ISLAMABAD: Signs of a rethink in Indian policy circles of its ‘no first use’ (NFU) nuclear doctrine may have confirmed Pakistani fears that declared Indian policy is not credible, and it has left strategic circles here concerned about the implications of a move towards a disarming first strike against Pakistan because of tenuous deterrent stability in the region.
Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee retd Gen Ehsan ul Haq, who has remained closely associated with Pakistan’s nuclear thinking, says the country has always been sceptical about Indian NFU claims. Recent disclosure by a scholar has only vindicated Pakistan’s position that Indian declared NFU policy is a sham. He’s happy that the Indians are now themselves exposing their claims.
He was speaking at the launch of a book ‘Learning to Live with the Bomb, Pakistan: 1998-2016’ by Dr Naeem Salik, a former official of the Strategic Plans Division.
However, Gen Huq said, it was worrisome that it was happening against the backdrop of extremist Hindutva agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party government.
Policy circles’ rethink of ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine seen as part of a series of provocative measures by New Delhi
Professor Vipin Narang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently suggested that India could be moving away from its policy of ‘no first use’ and might carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons against it.
Gen Haq believes that the rethink in India is the latest in a series of provocative actions. He said Indian steps from admission of interference in erstwhile East Pakistan to references to Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, scuttling the Saarc summit, escalation along the Line of Control, claims of surgical strikes, diplomatic manoeuvring to isolate Pakistan and domestic war hysteria had heightened tensions between the two countries.
Examine: India’s Pakistan strategy
Further, he said India had been “challenging the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence through doctrinal as well as technological developments”.
Dr Salik, who has in his book discussed Pakistan’s learning curve as a nuclear power, said Indian moves like the recent chatter about transformation from a “passive NFU to pre-emptive disarming strikes” had kept Pakistani strategists on their toes.
“We have not only got to study our side of the game, we also have to watch out what is happening on the other side so that we learn from there also and adapt and reform own processes as well,” he said.
Because of continuously remaining under international scrutiny Pakistan’s learning process had been accelerated, he said but cautioned that though “learning has been substantive, there is no room to be complacent”.
The book discusses the evolution of policies, technology and safety and security of the nuclear programme, particularly after the 1998 nuclear tests. The launching ceremony was organised by the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS).
Sarwar Naqvi, executive director of the CISS, said: “This book has moved a step ahead by linking the history with institutional experience of management of the programme and choices that Pakistan has made after 1998 when it became an overt nuclear power.”