Published On: Mon, Nov 30th, 2015

Pakistan: Why A National Resolve To Maintain Full Spectrum Deterrence

By Maimuna Ashraf

Since its inception, one after another, Pakistan’s nuclear program has been entangled in new proposals contrived by US. First it was ‘roll back’, then ‘revised highly enriched uranium (HEU), and now ‘normalizing’ its nuclear program. Pragmatically, the term ‘Normal Nuclear’ sounds paradoxical, understandable in as a lexical term, and yet lacks a profound stipulative and chiefly a theoretical definition. Consequently, the status of ‘Normal Nuclear State’ is ‘codified’ rather than ‘conditionally allotted’.

Lately, this modish term is being found associated with Pakistan after a new report ‘’A Normal Nuclear Pakistan’’ appeared, co-authored by Michael Krepon and Toby Dalton of Stimson Center and Carnegie Endowment, simultaneously. Although, this recent outrage to make not-that-normal nuclear Pakistan a Normal Nuclear-State by the Normal-Nuclear-Club is not preliminary. Almost a year back, Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, proposed a ‘conditional’ layout to treat Pakistan as a normal nuclear country. Albeit the conditions offered by Fitzpatrick were not much dissimilar to those recently articulated by the latest two authors, but he was rather mild in this approach, with an acceptance that Pakistan has had enough paid a price in the past and advocated to treat Pakistan similarly to India.

Fitzpatrick more likely suggested for Pakistan the same five broad initiatives, offered by the authors of newly emerged report, which includes a shift from full spectrum to strategic deterrence, limit production of short-range warheads, lift veto on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, separate civilian and military facilities and sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is asserted in the report that if Pakistan agrees to accept these suggestions it will be treated like a responsible and normal nuclear weapon state. It may sound logical to many that in return for a few demands Pakistan will achieve the status of ‘normal state,’ but does the acceptance of these recommendations advance Pakistan’s nuclear security? Would it reinforce Pakistan’s deterrence posture against India? How would it affect the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia? So should Pakistan agree to this proposal to bargain a status of normality?

The most recent idea to normalize nuclear Pakistan in the international nuclear order, after restricting its nuclear program to weapons and delivery systems, came into the limelight more resiliently in the recent article of David Ignatius. This was followed by the statement of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Pakistan’s nuclear policy is shaped by evolving security dynamics of South Asia, growing conventional asymmetry, provocative doctrines and aggressive posturing by India, which obliges us to take all necessary measures to maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability in order to safeguard our national security, maintain strategic stability and deter any kind of aggression from India.”

What is full spectrum deterrence and why is Pakistan reiterating the national resolve to maintain the full spectrum deterrence? In 1998, when Pakistan detonated its nuclear weapon in response to the India’s nuclear weapon explosions, it declared its right to retain its capability as minimum credible deterrence to avert security threats from its eastern neighbor. This posture adhered that Pakistan would not use its nuclear weapon unless the opponent crossed Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds. Conversely, after the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, Indian Military Command developed an offensive military strategy, ‘Cold Start Doctrine’, in 2004 to replace the outdated ‘Sundarji Doctrine’. Although the complete doctrine is classified, the declassified concept is to reconstitute the existing three Indian army’s strike corps into eight integrated battle groups that could be deployed quickly to strike the narrow pieces of Pakistan’s territory through limited incursion in response to a terrorism event in Pakistan involving Pakistan. The doctrine was designed on assumption that Pakistan would not resort to the use of nuclear weapons in response to a limited incursion that does not cross its nuclear threshold.

The Pakistani nuclear establishment thus argue that CSD would provide India the space for conventional or limited conflict in nuclearized region. Thus, for an appropriate reactionary response to CSD that excludes massive nuclear retaliation, Pakistan developed the low-yield, short range, tactical battlefield ‘Nasr nuclear missiles’. These tactical nuclear weapons were part of Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrence, which provides a qualitative response to conventional threats and asymmetry perceived by India. Moreover it offers a range of options as Pakistan will not be forced to retaliate with strategic nuclear weapon as a first response to conventional force.

Additionally, the assertion to adhere to a shift from full spectrum deterrence to strategic deterrence is thick because it is significant to understand how Pakistan defines its strategic deterrence. Pakistan’s deterrence is dynamic as Pakistan perceives deterrence strengthens if it forcefully deters India. It implies that Pakistan will continue determining its nuclear deterrence requirements on the basis of Indian nuclear advancements or developments. As long as Pakistan sees the nuclear developments of its neighboring state destabilizing the region, it would continue responding them. Thus, Pakistan is maintaining the deterrence, which is minimum credible yet full spectrum to deter all forms of aggression. Consequently “it is confusing to separate full spectrum and strategic deterrence. The idea is probably to separate counter value and counter force but a deterrence that starts to fail even tactically will quickly fail strategically.”

Therefore it is wrong to say that Pakistan and India are engaged in a traditional arms race, where two actors try to outpace each other. In the case of Pakistan, we appear rather to be engaged in a nuclear competition to maintain strategic stability and deter all form of aggression.

The writer is a member of an Islamabad based think-tank, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) and can be reached at maimuna.svi@gmail.com. She tweets at @emm_aey.

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