Calling a Nuclear Bluff or Bluffing the Strategic Reality?

Calling a Nuclear Bluff or Bluffing the Strategic Reality?Recently, Lieutenant General (retd) Khalid Kidwai gave an opening speech during a workshop titled, “South Asian Strategic Stability: Deterrence, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control” held by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS). In case of further confrontation between the two hostile neighbors, he further elaborated the current strategic positions of both Pakistan and India. Yet, Lt Gen Kidwai most notably advised India that Pakistan’s nuclear capacity should not be deemed as a bluff, since Pakistan believes that if war is imposed on it will allocate all means necessary to defend its strategic and ideological interests.

He further clarified that since the Balakot incident, there emerged a great deal of narratives in the Indian political circles that labeled Pakistan’s nuclear capability a bluff, which is a very weak strategic assumption. Throughout his whole speech, especially in the post-Pulwama and Balakot scenario, he highlighted Indian policy errors because there are people in the political circles of India who drafted seriously incorrect conclusions from such incidents. He cautioned, “it would be a serious professional folly on their (Indian) part to consider that a single air strike, that too conducted most unprofessionally, would render Pakistan’s robust nuclear deterrence a bluff.”

It is critical that the international community takes into account the aggressive Indian rhetoric about its recent offensive nuclear stance in the background of recent BJP’s belligerence. Modi has claimed at several previous campaigns to call Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence as a bluff and said that he would not wait to turn to nuclear capability if attacked again by Pakistan – most particularly in the campaign of Barmer, where Modi said that nuclear missiles were not reserved for Diwali. Such statements bring up issues as to whether the No First Use (NFU) strategy of India will alter in the near future.

The comments by Modi have already been reduced to a purely political dimension by Indian defence experts, who claim that a major security change regarding nuclear policy has not actually occurred. Nevertheless, words count when it comes to nuclear warfare. This strictly controlled trend of verbal irrationality does not suit nuclear threats well. Clear strategy and resources must endorse a threat in order to provide it with legitimacy and India is not in a position to threaten Pakistan a conventional war under the nuclear umbrella. It is also highly concerning that threats of nuclear wars can potentially help win elections in the presumed largest democracy in the world.

Despite the Indian military’s perforated prestige during the Pulwama crisis, PM Modi deliberately expanded and exacerbated tensions with its nuclear neighbour. Pakistan’s strategic restraint saved the region from a nuclear outbreak, which would have led to a global catastrophe. With the introduction of Indian nuclear-capable missiles during the post-Pulwama military confrontation between India and Pakistan, threats of unintended or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons in South Asia arose inconceivably. The Indian government, desperate for a war, falsely believed that in a war scenario with Pakistan, it might bring the Cold Start Doctrine into practice, causing military damage to Pakistan in addition to the substantial devastation of our armies and assets without any real response.

The calling of Pakistan’s nuclear capability as so-called nuclear bluff is a feeble proposition. In comparison, India’s motives and behaviour shows that its NFU policy has always been a diplomatic bluff that can be repudiated quickly in critical times. Analysts believe that India might still strike first with nuclear weapons, notwithstanding its NFU doctrine. India’s offensive approach of annexing the disputable territories of Kashmir and suggesting the first strike by means of a nuclear capability, has increased the dangers of nuclear warfare. Therefore, Lt Gen Kidwai very aptly said, “Pakistan must shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the vital strategic balance in the conventional and nuclear equation with India as particular determinant of the state of strategic stability in South Asia.”

Calling a Nuclear Bluff or Bluffing the Strategic Reality?

About Zain Jaffery 3 Articles
The author is a student of Current Affairs and Political Science with a master’s degree from NUST, Islamabad.

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