miscalculation
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

News Analysis |

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), General Zubair Mahmood Hayat has said that any strategic misadventure and miscalculation by India, at any point in time, will be responded to with force. The statement comes hours after the Indian Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said that the Indian Air force has the ability to locate, fix, and strike at Pakistani nuclear sites.

The chances of miscalculations increase manifold in such an environment; if a country feels certain that it will lose them, it is more likely to use them

General Hayat, who as a three-star general headed the Strategic Plans Division(SPD), Pakistan’s key institution responsible for the country’s strategic assets under the National Command Authority (NCA) took exceptions to the statement of the Indian Air Chief, terming it as irresponsible. The artillery-general, who by virtue of being CJCSC is part of the National Command Authority, asserted that India’s quest for the use of force in a hostile and tenuous strategic environment is a real “alert” call. Gen. Zubair has previously served as Corps. Commander Bahawalpur, Garrison Commander Sialkot and as Chief of Staff to Gen. Kayani. He had served as Pakistan’s Air and Military Attache in London where he was prominent in think tank circles; he is often referred to as “Thinking General” in army circles.

Read more: Drones & Jets for India and threats for Pakistan: The ‘new…

Amid mounting tensions between the two countries, the statement of the Indian Air Chief, Air Marshall Dhanoa, is one that could exert pressure on the escalation ladder and the conflict spectrum. General Hayat said that Pakistan, being a credible and responsible nuclear-armed state,  rejects the aggressive Indian strategic posture – and considers that “irresponsible”

A nuclear-armed state like Pakistan, when faced with a bigger adversary, who is willing and capable to follow up verbal threats, is likely to lower its nuclear threshold

It must be clear that the IAF Chief, Dhanoa, responded to a question in a press conference; he did not make a separate threatening statement. However, such questions in press conferences are often considered pre-planned, and given the hostile environment between the two countries, the fact that both are armed to the teeth with conventional and strategic weapons and region is increasingly  becoming a theatre for international fault lines – between the US and China – such remarks can lead to escalation at the strategic level.

But Pakistani defense analysts are worried by growing strategic nexus between the US and India in South Asia – and increasingly see a partisan United States that is acting more and more in sync with the Indian interests rather than as a global power concerned with issues of stability. 

Pakistan, with its smaller conventional defense forces pitched against much larger Indian force projection, is more vulnerable to threats and is continuously attempting to maintain a nuclear balance, that discourages any Indian scope of miscalucation. Country’s deployment of “tactical nuclear assets” is part of its strategy to thwart any Indian aggression in the plains of Punjab and Sindh.

What adds to Pakistani concerns is the increasing US focus and pressures on its nuclear posture and program. The US has repeatedly raised eyebrows on Pakistan’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons and the safety of these warheads. But Pakistani defense analysts are worried by growing strategic nexus between the US and India in South Asia – and increasingly see a partisan United States that is acting more and more in sync with the Indian interests rather than as a global power concerned with issues of stability.

Read more: Can India actually win a war against Pakistan?

The hostile environment between the two countries and the fact that both are armed to the teeth with conventional and strategic weapons, such remarks can lead to escalation at the strategic level

Ability and willingness of the adversary constitute the threat that it poses. Dhanoa’s statement has reflected the willingness; the capability to engage is also there, albeit there are tactical and operational challenges attached. A nuclear-armed state like Pakistan – when faced with a bigger adversary, like India, that is willing and capable to implement its verbal threats-  is likely to upgrade its strategic responses and can lower its nuclear threshold.

Indian Air Chief’s statement, even in a press conference, is thus a calculated act of signaling. It is also coming in the overall context of BJP’s unusually hostile government lead by a Hindutva zealot, Narendra Modi. Indian politics’s steep rightward shift, away from Nehru’s secularism, where now a particular narrow brand of Hinduism – Hindutva- provides unity to India’s fractious polity is mostly ignored by the western and especially US media and policy making circles. Under this growing international milieu, Pakistan thus rightly fears that the Indian forces can adopt a damage limitation strategy by plans to target Pakistan’s nuclear assets in a bid to weaken country’s second-strike capability. But Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, guaranteeing punishment for Indian adventurism, provide real stability and peace in the region. Pakistan, given India’s new doctrines, will be in some ways face the “use or lose” dilemma. The chances of miscalculations increase manifold in such an environment; if a country feels certain that it will lose them, it is more likely to use them.

Read more: Lockheed Martin in India: Strategic implications for Pakistan

The artillery-general, who by virtue of being CJCSC is part of the National Command Authority, asserted that India’s quest for the use of force in a hostile and tenuous strategic environment is a real “alert” call

However, as things stand, there is little concrete, to suggest that Indian policy-makers have definitive plans to destroy Pakistani nuclear forces. They appear to be in a mode that can be called “testing waters”. But given the fluidity of the strategic environment, and increasing global faultiness in the South Asian region, signaling could lead to inadvertent escalation up the ladder, increasing the conflict spectrum. General Hayat,a true strategic thinker, by virtue of his experiences of heading SPD, has reflected on the impact that such statements can have in the Indo-Pak theater.

Comments & Discussion