Pakistan vs. India: A game of Chess

Apr 29, 2011

By Talitha Dowds

In an article by the Wall Street Journal, the author Michael Mazza, discusses the current downward spiral relations between Pakistan and its rival, India. According to Mazza, the likelihood of a “serious conflict” occurring between the two states is increasingly probable in the long term.

Pakistan has created new missiles in response to India’s Cold Start military doctrine. The military doctrine was created in response to the 2001 and 2008 attacks on the Indian Lok Sabha and Mumbai by extremists believed to have entered into India through the Pakistani boarder. George Perkovich in “Toward Realistic U.S – India Relations” states that the purpose of Cold Start is to create the “ability to mount rapid military incursions into Pakistan to punish it, take limited amounts of territory, and then negotiate to compel Pakistan once and for all, to eradicate the sources of violence against India.”

Pakistan’s response, in the form of creating new missiles is outlined my Mazza. He states,

“last week, Pakistan test-fired a new, short-range, surface-to-surface ballistic missile. A military press release announced that this Nasr missile “carries nuclear warheads” and that it is intended to enhance deterrence “at shorter ranges. When it is operational, the 60-kilometer-range missile will provide Islamabad with the capacity to field tactical nuclear weapons for use against enemy battle formations.”

According to Haris Kahn of the Pakistan Military Consortium, the new missile “is a perfect answer to the Indian concept of Cold start” as “it establishes that tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed very close to its border with minimum reaction time to counter any armor or mechanized thrust by an enemy into its Pakistani territory.”

Mazza believes that Pakistan’s decision “to field tactical nuclear weapons is an irresponsible response to an as yet unrealized limited conventional threat.” He states,

“Yes, it will make “Cold Start” a much more challenging proposition for India’s military. Indeed, the doctrine might very well be dead on arrival – which is what Pakistan intends. Yet the unintended effect here is to make future violence on the subcontinent more likely. Islamabad will see little need to clamp down on terrorist operating from within its borders. India will then suffer from future attacks, leaving it anxious to retaliate one way or the other.

New Delhi is not going to blithely accept a situation where its preferred military response to a terrorist attack is undermined. Since Islamabad seems intent on unleashing its nuclear weapons in response to even a limited Indian retaliatory offensive, India will have to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear exchange. One logical outcome will be for India to devote more generous resources to its future missile defense shield. Another will be for India to deploy its own tactical nuclear weapons.”

Since the Mumbai attacks in 2008, discussions between the two states have become stilted. Additionally, the US-India nuclear deal has added fuel to the fire, so to speak, by making Pakistan feel increasingly threatened and isolated. It has also placed the US in a difficult position. The never ending cycle of tit-for-tat tactics between the two states has made any confidence building measures, put in place previously, to become inevitably futile. So then, what is to be done to avoid not only an escalation of nuclear weapons in the region but a possible nuclear conflict?

According to the Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid,

“no real change is possible without a change taking place in the [Pakistani] army’s obsessive mind-set regarding India, its determination to define and control national security, and its pursuit of an aggressive forward policy in the region rather than first fixing things at home.”

He continues by stating,

“it is necessary for the army to agree to a civilian-led peace process with India. Civilians must have a greater say in what constitutes national security. Until that happens, the army’s focus on the threat from New Delhi prevents it from truly acknowledging the problems it faces from extremism at home.”

While Rashid’s point is the most logical answer to the situation, the prospect of securing Pakistan from extremists, insurgents and the like is a matter that cannot be solved overnight and one which will require a persistent and committed effort over the long term by the Pakistani government and forces. The Pakistani government has a particularly important and difficult role to play as they will need to regain monopolized control of the state. Coupled with this, it will need to make a more concerted effort to exercise its leadership and control over its armed forces in order to keep the military from driving India policy.