The India-Pakistan Relationship

23 Mar 2015 01 May 2017

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India - Pakistan relationship has been marred with conflict ever since their independence and both the nations have been involved in three major wars till date in1947-48, 1965 and 1971. In 1998, both countries conducted nuclear tests to enter the nuclear powered nations club. This led a few number of experts to profess that the nuclear deterrence would lead to stabilization of conflict in the sub continent and result in establishment of peace. This kind of deterrence was witnessed by the world for the second time, the first being nuclear deterrence between the cold war foes of NATO and Warsaw Pact countries and to be more specific the US and USSR. Experts from the field of international relations who applied the theories developed in the cold war era Europe to the South Asian rivalry professed that the chances of conventional conflict using regular forces are a thing of the past in case of these two nations. This theory was further reinforced by the Kargil war and the standoff subsequent to the attack on Indian Parliament in 2001.

In 1999 Pakistan occupied a large number of posts after crossing the LOC in the Kargil sector, threatening the crucial Srinagar - Leh highway using regular troops in the guise of Mujahids. The Indian Army reacted to the situation by regrouping and launching "Operation Vijay", and started to recapture the posts by forcibly removing Pakistani troops occupying the posts. This operation was also accompanied by a full scale mobilisation of its military forces by India; however despite the tough posturing by India the war remain limited to the Kargil sector. This was primarily because of tremendous pressure mounted by the international community, especially the US fearing that this conflict may escalate to a nuclear plain.

In 2001 the same massive mobilisation was witnessed by both the countries when they had their forces deployed against each other ready for combat. This time in December 2001 following the attack on the Indian parliament by a group of militants trained in Pakistan. The situation reached a flash point when on 14 May 2002, when another terrorist attack on the Indian Army camp in Kaluchak threatened to start a war between the two nuclear neighbours. In this instance also, as seen in Operation Vijay, India despite posturing did not take any punitive offensive action against Pakistan despite having all its forces in a completely mobilized state.

The above incidents did reflect a situation where in Pakistan had effectively used the nuclear deterrence to attain strategic parity with India negating a conventional disadvantage and thus supposedly giving it immunity to conduct sub conventional operations without the fear of any retribution. Thus India to face major challenges in conducting sub conventional spectrum in Kashmir, which Pakistan initiated after covertly attaining the nuclear technology in the late 1980s. Its conventional strength negated, and with no option to retaliate India find itself in a position where it will have to work its way around this nuclear parity, so as to be able to stifle the Pakistan supported terrorism. Therefore, we need to carefully study the nuclear capability and doctrine of Pakistan in conjunction with the theories of nuclear deterrence, to work out ways for India to exploit its massive conventional superiority by utilizing it to escalate the conflict spectrum, such that it remains under the level of 'Total War'.



To analyze nuclear deterrence in India Pakistan relations. Explore the possibility of use of conventional forces by India to counter the sub - conventional threat faced from Pakistan, while avoiding a nuclear war.


Having attained nuclear capability Pakistan has been acting with a presumption that India's conventional superiority has been totally negated by the nuclear symmetry and has encouraged the Pakistani military elite to intensify the ongoing Proxy War in Jammu and Kashmir. This has had catastrophic consequences for India, which though enjoying substantial conventional superiority, is unable to use it to counter Pakistan's sub conventional threat. It is therefore important to study the interaction between conventional and nuclear deterrence on the India Pakistan relations and generate credible conventional responses to the sub conventional conflict India finds itself embroiled in Jammu and Kashmir.


Indian armed forces along with paramilitary forces are deeply committed in counterinsurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir, which is fallout of the sub conventional operations by Pakistan in the state. This has been possible due to the fact, that Pakistan has been able to achieve strategic parity with India by attaining nuclear capability which affords it certain degree of immunity from direct retaliation through conventional means by Indian forces. Off late, the thought process in higher echelons of Indian leadership has been to ascertain 'What should be India's response, should Pakistan continue with its sub conventional campaign?' While a majority of international relation theorists who studied the nuclear deterrence during the cold war, suggest that the likelihood of a conventional conflict between two nuclear armed rivals are slim, as it leads to a situation of mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, it would be injudicious to apply these theories in their entirety in the Indo - Pak context, as the conditions and realties that exist in South Asia are considerably different than that of the cold war. Thus there exists a window for vertical escalation of the ongoing sub conventional engagement which is below the nuclear threshold. This would however depend on Pakistan's response to a conventional threat, as it the weaker party. Thus any suggested response for India should also carefully consider the Pakistani nuclear capability and doctrine as well, so as to work out practical options for use of conventional military and allow India to effectively counter its asymmetric threat. This study is thus aimed at ascertaining the possibility of a conventional war between India and Pakistan without it getting escalated to a total war.


The paper concentrates on analysing the effect of nuclear deterrence on India and Pakistan relations, applicability of various international relation theories on this relationship and possibility of use of conventional forces by India as counter to proxy war waged by Pakistan while staying below the nuclear threshold.


The methodology employed in this investigation to gather information and data was as follows: -

Scanning of literature on nuclear capability and doctrines of India and Pakistan.

Study of various International Relation theories worked out to explain the superpower relations during the cold war.

Scanning various articles and books by authors concerning the nuclear situation in South Asia.

A bibliography of sources studied and referred has been appended at the end of the text.


The dissertation has been carried out in the following parts:-

Chapter I - Introduction. The background, introduction to the subject and methodology will be covered in this chapter.

Chapter II - Deterrence In Context Of India - Pakistan Relations. This chapter will cover the theoretical aspects of deterrence and its applicability in the context of India - Pakistan relationship.

Chapter III - Nuclear Peace Hypothesis : Manifestation in India - Pakistan Relations. This chapter will study the hypothesis of nuclear peace as propounded by academic experts of international relations and analyse the India - Pakistan relations in its light.

Chapter IV - Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Capability And Command Control Setup. This chapter deals with the nuclear weapons capability that Pakistan possesses, to include its weapon system and delivery platforms, as well as the nuclear command and control setup.

Chapter V - Nuclear Weapon Use by Pakistan : Probability and Scenarios. This chapter will concentrate on the probability of nuclear weapon use by Pakistan and the various scenarios in which they are likely to be used.

Chapter VI - Options Available To India For Use Of Conventional Forces. This chapter will study the options available with India to use conventional force to deter Pakistan from undertaking sub conventional operations in Kashmir.

Chapter VII - Conclusion. The conclusion of the paper and appropriate recommendations will be made in this chapter.



We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth."

John F. Kennedy

The word 'deterrence' comes from the latin verb 'deterree', which means 'to frighten'. It is an attempt to influence 'how and what an enemy thinks and does [1] . Thus deterrence is a state of mind that prevents a deterree from acting in a way a deterror considers harmful. In a simplistic form, deterrence is a crucial factor in the mind of someone trying to decide the benefits of executing a crime versus the likelihood and consequences of getting caught [2] .

The success or failure of deterrence also depends upon how the message is conveyed by the deterror to the deterree. In order to elucidate this aspect, the situation before the two Gulf Wars needs to be considered and understood which highlights the importance of how the deterrence message is framed and understood, as well as how disastrous it can be to fail to understand the thinking of the other side. Before Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the US diplomatic and political positioning was such that it failed to give a clear message that it would react strongly to any Iraqi invasion. Hence failure to clearly convey deterrence between the sides, ultimately lead to the war.

The example brings into play the lesser known twin of deterrence which is 'compellance' [3] . Deterrence can also be defined as the prevention of action for fear of the consequences, brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction. Thus, it is designed to prevent something. Compellance on the other hand involves threat of consequences designed to cause the other party to reverse or to stop carrying out some unwanted action or activity, which has already occurred, the result is war. Similar analysis could be applied to the Cuban Missile Crisis, where initial misunderstandings lead to the failure of both deterrence and compellance. One could also use the word 'coercion' to cover both deterrence and compellance.

Another associated question [4] with the concept of deterrence which arises is 'How much is enough?' Since deterrence is essentially a psychological phenomenon, it is not surprising that how much punishment is sufficient to deter another state, which has always been a controversial and an elastic standard.

Types of Military Deterrence

Military deterrence are of two kinds defensive (conventional) and by punitive (nuclear) [5] . Effective deterrence is a matter of convincing an opponent that certain harm to him will accompany the act one wishes to deter. Thus it amounts to the imposition of a calculus of risk and value on an opponent, such that the value of the act sought to be deterred does not exceed the risk, which is an assessment of the likelihood and the extent of harm. For deterrence to succeed, the enemy has to be persuaded that the deterror has the capacity to act, in a manner that it inflicts greater cost than the advantages to be won by attaining the objective, and that it would actually undertake the act if it is required to. However if the deterror takes the threat of retaliation into account, he can no longer deter all objectionable acts. Thus making it obligatory on the deterror to distinguish between those objectives of indispensable value - such as national survival, and objects of relatively less importance/value.

While in the overall gambit of geopolitics there are large number of instruments of state power which work to deter an adversary, to include but not limited to, political, economic, diplomatic, military power. However in purely military terms deterrence is of two types:-

Conventional Deterrence. This is the deterrence accrued by a nation owing to it possessing a higher military strength, which would mean quality and quantity of hardware as well as trained military force. This spectrum of military power will include land, air and naval forces. This type of deterrence can be easily achieved by the nation which has a larger resource base both in terms of population as well as economic capital. Therefore, in a bilateral conflict the country which is larger in size tends to be the nation which generally has more deterrent potential (militarily), as it is assumed that it can not only maintain a larger force but would also be able to sustain the conflict much longer.

Nuclear Deterrence. This is the deterrence accrued by a nation when it possesses a nuclear weapon, and is studied separately because nuclear weapon exchange is likely to have such substantial effect to both the parties that it would force any nation irrespective of its size to ponder on the effects of such an engagement, hence forcing the dilemma of cost-benefit ratio in the minds of leaders of both the sides. Thus a weaker/smaller nation which faces a superior nation always opts for a nuclear deterrence, as was evident after the end of the Second World War, wherein the United States laid emphasis on developing its nuclear arsenal to counter the numerical superiority of the erstwhile USSR.

Nuclear deterrence theory consists of six key elements [6] , which have to be satisfied to be of any effect, these are:-

The assumption of a very severe conflict.

The assumption of rationality.

The concept of retaliatory threat.

The concept of unacceptable damage.

The notion of credibility.

The notion of deterrence stability.

Conventional Deterrence in Relation of India - Pakistan

India as a nation possesses all ingredients to effectively deter Pakistan in as far as conventional deterrence is concerned. However, this was not always the case, as after independence being of roughly comparable size both in economic and military strengths, India had limited deterrent capability. Although India did enjoy numerical superiority in its armed forces it was hardly sufficient to act as a deterrent for its new neighbour, coupled with the fact that Pakistani military leadership wrongly hypothesised that there soldier were better than their Indian counterparts and any advantage accrued due to numerical superiority was more than compensated. Their belief of superiority was further fortified when as part of its alliance with the US they received technologically advanced weaponry hence achieving qualitative edge over India. This myth carried by the Pakistani elite for a considerable period of time, manifested in the various wars which the two nations have since fought. However this misconception of its superior relative strength came crashing on the Pakistani leadership in 1971 when facing the full potential of the Indian military, it was not only defeated convincingly but also lead to it being bifurcated. Post 1971 there was no conventional conflict as India successfully deterred Pakistan, which till then was always the aggressor. This deterrence that India possessed was for the following reason:-

Conventional superiority of the Indian military infrastructure both as quantitatively well as qualitatively.

Economic superiority, considering the size of Indian economy vis-à-vis that of Pakistan.

Diplomatic strength wherein India had a larger clout in the comity of nations including Islamic states, being considered a peace loving nation which is actively involved in various international forums.

Effectiveness of Conventional Deterrence Against Pakistan

India - Pakistan relationship is going through a period during which no conventional conflict has occurred between them for a long time. However, this period does not signify that of peace as India has been facing a heightened level of sub conventional threat in Kashmir from Pakistan. So the question which arises is that has India been able to achieve effective deterrence against Pakistan or not?

The extent and severity of the sub conventional threat that India faced in Kashmir is clearly brought out by the figure 1.


The details given above make it clearly evident that though India may have deterred a conventional conflict but the same may not hold true for the sub conventional spectrum. This can be attributed to the attainment of nuclear weapons capability by Pakistan as the threat of conventional conflict reduced Pakistan adopted an aggressive policy of sub conventional operations against India [8] . Thus providing a political lever to the Pakistani ruling class to be exploited in international as well as national arena, while reducing the efficacy of Indian Army by embroiling it in asymmetric warfare leading to a classical case of 'Stability - Instability Paradox', which is defined as under:-

To the extent that the military balance is stable at the level of all out nuclear war, it will become less stable at lower levels of violence [9] .

Another expert elaborates; "nuclear weapons can generate risk taking because they presumably provide an insurance policy against escalation" [10] .

23. Hence it is pertinent to note that while India enjoys substantial conventional deterrence the same seems to be ineffective when faced with a nuclear adversary which is undertaking a sub conventional operation against it. Therefore, a thorough analysis would be necessary to ascertain whether India can utilize its conventional superiority and come out of the 'stability-instability' logjam, thus leading to the end of strife in Kashmir. The only example which can be studied to derive suitable future courses of action would be the nuclear deterrence between the NATO and the Warsaw pact countries during the cold war. This nuclear relationship was studied extensively and a number of international relation theories formalized to explain the interaction between the two parties. The most prominent of these hypotheses, forwarded by international relations experts, in as far as conflict involving nuclear states are concerned is the 'Nuclear Peace Hypothesis' which may shed some light on the status of the current relations between India and Pakistan.

However the theories evolved in a different set of situations may not be fully applicable to India - Pakistan relations and thus require suitable modifications to be relevant. And is it possible, at least theoretically, for India to escalate the conflict to conventional level.



"No explanation for the current strategic situation is satisfactory without a definition of the nuclear situation; no definition of the nuclear situation is possible without knowledge of the laws that rule deterrence."

Andre Beaufre

Do nuclear weapons reduce the probability of war? From the starting days of the nuclear weapon development, proponents of nuclear deterrence argued that these weapons have the capacity to reduce the probability of conventional war resulting in what may be called as the 'Nuclear Peace'. Studying the dynamics of the Cold War, some scholars have argued that this is indeed what happened. Despite large number of crises and several proxy wars, the US and USSR avoided a direct military confrontation as both feared an escalation to a nuclear plain. They suggest that unlike conventional deterrence, nuclear deterrence is extremely robust because even irrational or unintelligent leaders are likely to recognize the exceedingly high cost of nuclear war. Therefore, proponents of nuclear deterrence claim with a high degree of confidence that 'the probability of major war among states having nuclear weapons approaches zero'.

Although Cold War was fierce but it never did escalate to World War III. Indeed, some experts argue that Cold War can be thought of as the "Long Peace". And despite the collapse of Eastern Block and the end of Cold War the relative period of peace continues. However, other forms of warfare (sub conventional, asymmetric warfare, etc.) have been seen in various parts of the world but no major war has broken out. So what is responsible for the absence of major wars between great powers after WWII? The three main schools of international relations (IR) theorists have each offered answers to this question [11] .

Neo-Liberalism. As per Neo-liberals democracy, trade and international organizations are the key causes of peace.

Constructivism. While constructivists view democracy, trade, and international organizations as important factors, argue that the main facilitator of the 'Long Peace' are the evolving norms and the social construction of identity.

Neo-realism. They attribute peace during the Cold War to bipolarity and nuclear deterrence.

Robert Rauchhaus has quantitatively evaluated the nuclear peace hypothesis and his findings indicate that the impact of nuclear weapons is more complicated than is conventionally appreciated [12] . He further theorizes that when nuclear asymmetry exists between two states, a greater chance of military disputes and war exists. In contrast, when there is symmetry and both states possess nuclear weapons, then the odds of war drop drastically. When combined, these findings provide support for the existence of the stability instability paradox. Evidence suggests that while nuclear weapons promote strategic stability, they simultaneously allow for more risk-taking in lower intensity disputes. He thus gives out the following hypotheses:-

Hypothesis 1. The probability of major war between two states will decrease if both states possess nuclear weapons [13] .

Hypothesis 2. The probability of crisis initiation and limited uses of force between two states will increase when both states possess nuclear weapons [14] .

Hypothesis 3. The probability of major war between two states will decrease or remain constant if one state possesses nuclear weapons [15] .

Hypothesis 4. The probability of lower level conflicts will decrease or remain the same if one state possesses nuclear weapons [16] .

Applicability of Nuclear Peace Hypothesis in India Pakistan Relations

Having studied the various nuclear peace hypotheses, it will be clear that the first two would be applicable in the context of India Pakistan relations, as both countries are nuclear states. These hypotheses do hold considerably well, when we see them in relation to India Pakistan conflict, the same has been discussed in subsequent sub paragraphs:-

Hypothesis 1. The probability of major war between two states will decrease if both states possess nuclear weapons [17] . Relations between India and Pakistan have repeatedly reached flashpoints wherein they were dangerously close to an all out war ( Kargil 1999, Op Parakaram 2001) but they somehow manged to avoid escalating the conflict into an open war, hence maintaining strategic peace. This hypothesis may also apply to the pre 1998 era where in both the nations had acquired nuclear capability but had still not come out in open. India although having conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 is said to have acquired operational capability only in early 1980s, while Pakistan is said to have attained the capability somewhere between 1986 and 1990.

Hypothesis 2. The probability of crisis initiation and limited uses of force between two states will increase when both states possess nuclear weapons [18] . If we study the trend of sub conventional operations by Pakistan in Kashmir it would be clearly evident that the same was initiated by Pakistan on covertly acquiring the nuclear capability during the period mentioned [19] and then again given a fresh impetus after the 1998 nuclear tests. Thus it may be theorised, that Pakistan has used nuclear deterrence to negate India's conventional superiority, while engaging in a sub conventional conflict. This hypothesis is also called the 'Stability Instabilty Paradox' which was first discussed in detail by Mr Snyder in an essay in 1965.

The situation is such that terrorism has become the foremost issue, which divides India and Pakistan [20] . And while a cursory study of the above hypotheses may lead one to conclude that the probability of fighting a conventional war is bleak, it must be understood that though the hypothesis says that a major war is unlikely between India - Pakistan, a major war is defined as when one of the nation wants to completely subject the other to its will [21] . This is in contrast the thinking of the present military leadership, which misunderstands it with any conflict in which conventional forces are used. Thus as per the hypothesis a repeat of 1971 war may be unfeasible, but a repeat of 1965 may be a possibility, till the time the aims of the conflict are limited and both the parties are clearly aware of the same. This does have a historical example, the Sino-Soviet dispute of 1968, where both the sides had nuclear capability but since the aims of the war were limited neither parties used a nuclear weapon even when faced with an adverse outcome. Therefore there is a case for India to utilise its conventional forces, to counter the Pakistan initiated proxy war, by initiating a punitive limited objective war with Pakistan, with the sole aim of deterring it from continuance of the sub conventional war in Kashmir.

Applicability of Cold War International Theories in South Asia

While there may have been the 'Long Peace' during the cold war because of nuclear deterrence, but is it applicable to the Indo - Pak relation? The answer to this question is more likely to be negative for the following reasons [22] :-

While Pakistan's security concern is India centric, those of India extend beyond South Asia. Thus the relation is not a standalone interaction but is subject to pressures from external factors, which are unpredictable. This is contrary to the relation dynamics of the cold war.

India - Pakistan also do not enjoy the same degree of independence of action, as was available to the US and USSR. This is due to the fact that, unlike the cold war rivals who were at the top of the power hierarchy, India and Pakistan will be subject to interference/influence in their policy and decision making processes.

Geographical proximity of the two countries is also a facet which did not exist in the cold war and thus both countries will be affected by wind movements and fallout in case of a nuclear attack on the other.

However, the foremost reason for non applicability of the theories in South Asia is because unlike the cold war where both the sides were led by 'satisfied powers' i.e. the powers had accepted the status quo in Europe which was concretized by the Helsinki process, Pakistan is a revisionist state. Wherein Pakistan wants to change the status quo in South Asia w.r.t. Kashmir [23] .

However to postulate feasibility for use of conventional forces for punitive action against Pakistan, it would be prudent to study Pakistan's nuclear capabilities and command control setup besides the international relation theories. are feasible not only as per international relations theories but also practical in view of the nuclear weapons capability that Pakistan possesses and the nuclear command control structure it has in place to use a nuclear weapon against India. This is because to have an extremely low nuclear threshold, as Pakistan professes to have, it requires certain capabilities and infrastructure to be in place which is still deficient. Hence it is necessary to study the nuclear capability and command control setup of Pakistan.



Deterrence is greatest when military strength is coupled with the willingness to employ it. It is achieved when one side's readiness to run risks in relation to the other is high; it is least effective when the willingness to run risks is low, however powerful the military capability.

Henry Kissinger

The foundation for the India - Pakistan conflict is complex, Pakistan's fears about India are not only because of the imbalance of power and Indian ambition for regional power status, but also because of the pre - Partition conflict and divergent ideas of nationalism [24] . Since independence the relations between the two countries have never been normal or even free of serious tensions. While, the defence and foreign policies of Pakistan has always been India centric, the complete & absolute defeat of Pakistan in 1971, further forced it into a security dilemma on how to balance, counter and if necessary, fight the Indian threat. This adverse balance of power was further aggravated when India conducted its peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974 at Pokhran. Thus making it imperative for Pakistan to find new ways to tackle the Indian threat, which it did by unknowingly borrowing from the realist paradigm [25] , and vigorously adopting two classical approaches first was having alliances with major powers (United States of America and China) and developing its own nuclear deterrence, so as to somehow regain parity with India.

Reasons to develop Nuclear Weapons. The various factors which may have motivated Pakistan to develop a nuclear arsenal can be enumerated as under:-

Attain Strategic Parity. Pakistan since its creation was always obsessed with its relative military and international standing vis-a-vis India. Development of a nuclear weapon by Pakistan would have helped it negate the effect of India's superiority in conventional forces and in effect attain strategic parity.

Deterrent against conventional conflict. After 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, Pakistan realized that a conventional conflict with India was un-winnable because of the huge disparity in conventional forces. It was also insecure because of the various internal conflicts, within Pakistan due to neglect of the non Punjabi ethnic groups, which could be easily exploited by India. Thus nuclear weapon guaranteed continued existence of Pakistan as a nation. This is substantiated by studying the following incidents, first is the announcement by Pakistan of having acquired nuclear capability in 1987 after India mobilised for 'OP Brass Tracks' and second being the indications that it was preparing its nuclear capable missiles during 'Op Vijay'.

Freedom for Sub Conventional Ops. With the threat of conventional conflict reduced Pakistan could adopt an aggressive policy of sub conventional operations against India and thus hoped to achieve its aim of annexing Kashmir without the need to fight a conventional conflict.

Miscellaneous Factors. The other geo-political factors which would have compelled Pakistan to acquire a nuclear weapon can be:-

National Prestige. Crushing defeat by India in 1971 and the subsequent nuclear test in 1974 would have played on the psyche of the Pakistan military and ruling elite, forcing them to pursue a nuclear weapon program in a bid to regain national prestige. Thus showing its citizens that it is equal to India technologically as well as militarily.

Islamic Bomb. Mr. Bhutto the then PM of Pakistan in reaction to the Indian nuclear tests in 1974 had stated that "The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb too why not the Muslims have the bomb too" [26] . The statement clearly shows the desire of Pakistan to emerge as the leader of the Islamic world by leveraging itself as the most powerful Islamic state.

Pakistan's Nuclear Weapon Capability

In May 1998 Pakistan carried out its six nuclear tests in Chagai, in retaliation to the Indian nuclear tests. Although the number and yield of the tests carried out has been disputed by experts based on seismic data gathered by various observatories around the world, the test marked the confirmation of nuclear weapon capability of Pakistan.

Stockpile. The estimates of Pakistani stockpile of nuclear warheads vary in a range of maximum of 100 - 110 nuclear warheads to a minimum of 30- 35 nuclear warhead. The actual size of nuclear stockpile with Pakistan is hard to gauge as its program is surrounded by extreme secrecy, however a median of 75 - 80 nuclear warheads can be safely assumed as the capability, keeping in mind the highly enriched Uranium (HEU) production capability with Pakistan and the quantity of HEU which would have been used in the tests.

Weapon Delivery Capability

Pakistan has only two vectors available for delivering its nuclear weapons, i.e. aircrafts (F-16 and Mirage), and missiles. The weapon delivery platforms are land based systems and thus have limited survivability in case of a punitive first strike, While Pakistan is pursuing to complete its triad it is unlikely to fructify in the near future

Development of Nasr with a range of 60 Km and road mobility is significant as this nuclear capable missile is likely to increase the survivability of Pakistan's second strike potential. It also provides a platform which can launch a tactical nuclear weapon from close proximity of the intended target, hence reducing the chances of interception by a missile defence shield. It could probably also be used to undertake missions where the launchers are infiltrated across the international boundary for targeting rear echelons. However, the expertise of the Pakistani nuclear establishment to produce a miniaturized nuclear warhead as well as a dependable missile remains suspect. The reason being that Pakistan had tried to develop a short range road mobile missile earlier as well, but in both the cases the program was scrapped since it could achieve the desired technological level required for such a system.

The other factor which needs to be kept in mind is that in all probability Pakistan's nuclear weapons are stored in 'component form', i.e. the nuclear warheads are stored separately from the delivery vehicles [28] and the fissile cores may also have been kept separately than the non nuclear explosives [29] 30. However there are reports attributed to Pakistani military leaders to suggest that the missile components are mated and can be launched in a short timeframe [31] . It would also be interesting to note that while the nuclear armed missiles are reported to have been prepared during the 1999 Kargil crisis [32] , there is no such indication that a similar action was taken during the 2002 standoff [33] . This can be attributed to the higher levels of security measures put in place by Pakistan, so that there is minimal risk of inadvertent nuclear use.

Pakistan's Nuclear Command and Control Structure

Pakistan's nuclear command and control system is considered to be relatively sophisticated and balanced. It has civilian and military involvement, checks and balances between the participating institutions, and a clear division of responsibility between the institutions. The system is based on a three-tier structure as mentioned below, the role and composition of these has been described in the subsequent sections [34] :-

National Command Authority (NCA).

Strategic Plans Division (SPD).

Strategic forces command (SFC).



National Command Authority (NCA). Created in 2000 it is the highest organization authorized to make decisions about Pakistan's nuclear weapons. It is composed of two committees that advise the Prime minister of Pakistan on the development of nuclear stockpile. The authority is also responsible for command and control of the nuclear arsenal. It consists of ten members, to include the president (chairman), the prime minister (vice-chairman) and the chief of army staff. It has two committees:-

Employment Control Committee (ECC). The ECC is responsible for the following:-

Policy-making during peace time

Deployment of strategic forces during war time,

Recommending on the evolution of nuclear doctrine.

Establishing hierarchy of command and policy for authorizing nuclear weapons use.

Giving guidelines for an effective command and control system, to safeguard against accidental or unauthorized use.

Development Control Committee (DCC). The DCC has been entrusted with the following:-

Exercising technical, financial, and administrative control over the strategic organizations involved in the nuclear weapons program.

Oversee development of strategic weapons programs.

Policy formulation.

Deployment of the strategic forces.

Coordination of the activities of all strategic organizations,.

Undertake negotiations on arms control/disarmament.

Implementation of export control regime.

Ensure safety nuclear assets and sites.

Strategic Plans Division (SPD). The Services' Strategic Forces Command, created in 1998 to act as the permanent secretariat for the NCA, is a tri-service organisation with 50-70 officers from all the three services and is headed by a director general from the army. However, all the services also have their respective strategic force commands. The SPD has eight directorates - including the Operations and Planning Directorate, the Computerized, Control, Command, Communication, Information, Intelligence and Surveillance Directorate (CCCCIISD), Strategic Weapons Development Directorate, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs Directorate-and several divisions. One of the main divisions is the security division, a 10,000-strong force charged with guarding and protecting Pakistan's nuclear weapons. The responsibilities of the SPD are:-

Giving various policy options during the formulation stage (nuclear policy, strategy, and doctrine) to the NCA.

Undertake implementation of the NCA's decisions.

Drafting strategic and operational plans for the deployment of strategic forces.

Carry out the day-to-day management of Pakistan's strategic forces.

Coordinate activities of various strategic organizations involved in the nuclear weapons program.

Oversee budgetary, administrative and security matters.

It is also responsible for routine and tactical operational control of nuclear weapon delivery systems (the NCA remains in charge for overall strategic operational control). Which includes:-

Technical control.


Administrative control over missiles and aircraft that would be used to deliver nuclear weapons.


Based on the assessed nuclear doctrine of Pakistan as well as its capability vis a vis our own following can be concluded:-

Pakistan has sufficient nuclear capability in terms of warheads for use against India.

Pakistan uses its nuclear capability as a shield against Indian conventional attack by India.

Pakistan uses its nuclear capability to pursue a policy of heightened sub conventional ops against India as it realizes that the nuclear card will prevent India from taking any major punitive action.

Pakistan has a well established command and control setup for its nuclear weapons, where in a single person cannot order their deployment and launch. The nuclear weapons are likely to have been stored in component form.

Pakistan will order mating of the various weapon components only when the situation develops beyond a reasonable threat level.

Having studied the nuclear capabilities as well as command and control setup of Pakistan, it is evident that it has the requisite capability to strike India with nuclear weapons. However the yield of these weapons may be lesser than what Pakistan claims, it is also unlikely that it has achieved the technological advancement to have developed a sub kiloton nuclear weapon. Having studied the capability of Pakistan it is necessary to also analyze its nuclear doctrine to ascertain the probability and time frame of a nuclear retaliation by Pakistan to an Indian conventional offensive.



Pakistan's Nuclear Doctrine

Unlike India, Pakistan has not officially declared its nuclear doctrine; however it may be possible to fairly judge the broad philosophy of use of nuclear weapon by Pakistan based on the statements made by its military and civilian leaders as well as information available on open sources and the internet. The broad nuclear doctrine of Pakistan may be as under:-

First use of Nuclear Weapon. As Pakistan's main threat is from conventional attack by India and believes that it can achieve deterrence against such an aggression only by a mix of conventional and strategic forces [36] . Thus, it openly advocates a policy of first use of nuclear weapon to deter India from undertaking any such action. Pakistan is unwilling to enter into a No first use (NFU) agreement with India.

Threshold for Use of Nuclear Weapon. Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai of the Strategic Plans Division of the Pakistan Army defined the nuclear threshold [37] as under:-

Space Threshold. India attacks Pakistan and conquers large part of its territory.

Military Threshold. Destruction of a large part of its land or air forces by India.

Economic Threshold. Pakistan gets economically strangulated by India, which may be in the form of Naval Blockade or stoppage of Indus waters.

Internal Threshold. Pakistan is pushed into political instability or suffers large scale internal subversion due to an act by India.

(c) Minimum Nuclear Deterrence. Pakistan seeks to attain a minimum capability in terms of quantity based on its threat perception from India. Minimum deterrence means that the number of warheads may vary depending on improvement of delivery system as also enhancement of interception capability of India as well as personality of the commander.

Cultivated Irrationality

Use of nuclear weapon by a nation state when it is certain that it will be decimated in the retaliatory strike by its adversary is a highly irrational concept / idea. Pakistan, especially its military, therefore seems to be purposefully cultivating an image of doomsday wherein it would use the nuclear option in any future conflict with India without waiting for a situation where its forces are likely to be defeated. This can be explained using the 'Game Theory' as had been proposed by Schilling [38] . As per this theory Schilling takes an economic example to explain how irrational behavior can be beneficial. The concept of uncertain retaliation has to be placed in the context of Schlling's critique of standard game-theory definitions of economic "rationality." Schlling argued that in a bargaining or competitive situation one economic agent's framework for rationality is not always necessarily another's. If, for example, agent A does not act according to agent B's conventional assumptions about the rules of the game, B will consider A's behavior "irrational." During the game, B will be uncertain about the trajectory of A's behavior. From B's point of view, A's behavior is ambiguous and unpredictable. Thus, A's irrationality might result in A winning the competition. If Agent A is not really irrational-or mad-but is using his/her unconventional behavior as part of a conscious bargaining or competitive strategy, then his/her so-called irrationality is effectively rational in relation to the game's "payoffs."

This image of irrationality has been carefully cultivated by Pakistan in the following manner:-

Public statements by senior military commanders of use of nuclear weapon on Indian cities in case of attack by India.

Creating an image in the international forum that the fundamentalist elements in the Army may use nuclear weapon against India by taking into control one of its nuclear missile launch facilities for the same.

Keeping its nuclear doctrine as well as command and control set up ambiguous.

Occasionally issuing statements that any future war would become nuclear as soon as the Indian forces cross the international border or the line of control. This despite the fact that Pakistan would get totally annihilated in the retaliatory Indian strike.

As an effect of the above Pakistan has got an added advantage to be able to negotiate on favorable terms as controlled irrationality itself acts as deterrence. However, it would be prudent to note from an Indian perspective that Pakistan leadership has never acted in an irrational manner. The rational decision making of the Pakistan leadership was clearly demonstrated in the surrender in East Pakistan during the 1971 war, where to preserve its forces in an unfavorable situation facing certain defeat and annihilation it allowed 90,000 troops to be taken as prisoners of war. It can also be seen that the penetration of extremist Islamic elements in the upper echelons of the military hierarchy is minimal. The other factor that should be kept in mind is the fact that the US being concerned about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is likely to have pressurized the government of Pakistan to keep them in a manner that no terrorist group could get their hands on them. This in turn ensures that the various components of the nuclear weapons are less likely to be stored in the same compound.

Pakistan's First Use Doctrine: Escalation Scenarios

Notwithstanding the ambiguity that the Pakistani elite would like to maintain beyond which they would consider going nuclear, a study of Lieutenant General Sardar FS Lodhi's writing in the Defence Journal [39] clearly brings out an articulated Pakistani view of the escalation ladder:-

Conditions for Nuclear Release. 'In a deteriorating military situation, when an Indian Conventional Attack is likely to break through our defences or has already breached the main defence line - causing a major setback to defences which cannot be restored by conventional means at our disposal, the govt would be left with no option except to use nuclear weapons to stabilize the situation. India's superiority in conventional arms and manpower would have to be offset by nuclear weapons. Pakistan's nuclear doctrine therefore would essentially revolve around the first strike option' [40] .

Graduated Escalation. Entails a graduated response in which the threat for use of nuclear weapon will be enhanced at each stage depending on the situation so as to deter India and bring the hostilities to a halt.

First Step. The response would be to first give out a public or private warning.

Second Step. The second stage would be to carryout demonstrative nuclear explosive test so as to enhance the threat level.

Third Step. Carryout nuclear weapon strike against Indian conventional forces in its own territory.

Fourth Step. The next step would be to employ nuclear weapons against critical Indian military targets across the international border, in thinly populated areas in the desert or semi-desert causing less collateral damage.

Counter Value. Last step would be to use nuclear weapons for counter value target for which a few weapons would be kept in reserve.

Probability of Pakistan Using Nuclear Weapon Against India

Studying the various factors as has been discussed we may be able to work out the various extremes in which Pakistan can use a nuclear weapon:-

In case it faces a near certain defeat wherein its armed forces may get totally annihilated.

Indian forces penetrate Pakistan to such an extent that it is unlikely to survive as a nation state.

As retaliation to Indian use of nuclear weapon, chances of which are remote keeping in mind India's NFU policy.

It would therefore, be safe to assume that Pakistan is unlikely to use a nuclear weapon against an attacking force in the early stages of the war. Unlike what it wants others to believe and would contemplate using a weapon only when pushed to a corner. This is because it would first try and exhaust its political options for averting a defeat where in international pressure is mounted on India to ceasefire and withdraw its forces before finally deciding to nuclearize the battle field. This may be preceded by very strong nuclear posturing by Pakistan in the form of nuclear weapon tests, missile attacks, etc. so as to create a situation wherein the international community is forced to bring the confrontation to an end immediately.

Deductions. Based on the arguments above the following deductions can be made in terms of options with India for undertaking an offensive against Pakistan:-

India should clearly lay down the political aim for initiation of the conflict with clearly declared objectives which are below the perceived nuclear threshold of Pakistan.

It is crucial to identify the nuclear threshold in terms of space wherein the limit of penetration to which Pakistan can be laid. This limit may not be sacrosanct and would be differ depending upon terrain and strategic importance of an area, the limit may lie roughly in the line of Rahimyar Khan, Yazman Mandi, Multan, and Bhawalpur.

The limit may also vary depending on the personality of the Pakistani leadership of that time.

Apart from a geographic context a nuclear threshold also has a psychological context. In Pakistan's case we may also think of the threshold in the following terms:-

The capital city or key command and control nodes of Islamabad-Rawalpindi.

Important Punjab cities of Lahore and Sialkot.

Pakistani nuclear arsenal and its means of delivery.

The economic capital of Pakistan - Karachi.

Destruction of its strategic reserves of Army Reserve North (ARN) or South (ARS).

Strangulating economic embargo.

Time wherein its war waging potential is likely to be depleted due to exhaustion of national reserves of essential commodities.

A swift offensive may be able to achieve significant success even before Pak is able to mob the international community and exhaust its political options as well as prepare the nuclear arsenal.

Therefore, what would be of primary importance in any future conventional conflict between India and Pakistan is the achievement of the laid down political aim by India, in case it decides to go on the offensive. This is so because, the possibility of extreme deep thrusts with destruction of Pakistan's strategic reserve may lie beyond the nuclear redline.



"I'd rather use the nuclear bomb...Does that bother you I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christ's sake."

(to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on escalating the Vietnam War)

Richard Milhous Nixon

Options Available with India

Option I: Punitive Strike. Punitive aerial strikes against identified terrorist camps and support infrastructure in Pakistan. This would not only lead to destruction of Pakistan's ability to carry out sub conventional operations in Kashmir but would also demonstrate India's resolve to defe at Pakistani design in Kashmir.


Minimal effort required.

Probability of escalation to all out war is very limited.

Capability to strike well into the depth of Pakistan.


The infrastructure destroyed can be easily recouped.

Requirement of extremely accurate intelligence, so as to be able to target correctly.

Collateral damage to civilians can be used in international forums against India.

Option II : Limited War/ Surgical Strike. Limited war [41] can be defined as one in which the belligerents restrict the purpose of their engagement to well defined and concrete objectives [42] that do not demand the maximum effort which the parties to the conflict are capable of, and that the conflict necessarily does not entail one of the parties aiming complete subjugation of the other. Therefore, what India can do in the given circumstances is to define the threshold between sub conventional and an all out conventional operation, using its conventional forces in a calibrated punitive action. This option would more or less be a surgical punitive action with a medium to low level of conventional forces in a very limited area for a specific task.


Most certainly would not cross the nuclear threshold of Pak.

Capability to calibrate the intensity of engagement would to some extent remain with us.


The Supremacy in conventional forces is negated to a large extent.

Initiative may be seized by Pakistan if it chooses to escalate the war.

Political & militarily achievable targets may be insignificant hence an indecisive conflict.

Option III: Swift Offensive. India may also choose to carryout a swift offensive inside Pakistan on multiple thrust lines all along the border in an all out conventional operation.


More effective use of conventional forces.

More likely to achieve decisive end of conflict.

Can achieve sufficient success before Pakistan exhausts its political option and works out ways to use its nuclear weapon.

An offensive would be on a large frontage, thus use of nuclear weapon unlikely to produce major tactical gains to Pak.

Probability of achieving political and military goals high.

Initiative retained throughout the war.

(b) Disadvantages.

More likely to escalate into a nuclear confrontation.

Intensive international pressure from the outset may be brought down to force us to put on hold the offensive.

In case momentum of attack is not maintained or is stalled, may result in non achievement of the political aim.

57. Recommended Option: Swift offensive. Because of the stated advantages it is recommended that we adopt option III even though the chances of use of nuclear weapon by Pakistan would increase although the effect on own troops on offensive may not be alarming. To deter Pakistan's to use a nuclear weapon in such a scenario, the steps which India can take are:-

Strengthen its own nuclear deterrence i.e. survivability, reliability and accuracy of its delivery system.

Define response to use of nuclear weapon by non state actors who may be working in cohort with Pakistan.

Shed the image of a having a weak political will in terms of use of nuclear weapon.

Give clear signals that any use of nuclear weapon would result in an immediate punitive nuclear response as a result of which existence of Pakistan as a nation state itself would be jeopardized.

Modify battle drills to ensure that a concentrated target is not offered and casualty at any given time due to use nuclear weapon is kept to the least possible.

Develop and deploy anti ballistic missile system (ABM) on priority, around cities which are likely to the value targets for Pakistan e.g. Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Jammu, etc. subsequently the ABM cover to be extended to the entire nation.

Clearly define the exit policies in case of a conflict so that the hostilities can be brought to an effective halt expeditiously as soon as it is felt that Pakistan will use nuclear weapons. This would require an extremely efficient intelligence network. The ceasing of hostilities should be accompanied by public announcement of unilateral ceasefire, thus denying Pakistan a reason to strike while retaining the advantage gained.



The research undertaken substantiates the fact that Pakistan has used nuclear deterrence to create trouble for India in terms of sub conventional operations in Kashmir, even though India enjoys substantial conventional superiority vis-a-vis Pakistan. This inability of India to bring to bear its conventional strength, so as to safeguard its national interests puts it in a peculiar situation wherein, while it enjoys peace with Pakistan superficially, conflict at the lower end of the spectrum has intensified. The research further brings out that there is a possibility of undertaking a conventional operation between two nuclear power states in as long as the aims are limited and well defined.

Therefore the following is recommended:-

Conventional superiority should be maintained and further improved upon, so as to continue to be a deterrent against conventional threat as well as have the ability to escalate the conflict at a time of own choosing.

Exploit the option of punitive conventional operations against Pakistan to deter it from waging proxy

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