How important is responsibility to Pakistani Nuclear Planning? – Part II

How important is responsibility to Pakistani Nuclear Planning? – Part II


The second possibility is that the shift occurred because of India’s Cold Start Doctrine. In 2001 insurgents of Pakistani origin attacked Indian Parliament and as a result, India felt that it needed to force Pakistan to act against such militia groups by using offensive means. But the mobilization of troops took far too long to be effective coercing Pakistan to any capacity. The vast effort took two weeks to mobilize troops at the border by which time Pakistan could counteract by stationing over a million of their own at the border. In addition to this, the international community had enough time to intervene and dissuade India from further military action. When reviewing this military failure, Indian leadership decided that it was time to revamp the pre-existing military doctrine. And henceforth in 2004, the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) was born. CSD envisions Indian conventional forces being mobilized in smaller more compact troops and performing a series of ‘small thrusts’ into Pakistani territory with the help of the Indian air force. The aim of CSD is threefold. The first is to mobilize troops before Pakistan has a chance to react. The second is to mobilize troops before the international community has a chance to intervene. And the third is to capture small areas of Pakistani territory, which can then be used to negotiate with Pakistan on better terms.

One can argue that it was, in fact, a result of this event that Pakistan shifted its posture. Previously in 2001 Pakistan was spared from a conflict with its conventionally superior rival by the catalytic response by the international community. What fueled this response was not action on the side of Pakistan but the fear that a nuclear escalation could occur. Consequently, we see that another aim of CSD was to maintain a conventional response below the nuclear threshold so as to not elicit a response from Pakistan. The idea was that Pakistan would be deterred from retaliation on a nuclear scale because it would seem disproportionate and hostile in the eyes of the international community. It seems that to some degree the Indian posture may have shifted to a catalytic position.

The question that emanates from both these scenarios is whether Pakistan has acted in accordance to strategic responsibility when conducting actions in response to Indian nuclearization in 1998 and the advent of the CSD era in 2004. In order to examine this further we must clarify the strategic responsibilities associated with nuclear postures. How strategically responsible is the catalytic posture? On the other hand, it could be argued that nations who employ this posture are responsible as it entails having a limited nuclear capability. Limiting one’s nuclear arsenal on principle seems to be strategically responsible as it lessens the chances of proliferation on a regional level. But in the long-term catalytic posturing may be counterintuitive. The catalytic posture requires effective signaling so a third party will be aware of the imminent danger but the opposing force will not.

Pakistan can be viewed as being strategically responsible to some extent for its policy of ‘minimum credible deterrence’. Those of this opinion maintain that Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities are purely India-centric therefore minimum deterrence is the best option for both inwards and outwards responsibility firstly because the element of credibility is effective in protecting the nation and secondly minimum deterrence means that outwardly Pakistan is focused on de-escalation of nuclear resources in the long run. Pakistani officials have identified the importance of a minimum deterrence, Foreign minister Sartaj Aziz stated: “There is a need for credible minimum deterrence as instability has consequences with far more dangers”. This Places Pakistan in the position of being a responsible actor as it is assumed that by pursuing a different posture Pakistan would jeopardize the stability and safety of South Asia. Pakistan has argued that it is following the spirit of minimum deterrence via the mechanization of its nuclear artillery. Pakistani officials assert that their nuclear warheads are at all times ‘de-mated’ from their delivery systems hence meaning that Pakistan is not in a position to fire nuclear weapons at the ‘drop of the hat’ so to speak. This does create an interesting paradox where in pursuit of a minimal deterrence Pakistan might have neglected the credibility aspect.

Recently, Pakistan has shown a desire to be more cooperative with the international community with regards to being a responsible nuclear power. Pakistan formally requested to be considered for membership of the NSG last year. Some believe this hand was forced due to the US’ heavily lobbying to make India a member of the group. Strategically speaking this would be disastrous for Pakistan as it how virtually halts Pakistan’s efforts to be seen as a ‘mainstream’ nuclear state and perhaps close the door on future nuclear trade. Pakistan has argued that it is willing to agree to join the NSG if a non-discriminatory criterion is established for both it and India. This step could indicate a shift to greater outwards responsibility for Pakistan as calling for international cooperation. Pakistan has attempted to fulfill its outward commitments by accepting a number of safeguards.

Alongside steps to showcase outward responsibility, Pakistan has simultaneously consolidated its nuclear arsenal signaling a continued inward strategy. When NASR was first unveiled in 2011 it seemed to be Pakistan’s defense against ‘Cold Start’ but the increased in range this year indicates that it may have evolved into a contingency plan if there is a climb in the nuclear escalation ladder.

To conclude, it seems that as of now Pakistan is more concerned with its inward responsibility rather than outward responsibilities. This being said, Pakistan still desires to be portrayed as a responsible nuclear state and actions to attempt to join the NSG and ongoing IAEA safeguards. The future of Pakistan’s nuclear strategy remains unclear but as the global consensus shifts towards greater outward responsibility Pakistan may decide to pursue greater cooperation – so long as it does not jeopardize the ‘ugly stability’ of the South Asia region.