India And Pakistan In A “Hot War”



The South Asian security architecture became complex and less predictable after India carried out its first nuclear weapons test in 1974 — in a so-called Peaceful nuclear test. Since India only received a slap on the wrist, this partly emboldened New Delhi to test again in 1998 and its abstention from recent voting on the resolution that seeks a ban on future testing makes their intentions doubtful. It remains to be seen, how the international community will react if India resumes testing.

The conflict prone Indo-Pak subcontinent has witnessed an arms buildup by India that Pakistan is trying to match, and nuclear weapons have bridged that conventional military asymmetry to some extent. However, the Indian acquisition of a ballistic missile defense system, massive expenditures on satellites and Russian leased nuclear powered submarines that India is reverse engineering, are dangerous trends. The nature of strategic stability between these arch rivals could then tilt from that of deterrence to compellence, as India could have assumed a sense of enhanced power that may motivate it to coerce by taking ‘pre-emptory action’ rather than deterring Pakistan. The Western powers and other minions, who have economic or geo-strategic interests with India, unfortunately encourage this imbalance in power. This dangerous trend could push the region towards perpetual instability.

This shift in Indian policy of credible minimum deterrence is motivated by global power ambitions and has become possible because of three reasons: India’s economic rise, its narrative to project itself as a prospective counter-weight China and willingness of Beijing’s competitors to let New Delhi bid to such position. The facts are, however, a bit different. It is not necessary that India could do American and Western bidding to actually contain China. Like them, New Delhi also has huge trade interests with Beijing and there is visible economic interdependence. In this sense, China does not react to Indian provocations to consider it is a competitor.

Since, the BJP came into power, security artists in New Delhi have drafted policies for more bombs and better ways to deliver them. The shift in the Indian nuclear posture from credible minimum deterrence to that of effective deterrence is clear from the recent developments that have taken place since Modi came to power. Developments, such as flight testing of the subsonic cruise missile, Nirbhay, ICBM Agni V, super-sonic cruise missile Brahmos, Dhanush missiles, and the most controversial Indo-Australian uranium deal and recent refusal to the UN Draft resolution on NPT depicts Modi’s over–consciousness in national security. Recently, the BJP government has opted to buy $525m worth of Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel. Indian echoes arms imports have increased by 111% within 3 to 4 years and its weapons purchases account for about 14% of the global arms trade.

Indian domestic politics also plays a role in this policy shift. The Indian nuclear establishment creates the conditions that favor weapons acquisitions by encouraging extreme foreign threats and actively lobbying for increased defense spending. The roots of Modi’s security driven initiatives can be found in BJP’s maiden budget that overwhelmingly boosted its defense budget to 12% and foreign direct investment in domestic weapons industry has also increased to 49%. The nuclear establishment in India has the lion’s share in the country’s defense budget and more importantly a nod from Modi in making more sophisticated missile systems — a shift to reliance on hard power.

From the developments of last three months, it can be seen that the word minimum has lost its meaning in Indian nuclear policy of deterrence. Minimum is just a hangover of a bygone era that was only associated with an economically weak India. With newfound money and political support, India is pushing towards a more aggressive nuclear posture to deter regional adversaries. In pursuit of regional hegemony, its nuclear posture is even more aggressive than other nuclear powers. India sees its unchecked nuclear spending as a policy tool in achieving national interests. It is quite clear that, in the near future Modi’s hawkish policies and aggressive doctrinal shift will further deteriorate regional peace and stability — and Western myopia has let this happen.

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