Pakistan And the Nuclear Taboo

Written By: Dr. Rizwana Abbasi

Empirical record shows that nuclear weapons have not been employed after 1945. However, in many crises and wars in history, there were possibilities when nuclear weapons could have been used without fear of retaliation. But, states did not use the nuclear use option, even at the higher cost on the theatre of war. This happened despite the existence of many supporting variables that might have prompted employment of nuclear bombs, such as: widespread nuclear weapons in states’ possession internationally; states’ technical efficiency in regard to operationalization of such weapons; transfer of nuclear weapons from old to new proliferators with asymmetric power balance; the centrality of nuclear weapons in states’ national security policies and their strategic doctrines; states’ distinct strategic cultures/traditions and unique politicACal systems and; more significantly, absence of legal prohibition towards possession and use of nuclear weapons. To fully understand the question as to why nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945, Tannenwald in her prize winning account, Nuclear Taboo and T.V. Paul in his Tradition of Non-use of Nuclear Weapons have revised this debate more persuasively and comprehensively than the others cited and commented on.

The more embracing and comprehensive explanation of this non-use puzzle is based on the conventional or realpolitik argument that is based on material factors such as existence of nuclear weapons and ‘deterrence’. Tannenwald believes that deterrence is an important but insufficient part of this explanation for non-use. She challenges the realists’ idea that non-use of nuclear weapons is not only based on material factors (‘state level policy assessment and consideration about nuclear use based on “non-norms” factors: such as fear of escalation of war; retaliation; the military utility of nuclear weapons; weapons availability; and the costs and feasibility of nuclear weapons and their alternatives’) or deterrence. She believes that the normative aspect provides a more convincing explanation for this debate. Her well researched explanation based on constructivist approach is that normative ideas about morality and legitimacy have led to the development of a collectively held, self-reinforcing norm of non-use of nuclear weapons, or a nuclear weapons taboo. She built the argument that taboo (a stringent norm – that is unbreakable) not only constraints the behaviour of nuclear weapon states but also constitutes their identities and interests as civilized nations. Thus, Paul relegates the tradition of non-use of nuclear weapon to an informal norm, for him norms can be modified over time – and does not give much weight to constructivists’ norms-based approach. For him deterrence, the fear of the impact of use of nuclear weapons, and the reputational issues for states arising from the use of nuclear weapons are important in this debate.

The present writer’s contention, drawing upon Tannenwald’s and Paul’s investigation is that ‘taboo’ may be the correct explanation and that the term gains credence because no state has used nuclear weapons from 1945 to the present even under compelling circumstances. To the present writer’s understanding, ‘taboo’ was certainly established by the United States of America, but there were some significant attributes that explicitly or implicitly contributed to the establishment of this taboo. These are guided by and based on U.S.’ national security interests and material factors. Thus, my contention is that a single approach or cultural/normative aspects alone cannot explain the taboo talk. Amalgamation of both material and non-material or ideational factors can explain this question of non-use more clearly.

In the first place, realist and neo-realist theorists argue that states (rational, unitary actors) are primarily concerned with their own survival in the international order; the great powers have dominated the system, and anarchy has been the key ordering principle that has structured states’ behaviour. Thus, it is fair to assume that the two superpowers’ national security interests and their strategic gains remained uppermost in the bipolar world. One, nuclear competition/arms race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in 1950s helped them achieve bomb efficiency and sufficiency to maintain their doctrinal force posture and preserve deterrence credibility. The former Soviet Union broke America’s nuclear supremacy and monopoly that certainly regulated the nature of war. Two, the U.S., and the Soviet Union were two leading global powers and they desired to maximize their global political influence. Thus, based on their technological efficiencies and capabilities, they realized that there can be no victory in the nuclear domain. Moreover, the two superpowers had to transcend their power beyond their regions. Thus, they preferred peace/settlement over confrontation/war. Three, the U.S. wanted to establish a favourable world order by preaching peace and minimizing violence. Four, introduction of new conventional technologies, such as Ballistic Missile Defence and missile interceptors, reduced the role and utility of these weapons globally that indeed modified the U.S. behaviour.

Secondly, neo-liberal approach articulates that institutions contribute substantially to the world of politics, especially in the area of state cooperation and behaviour. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union believed that the new patterns of international politics were based on multilateral institutions, which help states see one another through the lens of shared interests. Thus, on the policy side, non-proliferation arrangements were initiated at the system level by the superpowers during the Cold War through negotiations which were somehow successful till 1991. The two bipolar blocs, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact, played a considerably important role in placing constraints on states’ nuclear behaviour through incentives and alliances. The establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was initiated as a system level arrangement based on President Eisenhower’s address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on December 8, 1953.

After President Kennedy’s prediction in 1963 that “15 to 25 states would obtain nuclear weapons by 1975,” the U.S. opened discreet channels of communication with the Soviet Union, the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) and its NATO allies. Thus, negotiations on disarmament brought the two superpowers together to draft another arrangement to prohibit further nuclear weapons proliferation. Subsequently, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was finalized and was opened for signature in 1968 that came into force in 1970, with a range of obligations on the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) based on three bargaining pillars – non-proliferation, right to peaceful use of nuclear technologies and disarmament. Later the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and export control regimes were introduced that tend to give an important status to the NPT and overall non-proliferation efforts.

In 1961, President Kennedy’s administration sought to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and to develop more flexible and conventional alternatives. The initiatives that were initiated during the Cold War, such as introduction of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), arms control arrangements, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Soviet Union in 1972, and extension of nuclear states negative security assurances to non-nuclear states in 1978 also contributed to resilience of this taboo. These formal and informal treaties and regimes that are directed to promote non-proliferation laid down the concealed and robust foundation for nuclear taboo, thereby containing states’ behaviour not only towards development of nuclear weapons and arms control, but they also promoted the spirit of non-use. The purpose of these arrangements was to establish a rule-based mechanism against proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world and create trust among states.

Thirdly, constructivist approach based on ideational factor thus helps one to endorse Tannenwald’s taboo debate. The former two models based on political and self-interest grounds helped modify states’ normative and social behaviour during the Cold War. President Truman’s contribution by assigning non-military or political role to nuclear weapons was based on fear factor or horrendous consequences of use of nuclear weapons. Strategic thinkers’ contribution based on their scientific inquiry at the RAND; such as, Bernard Brodie, Thomas Shelling, Albert Wohlstetter, Henry Kissinger and Herman Kahn; injected vigorous strategic thinking at the political and strategic levels on the role of the nuclear weapons hence verifying the fact that there is no victory in the nuclear war. Indeed, American reputation was widely damaged due to employment of nuclear weapons that certainly set the new discourse/direction in regard to the role of the U.S. as a leading power in the world order. In parallel to this, the fear factor and consequences of use of nuclear weapons generated human rights debates, civil society movements, anti-nuclear weapons pressure groups in the U.S. and Europe. In this process, common public perception in the West was much more developed with respect to the horrific effects resulting from the use of nuclear weapons, and an increased sense of responsibility at state level had emerged in this respect.

Resilience and Fragility of Taboo in the Present Century: Resilience of Taboo
In the first place, it goes without saying that slower proliferation of nuclear weapons, contrary to Kennedy’s prediction – that was widely anticipated – has not come to pass yet. Two, discernible decline in number of arsenals between the U.S. and Russia has strengthened non-proliferation framework and spirit towards disarmament. Three, the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 and the treaty’s membership that has reached up to 190 states, are hallmark developments. Four, the introduction of New START by President Obama, announcement of diminishing role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security policies, Global Zero Movement and President Obama’s efforts are great steps towards the survival of taboo talk. Five, arrival of smarter conventional technologies such as Global Prompt Strikes (GPS), missile anticipators and shifting power centres, global integration/interdependence and regionalism have reinforced the spirit of non-use taboo, thereby minimizing the utility of nuclear weapons.

Fragility of Taboo
However, the taboo remains fragile in the present century. The taboo holds no legitimacy and there is no legal prohibition on possession and use of nuclear weapons. Thus, the taboo talk demands a new nuclear taboo against proliferation of nuclear weapons via major fixes, thereby plugging the gaps that exist in institutional arrangements and agreements directed to promote non-proliferation. The major institutional arrangement with highest membership within the non-proliferation regime is the NPT that requires major improvements.

Despite its successes, the regime has failed in achieving its desired goals based on its three pillars which constituted a grand bargain. One, under the NPT, five countries are recognized as NWS, while the rest of the Treaty’s signatories are regarded as NNWS and barred from acquiring nuclear weapons. Such an arrangement has raised global criticism against this regime’s efficacy and it underscores great powers’ interests. Two, there is a problem of non-universal nature of the NPT that needs to be addressed. Three, another issue is that in Articles III and IV, the vaguely defined Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been used to give waiver to states to transfer nuclear technology. Arguably, the U.S. waiver (2008) to India and U.S.-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) have evidently damaged the essence and spirit of the taboo by complicating regional politics between India and Pakistan. Thus, it goes without saying that India’s and America’s shared interests have created regional imbalance and mistrust. States’ interests at the system level are indeed damaging the set institutional norms, thereby making regional politics highly complicated. Against this backdrop of existing realities such as: the growing reliance of India and Pakistan on nuclear weapons; absence of an arms’ control regime; non-existence of CBMs; existence of ambiguous doctrinal strategies and contingency plans; and aggravated arms’ race in South Asia powerfully advocate the fragility and vulnerability of taboo.

Four, no progress has been made in the implementation of Article VI prescribing disarmament by the NWS. In particular, the NPT extension conference referred to Article VI of the NPT and obligations of the NWS to pursue efforts in good faith towards total elimination of nuclear weapons. Five, export control regimes, particularly the NSG, are under immense stress against the backdrop of globalization, rising demand for energy security in developing countries of Asia and shifting global energy trends from fossil to non-fossil fuel – especially clean energy. Thus, the NPT clauses on non-proliferation and peaceful uses require major changes.
The taboo against use would remain under strain until and unless we establish a new taboo against proliferation of nuclear weapons. To strengthen the new taboo, it is imperative that we universalize the non-proliferation regime/agreements and arrangements, hence relating them to the states’ behaviour at the domestic level.

Pakistan and Nuclear Taboo (Non-Use)
How resilient is the taboo in Pakistan’s context? I have investigated the extent to which Pakistan’s security considerations and its nuclear behaviour were factored into the regional strategic environment/thinking or global non-proliferation regime/norms; and to what extent non-material/ideational attributes/factors would have an impact on Pakistan’s use or non-use decision?

Pakistan’s nuclear behaviour is motivated by two main factors. First, it is India-centric Pakistan’s behaviour, which became evident after 1965, is more adequately explained by the realist model: the threat to its security arising from its immediate neighbour, India, and the actions of India towards the acquisition of a nuclear capability which appears to be the main motivation behind Pakistan’s own drive towards acquiring a nuclear capability in response. Pakistan wars with India in 1965 and 1971, when it received no help from its allies, led it to rely less on alliance systems and to turn instead to self-help. Pakistan was left with no choice but to acquire nuclear weapon capability after the Indian so-called Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974, which challenged the strategic equation in the South Asian region. India’s unconditional hostility and its tests again in 1998 changed Pakistan’s cautious and restrained nuclear policy into one of weaponization. Pakistan thinks strategically and realistically when its national security and survival is threatened. Pakistan’s policy decisions in relation to nuclear weapons, its doctrinal strategies, contingency plans are directed to neutralize Indian actions, its conventional and non-conventional postures and operational plans directed toward Pakistan. However, Pakistan is vigilant on Indian conventional and non-conventional defence build-up, its contingency plans and future policies. Pakistan has included tactical nuclear weapons in its inventory to counter Indian Cold Start Doctrine, thus minimizing probability of war in the region.

Second, it was found that Pakistan’s behaviour is influenced by the non-proliferation regime which in the long term failed to secure Pakistan’s cooperation. We cannot deny the fact that on normative ground, though from the outset, Pakistan sought to be aligned with the global community, particularly the U.S., sometimes on bilateral grounds and on other occasions as a part of trilateral or multilateral alliances. Pakistan’s behaviour in the period from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, shows its cooperation based policy when it was a part of global alliances such as Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Pakistan refrained from nuclear weapons development in this period and relied instead on international alliances.

In 1974, on normative grounds, Pakistan had proposed to establish a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in South Asia; and in 1978, it proposed to India a series of measures which it rejected. These included a joint Indo-Pakistan declaration renouncing the acquisition and manufacture of nuclear weapons, mutual inspections by India and Pakistan of nuclear facilities, simultaneous adherence to the NPT by India and Pakistan, and simultaneous acceptance of IAEA’s full-scope safeguards. However, all these proposals were rejected by India.

In its national security interest, Pakistan decided not to sign the NPT: First, it has serious reservations about the structure of this Treaty that maintains a division between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on selective basis and has led to arguments that the NPT is primarily focused on safeguarding the interests of the P-5 states. Second, the NPT has made no progress towards disarmament, thus perpetuating the crisis of trust. Third, the NPT did not offer any incentive to Pakistan towards safeguarding its national security interests against existential threat coming from India. Fourth, the NPT failed to constrain states’ behaviour that legitimize and maximize their absolute gains thereby compromising the spirit of the Treaty. The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal is a significant case in point. Fifth, there exist considerable ambiguities and confusion between the clauses on non-proliferation and right to peaceful use of nuclear technologies that put substantial pressure on the applicability of the NPT in the 21st century.

On Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), Pakistan insists that negotiations on all four items agreed to in the Shannon Mandate of 1995, be pursued simultaneously. Pakistan proposes: One, the FMCT needs to be a non-discriminatory and universally verifiable treaty. Second, it does not agree with the term “cut-off” as it does not cover the existing stockpile/fissile material. Third, the FMCT should be conceived as a legitimate disarmament measure, not devoted merely to the goals of non-proliferation. Four, non-inclusion of existing stockpiles of fissile materials puts Pakistan in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis its adversary, India. Five, Pakistan believes that the U.S.-India nuclear deal and the NSG’s special waiver to India have unquestionably given India an advantage.

There are many reasons for Pakistan not to take a unilateral approach to signing the CTBT: One, it is unclear whether India would follow suit, given its intention to build hydrogen bombs. Two, Pakistan will not be recognized as a nuclear weapons state by the world community even if it signs the CTBT. Three, Pakistan may not secure substantial support for its peaceful nuclear programme, unlike India. Finally, if Pakistan were to join and quit because of India’s possible tests, such a reversal would have a huge costly strategic impact on Pakistan.

Being not a member of the NPT, Pakistan has instituted a laborious and robust export control and nuclear security regime. Pakistan follows the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540; it is a party to the Convention on Nuclear Safety; the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism; the Container Security Initiative, and the IAEA’s Incident and Trafficking Database. Moreover, Islamabad has established its independent regulatory authority – Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority – that works closely with the IAEA.

While, in general, the arguments presented here subscribe to this viewpoint, the reality in the case of South Asia is that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by two rival powers has in fact had a stabilizing effect on a volatile region. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars before they gained a nuclear deterrence capability. Nuclear deterrence has prevented both a full conventional war and a nuclear war. U.S. mediation has strengthened the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons which demonstrates the relevance of the constructivists’ arguments here. For example, two major crises (Brasstacks in 87–88 and the Kashmir crisis in 1990–91), as well as the Kargil crisis in 1999 and the long period of armed confrontation following the attack on the Lok Sabha in December 2001 have been resolved or contained through U.S. mediation (that is not guaranteed in the future).

It is possible that the U.S. would not have intervened had both states not been nuclear armed. Equally, U.S. mediation might not have been accepted by the parties – principally by India, which rejects third party mediation in most cases – had not the risks of nuclear conflict been very great. Thus, it is argued that the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons has been recognized globally, but it still holds weak recognition in the South Asian context because of regional complexities and distinct political direction of two new nuclear weapon states. India is focused on projecting power beyond the region, whereas Pakistan is focused on maximization of its own security.

The problems of the state of Pakistan in the context of use and non-use cannot be explained based on ideational factors such as norms/identity/culture or dealt with in isolation from problems related to regional strategic environment or problem within the non-proliferation system. One, Pakistan and India are developing countries and their societal factors cannot be compared with the super and great power of the world; two, illiteracy rate and level of tolerance and human right debates are fairly weak in these societies; three, there are no strong indigenous civil society movements and public awareness on the consequences of employment of nuclear weapons; four, distinct politics directions of India (seeks global role) and Pakistan (maximization of security) is delaying the peace process; five, both countries are not willing to compromise on the Kashmir issue.

Therefore, the argument generates a further debate: to fully understand Pakistan’s nuclear policy, the Indian case must also be considered. To alter Pakistan’s behaviour, it is necessary to change India’s behaviour first. To change India’s behaviour, there is a need to change the behaviour of the NWS overall. This is why it is only a change in the behaviour of states at the system level that can lead to a change in the behaviour of states at a regional level. A change in regional behaviour would lead to a change in Pakistan’s behaviour internally.

In the regional nuclear setting of South Asia, nuclear competition and mistrust is not bilateral, but triangular. India reacts not only to Pakistan but also to China. China supports Pakistan, but also has an uneasy relationship with the United States, which views it as a potential enemy. Therefore, the conclusion of this debate does not support the hypothesis that the solution in South Asia lies in bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan or Pakistan’s behaviour on non-use phenomenon can be modified internally or on cultural basis. The argument is that the security dilemma of South Asia is sufficiently deep-rooted on realist thinking in both countries (India and Pakistan), and the prevention of risks and tensions between India and Pakistan is sufficiently problematic. This requires international institutions’ intervention and the non-proliferation regime itself to play a role in possible conflict resolution and to prevent use of nuclear weapons in crises and wars.

Today’s global problems are sufficiently complex and interrelated that require global solutions based on a multilateral and collective approach. International institutions need to be strengthened to counter the emerging threats to global security. In the future, if states operate in isolation and solely according to self-interest, the interests of all assuredly will suffer. Cooperation is possible in case in which gains are shared equitably. Thus, there is an urgent need to revive the non-proliferation regime and engage the non-NPT states in the full spectrum of non-proliferation and disarmament standards and obligations.

Within this debate, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development cannot be understood without taking into account this remaining puzzle: why a similar taboo does not exist against proliferation of nuclear weapons; why has one not emerged and why is one not recognized? Why did states find it difficult to institute a codified, stringent norm or a taboo against the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Unless there is a stringent prohibition of proliferation of nuclear weapons, the chances of moving towards total elimination or a global zero are low. A new taboo against proliferation will help secure the existing taboo against use and would pave the way to establish the ultimate and decisive step of a taboo against the possession of nuclear weapons.

The writer is a PhD in International Security and Nuclear Non-Proliferation from University of Leicester, UK and is on the faculty of NDU, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

India's Brinkmanship in Nuclear Policy: The Fall Out Goes too Far!

Published in Hilal English May 2017

Written By: Tahir Mehmood Azad

Nuclear weapons are considered as the most horrifying and destructive weapons ever built by mankind and they have shed dark shadows over humanity since 1945. After United States' nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War, no [nuclear weapon] state could gather courage to use it again. However, it would be difficult to predict whether nuclear weapons could be used in future or not. Definitely, it is very complicated to state whether over the last 70 years, the threat of the use of nuclear weapons has reduced or amplified because there are both positive and perilous trends ongoing. A nuclear explosion would also create considerable fallout, potentially contaminating large areas. A one ton (a unit of weight equivalent to 1000 kilograms) surface detonation would theoretically result in fallout with gamma radiation levels in excess of 500 radiuses to a distance of 30-100 metres from the point of the explosion, with lesser amounts settling over a wider area.

It has become an Indian strategy to accuse Pakistan for any incident that happens in its territory. In the recent past, India has blamed Pakistan for attack on its Parliament (2002), Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot airbase (2015). Recently, for the attacks on its military base in Uri, Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), in which 17 Indian soldiers were killed, India accused Pakistan. In reaction, India threatened Pakistan for surgical strike on its territory. On September 29, 2016, Indian military officials claimed that India had carried out surgical strike on militant camps in Pakistani territory. Pakistan rejected India's claim of surgical strike and warned India of serious consequences to any such activity.

After every single terrorist incident in India, whether it is carried out by local terrorists or separatist organizations, Indian civil and political elite put blame on Pakistan. These tensions further lead to unhappy and unhealthy environment for both states which ultimately affect the South Asian region. It is a bitter reality that any type of military adventure such as surgical strike or limited war carried out by India would lead to full-scale war and that would ultimately lead to nuclear war.

Pakistan and India, with estimated combined numbers of 250 nuclear weapons (130 and 120 respectively)1 and roughly total amount 6.3 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU-235) and 5.26 tons plutonium (Pu-239) for military uses, remain on the verge of war. Any type of military adventure, either surgical or limited war waged by India, would escalate to full-scale war and ultimately to nuclear war. Both states have advanced nuclear weapons' technology and nuclear war between them could be more catastrophic and will have long lasting health, environmental, psychological, socio-economic and global consequences. More than 21 million people would die in minutes from the direct effects of the weapons.2 Entire population of Pakistan and India which is about 200 million and 1000 million respectively, would suffer from the radiations for many decades. All major cities on both sides would be annihilated completely. Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation would increase and that would negatively affect human, animal and plant life. Drinking water and food shortages would cause hundreds of millions of people to starve to death during the years following the nuclear war.

Neither the United States nor any other state in the world is distantly ready to handle the consequence of nuclear war. For example, the need to care for thousands of wounded, burned and irradiated sufferers, the need to vacate hundreds of thousands of natives in the path of the fallout, the enormous challenge of restoring essential services to a partly burned and irradiated city, and more. Further than the instantaneous physical harm done by a nuclear war, the sociological, psychological, and financial impacts of such an aggression would be destructive. Like natural calamity, a nuclear attack may happen without admonition, leaving small probability for preparation. An attack in a metropolitan part would not only execute huge figures of citizens but it could also make the region practically squalid for an extensive period of time. The suffering of such an assault would leave lasting mental and emotional scars on the survivors. The blast wave can destroy buildings, spread debris, and overturn trees. The thermal pulse can ignite exposed combustible materials, causing many sustained fires. These are the main direct effects. The magnitude of the effects is different depending on whether the explosion occurs; on the ground or above the earth.4 If a nuclear weapon was detonated at ground level, the area destroyed and the casualties probably would be smaller, even though ground particles would get picked up and made radioactive and then dumped downwind for hundreds of miles.5 Li Bin has given the consequences of nuclear terrorism attack in four scenarios.6

1. A nuclear device is exploded on the surface of water by seashore and the yield is 20 kilotons or less. The effects of a nuclear explosion include shock waves (or referred as air blasts for an explosion in the air), thermal radiation, initial nuclear radiation, and residual nuclear radiation.

2. A nuclear device is exploded at a population centre. The yield is about 20 kilotons. The damage in this scenario would be much bigger because the population density would be much higher. The casualties would be at the level of those in the Nagasaki and Hiroshima attacks or even larger.

3. An operational reactor releases a significant amount of vapourized nuclear materials, including spent fuels and fission products after suffering an attack. Nuclear materials released from an operational reactor are harmful to human beings. They could cause immediate effects in a few days, mid-term effects in a few years and long-term effects in tens of years. Immediate effects include acute radiation sickness caused by exposure to large-dose radiation, scalding by hot venting, and injuries by solid debris.

4. A "dirty bomb" with radioactive material is exploded at a population centre. The effects of the explosion of a "dirty bomb" are highly dependent on the type of nuclear materials used, the form of dispersal, and the weather condition after the explosion. Main effects would also be psychological and economical ones.7

International health organizations and experts believe that nuclear war consequences of India-Pakistan would be very dangerous to the affected community. A successful attack in major cities of both states would be very likely to cause large numbers of instant fatalities. Victims would be confronted not only with immediate destruction and disability imposed by the initial event but also with the fear of future effects on their own health, and the health of loved ones, or that of future generations.8 Although it would have the potential to affect extensive areas of land and cause large number of cancers, its impact would depend on how effectively appropriate contingency plans were implemented.9 Even an unsuccessful attack could have economic and social repercussions and affect public confidence in nuclear activities such as power generation.10

The entire region would face the consequences of radioactivity. Furthermore, it would have extra-regional impacts such as health, environmental, economic and trade, ecological, and socio-political. Therefore, India must avoid any kind of war option i.e., surgical, limited or all-out war. The bilateral disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Kashmir is the core dispute and it should be resolved as per the UNSC resolutions. Major powers should play their effective roles to normalize the situation between the two countries. India must change its aggressive policies towards Pakistan and both states should settle their issues in a friendly environment. India can escalate and initiate a war, but it will have to pay the price that would be very costly and endure over centuries!


The writer is pursuing PhD in Strategic & Nuclear Studies at National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, Pakistan.

1 Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, "Trends in World Nuclear Forces, 2016," SIPRI, Fact Sheet, June 2016, p.2.
2 Abheet Singh Sethi, "The Global Cost of a Nuclear War between India and Pakistan," September 29, 2016.
3 Ashton B. Carter, Michael M. May, and William J. Perry, "The Day After: Action in the 24 Hours Following a Nuclear Blast in an American City," A report based on a workshop hosted by the Preventive Defense Project (Cambridge, Mass. and Palo Alto, Cal., Harvard and Stanford Universities, Preventive Defence Project, May 2007).
4 "Understanding the Risks and Realities of Nuclear Terrorism," Center for International Security and Cooperation Institute for International Studies, Stanford University.
5 Ibid.
6 Li Bin, "On Nuclear Terrorism," Working Paper, 2nd Pugwash Workshop on East Asian Security, Beijing, China, March 7-9, 2002.
7 http://nuclear-news.net/information/.
8 T. F. Ditzler, "Malevolent minds: The teleology of terrorism," in F. M. Moghaddam, and A. J. Marsella (Ed.), Understanding Terrorism: Psychosocial Roots, Consequences, and Interventions, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001, pp. 187-188.
9 "Assessing The Risk of Terrorist Attacks on Nuclear Facilities," Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology London, U.K, POST Report 222, July 2004, p.2.
10 Ibid.


No First Use and India's Changing Nuclear Posture

Published in Hilal English May 2017

Written By: Ghazala Yasmin Jalil

The remarks of academics and retired Indian officials confirm the redundancy of the NFU. If indeed the signals coming from India are to be taken seriously then it is a major declared policy shift that has serious implications for Pakistan's nuclear strategy.


India has adopted an increasingly belligerent posture towards Pakistan in the last few years – suspension of composite dialogue, strained diplomatic relations and severed cultural ties, and calling Pakistan a terrorist state. At the same time, India has been heavily building up its conventional capabilities, tremendously expanding its naval capabilities and even operationalising its nuclear capable submarine fleet. The latest in India's race towards a more belligerent posture is its move away from a nuclear no-first use (NFU) posture. This is indeed a worrying development in an already volatile nuclear theatre like South Asia.


nofirstchange.jpgThe NFU refers to a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. India adopted the NFU policy in the wake of its 1998 nuclear tests. India's draft nuclear doctrine of August 1999 asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of "retaliation only". It further states, "India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail."1 Later, in a speech at the National Defence College on October 21, 2010, India's then National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, said that Indian nuclear doctrine advocates no first use against non-nuclear-weapon states. This raises the question whether the use of nuclear weapons was an option against non-nuclear weapon states. Again, in November 2016, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "Why do lots of people say that India is for no fist use? Why should I bind myself?"2

Recent claims by an expert on South Asian nuclear strategy, Vipin Narang, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology are worthy of some attention. At a conference held by Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in 2017, he said, "There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first." He asserted that India may abandon NFU and launch a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons or most likely the tactical nuclear weapons against it. He further claimed that India's pre-emptive strike may not be conventional and would also be aimed at Pakistan's missile launchers for tactical battlefield nuclear warheads. He went as far to say that India's strike may be a full 'comprehensive counterforce strike' that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of all its nuclear weapons eliminating the possibility of a retaliatory strike. However, of greater concern is his claim that this change in thinking does not come from fringe extreme voices but from no less than a former Commander of India's Strategic Forces, Lt Gen B.S. Nagal, and also from the influential former national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, who suggested in his 2016 book 'Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy', that "Serious voices, who cannot be ignored, seem to suggest that this (abandoning NFU policy) is where India may be heading, and certainly wants to head."

Pakistan has always been sceptical of India's claims of NFU. However, the remarks of academics and retired Indian officials confirm the redundancy of the NFU. If indeed the signals coming from India are to be taken seriously then it is a major declared policy shift that has serious implications for Pakistan's nuclear strategy. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Ehsan ul Haq (R), who has remained closely associated with Pakistan’s nuclear thinking while speaking at the launch of a book said, "The development is a cause of concern against the backdrop of extremist Hindutva agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party government." He further said, "Our conventional understanding of South Asia's nuclear dynamics and who, in fact, might use nuclear weapons first and in what mode may need a hard rethink given these emerging authoritative voices in India who are not content to cede the nuclear initiative to Pakistan." This indeed would be a major shift in India's nuclear policy. It would surely have a response by Pakistan making adjustments to its nuclear doctrine. However, if Vipin Narayan's remarks are to be taken seriously then it might not only be abandoning of NFU by India but doing away with the escalation ladder leading to a strategic nuclear strike. Noteworthy in this context are his remarks that India may conduct a comprehensive counterforce designed to destroy Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While this may not be possible in practice since Pakistan's nuclear assets are well dispersed with high survivability, it does reflect the extremist turn in India's nuclear thinking. This is a worrying development for Pakistan since India has adopted a more aggressive stance against Pakistan under the BJP-led government. It is also worrisome in the light of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) system that India is developing and is already claiming operational with the ability to protect two Indian cities. Although BMD systems are not foolproof and hundred percent effective, they would give Indian decision makers a false sense of security making them act with aggression in a crisis. If indeed Indian nuclear thinking is moving towards a pre-emptive nuclear strike, then the decision makers would feel more secure knowing the BMD system would provide protection against any missile that Pakistan launches in retaliation.


Noteworthy are Vipin Narayan’s remarks that India may conduct a comprehensive counterforce designed to destroy Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While this may not be possible in practice since Pakistan's nuclear assets are well dispersed with high survivability, it does reflect the extremist turn in India's nuclear thinking.

Pakistan has already stated its displeasure on any notions of pre-emptive strike. On April 6, 2017, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson stated that, “It goes without saying that the talk about pre-emption in a nuclearized South Asia is highly irresponsible and dangerous and will not help the cause of promoting strategic restraint and stability in the region.” He further highlighted that, “In taking appropriate security measures, Pakistan has to consider capabilities and not intentions which can change anytime."3

A move towards pre-emptive strike would be a dangerous and destabilising one in South Asia. It will surely accelerate the arms race in South Asia including nuclear. It might necessitate changes in force planning, postures, and deployment protocols. It would likely move the two countries towards nuclear readiness which also increases the chances of accidental and unauthorised use.

Some analysts have described the Indian references to pre-emptive strike "a storm in a teacup," and not to be taken seriously. It may be so. However, if Indian strategic circles are discussing the possibility of a crippling first strike against Pakistan, Islamabad cannot afford to take it lightly. It does not mean that Pakistani decision makers need to go off in a flurry and make adjustments to its force posture immediately. But it would be a good idea to keep a close watch on India's nuclear policy. In the long run, Pakistan would have to adjust its nuclear policy to cater for a first nuclear use Indian policy. Pakistan can use tactics like dispersion, camouflage and mobility to ensure the survivability of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Pakistan can develop sea-based nuclear capability which would give it an assured second strike capability. It is already working on a sea based nuclear deterrence. In January 2017 Pakistan announced that it had successfully carried out the first-ever test of its nuclear-capable Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a submerged platform. The Babur-3 SLCM is ultimately designed for use with its Agosta 90B diesel-electric submarines. This would give Pakistan a second strike capability. It would also ensure that all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not destroyed in a pre-emptive strike. An important lesson to take home is what the foreign office spokesperson said: "Pakistan has to prepare against the adversary's capabilities and not intentions." At the same time one must not miss the point – Indian talk of abandoning NFU is an indication of the extremist turn in the country's security and foreign policy. It is the harbinger of yet more conflict and instability in the region. Perhaps, the most important step Pakistan needs to take is to build international pressure on India to abandon its aggressive posture and move towards dialogue and conflict resolution. For nuclear weapons are not meant to be used to wage war, their primary role is to prevent war.


The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad and focuses on nuclear and arms control & disarmament issues.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


1 Draft Report of National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, Äugust 17, 1999, http://mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?18916/Draft+Report+of+National+Security+Advisory+Board+on+Indian+Nuclear+Doctrine
2 "Why bind ourselves to 'no first use' policy, says Manohar Parrikar on India's nuke policy", Economic Times, November 12, 2017
3 "India’s no-first-use of N-doctrine a ploy: FO," The Nation, April 7, 2017, http://nation.com.pk/editors-picks/07-Apr-2017/india-s-no-first-use-of-n-doctrine-a-ploy-fo


NSG Membership: A Critical Affair

Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Pakistan and India have applied for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-nation body that governs trade in nuclear-related exports and aims to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military use. Both states realize that inclusion in the Group would not only enhance their prestige or status in the global politics but also legitimize their import and export of nuclear material for peaceful application.

The NSG was created as a voluntary cartel in 1975 on the behest of the United States. The cartel was established in response to India’s May 18, 1974, so-called peaceful nuclear explosion, “which was fuelled with plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor (CIRUS) in violation of peaceful nuclear use assurances.” Since entry into force in 1978, the NSG has been transferring nuclear material and technology to the parties of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), who are observing comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Neither India nor Pakistan is party to NPT and thereby both states do not qualify to be a member of NSG as well as recipient of nuclear material and technology from the Group. This rule, however, was evaded in 2008 to accommodate India. The NSG members made an amendment in the trade laws of the Group and granted a special waiver to India. The special treatment of India undermined the credibility of the Group.

Premier Narendra Modi has been lobbying with the support of the United States to enter into the NSG for pursuing India’s economic and strategic agenda. The membership of the Group would allow New Delhi to trade in nuclear material and technologies with the rest of the world. In the parlance of strategic alliance the membership would also eradicate the last remnants of ‘the pariah status that was imposed following the first nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1974, and reinforced after the Pokhran II tests in 1998.’ Aroon Purie opined that: “If the civil nuclear agreement between India and the U.S. in 2005 was the first step towards ending the ostracism, becoming a full member of the NSG would make India an integral part of the global nuclear club.”

Prime Minister Modi had toured many countries, including the United States; to muster support for India’s NSG membership application endorsement during the first half of June 2016. Presently, India enjoys President Obama’s strong support in its bid to join the Group. Notably, President Obama first expressed support for India’s membership in the NSG in November 2010 joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Since then, he has been lobbying for India to win membership through a special exception.

The trends in the international politics and debates on the nuclear non-proliferation regime indicate that India may not receive the special or exceptional treatment in securing the NSG membership. India’s application for the NSG membership and United States plea to treat it as a special case were vastly debated in the international media prior to the group meeting on June 9, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The debate confirms that special treatment of one state and discriminatory approach against the others would be perilous for NSG in particular and Nuclear Non-proliferation regime in general.

The Chinese principled stance i.e. only party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is qualified to be members of the NSG was a major roadblock which has hindered India from becoming an NSG member. Importantly, the 48 members of NSG have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, either as nuclear weapons states (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China) or as non-nuclear weapons states. Whereas; India is not party to the NPT. That’s why; in addition to China, a few other members of the Group including New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa, Austria, etc. also opposed the U.S. move to include India in the 48-nation NSG.

China has been keeping a firm stance on the subject of the NSG membership. On May 13, 2016, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lu Kang made a statement that “NPT membership” is a necessary qualification for membership. He added, “Not only India, but also many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG.” Many NSG members, including China, believe that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided based on consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the rules of procedure of the NSG. The recent reports reveal that China has shown flexibility on its stance by announcing that it is against an exception being granted to India and may favour a criteria-based approach to address the question of all non-NPT states being granted membership to NSG.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind foreign trips’ failure to ensure smooth entry of India in NSG is a big setback for his foreign policy agenda. Conversely, the denial of special treatment to India would contribute definitely in restoring the credibility of the NSG. Since 2008, India has been enjoying the exceptional treatment by the Group due to its cementing strategic partnership with the United States. “For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear program to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a civilian nuclear deal with India that allowed it to trade in nuclear materials.” (The Editorial Board, “No Exceptions for a Nuclear India” The New York Times, June 4, 2016). Washington’s twisting of Nuclear Non-proliferation regimes rules/norms in favour of India has increased the fragility of the regime.

The credibility of Nuclear Non-proliferation regime tainted because India promised in 2008 to undertake certain measures in reciprocity of NSG waiver. Daryl G. Kimball pointed out that: “The NSG waiver for India was granted in return for several Indian non-proliferation “commitments and actions,” including maintaining its nuclear test moratorium, supporting negotiations to halt fissile material production for weapons, and developing a plan to separate its civilian and nuclear sectors.” (Arms Control Today, June 2016). The review of American think-tank reports discloses that New Delhi did not fully separate its civilian and military nuclear reactors. Neither observed moratorium on fissile material production for weapons use nor signed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Moreover, it had not adhered to the limited International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol.

Although Obama administration has immensely been lobbying for India’s NSG membership, yet a few Congressmen at the Capitol Hill are expressing their serious reservations on India’s nuclear non-proliferation record. They seem disturbed due to New Delhi’s non-compliance of nuclear related commitments with Washington since the entry into force of Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal in 2008. For instance, Senator Markey statement in a U.S. Senate hearing on May 24, 2016, was revealing. He pointed out that: “since 2008 when (we) also gave them an exemption, India has continued to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons program virtually un-checked. At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of the nuclear arms race in South Asia.” The vertical nuclear proliferation in South Asia and absence of arms’ control between India and Pakistan endorse Senator Markey’s proclamation in the Senate of United States.

Pakistan formally applied for the NSG membership on May 18, 2016. Perhaps, Pakistan’s move to join NSG surprised both India and the United States. Since its bid for membership, Islamabad has been lobbying for the support of like-minded states. In this context, it also sent letters to the U.S. officials and lawmakers, urging them to support its bid for joining the NSG. Due to its visible tilt towards New Delhi, Washington asked Pakistan ‘to put its case before all 48 members of the Group, instead of seeking individual endorsements for joining the NSG’. The response of Washington to Islamabad reflect chill in bilateral relations.

Importantly, Pakistan instead of asking for favour or special treatment has maintained a principle stance on NSG membership. It is demanding a non-discriminatory approach. It accentuates that a criteria-based or norm-based approach ought to be adopted for the membership of NSG. More explicitly, Islamabad has been advocating that the norms and rules applied to give India membership should also apply to all new entrants to the NSG. Many members have appreciated Pakistan’s principle stance. Therefore, they have supported Islamabad’s attempt to become a member of the Group.

Without having a criteria-based approach, Pakistan would be permanently in a disadvantageous position. It is because NSG operates on the basis of consensus. Once India becomes the member of NSG, it would be in a position, as a member, to permanently block the entry of Pakistan in the Group by using the consensus clause. In simple words, it would veto the attempt of Pakistan to join the NSG.

Importantly, Islamabad’s application to join the Group not only subverted the smooth entry of India in the NSG with the support of the United States, but also created a legitimate right of Pakistan to be a member of the Group. It is because, “Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure and the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses.”

To conclude, both India and Pakistan have potential to assist many developing states to advance their nuclear infrastructure for the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Indeed, granting of the NSG membership to New Delhi and Islamabad would be in the interest of lesser-developed states. The trends, however, reveal that both states might not be successful in getting the membership of NSG in the near future.


The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The trends in the international politics and debates on the nuclear non-proliferation regime indicate that India may not receive the special or exceptional treatment in securing the NSG membership. India’s application for the NSG membership and United States plea to treat it as a special case were vastly debated in the international media prior to the group meeting on June 9, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The debate confirms that special treatment of one state and discriminatory approach against the others would be perilous for NSG in particular and Nuclear Non-proliferation regime in general.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind foreign trips’ failure to ensure smooth entry of India in NSG is a big setback for his foreign policy agenda. Conversely, the denial of special treatment to India would contribute definitely in restoring the credibility of the NSG.



Follow Us On Twitter