While propounding nuclear optimism for short-term, Lawrence Freedman in his voluminous book Evolution of Nuclear Strategy concludes that “The Emperor Deterrence has no clothes, but he is still emperor.” In his long-term assessment, Freedman concludes: “an international order that rests upon a stability created by nuclear weapons will be the most terrible legacy with which each succeeding generation will endow the next. To believe that this can go on indefinitely without major disaster requires an optimism unjustified by any historical or political perspective.” Undoubtedly, this was a bold and exhaustive attempt to critically analyze the efficacy and expediency of nuclear deterrence in the context of US-USSR Cold War strategic rivalry.
In my opinion, Freedman’s short-term – long-term conclusions may be very much accurate and can be a useful model to examine nuclear South Asia. India-Pakistan nuclear trajectories are continued to go-upward without any rumples. It’s noteworthy that those who are calling the shots in strategic matters from both the countries staunchly believe that nuclear weapons promote peace and stability in the region – hence making NWs the lynchpin of overall security architecture. According to new data on international arms transfers recently published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India’s arms imports are now almost 3 times as high as those of the second and third largest arms importers—China and Pakistan. With regards to nuclear developments, India is on the path to construct breeder-technology based reactors which certainly will boost its fissile material stocks for bomb making.
India’s struggle to build up a BMD system is yet another extremely dangerous trend that has already provided enough ammunition to fuel up arms race in the region. According to a news report published by Worldtribune.com – India and Israel have concluded an agreement to assemble a ballistic missile defense system to protect against nuclear warheads fired from China or Pakistan. What message does India want to give by massively building up its military muscles?
In such a volatile strategic milieu, Pakistani nuclear decision-makers increasingly justify their rapid development of nuclear arsenal. They project and firmly believe that the newly built TNWs promote deterrence stability between India and Pakistan – though debatable. It is widely believed that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are growing fastest in the world. This is on the technological side, less said on nuclear policy side the better. The fundamental question arises: does the number-game really promote peace and can bring stability in the longer-run?
Yes, the emperor deterrence, even though lacking some essential ingredients, has promoted shaky peace and stability for the shorter-run. But, unfortunately South Asia in the longer-run may be the victim of the nuclear genie. The following few arguments may substantiate this assumption:
Firstly, the nuclear weapons in Indo-Pak inventories may not be very reliable instruments to avert wars between both the countries if other factors of their security behavior are not taken care of.
Secondly, an arms race in the context of the number-game is neither necessary nor winnable. Rather the large number may cause multiple problems – for instance, maintenance costs and safety and security issues etc.
Thirdly, both countries are densely populated, mostly living under poverty-lines. Many are deprived from basic human needs. So, the lava of population can over-flow any time, resulting in severe consequences in the region. Already both the countries have increased defense spending to an extent which the current economic growth cannot support. Lastly, the presence of non-state actors in the region may undermine deterrence stability through various ways that are thoroughly debated in the current nuclear literature.
In this strategic environment, the need of hour is this: the international community must create circumstances taking both countries on board that can pave the way towards low numbers. Mark Fitzpatrick’s book is an insightful and innovative read in this regard. Above all, both the countries must show political will and resolve to start arms control and disarmament initiatives. Sooner the better.