by Dr Ahmed Saeed Minhas

Its military modernisation could motivate India to transform its ‘No First Use’ doctrine into ‘First Use’ with respect to employing its nuclear and other strategic valued capabilities. There are indicators to support the claim. The Indian side which was known for the Nehruvian doctrine of peace and tranquillity is currently on course of Modi doctrine of regional domination and barbarism by developing offensive military capabilities and will to use them.

The test of Anti-Satellite (ASAT) capability, procurement of S-400 Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system, close to finalisation deal of Rafale state-of-the art aircraft and Modi’s claim of developing ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in one of his recent election campaign speech, indicate the Indian strategic offensive designs.

Peace in South Asian strategic calculus is based on nuclear deterrence. Mutual assured destruction restricted the two rivals, India and Pakistan, to refrain from any military misadventure due to the fear of mutual annihilation. Indian armed forces are world’s 4th-strongest vis-à-vis Pakistani armed forces which are ranked 13th strongest military in the world. The Indian side is looking for an opportunity to eliminate Pakistan’s deterrence capability. With a hardline Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in power, all of India’s efforts are aimed to remove Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence.

India, with the help of its ally the US and other friendly states, has chosen the path of seeking deterrence in its favour so as to corner Pakistan’s deterrence value by adopting coercive valued deterrence approach i.e. ‘Deterrence by Denial followed by Deterrence by Punishment’. Deterrence by denial is likely to be aimed at harming Pakistan’s space vision of 2047, and ‘Deterrence by Punishment’ approach is to make potential adversary believe that any offensive action could result in unimaginable destruction. ‘Mother of all bombs’ is a case in point. India claimed its ASAT capability is defensive in nature, but in actuality it is coercive in nature for obvious reasons.

The term ‘mother of all bombs’ was famously used during the US operations against Afghan Taliban fighters’ hideouts in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Modi’s use of the term in the context of Pakistan indicates two things. One, either manufacturing or building a huge stockpile of conventional bombs, or two, building more and more destructive kinds of nuclear bombs. Whatever it is, any such capability will likely undermine Pakistan-India balance of deterrence.

However, there is a likelihood of the balance of terror losing its validity. A few such indicators are listed here. First, attainment of ASAT capability makes India capable of compromising Pakistan’s strategic intelligence, guidance and communication satellites much needed to accurately engage Indian counter-force or counter-value targets. Two, India’s recently-acquired BMD systems including S-400, albeit too marginal to be worrisome to Pakistan due to short distances, could devalue Pakistan’s missile-based deterrence. Three, the 2018 year book released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Sweden-based independent resource on global security, mentioned India as being the global leader for importing arms and ammunition. India had 12 % of global share of arms import vis-à-vis Pakistan which had a share of only 2.8%. Such an asymmetry in even conventional weapons ratio vis-à-vis Pakistan besides edge in deterrence valued strategic capabilities, provides India with a favourable strategic environment to coerce Pakistan from both deterrence by denial and deterrence by punishment approaches.

Indian military calculation is based on the assumption that if they undermine Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence it could give them a free hand to achieve their long-cherished strategic and political ends. Great power status leading to a superpower status by acquiring a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, regional hegemony, economic dominance and above all muting Pakistan’s political and diplomatic support for Kashmiri freedom fighters, are a few of the Indian ambitions.

The Indian military modernisation, both qualitatively and quantitatively, is an alarming development for regional peace in particular and for global peace in general. Enhanced military capabilities through unprecedented US support have given a false sense of power to the Indian political and military hierarchy. This complacent sense of superior military might is likely to transform the Indian doctrine of ‘No First Use’ into ‘First Use’ by employing ‘Preemptive’ strikes with relatively less fear of retaliation due to ASAT, BMD and superior conventional weapons. Modi has publicly admitted that India doesn’t buy Pakistani deterrence and nukes are not to be used as fireworks in Diwali but they are meant to be used for their very purpose. Besides, India has long been sponsoring terrorism inside Pakistan. The recent wave of terrorist incidents in K-P and Baluchistan illustrates Ajit Doval’s Low Intensity Conflict strategy being put into action. The international community’s silence on the issue is inexplicable.

The Indian approach of having peace through a position of strength is not going to bring dividends in South Asia as in this region and in its immediate neighbourhood there are three nuclear-armed states. The BJP has successfully whipped up hatred against Pakistan especially during the current election campaign. Hatred against Pakistan at the level of the masses is alarming as it might bring to and end peace initiatives like Track-II diplomacy. Another alarming development is the offer of ‘nuclear radiations proof’ shelters by an Indian housing project to its customers besides other residential amenities. This demonstrates the Indian public’s docile acceptance of the use of nuclear weapons in any future Indo-Pak war.

Pakistan has emphasised that it faces existential threat from India and thus cannot remain oblivious to the Indian military modernisation. The apparent doctrinal shifts across its eastern borders are alarming. Pakistan reserves the right to take appropriate measures to maintain the balance of power in the region.