IPCS Discussion:

15 Years After India and Pakistan's Nuclear Tests

19 Jun, 2013    ·   4001

Somya Chhabra reports on the discussion on the nuclear tests of both countries and their international and domestic ramifications

Somya Chhabra
Somya Chhabra
Research Intern

Session 1: Developments within the region

Manpreet Sethi
The Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD), Cruise Missile and Tactical Nuclear Weapons are interlinked and this has profound implications for strategic stability in India. India began to focus on BMD since the second half of 1990’s, with its first successful intercept in 2006. Today, it has a capability of exo as well as endo interception. However, it is uncertain if BMD can correctly address India’s Missile Threat Environment, which is highly challenging. Both Pakistan and China are rapidly adding to their missile inventories and there has been significant improvements in their missile accuracy and reliability as well as penetrability. They have also emphasised on training with mobile missile units. Finally, the rapid proliferation of cruise missiles, which are capable of carrying both strategic and conventional warheads will have implications on India’s missile defence.In this kind of a threat environment,

India’s BMD can prove to be effective only with technological advancements such as a good early warning system, quick response capability, 360 degrees of detection and interception, boost phase interception etc.
The nuclear doctrines of China and Pakistan have made the deployment of BMDs by India a necessary evil. India can stay loyal to its nuclear doctrine even while developing BMD by claiming that the missile defence increases the survivability of its nuclear assets. Tactical Nuclear Weapons have given Pakistan the power to deter a conventional military attack from India and to continue its brinkmanship. It is, thus, looking for political advantages. India must respond to such an attempt by emphasising on the credibility of its nuclear deterrence through assured retaliation and by increasing the capability of Indian troops to fight in a missile threat environment. A strengthening of the public profile of the Strategic forces command and better political signalling of India’s resolve to respond to the use of nuclear weapons is also necessary.

Amb. K.C. Singh
The Lahore Declaration of 1999 was made when both India and Pakistan had sanctions imposed on them by US and its allies for the 1998 nuclear tests. Thus in a sense the strategic interests of both converged at that stage. That document has remained as the bedrock of nuclear confidence building talks between the two countries since then. The India- US civil nuclear deal, however, created an asymmetry as India felt that it had gained quasi legitimacy while Pakistan was yet to recover from the ignominy of the A. Q. Khan proliferation network. Thus since the last agreement between the two countries in 2007, there has been no fresh CBMs in the nuclear field.

The recent paper by Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary and current Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, on nuclear doctrines in South Asia is interesting. He makes three points. One that Pakistan's strategic programme is under their military and devoid of civilian control. Two that the Pakistani military's thought processes are rooted in a narrative often at variance with that of the civilian rulers. Three that China continues to bolster the Pakistani programme through open and clandestine means. All this in combination with Pakistani claimed or actual development of tactical nuclear weapons to negate Indian doctrines like the Cold Start or Active Operations leads to new distortions in South Asian nuclear stability. Mr Saran opines that Pakistan must realise that Indian response to any use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, tactical or strategic, would be annihilating.

Amb Maleeha Lodhi has responded to this with the standard Pakistani line that nuclear stability can only be achieved if India accepts a conventional strategic restraint regime and dispute resolution. In conclusion, Pakistani wishes to keep its First Use option ambiguous, utilising irrationality as an instrument to stymie a conventional response from India following another 26/11 type of attack. India has to develop ways of punishing China for escalated nuclear cooperation with Pakistan by extending similar help in China's neighbourhood. At the moment Chinese actions come cost free.

Prof. P.R Chari
Two general propositions regarding Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are that firstly, CBMs are not possible to attain without confidence and trust, and secondly, it is not possible to separate conventional and nuclear CBMs. The two pre-1998 CBMs between India and Pakistan, which are the Annual Exchange of Information on Nuclear Facilities and Installations and the Hotline Agreements, have proved most enduring. CBMs were halted for some time post the 1998 tests, reviving in 2007 wherein the dialogue on nuclear CBM moved towards larger global issues, beyond the Lahore MoU. They were halted again after the 2008 Mumbai Attacks and expert level meetings were revived again in 2011 where the existing CBMs were reviewed. The agreements were also extended to reducing the risks of nuclear accidents. An agreement on prevention of incidents at sea was also discussed. In terms of the future, Nuclear Disarmament is a distant dream. Nawaz Sharif might pursue the CBM route towards India, but whether he has any flexibility on the policy towards India is uncertain. Finally, there is a need for trust to negotiate and implement nuclear CBMs. The underlying feeling is of “cautious pessimism”.

Session 2: International Ramifications of the Nuclear Tests

Rajesh Rajagopalan
Firstly, the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime has become weaker post-1998. This is indicated by the activities of countries such as North Korea and Iran. If North Korea continues to be nuclear and if Iran goes nuclear, it could have a cascade effect on other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea. The only case of clear progress in the last decade has been that of Libya. There have been no major advances in technology control as well. The taboos on nuclear acquisition is getting weaker though the taboo on nuclear use remains.  There is no progress on spreading the norm of No First Use and the FMCT issue is stalled in the CD. There has been no great progress in nuclear disarmament either.

Secondly, this weakening of the non-proliferation regime is mainly as result of the state of relations between the great powers. It has nothing to do with the India-Pakistan nuclear tests of 1998; the tests were a pure coincidence. Non-proliferation was strong in the cold war era because there was consensus between the two great powers. However, post-cold war, non-proliferation is increasingly being challenged and is also being used as a soft balancing technique by Russia and China. As the balance of power continues to shift towards China, the question of where the non-proliferation regime is going becomes a serious and complex issue. The future of this regime is uncertain but the chances of it being strong are bleak.

R. Rajaraman
The “road towards nuclear zero” started with the Gang of Four articles in the Wall Street Journal in 2007-0. While their motivation sounded more pragmatic than idealistic, President Obama’s statements soon after his inauguration, especially his speech at Prague, were an inspiration to people concerned about nuclear weapon dangers. But his various arms control initiatives were far too ambitious, and except for the US-Russia New START treaty, have not progressed too far, especially hopes of ratifying CTBT in the US senate.

But on a less glamorous front, the Summits of world leaders that Obama called at Washington in 2010, followed by a second at Seoul in 2012, were more successful in their aims. They drew the attention of world leaders to the importance of securing nuclear materials. Since then there has been a significant shift in the focus of realistic arms control analysts from nuclear warheads to materials. This is a very sensible and realistic shift. It should be evident that proper audit and security of these materials is an essential prerequisite to sustaining any progress towards disarmament. Conversely, if nations are unwilling to take even the minimal step of declaring their stock of materials, any talk of disarmament is hollow.