The ‘Pakistan Day 2018’ was celebrated customarily. Islamabad woke up to the thunderous sounds produced by the skills of the blue-sky warriors led by their newly-appointed chief, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar. The spectacle of the Airforce was part of the military parade that lies at the heart of the euphoria associated with March 23. While last month’s parade engendered thrill and anguish alike, reflecting schisms among various schools of thought, there was a lot more to it than the antics of the Sherdils.However, before the author delves into the importance of this year’s parade, it needs to be stressed that parades cannot or should not be ascribed to civil-military imbalances. Also, parades, by themselves, do not reflect that a state is ‘over militarised’. Military parades were carried out in Washington till 1991; the annual Republic Day parade in New Delhi is also a case in point. The military parade held at the inauguration of former US President John F Kennedy featured various weapons including nuclear warheads. So, let’s be clear that parades or the display of weapons undermine neither democracy nor civilian supremacy. This amplifies one important point. States do not pander to the ‘either-or’ approach. While parades certainly project instruments of hard power, they do not imply that other planks of national power are less important or they deserve meagre budgetary allocation. It is noteworthy also to mention that parades do not put extra pressures on the budget and are organised from what is already allocated and something that is somewhat replenished. So, leaving aside the discursive bickering between admirers and detractors, let’s talk about deterrence and strategy.This year’s parade took place at a time when Indo-Pak ties are yet again being constantly marred by skirmishes on the Line of Control (LoC) and jingoistic statements from India and rejoinders from Pakistan. Armed to the teeth with conventional and nuclear weapons both countries are, apparently, a trigger-event away from a conflict that has the propensity to shift from one rung to another in what Herman Kahn’s called ‘escalation ladder’. While bilateral deterrence between the two arch-rivals has withstood the Kargil Conflict and the Twin Peak Crisis, the growing abilities of both countries in deterring each other through ‘deterrence by denial’ and ‘deterrence by punishment’ worry observers of South Asian security affairsAfter a lapse of decades, Indian diplomats and the military attaché posted in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were invited to the parade. Perched on the front row, High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, his deputy, J P Singh and the military attaché, Brig Sanjay P Vishwasrao looked at fighter jets, Main Battle Tanks, the range of artillery and other fighting corps of the Pakistan army.Missiles having the ability to deliver conventional and nuclear warheads were ostentatiously made part of the parade. A short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Nasr’ was also welcomed by a huge cheer. The Nasr missile has become the talk of the town in not only New Delhi but also Washington. Nasr is a sub-strategic missile that can deliver nuclear warheads within a range of 60 to 70 kilometres. Pakistani officials assert that these Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) are aimed to fill ‘deterrence gaps’ so that India cannot find space at lower ends of the conflict spectrum, something that it envisions to do through the Cold Start Doctrine. While the debate on the utility of TNWs in countering CSD and their impact on strategic stability and the country’s overall deterrence drive is beyond the purview of this piece, it is important to understand how the display of the Nasr missile was well thought-out. Thus far, Pakistan’s purpose of inducting the Nasr missile is specific to India’s proactive war strategy, something that its civilian and military leadership have signalled of promulgating. Pakistan wants to deter such adventures by making its deterrence much more credible at sub-strategic levels.The classical theory of deterrence hinges upon capability, communication and credibility. A right mix of the 3C’s enhances the country’s deterrence. Friday’s show may have wittingly obviated any doubts in New Delhi’s mind about Islamabad possessing a nuclear deterrent at the theatre level. In the process, it also ‘signalled’ that military muscle-flexing and hawkish statements are least desirable. The parade was instrumental in deriding the assertions of Pakistan’s “nuclear bluff”, for the will and capability to use the Nasr missile go a long way in making Pakistan’s sub-strategic deterrence credible.Also, given that both militaries are embroiled in pinpricks along the Line of Control (LoC),and the Working Boundary(WB), Pakistan’s parade gambit can also be considered as signalling something that is an old tool used by states to deter adversaries’ aggression. Signalling must have a psychological effect, and for it to be effective, the signalling actor (Pakistan) must indirectly threaten military retaliation, should the adversary (India) continues its incendiary acts.While bilateral deterrence between the two arch-rivals has withstood the Kargil Conflict and the Twin Peak Crisis, the growing abilities of both countries in deterring each other through ‘deterrence by denial’ and ‘deterrence by punishment’ worry observers of the South Asian security affairs.Certainly, fear of riposte deters an aggressor state as penned down by Andre Beaufre. Perhaps, Friday’s signalling was important, especially after Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat threatened to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.It is reasonable to contend that Pakistan’s invitation to Indian officials was well-timed. However, both states must realise that conflagration can result in disastrous escalation. South Asians must pray that the following quote of Professor Keneth Waltz holds true:‘If a country has nuclear weapons, it will not be attacked militarily in ways that threaten its manifestly vital interests. That is 100 percent true, without exception, over a period of more than fifty years.’The writer is a Research Associate at the Centre for Security, Strategy and Policy Research (CSSPR), University of Lahore. He tweets: @syedalizia1992Published in Daily Times, April 6th 2018.