India,Pakistan and the bomb:debating nuclear stability in South Asia

Independent India and Pakistan came out of a bloody partition in which hundreds of thousands died and millions were displaced.The two states have a long history of territorial disputes and have fought four wars with each other and ongoing conflict in Kashmir between Indian security forces and local as well as Pakistani insurgents. The debate over stability-instability paradox in South Asia particularly between India and Pakistan after the 1998 nuclear tests erupted between optimists and pessimists.

The book is in the form of a debate between Ganguly an optimist and Kapur a pessimist in the context of India-Pakistan nuclear capability. Ganguly believes that nuclear weapons have helped in stabilizing the regional security environment in the past and will continue to do so. This argument of Ganguly is based on the premise that both India and Pakistan have defused the ongoing crisis without resorting to large-scale war and have taken steps towards improving their larger strategic relationship. Kapur, in contrast, argues that South Asian security environment has been destabilizing with the help of nuclear weapons. The recent improvements between the two states have nothing to do with nukes and it is actually the pressure of the United States on Pakistan after 9/11 that militancy in Kashmir declined. Kapur further argues that Pakistani behaviour became more aggressive after the 1998 nuclear tests. 

Both the authors simultaneously admit that the Kashmir uprising in 1989 was the direct result of India’s misrule over the valley.  Pakistan did not create the insurgency. However, the uprising provided impetus to Pakistan to provide moral and diplomatic support to Kashmir and to support militancy across the line of control. Both the authors assume that with the eruption of the insurgency it became an ongoing proxy war between India and Pakistan-backed forces. Kashmir has thus far remained the central part of the conflict between the two states.

Ganguly while addressing the Pakistani test of nuclear weapons, 1999 Kargil war and 2001-02 stalemate between the two states, vehemently supported the optimist view of nuclear weapons that their spread may be better, much like the arguments of Kenneth Waltz. Ganguly states that India did not cross the line of control in the 1999 Kargil War because of the fear of nuclear weapons of Pakistan. In the same vein he argued again that 2001-02 stalemate between the two states after the Indian parliament attack did not culminate into a major war due to the nuclear deterrent. In response to this argument of Ganguly, Kapur espouses his pessimistic nature that Pakistan after the 1998 nuclear test behaved even more provocatively than before. The Kargil War of 1999 and Indian parliament attack was direct result of Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. It was not nuclear weapons that averted the war between the two states but because of the pressure of the United States. 

Kapur’s views is potent than Ganguly. There is enough historical evidence from both the Cold War and South Asia to suggest that nuclear weapons have increased the instability in the regions. Both India and Pakistan have kept their nukes in an unassembled state. But if deployment occurs, it will help so much to exacerbate the relations between the two states. The flight time for missiles is a matter of few minutes. And no one can ignore the 1999 Kargil War and 2001-2 stalemate of deployment of nuclear weapons on their borders of the two states. Both have followed the blurry doctrine over first use/no first use of nuclear weapons and the stability-instability paradox between the two states is the result of their risk-laden policies. These are the signs of instability.   

Apart from these threats there is also evidence of nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. The development of tactical nuclear weapons and missile defence system will also pave way to increase the instability in the region. The use of tactical nuclear weapons against each other may not tilt the losing state to use strategic nuclear weapons against the winning state to fill the gap. The Cold Start Strategy has also limitations as Pakistan explicitly declared that it will use nuclear weapons on its own soil against India. 

The structural realism or neo-realism and its advocates like Kenneth Waltz with the support of optimist ideology like Ganguly have little purchase in explaining the long-existing conflict in the region. Nuclear progress of both states has proved elusive in the Kashmir dispute.Douglas Gibler explicitly argues that through the “territorial settlement treaties” the territorial disputes can be resolved even which have had a history of partitions on religious and ethnic lines and wars over territory.  

It is the need of the hour that both the states should enjoin greater seriousness towards the proliferation of nuclear weapons and should separate their nuclear stability from the political dispute over Kashmir. India has to give up its apparent intransigence and should act as a benevolent hegemon to solve Kashmir dispute. In the same vein Pakistan has to change tack on its Kashmir policy and to shift gear to build better cooperation with India to solve Kashmir dispute. It is lack of insight that lay both states in troubles over territory of Kashmir. 

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