Moneeb Jaffar Mir
WHILE India test-fired second nuclear-capable missile in just 10 days, the entire world, particularly the West which continues to shore up India as a bulwark against China, needs to be more attentive to the recent developments.
The path of nuclear brinkmanship pursued by New Delhi highlights how an expansionist state can quickly disturb the already fragile strategic stability in a conflict-prone region.
Why is India going up the ladder of nuclear escalation?
A) Institutionalisation of ultra-Hindu nationalism through political discourse: The decline in secular values in the wake of the Hindutva- inspired political discourse in India is upping the ante in the nuclear politics of South Asia.
Modern India can be seen through the rising Islamophobic sentiments in the country spearheaded by the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), a scary development leading to open persecution of Muslims.
Moreover, what is even sacreir, it is that the BJP has been able to inculcate the idea into the heads of the masses that all modern India’s problems are due to past Muslim invasions and that it is an inherent right of today’s Indian Hindus to take back their lost land, i.e.Pakistan.
The culmination of such an attitude could be seen when the spokesperson of the BJP made derogatory remarks against the Last Prophet(SAW) the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and another BJP leader tweeted similar contemptuous comments on the Prophet of Islam (PBUH)).
This approach unveils the extremist approach ingrained in the Indian political elite against Islam, which can lay the basis for nuclear brinkmanship in the future against its Muslim neighbors, especially Pakistan, which it projects as an ‘enemy state’.
B) Reversal of India’s no first use nuclear policy: On August 16, 2019, two weeks after when India by trampling upon United Nation’s resolutions scrapped articles 370 and 35-A and illegally annexed Jammu and Kashmir gave hype to the strategic temperatures, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh foolishly asserted in a tweet that so far India has adhered to the ‘no first use’ nuclear policy, adding that “what happens in the future depends on the circumstances.”
Similar statements were made by the previous Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a tweet in 2016 as well as Narendra Modi during his election campaign.
Such flaunting when the threshold is at the edge vis-à-vis against a nuclearized country, such demeanor cannot be condemned enough.
The government of Pakistan has already termed the Indian actions as “shocking and irresponsible”.
Such a level of ambiguity in India’s core national security doctrine can be misconstrued and lead to catastrophic consequences with regional and global implications.
C) Below-par performance by Indian command and control system: A country’s nuclear responsibility can be gauged from the level of robustness of its Command and Control Systems.
On the evening of 9 March 2022, the Indian Air Force (IAF) Brahmos supersonic land-attack cruise missile (LACM) crashed into Pakistani city of Mian Channu.
The missile was ,fortunately, unarmed and caused no damage. However, this was a gross failure of the Indian Nuclear Command and Control System.
The incident could have triggered a nuclear war. The command and control system has many layers, it has to be established in a manner that the margin of error remains zero.
Such a failure on the part of the Indian side lends credence to the fact that India is prone to make any nuclear inadvertent use at any time in the future in a volatile most nuclearized region in the world.
D) Intensification of anti-Pakistan rhetoric for political mileage: Indian domestic politics is now mainly based on the anti-Pakistan rhetoric.
For canvassing, BJP has often resorted to an extreme anti-Pakistan stance to neutralize any domestic unpopularity.
It was seen in the year 2019 when just before the elections, an ostensible false-flag attack in India-occupied Jammu &Kashmir was carried out at Pulwama, with which, BJP, that was disturbed due its poor domestic performance, prepared ground for elections by fanning the flames of animosity against Pakistan by conducting airstrikes in Balakot, Pakistan on 26 February2019.
Pakistan retaliated by conducting a counter attack in Indian-occupied Kashmir on27 February 2019.
In a resulting dogfight, Pakistan downed two Indian fighter jets and captured an Indian pilot.
Notably, this was the first time since the war of 1971 that both countries’ air forces had attacked each other’s territory across the Line of Control (LoC).
This was another horrific event that showed the Indian tendency to create nuclear brinkmanship for myopic domestic election interests.
E) Increasing incidents of nuclear theft in India: A report by South Asia Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) states that 18 nuclear material theft or loss incidents have been reported in India from 1994 to 2021 involving over 200kg of nuclear material.
India is ranked as one of the top countries when it comes to the theft of ‘weapon usable’ material. This poses a threat to the strategic stability in the region.
F) India’s obsession with a multi-layered missile defense shield: India, in recent years, has become obsessed with a multi-layered ballistic missile defence shield, which the country has indigenously developed, in part, and has also acquired the technology from the US, Russia and Israel.
Apart from procuring the Israeli Iron Dome system, India has recently acquired the Russian S-400 Triumf Air Defence System.
The induction of BMD in a region where tension is always simmering has imbalanced the strategic milieu to a great extent.
The rise of Hindutva, along with factors explained puts the region at a greater risk of nuclear holocaust.
If the world does not pay heed to the simmering crisis resulting in changing regional stability due to Indian misadventures, the consequences will be unimaginable.
—The writer is research fellow, Islamabad Policy Institute
(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)