The newly published engrossing account about nuclear proliferation, arms race, stability-instability paradox and stable deterrent factor is worth a deal of reading. The book “Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Stability in South Asia” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) – authored by Devin T. Hagerty, is a very useful piece to flip through and assess as it provides some enlightening elements along with detailed scenarios but mostly partial based facts, biased arguments inclining towards one side every so often while skipping extensive exploration.
Author is a professor of political science at the university of Maryland, Baltimore country and having strong command on the nuclear proliferation and his interests are mainly attentive towards South Asia. His earlier published material mainly books, have depicted the same undivided attention with time, Preventing Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia (1995), The Consequences of Nuclear Proliferation (1997), Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapon (2005). His recent book is fixated on, the nuclear deterrence strength maintained by the two nuclear power countries in the region of South Asia, the continued sub conventional violence, unpleasant stability, heights of mistrust, US crisis management, and the Kashmir which has always remained the flashpoint amid these states.
The book contains theory, practice, analysis and normative assessment measures of nuclear arms deterrence between Indian-Pakistan – two extremely aggressive neighboring states sharing pathological relationship and having static hostility and uncompromising policies towards each other. It has been divided in five chapters, each of which contains an exceptional scrutiny on the nuclear arms competition of both countries, deterrence, and their longstanding history of conflictual zones and a blame game. These immediate neighboring countries are sharing adversaries for a long time which have evolved during further eras. In the first part, author has linked Islamabad and New Delhi’s deterrence engrossment to the Cold War experience of Washington and Moscow while it is a huge exaggeration. Their relationship is qualitatively different from the Cold War powers and also volatile to huge extent. Further, it has been perceived that India’s research and development for Ballistic Missile Defenses (BMD) would escalate Islamabad’s strategic vulnerability and bring it to produce countervailing offensive capabilities. In addition, operational readiness between the two states has often been indicated and concerns over their moves beyond the minimum-deterrent imperatives and surviving mode of second strike capabilities toward the mutual quest for escalation dominance, arms racing, and the gradual formation of warfighting militaries have been discerned and writer highlights all these high value targets and biggest threats taking roots within the South Asian region.
Arms race between these two states is contributing in challenging the global security environment. On the other hand, author takes support of international relations theory- “Stability – Instability Paradox” to further clarify the boundaries and associations among them. Above and beyond, it paves a road for two nuclear powered states toward engagement in minor conflicts while avoiding them to turn in major ones but, these continual minor conflicts pose great incitements to the region as well as to the international safety element.
The second and third chapters of the book reveals some of the empirical evidences of military standoffs, blood-spattered attacks, and nuclear deterrence component between the two states. Further, the first four major crises amid states; Kargil conflict (1999), Twin Peaks crisis (2001-2002), Mumbai terrorist attacks (2008), Uri assault in Kashmir, and the Pulwama attack (2019) have been presented in detail while uncovering the concealed truths of militaristic escalations, and numeral of redlines that caused to react with nuclear weapons in case deterrence failed. Additionally, writer has highlighted his views of Indian forbearance with regard to the so called serious Pakistan’s provocations. As claimed by the author, Pakistan has always backed jihadi elements with violent anti-Indian agendas and also he presented the Pakistani state as a non-unitary actor but, the thing is, whom Pakistan calls freedom fighters, other label them as terrorists.
In addition, Hagerty has delineated most of the prejudiced views while discounting some of the even clear evidences and the hidden realities. He constructs India as the bearer of all the atrocities inflicted by its oldest challenging neighbor. He further adds the causes of India’s patience behind and comes up to the points that, the absence of promising conventional military options and the US intervention in the crisis management made the country suffer all the horrible circumstances but the primary cause of the India’s restraint remained that of nuclear deterrent factor and strategic restraint. He also emphasized on the US role in the conflict administration which provided the compelling rationale and both states heed the warnings and actions of the US diplomats in all the crisis.
Another distorted view has been raised that, Balakot attack (2019) was the response to the years of viciousness inflicted on the Indian state and its natives by the Pakistan’s supported attacks. It was the bemoaning of the Indian population on its leaders which forced them on the way to reciprocal path. The prepossession and the lack of comprehensive arguments have made this book quite a suspect.
Moreover, under the remaining second last part of the book, writer presents the theoretically driven analysis of regional existential deterrence stability which lays the foundations to the India – Pakistan capabilities with regard to nuclear weapons, command and control practices and their nuclear doctrines of credible minimum nuclear deterrence, assured retaliation, asymmetric escalation and opposing of mutual assured destruction. The logical defining of “minimum credible nuclear deterrence” here, is to acquire enough redundancy and diversity of nuclear arms as to safeguard their survival, as well as both of the states are already building a triad of land, sea and air.
Besides, nuclear doctrines of both states make no distinction between each other’s use of tactical versus strategic forces and imposing unacceptable damage in case of first strike. But, emphasized points by the writer articulates that, Pakistan lacks in the conventional forces and thus reserves its rights to use its tactical nuclear weapons – Nasr (short range missile) in response to India’s conventional invasion. What’s more, asymmetric escalation has defined as designed to deter any conventional attack by empowering a country to answer back with rapid.
Furthermore, command and control practice arrangements keep on being complicated as noticed in the book and thus subject to the conflictual valuations, hermeneutics constructed on incomplete and possibly unreliable information.
The relationship between the two nuclear powers has been labelled as the “ugly stability” which refers to the amalgam of stability and instability elements. He stressed on the nuclear deterrence of both countries which has desisted them from starting a nuclear confrontation. But, he further adds that the Pakistan’s refusal to put an end to support the anti-Indian Jihadi groups to move freely on its soil can worsen crises with some significant potential.
Ugly Stability has been supposed to be present somewhere in the middle of a continuum amid two ideal types: Pure Deterrence Stability, Pure Deterrence Instability and it is rolling in the latter direction. These two are referred as the perfect theoretical manifestations of those crucial elements whose realistic grounds are still not being found. More, the regional stability and arms competition of South Asia for years has been framed as the “proliferation pessimists” and the “deterrence optimists” over the soundness of nascent nuclear balances but, this debate has gone obsolete now as the analysts have grabbed their hands on the empirical data on the new interactions of the proliferates.
In the last section, author provides his normative evaluative measures and pragmatic procedures to help New Delhi – Islamabad to normalize tensions, halt the further intensifications and promote the stability of nuclear arms competition in the South Asian region. States are embroiled in the security competition which has gradually become a threat to the international environment. He lays down certain points intensively heading towards how the two prominent competitive states can shift their responsiveness toward the pure nuclear deterrence stability from the nuclear deterrence instability. Among the points, he shed light that the deep mistrust prevailing among the countries must end and Pakistan should terminate operating terrorist groupings on its territory and both of the states should jointly take the amicable measures ahead along with reconsidering efforts to stabilize the Kashmir scenario. Additionally, the United States of America’s role has accentuated to navigate the crises, bring peace and stability and avert the major conventional and unconventional war, has also been conversed. US’s proactive role can help in preventing the future conflicts in the region and defuse escalated tensions by intervening and providing some solid grounds as well as, it will become an influential player in the region as it desires.
He argues that, the primer aspirational peer of India in augmenting the nuclear weapons element is China and not Pakistan but still the threats to survival are dominant there.
Nonetheless, the states really need to make some difficult, risky, and challenging modifications in the operating standards in order to gain stability in the region. Some of the firm sincere decisions are the need of the hour and each of state should agree to disagree with the support of sub-conventional operations. The creation of space under the nuclear threshold should be prohibited and also the resuming of negotiations for Kashmir should begin.
In short, it is exposed that, the author is somehow muddled in his own concepts while portraying his views clearly as the situation is much more chaotic but, each of the two states really need to validate not only in words but also in persistent actions a determination to delegitimize the violence inflicting on the whole lot in order to create stable environment, peaceful co-existence and the resolving of Kashmir crisis. Blaming the one side for all the misfortunes is not something appropriate to the writing field. Actions and reactions are part of every geostrategic game and under such position censuring the significant facts while in order to provide the safe haven to preferred side presents an image of victimizing the one and stigmatizing its image in front of the international community.
Pakistan has always been reactionary towards India and its provocations and antipathy has much more contributions in destabilizing the region’s security environment and defaming the country’s national image. Author has failed to shed light on the most incitements and hostilities of the latter towards Pakistan.
In this book, although reader finds an extensive critical analysis of regional geopolitical situation under the shadows of nuclear deterrence and instable environment but partial-based narrative promoting one side while deserting the other or presenting the one as naïve and guilty the other are quite apparent too.
The author’s unfair judgments towards Pakistan as the supporter of jihadi elements having anti-Indian ideological plans can hurt so many sentiments at home as well as abroad. He has touched very sensitive issues so harshly that it can leave scars on many. Pakistan condemns the human rights violations of India and supports its victims which are the freedom fighters and the latter labels them as Pakistan’s terrorists to interrupt it in preventing India’s non-humane actions.
Moreover, India’s hampering in Pakistan’s strategic partnerships, anti-neighborhood policies, belligerent strategies in the region, conflictual nature, power plays, and malign steps toward damaging Pakistan’s reputation in the international geopolitical calculations are all part of its strategic thinking and play the role to hit its regional hegemonic target. Pakistan as a defiant state abandoning India to establish its leadership in the region and in response the latter power is behaving in an unexpectedly aggressive way. Hagerty’s lack of facts has made the impression of the book as a written account without certain proofs, having obvious gaps and limited facts with strong analysis.
The book review appeared earlier in “World Geostrategic Insights“
Author is an International Relations Scholar and Political Analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her area of work is International Security, Nuclear Proliferation and Non-Proliferation. She contributes to various national and international newspapers, magazines and can be reached at “firstname.lastname@example.org”