Center for International Strategic Studies Islamabad organized a round table discussion titled “From Counter Value to Counter Force: Change in India’s Nuclear Doctrine” on August 18, 2017 on its premises. The purpose was to assess the recent debate about the shift in India’s narrative regarding its nuclear posturing and its implications for Pakistan as well as the regional strategic stability.
The event was chaired by Executive Director CISS Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi and the speakers for the event were Dr. Christopher Clary and Dr. Mansoor Ahmed while Dr. NaeemSalik was thediscussant.
Ambassador Naqvi, in his opening remarks, set off the debate by discussing the origin of the debate and highlighted two factors of concern for Pakistan’s security i.e. growing Indo-US cooperation and the ambiguity shrouding the narrative.
Dr. Clary began his talk by maintaining that a preemptive nuclear strike by India, would be very difficult, but was not impossible. He spoke of the technological and logistical challenges that India faces currently, but said that, with the acquisition of technology from countries such as the US and Israel as well as indigenous development of its nuclear assets, it would be in a better position to strike Pakistan in the future. He brought forward four postulates to explain India’s belligerent narrative: First, with such a narrative, India might just be seeking to deter Pakistan by making it believe that such a counter force attack is possible by adding credibility to its posture. Second, India’s thinking stems from the consideration of a case scenario of an extreme political outcome where deterrence breaks down and India might have to resort to a counter force first strike. Third, India’s military is keeping its options open and in a case where it has precise intelligence information pertaining to an imminent attack by Pakistan, it would exercise this option. Fourth, India wants to bait Pakistan into getting into an arms race and exhaust its resources.
Dr. Mansoor, on the other hand presented a different picture where India’s current developments showcase its growing ability as well as intent to pin Pakistan down. With its growing capabilities, India is seeking a possible change in its nuclear posture and realize its counter force targeting aspirations. Dr. Mansoor proposed two reasons for this change in the narrative; first, he noted that India desires to inflict a decapitating first strike on Pakistan and second, in the case of conflict, India wants to maintain escalation dominance. He also highlighted the discrepancies between India and Pakistan’s Air Force, Air Defence Systems as well as conventional naval capabilities with India having the upper hand. With regard to the development of nuclear weapons, he referred to the unsafeguarded fissile material stock in India’s possession which gives India the potential to expand its nuclear arsenal, while Pakistan’s fissile material stockpiles do not allow it to develop a war fighting capability.
Dr. NaeemSalik commented that the statements coming from India about its nuclear doctrine are a typical reflection of India’s jingoism. He also injected the MIRVing of missiles into the discussion and how this change in technology would drive policy in the future. The China factor was also brought into discussion in the context of India’s capabilities and the regional dynamics.
The debate concluded with the understanding that India’s revamping of its capabilities and revision of its posture is alarming for Pakistan’s security considerations. The discourse emanating from India serves no purpose to create an environment favorable to a meaningful dialogue. Any prospective or potential changes in India’s nuclear doctrine are likely to affect Pakistan whose threat perception mainly revolves around India and drives Pakistan’s nuclear posturing.
The round table was well attended by members of academia, policy makers and former Pakistani diplomats. An interactive question and answer session followed the talk.