By: Asma Khalid*
In the anarchic international system, states adopt multiple strategies to ensure their sovereignty and security i.e. military modernization, developing alliances and economic development. In the strategic calculus of South Asia, nuclear deterrence plays a dominant role in military security and peace among nuclear neighbors.The construct of deterrence equilibrium in South Asia has limited the option to employforce in the prevailing conventional-military asymmetry between Pakistan and India. Unfortunately, numbers of dynamics like modernization of conventional and strategic forces, arms build-up, evolving force postures and absence of crisis management mechanisms have the ability to underminethe deterrence stabilityin South Asia.
The developments in India’s conventional and strategic forces based on huge militarization thrust, Pro-active military strategies such as its Cold-Start Doctrine, Missile Defence system and S-400 air defence missile system deal are matter of great concern for strategic planners of regional states especially Pakistan.
Indeed, it is manifest from Pakistan’s latest series of Nasr training teststhatits strategicplanners are aware of the essentialstomaintain a robustdefence.Pakistan is also modifying its defence postures with the introduction of advancedmissile technologies to counter the military threat. On January 24, 28 and 31, Pakistan conducted threesuccessful launches of short range ballistic missile Nasras part of the Army Strategic Forces Command training exercise.The training test of Nasr on 24 January was conducted in a salvo of four missiles, whereas on 28 and 31 January, single shots of short-range surface-to-surface missile were fired. According to the ISPR press release, the aim of the exercise was to test in-flight maneuverability of the system.
NASR is dual-capable missile: it can carry conventional and nuclear warheads to counter external aggression. It was introduced as low yield battlefield systemin 2011, characterized as “quick response system”. Nasr is significant for two reasons: First, it is cost effective system against external aggression;secondlyit has enhanced the deterrent value of Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Though, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is based on Full Spectrum Deterrence in line with the policy of Minimum Credible Deterrence,but growing asymmetry demands matching responses to Indian Pro-active strategy and ballistic missile defence system.
Nasr has the abilityto maintain “full-spectrum deterrence” against evolving threats.It has put the cold water on the Indian quest forlimited conventional war. Due to these factors, Pakistan’s strategic planners view NASR as viable solution to counter Indian proactive limited war strategies, andcounter-balance the conventional asymmetry.
Subsequently, changes in strategic doctrines of the countries in South Asiaarenot surprising.Thus, the question arises what is the significance of recent tests of Nasr?And how the recent tests have consolidated the deterrence equilibrium in the region?In recent months, a significant shift in Indian strategic thinking has been observed as New Delhi rejected Pakistan’s call for bilateral dialogue and peruses the proactive behavior.
The prevailing trends between the nuclear rivals demonstrate that any shift in the strategic landscape of region by India demands serious attention to ensure defenceof the state. Therefore, both nuclear rivals have followed various strategies to pursue their respective strategic goals.Both sides have engaged in frequent nuclear signaling. In prevailing environment the recent test of the Nasr can be recognized as a viable strategy by Pakistan’s military forces to ensure the existence of key elements of nucleardeterrence i.e.capability, credibility and communication. Therecent missiletests can be viewed as a direct meansofemployment and signaling nuclear deterrence for two key purposes: first, to solidifyPakistan’s defensive position;and secondly, it has ability to sustain peace and stability in the region through maintaining deterrenceagainst pro-active military strategies of adversary (Cheema, 2010). Thus, launch test will augment deterrence posture of Pakistan. Timely, successful tests of Nasr, importantly,demonstrate operational preparedness of the Pakistan’s Strategic Forces.
It is significant to note that,India and Pakistan followsmultiple formal and informal methods of nuclear signaling that includes modernization of strategic forces, conducting nuclear or missile tests and official statements claiming shift in nuclear use doctrine and strategies. Therefore, in existing regional strategic dynamics, Pakistan’s test launch of itsnuclear-capable ballistic missile (Hatf-IX) Nasrcould be part of the strategy of nuclear signaling to ensure deterrence and prevent conflict. Moreover, while analyzing the past events of nuclear signaling in South Asia, nuclear analystsare of the view thatare of the view that there is no scope for war in the region due to introduction of nuclear weapons.
To conclude,Pakistan’s short-range surface-to-surface missile (Nasr), in the strategic regional landscape, is meant to reinforce deterrence and reduce the probability of large scale war.
*Writer is Senior Research Officer in Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @AsmaKhalid_11