Is it a Surgical Strike through Atoms?
Shri Rajnath Singh, the Honourable Minister for Defence of India, post the much-deserved ‘Victory Ceremony’ of the Indian Armed Forces in International Scouts Master in Jaisalmer on 16 August 2019, made the suggestion while at Pokharan; later tweeted by him as above and that caught the eyeballs all across and India. A much calibrated and well nuanced statement has left enough scope to debate on New Media and Primetime Debates in India too.
In layman’s thoughts in India, Nuclear Talk has been a taboo for a long time and a noticeable dilemma in the minds of our Polity and a fact that our Military has been vacillating for decades and that the Bureaucracy has been able to drum the threat from a rogue Pakistan so far, speaks of the indecision and defensive strategies that evolved in our politico-diplomatic and military realms; unchecked and large.
Does this recent statement by the Defence Minister mean that the ‘No First Use’ ‘Self-Inflicted’ Policy has been dumped for now or, will it be dumped soon or, has it already been dumped a long time ago and we haven’t caught that transition?
There is a thin line between ‘Sabre Rattling’ and ‘Sabre Rattled’ and Pakistan has reached both the stages with just a mere suggestive comment from the Indian Defence Minister. Late Shri Manohar Parrikar had also made very suggestive remarks during his tenure then when he said words to the effect that “Why a lot of people say that India has No First Use policy? I should say I am a responsible nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly. And as an individual, I get a feeling sometime why do I say that I am not going to use it first. I am not saying that you have to use it first just because you don’t decide that you don’t use it first. The hoax can be called off.” So, is this suggestive approach which continues, got more to do with India’s attempt to change the nuclear policy or, it is been done to put Pakistan Sabre Rattling to an end by being bold in our intent?
Pakistan’s bluff has been once more called out, as it has now reacted as if there has been a formal change in policy of the Government of India. However, there has been an apt reminder from Dr (Ms) Shireen Mazari from Pakistan, who has brought out the declaration of 04 January 2003; wherein India had had kept use of nuclear weapons open in certain circumstances.
It is with this backdrop we need to understand the Nuclear Talk in the sub-continent and especially in relation to India and Pakistan; while the latter is a rogue state and terrorists getting hold of nuclear assets remains a possibility; though bleak and creation of such a weapon and being used by ISIS etc also remains a feasibility today when the ‘Drums of Jihad’ are expected to grow louder with abrogation of Article 370 and withdrawal of USA troops from Afghanistan.
Do Provocations Count?
Has Pakistan, having been pushed against the wall, been able to “Put the Fuze” into it’s nuclear weapons yet? The answer after Kargil, through Surgical Strike post Uri terrorist attack and till a full-fledged Air Strike into Pakistan post-Pulwana at Balakot is a ‘NO’ for now and even if it “Put that Fuze”, it could never arm the weapon for sure. On the contrary, ‘Denial’ of such strikes was the ‘Shield’ Pakistan chose then and in Kargil it even shamelessly disowned it’s soldiers who were ‘Killed in Action’. While international pressures and aftermath of misusing such weapons has weighed upon Pakistani establishment so far, there is a feeling that such provocations may lead to terrorists calling the shots in the future. While it may look like a shot from a Hollywood movie, it is a far-stretched idiocy; as for that to happen in Pakistan, it has to have full and complete support of Pakistan Army and that may not happen despite major provocations; and that too only because, at the end of the day, enough is at stake for Pakistan military generals who have such flourishing businesses all across Pakistan and Chinese money is simply so tempting for them right now. So, provocations may not count until India uses a Nuclear Weapon actually first & then if Pakistan has any 2nd Strike capability left thereafter! I am not so sure it will even exist post the 1st Strike!
Is a Change of Heart of India in the Offing?
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, our former Prime Minister, had espoused to adherence to ‘No First Use’ Policy in the use of Nuclear Weapons and India has abided by that commitment; which it made as a responsible Nation; post the Nuclear Test at Pokharan in May 1998. However, the caveat added in 2003, as reminded by Dr (Ms) Shireen Mazari seems a valid and mature curation of our intent; given the volatility of threats we perceive.
Moving on, let us now remind ourselves on the 2014 Election Manifesto of the BJP, which constitutes a majority of the NDA Government in India today.
INDEPENDENT STRATEGIC NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
(EXTRACT OF BJP MANIFESTO 2014)
BJP believes that the strategic gains acquired by India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on the nuclear programme have been frittered away by the Congress. Our emphasis was, and remains on, beginning of a new thrust on framing policies that would serve India’s national interest in the 21st century. We will follow a two-pronged independent nuclear programme, unencumbered by foreign pressure and influence, for civilian and military purposes, especially as nuclear power is a major contributor to India’s energy sector.
– Study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.
– Maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing geostatic realities.
– Invest in India’s indigenous Thorium Technology Programme.
Don’t get alarmed Mr Imran Khan, and do sleep well, as BJP does adhere to it’s manifestoes and you saw a good example with abrogation of Article 370; which left the Jihad Factory, Polity and Military in Pakistan in ‘Cold Sweat’! The striking similarity in what Shri Rajnath Singh said on 16 August 2019 and this Extract of BJP Manifesto of 2014 must not be a cause of concern but an opportunity for Pakistan to brace up for Peace ahead; as it’s options are limited and world is watching with abated breadth. The ‘Harakiri’ which Mr Imran Khan did in presence of General Bajwa in front of President Donald Trump Jr. by requesting for mediation in Kashmir and in turn ‘Owning Up Running a Terror Network” os sorts, has put Pakistan in a backfoot and it’s threats post abrogation of Article 370; an internal matter of India, has put it in the spotlight with little space for maneuver.
VAJPAYEE ERA OF “VELVET GLOVE”
What is in the Hands of Pakistan?
Pakistan has played all it’s cards; albeit too early from Kargil (Denial and Defeated) till Balakot (Denial and Drama) and it’s bluster post abrogation of Article 370 is all so obvious (Dumbstruck). The myth of a nuclear war has been broken umpteen number of times and the nuclear bogey has been called out for nearly a decade now. From the days nearly 15 years ago when I used to tell our Star-Rankers in the military that Pakistan nuclear threat is a bogey and we must look through it and, they used to get cowed down and start climbing colourful ‘Escalation Ladders’; and some still do that today, we have come a long way and atleast the Political Intent of recent Governments and our robust Diplomatic Prowess has assured and created many layers of protected liberty, into our Defence Forces to act in all realms including Hybrid, Conventional and Out-of-the-Box application of National Power and all defence assets to defeat and even derail intent of the adversary; especially Pakistan. The day has come that Pakistan is irrelevant to India in many ways and it’s threat is a shear assumption which India may want to keep to retain it’s own conventional edge.
Pakistan hereon has many paths to choose from in the military domain with reference to use of nuclear weapons; while it’s Red Line has been craftily breached by India post Uri and during Balakot strikes too. While the helplessness of Pakistan in military domain is but obvious and it’s preparedness suffers from logistic back-up and lack of munitions and serviceability of critical weapon systems, the use of Terror Network from Pakistan to bleed India; as they may want to by dreaming of calling out the ‘Hadith’ to achieve ‘Ghawaz-e-Hind’ remains a reality and the Terrorists might regain a say in affairs in Pakistan and we do hope that nuclear arsenal will remain away from their hands.
For now, Pakistan will do itself a lot of good by just concentrating on ‘Jihad’ and skirmishes across Line of Control and not attempt to get itself ‘Barbad’ through any major military misadventure.
Is there a Nuclear Use Scenario?
Under extreme provocation of terrorism pumped in across the Line of Control by Pakistan, India will not use any nuclear force. Under the ambit of a conventional war; emanating due to misadventure by Pakistan, India will not use nuclear force. Under the ambit of of use of biological weapons or. chemical weapons in limited spaces on it’s military, India may not use nuclear weapons. In an eventuality of use of biological, chemical or, even nuclear weapon on population centres in India, India will use nuclear weapons; which might cost total annihilation in Pakistan but that scenario is currently remote; but possible, given the ISIS connect backdrop and probability of another rogue state sharing technology, biological agent or, chemical agent.
With USA contemplating a withdrawal from Af-Pak region, Pakistan will test waters and hold USA to ransom with demand for oodles of USD in Aid and also, weaponization and refurbishment of older fleets and weapons of US military origins. This may also lead to a ‘Terror Surge’ across the Line of Control and even sporadic trans-IB firing and incidents of aggressive actions near IB from Chamb-Jaurian to the Bugle to the South of Jammu; a traditional firing zone of Pakistan in pre-Modi Era, which led to helpless killing of innocents in RS Pura, Arnia etc. The appreciated declining surveillance and control-capability of USA on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is a cause of worry in the future and independence garnered by Pakistan may also result in it’s arsenal being taken over in parts by rogue elements; given it deniability while these launches are directed at India. It is this scenario which is most likely in the future and something which the Comity of Nations need to be aware and weary of and India must be able to cater to. It is this scenario which might compel India to launch a nuclear warhead first; maybe after intercepting the first launch from Pakistan side or, concurrently, or, even proactively once the threat is all too imminent.
What Could India Do?
India must foresee the worst eventuality and that calls for some proactive measures to include the following: –
(a) Have an active Air Defence Shield System to be able to detect the launch in time and intercept the missile or, firing platform with accuracy. For this, there is a possibility to be part of the US Shield and / or, develop a 2nd Tier oneself and / or, have greater collaboration with Russia and Israel to ensure all actions are initiated to avoid the envisaged Pakistan nuclear strike on High Value targets in India.
(b) Develop Cyber Tools for negating the launch or, steering the flight path away from designated targets to allow least damage.
(c) Have an “Active Mechanism” to destroy all launch and assembly facilities as a preventive action when such adverse nuclear initiations are imminent.
Most of the above suggestions are in the research realm and we would do better to work on them earnestly for now in collaboration with capable scientific communities and able countries for transfer / sharing of key and niche technologies.
For now, given the geo-political realm and our say in International Fors, India need not worry much, and no knee-jerk action is needed to be taken. Pakistan must remain inconsequential for now and it’s unease should be maintained till such time a Policy change on our Nuclear ‘No First Use’ is effected by the Government and then we do hope no internal ruckus and unwarranted debate ensues, like it did with abrogation of Article 370. It is more important to be able to “Sell the Change” to some inimical elements in India and not worry about the World and least about Pakistan then.
India has enhanced it’s stature in the Comity of Nations in the last 5 years and it will continue to do so in the coming years too. The enunciation in the 2014 Election Manifesto is an indicator that India will find it’s rightful place and call the shots when it matters to it’s National Interests; something which is clearly visible from it’s handling of situation and International opinion post the abrogation of Article 370. The effective and confident manner in which Mr Syed Akbaruddin, our Ambassador at the United nations addressed the media post the Closed Door Meeting on Kashmir, on 16 August 2019, is an indicator that we have truly arrived on the World Stage and we can foster our democracy much better now on.
FOREIGN RELATIONS – NATION FIRST, UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD
(Extract from 2014 BJP Manifesto)
BJP believes a resurgent India must get its rightful place in the comity of nations and international institutions. The vision is to fundamentally reboot and reorient the foreign policy goals, content and process, in a manner that locates India’s global strategic engagement in a new paradigm and on a wider canvass, that is not just limited to political diplomacy, but also includes our economic, scientific, cultural, political and security interests, both regional and global, on the principles of equality and mutuality, so that it leads to an economically stronger India, and its voice is heard in the international fora.
Evolving Nuclear Doctrine
The Nuclear Doctrine cannot be ‘Unclear’ and at the same time it cannot be spelt to be too ‘Clear’; as it accords an appreciable degree of ambiguity in use of nuclear weapons, allows necessary testing and research and has ramifications other than war too. As a responsible National State and a World Power in taking decisions for larger good of world, India must accord a great degree of maturity and intent to it’s Nuclear Doctrine. A change from ‘No First Use’ to ‘First Use In Unavoidable Conditions’ with some listed scenarios followed by an “Etc”, will leave enough ambiguity and also fear in Pakistan where control wrests with the Military, and, a caution in even in other countries which might be selling nuclear weapons and technologies to Pakistan. No matter how it is worded, the writing is on the wall and even if it is not postulated in a Doctrine, it is amply clear that India does not remain a Country which is willing to be hit first by a nuclear weapon anymore as our ‘Cheeks are Not available for a Slap’ at all !
Authored By: Colonel Rohit Dev (Retd)