India is acquiring the world's most potent S-400 Air Defence Missile System

Of late India has upped its anti-Pakistan ante by inducting weaponry into its arsenal that tends to disturb the strategic balance that obtains between the two countries, undermining the strategic stability in the region. Last month, it signed a deal with Russia which would help India develop a multi-layer Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. Under the deal, Russia would supply S-400 missile system, a move that would help supplement India's ongoing much-larger cooperation under way with Israel. About a week ago, India announced successful completion of month-long "deterrence patrol" by its nuclear submarine Arihant, which lends India the capability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air and sea in the event of any "misadventure" by enemies. In the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is a "fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail" - while it is he whose government has been consistently raising the anti-Pakistan war ante to actualise India's long-nurtured dream of turning the Indian Ocean into 'Indian Lake'.

Pakistan has the desired wherewithal to appropriately respond to such provocation, as has been the case since 1998 when it conducted six nuclear explosions in response to India's five and with much greater yield. Why and how Pakistan responds to India's bellicosity, it is more in line with its considered policy to acquire minimum adequate nuclear deterrence and thus achieve regional peace, as it has obtained since those tit-for-tat nuclear explosions. When India threatened Pakistan with "Limited War" Pakistan responded by announcing its "Full Spectrum Deterrence" doctrine, which implies possession of a "full array of strategic, tactical and operational weapons having appropriate weapons yield, coverage and numbers, and liberty to choose targets". As for India's BMD umbrella, in the words of Adviser to the National Command Authority Lieutenant-General Khalid Kidwai (retd), Pakistan has the cost-effective solutions to take care of it in the shape of MIRV capability and four categories of cruise missiles. Pakistan's answer to India's BMD is "available today". As to what is Pakistan's strategic answer to India's Arihant, in the words of Admiral Z. M. Abbasi, "Pakistan has the desired capability in the shape of sea-based nukes that provide an assured 2nd strike capability". Not having this capability "might induce India to start a conventional war". In April this year, Pakistan conducted the second flight test of its Babur-3 nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM), which can strike targets both at land and sea with high accuracy.

Of course, Pakistan's matching capabilities both at sea and land have ensured peace in the region. That the matching nuclear capabilities of both Pakistan and India have so far ensured peace between them is certainly a positive development. But for how long? There is the inbuilt risk of nuclear genie bursting out of the bottle; there is no fail-safe mechanism to it. That is why Pakistan is duly disturbed over this month-long patrol of India's nuclear-equipped submarine. It is the "first actual deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in South Asia", therefore a matter of concern not only for the Indian Ocean littoral states but also for the international community - a concern heightened all the more given Indian prime minister's dream to revive India's mythical hold on the entire body of the Indian Ocean from the Strait of Malacca to Island of Socotra. His bellicose language constitutes threats to the strategic stability in South Asia and therefore raises "questions about responsible nuclear stewardship in India".

Obviously, Pakistan has called for an assessment of the non-proliferation benefits resulting from the Indian membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). When India carried out its first atomic tests in 1973 at Pokhran, the code word used by the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was 'Smiling Buddha'. The world at large needs to see through India's image as land of peace. On the other hand, Pakistan is committed to the objective of strategic stability in South Asia, and therefore has called for "measures for nuclear and missile restraint". The international community can help that happen by weighing in with New Delhi to shun the path of aggressive nuclear posturing, as it has done in the wake of Anihant's so-called deterrence patrol.