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Kashmir Nuclear Scare: Myth or Muscle Fatigue

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Tacstrat Analysis

Earlier this week, State Disaster Response Force officials in Indian occupied Kashmir distributed pamphlets warning citizens to make preparations for a possible nuclear attack. People were told to build bomb-proof basements and collect provisions to last them two weeks in confinement. This lengthy warning was published in the Greater Kashmir newspaper and described a possible war scene in detail. People were told to brace themselves for possible shock and to ‘expect initial disorientation as the blast wave may blow down and carry away many prominent and familiar features’. While Indian officials have called this ‘regular year-round civil defence preparedness’, and urged people not to connect it with anything else, one cannot help but speculate about the convenient timing of this ‘annual’ safety drill, which has in fact taken place for the first time.

The cross border skirmish earlier this year, has led to a staggering halt of negotiations and a perfunctory handshake on both sides that have been gritting their teeth since. The 70 year old lady’s flight into Pakistan had alarmed Indian officials who began setting up additional observation posts along the LoC. Pakistan fired across the border, and while cross border skirmishes barely make news any more, an Indian soldier with an ‘aggressive’ track record ordered a cross border attack. While the international media, as always, is wont to take an ‘unbiased’ approach to this series of attacks, several Indian newspapers have discussed the possibility and consequences of this bald provocation that led to the death of a Pakistani soldier. Two Indian soldiers were killed in a retaliatory skirmish that now appears to have escalated, as the streets of Srinagar are abuzz with rumours of a possible nuclear attack.

Indian soldiers, on many online forums, have said that even if their authorities have warned people to prepare themselves for a nuclear attack, this is purely for defensive purposes because of India’s ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine, and Pakistan’s lack thereof.

This leads us to the question of nuclear doctrines espoused by both countries. Pakistan has stood behind its doctrine of ‘first use but last resort’, and has been severely criticised for it by western scholarship, which conveniently over looks Israel’s ‘Samson Option’. Last year President Zardari announced his inclination to sign a ‘no first use’ policy in line with India’s, while no action towards this end has been taken so far, a brief analysis of the India doctrine, which espouses the very reassuring ‘no first use’ policy, is in order.

The doctrine states that any threat of use of nuclear weapons against India shall invoke measures to counter the threat (clause 2.3a). The repeated assurance of ‘retaliation only’ does not care to expand on what constitutes these measures. Clause 2.5 states that “India will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against States which do not possess nuclear weapons, or are not aligned with nuclear weapon powers.” This clause further adds to the ambiguity ensconced in the doctrine that shrouds itself behind empty words and unspoken promises. The distinction between non-nuclear states and countries they are aligned with, in effect, places every single country on the Indian hit list. Since Germany and Japan, two non-nuclear states, are aligned with the US on many fronts (the doctrine doesn’t specify the type of alliance either), that makes them possible targets, especially if: “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons”. Thus, if Indian soldiers (they could be infiltrators or even part of a UN deputation) are attacked with nuclear weapons in any part of the world, the ‘no first use’ policy becomes null and void. Furthermore clause 2.3a, revised in 2003 states that, “however, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.” Thus Blanco-ing out the ‘no first use’ for all intents and purposes.

Pakistan has justified its stance of adopting the ‘aggressive’ moral ground, by saying the ‘no first use’ policy on both sides would leave the concept of nuclear deterrence redundant and invite aggression from the Indian side. Pakistan has furthermore explained how the nuclear option will be employed once all others have been exhausted. This effectively places India and Pakistan on a level playing field.

The ‘threat’ of a Pakistani attack on Srinagar is by far the least plausible of all explanations our friends across the border have been proffering. Even less true is the statement that this is a routine safety drill. At best this can be described muscle flexing and a plea for attention in the post UN-observer mission stalemate. In terms of diplomatic progress, this might set the two countries back by two years of consistent peace talks and people-to-people contact. As the initial smokescreen of mistrust rises between the two countries, the audience can not help but wait for what will unfold next.

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India reiterates warning over US arms supply to Pakistan

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NEW DELHI: India described Monday the scale of US military assistance to Pakistan as “disproportionate” to Islamabad’s needs and warned that it could be used to target India.


Defence Minister A.K. Antony said he had raised New Delhi’s concerns during talks last week with visiting US National Security Advisor James Jones and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony said he had raised New Delhi’s concerns during talks last week with visiting US National Security Advisor James Jones and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.

The military equipment being supplied to Pakistan is “disproportionate to the war on terror” for which it was intended, Antony told reporters.

“We feel that there is every possibility of diverting this sophisticated equipment against India,” he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

India has previously protested the proposed delivery of unmanned US drones to Pakistan.

Washington sees Pakistan as integral to winning the war in Afghanistan, as Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents targeting coalition forces roam the mountainous region dividing the two countries.