Nuclear strategies: India vs. Pakistan

One of the reasons I enjoy reading the gentlemen at ArmsControlWonk is that they consistently have decent open-source analysis grounded in realistic assessment of weapon (and development) capabilities.  It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s probably the best online information you can find in a non-classified source.  Although the authors and I are surely on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they do not (usually) go in for easy, empty platitudes.  I may not always agree with their prescriptions, but they do go to some pains to help one comprehend the methods by which they reach their conclusions.  Generally speaking, their writing tends to recognise that nuclear weapons exist for a number of rational reasons, are likely to continue existing as long as those reasons exist, and the only way to actually achieve deterrence and non-proliferation goals is to address the underlying security issues in a realistic fashion.

Earlier this week, Mr. Michael Krepon posted a note at ArmsControlWonk about Indian nuclear strategy, quoting extensively from a book (Crafting peace in Kashmir: through a realist lens, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004) by retired Vice Admiral Verghese Koithara, Indian Navy.  The admiral’s brief but insightful discussion of the realities driving Indian and Pakistani nuclear strategy is worth thinking about.

The nuclear strategies of both countries emphasise deterrence, but there is a fundamental difference between the two in that Pakistan’s strategy is aimed at deterring a conventional threat from India, while India’s is aimed at deterring a nuclear one from Pakistan. Since a conventional confrontation is easier to develop and must almost invariably precede a nuclear one, Pakistan’s deterrence has to function much more actively than India’s.  This has an impact on force structure, force posture, and the relationship between conventional and nuclear strategies.  As the conventional military balance continues to shift in India’s favour, Pakistan’s reliance on its nuclear capability will increase and so will its effort to lower the nuclear threshold.  Thus Pakistan’s strategy is likely to emphasize not just ‘first use’ but ‘early first use’ in the coming years. The big problem for Pakistan is that not only is the conventional military balance in India’s favour, but so is the nuclear one.  Pakistan was able to maintain conventional operational parity with India for many decades, but is now losing ground rapidly.  Much the same is going to happen in the nuclear field.

— Koithara, Verghese (VADM, IN).  “Nuclear Danger.” Crafting peace in Kashmir: through a realist lens.  New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004.  p. 113. [Emphasis mine]

Worth reading both the ArmsControlWonk impressions and, for more detail, the chunk of the “Nuclear Danger” chapter that Google Books excerpts.

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