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The winds of nuclear war
Munir AkramUpdated December 24, 2017


The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.
PAKISTAN has rightly denounced the crude National Security Strategy put out by the Trump administration and its flawed analysis and aims in Afghanistan and South Asia. There is, however, one assertion in the document which, excuse the pun, trumps all other issues’ intonations. It says: “The prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange remains a key concern....”

This is an understatement. Preventing a South Asian nuclear war should be the primary focus of any security strategy for the region. Dr Kissinger was right in observing a few years ago that nuclear weapons are most likely to be used in a Pakistan-India war.

Pakistan and India have ‘survived’ several previous crises with a ‘nuclear dimension’.

Today, Pakistan and India are engaged in a complex confrontation.​
In the 1971 war, Chinese intervention in support of Pakistan was forestalled by a Soviet nuclear threat to Beijing.

In 1987, India’s Brasstacks military exercise blatantly threatened Pakistan until president Ziaul Haq whispered to Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi at a cricket match in New Delhi that Pakistan’s newly acquired F-16s could reach India’s nuclear facilities in Trombay.

In 1990, as Pakistan-India tensions mounted in tandem with the Kashmiri freedom struggle, India threatened war until US satellites detected Pakistan loading suspected nuclear warheads onto its F-16s, bringing then CIA director Gates to South Asia to defuse the crisis.

Following India’s nuclear tests of May 1998, Indian leaders asserted that India’s nuclear weapons (“we have a big bomb”) had changed the power equation. Pakistan was obliged to conduct its tests to remove any ambiguity that could have led India to a disastrous misadventure.

A conflict was narrowly avoided on the night before Pakistan’s reciprocal nuclear tests. Pakistani radar detected aircraft moving up India’s western coast whose profile was that of US F-15s, creating suspicion of Indo-Israeli collusion to prevent Pakistan from conducting its tests. Urgent warnings were conveyed to New Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington. Fortunately, the radar readings proved to be a false alarm. In the absence of bilateral communications, war can be easily triggered by miscalculation and mistake.

In the aftermath of the Kargil war, US president Clinton depicted Kashmir as the world’s primary nuclear flashpoint. This remains true today.

During the prolonged India-Pakistan stand-off in 2002, there were at least two occasions when Pakistan detected Indian aircraft being readied for a strike. In public statements, Pakistan warned that in extremis it would be obliged to resort to its nuclear capabilities. India apparently concluded that a war would entail unacceptable cost. This led to revival of the peace process.

Today, Pakistan and India are engaged in a complex confrontation which could erupt in a war that quickly escalates to the nuclear level. The lessons of past crises have apparently been forgotten.

India is now ruled by a Hindu fundamentalist prime minister whose visceral hatred for Muslims is well known. He is using anti-Pakistan rhetoric and postures successfully as a populist electoral tool with his extremist constituency. The ‘Pakistan-bashing’ will escalate as the 2019 Indian national elections approach.

Second, the people of India-held Kashmir, especially its youth, have risen in a spontaneous and indigenous revolt. Unlike the past, the revolt is outside the control of the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders and/or Pakistan. And, despite brutal tactics, India has failed to suppress the revolt and, as usual, blames Pakistan and ‘cross-border terrorism’ for its failure.

Third, it is inevitable that Kashmiri freedom fighters will continue to attack Indian targets in and outside occupied Kashmir. It is equally inevitable that India will blame Pakistan and/or pro-Kashmiri groups located in Pakistan for such attacks.

Fourth, India has threatened to conduct ‘surgical strikes’ in response to ‘terrorist’ attacks. The daily Indian violations of the ceasefire along the LoC in Kashmir could provide India the ‘cover’ for such ‘surgical strikes’. Pakistan would consider any cross-border or cross-LoC incursion by India not as a ‘sub-conventional’ operation but as the initiation of a conventional conflict and give a ‘matching response’. This would commence a war which could escalate very quickly.

Fifth, despite the experience of the 2002 stand-off, India’s military doctrine contemplates a ‘limited’ war with Pakistan. Moreover, India has deployed its strike forces in forward positions, in accordance with its Cold Start doctrine, which contemplates a massive surprise attack against Pakistan. In response, Pakistan has adopted the doctrine of ‘full-spectrum deterrence’ under which Pakistan could utilise short-range nuclear missiles to break up large attacking Indian formations.

Sixth, perhaps to indicate that India is not deterred by this, the Indian air chief has asserted that he can identify and destroy Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. Pakistan knows that India on its own does not have the capability to do so. The Indian assertion has raised the question of whether the US has undertaken to neutralise Pakistan’s nuclear delivery systems, through a pre-emptive strike or seizure, in a crisis. (In this context, reports about US plans to seize or destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons are illuminating.)

The US has played an active role in defusing previous crises in South Asia. During and after his election, President Trump offered to mediate between Pakistan and India. Pakistan accepted but India rejected this offer. It has not been revived recently. Nor is it reflected in the National Security Strategy.

In fact, the US can no longer be considered an impartial mediator. It is now India’s ‘strategic partner’. The National Security Strategy blames ‘cross-border terrorism’ for the violence in Kashmir.
It does not speak of India’s brutal repression of the Kashmiris, their human rights or their demand for azadi (freedom).

Pakistan must seek alternate diplomatic mechanisms to prevent a spiral into a nuclear war. One such mechanism could be a China, EU, US and Russia ‘quad’ that engages with Pakistan and India in joint or parallel talks to defuse the current crisis, prevent the outbreak of a war and promote a just and peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. Such talks could be made mandatory through a resolution of the Security Council (which the US will find difficult to veto).

Ignoring the winds of war in South Asia could lead to a nuclear catastrophe without precedent in human history.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2017

The winds of nuclear war - Pakistan - DAWN.COM

Cross posting - Islamic Republic of Pakistan : News, Discussions & Updates
 

Gautam

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A bit dated, from a few years back. Not up to date for even the time period when it was written, especially on India's satellite imagery, ISR, ASW and BMD capabilities. Takes a long and expansive route to explain what I'd consider rudimentary things, seems to brush aside the Pakistani proxy warfare and its implications, also seems rather cynical of India's capabilities. So in other words typical western publication, but still a good long read.
That Vipin Narang fellow contributed to it. Do give it a read if you have the time.:)

MIT Press Journals
 

_Anonymous_

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Nuclear rethink: A change in India's nuclear doctrine has implications on cost & war strategy


Yusuf Unjhawala 🇮🇳 (@YusufDFI) Tweeted:
IF NFU is abandoned, it does not automatically mean counterforce targeting. India does not have the arsenal, the intel, surveillance, recon capabilities. And our principle adversaries have TELs not silos. Pak keeps in component form often moving components in civilian vehicles. ( )


Your views on the tweet & linked article @vstol Jockey ; @Falcon
 

Falcon

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Nuclear rethink: A change in India's nuclear doctrine has implications on cost & war strategy


Yusuf Unjhawala 🇮🇳 (@YusufDFI) Tweeted:
IF NFU is abandoned, it does not automatically mean counterforce targeting. India does not have the arsenal, the intel, surveillance, recon capabilities. And our principle adversaries have TELs not silos. Pak keeps in component form often moving components in civilian vehicles. ( )


Your views on the tweet & linked article @vstol Jockey ; @Falcon


replying again

Ignorance is a bliss.
 

Sulla84

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replying again

Ignorance is a bliss.
Christopher Clary thinks that India's recon and ISR capabilities have significantly improved recently, and that has been the driving force leading India to think about a counter force doctrine, w.r.t Pakistan... ( w.r.t China, it is still NFU )
 

vstol Jockey

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Nuclear rethink: A change in India's nuclear doctrine has implications on cost & war strategy


Yusuf Unjhawala 🇮🇳 (@YusufDFI) Tweeted:
IF NFU is abandoned, it does not automatically mean counterforce targeting. India does not have the arsenal, the intel, surveillance, recon capabilities. And our principle adversaries have TELs not silos. Pak keeps in component form often moving components in civilian vehicles. ( )


Your views on the tweet & linked article @vstol Jockey ; @Falcon
He is grossly wrong on this.
 
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Falcon

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Christopher Clary thinks that India's recon and ISR capabilities have significantly improved recently, and that has been the driving force leading India to think about a counter force doctrine, w.r.t Pakistan... ( w.r.t China, it is still NFU )


Don't know about the credentials of the person in question. But, since 2015, we are confident of blunting Pakistani threats and moves. China has a NFU. So do we.
 

vstol Jockey

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It happened in June 1990 when I was posted onboard INS Gomati. We had sailed out and were at sea for over 40days to attack PN. We had sailed with full war load.. It was during the time of PM VP Singh. I had posted about it on one of the forums and the idiots there made fun of it.
 
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Anyone concerned about the Pakistani nuclear weapons should understand that their weapons are of low yield ranging b/w 20-30 kilo tons. Even if Pak manged to deliver all 160 of its nuke (which is next to impossible) it will affect our 1500km² area i.e . And due to our air defence system this area will not be high priority urban centre but low priority areas and sparsely populated. But our warheads are massive yielding more that 300 kilo tons. If Only 8 such warheads are delivered then Pak will cease to function as a state. Then comes the question of delivery system. Pak can only deliver it's warheads through land based systems ( US would not allow f16 to carry nukes and sub based system is just a bluff) which we can easily target wherever they are stored in Pakistan. While we can deliver our warheads through land air and sea. That means we are capable of preventing the Pak to deliver even a single warhead on our soil while we can destroy whole Pakistan without them being able to do anything about it. Only thing that was not in our favour in nuclear war was our commitment to NFU. It meant that we were ready to absorb the first nuke strike and bear the costs. But now our DM is hinting for a revision in this policy seems to indicate we are now fully prepared for a full blown war even if it turns into a nuclear. So no one should worry about nuclear war because even Pakistan is aware of all this facts and will never dare to launch a single nuke.Its nuke bluff existed till now solely due to anti national elements in UPA government.
 

randomradio

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Don't know about the credentials of the person in question. But, since 2015, we are confident of blunting Pakistani threats and moves. China has a NFU. So do we.

Can't we keep a general purpose nuclear doctrine for the rest of the world and keep a specific one for Pakistan?

That way we can continue to maintain NFU with China, but an exception is made for Pakistan alone.
 
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Falcon

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Can't we keep a general purpose nuclear doctrine for the rest of the world and keep a specific one for Pakistan?

That way we can continue to maintain NFU with China, but an exception is made for Pakistan alone.


We have NFU. Credible threat of use is also defined as attack by us, so Pakistan is covered under that.
 

vstol Jockey

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So you're saying we shouldn't bother very much about what Rajnath Singh said then?
Do you remember my posts on that Older Forum? I had written to Parrikar and asked him the rational of NFU. 20 days after that he had made that famous statement. Do you remember my posts about knocking out 75% of Pak population within 5 minutes? You too had posted comments on that? That kind of nuke strike has been excercised, found correct and adopted as our standard response.
 
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_Anonymous_

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Can't we keep a general purpose nuclear doctrine for the rest of the world and keep a specific one for Pakistan?

That way we can continue to maintain NFU with China, but an exception is made for Pakistan alone.
I don't think country specific NFU's have been declared before. Pakistan , of course, is an exception in this as they've openly declared India to be the target of their NWP. Plus there's the question of the NSG & China's vote there to be considered. This policy of NFU ambiguity may look like it's aimed at Pakistan but China's got the message. In any case, it was long overdue.
 

vstol Jockey

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I don't think country specific NFU's have been declared before. Pakistan , of course, is an exception in this as they've openly declared India to be the target of their NWP. Plus there's the question of the NSG & China's vote there to be considered. This policy of NFU ambiguity may look like it's aimed at Pakistan but China's got the message. In any case, it was long overdue.
Exactly. You can never have NFU against a country which says that their nukes are for offensive purpose.
 
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randomradio

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Do you remember my posts on that Older Forum? I had written to Parrikar and asked him the rational of NFU. 20 days after that he had made that famous statement. Do you remember my posts about knocking out 75% of Pak population within 5 minutes? You too had posted comments on that? That kind of nuke strike has been excercised, found correct and adopted as our standard response.

Yeah, I remember all that. But a public declaration of withdrawing from NFU may not result much in terms of changes on the ground, but it will definitely send ripples across the international community.
 

The Deterrent

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Anyone concerned about the Pakistani nuclear weapons should understand that their weapons are of low yield ranging b/w 20-30 kilo tons. Even if Pak manged to deliver all 160 of its nuke (which is next to impossible) it will affect our 1500km² area i.e . And due to our air defence system this area will not be high priority urban centre but low priority areas and sparsely populated. But our warheads are massive yielding more that 300 kilo tons. If Only 8 such warheads are delivered then Pak will cease to function as a state.

French President Charles de Gaulle, on dissuasion du faible au fort:
"Within ten years, we shall have the means to kill 80 million Russians. I truly believe that one does not light-heartedly attack people who are able to kill 80 million Russians, even if one can kill 800 million French, that is if there were 800 million French."