I shall use this article by Ammara Khan to illustrate common flaws in Pakistani thinking about deterrence.
In short, an unofficial and undeclared nuclear arm race has nearly completed its first lap.
What race my dear? There is none. The Pakistanis want to race India but they can't and that is the simple fact.
The theory of deterrence, having a high status in strategic planning and existing more in belief than in reality, was styled in the early days of cold war. Conceptually, the theory of deterrence envisages a relationship between two adversaries in which the threat of unacceptable devastation due to a nuclear exchange prevents them from taking overt hostile actions. In support of deterrence philosophy a fearsome concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, most appropriately called MAD, was coined. According to MAD the capability of wrecking complete destruction upon each other can serve to restrain the hand from trigger. Analogically speaking, if two persons were carrying the same kind of guns with same number of bullets, they will never attempt to shoot at each other for fear of mutual destruction.
This is fine up to the last part - both sides have to be convinced that the other is armed with a weapon of equal calibre and that the opponents aim is atleast as good. There is a lack of appreciation on the Pakistani side for exactly how good India's aim is.
This, in essence, is the philosophy behind deterrence. Now the question, whether it can dovetail in the South Asian context in the twenty first century, is something that needs to be analyzed in detail. Primarily, the theory of deterrence was framed in the back drop of the cold war between two super powers. It was basically an equation between the two with no third factor. Nonetheless, South Asia, with two neighbouring nuclear powers with a third one perched on its periphery, i.e., China, is too complex for the simplistic presumptions of the deterrence theory.
This is just completely wrong. The US had to simulataneously face down two opponents the nuclear armed Chinese and the Soviets. The similarly the Soviets had to face down half a dozen opponents including the Chinese. The deterrence theory extends to more than one player.
For example, India not only based its venture in the nuclear sphere due to security concerns with regard to China, quite recently, spurred by the DF-5, DF-31, and DF-41 of China, it has sought to ramify it nuclear capability in various direction. Such ambitions of India create a natural anxiety in Pakistan and thus we too have to jump the bandwagon to restore the precarious balance of power. Far worse is the jolt that the 10 year defence accord between India and the US has inflicted on the region’s balance of power and the consequent apprehension in Pakistan.
Given the expense involved in these deterrence technologies, it is unclear why India should range systems against Pakistan that it has developed solely for use against China. Why will we waste a 100 kT warhead on a Pakistani city when we can use a 10 kT warhead to do the required damage. It gains us nothing.
Unless Pakistan chooses to field Chinese missile systems on its soil - target them at India - there is no reason for India to target Pakistan with its systems.
Another aspect of deterrence that needs to be analysed critically is whether the strategic arm parity is responsible for deterrence or is it simply the threat of inescapable consequences that act as deterrent. From Cuban missile crisis, where the philosophy of deterrence actually worked, it can be shown that it was not the superiority or inferiority in number of arms that restricted the two sides. The United States have a clear superiority over Russia, but it exercised a restraint. Why? Because it knew there was no way it could come unharmed out of a nuclear confrontation. This realization can be detected in the statement of Kennedy when he said to his advisor, “What difference does it (strategic balance) make? They have got enough to blow us up now any way”.
Again - this is a misunderstanding - the US did *not* have the arsenal it needed to *prevail* in the conflict. It had an arsenal that was marginally superior. Pres. Kennedy's statement is aimed to stem the flow of nuclear warfighting ideas in vogue at the time - it has nothing to do with the validity of stockpile comparisons. That is an unrelated point.
Thus the blind chase by India and Pakistan to enrich their cache
of nukes is nothing but waste of precious resources. They have acquired what was needed - the ability to destroy each other completely - the rest is mere foolhardy.
You can tell this to the Pakistanis and see if they listen. My guess is that they won't. They will argue that as the Indian economy grows Pakistan's limit arsenal will not be able to carry out an effective damage of the Indian economy with a few strikes they will be able to get off before Indian retaliation hits Pakistan. For this reason and this reason alone there is no chance that Pakistan will cease efforts to expand its arsenal.
As long as Pakistan continues to expand its arsenal targetted at India, India will have to keep examining the state of its arsenal.
So can Pakistan and India afford to be ambiguous? Certainly not.
Yes there can be no ambiguity on the issue of mating warheads to delivery systems.
For how long will Pakistan resist the temptation of crossing the forbidden boundary, if it found it self at a tactical disadvantage is a question that needs consideration.
Now my dear - we are coming to the red meat of deterrence theory. That is precisely the choice that Pakistan has to make. At which point will it scream out "the Indians are coming" and press the red button. Will it do it if India attacks LeT camps at Muridke and Samahini? Will it do it if Indian forces pinch Haji Pir Pass? Will it do it if the Indians breakthrough the defences in Sialkot sector? Will it do it if the Indians break the defence lines south of Lahore? Okara Sahiwal? Fort Abbas? or further south? or will Pakistan use a nuke if India asks it to renegotiate the IWT? or if India helps someone in Baluchistan? Karachi? ... or will it happen when India creates a TV channel aimed solely at Pakistani youth?
You have to decide that - Pakistan is the first use power right? then it must make the call on when to use the bomb.
Thus, as we saw, the crumbling edifice of the deterrence theory does not provide much refuge to the security concerns in South Asia. What we really don’t need now is a bury-your-head-in the-sand approach toward a theory that has outlived its utility. What we do need is a national consciousness that is alive to the peril of living under a constant shadow of a nuclear war, but which is also capable of taking concrete steps toward disarmament and denuclearization in collaboration with our neighbour.
Not so fast kid... you abandon deterrence theory - if you do - then India has to act and hit you - because it means you are saying - "I will not be deterred - you see I don't believe in deterrence theory".
I think what you are mixing up deterrence theory with is actually escalation prone behavior. What has happened in the past decade is that Pakistan's incentive to escalate has minimized and I am all for Pakistan abandoning its escalatory behavior. I am a 100% percent supporter of it - but I am told Gen. Musharraf is only a 500% supporter of it.
The day Pakistan want to abandon escalation prone behavior in the nuclear arena - it should start by saying the words "Pakistan subscribes to no-first-use".