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Don’t take Pakistan’s N-capability as a bluff: Gen Kidwai

February 08, 2020

LONDON: A retired senior Pakistani general has told India that it shouldn’t take Pakistan’s nuclear capability as a bluff since Pakistan reserved all options to protect its territorial and ideological interests if a war was imposed on it.

Lieutenant General (retd) Khalid Kidwai, who served as Director-General Strategic Plan’s Division, delivered a keynote opening address at a workshop held by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) here.

This workshop was titled “South Asian Strategic Stability: Deterrence, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control”.

Lt Gen Amir Riaz, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, Brig Nadeem Ahmed Salik, Desmond Bowen, Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, Brig Zahid Kazmi, Ms Saima Aman Sial and Sir Lawrence Freedman addressed the workshop and spoke about South Asia’s strategic stability. Only General Kidwai’s opening remarks were on-the-record while the contents of the remaining day-long conference will remain off-the-record.

Kidwai said: “Pakistan must shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the vital strategic balance in the conventional and nuclear equation with India as the particular determinant of the state of strategic stability in South Asia.”

He spoke in great depth about the strategic positions of both India and Pakistan in the event of further escalation between the two hostile neighbours. He added: “If Pakistan were to allow imbalances to be introduced in this strategic equation, South Asia would list more serious strategic instability. This, in turn, would lead to catastrophic consequences in view of India’s historically persistent and insatiable drive for regional domination, especially given India’s current irrational, unstable and belligerent internal and external policies.”

Indian Prime Minister Modi has recently adopted aggressive rhetoric by announcing to build a huge temple on the demolished site of Babri Masjid. This statement has angered many Muslims who believe the BJP Indian government to be fundamentally anti-Muslim.

Previously, irresponsible statements by the Indian army chief had added to the tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries that have fought multiple wars in the past.

Gen Kidwai said: “While developing operational plans, the Indian planners may deliberately prefer to skirt around Pakistan’s nuclear capability and nuclear thresholds.”

Commenting on India’s perceptions on Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, he remarked: “Officials in India, I hope, don’t take Pakistan’s nuclear capability as a bluff.”

Speaking on the escalation between the two countries, Gen Kidwai said: “It is difficult to predict any kind of escalation management because the two sides don’t have any indirect channels, track 2 or track 1 channel and there’s a complete cut off between the two sides as was quite evident in the event of February 29 last year. We will lurch from one crisis to the other until a third party intervenes as it did in the crisis last year. It’s a very unhappy situation.”

Speaking about Pakistan’s response in the event of any Indian aggression, Gen Kidwai stated: “Pakistan’s policy in a limited conflict is quid pro quo plus, which amplifies very clearly that we will not take any act of aggression lying down. If that kind of situation reemerges in any future conflict, I don’t see any reason why Pakistan will change that policy.”

Commenting on the recent Indian skirmishes, General Kidwai stated: “It’s precisely these nuclear weapons which have deterred India from expanding operations beyond a single unsuccessful airstrike. The Indian military has drawn some very wrong conclusions despite whatever they tried at Balakot. The Indian media has misled its strategic planners in making it appear as if India was able to come out of this conflict successfully through spinning false stories about the episode.”

Rahul Roy, head of South Asian programme at the IISS, told The News: “This was an intellectually-stimulating and policy-relevant dialogue highlighted by a rare keynote address by Lt. General (retd) Khalid Kidwai, the Adviser to Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority and former longstanding chief of the SPD. It also provided an opportunity to test, challenge and share perspectives on Pakistan’s nuclear strategy by top UK nuclear strategy academics and experts.”