Nuclear Deterrence De-Escalated Possible India-Pakistan War Post Pulwama Attacks

A possible India-Pakistan War was averted by Islamabad Nuclear deterrence which eventually led to de-escalation between two nuclear-armed neighbours. India and Pakistan came close to another war after more than 40 CRFP personnels were killed in the Pulwama attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. 

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Brig Zahir Kazmi, Director General Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs at Strategic Plans Division (SPD) stated the stated purpose of deterrence was to close space for war and bring states to the negotiating table according to TribunePakistan

“Stability actually means a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the subcontinent… nuclear deterrence should be a factor of stability between Pakistan and Hindustan,” Brig Kazmi said in an exclusive media interaction with senior officials dealing with strategic affairs in Islamabad.

The interaction was organised by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), a think tank. The panellists included Brig Kazmi and Director General Arms Control and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Muhammad Kamran Akhtar. Defence analyst Syed Muhammad Ali moderated the event.

Brig Kazmi said deterrence worked during the post-Pulwama military stand-off despite Indian attempt to escalate to a different level by talking about the mobilisation of nuclear missile and nuclear submarines.

He identified three imperatives for deterrence. First, enabling a geostrategic environment that includes a sustainable mechanism for dispute resolution; second, strategic restraint and responsibility, and third, the maintenance of balance in nuclear deterrence capabilities through arms control rather than competition.

He clarified that deterrence was not an end in itself but a psychological state. “It should inspire fear in which the perceived cost of deterrence breakdown is higher than the desired benefits of preferring war as an instrument for dispute resolution.”

Akhtar said that the recent Pulwama incident exposed and broke the myth of responsible Indian strategic behaviour.

New Delhi, he said, immediately after the Indian Air Force fighter was shot down, resorted to missile threats and deployment of its nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine. Pakistan, in comparison, demonstrated a more responsible and restrained behaviour that led to de-escalation.

The senior Foreign Office official said Pakistan is a responsible and restrained nuclear power. “Several international accounts are based on misperceptions regarding our nuclear programme that are divorced from reality,” he said.

Pakistan’s safety and security record is immaculate and an example for many countries, he maintained. The chief of disarmament directorate dismissed the allegations regarding Pakistan possessing the fastest growing nuclear programme in the world.

Citing international research publications including those of Harvard University’s Belfer Center, he said India had a much larger, older and fastest growing nuclear programme than Pakistan but it was often overlooked.

He described the disproportionate focus on Pakistan’s nuclear security as “unfair and unnecessary”. Defence Analyst Syed Muhammad Ali, in his opening remarks, said Pakistan’s nuclear programme had significantly contributed towards meeting both its traditional and non-traditional security needs.

Nuclear deterrence, he added, had enabled Pakistan timely manage and de-escalate several regional crises with India during the past three decades. This, he said, also gave the national leadership and diplomats more confidence in international diplomacy.

Earlier, Syed Sajjad Shabbir, Executive Director – IPI welcomed the guests and said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme had helped maintain deterrence stability in a conflict-prone South Asia region. He announced that IPI will soon publish a handbook on nuclear issues to create greater understanding among journalists, politicians and bureaucrats.