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An Illusion of the Indian Ballistic Missile Defence System: Implications for South Asian Strategic Stability

Ashfaq Ahmed


This paper endeavors to test the hypothesis that Indian ballistic missile defence system (BMDS) disturbs India-Pakistan crisis and deterrence stability. BMDS provides a sense of security. Indian political and military hierarchy has started believing that Pakistani cities have been held hostage, by Indian nuclear and conventional missile system. Proportionately Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) can be operationalized against Pakistan in attempt to actualize disarming strike. Indian policymakers should realize following consequences before operationalising CSD. (a) CSD crosses Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. (b) Conversely nuclear doctrine requires Pakistan to unleash tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs). (c) Pak-India crisis and deterrence stability is functional because of sense of mutual vulnerability (d) credibility of nuclear deterrence has not been tested and (e) deterrence stability solidified crisis and strategic stability. However, BMDS deployment indubitably threatens crisis and deterrence stability. Indian policymakers would have to understand that BMDS will certainly result in (i) quantitative and qualitative nuclear proliferation (ii) it weakens the NPT and (iii) it may break the nuclear taboo based on non-use of WMDs. Indian BMDS may result in violation of the purpose already defined in 1946 by Bernard Brodie that “the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on, its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have no other useful purpose.” Indian policymakers need to understand that both superpowers survived the long persisting threat of conventional and nuclear war because of the mutual vulnerability of counter value and counterforce targets. In common parlance, nuclear deterrence in Southern Asia can effectively function because of the fear of mutual vulnerability.

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