Since the last few years, India’s senior political and military elite is increasingly presenting an aggressive nuclear policy narrative based upon false and illogical reasons and pins responsibility for the indigenously driven problems on Pakistan. The same false approach led to the adaptation of new counterforce strategies against Pakistan, namely surgical strikes and the limited war. By and large, the Indian approach to deter Pakistan through these newly designed so called counter strategies failed badly. At the same time, linking the nuclear counterforce and threshold with terrorism or indigenously driven movements denotes India’s exaggerated nuclear posture that aims to keep Pakistan under consistent pressure and to drag Pakistan into false flag operation tactics.
The 9th March 2022 nuclear-capable BrahMos episode put the security and stability of South Asia in danger by continuing the same Indian strategy. It also proves India an opportunity to demonize Pakistan’s nuclear posture in the post 1998 era. To unfold India’s folly may include two broader possibilities of this missile launch against Pakistan. The first assumption is that it was an accidental launch and there were administrative capability problems in the Indian command structure. Whereas the second possibility might be an intentional test case to develop and support India’s exaggerated nuclear posture. In the first situation as perpetrated by India, if it was a mistaken launch then there are serious regional and global security implications that give evidence of a deficient command and control system. The launch of a nuclear capable missile should have a regulatory procedure and an un-breachable command and control system. The Indian nuclear security panorama as per Ashley Tellis’s argument is “limited in size, separated in disposition, and centralized in control” but the BrahMos accidental launch disproves the strength of the centralized command system. Unfortunately, any such irresponsibility and incompetence may have unacceptable consequences at the regional and global levels. In the latter circumstance if the missile launch within Pakistani territory was deliberate and a test for response, it suggests another Indian strategy that has gained attention in recent discussions on India’s ambitions to modify its nuclear Cold Start doctrine. India’s ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy is controversial, particularly when such misadventures are planned. Since India views China and Pakistan as strategic allies, any modifications to its counterforce strategies may have an impact on both countries.
In all situations, lack of ability, deteriorating command and control, and aggressive political and military mindsets could lead to a nuclear mishap. India has had a significant role in spreading terrorism in Pakistan. There are documented instances of widespread terrorism in Pakistan that has been funded and carried out by Indian organizations, notably RAW. India is not only sponsoring militant non-state actors but also installed serving military officers in Pakistan to spread and organize terrorism. Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian naval officer, is accused of espionage and sabotage against Pakistan. The capture of a high-ranking Indian spy who acknowledged conducting terrorism in Pakistan, should be taken seriously by the international community. One of the many state-sponsored terrorist organizations operating in the South Asian region is Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which has committed terrorist activities, including the Samjhota express bombing that caused the deaths of about 70 innocent civilians and the majority of whom were Pakistanis. But Pakistan has never utilised such aggressive acts to underpin or justify a nuclear escalation. In fact, India’s attempts to link and tie policy changes, particularly in NFU, with alleged terrorist activity, displays juvenile nuclear conduct. One of the reasons is that such incidents need a proper investigation and tangible evidence to prove. An in-depth examination of the political and military establishment in India reveals that accusing Pakistan is a simple way to further one’s own political interests at home. Therefore, any such false flag operation planned by the Indian military or secret services might deceive political leadership. Likewise, politicians may exploit any such occurrence to trigger a crisis in South Asia that might endanger international peace.
In order to prevent a global crisis, the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must reexamine Indian nuclear strategy and the recent controversial discussions of revisions to the NFU. The IAEA needs to examine and suggest updates to India’s nuclear command and control system and should consider India’s nuclear posture as a serious issue. On the other hand, Pakistan must offer a framework by involving the other stakeholders in the region, including China and Russia, to regulate and oversee India’s aggressive nuclear approach to link indigenous lower level issues with the NFU in order to prevent regional instability.