Nuclear deterrent, unexceptionable plank of national security
MOST recently, while replying to a question about the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan during an interview to a foreign journalist, PM Imran Khan cursorily said “the moment there is a settlement on Kashmir, the two neighbours would live as civilized people and we will not need to have a nuclear deterrent”.
The nuclear deterrent of Pakistan is a very delicate subject and needs to be dealt more prudently with sophistication than what he did cursorily without adequate sensitivity which it ought to have when a PM talks about it. This is an ultimate plank of our national security.
His talk has not only allowed his detractors to outstretch their imagination, suiting their convenience but also caused serious concern among those who understand its unexceptionable significance in the arc of security in depth for Pakistan.
The resolution of Kashmir dispute is a core issue between Pakistan and India but roots of undiminished rather, perpetual mistrust and hostility between the two lie elsewhere.
It is rooted in history, conditioned by sharply conflicting ideologies, an age old bigotry, rancour, sensitivity and vengeance and Indian vaulting ambition of Akhand Bharat.
With RSS having planted its jaws on Indian polity firmly and its zealots on helm and its continuation in foreseeable too, it is on the path to notch up dramatically.
India is unlikely to concede to the resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions in good taste and grace.
Under a lackey of RSS, Modi, India could not even digest a simple special status, granted to IoK under its own constitution. It would only accede to resolution of Kashmir, until it is inevitable.
In return, such an eventuality is more likely to harden Indian intransigent mentality and misplaced ambitions thus, posing even greater hazards to peace and amity.
Amid such possible environments, one needs to keep his guards up and powder dry. The equal power or an acknowledged supremacy is an imperative for peace.
Pakistan’s full spectrum nuclear deterrence could only dissuade India of its proclivity of bullying and adventurism.
Before Pakistan acquired this level of deterrence, India kept the threat of war against Pakistan under its cold start military doctrine while restricting it below the Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. Both fought three full-fledged wars before we have nuclear deterrent.
Possibly both would have fought fourth one in 1983 if Indian PM Indira Gandhi would have not been assassinated by her Sikh security guards.
Ever since, we had nuclear deterrent, there is no war except border skirmishes and troops mobilization for attainment of limited objectives.
The nuclear deterrence has not only averted a big war between Pakistan and India but also kept the world at bay from wars as of World War One and World War Two. Virtually, it has saved world from catastrophes of large scale wars.
This conclusion is not drawn out of a sense of recklessness or love for nuclear weapons but a stark reality born of its unacceptable cost.
In more precise terms, it implies mutually assured destruction (MAD).There is also another dimension to it.
Before we had this capability, per force, we had to fall victim to arms race, mounted by India unremittingly.
Though India continues to shop on every counter in the world to pile up its military arsenal for reasons best known to it only yet armed with an effective nuclear deterrent, Pakistan is now relatively in a better position to use its discretion. Its military budget allocations over the years amply attest this fact.
Despite that Indian defence spending is ballooning incessantly, more or less, Pakistan has practically kept its military spending in same range.
This enabled us to save money but alas, we have to use it to plug black holes, caused by apathy, neglect and loot and plunder of our ruling elite.
In a nutshell, being seven times lesser in size, Pakistan lacks resources monumentally to perfectly match India conventionally. This is its nuclear capability which has balanced the power equation between both.
Admittedly, time could efface memories of bitterness and hate. Besides, it is a colossal amount of suffering caused to the people which could make sanity to revert and overrule the strife and conflict as happened in Europe, however, its longevity is questionable when seen in the backdrop of the human history. There had been just 268 years where there were no wars.
In case of Pakistan and India, probably neither time is long enough nor the amount of suffering caused to the people are big enough to make people go weary of conflict and see reason.
Undeniably, power of compromise is stronger than power to confront but, unfortunately, it is scant and rare and India is bereft of it for a variety of reasons historically, chemically and dogmatically.
The resolution of Kashmir dispute may lessen chances of conflict but this would not obviate probability of an all-out war between the two outrightly.
Take the example of Indian-sponsored terrorism inside Pakistan across the Afghan border. This has least linkage with resolve of Pakistan for Kashmir issue.
Primarily it is aimed to weaken Pakistan to pave its way to establish itself as a regional power. Such an Indian mindset is unlikely to transform with resolution of Kashmir dispute.
This makes possession of nuclear deterrent a necessity for Pakistan, not a choice for the reasons highlighted above to safeguard its ideological and territorial integrity.
It is, therefore, people at the helm of affairs in Pakistan must watch out their words before speaking about it lest these be construed differently which in return, could entail implications of their own on domain of the national security.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.