Strategic Stability in South Asia: Is India a Responsible Nuclear State?
June 13, 2019
“One would like to hope that India would have learnt its lessons. It is however wise for Pakistan not to live by hope, since hope is not a policy. Pakistan needs to factor in erratic behavior by the enemy at all times.” This was stated by Lt. Gen. (Retd) Khalid Ahmad Kidwai, former Director General, Strategic Planning Division (SPD), during his address as Keynote Speaker at a seminar on “Strategic Stability in South Asia: Is India a Responsible Nuclear State?” organized by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) today.
Talking about the Pulwama standoff, Lt. Gen. Kidwai said that India displayed reckless and immature conduct of foreign policy. He lauded the critical and timely response by Pakistani Air Force which resulted in embarrassment for India. Since India’s prime objective was to bring about an electoral win, the incident, much to India’s chagrin, highlighted the centrality of the core issue of Kashmir. It also brought into question the lack of professionalism of the Indian army and how the Indian forces can be misused. He said that a responsible nuclear state does not develop nuclear technology for a place in the global order. Conversely, India’s nuclear program is designed to gain international prestige. The world should now be aware that India’s nuclear weapons are not safe. Moreover, domestic changes in ‘Hindu India’ require critical rethinking in Pakistan he said.
Other speakers at the seminar included: Dr. Rizwana Abbasi, Associate Professor at Bahria University; Dr. Zafar Khan, Assistant Professor at the National Defense University; Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, and Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS). The working session titled “Responsible Nuclear Behavior: Pulwama Crisis” was chaired by Ambassador Zamir Akram.
The speakers talked about patterns of nuclear behavior, which include adopting a robust regime to avoid war and making genuine efforts to promote disarmament and de-weaponize space, land and sea. They agreed that India is a power seeking state that aspires to build its soft image through democracy. It is, in essence, designing to expand itself as a power state based on realism. While India has violated agreements on Indus Waters Treaty and the Kashmir plebiscite, it has also rejected Pakistan’s offer for a nuclear free South Asia. This displays India’s institutional behavior. Violence as an instrument of policy by Indian armed forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir will remain a source of instability. It is important for states to demonstrate some kind of responsibility in order to maintain the status of a responsible nuclear state. It should not give ambiguous political statements regarding its nuclear technology.
Earlier, in his welcome remarks, Director General ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that the world is changing rapidly. A new arms race is emerging in various parts of the world which is why the concept of strategic stability has come under great stress. Time and again, India has tested the risk of nuclear deterrence and has adopted aggressive war fighting doctrines. The Indian effort to create a new norm of surgical strikes within Pakistani territory is even more destabilizing and could prove catastrophic. With the re-election of Prime Minister Modi, India is likely to continue its aggressive posture against Pakistan. Something the world community should be worried about. Even though Pakistan is not engaged in an arms race, it will have to make a holistic effort to apprise the international community that India’s hegemonic behavior is a product of how the world views India on the world stage. He said that all strategic choices that Pakistan has made have been while exercising the right of self-defense.
Chairman ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, in his concluding remarks pointed out that India is trying to create military strikes within Pakistan as a “new normal”. However, Pakistan’s measured and rational response to Indian incursion effectively deterred India on a conventional level. The dialogue process between India and Pakistan has been suspended for over a decade now. But ultimately, India and Pakistan, as nuclear armed neighbors, would have to revert to a process of dialogue between them to sort out their difficulties. The festering issue of Kashmir is the biggest hurdle to amelioration of ties between India and Pakistan. As rational, responsible nuclear states, they would have to pursue conflict resolution. This, he concluded, is the only rational way forward.