Friday, February 24, 2006

The Pakistani Nuclear Option

Pakistan knows that it cannot keep up with India in a race. They know they are a smaller country and this difference in size is a problem for their strategists.

The Pakistani nuclear option derives its logical foundation in the argument that Pakistan - a smaller country lacks depth. This lack of depth is a very broad term that speaks to both the lack of physical space and the manner in which Pakistan numerically lags India in the field of resources.

From this basic premise the following logic appears;

- Pakistani armed forces cannot hold out against Indian conventional forces,
- Pakistan needs to pose a credible nuclear threat to Indian conventional agression,
- The credibility of a Pakistani nuclear threat rests on its percieved ability to inflict unacceptable damage on India,
- A credible threat of nuclear strikes on an India's economic and political centers will be sufficient to deter India from attacking Pakistan,
- A sub-conventional conflict can be maintained with India with low escalatory potential.

The vagueness of the terms "credible" and "unacceptable" in this calculus leaves Pakistan prone to an escalatory posture vis-a-vis India. The Pakistanis do not know what the Indians will find "credible", or what they will find "unacceptable". The key determinant in Pakistani posturing is to identify exactly what those terms mean to the Indians.

This process of identification is what is becoming very difficult as India grows in economic stature.

As the Indian economy grows and new economic powerhouses emerge, the Indian notion of national space will expand rapidly. This makes the identification of economic and political centers difficult. The Pakistani military mind with its emphasis on Clauzwitzian "Centers of Gravity" is unable to grasp the complexity of the Indian economy or the width of its political base. The result of this is already visible - there has been a gradual increase in the list of cities that the Pakistanis claim they can target in their escaltory rhetoric. As Indian cities grow in size, it is not possible to target a single city with a single small bomb and cause unacceptable damage. To play the game of rhetorical escalation the Pakistanis will have to make bigger bombs and show the world that the bombs actually work or failing that they will have to make more bombs with the small designs they currently have.

Either ways - the Pakistanis still have to get a hold of expensive things they don't currently have. As the Pakistani economy is in bad shape, the only way they can pay is through the proceeds of the heroin trade or by clandestine proliferation of weapons technology. Pakistan is therefore set to proliferate more irrespective of what the world thinks it should be doing.

The Non-Proliferation community is not being sensitive to the realities of Pakistan's nuclear options.


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