costly arms race would continue exacting human security toll as both the countries fritter away resources on war toys whose only purpose is to deter.

India owes it to its poor and hungry,which pulled the country to the bottom rung of 100 out of 119 countries in the world in Global Hunger Index, to temper its arms paranoia with a healthy dose of human development. With over 15 percent of the maternal deaths world- wide India needs a serious soul searching whether she needs fear a phantom foe’s nukes or an existential scourge’s deathly apparition very much visible on the horizon. George Bernard Shaw’s classic, “Arms and the men” can teach both countries the need for survival than causing harm.

The writer is a PhD scholar at National University Of Sciences & Technology, Islamabad