Indo-Pak relations, if there is any, can only get worse with the acquiring of tactical nuclear weapons. Look at this, this way: if you have a small gun and it is not effective, you will go for a bigger one. All WMDs, strategic or tactical, need a few things to make it possible. Simply put, a warhead (the one that causes destruction), a delivery system (how will it reach the target without getting destroyed in the bargain), intelligence about the target (after all you don’t want to waste your national assets without some gain). All these are easily achievable and a system can be put in place. Alas, the laws of physics or is it nature, that introduces a very key scalar of time. This is in relation to distance. Everything takes time to travel. While travelling, anything airborne or otherwise can be shot down.
Whoever strikes first runs the risk of being struck earlier than their mission being accomplished. This leads to very careful target selection. During the cold war the distance between the US and USSR gave each other a window of strike opportunity. Time of flight in this case is like a Trans -Atlantic flight, 6 to 9 hours, enough time to react. To overcome this, submarines became launch pads. In the case of India and Pakistan, targets in the northern region, will be like committing hara-kiri. Same landmass, and will suffer the same secondary effects, if not the primary ones. So the targets will likely have to be far enough, of which India has many more than Pakistan. The relatively peaceful South of India will be dragged into a war needlessly. Here the time element will be crucial as with the right surveillance and anti weapon systems missiles can be neutralized or destroyed. Here is good reason to develop these systems for India (OK we can always get some imported like we always do).
So after the first strike, the retaliatory one will aim for the opponents nuclear assets, which needs guarding and probably in silos or mobile to avoid the counter strike.
I have gone too far. What everyone knows is that nuclear war can cause mutual self destruction. This brings me to the most important element, which is the command structure that gives out the decision to launch a strike. It is easy if the decision is with one reasonable command element, but difficult if there is chaos. You need someone sane to negotiate! India is at a disadvantage over Pakistan. There are several centers of power and each one could be rouge element in its own right.
As long as there is some semblance of sanity in Pakistani leadership, nuclear détente will prevail. The problem is if it falls in the hands of someone else. The US worries about this too.
At the time of Pokhran II, it was announced that it was to deter China. Russia felt betrayed as they had prevailed over India for several years not to go nuclear. But by then USSR had collapsed and India saw fit to stand on its own feet. The threat, announced the then Defence Minister George Fernandez, is China. By the mere idea of self preservation, this makes sense. The nuclear race therefore is with China and not Pak.
Making a bomb does require a lot of resources, but the fact is that it is not difficult to make or acquire it. Also it is getting out of fashion, and we should be working to get rid of it to make a nuclear free world. For a moment, imagine if India was to declare that it will dump its nuclear weapons programme, who do you think will get affected by it? China, Pak or US? Will we be economically weaker?
That’s not going to happen because we want to be one of the powers, be non-aligned and be a great economic entity. We want our resources drained by a smaller, upstart country that draws on some emotional inseparable link. The question one needs to ask is why we do not compete with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma in a similar way. Dumb question, but these countries don’t drain our economy. We have defined a threat and like to preserve it , and for posterity. Is it because we suffer from some sort of martial chauvinism, only to be exploited by the arms manufacturing world? It’s all about National priorities.
Nuclear threat unfortunately is going to become a reality if it falls in the wrong hands. Most combat vehicles and defence works in the battlefield can come prepared with Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare protections, so those on the battlefield have a better chance of surviving it. The civilian areas are definitely exposed to this threat more than those on the front. If India and Pak have some rational thinking, they must destroy their war heads. That’s not going to happen unless one side takes the lead. A close one to that will be the pledge of ‘no first strike’, which really has no meaning in terms of the prevailing détente.
The US probably has the biggest Military Industrial Complex (MIC), which needs a constant demand which they will supply. Business logic spells out the need to have conflict around the world. To have an indigenous MIR meeting our demands seems never to be accomplished, constantly being plugged in with import substitution. I fail to see why a country that can produce diesel locomotives, as an example of engineering ability, not be able to produce technologically current artillery pieces, combat vehicles and armour to meet its demands. Even if agriculture and food sufficiency were on top of the agenda, this could well have been brought to the front burner much earlier. The same is not with space technology. So in many ways, the arms race in the subcontinent is fueled by threat perceptions of India and Pakistan and kept at a level to drip feed the MIC of certain countries.
Check out the SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) data and you will find that India is the top importer of arms in the world. Pakistan is also in the list of top importers. The US is the top arms manufacturer and exporter. China is in both the lists. This indicates that we are nations who care more about being in conflict, and can be easily manipulated into conflict situations. Arms deals are notorious for kick backs and one doesn’t need to think too much to connect conflict to kick backs.
SIPRI being in Sweden gives an impression of working towards peace, one would assume so, but, in reality Sweden is a leading arms manufacturing country. In fact every EU country manufactures arms, has peaceful borders and visa less travel, good social security and a great life style, at our cost.
At a cocktail function to greet international exchange students from Scandinavian countries, I discovered that university education was free in some of the countries. No wonder, as arms is as lucrative if not more that car manufacturing as long as we can keep their social security going at the expense of our conflicts in our neighborhood. Will someone take up a Satyagraha to stop conflict instead of trying to get back ill gotten money from Swiss Banks? By the way they make excellent small arms. Their SG series are excellent for commando operations!