Pakistan’s establishment is worried that India’s nuclear arsenal is now controlled by Hindu extremist leaders, who had long been obsessed with nuclear nationalism.
The concern was expressed by National Command Authority adviser Lt Gen retired Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, at the 8th workshop on Strategic Stability in South Asia, organised by the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) and The International Institute for Strategic Studies(IISS), said in a statement.
“The custodial controls of India’s large triad of the nuclear arsenal have now fallen firmly in the hands of an extremist fundamentalist leadership,” he said, adding that the “toxic mix of poisonous ideology and custody of nuclear weapons” was a new phenomenon that was posing a serious threat to strategic stability in South Asia.
Gen Kidwai warned that this development would not only affect nuclear-armed South Asia but could have consequences for the rest of the world also. Indian National Command Authority, the top nuclear body, is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has maintained an aggressive nuclear stance in office.
The NCA’s executive council is, meanwhile, headed by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, another hawk, who masterminded Delhi’s surgical strikes drama of 2016. Moreover, a few ministers with having RSS background are also members of the NCA. They include Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
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In his public rallies, PM Modi has talked about the usability of nukes. Under Modi’s watch, his ministers and retired senior officials have signalled changes in the nuclear doctrine, which they later denied. His ministers have also made provocative and irresponsible statements on various occasions.
Gen Kidwai warned that the threat posed by extremists’ control of Indian nuclear weapons had “assumed a real-life character and momentum of its own”. The situation, he noted, had affected not only the region but also beyond.
He said the February 2019 air strike in Balakot and the March 2022 missile incidents were examples of extremists committing aggression against its nuclear-armed neighbour while ignoring the consequences.
Rejecting the Indian assertion that a BrahMos missile that crashed in Pakistan on March 9 had been accidentally fired, Gen Kidwai, who has overseen several tests, said it was not an accident as the launch could not have taken place without political clearance at the highest level and detailed operational and technical planning spanning over weeks.
Pakistan, on both occasions, displayed restraint and maturity in diffusing the tensions, thereby preventing South Asia from spiralling into potential catastrophes, he said.
Referring to the so-called AUKUS submarine deal under which US and UK would proliferate nuclear technology to Australia to build nuclear attack submarines, he warned against making a similar arrangement with India.
“I have no hesitation in stating that minimum Pakistani countermeasures would be put in place if a reckless imbalance is induced in South Asia, it is not a warning, it is a contingency foreseen,” Gen Kidwai said while recalling that exceptionalism had been repeatedly employed in South Asia in the past in disregard of Pakistani concerns.
History, he asserted, also tells that Pakistan did not let international exceptionalism stand in its way to address the imbalances created in the past.
Other experts, who spoke at the workshop, discussed the political and technological drivers of strategic stability in the context of South Asia.
They also deliberated upon the impact of Indian and Pakistani strategic cultures, Hindu Rashtra, big-power competition, emerging technologies, trends in export control arrangements, and the military developments under the growing framework of the Quad Axis.