'Change in India’s nuclear doctrine could lead to security concerns for Pakistan'

ISLAMABAD: Experts fear that revision of the nuclear doctrine by India would exacerbate Pakistan’s security concerns and undermine South Asia’s deterrence-based stability, according to the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS).

This was discussed at a talk organised by the think-tank on ‘From Counter Value to Counter Force: Change in India’s Nuclear Doctrine’ to deliberate on the recent debate about the likely shift in India’s nuclear posture and its implications for Pakistan as well as regional strategic stability.

The experts, the CISS said, agreed that expansion of nuclear capabilities and revision of posture could have serious security implications for Pakistan. Furthermore, the resulting environment could further reduce the space for dialogue between the two countries.

Statements by Indian officials and scholars have indicated that the Indian government could be considering a revision of its “No-First Use” nuclear doctrine to include the option of pre-emptive strikes. Under the existing doctrine, India could carry out retaliatory strikes against Pakistani cities, but that too could change to include pre-emptive strikes against Pakistani nuclear assets.

“A pre-emptive nuclear strike by India would be very difficult but not impossible due to the acquisition of technology from the US and Israel as well as indigenous development of its nuclear assets,” said Dr Christopher Clary, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Albany in New York. According to Dr Clary, India could be playing up the idea of counterforce strike to deter Pakistan by adding credibility to its posture, keep the option of such a strike available to itself in the eventuality of a breakdown in deterrence, pre-empt an imminent attack or bait Pakistan into an arms race for exhausting its limited resources.

Dr Mansoor, a postdoctoral fellow at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said that India by expanding its capabilities could be moving towards a possible change in its nuclear posture and realisation of its counterforce targeting aspirations.

Dr Mansoor said that India could be doing this to inflict a decapitating first strike on Pakistan and maintain escalation dominance in case of a conflict. He also highlighted the conventional discrepancies between India and Pakistan.

In his opening remarks, CISS Exec­utive Director Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi highlighted two factors of concern for Pakistan’s security — the growing Indo-US cooperation and the ambiguity shrouding the narrative.

Dr Naeem Salik, senior fellow at CISS, claimed that Indian statements about its nuclear doctrine were a typical reflection of India’s jingoism.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2017

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