Many scholars of strategic studies and international relations are not so convinced by the postulates advanced by optimists of nuclear revolution presented in the preceding chapter. They believe that the revolutionary impact of nuclear weapons is exaggerated and in many cases misleading. In their view, the South Asian nuclear revolution can be questioned on several counts. For example, although nuclear weapons have increased the military power

of India and Pakistan, they have not added to their abilities of compellence. The fact is that the power a state gains by possessing nuclear weapons is not fungible/translatable or useable in most circumstances, because ‘they are too powerful to be potent’.1 Hence, nuclear weapons have very limited use for realising national goals. In a sense, nuclear weapons have seriously decreased the ability of India

and Pakistan to be coercive. The classic example in this context is the Indian employment of the strategy of compellence in the ten-month-long 2001/2 Indo-Pakistani military stand-off. The experience of the 2001/2 military stand-off led India to react in a moderate way when Pakistan-based militant group Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT) carried out terrorist attacks on Mumbai, India’s financial capital, in which over 166 people were killed. It can be argued that New Delhi realised the futility of the compellence strategy and did not want to repeat their mistake in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. More importantly, nuclear weapons have not resolved the security dilemma

of the two countries. On the contrary, nuclear weapons have intensified the arms race between them, as will be discussed in a later chapter. Looking at current trends, it can safely be posited that the arms race will continue, with all destabilising impacts associated with it. Nuclear weapons have not only failed to resolve the Indo-Pakistani security

dilemma: critics of South Asian nuclear revolution posit that the introduction of nuclear weapons has severely destabilised the region and brought it closer to a nuclear catastrophe. While it is true that India and Pakistan have not engaged in a major war since the advent of nuclear weapons, it has induced an unprecedented fear of massive destruction. Nuclear weapons have not

increased Indo-Pakistani security – instead they have made it more precarious. As will be discussed below, war by deterrence failure is likely between India and Pakistan as a result of political, technological and organisational pathologies. Furthermore, lack of certainty about the second-strike capability of India

and Pakistan raises the possibility of a pre-emptive strike, which is contrary to the claims of optimists of nuclear revolution. As noted earlier, the South Asian arsenals are still at the formative phase and there remains serious doubt about the second-strike capability of the two states. Hence, critics point out that South Asia faces the prospect of this kind of nuclear use. Critics of nuclear revolution also raise doubt about the causal linkage

between nuclear weapons and the absence of major war between India and Pakistan during the last four decades. For example, the tension surrounding the possibility of a preventive strike against Pakistan’s Kahuta facility did not result in a major Indo-Pakistani war. And the military tension that developed in 1984 over the Siachen Glacier did not lead to a major India-Pakistan confrontation. Similarly, the 1986/7 Brasstacks crisis ended short of major war. These crises erupted before India and Pakistan had actually built nuclear weapons. It is noteworthy that the leaders of both countries made significant efforts to avoid major military confrontation. The reason for this could be that any war would have been enormously costly for both countries. Similarly it cannot be definitively posited that the 1990 Kashmir crisis, the

1999 Kargil conflict, the 2001/2 military stand-off and the 2008 Mumbai terrorism tension did not result in major war because of the presence of nuclear weapons. As will be discussed in this chapter, there could be non-nuclear reasons for the outcome that those crises generated. Indeed, it is difficult to confirm the causal link between nuclear weapons

and the absence of major war in South Asia. This view resembles the arguments of John Mueller, as discussed in the Introduction. Looking at the Cold War, Mueller has argued that the absence of a major power war in the postwar era can be attributed to the incredible rise in the cost of war resulting from technological sophistication and a change in attitude toward war among populations and not to the possession of nuclear weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union.2 Despite the fact that nuclear weapons were critical in determining the outcomes of the Indo-Pakistani crises in the nuclear era, Mueller’s arguments deserve closer scrutiny in the context of India and Pakistan. It can be argued that they were at least partially relevant in determining the outcomes of the India-Pakistan crises. Optimists of nuclear revolution present a glowing picture of the working of

opaque deterrence.3 Critics have doubts about it. Even India’s former army chief, General K. Sunderji, doubted the efficacy of opaque deterrence. He specified two problems. First, an Indo-Pakistani war could be triggered by miscalculations due to lack of clarity about the countries’ nuclear status and of nuclear warheads

and enhanced the possibility of an unauthorised use of nuclear weapons.4

Perkovich has also noted that opaque deterrence requires a demanding set of confidence-building measures,5 which were absent in the context of India and Pakistan. Hence, opaque deterrence was not a safe approach to South Asian security. Opacity has also undermined the growth of nuclear arms control in South

Asia. Mohan and Lavoy have pointed out that opacity prevented ‘Indian and Pakistani political leaders from cultivating domestic constituencies for nuclear arms control and from identifying the precise nuclear security problems that are in the most need of control’.6