Defence or Deterrence

Defence or deterrence? By Haider Nizamani
Wednesday, Dawn, May 13, 2009

THERE was little mention of nuclear weapons during the 15th Lok Sabha election campaign in India. Pakistan is fighting what some term as an ‘existential battle’ without any discernible role of nuclear weapons.

President Asif Zardari was welcomed to the United States with a lecture by his US counterpart as to how Pakistan’s fixation with India was a misplaced security concern. Other officials of the administration expressed their fears about Pakistani nukes falling into unpredictable hands.

Nuclear weapons were supposed to perform assorted wonders for India and Pakistan. Eleven years ago on May 11 the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government authorised the conduct of nuclear weapons tests near the desert town of Pokharan. Pakistan followed suit within weeks of the Indian tests by conducting half a dozen tests of its own in the Chagai region of Balochistan. How have nuclear weapons performed militarily, politically and culturally 11 years down the overt nuclear path? They have followed somewhat dissimilar trajectories in the two countries.

India and Pakistan have traditionally assigned different military roles to their nuclear weapons. For Pakistan the nuclear weapons are there to deter a conventionally superior India from fighting a conventional war. Pakistan has never ruled out the possibility of using nuclear weapons. That is why Asif Zardari, rather naively, had to eat his words when he suggested a few months back that Pakistan was interested in the no-first-use policy. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, as far as military logic is concerned, are solely India-centric.

In the minds of New Delhi’s strategic pundits their nuclear weapons are not Pakistan-centric. Furthermore, nuclear weapons in the India-Pakistan strategic equation are only to deter a nuclear war between the two and are no guarantee against the outbreak of a conventional war between them.

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