Maintain credible deterrence against hostile India: CISS

ISLAMABAD: Center for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad (CISS) on Friday said that Pakistan needs to maintain credible deterrence against hostile India by sustaining and modernizing its defense capabilities.
This recommendation was made in a special report ‘Pulwama – Balakot Crisis & Operation Swift Retort’ launched by the think tank on the first anniversary of ‘Operation Swift Retort’ against aerial incursion by India in February 2019.

The report edited by CISS Senior Research Fellow Saima Aman Sial noted that Operation Swift Retort was effective, but Pakistan needs to seriously take into account Indian arms acquisitions as well as destabilizing doctrinal trends as manifested in new thinking on preemption and counterforce posture. Underscoring the importance of such a course, the report observed that Indian hostile rhetoric was continuing and there was no letup in ceasefire violations on the Line of Control.

“Pakistan’s measured response during the 2019 crisis reasserted the efficacy of its conventional deterrence, but the growing qualitative and quantitative asymmetry in South Asia is likely to keep deterrence stability under constant stress for the foreseeable future. Pakistan, therefore needs to be vigilant and cognizant of the evolving nature of the threat spectrum and continue to maintain the credibility of its full spectrum response,” the report maintained.
Speaking at the ceremony held to commemorate Operation Swift Retort and launch the special issue, Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said that the publication revisits the crisis and explains its various aspects including the dynamics of escalation/de-escalation, aspects of nuclear signaling, the appraisal of conventional preparedness, role of crisis managers, lessons for crisis management and part played by Indian media in spreading sensationalism.

Senior Fellow CISS Dr. Naeem Salik stated that nuclear signaling is one of the effective ways of communicating deterrence through public statements, but irresponsible proclamations could convey wrong signals to adversaries about the actions, thereby inducing strategic instability. He recalled that during Balakot crisis Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made various destabilizing statements including assertions like ‘Qatal Ki Raat’, ‘mother of all bombs’ and that ‘India will call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff’.

He said that despite irresponsible rhetoric from Indian leaders, Pakistan responded responsibly calling for restraint and de-escalation.

Senior Fellow CISS and former Belfer Center Harvard Fellow Dr. Mansoor Ahmed highlighted the evolving challenges to deterrence stability in South Asia in the wake of the exacerbating conventional and strategic Imbalance. He underscored the need for Pakistan to prioritize a sustained growth of national power to reinforce the success achieved in Operation Swift Retort.

Senior Fellow CISS Zawar Abidi opined that Pakistan’s conventional deterrence is strong enough to restrain its adversary from any adventurism. In his assessment India may not be able to achieve the needed level of superiority for launching punitive strikes against Pakistan in the next fifteen years despite that being a burning desire of the Indian military and political leadership.