For India and Pakistan, many of the geopolitical realignments that occurred as a result of the end of the Cold War had only a marginal effect on their immediate security concerns. To be sure, India's loss of its superpower patron, the Soviet Union, was a blow to the country's global prestige and regional standing. Similarly, the withering of Pakistan's tie to the U.S. has increased Islamabad's security anxieties. Yet the end of East-West confrontation has not significantly altered the state of rivalry between India and Pakistan, only the context.
Indo-Pakistani disputes have brought the two countries to war in 1947, 1965, and 1971, and perilously close to conflict again in 1987 and 1990. Each conflict has been relatively short and, with the exception of the 1971 war, indecisive in terms of resolving issues or altering the status quo. In addition, each arose primarily from accumulated internal pressures rather than an extra-regional security threat.
The republics of India and Pakistan, and the Indo-Pakistani conflict, were born in 1947, with the departure of the British. At the time of its creation, Pakistan was divided into East and West Pakistan, which were separated by nearly 1000 miles of northern India. (In 1971, after the last Indo-Pakistani conflict, East Pakistan became Bangladesh.) With the end of British imperial dominion, rulers of the princely states were given an Instrument of Accession by which to join India or Pakistan, as they chose. Most states sided with their religious majority (Hindus to India, Muslims to Pakistan); however, an estimated twelve million refugees fled across the borders, and nearly one million more are estimated to have died in related hostilities.
From the initial post-independence period onward, South Asia has been regarded by U.S. officials as a region of secondary importance to the United States.
During the Cold War, U.S. alignment with Pakistan made South Asia a significant part of East-West competition. India under its first leader Jawaharlal Nehru helped lead the non-aligned movement from the mid-1950s. Neither the U.S. nor the USSR took India's non-aligned stance and its hegemonic aims seriously, although Moscow benefited from them and they angered the U.S. From 1971 through the end of the 1980s, India maintained close ties with Moscow. This relationship brought India large-scale military and economic assistance. Soviet weapons and military equipment formed the backbone of India's formidable conventional military capability and steered its foreign policy and security strategy as well. But in the 1980s, India began to shift its foreign policy and security policy toward the West.
U.S.-Indian relations have been both the beneficiary and the casualty of shifts in Indian internal politics. A dramatic change in attitude among Indian voters was reflected in the May 1996 elections in which the BJP (in confederation with two allied Hindu nationalist parties and two smaller splinter groups) won 22 percent of the popular vote. Although the Party captured the largest bloc of seats in the new Parliament, it lost its first test of parliamentary strength. Less than two weeks later, the BJP leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was forced to concede his inability to form a coalition, and President Sharma was obliged to turn to the United Front (formerly known as the Left Front) coalition to try its luck in forming a government. As of late 1996, the coalition government led by Prime Minister Deve Gowda remains in power.
Events of the mid-1990s suggest two important trends which will have dramatic consequences for India. First, the hold of the Congress Party on India's political system has been broken. Secondly, political power is shifting from New Delhi to the provinces, which could initiate a period of genuine federalism, focusing the public's attention on the great disparities in wealth among the Indian states and thereby illuminating the gap between the very rich and the very poor.
To manage its rivalry with India, since the mid-1950s Pakistan has sought allies that might come to its defense in a crisis, or at least tried to project the impression of such alliances to India's leaders and key regional and world powers.
To this end, Pakistan sought closer relations with China and the United States. Despite these efforts, Pakistan was unable to achieve military parity with India. None of Islamabad's efforts produced the dividends envisioned by Pakistan's security architects, largely because India is such a formidable foe. Pakistan's efforts to court China, for example, have had only limited success, having been held hostage to mercurial Sino-Soviet relations. And Pakistan has never appreciated the magnitude of the gulf in defense expectations between it and the U.S.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was an important regional surrogate in a global network of U.S. allies whose purpose was to contain Soviet power. At the same time, to Islamabad, Washington was a potential protector against India's hegemonic designs. But Pakistan's early expectation that its relationship with the U.S. would lead to a codified treaty or defense pact was never realized.
Despite statements by a succession of Pakistani governments and defense officials publicly acknowledging this asymmetry in expectations, and accumulated anger in Pakistan's public opinion at U.S. refusal (once hostilities began) to assist Pakistan in its 1965 and 1971 wars with India, many continued to harbor the hope that the strategic relationship could expand, particularly so long as the Cold War continued. The relationship with the U.S. also provided Pakistan with a sense of strategic belonging, a boost to its chronic sense of insecurity.
Pakistan was able to use the U.S. need for a regional ally to obtain large amounts of military and economic assistance and to continue its pursuit of a nuclear weapon for a time, with a wink and nod of tacit approval from Washington. However, the 1985 Pressler amendment requires that at the beginning of each fiscal year the president must certify that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear device; failure to certify non-possession would freeze all U.S. security assistance to Pakistan. Adoption of this amendment followed efforts in 1984 by the Reagan administration to warn Pakistan that activities at several of its nuclear facilities (principally the Kahuta enrichment plant) imperiled its security assistance relationship with the United States. U.S. concern over the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the subcontinent was subordinated to the more urgent goal of containment, however, especially during the struggle to oust the USSR from Afghanistan. But with the Soviet departure from Southwest Asia following the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Pakistan under the Pressler amendment. Islamabad believed that the sanctions signaled U.S. disregard for Pakistan with the end of its utility in Washington's struggle against the Soviet Union, rather than illustrating genuine concern over Pakistan's nuclear program.
The death of President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq and many of his senior generals (as well as the U.S. ambassador, Arnold Raphel) in an August 1988 plane crash hastened the end of an era of close U.S.-Pakistan security relations. Elections in 1988 brought to office as Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was hanged by Zia breaking the Army's ten-year hold on power. The constitutionally correct but politically suspicious ouster of Prime Minister Bhutto in 1990 by President Ishaq Khan (acting under pressure from the Army) highlighted the fragile state of democracy in Pakistan and the extremely confrontational and personal nature of Pakistan's political environment. Bhutto was returned to power in the 1993 elections.
India and Pakistan Arms
Source: Office of the Secretary of Defense, April 1996. Proliferation: Threat and Response.
Note: The Air Force Prithvi and Agni missiles are under development.
On November 5, 1996, Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, using his constitutional powers, dismissed the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, dissolved the National Assembly, and appointed a caretaker Prime Minister. This was the third time in six years since the end of the Zia regime that a sitting Prime Minister in Islamabad has been ousted in mid-term, for reasons of incompetence, corruption or mismanagement. As Pakistan's constitution requires, Leghari promised to hold elections within ninety days. Leghari's actions were in response to concern of the business community, the army, and many politicians that widespread corruption and authoritarian rule were destroying confidence in the democratic process, as well as provoking an economic crisis. The major question is whether the President's actions will lead to a reformed, stronger democratic process and a sounder, less corrupt economy, or the continuation of the past situation under a new prime minister.
Overall, Pakistan faces at least eight serious challenges:
Increasing ethnic and sectarian violence in the Sindh province of Pakistan (most pronounced in the provincial capital of Karachi) and continued violence in India's provinces of Kashmir and Assam limit both countries' prospects for economic growth and overall stability. The Indian and Pakistani governments have usually blamed each other for inciting internal upheaval, adding to the perceptions of both publics that the regimes in New Delhi and in Islamabad are determined to meddle in the internal politics of their neighbor. Indeed, Pakistani support for insurgencies in India constitutes a not-so-subtle approach of keeping India slightly on edge, tying down Indian forces, and providing a distraction during which Pakistan hopes to attend to its comparatively inferior conventional forces.
The tension embodied in the Kashmir dispute has become a major political issue for both countries. Most Indian politicians recognize that Indian efforts to manipulate the political process in Jammu and Kashmir (beginning with the elections in 1989) have failed. But many Indians will not acknowledge that the government's public position--that the Kashmiri insurgency is a creation of Pakistani incitement rather than a genuine, internally driven movement for political change--has been discredited. Further, many Pakistanis may be reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the Muslim insurgency is over and Kashmir will remain an Indian state.
Adding to the outlook for unrest is the continuing high, though declining, birthrates and declining infant mortality rates. For example, India's population has nearly tripled in the past fifty years and is projected to exceed that of China by the year 2020.
Despite the pressures from population growth, the outlook for the economy in the next decade is better than in the past. For the first 45 years of independence, Pakistan's economy generally outperformed India. India was building a somewhat more modern and technologically based economy, but doing so in an environment stifled by government intervention in every aspect of the market. In contrast, Pakistan's economy, reminiscent of 19th century English landlord agrarianism grew in an environment where market signals had some influence upon prices and investment decisions.
Economic conditions in both countries have improved since 1993, although more significantly in India than in Pakistan. In 1991, Indian Prime Minister Rao initiated the most sweeping economic policy changes since India gained its independence. The country abandoned closed, regulated socialism in favor of moving toward a more free-market system. Since that time, inflation has been cut by one-third and exports have tripled. Prime Minister Bhutto was pursuing an economic and financial liberalization program. In the longer term, this effort will be less successful than that of India owing to, among other factors, higher illiteracy and lingering dependency upon agriculture in Pakistan. Another indication of economic change is that privatization continues in earnest in both countries, expanding the consumer middle class. This economic progress has generated social conflict over growing disparities in income distribution at a time of rapidly escalating population growth.
The combination of the structural divergencies in the two economies with the human capital divergence (Pakistan's education system is, for example, in near collapse) suggests a fairly clear prognosis for the medium term. Within fifteen years, and barring a relapse by India, its economy will begin to acquire the same features as the economies of Southeast and Northeast Asia, supported by a technical workforce of international standard, although constrained by a large poorer class within the population. With its much larger modern industrial sector and a more rigorous policy framework, India will become stronger and much more integrated into the global economy than still largely traditional Pakistan. Pakistan will continue to rely upon an agrarian-based economy with a small technical workforce significantly below international or even regional standards, but also with a large poor class.
Comparative Army Corps Distribution: India and Pakistan
Source: Multiple Sources including India and Pakistan Country Handbooks, Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, May and July 1995.
Since a Moscow-backed regime (which came to power after Soviet invasion forces fled the country) was toppled in 1992, two major factions have battled for control of the country. In 1994, the Islamist Taliban movement declared illegitimate the government of President Burhanuddin Rabanni and military commander General Ahmed Shah Massoud, which was dominated by ethnic Tajiks who are about 20 percent of Afghanistan's population. The Taliban, based in the Pashto ethnic group which makes up half of Afghanistan's population, started as a small Islamist movement in Kandahar in southwest Afghanistan, but capitalized upon widespread popular war-weariness and disenchantment with the old Afghan factions, to grow rapidly. Its military success was facilitated by the collapse of regime support. There has been strong Pakistani sympathy for Taliban, but the latter has not depended heavily upon outside support. At the end of September 1996, the interim government of Afghanistan led by President Rabanni fell to the Islamist Taliban movement, which in late 1996 controlled two-thirds of the country. The Taliban capture of the capitol Kabul in September 1996, the brutal murder of the former Soviet-backed leader, Najibullah, and Taliban's harsh version of islamic law stunned many who discounted the radical Islamic movement's appeal. However, a military stalemate then occurred as the Taliban's opponents regrouped.
Afghanistan's future concerns its neighboring states not only because of interest in what regime may gain control of Afghanistan, but also the prospect of opening trade and oil pipeline routes connecting Central and South Asia. The change of regime in Afghanistan alarms Russia, Iran, and India, all of whom had supported the Rabbani government. Moscow fears the installation of an Islamist regime in the region and the opportunity for that government to deal independently on economic and security issues with the nations of Central Asia as well as a source of subversion and terrorism directed against Central Asian regimes close to Moscow. Iran has been supporting Rabanni and is very nervous about a Sunni Islamic movement over which it has no control and which it fears is backed by the U.S., via Pakistan. India is alarmed by the ascension of a mujaheddin-led Islamist government in the region which is likely to ally itself with its regional rival Pakistan and could look vengefully upon the way India has treated Moslem Kashmiris. Further, Pakistan is likely to be sympathetic to and supportive of a Taliban government as it might provide an opening for Islamabad to Central Asia, which it has courted with only marginal success.
India and Pakistan are locked into a reactive cycle. While both nations would like to reduce the burden of defense on their societies, strong historical forces and genuine fears of attack dominate security planning.
Indian and Pakistani defense experts doubt the two countries would go to war again, but if a conflict erupts, they discount the possibility of nuclear escalation. Their professional military journals include little material on the subject of nuclear doctrine or deterrence theory, and neither country has taken steps toward actively defending against the use of nuclear weapons. There are, for example, no civil defense programs to cope with large-scale evacuation in the event of a nuclear exchange. Rather, defense planners in both India and Pakistan tend to focus on how a range of conventional scenarios (most of which are Kashmir-derived) might evolve, with relatively little analysis of targeting or other tactical concerns.
Tracking Nuclear Proliferation, India
Source: Adapted from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Tracking Nuclear Proliferation, 1995.
India spends roughly $8 billion annually on defense; that is slightly less than 3 percent of its gross domestic product and nearly 17 percent of its national budget. Roughly one-third of India's land and air combat power is concentrated in the west and northwest, presumably to respond to Pakistani threats. Nearly 20 percent of India's land force is committed to battling the Kashmiri rebellion and other insurgencies. The Indian Army receives about half of the country's defense budget and consists of three armored divisions, seventeen infantry divisions, and ten mountain divisions. The principal role of the Air Force is to defend the country against Pakistan. Although the country hopes to build a blue-water navy, there is little prospect of this. There are plans to begin modernizing the fleet, but support for naval expansion would have to come at the expense of the other military services, which is unlikely.
With the loss of its principal source of arms--the Soviet Union--Indian conventional military strength weakened during the early and mid-1990s. Still, roughly 70 percent of Indian military equipment is of Soviet origin. While Russia continues to provide modest but insufficient support for Indian forces, all three of India's services suffer from lack of spare parts and cash to sustain readiness and maintenance programs. As a result, India has moved more aggressively to expand an indigenous arms industry.
Pakistan spends $3.3 billion annually, or nearly 8 percent of its GDP and close to 30 percent of its national budget, on defense. In 1994, Pakistan pledged to freeze defense spending for several years to attract larger loans from international lending institutions. In fiscal year 199596, however, Islamabad broke that pledge, and in June 1996, Pakistan announced its intention to boost defense spending by nearly 14 percent over the previous year, while also introducing austerity measures to trim the nation's growing budget deficit.
Tracking Nuclear Proliferation, Pakistan
Source: Adapted from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Tracking Nuclear Proliferation, 1995.
A rivalry exists between the Army and Air Force, and there is debate among the military regarding whether the Air Force should redefine its primary mission, which is to support Army operations during war. More than half of the Pakistan Air Force is dedicated to close air support operations. These units played a key role in defending Pakistani territory during the 1965 and 1971 wars. But the Air Force has been weakened by the Pressler amendment, which has stalled delivery of F16 aircraft for nearly six years. The Clinton administration hopes to sell these aircraft to a third country so that Pakistan can be repaid for the planes. It is very unlikely that the F16s will ever reach Islamabad.
The Brown amendment, signed into law in January 1996, was designed to relieve some of the pressures created by the Pressler sanctions, which had crippled parts of the Pakistani military, particularly the Air Force. The Brown amendment allows nearly $370 million of previously embargoed arms and spare parts to be delivered to Pakistan. It also permits limited military assistance for the purposes of counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, anti-narcotics efforts, and some military training.
India and Pakistan have made little progress in addressing the most alarming threat to the region--the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. India and Pakistan are de facto nuclear weapons states. Both countries could assemble a nuclear device relatively quickly. India has even tested a device in what it called a peaceful nuclear explosion. But neither country is believed to have fitted nuclear weapons to delivery systems.
India and Pakistan have both concluded that the potential capability to deploy nuclear weapons is essential for their national security and political interests. Their citizens generally agree that nuclear deterrence has served both countries well, although Indians typically favor a more overt nuclear stance, while most Pakistanis are more reluctant to declare their nuclear status unless and until India does.
Nonetheless, both countries have limited the pace and breadth of their nuclear programs, thus avoiding the danger inherent in expanding to full-fledged weapons development. Some of the factors constraining the programs, however, have been involuntary and include financial barriers, technical obstacles, and policy concerns. In short, it is unclear (largely because the programs are shrouded in secrecy) whether the nuclear programs in both nations are limited more by circumstances than by choice. Regardless, as the programs mature and tensions build, and if either or both nations expand the programs and approach actual deployment, a purposefully ambiguous approach may no longer be sustainable. Among the factors that could escalate a conflict quickly is the continuing development of ballistic missiles by both countries. International efforts are highly unlikely to be able to reverse this trend, particularly if they center exclusively on the nuclear nonproliferation regime that exists as of the mid-1990s.
One of the few issues on which Pakistanis and Indians agree is their opposition to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which neither has signed. Despite earlier supportive statements from New Delhi, India's 1996 rejection of the draft Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) forced a negotiating compromise (engineered by Australia) to remove the CTBT deliberations from the UN Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, thereby circumventing Indian opposition. The treaty was tabled at the General Assembly, where in September 1966 it was approved in a vote by more than 150 nations, including the five acknowledged nuclear powers. Indian refusal to sign the agreement, however, could still block its eventual ratification and entry into force. It may also doom prospects for a fissile material cutoff treaty. Pakistan's position on the CTBT is that it would not sign the treaty unless India did so first.
India. India's nuclear weapons program, which began in 1964, predates the Pakistani effort and is more technically advanced in certain areas. India conducted its only nuclear test in 1974. By the late 1970s, India had expanded its plutonium-production capability. Some estimates conclude that India's plutonium stockpile could fuel nearly fifty weapons. India also has the capability to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center near Bombay and at a pilot-scale facility at Rattehalli. Neither facility is subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
India has tested two missile types, the Prithvi (150250 km) and the Agni (2500 km). The Prithvi is single staged and liquid fueled. Its limited range suggests it was developed almost solely for use against targets in Pakistan. The two-stage Agni, which has been flight tested at least three times, is better suited for use against China. The Agni program has reportedly been subordinated to accelerate work on the Prithvi, including efforts to increase the latter's range. To this end, India has tested an extended-range Prithvi. Either the Prithvi or the Agni can reportedly deliver nuclear weapons. India could also deliver nuclear ordnance using aircraft, including the British-French Jaguar, the French Mirage-2000, or the Russian MiG27. As for longer-range missiles, India began an ambitious space-launch vehicle development program in the mid-1970s. Three vehicles have been developed that could be converted into intermediate-range ballistic missiles or intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Pakistan. Pakistan's nuclear program was launched shortly after the country's losses in the 1971 war with India and accelerated after India's first nuclear test in 1974. The program is not as broad as India's, principally because Pakistan lacks an extensive civil nuclear power infrastructure. Instead, Pakistan has based its weapons program on the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and has built a clandestine procurement network to support its weapons program. It has become self-sufficient in several technical areas (e.g., fabrication and engineering) and in the enrichment of uranium to levels suitable for weapons. Nearly all of its nuclear program is focused on military applications and centered in a few facilities, the most important of which are the Kahuta enrichment plants. China has assisted Pakistan's nuclear program since at least 1986, when the two countries signed a nuclear cooperation agreement. The precise extent of cooperation is not known, although it reportedly includes transfer of nuclear weapons technology for both the design of weapons and the enrichment of uranium fuel.
Pakistan has several methods for delivering nuclear weapons. In addition to the 280 km range M11 (supplied by China in 1992 but probably not yet deployed), Pakistan could employ U.S.-supplied F16 aircraft or the French Mirage. Pakistan's operational missile, the Hatf, has experienced serious design difficulties. Furthermore, it is limited to a range of 80 km and lacks accuracy. Only a few of the Hatf-1 model have been produced and deployed; a Hatf-2 and Hatf-3 are also under development. The Hatf-3 is based on Chinese technology and can carry a 900 kg warhead for 300 km. There is some speculation that the Hatf-3 is actually the Chinese M11.
Since 1989, Pakistan's official position has been that it will not begin to assemble nuclear weapons. In July 1991, reliable reports from Islamabad confirmed that Pakistan had frozen its production of HEU and halted the manufacturing of nuclear weapons components. By the mid-1990s, however, Pakistan had begun to build a plutonium-production reactor at Khusab with Chinese assistance, raising concern that Pakistan's weapons designers were diversifying the HEU program to allow for plutonium-based weapons as well. (India has moved similarly to diversify its bomb-grade fuel production, by developing an HEU-enrichment capability to supplement its plutonium-based programs. Uranium production may also be designated as a way to fuel Indian submarines.) The Khusab facility, like that at Kahuta, will not be subject to IAEA inspections. With the Khusab and Kahuta facilities, the fuel-reprocessing facility at Chasma, and a pilot-scale plant at Rawalpindi, Pakistan will have substantial access to bomb-grade plutonium. Three of Pakistan's nuclear reactors (the KANUPP power reactor in Karachi and the PARR I and PARR II research reactors near Islamabad) are covered by IAEA safeguards; the Chasma power plant will be covered as well.
More than 350,000 Indian soldiers are deployed throughout Kashmir, a portion of them occupying the Indian side of the Siachen Glacier in the far northeastern region of Kashmir in the eastern Karakoram Mountains. Their Pakistani counterparts are dug in seven miles away on the Baltoro Glacier. At nearly 18,000 feet above sea level, howitzer shells are lobbed back and forth, out of sight and hearing of the rest of the world. Popular interest in this decades-old stalemate seems as thin as the atmosphere, yet scores of deaths a week (most resulting from harsh conditions) are attributed to the continuing conflict.
The Kashmir crisis has compelled both governments to expend enormous sums to support the deployment of forces in this region. The costs to both India and Pakistan of the Siachen Glacier deployment alone are estimated at more than $1 million a day, amounting to more than $5 billion since the sporadic fighting on the glacier began in 1984.
The Kashmir dispute embodies Indo-Pakistani antagonism. The positions are clear-cut: India insists on maintaining the status quo, while Pakistan refuses to accept Indian jurisdiction and control. Initially, one could have described this dispute as a battle between Indian insistence on a secular approach and Pakistani guardianship of Muslim rights. However, Hindu-Muslim religious rivalry and the debates surrounding the original partition of India have ceased to be the focal point of this dispute. Over time, the ability of competing politicians in both countries to exploit this issue for political gain has eclipsed the secular-religious debate.
Since 1990, the Kashmir insurgency, concentrated in the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, has gained momentum. In the mid-1990s, it is not only the most serious flashpoint in the region but also among the most likely accelerants for a nuclear crisis anywhere on the globe. Thus, an internally driven crisis has evolved into a regional security threat that also provides a political rallying point, particularly among nationalist groups who favor a more overt program of nuclear weapons acquisition.
Kasmir's demographics illustrate the complexity of the issue. The territory can be divided into three regions--Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh--each of which is dominated by a different ethnic group. Jammu is inhabited mainly by a Hindu majority, the Kashmir Valley is settled by a Muslim majority, and a Buddhist majority resides in Ladakh. While there is an identifiable Kashmiri ethnicity, the three groups are ethnically distinct, complicating any notion of "Kashmiri nationalism." The implications of these divisions have to be acknowledged whenever the call arises for an independent Kashmir, determined by plebiscite and with its future tied to neither India nor Pakistan.
The concept of partition is anathema to Indians. Kashmir's symbolism to India is as critical a consideration as any security significance associated with this fragment of ice and rock threaded by a beautiful valley. India is unwilling to lose even one additional hectare of this land. New Delhi is also concerned that Kashmiri autonomy would set a precedent for breakaway movements in other Indian states (e.g., Punjab or Assam). To Pakistan, Kashmir is symbolic of its national ethos and commitment to protect Muslim interests against Indian encroachment. It believes that the creation of a separate, strongly sectarian nation is incomplete without contiguous Kashmir. Kashmir, in brief, symbolizes the enmity that Hindus and Muslims harbor for one another. Ironically, the fact that India and Pakistan are de facto nuclear powers may help to dampen the fire underlying this issue because a fourth Indo-Pakistani war could entail a nuclear exchange.
The most likely scenario for conflict between India and Pakistan would stem from the continuing unrest in Kashmir. It is difficult to imagine how India and Pakistan could settle this dispute in a mutually satisfactory manner. India's position is clear and transcends political debate. Any arrangement that cedes portions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (the only majority Muslim state in India) to Pakistan is not acceptable. Pakistan, on the other hand, insists on the right to protect Muslims living in Kashmir; consequently, its support for Kashmiri militants continues.
Pakistan suspects that India could inflame the Kashmir dispute as a diversion to launch an attack on Pakistan. It further fears that such an attack would focus on the destruction of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure, much of which is located within striking distance of the Indo-Pakistani border. Indian determination to retard Pakistan's nuclear weapons program has infected the Kashmir issue to the extent that many Pakistani security experts assume that an Indian preemptive attack on Pakistan's nuclear facilities is plausible, despite an agreement between the two nations not to attack each other's nuclear plants. Furthermore, India will not acquiesce in Pakistan's support for the Kashmiri insurgency; therefore, New Delhi is likely to continue supporting Indian deployments in Jammu and Kashmir. Because Pakistan will not be able to match Indian conventional strength, it is possible that should Indian forces be positioned along Pakistan's border in what appears to be a threatening manner, Islamabad could use the nuclear card, threatening to remove its nuclear weapons from storage areas and relocate them with battlefield units.
The uneasy balance of nuclear capabilities and ballistic missiles in South Asia is not sustainable over the long term. The accelerated research-and-development programs for ballistic missiles endanger this equation. In a crisis, deterrence could break down and missiles armed with nuclear weapons might be deployed or used, perhaps even for preemptive purposes.
The general assumption is that Pakistan could probably deploy several nuclear weapons, while India's force is substantially larger, estimated at twenty-five to fifty weapons. For both countries, the nuclear inventory (assuming the availability of delivery systems) would consist of gravity bombs and ballistic missile warheads.
A prominent goal of India's approach to dealing with Pakistan has been to block or at least delay the weaponization of Pakistan's nuclear program. However, New Delhi's refusal to sign the CTBT may embolden forces in Pakistan which have argued for an open nuclear weapons stance as the only hedge against Indian conventional superiority. Further, the Indian refusal to sign the CTBT could initiate a new round of recriminations by both India and Pakistan, focusing on the inability of the nuclear powers to initiate dramatic reductions in the size of their nuclear arsenals.
In the late 1990s, New Delhi could accelerate development of the extended-range version of the Prithvi missile and the medium-range Agni missile. Such a move would signal India's breakout from its restrained stance on long-range missile development and its focus on the Pakistani threat toward a more concentrated effort aimed at China. Similarly, Pakistan may increase development efforts on the Hatf, which has experienced technical problems and long delays in development.
Until the mid-1990s, China has been a more distant nuclear concern for Indian planners. While China could strike critical parts of India with its intermediate-range ballistic missiles, India would require a missile with a range of at least 2000 miles to target China's heartland, and even then reaching Beijing from the Sino-Indian border would be difficult without extending the Agni's range. In 1996, it appears that while India remains very concerned about the pace of Pakistan's nuclear program, China is likely to grow in importance as a focus both for nuclear planning and longer-term threat assessments.
Indian military leaders are aware of Pakistan's conventional inferiority and its tendency to rattle the nuclear saber. Consequently, New Delhi could come under pressure to authorize preemptive strikes on Pakistan's nuclear facilities in a crisis in order to prevent a Pakistani nuclear response to an Indian conventional attack. Analysts generally agree that the Indian military has virtually no role in India's nuclear weapons program (unlike in Pakistan, where the program is controlled almost exclusively by the military). Thus, it is difficult to know how Indian military expertise would be brought to bear in planning for the use of atomic arms, including targeting.
Having been soundly defeated in 1971, Pakistan is unlikely to withhold the nuclear option if it appears that India is prepared to use military force on a massive scale. Little is known about the nuclear doctrine of India or Pakistan, although discussions with Indian and Pakistani planners suggest that there have been few of the simulation or gaming exercises that dominate U.S. and European nuclear contingency planning. Additionally, command-and-control systems to manage nuclear forces are essentially nonexistent. These factors, combined with the primitive state of the Pakistani arsenal, suggest that any Pakistani nuclear response could be haphazard and ill managed.
Two aspects of Indo-Pakistani nuclear competition are most concerning. First, neither country has a second-strike capability, and therefore an important element of stability (which was an important crisis-management tool in U.S.-Soviet nuclear competition) is absent. Additionally, both lack the national technical means (NTM) of verifying through intelligence assets, whether the other side is preparing to launch or, even possibly whether a launch has occurred. As noted below, the U.S. may be of assistance in this area.
Four possible outcomes for the nuclear programs are:
At least five major terrorist groups incite secessionist violence on the subcontinent. India blames Pakistan for training and equipping Kashmiri terrorists who have been tied to the bombings of numerous government buildings and the assassination of prominent Hindus. Pakistan realizes that waging a proxy war by supporting Indian Kashmir's struggle for self-determination is cheaper and safer than directly attacking India. This meddling, however, has incited militant Hindu groups and defense hardliners in India to call for military measures to halt Pakistani assistance to separatist movements within India.
Pakistani support for separatist groups in India may simply be seen as an opportunity by Islamabad, to intervene in regions and situations where Pakistan may wield influence--Islamabad's initial support for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan was such a case. Pakistan also recognizes that its status as a leading Muslim nation does not guarantee influence everywhere. Among the new and predominantly Muslim nations of Central Asia, Pakistan's influence is limited compared with that of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. In Kashmir, by contrast, Pakistan is a force to be reckoned with. In India's eyes, fighting Kashmiri terrorists is tantamount to fighting proxy Pakistanis. Torture by Indian troops and police--and by Pakistani terrorists in the region--is commonplace and often unreported.
The principal security problem in South Asia remains a seemingly intractable rivalry between the region's major powers, India and Pakistan. The Kashmir dispute, simmering competition over nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems, Hindu-Muslim rivalry and the legacy of the 1947 partition creating Pakistan, all combine to yield one of the most dangerous potential flashpoints on the globe. Further, as this chapter has noted, the internal political climate in both countries and a shift in political, demographic, and economic trends, combine to exacerbate the bilateral tensions, adding to the insecurity of both states. Finally, the relatively weak domestic political position of the governments in New Delhi and Islamabad have tended to prevent the leaders in both countries from pursuing negotiations or even from engaging in a continuing dialogue to reduce tensions. Despite more than 25 years of peace, the prospects are for continuing tension which could result in a fourth Indo-Pakistani conflict.
The primary U.S. interest in South Asia is to maintain the state of relative peace between India and Pakistan. A succession of governments in Washington have defined this to mean a limited U.S. role in the region, since direct U.S. intervention on one side or another could tip the perceived balance between them.
Although the United States must remain concerned about the continuing rivalry between India and Pakistan, and the regional security implications of a deterioration in that bilateral relationship, the U.S. does not have identifiably vital interests to protect in South Asia. While another conflict on the subcontinent would be a regionally dangerous event, the conflict itself would not directly affect vital U.S. national interests. That strategic reality has understandably limited the willingness of American administrations to become deeply involved in negotiations over disputes between India and Pakistan. Additionally, the absence of war for more than two decades between these two nations has tended to reassure U.S. policymakers that outright conflict in the region is unlikely.
The U.S. has an interest in preventing a conflict on the subcontinent that escalates beyond India and Pakistan. Preventing China from becoming involved in an Indo-Pakistani war would be paramount, particularly concerning the recent history of Chinese military assistance to Pakistan, which has created some tension with India. Indian memories of the humiliating defeat by the Chinese in 1962 are still fresh with much of the Indian military leadership.
The U.S. policy of managing the Indo-Pakistani rivalry has dictated an approach toward the two protagonists of relative even-handedness, particularly on matters that are strategically sensitive, such as military and economic assistance. To be sure, neither India nor Pakistan interprets the history of U.S. policy in the region as balanced. The continuing suspicion in both capitals of a U.S. tilt in one direction or another, and the asymmetries that characterize the differences between India and Pakistan will remain a feature of the political landscape for the foreseeable future.
The result of the U.S. approach to the subcontinent has been to effect a rough balance of power between India and Pakistan, thereby preventing a fourth Indo-Pakistani war. Renewed Indo-Pakistani conflict would upset that balance and risk the use of nuclear weapons. While it is widely assumed that U.S. forces would be deployed to forestall a nuclear crisis in other regions of the world (e.g., the Middle East, Persian Gulf, or Northeast Asia), it is doubtful whether such forces would be brought to bear in South Asia.
The possibility of any commitment of U.S. military forces to the subcontinent is remote at best. The United States has no regionally based network or infrastructure to support such an operation. U.S. air forces could be introduced from distant bases, including Diego Garcia, Guam, or the continental United States. In addition, U.S. naval assets in the northern Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, as well as Marine expeditionary forces, might be deployed as an indication of U.S. willingness to protect any of its citizens caught in the fighting. The availability of a U.S. carrier could be problematic, depending on the aircraft carrier battle group rotation schedule and the reduction in the global carrier force.
In any situation that involved the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons, the U.S. would almost certainly find it essential to support the side showing greater nuclear restraint. Should Pakistan determine that India would be willing to launch a preemptive strike at Pakistan's nuclear weapons storage sites or assembly areas, Islamabad could determine that it faces a "use or lose" situation. Should such steps become known to Russian and Chinese intelligence (it is unlikely that either India or Pakistan would detect early the other's preparations), the cost of U.S. intervention would rise sharply, particularly if Moscow or Beijing felt obliged to transmit the information to the two belligerents. Offsets (e.g., security assurances to both parties or offers to enhance the security of nuclear weapons) would then have to be made with lightning speed. Overall, the likelihood that U.S. military forces would be deployed on the subcontinent is remote.
In attempting to recalibrate its relations with Pakistan and India, the Clinton administration paid attention to how India and Pakistan reacted to U.S. overtures to one nation versus the other. The simultaneous establishment of bilateral working groups on defense-related issues, chaired at the assistant-secretary level on the U.S. side and at the under-secretary level on the Indian and Pakistani sides, has calmed some regional security concerns, but both Islamabad and New Delhi can be expected to closely monitor the relative progress of these groups. Despite the best efforts of any U.S. administration, it will be difficult to break out of the zero-sum game of South Asian security.
The dominant post-Cold War U.S. approach to India and Pakistan is benign neglect. The long-standing rivalry, along with much of the tension in Pakistan, stems chiefly from the marked asymmetry between the economies, populations, size, and military forces of the two countries. Pakistan is, quite simply, dwarfed by India. Islamabad's reactions to Indian provocations, and India's response to those of Pakistan, spring from this reality. The relative inferiority of Pakistan affects U.S. relations with both nations, as illustrated by Pakistan's concern that New Delhi's efforts to improve its relationship with Washington will automatically eclipse any initiatives taken by Pakistan.
Pakistan's efforts to achieve a long-term security relationship with the U.S. have never been natural or comfortable for either country. There are no historical, cultural, or linguistic affinities between the two nations. The retreat of Soviet forces from Southwest Asia ended any lingering Pakistani hopes of a long-term U.S. presence and commitment and served as a reminder that Pakistan could never move beyond the status of ally of convenience.
President George Bush's October 1990 decision to refuse to certify that Pakistan was not producing a nuclear weapon completed the devaluation of Pakistan as a U.S. ally. This refusal to certify forced Islamabad to make critical choices regarding the pace of its nuclear weapons program, taking into account internal pressures to move ahead. At the same time, Washington began to listen more attentively to requests from India for the transfer of high technology, and the U.S. Congress defeated a move to apply the Pressler sanctions to India's nuclear program. Many who voted against extending Pressler sanctions to India accepted Indian claims that its 1974 nuclear test was indeed, as had been advertised by the government, a peaceful nuclear explosion. For many Pakistanis, Washington's actions confirmed that the U.S. tilt toward Pakistan had ended. While the Brown amendment has removed some of the sting created by the Pressler sanctions, the political effect of that legislation will be a long-term irritant in the bilateral relationship.
U.S.-Indian relations have warmed considerably since 1992. Such a development is beneficial to the U.S. goals in the Pacific region because it works with this ascending South Asian power rather than against it, which may facilitate a bilateral entente that could prove useful in countering perceived Chinese hegemony within the greater Asian region. Reductions in U.S. military forces and deployment may increase the desire for enhanced participation by some regional allies in regional security.
The global power status to which India aspires is more a function of economic and technological prowess and political hubris than one of conventional military strength. The United States applauds India's privatization efforts. Increased economic strength will enhance India's political voice--assuming its parliament can channel the din of a billion voices into focused national, regional, and global approaches. With respect to Indo-U.S. cooperative defense initiatives, free-market economics will stimulate increased technology transfers. Command-and-control-and-communications compatibility to enhance joint and combined exercise participation, for example, would be a key first step, with further shared technology leading to a closer defense relationship.
In the final analysis, U.S. policy options in South Asia will be significantly constrained by the reality of Indo-Pakistani rivalry, which shows no signs of abating anytime soon.