India-Pak sky clear


Amidst reports of tense situation at the eastern border and trust deficit between Pakistan and India, South Asian experts reject the nuclear pessimism in Western capitals about their region, noting that the West’s nuclear “sky is falling” in South Asia argument does not hold when seen in proper context. This is the conclusion of a report by a prestigious Washington think-tank, the Atlantic Council, which also rules out the possibility of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. The council based these findings on a series of seminars it held recently in New Delhi, Islamabad and Beijing, noting that South Asian experts who participated in these meetings were more optimistic than the “nuclear sky is falling” arguments often aired in the mass media, and policy conferences in general. But as far as India and Pakistan are concerned, the sky seems clear. The experts argued that China, India and Pakistan, despite being enmeshed in a complex rivalry, “are stakeholders in the existing international order, and are committed to an open economic order and multilateral institutionalism”. The experts also noted that all three countries were embedded in a global order that’s vastly different from either the pre-World War I era or the “first nuclear age” that was manifested during the Cold War.
According to these experts, the nuclear ‘sky is falling’ argument is simply not supported by the evidence, at least when evidence is embedded in its proper context. The report, however, warned that the greatest threat to stability in the region “comes not from the development of large, sophisticated and diversified nuclear arsenals, but from the continued stability of the institutions guarding them”. The experts highlighted the consequences of “aggressive nationalism” in China and India, and the potential for the “the first three decades of the post-Cold War era” to become merely “a temporary hiatus in their onward nuclear journey”, which could lead to “truly horrendous” consequences that would prove true the “worst-case assumptions of the nuclear pessimists”. The report noted that until recently, the threat of a nuclear war was thought most likely in South Asia, where India and Pakistan are involved in a festering low-intensity conflict fostered by deep conflicts about identity and territory.
The report underlined two specific dangers: Pakistan deploying tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional war with India, and India’s investments in ballistic missile defences (BMD) and multiple re-entry vehicle (MRV) technology, which gives New Delhi a first-strike option against Pakistan. The report noted that China, India and Pakistan also share a common institutional legacy of civilian dominated nuclear decision-making structures, in which the military is only one partner, and a relatively junior one, among a host of others. All three factors – the structural, the normative, and the institutional – dampen both countries’ drives toward trigger-ready, destabilising, operational nuclear postures that lean toward splendid first-strike options. The report noted that “Pakistan has developed tactical nuclear weapons, although it does not appear to have operationalised tactical nuclear warfare”. On a positive note, the report added, neither India nor Pakistan was conducting nuclear tests to develop or improve designs for nuclear warheads. The same holds for China.
In the meantime, the State Department has hinted that the United States is working on new approaches with India and Pakistan for promoting stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan, says the State Department. The State Department’s annual report on its financial priorities for the new fiscal year highlights this as a key ingredient of new US strategy for South Asia that President Donald Trump announced on Aug 21. According to the State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick, ashington’s approach to South Asia, and specifically Afghanistan, means new approaches with India and Pakistan to deny safe havens to terrorist organisations.