ISLAMABAD: Pakistan warned India on Wednesday against its relentless pursuit of military preponderance and said it would have severe consequences for peace and security in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
The National Command Authority, which met here under Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, took serious note of recent Indian statements about conducting conventional military strikes under a nuclear umbrella and said such irresponsible statements reflected a hegemonic mindset, oblivious of dangerous implications of adventurism in a nuclearised context.
The NCA also took note of the developments detrimental to the objectives of strategic stability in the region. It observed that instead of responding positively to Pakistan’s proposal for a strategic restraint regime in South Asia, India continued to pursue an ambitious militarisation programme and offensive military doctrines.
“Massive inductions of advanced weapon systems, including installation of ABMs (anti-ballistic missiles), build-up of nuclear arsenal and delivery systems through ongoing and new programmes, assisted by some external quarters, offensive doctrines like ‘Cold Start’ and similar accumulations in the conventional realm, tend to destabilise the regional balance,” the meeting noted.
A statement issued by the PM House said: “Pakistan cannot be oblivious to these developments.” It was the first meeting of the NCA after President Asif Ali Zardari promulgated the National Command Authority Ordinance and divested himself of the powers of its chairman in November last year.
The meeting expressed satisfaction over the safety and security of Pakistan’s strategic assets and effectiveness of its strategic deterrence. It emphasised the importance of Pakistan’s policy of credible minimum deterrence and maintaining strategic stability in South Asia.
The authority reaffirmed Pakistan’s policy of restraint and responsibility and its resolve to continue efforts to promote peace and stability in South Asia. It underscored the need for preventing conflict and avoiding nuclear and conventional arms race in the region.
The NCA noted that the India-specific exemption made by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and subsequent nuclear fuel supply agreements with several countries would enable New Delhi to produce substantial quantities of fissile material for nuclear weapons by freeing up its domestic resources.
It reiterated that while continuing to act with responsibility and avoiding an arms race, Pakistan would not compromise on its security interests and the imperative of maintaining a credible minimum deterrence.
The meeting reviewed plans for generation of nuclear power under IAEA safeguards as part of national energy security strategy to ensure sustained economic growth and welcomed the renewed international interest in nuclear power generation to meet the challenge of climate change.
As a country with advanced fuel cycle capability, it said, Pakistan was in a position to provide nuclear fuel cycle services under IAEA safeguards, and participate in any non-discriminatory nuclear fuel supply assurance mechanism.
The NCA expressed satisfaction at steps taken by Pakistan at the national level for nuclear safety and security, which would continue to be important considerations in the context of national nuclear power development plans.
It reaffirmed that as a nuclear weapon state Pakistan was committed to working as an equal partner in international efforts for general and complete nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In this regard, the NCA stressed the need for non-discriminatory policies and accommodation of the reality of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon status for promoting global non-proliferation goals.
The meeting emphasised that promotion of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament objectives in South Asia were linked with regional security dynamics and the need to address existing asymmetries and resolution of outstanding disputes.
The NCA stressed that as the sole disarmament negotiating forum the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva should play its due role in global nuclear disarmament. As far as a Fissile Material Treaty at the CD was concerned, Pakistan’s position would be determined by its national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia, it said.
“Selective and discriminatory measures that perpetuate regional instability, in any form and manner, derogate from the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and, therefore, cannot be accepted or endorsed. Pakistan will not support any approach or measure that is prejudicial to its legitimate national security interests.”
An official told Dawn after the meeting that India’s ‘Cold Start’ strategy was a threat to strategic stability of South Asia. India’s growing military prowess, capabilities and aggressive designs implied war-provoking intent by practical manifestation of the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine.
He said the hit and mobilise concept would further squeeze space for diplomacy and political manoeuvres for avoiding a conflict. This strategy was likely to increase the threat in an unpredictable manner at various rungs of the escalation ladder, he added.
He said it was inherently flawed to further engage nuclear South Asia in an arms race rather than diverting efforts and resources to alleviate social needs of poor segments of society. Strategic equilibrium prevalent in the subcontinent would be impacted with negative repercussions, he said.
Explaining the concept of the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, a defence analyst said it envisaged applying linear ground forces for multiple thrusts, backed by massive fire power well before Pakistan completed its mobilisation and international community could intervene.
He said the doctrine laid stress on offensive strike, but without giving battle indicators of mobilisation to maintain chances of strategic surprise while remaining below nuclear threshold. Political decision for war would be taken at the outset.
Talking about the broad contours, he said traditional operational art of maintaining distinction between strike and defensive formations would be done away with. The war was planned to be fought by integrated battle groups (IBGs) synergised and supported by Indian Air Force and Navy.
Since the IBGs would be pre-positioned closer to international border and the Line of control, these would commence operations with least build-up and preparation and would thus achieve surprise under the doctrine, he added.
Shaping the battlefield through new concept of war, incorporating all available technical-driven assets and fire power platforms would remain the hallmark of an Indian offensive.
Analysts observed that in Indian military planners’ view there was space available for a short notice, short-duration war with curtailed objectives despite the nuclear factor. Nuclear capability has added to Pakistan’s security by impinging upon India’s liberty of action under the nuclear overhang.
As the efficacy of all-out conventional war within the nuclear environment became questionable, India started studying the possibility of a limited conflict with curtailed application of military instrument and objectives.