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Having failed to get international support in favour of its position on Kashmir post-Narendra Modi government’s Article 370 move, Pakistan’s establishment seems to have opted to raise the spectre, once again, of nuclear conflict. And this time even a moderate in the Pakistani establishment, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, is threatening nuclear war in support of Kashmir’s secessionists.

The strategy is similar to the one that led to the Kargil conflict in 1999. Pakistan hopes to use conflagration involving weapons of mass destruction as a means of getting an otherwise disinterested world to pay attention to an economically weak and politically divided Pakistan.

In an article, former ambassador to India, China, and the US, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, implied that Pakistan should retaliate against India with nukes if India does not change its stance in relation to Kashmiris under Indian rule.

Qazi asserts, “Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent is meant to deter war not pursue war. But if the people of the Valley are threatened with genocide, as indeed they are, Pakistan’s deterrent must cover them.” Nuclear threats when issued by former or serving high ranking government officials need to be taken seriously because they often reflect widely held beliefs within that country’s establishment.

That, Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, someone who has advocated good ties with India over the years appears today to be in favour of nuclear war is worrisome. There are others with more extreme views, such as Munir Akram who was recently reappointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, who have irresponsibly brandished the nuclear sword for years. But Qazi represented the more moderate version of Pakistani ultra-nationalism, until now.

But after over seven decades of referring to Kashmir as the ‘jugular vein’ and ‘unfinished business of Partition,’ after four wars with India (including 1971 that led to the breakup of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh) and after being unable to convince the international community of India’s alleged hegemonic ambitions, it is understandable that the Pakistani establishment views itself at a loss.


Also read: Modi has finished Pakistan’s ‘unfinished business’ of Partition


Nuclear statements

This is not the first time that Pakistani officials have spoken of nuclear war with reference to India. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his speech before the UN General Assembly, appealed to the global community to act on Kashmir because “if the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.”

This is not to deny that in recent months there has not been loose talk about nuclear weapons from the Indian side as well. In mid-August, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh opened the prospect of India revising its doctrine of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons, given the threat of battlefield nukes being deployed by Pakistan. “The future of India’s No First Use (NFU) policy on nuclear weapons depended on circumstances,” he asserted. Further, the deputy chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maurya said in October 2019 that voting in favour of the BJP will mean “dropping of a nuclear bomb on Pakistan”.


Also read: Modi has convinced the world Kashmir is India’s internal affair – but they’re still watching


Nuclear competition

Most nuclear weapon powers see their weapons of mass destruction as a means of maintaining status quo and as deterrents to bad behaviour on part of their enemies. In the subcontinent, India’s nuclear programme originated not out of a regional rivalry, but from the argument that non-proliferation should be global. Either no one should have weapons of mass destruction or everyone should have the right to own them.

Pakistan’s nuclear programme, on the other hand, is about contention with India. As a revisionist power, Pakistan developed its military nuclear programme primarily to advance its claim of parity with India and to settle what it considers the ‘unfinished business’ from the 1947 Partition.

India does not need the Pakistani threat to be a nation. It is a classic status quo state and is content within the borders it has. Indian nationalism is not defied around Pakistan. Pakistan needs hostility as a part of its nationalism.

As scholar and analyst Khaled Ahmed once said, Pakistanis have a hard time defining themselves as a nation except in opposition to India through the prism of their ideology. Unlike communist and fascist states where the ideology was derived from within the nation, in the case of Pakistan, the ideology defines the nation.

For most countries, nuclear weapons are an instrument of power and in earlier decades countries even like Soviet Union/Russia have been willing to discuss certain limitations. With Pakistan, however, the issue of nuclear weapons is intertwined with the identity of the state and the perceived existential threat from India. The Pakistani state views nuclear weapons as a defining characteristic of its identity: it is the only Muslim state with declared nuclear weapons.

Ever since partition in 1947, Pakistan’s foreign and security policy has been framed around seeking parity with its larger neighbour India. The Pakistani military and intelligence establishment that has dominated the state ever since independence, initially sought conventional military parity with India. When that became impossible by the 1960s, nuclear weapons were viewed as the panacea.


Also read: New study predicts impact of India-Pakistan nuclear war — over 100 million dead


Nuclear option

India has a declared No First Use policy as part of its nuclear doctrine. While India has not signed the global non-proliferation treaties – NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) – it has signed a civil nuclear deal with the United States, agreed to IAEA’s supervision of its civilian nuclear reactors and signed the FMCT (Fissile Material Cut off Treaty).

Pakistan, on the other hand, has refused to declare an NFU policy and has no declared nuclear doctrine. Senior Pakistani officials have often spoken about Pakistan’s nuclear red lines that include retaliation if “India attacked Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory; India destroys a large section of Pakistan’s land and air forces; Imposition of a blockade to such an extent that it ‘strangles’ transportation of vital supplies and adversely affects the ‘war-waging stamina’ of the country; India pushes Pakistan into political destabilisation or creates large-scale internal subversion.”

However, as scholar and analyst Husain Haqqani states in his book India v Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?: “Although Pakistanis feel great pride in their having achieved nuclear power status, nuclear weapons have neither made Pakistan more secure nor created the equivalence with India that Pakistan seeks.”

Now, facing massive losses, Pakistan knows the only way to ensure that the country remains relevant is by hovering its finger over the only button it has – that of nuclear war.

The author is a Research Fellow and Director, India Initiative at the Washington DC-based Hudson Institute. Her books include ‘Escaping India: Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’ (Routledge, 2011) and ‘From Chanakya to Modi: The Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy’ (Harper Collins, 2017). Views are personal.

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32 Comments Share Your Views

32 COMMENTS

  1. This article is misleading. Who did not condemn India over Kashmir lockup? United States, European Union, China, Russia all condemned Indian action in Kashmir. The major news papers such as New York Times, Washington Post condemned India many time. In one publication Washington Post wrote, “Modi has always played with fire in his life, now he (Modi) want to play with Armageddon” which is very true. How one should condemn India?? In reference to nuclear option, no one has mentioned the nuclear option in Pakistan.instead prime minister Imran Khan said war is not an option. If Kashmiries want to be part of India it is fine with Pakistan and if they want autonomy, independence or part of Pakistan, Indian govt will not be able to stop the Kashmiries from self determination. Please do not push the region and the world into Armageddon.

    • Mule Means problem. Pakistan Iran Iraq Libya Afghanistan Quatar Nigeria Bangladesh. Means where more Mule there’s more Problems.

  2. I think we should ignore them completely. We have taken away kashmir without much ado and they have been barking for the last 100 + days but who cares.

  3. I think we should ignore them completely. We have taken away kashmir without much ado and they have been barking for the last 100 + days but who cares.

  4. I think Pakistan needs to stop being a global migraine. It is not a nation, that proved. It’s a silly acronym as we discussed once in our Xavier’s campus in college days. I believe they should be globally isolated because of it’s genocide in Balochistan and what it did in the ’71. And the fact of the matter is Pentagon and Indian Defence Corp. has already a plan chalked out when the country collapses how quickly can we go into their missile sites and disengage and dispose the warheads. I think the more credible threat is China, who is the actual threat in the region.

    • You trator. A buly dog🐕 who barrked his own country. It is only your fish and dream be happy with this. 21 coror’s pakistani is enough to safe gaurad their mother land at every cost. A person is not loyal to his country how can he loyal he is to another country. BOL zinda bad. Psk piynda bad. Inshallah.

    • You have rightly summarised India’s downfall by changing the names of the countries and organisations. Indian Defence Corp. should first learn how to manufacture indigenous rifles.

  5. One of the most seminal works on Pakistan is by Venkat Dhulipala in which in quotes Pandit Nehru (The Leader, 20th Jan. 1948): “Leave aside conspiring against Prtition, if at this time Pakistan were to ask for a reunion, we shall definitely refuse it and resist any such move.” (Dhulipala, V., 2015: 462. Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late colonial North India. Cambridge University Press).

    Those who are so distressed at the impasse, should take out some time and read a bit more. There is much to be learnt from history. And those who doubt the credibility of the author, can check out his credentials, and the list of people who have endorsed this book, including Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

    • Nehru and Venkat must be under gaimooter effect when quoting the slumdog-dreaming about Pakistan asking for reunion with world’s biggest sheethole where humans are killed for cows.

  6. It is important to understand and acknowledge that Pakistan is not just an insecure nation, but also a deeply ideological one at the institutional level. While some may feel that India should be magnanimous in initiating a talk, there is NO harm is taking a different, more colder route to diplomacy for some time in future. There is NO doubt that the two countries will need to talk at some stage, but for India to rush into it because the adversary is wearing a suicide vest would not only be foolish but also demonstrate a lack of spine, inability to deal with blackmail in a strategic manner and propensity to give in meekly. We should NOT repeat Kandahar type mistakes (by BJP government), rather we should take inspiration from history, from our great leaders of the past like DURGA Indira Gandhi who stood her ground.

    • Suicide vest was the invention of Tamil Hindu terrorists, who assassinated your durphatay Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi.

      Indira should be praised by proud Indians, as it is because of her that today India is facing a deadly nuclear-armed Pakistan.

  7. Those threatening nuclear war are the moderates! That itself should tell you the extent of extremism in Pakistan. The troubling part is that by calling them moderates, Indian candle wallahs get to associate with them. They participate in track II dialogues where both sides gladly criticize India. Remember how Imran Khan was lionized by the Indian left and by Bollywood, and now we find out (through his ex-wife’s book) how he hated India and Hindus all through.He too had been labelled a moderate and the English language papers in India went out of their way to support him all while overlooking a blatantly managed election.

    • Modi though loves Pakistan and India’s Muslims of Gujarat. Hindus are very moderate who have democratically elected a secular and liberal non-religious Hindu party which serves the cows to the Muslims of India.

  8. Writer should know there are no moderates in Pak Or for that matter in Muslim. Or she has two criteria for being moderates one for Hindus or other for Muslims. The person she is calling moderates is extremist to the core.

    • This anti-Muslim Hindu bigot will now define what is moderate,. In Hindus’ dictionary Modi is liberal and moderate who eats cow meat together with Indian Muslims.

  9. Who started the nuclear-arms race in the region? Who said after conducting nuclear-tests in 1998, “today we will settle every score with Pakistan”? Who gives everyday threats of reclaiming PoK from Pakistan, not Pakistani General? Who said that ‘we have called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff, not Pakistani PM? Who holds jingoist violations of nuclear-armed Pakistani airspace in Feb 26, 2019?

    Your ruling extremist Hindu party literally wins the elections on the slogans of teaching Pakistan a lesson, calling the opposition as ‘pro-Pakistan’, and asking journalists to go to ‘Pakistan’, and refer to the Muslim community in India as ‘mini-Pakistan’.

    Before writing a Bollywood style spicy write-up, look into the mirror. Why do you Indians have to be pro-India while serving a non-Indian think-tank in a foreign country? At least Pakistanis working in foreign countries for foreign think-tanks, do not show pro-Pakistan lines.

    • All these rhetorics are in response to your. Nuclear sabre rattling was started by your first by your Foreign Minister Shahabzada Yaqub in 1990.

      Now coming to next point, we don’t need lecture about extremism from Muslim and Pakistan. Your religion is based on hatred towards Non-Muslims. Terrorism and Extremism is your Patent.
      Why Indians can’t be pro-Indians, Pakistanis everywhere are Islamist. If I say some lines exposing your arabic faith, your expat Pakistanis will start jumping giving death threat.

      • Shut up. you bolly🐕. Don’t make the people folly. We know very well you indian. Your policy is ( bagal my chori or mooh my ram ram) what is the idolegy of RSS and BJP what happen in kashmir the Muslims in your country what happen to other mionerties. Don’t lecture us first see your self. A so called secular country but his PM is banned by the USA for his terrorism and killing of thousands of the Muslims. A rape house for women.

        • Oh Silly Moslem. Kashmiri Moslems were the one’s who said all Pandits leave and leave behind your women. We all know it was Pakistan even during Partition that raped and murdered Sikh and Hindus, and committed countless rapes, Hindus and Sikhs only responded. Pakistan has no real minorities, it is a 90 plus percent Allah Toilet. Even the few few few minorities you have live there, live in fear of the Mopedo inspired rapists. You sell Christian girls to China. You rape the less than one percent Hindu and Sikh population and kidnap their underage daughters. Even you fellow Moslems Ahmadya and Shia hate you. However, the reason India shouldn’t speak to Pakistan is because you are over 60% cousin cousin marriage, over many generations, and ultimately a bunch of Ullu Ullu Jibroni Jibroni shouting inbred moron. Are you the product of cousin cousin marriage Zahaib.

          • I am laughing on your condition😂😂.Such a joke your thinking and knowledge. If you have no have arguments then the people like you misleading the facts and also your self. The events are you mention is totally baseless which have no reality no evidence. Mionerties in pak are much safer and progressive.But what happen to your country thousands of young girls are raped every day because of their parents cannot afford their marriages due your terror society dory customes. What happen to your women in middle east like UAE. KSA. QATAR. etc I know very well. in UAE. KSA.You sold your girls to these countries for sexsulitiy because you cannot afford their marriages of the dory requirements. Shame on you who cannot protect their women’s. I know so many Indian girls in KSA who involved in(chackla) business if you need I provide thier cell no. What a crime society of your’s against all type of mionerties if you not belive this read the UN reports on humain rights and mionerties in India it is a slapped in your so called secular country. The fact of the matter is your country is a terriorst county for all taype of mionerties. in that country the people killed because of cows 😂😂😂.A world accepted rape house for women. See your self in the mirror of reality.

          • A typical Hindu bigot who never reply without adding religious abuses. A Slumdog Hindu-fanatic who hates the religion of India’s biggest minority Muslims. But this gaimooter drinker is here talking about the minority. What a world. You bigot Hindu are talking about the minority and rape who are declared the most dangerous country for women, where a woman is raped every 20 minutes. where women are raped in public buses or temples? You Hindu fanatic are talking about the minority who carried out the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat, Ayodhya, Mumbai, Sikhs in 1984, Christians in Odisha in 2008, Kashmiri Muslims since 1948. Who have democratically elected a mass murderer Hindu-extremist party who hates Muslims? You Hindu fanatic are talking about minority who everyday talk about how to get rid of Muslims in India, and call seculars as sickulars? You Hindu fanatic are talking about minority who lynch Muslims and Dalits for cow slaughter? It was Krishna who used to steal the clothes of bathing low-caste Dalit little girls – he also married his two cousins.

      • @GobbarSingh You Hindus lynch Muslims for cows in fake largest democracy and secular state. Where Hindus have democratically elected a fascist Hindu who carried out genocide of 50,000 Muslims of Gujarat and rape of hundreds of Muslim women / girls, in 2002. You Hindus kill low-caste Dalits for entering temple. 30,000 Sikhs were killed by Hindus in 1984.

        A typical Hindu-fanatic who is burning in hatred for the religion of biggest minority in India, but here is this shameless bigot talking about death-threats who lynch humans for cows, mere on rumours.

    • J and K history you need to see.
      It was clearly ceded to india by the king of J and K.
      You people have been well fooled by your military and they have amassed thousands of crores while keeping you all focused on india

      • Hindu Maharaja, not King. Rafale scams and Coffingate scandals happen in your slum state, not in Pakistan. Is that why you have come here to read a article on Pakistan?

  10. India has good arguments regarding the lock up of eight million Kashmiri Muslims for months. As well as, everyday jingoism in Indian media regarding the capture of PoK from a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

    • You will learn about lock up only if you will look at what happens in Xinjiang in your Chinese friend province. You should be thankful to India that we are not doing to that level atleast for now. We have till now not send anybody to re-education centres unlike what happens in Xinjiang.

      Regarding PoK, we consider it as ours so he have right to assert on it.

      • What is ‘we’, you vegetarian slumdog bigot? You vegetarian slumdogs from UP, Maharashtra have never ever visited Kashmir in your lifetime, but you slumdog-dream about Muslim-majority IoK and PoK?

        Minority Muslims ruled over majority Hindus for hundreds of centuries. 300 million Indian Muslims will together re-educate minority upper-caste Hindu-fanatics like you.

  11. It takes two hands to clap. As an Indian, sometimes feel perhaps we could do a little more to break the ice. Drain the swamp a large swathe of the electronic media has become. Take Pakistan out of the electoral discourse.

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