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India-Pakistan: Negating Nuclear Bluff – OpEd

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The war of words between India and Pakistan’s militaries prove that both South Asian nuclear states are intertwined in a traditional security competition. Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, while delivering the annual Army dinner, stated:”We will call the (nuclear) bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff.”

Such statements of calling the ‘nuclear bluff’, ‘increased cross- border firing by Indian forces, which coupled with the proclamation of surgical strikes can lead to crisis instability in the region.

Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor responded to the Indian army chief’s ‘nuclear bluff’ assertion by saying that such statements are unbecoming from a person of a responsible stature. He further stated that “Well, it’s their choice. Should they wish to test our resolve they may try and see it for them..…Pakistan’s credible nuclear deterrence is the only thing stopping India from a war.”

Such statements by the Indian military officials, and a quick calculated response from Pakistan, have raised the concerns of security analysts regarding the regional security and strategic dynamics.

It could be an appropriate tactic of General Bipin for securing finances for the modernization of the Army, but an absurd and destabilizing statement for the strategic stability in South Asia. According to the analysts, such statements by Indian military officials can lead to crisis instability and force the Pakistan to hasten its evolution towards war fighting nuclear doctrine. Another alarming reality is that General Bipin has failed to realize the repercussions of misreading Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability and too much confidence in India’s Cold Start Doctrine. Hence, Pakistan’s successful test of the ‘submarine-launched cruise missile Babur (SLCM Babur)’ can be viewed as a befitting response to India.

According to Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Babur is submarine-launched cruise missile with range of 450 km. It was fired “from an underwater dynamic platform” and “successfully engaged its target with precise accuracy; meeting all … flight parameters”. The development of Babur (SLCM) is a significant component of a “credible second-strike capability” and a step towards reinforcing Pakistan’s policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence through self-reliance and indigenization.

Previously, on January 9, 2017, Pakistan conducted its first successful test of indigenously developed submarine launched cruise missile Babur-III. Babur-III is also advanced, mature and indigenously developed series of cruise missiles. The First test of Babur-III was considered by Pakistan’ security planners as a major milestone and a right step in right direction towards reliable second strike capability. After the successful test of Babur-III, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, while congratulating the nation and the military on the first successful test-fire of the Submarine Launched Cruise Missile stated: “The successful test of Babur-3 is a manifestation of Pakistan’s technological progress and self-reliance.”

He added: “Pakistan always maintains policy of peaceful co-existence but this test is a step towards reinforcing policy of credible minimum deterrence.” Therefore successful test of Babur-III, submarine launched cruise missile finalized the triad of Pakistan’s nuclear forces and second test of Babar on March 9, 2018 has enhanced Pakistan’s deterrence based on Second Strike Capability.

Another significant factor which forced Pakistan to acquire Second Strike Capbility is India’s doctrinal transformation as it is clearly transforming its Nuclear Doctrine. New trends are emerging in India’s nuclear strategy as it is moving towards a ‘first-use’ or even a ‘first-strike nuclear strategy’. India’s nuclear doctrine is based on the ‘strategic ambiguity’, therefore it has been anticipated that India is shifting its nuclear strategy towards ‘counterforce targets’ rather than ‘counter value targets’. The second emerging trend is that India is moving towards the strategy of “First Use” or “Preemptive strike” from the “No-First Use strategy”.

The abandoning of no first-use, development of missiles defense shield, fake claims of surgical strikes and calling the nuclear bluff are developments that are perilous for the regional security. Indeed, such events have forced Pakistan to maintain deterrence through qualitative and quantitative developments in nuclear forces. In the strategic landscape of South Asia, the presence of Pakistan’s credible second-strike capability is imperative for the continuity of the strategic stability between/among strategic competitors: India and Pakistan.

Subsequently, harsh statements by Indian military, its shifting nuclear doctrines and maturing sea based/ballistic missile defense developments capabilities are threatening for Pakistan. Such developments by India have been countered by Pakistan by carrying out two tests of nuclear-capable missiles, ‘Babur-3’ submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and ‘Babar’.

Pakistan’s tests of SLCM has further reinforced the debate on South Asian maritime security, second-strike capability and missile defense technologies in the regional landscape. To conclude, it’s impossible for the Indians to alter the strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. Though Islamabad is not matching the Indian conventional military buildup, yet it is gradually advancing its nuclear arsenal. Hence, Pakistan’s successful test of indigenous Submarine Launched Cruise (SLC) Missile ‘Babur’ has negated India’s desire to call Pakistan’s ‘nuclear bluff’ and has augmented the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence strategy. The addition of ‘Babur’ in Pakistan’s military inventory confirms that Pakistan armed forces are prepared to thwart any kind of Indian armed forces military adventurism.

*The writer is currently working as Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached at [email protected]


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4 thoughts on “India-Pakistan: Negating Nuclear Bluff – OpEd

  • April 20, 2018 at 3:41 pm
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    It is very unfortunate but its fact that Gen. Rawat statements are much immature and the statement from the military leader of an adversary state cannot be taken lightly. Consequently such show off by military leader of an adversary state will make compulsion for the adjacent state to at-least follow the same suit which ultimately may lead the region towards instability.

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  • April 23, 2018 at 4:10 am
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    In order to answer the very question regarding the nuclear calculus between India and Pakistan, the best thing is to figure out the very differences lying beneath the nuclear cover. Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine might stands opaque for the international community but its very much clear in the minds of the authorities that what Pakistan along with this nuclear factor is going to do in the longer run. India’s conventional superiority, its cold start doctrine, its seeking for BMD and also working closely and keenly for the development of nuclear triad are all the factors which are forcing Pakistani authorities to stick to the very nuclear doctrine of credible minimum deterrence in which Pakistan is obliged to serve its national interests along with defending its borders from external threats.

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  • April 23, 2018 at 4:54 am
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    India is changing and its first time ever in the history, Indian generals are speaking on political matters. This shows a gradual decline in Indian democratic culture. Indian Generals calling Pakistani nuclear bluff is not only dangerous but also a major blow for the Indian political elite who have been muted by their generals on policies towards Pakistan.

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  • April 25, 2018 at 7:09 am
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    Pakistan has adopted a method of gradual declaration of its nuclear doctrine, which neither clearly embraces a first use doctrine nor denies it. This bit-by-bit approach is useful because Pakistan responds to Indian actions that remain dynamic.

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