Why India cannot fight War with Pakistan?

By Ahmad Khan

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Indo-Pak relations are once again in doldrums. The simmering tensions along Line of Control (LoC) have put the entire Indo-Pak peace process on a perilous road.

After a decade of being out of power, once again the BJP hardliners are back in business in India, playing a dirty politics with their neighbour—Pakistan—to attain domestic political mileage. Apprehensive statements are made by Mr. Modi’s subordinates—Dr Subramaniam Swamy and Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag—regarding conduct of foreign policy with Pakistan to settle the territorial disputes. BJP hardliners seemingly are not in mode to give peace a chance through diplomatic means, despite the fact that the Nawaz government has adopted an active policy of appeasement towards India.

During the height of LoC situation, Mr. Modi went two steps further and reiterated that “this is not the time for empty boli (talk), but for goli (bullet) by our Jawans.” The statements in the context of recent LoC tensions are quite apprehensive towards Pakistan, once again bringing the entire sub-continent under the dark shadows of war. Mr. Modi seems to have adopted the policy of achieving political objectives through threatening to fight a war with Pakistan, without understanding the animosity of the regional and international security situation, especially ignoring the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state.

 

One of the reason behind India’s reluctance to wage a deciding war against Pakistan is its nuclear weapons. Credible sources estimate the Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stockpile is ahead of India’s nuclear weapons, whereas the delivery means (missiles) are also capable enough to reach the heartland of India.

WORLD NUCLEAR FORCES

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Source: “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Federation of Atomic Scientists, 2013; Data Compiled from SIPRI Yearbook 2013 and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/nukestatus.html;

Pakistan’s Ballistic Missiles

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Pakistan’s Cruise Missiles

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Source: “Design Characteristics of Pakistan’s Ballistic Missiles,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/design_characteristics_of_pakistans_ballistics_missiles.pdf?_=1341005344&_=1341005344

The data reveals that Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent capability is credible enough to persuade India not to take any military course of action against Pakistan. Nuclear Deterrence all rest on its manifestations which are capability, communication and credibility, however, it also demands rationality under the umbrella of Cost-Benefit Analysis. The current political situation in sub-continent demands rationality, especially on the Indian side. India is conventionally much superior to Pakistan, however, this conventional asymmetry lowers the nuclear thresholds of the conventionally inferior party. India continues to bring doctrinal level changes in its military strategy, whereas in response to that Pakistan has inducted Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) into its nuclear arsenal. Many defence and security analysts in Islamabad believe that Pakistan has inducted TNWs for battlefield use. On the other hand, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment continue to project TNWs as ‘Weapon of Peace’ to deter India to commit any conventional military adventurism against Pakistan. Whereas, many western security analysts believe that TNWs are dangerous induction in the Pakistan nuclear arsenal, as it allow India to give a strategic response to Pakistan. It is interesting to note that New Delhi is also accounting a flexible response to Pakistani TNWs rather than just contemplating a strategic response to Pakistani TNWs because of the fear of nuclear escalation. It is worth mentioning here that the induction of TNWs in Pakistani nuclear arsenal is only to deter India, but deterrence optimists in Pakistan also emphasize that the nuclear establishment should take TNWs as a weapon, which will cause a massive psychological impact on the Indian soldiers in battlefield.

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Mr. Modi is elected on the basis of implementing its economic agenda in India, not just simply flexing its military muscles in the region. It’s a fact that India is economically far superior to Pakistan, but if the situation deteriorated, the ramifications of the nuclear escalation will be tremendous on the Indian economy. Pakistan’s economy is already stumbling due to continue domestic political turmoil and ongoing military operation in FATA against foreign and local terrorists is in its full swing. However, it will be highly unlikely that Pakistan will allow India to continue its LoC violations and indiscriminate firing at the innocent civilian populated areas. Pakistan regards India as a strategic threat. It has sought a strategic balance with India to overcome conventional asymmetry, deter it from launching an attack on its soil, and ensure any crisis does not escalate into an all-out war. Pakistan’s stance of Credible Minimum Deterrence is defensive in nature, yet it has maintained a nuclear ambiguity regarding its doctrinal aspects as India itself has not fully declared its nuclear doctrine either. Pakistan’s development of TNWs was in response to Indian military’s Cold Start Doctrine/Proactive Strategy. Pakistan has sought greater credibility of its deterrence by gradually enhancing synergy between its conventional and strategic forces under the garb of Full Spectrum Deterrence in order to tackle any threats at all rungs of the escalation ladder.

Ahmad Khan is a Phd Scholar at Strategic Studies Department in National Defence University. Handle @ahmadkhan000

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