A mutually agreed nuclear disarmament treaty between India and Pakistan has never been on the cards and is never likely to be. Both maintain a nuclear arsenal and both have the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons anywhere within the territory of the other. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) is indeed assured. Neither state presents a nuclear threat face to any other enemy. Given the oscillating volatility of both states it is unsurprising that the nuclear cards get a periodic shuffle, and India under Modi has moved into an altogether more martial phase with threat levels, nuclear and conventional, rising accordingly. Analysts and observers are of a uniform opinion — the place a nuclear exchange is most likely to happen accidentally, as in a reactive event rather than a first-strike assault — is between India and Pakistan, and India is likely in that event to be the state that pushes the button first.
Reports are in circulation that India may consider revising its no first strike policy, allowing its ‘nuclear establishment’ to conduct pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan in the event of a war. The environment of managed instability along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary has heated up in the last year. In addition to cross-border shelling there have been movements of armour and heavy artillery on both sides. India has claimed to have raided into Pakistan — without providing substantive evidence of such — and any shift in the position regarding nuclear doctrines is going to do nothing for strategic restraint in the region.
Why this latest upping of the ante is irresponsible and dangerous is that it adds another layer of uncertainty. For all the sabre-rattling by India there is little real possibility of the pot boiling over, and now would be an opportune time if ever there was one to explore moderate and peaceful outcomes, create confidence-building measures, propose a halt to the arrests of each other’s innocent but wandering fisherpeople — and there seems little doubt that Pakistan would be willing to consider all of that as part of a composite dialogue, but no. Instead India plays the pre-emptive strike card and raises further human rights concerns in Kashmir. Let us be blunt. Act your age, India. Grow up. And stop throwing your toys around the (nuclear) playpen.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2017.2017-04-07