The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) organized a roundtable discussion on “Deterrence Stability in South Asia,” on September 17, 2013 at the CPGS Offices Islamabad. This Roundtable was attended by renowned scholars and academicians from the field.
The aim of the roundtable was to discuss some of the important recent developments at both regional and global levels, as well as their impact on deterrence stability between two nuclear armed nations in South Asia – Pakistan and India. These regional developments include:
- The US waiver-ship to India, and offer for large scale nuclear cooperation under the 123 Agreement in the same year; this, according to many in strategic circles, has reversed about a half century of US non-proliferation efforts and undermined global efforts to prevent more states from acquiring nuclear weapons. It also has the potential to trigger a nuclear arms race in South Asia;
- The shifts in the Indian nuclear doctrinal thinking, as seen through the move from “punitive nuclear retaliation” to a doctrine of “massive retaliation”. Another example is the emergence of dangerous, provocative, and destabilizing ‘limited war’ military doctrines under the nuclear umbrella, such as ‘Cold Start Doctrine (CSD)’, also known as ‘Proactive Operations’;
- The Indian pursuit of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) shield and its undermining impact on the deterrence stability between India and Pakistan; the resultant push for Pakistan to increase its offensive strategic capabilities and capacity;
- India’s strengthening strategic partnership with the US, European Union and Russia and the resultant Indian conventional and strategic arms modernization – its sensitizing effect on Pakistan’s threat perception;
- The presence of extra-regional forces in the region, their force postures and uncertainties about their intentions;
- The emergence of cyber warfare as a new dimension in the contemporary nuclear debate in South Asia.
In the back drop of these realities and the consequentially unfolding strategic landscape, the trends in Pakistani strategic thinking are also changing. A prime example of this phenomenon is the Pakistani development and tested firing of its tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) as a counter measure to the Indian CSD, in an attempt to dissuade India from pursuing limited ‘proactive operations’ in Pakistan.
The argument here is that the induction of nuclear deterrence at the tactical level will deter foreign aggression and conflict at ‘all levels’. There are however, risks of restarting an arms race, and as such, strategic restraint regimes should be activated. Nuclear CBMs and CSBMs should be reinitiated.
Understanding needs counter-narrative formulation, and CPGS aims to take the lead in organizing a cohesive, coordinated response development based on local realities and Pakistan’s stance.