Writing in the Pakistan Defence Journal, General Lodhi stated; "In a deteriorating military situation when an Indian conventional attack is likely to break through our defences or has already breached the main defence line causing a major set-back to the defences which cannot be restored by conventional means at our disposal, the government would be left with no option except to use nuclear weapons to stabilise the situation. India's superiority in conventional arms and manpower would have to be offset by nuclear weapons Pakistan's nuclear doctrine would essentially revolve around the first strike option. In other words, we will use nuclear weapons if attacked by India even if the attack is with conventional weapons". "Pakistan would use what Stephen Cohen calls an 'option enhancing' policy. This would entail a stage-by-stage approach in which the nuclear threat is increased at each step to deter India from attack. The first step could be a public or private warning, the second a demonstration explosion of a small nuclear weapon on its own soil, the third step would-be the use of a few nuclear weapons, on its own soil against Indian attacking forces. The fourth stage would be used against critical but purely military targets in India across the border from Pakistan - probably in thinly populated areas in the desert or semi-desert, causing least collateral damageSome weapons would be in reserve for the counter value role."
India’s tough approach after the terrorist attack on Parliament House on 13 December has led to an Indo Pak military standoff and war clouds have been hovering on the horizon. Quite apparently, India’s threshold of tolerance has been crossed and India is unwilling to accept anything short of a complete halt to Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere in India through ISI-managed rabidly Islamist mercenaries whom it unsuccessfully tries to pass off as Kashmiri freedom fighters. While the two armies are deployed in battle positions and the navies and the air forces are standing by, the world’s attention is focussed on South Asia as a nuclear flashpoint.
The Indian political and military leadership believes that nuclear weapons are political weapons and their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by a nuclear-armed adversary. Indian political and military leaders and military analysts, specifically Mr George Fernandes, General VP Malik, the former army chief, Air Commodore Jasjit Singh and Mr K Subrahmanyam, among others, have articulated the belief that there is a clear strategic space for a conventional conflict below the nuclear threshold. However, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine revolves around notions of nuclear warfighting and It is this aspect that causes anxiety to the international community.
As Pakistan’s military rulers have so often emphasised, Pakistan’s rationale for its nuclear weapons is not only to deter the threat of India’s nuclear weapons but also to counter India’s conventional military superiority. Even during the short interludes when duly elected civilian Prime Ministers have ruled the country, Pakistan’s foreign and military policies have been crafted in the army’s general headquarters at Rawalpindi, particularly the policies relating to India and Kashmir. Ever since the inception of its nuclear programme, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been in military custody and the country’s civilian rulers have had no control over them. It is, therefore, no surprise that Pakistan has adopted a “first use” nuclear doctrine. It’s military and political leaders have repeatedly stated that Pakistan would resort to the early use of nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict to prevent its comprehensive military defeat at India’s hands and to ensure that its survival as a viable nation state is not threatened.
Among others, Lieutenant General Sardar FS Lodhi has cogently spelt out Pakistan’s rationale for its first use doctrine. Writing in the Pakistan Defence Journal, General Lodhi stated; “In a deteriorating military situation when an Indian conventional attack is likely to break through our defences or has already breached the main defence line causing a major set-back to the defences which cannot be restored by conventional means at our disposal, the government would be left with no option except to use nuclear weapons to stabilise the situation. India’s superiority in conventional arms and manpower would have to be offset by nuclear weapons… Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine would, therefore, essentially revolve around the first strike option. In other words, we will use nuclear weapons if attacked by India even if the attack is with conventional weapons…”
“Pakistan would use what Stephen Cohen calls an ‘option enhancing’ policy. This would entail a stage-by-stage approach in which the nuclear threat is increased at each step to deter India from attack. The first step could be a public or private warning, the second a demonstration explosion of a small nuclear weapon on its own soil, the third step would-be the use of a few nuclear weapons, on its own soil against Indian attacking forces. The fourth stage would be used against critical but purely military targets in India across the border from Pakistan – probably in thinly populated areas in the desert or semi-desert, causing least collateral damage…Some weapons would be in reserve for the counter value role.”
Brigadier Saeed Ismat of the Pakistan Army has also expressed similar views. He propounds the first strike doctrine to checkmate an Indian offensive, which almost all Pakistani defence analysts appear to believe will be aimed at dismembering Pakistan: “There could be many scenarios (of Indian offensive strikes into Pakistan) but just to illustrate this point, let us visualise if an Indian military invasion came through the Rajasthan desert directed towards the Grand Trunk Road near Rahimyar Khan, in a matter of days, India could cut off our north-south communication, divide and dislocate our military forces and divide the country in two. The capture of this critical space could act as a springboard launch further manoeuvres of exploitation towards areas in depth. If they choose to limit their objectives, they could consolidate and retain these spaces. This action by itself can cause Strategic division and isolation of our forces, leading to ultimate defeat and break up of the nation. In conjunction with (ground) offensives in other areas as well, they could prolong the war and go for our areas in depth. Pakistan’s options would have foreclosed – except one! We should have a well defined and declared strategy of using our ultimate, choice of nuclear weapons aimed at the destruction of those military forces, which have intruded in our territory.
In an interview with CBS TV in October 2000, General Pervez Musharraf had also asserted that Pakistan could use its nuclear bomb against India if its security is jeopardised. This may actually be rhetoric designed to deter India through a doctrine of irrationality, rather than a carefully considered policy option that can be executed when the chips are down. If Pakistan military and political analysts think things through, they will be forced to conclude that while Pakistan may initiate a graduated nuclear response, as General Lodhi recommends, and achieve short-term tactical gains, India is likely to retaliate massively as per its declared nuclear doctrine of punitive retaliation and Pakistan would cease to exist as a viable nation state.
Pakistani government spokesmen and scholars have been particularly critical of India’s “no first use” doctrine on the grounds that it is only a declaratory policy and can be easily changed when the need arises. They have failed to take note of the fact that a country’s nuclear force structure, command and control system, alert status and its deployment posture are based on its nuclear doctrine. First use doctrines require hair trigger alerts, launch-on-warning and launch-through-attack strategies and elaborate surveillance, early warning and intelligence systems with nuclear warheads loaded on launchers and ready to fire.
Nuclear-armed aircraft would need to be ready on runway alert, if not constantly airborne as in the case of the erstwhile US Strategic Air Command. India cannot ever resort to any of these measures without Pakistan learning about them almost immediately. What the Pakistanis also forget, or deliberately ignore, is that India has offered to negotiate a mutual no first use treaty with Pakistan that would be binding and verifiable. India’s track record of adherence to international treaties has been exemplary.
The no first use doctrine is a carefully thought through policy that has taken decades to mature, even if it was not publicly well articulated. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh has written: “No other country has debated so carefully and, at times, torturously, over the dichotomy between its sovereign security needs and global disarmament instincts, between a moralistic approach and a realistic one, and between a covert nuclear policy and an overt one.
Even during the mid-1980s, defence analysts like General K Sundarji and K Subrahmanyam were advocating a minimum deterrent capability for India and had ruled out the need for tactical nuclear weapons as these were meant for nuclear warfighting – a concept that India has never subscribed to. Hence, minimum deterrence is not a new concept in the Indian context that has been suddenly thrust on an unsuspecting nation.