Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
THE Indian ruling elite has adopted multi-dimensional strategy to bully Pakistan. Although, its hysterical warmongering rhetoric does not intimidate the people of Pakistan, yet alarms about the probability of catastrophe in South Asia due the irresponsible behaviour of the Indian ruling elite. Announcing or threatening to conduct a surgical strike against a nuclear capable strategic competitor is a proof of strategic irresponsibility. Indeed, the hysteria of surgical strike is a threat to the regional security. Theoretically, conducting surgical strike against nuclear capable adversary may be possible, but practically, it is unthinkable. The militarily insecure nuclear weapon states, today, maintain a robust triad of nuclear forces. The triad of nuclear forces not only increases the striking options of the nuclear weapon state, but also makes secure the retaliatory or second strike capability of the state. The secure retaliatory or second-strike capability of the nuclear weapon state deters the surgical strike of the adversary.
The Indian political and military elite is either strategically ignorant or highly irresponsible. They fail to comprehend the conventional and nuclear capability of Pakistan. On October 4, 2017, the Indian Air Force Chief Birender Singh Dhanoa stated that if India needed to carry out a surgical strike, his aircraft could target Pakistan’s nuclear installations and destroy them. This statement exposes the strategic absurdness of the Indian Air Force chief. Either, he lacks the appropriate understanding of the nuclear warfare or he is simply deceiving his own people. Precisely, Mr. Dhanoa’s military chauvinism only increases the strategic temperature which is not in the interest of South Asian strategic environment.
The Indian Air Chief also seems ignorant of the bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan. Before making such naive claims, he needs to review the bilateral agreement about non-attack on each other’s nuclear installations. In December 1988, both sides agreed that they should not attack on each other’s nuclear facilities. The agreement on non-attack of each other’s nuclear installations ratified in 1991 along with a condition of exchanging updated list about the nuclear sites in their respective states on January 1st every year. Since then Islamabad and New Delhi have been exchanging revised nuclear lists on January 1st every year.
Importantly, it’s not first time that the senior Indian officer is speaking about surgical strikes. On September 29, 2016, the Indian officials claimed that their elite troops crossed into Azad Kashmir and killed suspected militants preparing to infiltrate in India to carry out attacks on major cities. Indian DGMO?Lt. General Ranbir Singh announced in a joint press conference of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence: “some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch-pads along the Line of Control. The Indian army conducted surgical strikes last night at these launch-pads. Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them.” In reality, India did not conduct a surgical strike. It was a mere rhetorical claim for the domestic political consumption.
Pakistani leadership response to the Indian Air Force Chief’s absurd statement was very calculated. On October 5, 2017, Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif warned that if India launched a surgical strike on the country’s nuclear installations, nobody should expect restraint from Pakistan either. Chairman Joint Chief Staff Committee, General Zubair Mahmud Hayat responded, “As a credible and responsible nuclear power, Pakistan rejects this India posture. Let there be no doubt that any Indian strategic miscalculation or misadventure (now or at any other time) will be responded with such force, as necessary, to teach a lesson to the errant party.” This marked confidence of the Pakistani strategic enclave about the safety and security of its nuclear arsenal as well as capability to respond in kind. Certainly, India does not have a capability to execute a splendid nuclear strike—a strike that would entirely obliterate Pakistan’s nuclear capability.
Islamabad advocates nuclear restraint policy in the region. It proposed nuclear restraint regime to India. The primary objective of the proposal was to prevent the region from lethal nuclear arms race and avoid nuclear catastrophe due to nuclear accident or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, India rejected Pakistan’s proposal. Consequently, both states have been advancing their nuclear arsenals.
The surgical strike statement also manifests transformation in the Indian nuclear doctrine. It highlights shift in India’s ‘no-first-use’ policy on nuclear warfare. Despite the shift in India’s nuclear policy and warmongering, the international community is tight-lipped about the rogue behaviour of the Indian ruling elite. It is failing to realize the sensitivity of the matter. It’s imperative that international community should reprimand New Delhi for its irresponsible behaviour for the sake of regional and internal security. To conclude, the Indian ruling elite is having a very destabilising mania of military superiority. It has been threatening nuclear capable adversary to penalize it by surgical strike without realizing the devastating consequences.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
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Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal