Once again, the National Command Authority (NCA), the apex policy-making body on strategic nuclear matters in Pakistan, has reaffirmed country’s pledge to maintain ‘full spectrum deterrence capability.’ In the recently-held meeting, the NCA declared, “the state remains fully cognisant of the evolving security dynamics of South Asia and will take all measures to safeguard its national security.” The NCA also expressed its serious concerns about India’s rapidly expanding military asymmetry and dangerous limited conventional war policy- the Cold Start Doctrine.
Having become a declared nuclear power in 1998, Pakistan chosen to exercise maximum nuclear restraint by behaving like a responsible member of international community. Therefore, keeping in view the threat perception vis-à-vis India, Pakistan decided to maintain the ‘Minimum Credible Deterrence’. Pakistan has been adhering to this strategy until the India evolved the so-called Cold Start Doctrine against it following the 2001 Parliament attack in India. Under this doctrine, India planned to launch the rapid, surprise, but limited, military incursions into Pakistan to seize and hold the narrow slices of the territory by penetrating deep into Pakistan. Obviously, this serious development forced Pakistan to revisit its overall military strategy.
In the face of new threat perception, Pakistan also decided to change its nuclear posture: from Minimum Credible Deterrence’ to Full Spectrum Deterrence’ (FSD). It was a ‘qualitative response’ to the Indian war fighting concepts like the Cold Start and the Pro Active Operations (POA). In fact, the FSD is not a war fighting doctrine but merely a war prevention strategy chosen by Pakistan. Under this strategy, the low yield nuclear weapons would remain an instrument of deterrence. Significantly reversing the Indian Cold Start strategy based on possibility of conventional conflict in a nuclearised environment, Pakistan has devised another strategy to give nuclear response even in the conventional conflict between the two countries.
In accordance with the FSD strategy, Pakistan has developed the short-range-low-yield (SRLY) Nasr (Hatf IX) missile. With 60 km operational range, it is a solid fuelled typical tactical ballistic missile. This missile is capable of carrying low yield nuclear warheads. With high accuracy and ‘Shoot and Scoot’ capability, this missile system has gone a long way in significantly countering the Cold Start Doctrine devised by India against Pakistan. As a matter of fact, the nuclear deterrence has occupied a pivotal role in Pakistan’s defence strategy. Now Pakistan is relying on its nuclear weapons as an instrument to deter India in both nuclear and conventional warfare. Therefore, over a period of time, there has been a paradigm shift vis-à-vis Pakistan’s defence strategy; from passive defence to aggressive defence.
In fact, aimed at carrying out surprise hot pursuit against Pakistan below the nuclear threshold, India’s Cold Start strategy is replete with many flaws and shortcomings. First, India doesn’t possess any significant military superiority in conventional aspect over Pakistan to execute this plan. Secondly, this sort of surprise attack requires an instant and rapid troops mobilisation, which India necessarily lacks.
Presently India’s has three strike corps, and they all require considerable time to reach the international border. In 2001, during Indian military buildup on Pakistan border under the ‘Operation Parakram’, India took 27 days to fully mobilise its troops to the international border. In fact, the Cold Start Doctrine is nothing but a figment of India’s imagination. India can hardy dare to launch full-fledged military offensives against Pakistan. Therefore, now Pakistan should look beyond this doctrine to counter India’s latest aggressive designs against Pakistan.
So far, India has fought four 2G wars against Pakistan. Somehow combining the tactics of 3G War and the strategy of Brinkmanship, it devised the Cold Start Doctrine to initiate a limited war against Pakistan following the 2001 Parliament attack. However, owing to obvious reasons, it couldn’t enforce this doctrine successfully. Besides this, the FSD strategy, adopted by Pakistan, further deter India to continue with this doctrine. At present, there exists a balance of power between the two countries in respect of conventional military as well as the nuclear strength. Therefore, now a proxy Fourth Generation War (4GW) is the only option available with the India to manoeuvre against its arch foe Pakistan. Consequently, various Violent Non-State Actors (VNSA) can easily be witnessed on the very soil of Pakistan.
There have been certain well-founded conspiracy theories about India’s alleged role in extensively exploiting various ethnic and sectarian cleavages in Pakistan. Pakistan has also long been criticising India for interfering in the province of Baluchistan. Now, Pakistan has also started pointing its fingers at India for planning and sponsoring various terrorist acts in Pakistan. Our LEA’s have also discovered certain Indian connections behind the deteriorated law and order situation in Karachi. The largest political party of Urban Sindh is also being investigated for its Indian affiliations.
In fact, by consolidating its position in Afghanistan and Iran, now India is also pursuing its well-planned strategy of ‘Strategic Encirclement’ against Pakistan. Following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, India has also successfully secured an important ‘strategic’ position in Afghanistan. India has also signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan in 2011. India and Afghanistan don’t share a common border. Likewise, currently, there is no significant bilateral trade between the two countries. What is the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership all about? In fact, India has no ‘strategic interest’ in Afghanistan beyond harming and destabilising Pakistan.
Similarly, over a period of time, India has also fostered close relations with Iran to the disadvantage of Pakistan. It has also managed to get an access to Afghanistan through Iran. Indian Army’s Border Road Organization has also built a road in the Nimroz province to connect Afghanistan with Iran, providing a viable alternative route for Afghan goods through the Chabahar port in Iran. Reducing Afghan economy’s dependence on Pakistan by building alternative routes has been India’s key strategy in Afghanistan. In line with its so-called Strategic Encirclement strategy, having turned Pakistan’s western border quite insecure and volatile, India can now be seen creating trouble for Pakistan on its eastern border through its frequent border violations. For the last few months, many civilians have died inside Pakistan as result of India’s unprovoked cross-border firing.
Now Pakistan has to evolve and adopt a proactive geo-strategic policy to undo or diffuse the current hostile Indian strategy against Pakistan in this region. First of all, in order to deter India from resorting to firing inside Pakistani territory, Pakistan must pay India back in the same coin by giving it a ‘befitting response’. Besides this, Pakistan should also demand and extensively utilise the border supervisory mechanism under the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) as far as the border violations along the line of Control (LOC) and Working Boundary (WB) are concerned. The ongoing military operations in the country, namely the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, are yielding quite positive results. The security forces of Pakistan have somehow broken the backbone of the violent extremism and militancy in the country. Pakistan should proactively continue this military strategy until terrorism is completely eliminated from the country.
Pakistan needs to revive its long-strained relations with Iran to minimise the Indian influence in this region. Pakistan has to neutralise all the anti-Pakistan elements, including the India, in Afghanistan. Instead of opting for a solo flight in Afghanistan, Pakistan should actively endeavour to bring durable and sustainable peace in Afghanistan in collaborations with all the regional stakeholders and international power players. Pakistan needs to evolve a ‘full- spectrum’ pro-active diplomatic strategy to achieve its strategic objectives in this region.