A nuclear war: what are the odds? | Pakistan Today

A nuclear war: what are the odds?

  • Your move, Mr Modi

If something is unimaginable or unprecedented, it is not necessarily impossible. The recent tussle between Pakistan and India can very well result in total nuclear war. India has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by attacking, what India claims were, ‘terrorist targets’. Such blatant violation of territorial integrity by India has not been seen since 1971. As was anticipated, Pakistan was forced to retaliate via aerial assault.

Keeping in mind the toxic political atmosphere that has engulfed the Indian media, and consequently the general populace, in an extremist frenzy, it is plausible that India’s counter response will be belligerent. Narendra Modi’s political point scoring is what led us to this mess in the first place. He was backed into a corner by his own jingoistic rhetoric and forced to make, what he himself probably knew, was a foolishly unnecessary move. Will he make the same mistake twice?

It is a fact that India’s conventional military forces and munitions are much larger than Pakistan’s, hence a conventional war is unfavourable and undesirable. This is why Pakistan does not maintain a ‘no first use’ policy regarding the usage of nuclear weapons. According to Pakistan’s nuclear policy, it can use nuclear weapons in a war with India if,

1) India imposes a naval blockade against Pakistan

2) It completely stops the flow of river water supply to Pakistan

3) It tries to attack our nuclear sites

4) It invades or captures one of our major cities.

With China’s strategic interests and naval presence in the Arabian sea, a naval blockade is certainly not possible and our nuclear sites are well protected and hidden. Furthermore, water disputes have come and gone, none escalating to a war-like situation. However, infringing an independent country’s sovereignty like this is an act of war on its own. If India chooses the bellicose pathway, the next move, with the cold start doctrine in place, will most likely be penetrating the Line of control and the working boundary simultaneously. The cold start was inspired by Nazi Germany’s Blitzkrieg, intended to faze the opponent by attacking from all sides. If this happens, there is a very high probability that Pakistan will engage in tactical nuclear warfare. Unfortunately, India possesses second strike capability which guarantees the aptly abbreviated MAD (mutually assured destruction).

Are not nuclear weapons the last deterrent? Are they not used after years and years of war?

President Trump is trying to defuse the situation to the best of his abilities. The United States is playing a positive albeit lukewarm role

Ironically, our last deterrent is also our first response, since we have placed all of our strategic eggs in the nuclear basket. It is illogical for people to think that a nuclear attack is the last step in a war. Although it is understandable why people think so. Since the world has not seen a nuclear war, it is difficult to imagine a modern one; one’s mind wanders into Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how the atomic bombings ended the second world war. However, one needs to remember that the bombs were deployed as soon as they were invented.

Some Indian journalists, in their enthusiasm for war, shrug away the MAD possibility as nothing more than a nuclear bluff. They could not be more wrong.

Pakistan had deployed nuclear weapons for potential use in the Kargil crisis in 1999, when Indian forces had not even crossed the border. A full scale nuclear conflict was only prevented because of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s panic visit to the White House on the 4th of July, America’s Independence Day. When asked by President Clinton about Pakistan’s nuclear deployment, Sharif replied with a question, asking whether India was not doing the same. Potential nuclear war was averted only due to Clinton’s rigorous diplomacy and rational leadership in Pakistan and India. This was also the Cuban missile crisis. Unfortunately, we have not developed our diplomatic devices since the incident, instead they have deteriorated even further.

The current crisis is much bigger and messier than Kargil. Back then, Atal Bihari Vajpayee put his foot down and denied Indian air force permission to cross the Line of Control. Bill Clinton mediated brilliantly and diffused the tension. Fortunately, our leadership is acting as rational as it did before, but will Prime Minister Modi and President Trump be able to fill the shoes of their predecessors?

President Trump is trying to defuse the situation to the best of his abilities. The United States is playing a positive albeit lukewarm role. The Pakistani state has reiterated several times that it wants nothing but, and is willing to negotiate, peace. Prime Minister Imran Khan has unequivocally said that nuclear states cannot afford indulgence in emotionalism and has even announced to release the captured Indian pilot as a gesture to end the conflict; Pakistan, arguably for the first time ever, is on the right side of history. Hence, nuclear war, or its avoidance, depends entirely on how the Indian government decides to proceed next. Your move, Mr Modi.