According to estimates by the Arms Control Association, India and Pakistan have between 120 and 140 nuclear warheads. However, a report prepared by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center in 2015 states that Pakistan can outrun India in terms of its nuclear stockpile and have 350 nuclear warheads in the next five to ten years. India vs Pakistan: a terrible scenario of nuclear war.
India vs Pakistan: a terrible scenario of nuclear war
The 2016 SIPRI report confirmed the assessment that Pakistan has more nuclear warheads than India.
But what distinguishes the two nuclear weapons programs of neighboring countries? This is not so much the pace of production or the size of stocks, as their fundamentally different nuclear doctrines.
India refused to be the first to use nuclear weapons, Pakistan refused to do this, reserving the right to use nuclear weapons in the face of the traditional superiority of India.
Until now, uncertainty about Pakistan’s nuclear threshold is the main factor preventing a large-scale conflict in South Asia. Pakistan’s reluctance to be the first to use nuclear weapons and its emphasis on the accumulation of tactical nuclear weapons and short-range missiles as a consequence of its nuclear doctrine are explained by the lower state of its forces compared to India.
In fact, this is a mirror image of the American nuclear doctrine in relation to Central Europe during the Cold War. The United States did not want to give up the first use of nuclear weapons and deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Central Europe on a large scale due to NATO’s inferiority from the point of view of traditional influence compared to the terms of the Warsaw Pact.
But for Pakistan, the uncertainty caused by its nuclear doctrine also achieved another important goal. It provided Pakistan with a shield, under the cover of which terrorist groups armed and trained by Islamabad, such as Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, can participate in terrorist attacks that cause havoc not only in Indian Kashmir, but also in other parts of india. Fear of a conflict with Pakistan on the level of nuclear war prevented India from responding to these provocations by using its forces on a massive scale.
India refused to respond to terrorist bases or Pakistani military facilities, even when a massive terrorist operation launched in Pakistan was aimed at the financial capital of India in Mumbai in November 2008. This attack lasted more than 60 hours, resulting in at least 174 deaths person
However, it seems that the logic of this containment is quickly exhausting itself. Attacks such as those that occurred in Mumbai, and subsequent attacks on Indian military installations in Kashmir and elsewhere, also served as a basis for Indian nationalists to increase anti-Pakistani rhetoric and put pressure on the Indian government to increase their military reaction.
In the past few months, India’s retaliatory actions have involved not only terrorist bases, but also Pakistani military facilities, which have led to significant casualties among Pakistani troops.
The increase in the number of terrorist attacks in the past two years, especially those committed by Jaish-e-Mohammad, with the explicit connivance of the Pakistani army, against Indian military targets in Kashmir and the surrounding Indian states made the situation very dangerous. In the past few months, terrorist groups operating in Pakistan have launched a series of such major attacks, resulting in significant casualties among the Indian security forces.
A major terrorist attack on the Uri camp in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016, which killed 17 troops, prompted the Indian government to review its strategy for responding to such attacks. On September 29, 2016, India delivered the first “surgical blow” against the terrorist bases in Pakistan.
Despite the assumptions that India had previously struck such blows, this was the first time that New Delhi was ready to launch major retaliatory strikes against targets in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
In the last incident in February 2018, the Jaish terrorists attacked an Indian military camp in Jammu: five soldiers and four militants were killed. In its retaliatory strike, the Indian army destroyed the post of the Pakistani army, using rocket launchers, as a result of which 22 Pakistani personnel were killed. This exchange by the principle of an eye for an eye has reached dangerous proportions.
Until now, the Pakistani military downplayed the importance of Indian invasions and retaliatory attacks and refused to recognize their seriousness because they did not want to appear weak in the eyes of the Pakistani public, which probably would then require a response. However, the Pakistani military cannot continue to downplay the importance of Indian attacks, especially in light of the growing number of dead.
At some point, either because of a miscalculation, or by calculation, the Indian “surgical strike” on Pakistani territory will push the Pakistani military, who control nuclear weapons, to retaliate.
In the event of a full-scale war, at some point Pakistan, unable to resist the superior Indian armed forces, can use nuclear weapons according to its doctrine. And, despite the fact that India proclaims the use of the doctrine prohibiting the first nuclear strike, it becomes quite obvious that it will retaliate against any use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield of Pakistan, without distinguishing between the use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. This strategy, formulated in a statement issued by the Government of India on January 4, 2003, is intended to cause unacceptable harm to the enemy.
Former Indian national security adviser Shivshankar Menon spoke about this strategy: “India is unlikely to risk giving Pakistan an opportunity to launch a massive nuclear strike after an Indian response to Pakistan using tactical nuclear weapons. In other words, the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Pakistan will actually release India first strike against Pakistan. “
This is a very scary scenario. Pakistan’s excessive desire to rely on nuclear deterrence, especially the refusal to sign a doctrine implying the absence of a first nuclear strike, combined with the reckless support of terrorist groups attacking Indian military and civilian objects, can unintentionally lead to a nuclear winter – and across South Asia, but also over a much wider territory.
The scenario that everyone fears
Rising tensions in Hindustan can be disastrous. A trigger that triggers a chain of events leading to a preemptive nuclear strike from one side or the other can be an escalation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir or a major terrorist attack in India like an attack in Mumbai in 2008
The main problem, according to many analysts, is that no one knows what the criteria for the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan and what it can perceive as the beginning of the war from India. The second problem – the attacks in India may not be related to Pakistan at all. It will be difficult to convince the Indian side of this.
In 2008, a US study was published on the effects of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. The authors concluded that although the total charges of the two countries are not so large, their use will lead to a climate catastrophe that will cause major agricultural problems and mass starvation. As a result, according to the report, about one billion people will die within ten years. So, it seems that the distant problem of India and Pakistan actually concerns the whole world