South Asia needs ‘nuclear moderates’

Apparently, nuclear decision-makers in India and Pakistan are still impressed by Kenneth Waltz’s ‘more may be better’ discourse – even though US-USSR/Russia strategic arms reductions have proved ‘more may not be better’. Advocates of nuclear deterrence in both the countries are well-received at every level and are viewed beacons of patriotism. Nuclear optimists generally derive their arguments from the traditional political realism and balance of power theories. Interestingly, they are very vocal to propound their point of view and have a very little space in giving any respect to nuclear pessimism.

It’s important to mention few leading arguments which are widely held by Pakistani and Indian nuclear optimists: Firstly, they maintain that fear of nuclear annihilation has locked up the chances of any war between historical foes. Secondly, nuclear weapons promote regional peace and stability. Thirdly, these weapons provide a cost-effective option to security managers.

Sadly, the role of great powers, especially the US and USSR/Russia, has not been appreciable as they added fuel to the fire by securing strategic markets to cater to the vested interests of their military industrial complexes (MICs). Both, the US and USSR/Russia have been the biggest conventional arms exporters to India and Pakistan. The Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and USSR/Russia’s conventional arms sales to India, in overwhelming proportions, have emboldened and strengthened nuclear optimists in Pakistan. Likewise, US weapons business and so-called strategic alliance with Pakistan have added much weight to Indian nuclear hawks’ premise for nuclear deterrence.

To my assessment, the rapidly changing nature of the US-Russia bilateral relationship and strategic role in different crises/issues/conflicts will have far-reaching repercussions on the South Asian nuclear template. The recent resurgence of Russia over the past few years is believed to be an indicator of another Cold War. Once again, many strategic pundits are recalling the long and dangerous Cold War era in which intentional peace and stability was under massive threat from great power ambitions. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and an unfolding strategic rivalry with the US will be used very conveniently by South Asian nuclear exponents to further buttress their hard positions.

On the other side, nuclear pessimists from both countries hold diametrically opposed views to nuclear optimists. They argue that the concept of nuclear deterrence is inherently flawed and based on incorrect psychological premises. According to them, nuclear weapons do not provide guarantees for lasting peace. Rather, they could cause catastrophe in the region. Moreover, they raise concerns with regards to accidental and unauthorized use of nukes coupled with command and control issues. They portray doomsday scenarios of non-state actors getting a hold on nukes, irrational state behaviors, institutional interests and miscalculations.

Keeping in view the Indian and Pakistani security imperatives, their peculiar strategic cultures, the role of China and domestic socioeconomic compulsions: is there a middle path in between nuclear optimists and nuclear pessimists? I think the answer is yes, South Asia needs ‘nuclear moderates’ who can influence nuclear policy-makers by convincingly presenting their case. Firstly, they can argue that India and Pakistan are two faces of the same coin – and have many commonalities. Both can advance the uplift of common people by stabilizing their bilateral relations. And the best way is to get out of this mad nuclear arms race and come up with some cooperative framework. Subsequently, concluding further nuclear risk reduction measures – ultimately leading towards arms control and disarmament initiatives. Many lessons could be drawn from US-USSR/Russia arms control and disarmament agreements. This is the only way to bring South Asia to a par with the most developed regions of the world. It will serve the interests of both the countries – very much a realist political approach.

Posted in , Arms Control, CBMs, Cooperation, Deterrence, History, India, India-Pakistan Relations, Nuclear, Nuclear Security, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Peace, Policy, Politics, Russia, Security, US, USSR

Muhammad Sadiq

Muhammad Sadiq is a lecturer at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS), Quiad-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan since 2007 and a former visiting fellow (fall 2012) at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, MIIS California. He also served at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) as an “International Relations Analyst” for a short period of time in 2007. He has M.Sc and M.Phil degrees from DSS, QAU. Besides teaching, he is pursuing his PhD from the School of Politics and International Relations, QAU. His area of research and teaching include Nuclear Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament, and Nuclear Strategy.

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7 thoughts on “South Asia needs ‘nuclear moderates’

  1. Balance of Power concept is inherently flawed because Pakistan cannot achieve any balance of Power with India, neither India with China or USA, Russia and China with each other. Like a rich man a rich country will spend more on everything whether Education, Health or Defense. If a poor man or country object to the imbalance whether in Power or Wealth, it will make no difference.
    If the World is seriously interested in Peace and not posturing it must first get the United Nations Organization to bar the use of Nuclear Weapons without ifs and buts as a first step followed by a fixed timeline for elimination of all these weapons. Strategic affairs experts writing long winded homilies with pious intentions will not help. Nuclear disarmament has to be the goal and War mongers of all colors and stripes opposing it should be exposed and isolated. Peaceniks have to be separated from War mongers.

  2. Daruwala: Thanks for the comment.

    With regards to achieving peace in the world, you mentioned that “Strategic affairs experts writing long winded homilies with pious intentions will not help”. I think your assessment carries much authenticity. The strategic affairs experts particularly from academia have very little influence on states’ policy-making circles. Few years back, during SWAMOS workshop at Cornell University, an internationally renowned scholar from one of the leading universities of USA told the participants that American academics have very little impact on US national security formulation. Sarcastically, he said “we are only 3%” means their recommendations are taken care only 3% at governmental level. “97% of life is a wasted effort”.

  3. No doubt, the middle path here is really the best path for South Asia. As far as arms race is concern, the important question is that how to control arm race? It is necessary to resolve Kashmir conflict or to do some other compromise. The arm race has push common South Asian citizen under poverty line. The leadership and policy makers of both countries should sit together and try to solve the existing problems. The conflict resolution can only bring South Asia on the avenue of progress.
    One important point you explained is that recent behavior of Russia “is believed to be an indicator of another Cold War”. Now ideology of Russia has changed, do you think Russia will go for another cold war without thinking of possible economic losses?

  4. Nice one Sadiq. What worries me in India these days is the near total lack of a nuclear debate, be it hawks, doves, realists or moderates. Just a regurgitating of staid old positions not in consonance with current or emerging reality.

    Basically some unelected, shadowy product of an Indian Standardized Entrance Exam decides India’s policies in a lacuna and it becomes fair accompli without debate or discussion.

  5. Ali: I think under the increasingly assertive leadership of Putin, Russia has revamped its economy and is ready to play more influential role in international issues.

    Over the years, many unfolding events have heightened the prospects of renewal of extreme strategic tussle if not Cold War like competition. I believe next few years are very important to assess the reemergence of Cold War between US and Russia.

  6. My friend Sadiq, only solution of Kashmir can solve the problem. All other discussions are useless. My humble openion.

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