Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 16:19:31 +0500
[The Below article has been submitted to the Pakistani daily, 'The News
International']


DOS AND DONTS OF NUCLEAR DETENTE

By M.B. Naqvi


Logically one of the most likely outcome of the Delhi Summit would be a
set of agreements under the rubric of CBMs (confidence building
measures) or Nuclear Restraint Regime. Doubtless there would be some
other agreements too that would yield incremental benefits in the
spheres of trade, cultural exchanges and a somewhat more relaxed visa
regime. What will be vain to hope for is a satisfying resolution of the
Kashmir problem; or a true ending of the Indo-Pakistan cold war and arms
race that may lead before long to a reversal of adversarial attitudes
and assumptions between India and Pakistan. On the whole, the two
governments are likely to soldier on --- in the well-worn grooves.

A set of understandings will be useful and necessary about the safe
keeping of nuclear weapons and missiles that would, among other things,
confer on the enemy the right to prior knowledge of how, when or on what
targets are these dread weapons to be dropped. That will go a long way
toward preventing an accidental or unintended nuclear war. It will aim
at preventing unauthorised launching of nuclear-tipped missiles. If
precedence of the Soviet-American era is followed, the already
implemented CBMs may be improved upon and added to. Maybe the two
Subcontinental adversaries will devise their own version of talks on
MBFR (mutually balanced force reduction) and disarmament or at least
some restraint. Such measures can go some way in reducing military
tensions and smoothen out the sharp edges of political discord.

Thus so long as nuclear weapons do exist such efforts will be necessary
and useful. But what was clearly useful in 1960s between the global
rivals separated by thousands of miles may not be replicable in South
Asia nor will such measures result in the same kind of relief and
safety. Logic of Indo-Pakistan nuclear deterrents will, in the context
of Kashmir and other disputes and given the time and other constraints,
dictate its own doctrines and practices. What seems certain is that
whether anyone likes it or not, the mere fact of nuclear weapons in the
armoury of the enemy will force each to employ 'launch-on-warning' ---
the hair-trigger readiness --- doctrine and the targets for immediate
and maximum effect will be on cities rather than military or
industrial-economic installations. As for the polite nonsense about
'no-first-use', in real life both sides will race to be the first to use
--- though, if luck holds or God wills, neither side may use these
weapons. The latter possibility exists. But it cannot be relied upon.

There were other spurious doctrines doing the rounds that both Indian
and Pakistani cold warriors were predicting in the earlier 1990s: one of
these was that the presence of nuclear weapons will make war impossible.
Well, this notion was put paid to by India's Defence Minister and Indian
Army Chief in 2000 when they propounded their latest doctrine that
nuclear weapons deter only nuclear weapons and a war can still take
place. India has followed up this message to Pakistan with the exercise
Poorna Vijay merely to show how. Pakistan economy's state shows how
'cheap' the nuclear weapons business is; what is its true impact on
India is the common Indians business to inquire --- how come a Great
Powers' human development indicators are so unsatisfactory. We in
Pakistan should worry about our own economy and its overstretch. The so
much bruited freeze on defence spending in real terms will, on current
or conventional view, render Pakistan's security vulnerable --- unless
of course the Delhi Summit achieves the unlikely feat of converting
Indo-Pakistan ties nature from adversarial to friendly.

Sometime theories look fine on paper. But real life in South Asia has
shown that the mere presence of nuclear weapons is destabilising and
tension-promoting because there is no defence against anyone's atomic
weapons. Their mere existence creates extreme fear and mistrust about
the intentions of the "other". Moreover, both the Pakistani and Indian
governments behaviour since 1998 has shown that once this monster of
Nuclear Mass Destruction Weapons has been unleashed, arms race has been
compulsively intensified. Both sides have shown by their actions that
there is no such thing as a Minimum Nuclear Deterrent; there can only be
biggest feasible deterrent limited only by resources and capacity. One
only needs to quote the present Foreign Minister's caveats earlier in
1999 about the need to counter the increasing numbers of Indian MDWs and
their improved quality before he became a Minister.

While conceding that so long as these MDWs exist a détente needs to be
worked out, this nuclear détente has to be purposefully recognised as a
very troublesome thing; few peace lovers can be comfortable with it. The
main objection to it is that one of its chief unintended effect will be
to make nuclear MDWs permanent in both countries. Indeed it is possible
to suspect the intentions of hardliners on both sides who are so earnest
about it and who constitute the Subcontinental, or public sector,
counterparts of the famous Industrial-Military Complex. Their desire for
such a détente, while being aimed at preventing day-to-day crises,
misunderstandings and accidents, also provides much of the long-term
butter on their military budgets-given toasts. They are worldly-wise
people.

Anyway, whatever may have happened in the east-west cold war, in South
Asia the first fruit of nuclear capability was the questionable
political behaviour of the two governments after 1998: based on a false
sense of invincibility on both sides, one side embarked boldly on the
Kargil adventure and the other served a direct or near-direct threat of
war for the temerity to go and occupy empty outposts in Kargil.
Needless to say, there has been a non-stop increase in tensions on the
LOC and elsewhere on the Radcliff Line. Threat of an all out war
continues to loom. The bottomline is that these nuclear MDWs have
increased both the mistrust and the threat of war in which non-use of
these weapons will depend entirely on God's grace.

What follows from this is that there is no law of nature or God or man
that lays down that there must be two adversarial Nuclear Deterrents in
the Subcontinent. We can revert to what all of us used to say for so
many decades: these weapons are immoral and are an unmitigated evil.
They simply should not be. That means both Pakistan and India should
return to the nuclear disarmament agenda, both global and regional.
Among the many bogus doctrines being hawked around, a notable
foolishness is that innocence once lost cannot be regained. They mean
nuclear capability cannot be disinvented. This is nonsense. Donít most
countries know how to make gas and other chemical weapons? Must the
entire UN membership then acquire and deploy chemical, biological and
other new weapons of mass destruction simply because their scientists
can make them? If chemical weapons treaty and conventions can outlaw
chemical and biological weapons, so can nuclear ones --- if only we can
build a political will in the two governments. After all anyone can see
the patent fact that given these MDWs both Pakistan and India are less
secure today that they were before 1998. They are also nearer to a war.

This is not really the place to argue at length the triangular argument
over nuclear arsenals. Insofar as Pakistan's Bomb lobby is concerned,
its reasoning is straightforward: 'we have a bitter dispute with India
on Kashmir, we have gone to war several times over it, and may yet do so
again. But India is a rich and big country and its conventional armed
forces are stronger than ours. Therefore Pakistan security needs nuclear
MDWs to offset India's superiority'. Also, 'we will be happy to give up
this nuclear deterrent should India do the right things: settle Kashmir
as we and the Kashmiris desire plus agree to disarm its nuclear forces'.
India dismisses Pakistan as virtual non-entity and asserts that so long
as China retains its nuclear armaments, so will India. China is sure to
argue, like India, that its nuclear armaments are not aimed at India at
all. They are meant to safeguard against possible threats from the US
and various other unspecified sources. So the vicious arguments can go
on ad infinitum.

Once the basic tenets of this power politics --- the doctrine of nuclear
deterrence can keep a balance of power and thus keep peace ---
surrounding nuclear weapons is conceded, they lead to absurd results in
real life in South Asia and achieve the opposite effect of bringing a
war closer, as we have seen. This way vertical proliferation of nuclear
deterrents will go on here also without it achieving the stated
objectives. Rather the opposite of what may be fondly desired is likely
to happen.

Those who seek peace and cooperation among nations, especially in the
desperate case of India and Pakistan, have no option but to accept
nuclear disarmament as a creed as well as a practical objective whether
or not anyone else agrees to act likewise. Unless a person can adopt a
moral --- and political --- position unilaterally his commitment to
nuclear disarmament should be seen as non-existent. Those who requires
others to adopt the same view prior to his self abnegation or at least
simultaneously, he is not a true devotee of peace and nuclear
disarmament. He is a closet believer in power politics. His position
amounts to that of the rake who will not give up his orgies until all
others stop sinning.

One more distracting argument needs to be swept out of the way. It was
used mainly by India's Bomb lovers. It has now begun appearing in the
Pakistani official discourse. How can we disarm unilaterally when the P5
and Israel go on proliferating vertically? A sham anti-imperial
demagoguery underlies it. The short answer is: let us do what is right
and forget what the big powers are doing. For resolving the resulting
asymmetry and anomaly, let India and Pakistan after deciding to disarm
--- and after they have shown some progress --- can mount an
international nuclear disarmament campaign. After gaining credibility
through actions, they will have the sympathy of all people of goodwill
everywhere. Let us watch how public opinion is forcing US President
George Bush Jr. to be on the defensive about Kyoto Treaty and even NMD.
Progress may be slow but will follow in the long run.

There is no reason why South Asia should not resume being NWFZ (nuclear
weapons free zone) and invite the rest of the world to watch how it goes
about the business. Both countries will be several degrees more secure
if the nuclear MDWs are scrapped, despite other asymmetries. Progress in
economic cooperation, trade and cultural exchanges can set the stage for
progress on nuclear disarmament and even the Kashmir conundrum. Only
more imagination and ingenuity is needed. Once it is ensured that
neither side is eventually seen to have lost to its counterpart almost
any agreement can be made including one on Kashmir. An agreement on
making South Asia NWFZ will create so much goodwill that other issues
will cease to be too hard to resolve.


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