Normalcy the only to avoid N-conflict

(Sardar Fauzia Saleem Niazi, Islamabad)

In 1998 India tested five nuclear weapons and in response Pakistan also tested six nuclear weapons. The Pak-India history is not impressive because after a year of their independence, in 1947-48, they fought a war that claimed three thousand to eight thousand soldiers. Ever since frequent border tensions between the two countries have led to a number of military clashes. In 1965 War Pakistan remained triumphant but in 1971, the war led to dismemberment of Pakistan and East Pakistan was made Bangladesh. The bloody history shows that South Asia is a tinderbox filled with tensions and danger.

Pakistan and India have different nuclear relations. The difference is very much clear in the US-Soviet and Pak-India nuclear relations. The nuclear arsenals in South Asia are likely to remain much smaller and less enlightened than the US and Soviet arsenals. The Cold War-superpowers were involved in deep-seated ideological rivalry, but held no disputed territory and no enduring history of armed violence against each other. In India democracy prevailed while Pakistan remained under the direct military rule for half period of its total age. In Pakistan, military largely runs the nuclear program even during the civilian government. Military influence during civilian rule played important role in the decision of use of force.

In 1980, the Indian senior military leadership wanted to attack Kahuta, Pakistan, but the strong institutionalized civilian government of Indira Gandhi said to have rejected the plan. Afterwards the Brasstack (1986-87) crises emerged when the Indian military forces initiated a massive military exercise; Pakistan fearing the war games might turn into a large-scale attack, its military forces also conducted war exercise along the borders. It resultantly produced a flurry of diplomatic activity and resolved only through direct highest political involvement. The traditional explanation of Basstacks was just a misinterpretation. The Indian military chief said the exercise was to provoke the Pakistan military. According to Lt Gen P N Hoon the Brasstack was no military exercise, but it was a plan to build a fourth war with Pakistan.

The Kargil conflict began in May, when the Indian intelligence services discovered what appeared to be Pakistani regular forces lodged in mountain redoubts on the Indian side of the line of control. For almost two months, Indian Army units attacked the Pakistani forces and Indian Air force jets bombed their bases high in Himalayan peaks. The US spy satellites revealed that the Indian tanks and heavy artillery were being prepared for a counter-offensive in Rajasthan. The fighting ended in July, one thousand Indian and Pakistani soldiers died in this conflict. The Pakistan side’s interpretation of the Kargil crisis was that Nawaz Sharif lost courage and backed down unnecessarily. Now it might be possible that the future military issues between Pakistan and India are likely to be nuclear.

The dangerous pattern was repeated in the South Asian crisis that occurred after the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks and the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. In both cases the Pakistan government feared that its nuclear forces would be attacked and therefore took measures to disperse the nuclear weapons and missiles to new locations. President Musharraf defused the crisis by deciding to abandon the support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and to provide logistical and intelligence support for the US war there. Organizational biases could encourage the worst-case assumptions about the opponent aimed and pessimistic beliefs about the prospect for successful strategic deterrence over the long term.

Nuclear South Asia will be a dangerous place, not because of ill will or irrationality between government leaders, nor because of any idiosyncratic cultural inhibitions against strategic thinking in both countries. Pakistan and India face unsafe and risky nuclear future because they have become like other nuclear powers. The leaders pursue security through nuclear deterrence, but unsound humans inside imperfect organizations control their nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons will remain in Pakistan and India for the foreseeable future, and the conflict over Kashmir will continue to smoulder, threatening to erupt into a wider and more dangerous war.

The deep political tensions maybe someday resolved and the US encourages process towards the end of tension because it will reduce the threat of war in South Asia. Pakistan obviously needs nuclear weapons. When asked from former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, she said “it’s our history of three wars with a larger neighbour. In 1971, our country was disintegrated. So security is an issue of survival for Pakistan. The obvious conclusion to draw from Kargil is that the presence of nuclear weapons prevented the risk of war from a major skirmish to a full-scale war.

This is in sharp contrast to the 1965 war where both were armed with conventional weapons only. On the other hand Pakistan and India can control firmly and safely deploying nuclear forces sufficient to deter. The stability of nuclear deterrence between the East and West rested on the multitude of military and political factors which in other regions are either totally missing or are only partially present. Clashes between nuclear countries over peripheral areas are hardly the exception. Presently, out of eight nuclear states, five have fought their neighbors in the past half century, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan and India. India may want a peaceful Pakistan, but under the influence of India.

Trade is believed to be the only way to resolve the political and military tensions, also normalize the relationship between them. In India mostly political leaders cashed in on the Pakistan rivalry during the election campaigns. All wars and conflicts showed the immature behaviour of Indian leaders, more than that of Pakistani leadership, because all happened due to their lack of control on the institution. Only the strengthened democracy will help the both to use the nuclear weapons as a deterrent tool. The South Asian nuclear crisis will only resolve just to normalize the relations between both nuclear states. (Ends)

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