If Pakistan had no nuclear weapons and India did, how would the geopolitical situation be like in South Asia today in 2016?

My answer to If Pakistan had no nuclear weapons and India did, how would the geopolitical situation be like in Sout…

Answer by Vishu Menon:

What could be implicit in your question is a suggestion is that if Pakistan had not developed its own nuclear bomb, India could have dismembered or seized Pakistan. While the public in Pakistan is fed with the certainty of such a spectre, India had always said that a thriving Pakistan in the neighborhood is to its advantage. (It actually is). Secondly, India, with all its social and political vagaries and inequities notwithstanding, a Sharia-ized, heavily Islamized, terrorism-embedded and ISI-managed Pakistan teaming with Generals looking out for an opportunity to take over the administration would hardly be of interest to India with its stable democratic setup and a professional army subservient to military rule. Finally, don’t forget that there was a twenty-four-year gap between India’s first successful nuclear test (immediately upon which it committed itself to, as did China a decade earlier) to ‘No First Use’ (NFU).

As we shall presently see, a NFU policy is a deterrent in itself, except when you are up against a Jihadi leadership in Pakistan.

However, the enemy-has-the-bomb sensitivity could keep Pakistan’s political leaders and its people forever jittery from a feeling of inferiority and weakness. The relative size, economic power and conventional military strength of India has always been an irritant. The irritation, combined with the historic arrogance that Islam is the ruling race destined for India and a continuous din of indoctrination that ‘Hindu India’ (forgetting that there are as many Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan) is populated by cowards (Former Pakistan Ambassador to the US writes that there are ‘studies’ to this effect in the Pakistan military) could eternally keep things on the boil. The same “scientific study” proposes that , in a language that could make Stephen Hawking Green with envy, “We should encourage the centrifugal forces and discourage the centripetal forces in India”.

The ongoing Kashmir question is only one reason for the psychologically induced enmity; even if Kashmir is solved, further reasons would crop up. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said “Pakistan will inflict a thousand cuts on India” and “there will be a thousand-year war,” he was reflecting a politico-military mindset in Pakistan. There is also an urge to wreak vengeance on India for helping the breaking away of the Eastern Wing of Pakistan in 1971, now Bangladesh. While the reason for the breakup was the arrogance and belligerence of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto whose party won only half of the number of parliamentary seats that Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League won and his refusal to yield power to ‘those Bengalis’ turned long-standing grievances of the Eastern Wing to a civil war, the fact that It was India which got Pakistan army to surrender and take 93,000 personnel prisoners smarts Pakistani mind and skin. That the 93,000 were set free after a brief negotiation (out of which India got nothing but the promise of a ‘bilateral dialogue on Kashmir which was never kept), the defeat hard earlier goaded Bhutto to promise those thousand  cuts on India.

To further answer your question, one needs to delve deep into the Indo-Pakistan History from the date of partition. Also, that after 1974, when India successfully conducted its first nuclear test (partly on account of Richard Nixon’s unsuccessful threat of intervening in the 1971 was with Pakistan ) till 1998, when Pakistan conducted five simultaneous explosions in the Ras Ko Hills of Baluchistan, what had been happening was a series of jingoistic but uncoordinated attempts to acquire nuclear arms at any cost. Incessant political dogfights among politicians and the military, ousting and humiliation of the only real scientist involved in the project, Dr. Abdus Salam on account of sectarian bigotry (his denomination of Islam was pronounced Unislamic by the government), execution of the man who first conceived nuclear capability for Pakistan even before it was acquired by India, Zulfiqar Ali  Bhutto,  by General Zia,   and the ego, avarice and international subterfuge by one man – Dr. AQ Khan and his trials and convictions for espionage (which, though, could not be carried out)  in the Netherlands, who finally became the “Father of the Islamic bomb’ culminated in bombs which were a mere takeoff from the Little Boy and Fat man of Hiroshima-Nagasaki notoriety.

India, combined with Israel that feared an ‘Islamic bomb, could, during these restless 24 years have sabotaged the project at any instant if they so desired by destroying the well known and easily located  KRL (Khan Research Laboratories. Rumours to this effect were abound during that period. Pakistan’s threat to retaliate could have been ineffective and  futile during that period. Even the five ‘tests’ of 1998 that Pakistan cobbled up in a hurry were not conducted to prove the efficacy of their design, but a vengeful response to the tests conducted by India’s newly elected right-wing BJP for deriving a political mileage over the opposition.

On ‘successful’ testing of those bombs, Pakistan did not commit itself to NFU. A few months after the tests, General Pervez Musharraf, handpicked by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (just as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto handpicked Zia Ul Haq over other senior officers, and for similar disastrous  effect to himself) launched an attack on Kargil on India’s side of the Line of Control. Sharif says he was not informed; so when the attack was successfully repulsed, the question of using the nuke as a last resort did not arise. Musharraf was to soon take revenge on his Prime Minister for this setback. If it was not for the intervention of  King Abdullah o f Saudi Arabia, whose friendship Sharif had assiduously cultivated earlier, he faced the sure prospect  of death as it turned out to be the fate of  Benazir Bhutto.

Soon after trouncing Sharif’s civilian government and establishing military dictatorship, Musharraf said : “We do not want to use nuclear capability but if our existence comes under threat, who do we have these nuclear weapons for?

If our existence is threatened” should be read as “if we are defeated in a conventional warfare.” Nawaz Sharif who was dislodged from his chair and sent packing to Saudi Arabia (twice) came  less than a decade back and won the election (subsequent to a five-year wait when assassinated Bhutto’s  husband Mr. 10- percent ruled the roost)  after Musharraf was ousted in the military-civilian musical chair in Pakistan. This time, Sharif told the United States that it would not accept any restrictions on the use of tactical (nuclear) weapons. His Defence minister, Khwaja Asif reiterated : We should pray that such an option never arises, but if we need to use them (nuclear weapons) for our survival we will.Nukes with Pakistan is not, and never has been, a deterrent.

Statements  by those in authority in Pakistan were made after the Prime Minister-in-waiting Narendra Modi, though his expectations to be the PM were based on the support of extremist Hindu elements, had announced one year earlier : “”No first use was a great initiative of Atal Bihari Vajpayee – there is no compromise on that. We are very clear. No first use is a reflection of our cultural inheritance.

Japanese author and defence expert Kyle Mizokami wrote : “The 1999 Kargil War is considered the closest the world has come to a nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. If India were to use its superiority in ground forces to seize a sizable amount of Pakistani territory, Pakistan could respond with nuclear weapons.

Perhaps owning nuclear power (boasting of ability to reach as far as India’s islands in the Bay of Bengal) restrains Pakistan’s powers-that-be from launching another adventure as it did in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1998. But the danger for the subcontinent lies not in a direct nuclear confrontation (in which neither side can expect any assistance from the best of friends), but the fallout of the proliferation that has already happened at the instance of AQ Khan and the government that supported him in those years.

Extremism arises, sooner or later, in theocratic governments. When suicide is a part of the mindset, and the glittering hope of a heaven with virgins and slaves are suspended ahead of you like a carrot in front of an ass, that parts of India might survive a nuclear holocaust while Pakistan might be totally obliterated is not likely to worry the Mullahs who get hold of a dirty bomb to set off that holocaust. Assuming that Pakistan becomes the third largest nuclear Arsenal as it hopes to be, the situation is not going to change even if it tries to deliver its 130 nukes one unsuspecting night on a sleeping India.

The danger lies elsewhere. Unlike India’s RAW which is a civilian bureaucratic outfit, Pakistan’s ISI is an offshoot of the military. The military is thoroughly indoctrinated on Islam’s holy wars. The world is concerned about who in Pakistan holds the key to the nuclear stockpile; who shares the code when a religious frenzy plays out. Taliban is a brainchild of the ISI; trained by ISI, equipped by the ISI with American weapons. Despite the split caused by Musharraf’s shift in policy post 9/11, there is considerable sympathy for the terrorists in the ISI and the army. There is always a danger of some leaks of materials and simple techniques to use nuclear waste from the ISI or the army to the Taliban, Al Qaeda or any of the Jihadi groups that spring up from time to time with a view to conquer Kashmir as a beginning towards a march to Delhi. You don’t really need a full-fledged Hydrogen Bomb or even an offshoot from the stolen Fat Man design, a dirty bomb tipped with some Plutonium waste can set off the nuclear catastrophe.

That’s a sad thought.

If Pakistan had no nuclear weapons and India did, how would the geopolitical situation be like in South Asia today in 2016?

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