During the BJP election campaign, in an elections rally, Narendra Modi asked, in the context of nuclear weapons: “What do we have then? Have we kept our nuclear bomb for Diwali?” – as reported in The Hindu 21 April 2019. He went on to add that India had the capability to launch nuclear attacks from land, air and sea.
The aggressive tone towards Pakistan from Narendra Modi’s BJP government continued after Modi’s re-election. The nuclear weapons and Diwali reference was remembered again, when on 16 August India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared that India was thinking of reviewing its No First Use Policy (NFU) – which most recognised as a veiled nuclear threat especially if taken with Modi’s April statement. Certainly for Pakistan the message was clear, especially since the nuclear statement followed the Modi government’s illegal annexation of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) with the intent of altering the demography in the occupied State. This illegal move was accompanied by a curfew and complete communications blackout that still continues.
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Of course, the NFU statement has actually been a political ploy of Indian governments since 1999 when they stated their supposed NFU policy. On 4th January, 2003, the government of India issued a press release on: The Cabinet Committee on Security reviews rationalisation of India’s Nuclear doctrine. In this, it stated India would use nuclear weapons against any attack “against India or Indian forces anywhere”, which effectively was a revision of the August 1999 Indian Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND) and diluted the NFU pledge. Since then, different Indian leaders, civilian and military, have made statements on how India would revise its NFU and the BJP election manifesto of 2014 included this revision commitment. So the Rajnath statement of 16 August was one of many similar statements that had been issued periodically from the Indian government. Which is one reason why Pakistan has never found this NFU claim by India to be credible. The farce of India’s NFU stands exposed.
However, the threat of war spiraling into a nuclear exchange has never been as great as it is today. Why? To understand this, we have to see the linkage on how India has been building up the ante against Pakistan militarily as its annexation of IOJK and ethnic cleansing agenda of Muslims was being operationalised.
Military ante is usually upped in stages and India has been climbing the escalation ladder for some time now and it has already threatened and done the following from the lowest rung going up the escalation ladder:
At the non-kinetic level: Trying to get Pakistan on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist and thereby seeking to bankrupt Pak economically.
Consistently seeking to link the narrative of “terrorism” with the Pakistani state while continuing with state terrorism in IOJK.
At the kinetic level: India has been conducting low intensity conflict through acts of terrorism inside Pakistan as the Jadhav confessions and recovered documents have established beyond doubt.
India has already begun non-contact warfare with the surgical strike in Balakot but that option ended in complete military failure followed by diplomatic-political failure when Pakistan returned the Indian pilot unconditionally. The limited military response by Pakistan also sent a clear signal to India that Pakistan had the capability to respond militarily at the level of threat initiated by India, at a time and place of its own choosing.
India further upped the ante with the use of cluster bombs (contrary to the 1983 Inhumane Weapons Convention to which both Pakistan and India are Parties) and targeting of civilians across the LoC. This has been followed by daily attacks against civilians across the LoC.
So India has already moved up the escalation ladder not just by threatening, but by actually carrying out these actions against Pakistan. Within this new escalation ladder, our concern has to be India’s development of the Brahmos missile. Incidentally, till India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR - a Supplier Cartel not an international convention), it restricted its range to 290kms but after joining the MTCR, it increased its range to 1000kms. This is a supersonic missile, so it is highly destabilising given the lack of spatial depth of Pakistan and no real time lag for a quick response unless we place our missiles on alert in advance.
Presently, for Pakistan (and for the international community also) the strategic question is: what rung will India climb to next? And what would Pakistan’s options be? To assume Pakistan would continue to be non-belligerent as it was in returning the captured Indian pilot would be a great error in judgment on the part of the international community.
Clearly, India’s next rung of kinetic escalation would be some version of the Cold Start Doctrine – either directly into Pakistan or through Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Whatever India claims to the contrary, this doctrine is very much there in Indian strategy and they spent $182bn on the programme between 2004-2015.
India has also spent on massive upgrades of its communications network, logistic mechanisms and increased its forward bases – those which were intended for war time are now seen as peace time deployments by India.
Judging by India’s actual deployments on the ground, clearly the focus of its military strategy is Pakistan. For instance: 7 of its 9 commands are configured and deployed against Pakistan; 81 % of IAF bases are configured against Pakistan; 7 missile groups have been raised and all are directed against Pakistan.
India’s space militarisation programme is going full speed ahead as it seeks to have space based integration of its nuclear Triad. International studies show that India has amassed enough fissile material, aided by the civil nuclear deals it signed with the US and other developed states, in clear contravention of their commitments under Articles I and II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make 490-2600 nuclear weapons.
Coming back to the Cold Start Doctrine, it is clearly a preemptive doctrine and therefore the Brahmos will play a central role. Earlier, Pakistan’s response to this doctrine was to develop the Nasr short-range missile. Last week, Pakistan successfully tested the night-launch of its SSBM Ghaznavi missile with a 290kms range, sending another military signal to India and the world of 24/7 operational readiness.
Unfortunately, the present extremist mindset of the Modi government, which like Hitler’s Nazi regime, is upping the military ante because it is reading signals of appeasement by the international community. After all, just as Europe accepted the Anschluss of Austria and Germany as Hitler annexed Austria and the 1938 Munich Conference accepted the forcible annexation of a part of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, by Hitler, so the international community today is silent on India’s annexation of IOJK, and adopts the same silence vis-à-vis India’s internment camps and actions to render stateless millions of Indian Muslims in Assam.
This begs the next question: since India’s surgical strike on Balakot failed and its use of cluster bombs and firings along the LOC have achieved no real purpose, will it risk operationalising Cold Start on a miscalculation of appeasement? Pakistan has clearly stated its intent to respond to each level of the Indian threat. So who will risk the escalation to a nuclear war?
The terrible danger of nuclear war has become one rung closer to reality because now we have a prime minister in India who is ruled by a Hindu-Supremacist ideology and a mission of the Nazi concept of Lebensraum (Living Space) for Hindus and who has his finger on the nuclear button. As he put it in April this year: “our nuclear weapons are not for Diwali.”
The writer is Minister for Human Rights in GOP.
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