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  India’s Options to Pakistan’s Nuclear Threat  


By: Hari Sud
August 08, 2004


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Pakistan will no longer be a threat to India as soon as India puts its nuclear weapons to sea and keeps them hidden from Pakistan’s first nuclear strike. Then only the holder’s of Pakistani nuclear button will pause and think whether the first strike is worth the return salvo awaiting them. Until then overconfident Pakistanis will continue to brandish the nuclear weapons at India at will. (Last time they brandished it was during the 2001-02 confrontation).

No amount of India’s negotiation with Pakistan to solve the Kashmir or terrorism issues will help. Over the past 54 years, anti Indian sentiments in Pakistan have been carefully nurtured. These will not go away easily. Pakistanis wish to rule from New Delhi and wish to return Muslim rule of 800 years to India. Mullah Omar of Taaliban advised the Muslims of Pakistan to re-conquer India. These sentiments are not uncommon in the Pakistani ruling circles. The latter express the same sentiments but a bit diplomatically. For these reasons, Pakistan will keep the fight with India always hot. Kashmir or Siachin or Sir Creek or Junagadh or Hyderabad are issues of today. They will invent another bunch for to-morrow. Hence this fight for the Muslim supremacy in South Asian continent will end only, when they are made aware that they may cease to exist should they attempt a first strike. For this to become a reality, India has to economically, technologically and militarily become sufficiently advanced to build a deterrent at sea.

Where does India Stands in Light of this threat?

Rulers of India from 1947 to 2001 never understood this threat. They offered all possible carrots to buy peace with Pakistan. It did not work. Nehru-Ayub tried in early sixties but failed. Under American pressure, India signed the Indus Water Treaty, which guaranteed flow of four rivers (Ravi, Chanaab, Jhelum and Indus) exclusively to Pakistan. India got rights to only two rivers (Sutlej & Beas). This one sided treaty guaranteed prosperity to Pakistani Punjab and kept Indian Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan short of water. During the1965 war, under pressure from US and Soviet Union, India withdrew from Haji Pir Icchogill Canal, Khemkaran and Gadara Town of Pakistan. The same powers could not prevail upon India to relinquish East Pakistan (now independent Bangladesh) during the 1971 war. Upset Pakistan was appeased with arms and hardware. Shortly thereafter the West found a new pretext to re-arm Pakistan i.e. defeating Soviets in Afghanistan. Free supply of F-16s was made in addition to a tacit approval to steal nuclear technology from the West. Pakistan took full advantage of this from 1977 till 1989. This effort of theirs suffered a setback when Pressler Law was passed in the US Congress. Economic and military sanction imposed in 1990, which impoverished the country. But the situation changed after 9/11 in 2001.

All the above developments were ignored in India partly due to the fact that Indian economy was not in good shape and politically a weak government was in-charge (1988-98). A new government took charge in 1998 and immediately tested its nuclear bomb. They knew that Pakistani bomb had been ready since 1989. Hence testing by Pakistanis was just a formality. It was Kargil of 1999 that India undertook a comprehensive defense policy review. The latter resulted in more monies for upgrading India’s cash starved defenses. Also improving economy has allowed India to spend more on arms and technology.

Pakistani Nuclear Threat

This threat to India is very real. That is what the ex President Clinton said in his recent book. In a CNN interview promoting his book, he listed Pakistan – India nuclear war threat as one of the three most vexing issue of the present time. Pakistan completed its stolen U-235 centrifuge in 1989. In 1995 the first batch of missiles from North Korea and China arrived. The existing F-16 (although depleted with lack of spares) and missiles added a big punch to Pakistan’s nuclear threat. The West was still not convinced and allowed Pakistan to launch a terrorist campaign in India and Kashmir after 1989. It was only with 9/11 in 2001 that the overall subject of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and their possibility of falling into terrorist hands became a hot issue. This could become even hotter, if a Jehadi general or a Mullah takes over the reigns of power in Pakistan and decides to black mail India, Israel and the West. The latter has emerged as a big threat to the US interests.

Threat to the West

Osma Bin Laaden has vowed to acquire nuclear technology and unleash it on the West. There is only one place he can get it i.e. Pakistan. The West is in jeopardy on how to deal with this threat. In fact, this threat is much worse than the threat of nuclear holocaust posed during the Cold War.

The West, as a matter of policy has decided to deal with this threat by cozying up to Pakistan. They wish to stop the spread at the source. They are a bit late in their realization. The present regime is vowing to safe guard their nuclear weapons. But it is an empty gesture. They have already traded their nuclear secrets with Libya, Iran and North Korea. Sharing these secrets with Al Qaeda and others is a small matter for them. All it need is a small spark in the international arena. Pakistan will very willingly part with this technology and the West would be able to do nothing about it. Even if Pakistanis keep these weapons safely, the current policy of appeasements to Pakistan by the West are giving them unlimited power over the West’s foreign policy in Asia and Middle East.

Threat to India

Pakistani nuclear threat to India is more real than to the West. They want Kashmir to start with and Muslim rule in India their ultimate goal. Nuclear weapons are instruments to achieve it. They will continue to try and try again to achieve it. Small failures in 1965, 1971 and 1999 are ignored. History speaks for itself. The Muslim influence in India did not arrive in one day. They nibbled at India from Afghanistan from ninth century onwards. Ghauri’s victory over Prithvi Raj Chauhan in Delhi in 1193 AD was second trial for Ghauri. Prior to that countless hordes used Khyber Pass and Sindh coastline looking for weaknesses in the local rule for loot and plunder. It took them 300 years to conquer rest of the Gangetic plains all the way to Assam. Another two hundred years were taken to conquer South India all the way to Mysore and Andhra Pradesh. The point is that Muslim intentions are perfidious. Their disputes will always be ongoing until the ultimate goal of rule over India is achieved. They are preaching these concepts in Madarssas, where most of the Jehadi recruits get education. Unwitting. western observers are sweet talked into believing their good intentions and peaceful purposes. Reasons why Pakistanis have not begun their conquest of India to-date, is that India has much bigger nuclear weapons and a stronger economy to buy any military hardware to kill the enemy. Still the Pakistanis believe that a sudden first strike from a short distance will kill India’s nuclear forces and lead them to victory. That is why, it is important to hide India’s nuclear forces at sea, just as Soviets and US did during the Cold War of 1948-1989.

US Perceptions about Pakistan

US have gone into a passive mode about Pakistan. A halfhearted role played by Pakistan to catch Osma Bin Laaden is a big hit with US Administration. Only recently (July 13, 2004) as reported by the Pakistani press, President Bush has paid glowing tribute to General Musharraf for his role in fighting terrorism. I believe something is wrong in the management of US foreign policy towards Pakistan. Musharraf cleverly disguises his ill intentions with occasional burst of activity, far away from where Osma Bin Laaden is hiding.

US should, by now, know that Pakistanis would never help them catch Osma. If the latter is ever caught, it will be by the Afghanis themselves. The locals know the area and all his moves. They are in a better position to catch him. At the moment they have a pique at the US for occupying their country hence they will not help. US have to win local’s co-operation. US troops will have to leave Afghanistan. Local warlords will have to be bribed with money to win their co-operation. This may handover a temporary victory to the Jehadis, but it is a good policy to trap Osma. The local warlords do not like Osma except that they view Osma as a lesser of the two evils (US and Arabs under Osma). In addition, US should vacate bases occupied by them in Pakistan. These bases have not helped in the capture of Al Qaeda. Prior to leaving Pakistan US must ensure that they know all about Pakistani nuclear force, including its location, capabilities and how to reach them in case of an imminent threat.

How did US Neutralized Soviet Nuclear threat?

A clever mix of economic, political and military strategy neutralized Soviet threat during the Cold War. Economically the Soviets were kept bundled up within their own unsophisticated production and consumption cycle. Politically, all the satellite states of Soviet Union in Europe were told to revolt against a decadent economic system. Militarily, US decided to outspent Soviets on military and Star War weapons, forcing Soviets to do the same. This resulted in unequal application of resources to military. People’s welfare took the back seat. Within a few years Soviets ran out of money. In addition US picked China to back stab them, resulting in Soviets being doubly threatened both on the Eastern as well as on the Western front. This resulted in Soviet Union’s collapse.

As this clever strategy was in progress, US put bulk of its nuclear weapons into the sea. Nuclear Powered Ballistic Submarines with Polaris and Trident missiles ensured that Soviets could never achieve nuclear supremacy over US. Soviets tried to match this expense and lost the competition. Prior to going to the sea, US kept its Strategic Air Command in full alert, 24/7 for the second strike. This had limited effectiveness. This concept was radically downsized with submarines carrying the bulk of the nuclear weapons after 1980.

How India Should Neutralize Pakistani Nuclear Threat?

India can neutralize Pakistani nuclear threat by a mix of Military, economic and political strategy pretty well the same way as US did.


Militarily, India is doing the right things today. It has doubled its defense expenditures in four years. It’s Army, Air Force and Navy is better equipped to deal with Pakistan today than four years back. Additional induction of Phalcons, Submarines, Artillery and LCA etc. in next few years will tilt the balance completely in India’s favor. Pakistan knows about it, hence is concentrating on upgrading its nuclear weapons and missiles. They are so confident about their missiles and nuclear weapons that they feel that they can destroy India’s nuclear weapons and other nuclear establishments in a first strike. It could be true as the flight time for a nuclear-armed missile and F-16 planes to Indian targets is less than 7 minutes. This leaves no time for India to activate its defenses against incoming missiles. It is the return salvo India has to plan for. This salvo will have to be well protected and large enough to annihilate the enemy.

Indian planners know about it, hence have planned like US and are busy putting some of the strategic nuclear weapons to sea. India is trying hard to build a vessel to dive deep in the sea with firepower to strike back with devastation unimaginable by the Pakistanis. This Indian strategy is also known to the Americans, hence they have done everything to prevent India from acquiring a deep sea diving submarine. Once India overcomes the technological problems with its own endeavor, and then only Pakistani strategy of brandishing nuclear weapons at India will be contained.


Economically, today is the best environment to deal with Pakistan’s nuclear threat. India is making economic strides after a lapse of 45 years. Its GNP has reached $600 Billion. Its defense expenditure has doubled from $7 Billion in 1999 to $16.5 Billion in 2004-05. Most of the additional expenditures are going into new military equipment purchases. In next 10 years India’s defense expenditure would reach $35-40 Billion. At that time Pakistan will be no match – militarily or economically.

It is to India’s advantage to draw Pakistan into an arms race. Their economy has to be ruined so that it could not support a militaristic state.


Pakistan is much more culturally diverse country than India. In India the progressive economy keeps the diverse cultures together. In Pakistan, the arms race may deal a deathblow to their economy and their statehood. Diversity of culture will fragment them internally. River water fight between Sindh and Punjab is an issue that needs to be exploited. There is already a great debate in Sindh and Balochistan provinces to separate from the Pakistani union. The North West Frontier has effectively never been a part of Pakistan. That leaves the prosperous heartland of Punjab completely landlocked and at India’s mercy.

Hence, the arms race in South Asia will do exactly the same what arms race did to the Soviet Union during the Cold war.


To end the stand off in South Asia, India has to make it difficult for Pakistan to contemplate first strike nuclear capability. The return salvo has to be hidden at sea to annihilate the enemy. Current overconfidence in Pakistan to finish India’s nuclear force on the ground has to be dealt with appropriately. US intervention is not required. Pakistan is to be allowed to collapse under the weight of military expenditures to match India. US can help by withdrawing from Pakistan and Afghanistan as soon as possible. Osma Bin Laaden will not be caught by American or Pakistani troops but by Afghanis, once they are convinced that US is not an occupier of their country.

Hari Sud

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