Introduction: Setting Benchmarks
One view of nuclear deterrence rests as such: two rivals armed with nuclear weapons will not fight one another. Such an outcome may be beneficial to the all players in the world system. Instead of costly conventional war, countries will maintain security and have to accommodate one another.
Yet, the aforementioned view is incomplete. In assessing the relations between the USSR and America, China and the USSR, and now India and Pakistan, a clear corrective has been added to the theory of ‘nuclear stability’: countries will accommodate only after an initial period of crisis-adjustment.
To reach a conclusion on whether India has passed this transitional state, the paper will present three arguments that support deterrence optimism on the subcontinent, followed by three related counter-arguments. The first argument will present two viewpoints on developments within Kashmir, the most important conflict between the two nations. Next, the paper will present two viewpoints on recent comprehensive threat reduction measures and other ‘trust’ building exercises currently underway in the subcontinent. Finally, the paper will gauge the lessons of the most nuclear flashpoint: the 1999 Kargil crisis.
This paper will argue, while India and Pakistan are now doubt in a process of diplomatic melioration, the case for deterrence pessimism. India and Pakistan’s relations require a transformation of viewpoints and security needs that has yet to occur, and most likely retard in the future.
Kashmir: Defining Progress
A clear difference the Cold War and the current nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan is 1) their neighboring locations and 2) the existence of a clear boarder conflict. A key piece of nuclear-derived stability must have with it improvement in Kashmir.
It is clear that the Kashmir dilemma moving in a positive direction. While there have been a recent massacre of Indians within Jammu & Kashmir, the peace process has not been deterred as of yet. Furthermore, this year’s release of the first Kashmiri film in nearly four decade shows that there has been at least an apparent thawing of the Kashmiri situation.
What has changed recently in the position of Pakistan and India?
Pakistan has dropped the ‘non-starter’ demand for a plebiscite within the disputed region. Furthermore, Musharraf has pledged to halt terrorist incursions of the Line of Control (LOC) and, in the words of Musharraf, “Pakistan has taken the considered decision to be a part of the coalition, to be with the United States, to fight terrorism in all its forms wherever it exists.” Additionally, Musharraf has made sweeping calls for the demilitarization of the LOC—calls that have as of yet not been reinforced by India. But Pakistan foreign does seem to have a clear objective: moving away from maximalist goals in regards to Jammu & Kashmir.
India, as well, has moved back from maximalist demands. As Manju Parikh points out, India has not only removed troops but has engaged in talks with Kashmiri separatist groups in the All Party Hurriyat Conference. These talks have recently led to the Indian Government and All Party Hurriyat Conference to agreeing to a “mechanism” for future talks.
Regardless of the source of these changes (developing middle-class demands, desire to be seen as a responsible power, or the fatigue of the decades of conflict) these are all positive developments for Kashmir.
Yet, none of these developments have led to substantial agreements or force reduction along the Line of Control. The most that can be said of all discussions is that they are paving the road to real progress. Yet, is this progress meaningful?
India has refused Musharraf’s call for direct talks between the two countries to solve the Kashmir issue. Instead the Congress party has developed a working relationship with the All Party Hurriyat Conference—an Indian selected group of Kashmiri separatist leaders. Any agreements that come out of these talks will not reflect the viewpoints of all Kashmiri separatist groups and perhaps not Pakistan. Can progress really be made without an all inclusive discussion?
Here we see the main theme of this paper: diplomatic melioration between the two countries has not resulted in a diplomatic transformation. Pakistan still views the Kashmir issue as the first and paramount conflict with India. India does not share this viewpoint; instead pushing for resolution on other issues, and seeking peace in Kashmir through India-Kashmir talks. While a diplomatic transformation may be in the future, there are no clear signs this is the case (and not just dragging on the part of both parties). This leave open the possibility that Kashmir will gain be a nuclear flash-point.
Yet, on the most fundamental question—is there a current legitimacy and sanctity professed by both Pakistan and India of the Kashmiri territorial status-quo?—the answer is yes, however tenuous.
CTR and Trust: Progress but still a Long and Perilous Road Ahead
In addition to the Kashmir issue, numerous scholars have pointed to Comprehensive Threat Reduction Measures and Trust Building Measures (which tie into dialogue with Kashmir) as essential for stability on the subcontinent. Recent developments show clear strides made on the part of both parties, individually and bilaterally, to instill needed trust and safeguards that in the Cold War context proved so valuable to nuclear non-use.
One of the most difficult problems of the international system is the ability of states to the intentions of other states. Have India and Pakistan taken steps to increase their discussions both non-nuclear and nuclear issues to avoid maculation?
On the non-nuclear front, there have been impressive non-governmental interactions between India and Pakistan. As Manju Parikh points to groups like the India-Pakistan Friendship Society, Neemrana Initiative and the India-Pakistan Initiative For Peace as policy oriented groups that seek elite interaction between the countries. India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy and The People's Asia Forum bring face-to-face dialogues, not to mention sporting events between the two countries. Such groups permit dialogue among the two nations both on a personal and policy level, leading to greater understanding and perhaps permitting both sides not to misread the intentions of the other—a common problem during the early phases of the Cold War.
Both nations have also held meetings on the exact issue at hand: the use and deployment of nuclear weapons on the subcontinent. As reported by Reuters last week, India and Pakistan expect to finalize a nuclear safety pact in July. The talks have formalized the ‘hotline’ between military directors for each country and both sides have pledges to improve ‘hotline’ communications between the foreign secretaries of each nation.
While details of the future deal are few, the near completion after two years of work shows a commitment on both the sides of India and Pakistan to reach accommodation. And within this time, both nations have maintained a clear sign of restrain and threat reduction: the abstention of nuclear testing on the subcontinent since 1998.
Now the easy charge open for pessimists to make is to argue both these unofficial relations and nuclear dialogues have not ‘done enough’. But it is clear that considerable amounts of “reassurance” have been developed and maintained since 1998.
And for the purposes of this paper, nuclear pessimism cannot be ‘proven’ by simply arguing that India and Pakistan must do more. To prove the case of pessimism in regards to CTR, one must show that the strategic mind-sets of India and Pakistan, despite current dialogues, are still on a dangerous trajectory.
1) Pakistan still maintains security by keeping their nuclear capabilities opaque. Such a policy shows a profound difference between Cold War deterrence and Subcontinent deterrence: the former was between relatively nuclear and conventional equals, whereas the latter is not. Pakistan is both conventionally and nuclearly weaker than India, especially looking into the future. As such, it will remain in Pakistan’s interest to hide its capabilities—keeping the risk of nuclear miscalculation and motivational confusion alive and well on the subcontinent.
2) India’s nuclear posture is entering a transitional period. As Rajesh M. Basrur points out some Indian leaders hold the following benchmarks for Indian ‘minimal deterrence’: a) greater ability to counter China, b) need for nuclear triad, and c) greater command and control. The final goal is one that would no doubt ease nuclear tensions on the continent. But the first two, would be provocative moves to Pakistan.
Both these conditions show that recent bilateral improvements loose sight of complicating multilateral nuclear dimensions. First, there rests the recent Indian-US deal that (if passed without added restrictions) would grant India greater ability to produce nuclear weapons without any corresponding restrictions. Secondly, the deal represents the coming of India as a ‘great power’, and as such leads one to conclude that India will make its nuclear arsenal equal to that of China: seeing that it was China’s entry into the NPT that kept India from joining the NPT in the first place. And within this is the ongoing review of the American nuclear posture: with both the development of tactical nuclear weapons, the redesign of nuclear warheads, and continued development of SDI—which grants both greater first strike capabilities and defense from nuclear reprisals.
All the aforementioned activities suggest, at the least, India will continue to develop and strengthen its nuclear arsenal, if not starting deploying it. Such an action would not be the result of Pakistan, but rather a response to China. But regardless of the motivation, such a development would lead to a clear Pakistani result: greater nuclear secrecy and paranoia of a successful Indian first-strike on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
The world system is no longer bi-polar, and the multipolar dynamics of the nuclear dilemma on the subcontinent suggest that one not only look at bilateral CTR measures, but the interlinking nuclear dynamics of the United States, China, India and Pakistan. And when one looks at this marco-view, optimism seems anything but sure.
Kargil Crisis: Proof of Optimism
Perhaps the strongest case for deterrence optimism comes from experience: not only did the Cold War not see a nuclear strike during its transitional phase, India and Pakistan did not resort to nuclear conflict in the Kargil Crisis of 1999.
Even with a festering Kashmir, jihadi elements in Pakistan, clear Pakistani incursion, both parties avoided using nuclear weapons. Peter Lavoy points to the Kargil crisis ability to show Pakistan that nuclear blackmail would not work, and has resulted in Musharraf’s current playing down of nuclear weapons as political tools.
Yet, one must remember the most important aspect of the Kargil Crisis: the resultant overthrow of Pakistan's democratic government and return to military rule. This event highlights the tumultuous political scene in Pakistan. As such one finds a common thread between the works of Haqqani, Lavoy and Chari stands as the instability of the Pakistani regime. Haqqani goes as far to call Pakistan a “rentier state”. Chari makes the implicit assumption that Pakistan may continue to play for gains, as it did in Kargil—perhaps owing to strong deference to military commands or on the grounds of maintaining national unity. And Lavoy still documents the contradictory positions exiled Pakistani secular leaders on the nuclear issue. Such fear of Pakistani-regime stability is not just to talk of outside analysts: a CIA and NIC (National Intelligence Council) report predicted a Yugoslavian fate for Pakistan by the year 2015.
What good is the ‘proof’ of Kargil if 1) the seeds for crisis remain and 2) any crisis may bring about a vastly different regime in Pakistan?
Whether or not Pakistan will continue exploit the ‘stability-instability paradigm’ and India’s responses to this are secondary to whether Pakistan would pursue such a course of action.
The paper should that the recent developments in Kashmir show an averred commitment to a territorial status-quo by both powers. But this commitment, while definitely alleviating the risk of nuclear brinksmanship, has not resulted in a clear resolution of the crisis. While there has been melioration, there has not been a fundamental transformation of the Indian and Pakistani approaches to Kashmir.
This would not be critically important if it wasn’t for the unequal military positioning of India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan conflicts not only reside in Kashmir, but in their own sense of security. While this paper does not claim that India would desire to nuclear decapitate Pakistan, its nuclear responses to China may be enough to have Pakistan feel this threat. Recent melioration through a coming nuclear safety pact confuses a bi-polar nuclear issue with a multi-polar one: one that misses the recent changes in the US-Indian relationship and the dynamics of Sino-Indian relations. As such, recent improvements will likely not bring transformative elements: having IAEA inspections of nuclear arsenals, sharing nuclear information, or arms-control measures.
And coupled into this discussion is the weak integrity of the Pakistani state—the most critical aspect of this paper’s argument. The existence of exiled secular leaders, a military regime installed after a coup, and jihidist elements show the weak nature of Pakistani civil society. Viewing the Kargil crisis as an important step in the overthrow of democratic governance in Pakistan makes any argument for deterrence optimism ring hallow. From its weak internal coherrence, Pakistan is prone to irrational decisions in regards to the ‘stability-instability paradox’, which may lead to irrational reactions from India. As such, it seems any true stability can only come with Pakistani regime transformation: to one that controls its boarders, enjoys robust popular support, and conducts transparent foreign and domestic policy. While the Cold War eventually saw the overthrow of the Soviet regime, its internal coherence throughout the US-USSR ‘transitional nuclear’ moment was much stronger. Until this can be said of Pakistan, deterrence optimists will not be able to link these two cases together or use the Kargil crisis as a ‘proof’ of optimism.
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