Senior defense officials on Friday said that nuclear deterrence remained intact during post-Pulwama stand-off as it contained the escalation at the initial level. They were speaking at Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), an Islamabad-based policy think tank, which had organised an exclusive media interaction of senior Pakistani officials dealing with strategic affairs. The topic of the event was ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Journey: 21 Years of Deterrence and Stability’. The panelists included Director General Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs, Strategic Plans Division Brig Zahir Kazmi, and Director General Arms Control and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Muhammad Kamran Akhtar. Defense analyst Syed Muhammad Ali moderated the event. Brig Zahir Kazmi stated that the purpose of deterrence was to close space for war and bring states to the negotiating table. “Stability actually means peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the Subcontinent – no disputes means no crises and conflicts. Nuclear deterrence should be a factor of stability between Pakistan and Hindustan.” He said deterrence worked during the post-Pulwama military stand-off despite Indian attempt to escalate to a different level by talking about mobilization of nuclear missile and nuclear submarines. Brig Kazmi identified three imperatives for deterrence. First, enabling geostrategic environment that includes sustainable mechanism for dispute resolution; second, strategic restraint and responsibility and third the maintenance of balance in nuclear deterrence capabilities through arms control rather than competition. He further clarified that deterrence was not an end in itself, but a psychological state. “It should inspire fear in which the perceived cost of deterrence breakdown is higher than the desired benefits of preferring war as an instrument for dispute resolution.” Kamran Akhtar said that the recent Pulwama incident exposed and broke the myth of responsible Indian strategic behavior. New Delhi, immediately after the Indian Air Force fighter was shot down, resorted to missile threats and deployment of its nuclear armed ballistic missile submarine. In comparison, Pakistan demonstrated a much more responsible and restrained behavior that led to de-escalation. Kamran Akhtar said Pakistan was a responsible and restrained nuclear power and the allegations regarding AQ Khan overlooked the fact that he was an individual who operated on his own. “He was part of a large international supply network involving thirty-one entities, spread over more than twenty-four countries. Several international accounts are based on misperceptions regarding our nuclear programme that are divorced from reality. Pakistan’s safety and security record is immaculate and an example for various countries that follow and learn from it, he maintained.” The chief of Disarmament Directorate strongly dismissed the allegations regarding Pakistan possessing the fastest growing nuclear programme in the world. Citing various credible and respected international research publications including those of Harvard University’s Belfer Center, he said that India had a much larger, older and fastest growing nuclear programme than Pakistan, but it was often overlooked. He also described the disproportionate focus on Pakistan’s nuclear security as both unfair and unnecessary. Defense Analyst Syed Muhammad Ali, in his opening remarks stated that Pakistan’s nuclear programme had significantly contributed towards meeting both its traditional and non-traditional security needs. “Nuclear deterrence has enabled Pakistan timely manage and de-escalate several regional crises with India during the past three decades and also given our national leadership and diplomats more confidence in international diplomacy.” Earlier, Syed Sajjad Shabbir, IPI executive director, welcomed the guests and said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme had helped maintain deterrence stability in a conflict-prone South Asia region. He announced that IPI would shortly publish a handbook on nuclear issues to create greater understanding among journalists, politicians and bureaucrats.