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Quest For Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrence: Comparative Analysis Of India And Pakistan Nuclear Capabilities

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The main motive of the deterrence is to create a threat to deter others from offending. It is considered an art to convince others not to do certain acts. The cold war-related the concept of deterrence with nuclear weapons. After that, nuclear weapons and striking capabilities advancement perceive as a great threat in the opposite camp. In response, counter capabilities adopted by others. In the post-cold war era, the game of nuclear deterrence seen in the Asia region. It can be observed in the context of the emergence of new nuclear states, India, Pakistan and China. These three nuclear states have matured and advanced in terms of nuclear weapons, and it’s delivery system and control and command establishment.

Since the creation of India and Pakistan, both states are engaged in three major wars. These armed conflicts continue to pretense the risk of war. These conflicts include Kashmir, Siachen and water disputes. In 1998 both states conducted the nuclear test, after being nuclear states both raised many questions related to the security concerns in South Asia. Both states developed their nuclear thinking. In recent times, both states are focusing on their naval advancement. India started spending money on the sea base missile capabilities; Pakistan followed the same trail for counter capability. In the next decade, South Asia will emerge as a theatre of a sea-based nuclear weapon deterrence platform.

Indian and Pakistan both have a strategic and central position in the Indian Ocean Region, especially their interest in the sea base nuclear deterrence. Both states have national, economic and security concerns with the Indian Ocean Region. If the shore of both states is not protected, then there is no means of industrial development, political stability and no commercial growth.

Many questions arise about the logic of sea-based deterrence: The sea power concept is not the new one; the influence of sea power affects the wealth and strength of the states. Especially in the war, issues related to the control of the sea, skilful use of the sea can’t be neglected or ignored by any state. Some great strategist highlighted the importance of sea power; most famous and renowned Mahan and Corbett wrote about the war strategies In recent time, both strategist maritime theories are being implemented by all the states in different manners as all focusing on the control lines of communication, the primacy of politics in war, primarily focusing on their maritime advancements. But the advancement of nuclear weapons has increased the importance of the sea-based nuclear deterrence. According to the assumption of realism, survival is the most critical factor of any state. Indian Ocean Region is essential for India and Pakistan strategically, after showing its naval advancement provides the best opportunity to create the sea base deterrence.

Pakistan and India sea-based nuclear programs might be at a nascent stage. Pakistan developed sea base nuclear capability with electric diesel submarine-launched cruise missile Babur and India has launched its first nuclear submarine INS Arihant has changed the strategic position of the Indian Ocean. As both states have availed the second strike capabilities with sea base nuclear program ensures that both will able to survive an initial nuclear strike and still be able to retaliate with a nuclear attack to inflict maximum damage.

One view is that it will create stability in the South Asia region because Pakistan rationale for developing naval nuclear capabilities is to attain second-strike capability against India, providing its strategic depth and creating nuclear deterrence. But the fact cannot be neglected that it is an entirely new technology for both states. Pakistan is buying six submarines equipped with Babur from China for sea base deterrence, but the deal still in progress. Whereas India INS Arihant also has a lot of operational issues: as rector fuel issue, secondly its range is not satisfactory even in the crucial situation it is not able to attack the major cities of Pakistan like Islamabad and Lahore hardly it will able to target the Karachi.

Same in the case of China, range issues still create a lot of limitations on it. It is also a noisy one like many Russian Submarines, so would have to adopt the bastion strategy. Conventional submarines are less noisy than nuclear submarines. Both states can be victimized of the Command, Control and Communication C3 issues. The possibility cannot be ignored that if submarines lost their contact with their bases, then submarine officers will be free to make their own decision on the usage of nuclear weapons, will leads towards the “fog of war”. 

*About Author: Syed Daniyal Ali is the author behind this article who is final year student of BS Defence and Strategic Studies at National Defence University Islamabad. His interest lies in a research work across the multiple disciplines broadly addresses narratives of contemporary issues, foreign policy analysis, South Asia stability paradox and International politics 

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