To Achieve Non-Weaponised Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia

16 Oct, 1997    ·   19

Maroof Raza beleives that Non-Weaponized Deterrence would not only build on the existing situation in South Asia, but also support the logic of nuclear arms reduction between the United States and Russia

Although both India and Pakistan are de facto nuclear powers, they have refrained from converting their technical capabilities into usable warheads. The two South Asian neighbours have a history of conflicts and, as current relations between the two countries are at their lowest ebb, international concerns are growing over the possibility of a nuclear war occurring between them. With traditional approaches to non-proliferation having failed to yield results, there is a need to make the region nuclearsafe.



There is general acceptance that nuclear weapons do exercise a degree of restraint on war prone neighbours resorting to force. In the opinion of some, nuclear weapons have kept wars at bay in South Asia . Since the declaratory policies of both countries state that their nuclear programmes are peaceful and that they have neither produced nuclear weapons nor have any intentions of doing so, it is difficult for them to initiate a debate to establish a viable nuclear strategy. This arises out of the ambiguous nuclear postures adopted by India and Pakistan and reluctance on the part of the world to grant formal recognition to the two states as being nuclear capable.



In the recent past, two specific nuclear deterrent strategies have been suggested, namely, Recessed Deterrence, a term attributed to Jasjit Singh (and now being propounded by General K. Sundarji) and Non-Weaponized Deterrence, proposed by George Perkovich. There are some differences between the two strategies.



Recessed Deterrence allows for the fabrication of warheads and other components of nuclear weapons. Non-Weaponized Deterrence, as the name implies, suggests that the two parties could retain fissile materials and nuclear weapon components but would stop short of manufacturing warheads. With Recessed Deterrence, nuclear weapons have no tactical role and are only to be used to deter a nuclear attack. However, Non-Weaponized Deterrence, along with confidence building measures, would help in deterring the nuclear genie without the costs and instabilities of deployed nuclear arsenals. To achieve a stable Non-Weaponized Deterrence regime, both India and Pakistan would have to pledge that they will neither assemble nor deploy nuclear weapons or nuclear capable ballistic missiles. Some steps that could lead to Non-Weaponised Deterrence may be the following:



o                    Non-deployment of nuclear capable missiles


o                    Cessation of fissile material production


o                    Non-configuration and exercise of force for nuclear roles


o                    Furtherance of nuclear confidence building measures



By institutionalising such a regime we could mitigate the worst effects of nuclear proliferation while satisfying domestic constituencies in India , Pakistan and the US . Under the existing circumstances a non-weaponised deterrence regime appears to be the most realistic recipe for resolving the South Asian nuclear tangle, since it takes into account the ground reality. Politically, a non-weaponised regime has to offer something to everyone. It does not put any pressure on the two governments to rollback their nuclear programs or sign the NPT, which entails grave political risks. For Washington , a non-weaponised deterrence regime would mean the achievement of the Clinton administration’s short-term goal of capping the nuclear capabilities of the two South Asian nuclear adversaries.



However, the key element of a Non-Weaponized DeterrenceRegime would be a verifiable cut off of fissile materials production. This is an important issue relating to both Recessed and Non-Weaponized deterrence. Verification could include mutually agreed bilateral or international verification arrangements regarding other activities, as for instance, the non-assembly of nuclear cores, non-deployment of weapons/missiles, cessation of fissile materials production and non-conduct of nuclear explosive tests. Though it is unlikely that Pakistan will agree to a no-first use pledge (being the weaker state in military terms), it might agree to a no-first make pledge. A no-first make pledge in fact has to be the centrepiece of a Non-Weaponized nuclear deterrent regime in South Asia .



Non-Weaponized Deterrence would not only build on the existing situation in South Asia , but also support the logic of nuclear arms reduction between the United States and Russia . Hopefully, other nuclear weapon powers would also be under moral pressure to join in this process. Eventually, all states with declared or undeclared nuclear arsenals will have to transit through the phase of a Non-Weaponized Deterrence on their way to complete nuclear disarmament.