Tag Archives: pakistan

Interest vs. Identity: Why Do States Become Nuclear Powers?

-A case study on Pakistan


Photo by Sameer Akhtari on Unsplash

S. Rania Mohiuddin is a 2nd Year International Relations BA student at King’s College London. She writes about why different countries nuclearize themselves by specifically focusing on the case study of Pakistan. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross calls nuclear weapons ‘the most terrifying weapon ever invented’ and seeks their complete elimination.[1] The negative effects of nuclear weapons go beyond the loss of lives, and extend into societal, ecological, and environmental problems, and even food shortages.[2] Taking these, and the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used against another state since 1945, into consideration, it can be difficult to understand why states choose to become nuclear powers.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is that nuclear weapons are the most powerful and destructive weapons a modern state can possess.[3] Furthermore, their advantages are not limited to their capacity as weapons. As Sagan argues, “Nuclear weapons, like other weapons, are more than tools of […] security; they are political objects of considerable importance in domestic debates and internal bureaucratic struggles and can also serve as international normative symbols”.[4]

This article will will compare the identity and interest based causes Pakistan’s identity and interest based motivators for nuclear proliferation. The information provided will be analyzed from two differing perspectives- realist theory (interest), and constructivism (identity).

Setting the Scene: Pakistan 1972

1971 can be stated as one of the most influential years in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Prior to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, India and Pakistan had engaged in two conventional wars, in 1948 and 1965, respectively. What set 1971 apart, was that the previous wars had not ended with a victory either side could claim. Pakistan remained ‘undefeated’. [5] In stark contrast, the war of 1971 resulted in a comprehensive defeat for Pakistan, further solidified with the loss of Bangladesh in East Pakistan.[6]

This defeat hastened the fall of military General Yahya Khan from power, who was replaced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[7] Bhutto had been an advocate for nuclear power as early as 1965, and had deep set opinions on protecting Pakistan’s territorial integrity. It was under Bhutto’s directive that the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was instructed to build a nuclear device within three years, and began uranium enrichment in 1972. [8] By 1987, in an interview to Time, Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq declared “Pakistan has the capability of building the Bomb. You can write today that Pakistan can build a bomb whenever it wishes. Once you have acquired the technology, which Pakistan has, you can do whatever you like”.[9]


In the meantime, two of Pakistan’s geographic neighbours, India and China, had already launched nuclear weapons programs. China started its nuclear weapons program in 1954, and successfully conducted its first test in 1964- eight years before Pakistan started the process of uranium enrichment.[10] Pakistan’s other- perhaps more threatening- neighbour, India, had established the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) in1948 (compared to PAEC- 1956), and had started allocating serious time into nuclear power in 1954. Smiling Buddha, India’s first peaceful nuclear explosion, took place in 1974- three years after Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 War, and 24 years before Pakistan’s first nuclear test, Chagai-I. [11] It is worth noting that both of Pakistan’s nuclear neighbours have a ‘no-first strike’ policy, indicating that they will only use nuclear weapons in an instance that requires a retaliation, not an initial attack. This differs from Pakistan’s ‘first-strike’ policy- wherein in a preferred scenario, Pakistan would be the first to launch a nuclear attack. [12]

A realist analysis of the question:

Interest can be viewed as a key factor in policy making. Morgenthau defines national interest as ‘pursuit of power, which is to be used to secure material aims, protect social and physical quality of life, and promote specific ideological or normative goals’.[13] This definition can be interpreted to mean that national interest reflects ideals that will ensure the security, and thus, survival of the state. When asked why states acquire nuclear weapons, classical realist theory’s focus on power relations and security- and their reflections in national interest, and thus policy, offer valid explanations. As Morgenthau puts it, ‘The national interest of a peace-loving nation can only be defined in terms of national security’.[14]

Possession of nuclear weapons can be perceived as a matter of international prestige.  A state seeking to establish itself may wish to develop nuclear weapons ‘to gain membership to the most exclusive international club of nuclear states’. [15] This can be used to explain why Pakistan sought nuclear power- to avoid being overshadowed in the regional politics between India and China, both of whom had nuclear power.  Another deduction that can be made on this basis could be that considering APJ Abdul Kalam, head of India’s defence research department, stated ‘India has got the size and weight to do it’ regarding India’s 1998 tests, after the Pakistani defeat in 1971, Pakistan could be said to be seeking security through prestige.

The second of these causes lies in the concept of deterrence– ‘strategy under which one power uses the threat of reprisal effectively to preclude an attack from an adversary power’.[16] In order to explain Pakistan’s growing nuclear weapons programme, Sadia Tasleem and Toby Dalton argue, ‘For Pakistani officials and scholars, increasing and diversifying Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not seen as a policy choice, but rather a compulsion to maintain an effective deterrent vis-à-vis India’- it’s nuclear power wielding long term adversary, and neighbour.[17] Through deterrence, the possibility of a nuclear attack between the two states is reduced, bringing stability to regional, and global politics.[18]

The final realist cause for Pakistan to have developed nuclear weapons can be found in the realist security dilemma: ‘what one does to enhance one’s own security causes reactions that, in the end can make one less secure’.[19] Essentially, a state’s attempt to defend itself can be interpreted as offensive to its neighbours. This results in both states stockpiling weapons in order to ensure their own security. Sagan explains how the security dilemma can also be applied in Pakistan’s case as “After the Indian [test explosions], the nascent Pakistani weapons program had to move forward according to the realist view: facing a recently hostile neighbour with both nuclear weapons and conventional military superiority, it was inevitable that the government in Islamabad would seek to produce a nuclear weapon as quickly as possible.”[20]

Overall, it can be seen that the three causes: prestige, deterrence, and the security dilemma, all have their foundations in a state’s desire to protect itself from outside powers.

A constructivist analysis of the question:

States need ways in which they distinguish themselves from other states, and they do so through national identity.[21] This national identity is constructed on the basis of shared commonalities such as language, religion, ethnicity, culture, and historical experience.[22] Constructivist theorists would argue that in essence, national identity is not a ‘given’, but rather, is formulated over time.

To understand the origins of Pakistan’s national identity, it is essential to study the origins of the state of Pakistan. Pakistan was created on August 14th, 1947, though the partitioning of colonial India on the basis of religious majorities in geographic regions. [23] The biggest involuntary migration of populations across international borders took place between India and Pakistan, as Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, all fled for their security to the newly created states.[24] Ahmed explains that ‘the movement for Pakistan was essentially negative in its orientation: it had come into being in opposition to a perceived fear that in a united India the Hindu majority would be a permanent political majority thus reducing Muslims to the position of second-class citizens.’.[25] The friction between India and Pakistan never fully subsided, with both states going to war in 1948, 1965, and again in 1970.

It is safe to say that Pakistan’s national identity has been constructed through history, religion, and politics, to be positioned against India. Hymans argues that ‘an oppositional nationalist identity combines a great antagonism toward an external enemy of the nation and an exaltation of the actual or potential strength of the nation. This type of identity produces a mix of fear and pride—an explosive psychological cocktail.’[26] This oppositional nationalist perception of India that Pakistan has can serve as an explanation for why Pakistan would want to become a nuclear state- especially after Pakistan’s defeat in 1971. In support of the view that nuclearization was the Pakistani national identity’s response to India’s position as a nuclear state, Narang points out that the Pakistani nuclear program was constructed specifically with India in mind.[27]

“If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves—even go hungry—but we will get one of our own.”[28] – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 1965

As can be seen in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s speech in 1965, India’s nuclear capacity played a crucial role in driving Pakistan’s nuclear program. Constructivist theorists would claim that it was Pakistani national identity that helped shape policies of politicians like Bhutto. Hymans puts it as ‘the key independent variable […] about decisions to go nuclear is the leader’s national identity conception’.[29]

Securitization theories, which question social and power relationships, their origins, and their conceptual shifts, are in line with constructivist claims that factors driving policy making are constructed.[30] This differs starkly from the realist perspective that national interests are predetermined (security). Securitization focuses on the construction of objects of security, and the transformation of security dilemmas. The perception of what constitutes a security concern also effects the state strategy, including nuclearization. Keeping this in mind, it is possible to argue that the developments in Pakistan’s perception of regional politics from a perspective that is tinted by national identity was integral in Pakistan acquisition of nuclear weapons. It was national identity that gave issues to be securitized a platform to do so, national identity that facilitated securitization, and national identity that was used to strengthen debates on securitization.[31]

Thus, a constructivist approach which emphasises the malleable nature of identity, and the influence it has in policy making, provides a variety of reasons for Pakistan’s nuclearization. Pakistan’s national identity, and the way it was constructed through historical events and cultural and religious divisions, was a key motivator both for the politicians that initiated Pakistan’s nuclear program, and the policy actions that were taken.

Why is Realism not enough?

While realism’s approach to the causes of nuclearization remain valid and applicable, alone, it is not sufficient to cover the specificity and intricacy of the Pakistani nuclear program.

Earlier in this essay, it was pointed out that on a chronological basis, Pakistan was quite behind its two nuclear neighbours in acquiring nuclear weapons. One could then argue that if the motive behind Pakistan’s nuclearization was in the realist security dilemma, and the notion that it felt threatened by the possibility of being encircled by nuclear powers, it would have been expected that Pakistan start stockpiling weapons as soon as possible. The threat had been there for several years- what it took to mobilize Pakistan in terms of nuclear power, was the humiliation they faced as a result of the 1971 war, and the renewed emphasis on Pakistani national identity being fundamentally opposed to India. This in itself is evidence that the realist security dilemma is not enough to understand Pakistan’s motives for nuclearization.

Aside from the debate over whether or not acquisition of nuclear power is counterproductive to building prestige, given that possession of nuclear weapons could be perceived as an act of hostility, and lack of faith in peace, and the international liberal order, there is another reason why prestige is not an all-encompassing reason for Pakistani nuclearization.[32] Pakistan had been following a policy of nuclear ambiguity-‘[it] had neither renounced nor acquired nuclear weapons for overt weaponization- which it abandoned in May 1998, through a series of nuclear testing that took place between May 28-30, 1998.[33] It is worth noting that if Pakistan had become a nuclear power for a matter of prestige, as realists claim, there would be no point of keeping the program ambiguous. On the contrary, it would be expected for a country to announce its nuclear capabilities as soon as possible. With Pakistan, this was not the case, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated, “”No matter we are recognized as a nuclear weapons power or not, we are a nuclear power.”[34]

Thus, it can be seen that realist assumptions alone are not adequate to explain why Pakistan would want to become a nuclear state. The argument surrounding the security dilemma loses its validity, as the time difference between the launching of India and China’s nuclear programs varies starkly with that of Pakistan. This allows for an understanding that constructivist claims built around the concept of identity play a more consequential role in Pakistan becoming a nuclear state.

What does this mean for Pakistan as a Nuclear State?

Samina Ahmed argues that ‘Pakistan’s relations with India, will continue to play a major role in determining Islamabad’s nuclear course’, emphasizing that Pakistan’s national identity will continue to be a driving force for nuclear policy.[35] Tasleem and Dalton further support these claims through saying that Pakistan and its perhaps ‘fastest growing [nuclear program] in the world’ are results of Pakistan’s efforts to position itself in an advantageous position compared to India.[36]

A recent manifestation of the nuclear conflict between Pakistan, and its long-time enemy, India, took place in February 2019, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that occurred on February 14, 2019 in Kashmir- a region over which both India and Pakistan have territorial claims over. [37] In response to the escalating tensions, Pakistan initiated preparations for war with India, through readying its military, and hospitals.[38] Though tensions have deescalated since, especially after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘peace gesture’[39], the case demonstrated to the international community how nuclear policy, driven by national identity, can have a significant impact on regional security and stability. [40]


Realist explanations for nuclearization that prioritize national security- which realists claim, is the ultimate national interest- were explored. The three reasons that were provided: deterrence, the security dilemma, and the prestige that comes with having joined the ‘nuclear states’, were introduced, with supporting context dependent reasons as to why Pakistan might have chosen to nuclearize. Following this, identity based reasons for nuclearization that originate from Constructivist theory were studied. It was shown that Pakistan has a distinct national identity that was shaped in the 1945 creation of the state, historical events that took place, and societal divisions within the Indian and Pakistani population. It was this specific national identity, which influenced processes like securitization, and influential individuals like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, thus paving the way for Pakistani nuclearization. After having evaluated both sides of the argument, it was explained why the ‘realist reasons’ were not found to be sufficient in Pakistan’s case specifically. Overall, this essay has compared identity and interest’s roles in determining Pakistan’s nuclearization, and reached the conclusion that identity had a heavier sway.


Sannia Abdullah “Nuclear Ethics? Why Pakistan Has Not Used Nuclear Weapons…Yet,” The Washington Quarterly, 41:4, (2018)  157-173, DOI: 10.1080/0163660X.2018.1558681

Agatha S.Y. Wong-Frazer, The Political Utility of Nuclear Weapons. Expectations and Experience (Lanham: University Press of America, 1980), p. 336.

Ahmed, Ishtiaq. “PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL IDENTITY.” International Review of Modern Sociology 34, no. 1 (2008): 47-59. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41421657.

Ahmed, Samina. “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program: Turning Points and Nuclear Choices.” International Security 23, no. 4 (1999): 178-204. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2539298

Akhtar,Rabia  “Making of the Seventh NWS: Historiography of the Beginning of the Nuclear Disorder in South Asia” The International History Review, 40:5, (2018) 1115-1133, DOI: 10.1080/07075332.2017.1404482

Alexansdrov, Maxym. “The Concept of State Identity in International Relations: A Theoretical Analys.” 2003. Accessed March 12, 2019. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

BRANDS, H. W. “The Idea of the National Interest.” Diplomatic History 23, no. 2 (1999): 239-61. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24913740.

Cimbala, Stephen J. “Nuclear Proliferation in the Twenty-First Century: Realism, Rationality, or Uncertainty?” Strategic Studies Quarterly 11, no. 1 (2017): 129-46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26271593.

Diskaya, Ali. “Towards a critical securitization theory” e-ir, Aberyswyth University, 2012 https://www.e-ir.info/2013/02/01/towards-a-critical-securitization-theory-the-copenhagen-and-aberystwyth-schools-of-security-studies/#_ftn34

Hymans, Jacques E. C. “Leaders’ National Identity Conceptions and Nuclear Choices.” Chapter. In The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions and Foreign Policy, 16–46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511491412.003.

Jutila,Matti “Securitization, history, and identity: some conceptual clarifications and examples from politics of Finnish war history”, Nationalities Papers, 43:6, (2015)  927-943, DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2015.1065402

Lamy, Steven L., John Scott Masker, John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens. Introduction to Global Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. p.119-143

Lockie, Alex. “Pakistan Readies Military, Hospitals for War with Its Nuclear Rival India after Pulwama Terror Attack.” Business Insider. February 22, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/pakistan-readies-military-hospitals-for-war-nuclear-rival-india-kashmir-pulwama-2019-2?r=US&IR=T.

Masih, Niha. “Meet the Pilot Who May Have Averted an India-Pakistan War.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Mar. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/01/meet-pilot-may-have-averted-an-india-pakistan-war/?utm_term=.79b8d98df908.

Morgenthau, Hans J. “The Primacy of the National Interest.” The American Scholar 18, no. 2 (1949): 207-12. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41205156.

Narang, Vipin. “Pakistan.” In Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict, 55-93. Princeton University Press, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wq00j.7.

O’Neill, Barry “Nuclear Weapons and National Prestige,” Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1560, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University. 2006. https://ideas.repec.org/p/cwl/cwldpp/1560.html

Posen, Barry R. “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict.” Mhamci.yolasite, 12 Mar. 2019, http://www.mhamchi.yolasite.com/resources/Barry%20Posen%20Ethnic%20Conflict%20and%20Security%20Dilemma.pdf.

Reiss, Mitchell. Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities. New York: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Sagan, Scott D. “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three Models in Search of a Bomb.” International Security 21, no. 3 (1996): 54-86. doi:10.2307/2539273.

Smith, David A. 2016. Theories of Nuclear Proliferation: Why Do States Seek Nuclear Weapons? Inquiries Journal 8 (08), http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=1434

Tasleem, Sadia & Toby Dalton “Nuclear Emulation: Pakistan’s Nuclear Trajectory” The Washington Quarterly, 41:4, (2018) 135-155, DOI: 10.1080/0163660X.2018.1558662

Zagare, Frank “Classical deterrence theory: A critical assessment”, International Interactions, 21:4, 365-387, 1996 DOI: 10.1080/03050629608434873

[1] International Committee of the Red Cross, 2018


[2] Ibid 2018

[3] Smith 2006

[4] Sagan 1996-97, 55

[5] Narang 2014, 56

[6] Narang 2014, 56

[7] Narang 2014, 57

[8] Nuclear Threat Initiative – Pakistan 2016


[9] Reiss 1995, 215

[10] Nuclear Threat Initiative- China 2015


[11] Atomic Heritage Foundation 2018


[12] Nuclear Threat Initiative – Pakistan 2016


[13] Lamy et al. 2019, 121

[14]Morgenthau in Dalby 1995, 175

[15] Hymans 2006, 43

[16] Encyclopaedia Brittanica


[17] Tasleem and Dalton 2018, 135

[18] Zagare 1996, 366

[19] Posen 2006, 28

[20] Sagan 1996-97, 59

[21] Ahmed 2008, 47

[22] Ibid, 58

[23] Ahmed 2008, 46

[24] Ibid, 46

[25] Ibid, 47

[26] Hymans 2002, 139

[27] Narang 2014, 57

[28] Bhutto in Narang 2014, 56

[29] Hymans 2002, 140

[30] Diskaya 2013

[31] Jutila 2015, 927

[32] Brand 1999, 253

[33] Ahmed 1999, 178

[34] Sharif in Ahmed 1999, 178

[35] Ahmed 1999, 179

[36] Tasleem and Dalton 2018, 136

[37] Lockie 2019

[38] Ibid 2019

[39] Pakistan returned Indian Air Force Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, whom was captured by the Pakistani military during an aerial ‘dogfight’ between India and Pakistan, to India on March 1, 2019.

[40] Masih 2019

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Is Trump’s Afghan strategy going to work?: Evaluating its perks and pitfalls


by Derek Eggleston, a third year International Relations Undergraduate at King’s College London, focusing on US. Foreign Policy

With the Mueller investigation and outrage over the lackluster response to Charlottesville hanging over the President’s approval ratings like the sword of Damocles, last Monday, Trump decided to try something new: behaving like a President. Around 9 PM E.D.T the President rolled out a guiding path (dare I say strategy?) for how his Administration will be dealing with the nearly 16-year ongoing American military presence in Afghanistan.

The speech Trump gave represented a new thing for the President, the prioritization of the opinion of experts above his gut instinct. This was apparent, implicitly, with his meetings at Camp David the previous weekend as well as explicitly mentioned in the speech. His campaign rhetoric of pulling out as quickly as possible is no longer a legitimate reality for Trump who is operating under a continued U.S. strategy that maintains leaving a void for extremism and terrorism to breed is an unacceptable outcome. But as to the specifics of his strategy, what do they represent? Will they work? This article will take a cursory glance at some key elements of the Trump Administration’s South Asian strategy and conclude with the implications of these findings and how they should be engaged.

A first facet of Trump’s strategy is that “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on”. From a military perspective, this is a sound statement. Time and time again, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) progress on the ground has been stifled due to the unpopularity of conflict at home. A good case study of this is the Moshtarak Campaign, whose efficacy amongst the British-led incursion into Nad-e-Ali was blocked due to domestic uproar over the disproportionately televised coverage of the failures of the American-led incursion into Marjah. American domestic opinion (fresh with memories of failed conflagrations in the Middle East) is a concrete barrier to tactical advancement on the ground, so Trump’s willingness to not allow it to dictate terms has the potential for success. However, this success is not guaranteed. Despite indicating the U.S. will use its economic, diplomatic, and military apparatus to have a cohesive focus on achieving strategic outcomes in South Asia, he also indicated we are there to ‘kill terrorists’ and not nation-build. The question which naturally follows is how Trump defines nation-building. Does he make the common mistake of conflating nation and state building or will the two be differentiated? This is an important question to ask, does this include development of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) as well as domestic services such as the Afghan National Police (ANP)? Whilst their advancement has not gone perfectly and significant issues such as desertion and drug abuse remain, ISAF’s willingness to work towards their development and build the state security apparatus has been one of the few things essential to a successful future. Trump wants the U.S. to stay the course and not leave a vacuum, to do so requires necessary state building and development which one would hope is certainly present in Trump’s strategy despite a desire to not involve the United States in nation building. These concerns only deal with the military side as well. It is safe to say using these conditions rather than public opinion deciding foreign policy will certainly mean heavy opposition to Trump domestically who will see prolonged presence, regardless of situations on the ground, as nothing more than the bellicose markings of a hawkish President. He will have to address these concerns domestically.

A second key pillar made very apparent in his speech was ambiguity. The days of America announcing dates and numbers are no more under his Administration. Whilst the number argument could go either way, as one could argue releasing the numbers can be used to intimidate the enemy, his refusal to announce dates does represent an improvement upon existing U.S. actions in the area. Obama infamously announced the U.S. surge in Afghanistan, but in doing so added time constraints, indicating the U.S. would begin their withdrawal in 18 months. Although the withdrawal was eventually slowed down towards the end of his second term, such a statute of limitations handed a clear strategy to the enemy: leave the country, go hide in the FATA or Balochistan, then return in 18 months once troop presence has gone down. Obama made a conscious choice to please his Democratic base with a promise of a specified pull out, ultimately to the detriment of tactical success. He would later have to reverse his position, which left his game of balancing domestic support and tactical success a house of cards in which he could sustain neither. The ambiguity of American presence is one of the more legitimate aspects of Trump’s new strategy.

A final key point in the speech was how Afghanistan played into a broader South Asian strategy, particularly how the role of Pakistan and India would be innately linked with America’s goals in Afghanistan. As for Pakistan, Trump’s strategy leaves a lot to be desired. Despite being an official partner of the U.S., Pakistan’s complacency in a strong terrorist presence in both its own country and Afghanistan has put it at odds with the West. Trump has thrown out the carrot and sharpened the stick to coerce Pakistan into falling in line. However, this is nothing more than asking Pakistan to work against its own strategic interest. Instability breeds anti-Western and Indian terrorism, both of which the Pakistani Government (dominated heavily by the security apparatus) has long tacitly supported. The stabilization of Afghanistan into a stronger state integrated into South Asia both politically and economically has long been India’s goal. The realization of such a state, which would likely be more sympathetic to India who is fostering such an end, would place Pakistan in a pincer grip between India and a state sympathetic towards India. It does not take expertise to realize this is not a strategic end Pakistan will support. Furthermore, Trump does not have expendable amounts of leverage in coercing Pakistan to accept such an undesirable outcome. Pakistani reliance on American aid has reduced significantly in recent years, and Chinese investment provides a crutch for Pakistan to fall on should the demands of the U.S. become unbearable. In Pakistan, Trump is pushing for the government to work against its own interest, and he has reduced leverage to force them to do so. It will certainly take a deal-maker as good as Trump thinks he is in order to sort out the complications of this request.

All in all, the President’s speech left a lot to be desired. Many of the particulars need to be worked out, and the strategy remains unclear and its success remains dubious. In the end, he will probably make similar mistakes to his two predecessors, who made the mistake of straddling between commitment to tactical success on the ground, and maintaining enough distance to placate Americans. Without a clear end goal, military presence will continue with neither enough will to fully withdraw nor enough to truly commit the massive resources that would truly be required to effectively eliminate the Taliban from the region. However, an attempt at a coherent foreign policy strategy is a remarkable improvement from equivocating neo-Nazis and people who do not like neo-Nazis. But then again, Trump is the President of the United States and should not be given kudos or points just simply for acting like a President and doing the bare minimum. There is also an onus on civil society to proactively engage with his strategy. Rather than being weighed down in analysis discussing whether or not the strategy is a distraction tool to shift focus from domestic failures, there is a necessity to engage the strategy critically and examine its efficacy in such a hostile region. As an American, I hope for the best, but in the end there is still a long list of people I would rather handle our geostrategic conflicts and interests in South Asia than Donald Trump.

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The geopolitical enigma of India-Pakistan

Ammar Yasir Nainar is a first year student studying BA.International relations in the Department of War studies. He is currently a research analyst at the KCL Crisis team 2016-2017 and has also worked as a research volunteer for Mr.Maroof Raza (Consulting Strategic Affairs Editor Times Now) news channel in India. He follows the south Asia region with particular importance towards India-Pakistan relations and Sino-Indian strategic relations.


The world is increasingly being aware of the rivalry which exists between India and Pakistan. All the way from Pathankot to the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen leader Burhan Wani to the Uri attacks and surprisingly the much debated surgical strikes conducted by India on PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), these events have led to a conclusion: India-Pakistan relations are at their nadir. For someone who follows the South Asian region and in particular India-Pakistan relations, these events are not something new.

Tracing the origins of this rivalry

The India-Pakistan rivalry seems to be rooted in the historical narrative of the formation of Pakistan in 1947. The Quaid-E-Azam (Father of Nation) of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah used Islam as a political tool to bargain a separate nation for the Muslims in India. Once Pakistan was established, the state was unified on a tri colon which is succinctly put forth by Hussain Haqqani- a renowned Pakistani diplomat and author in his book “Pakistan: between Mosque and Military” where he argues “Islam, hostility towards India and the Urdu language were identified as the cornerstones of this new national ideology”. Thus, Pakistan since its inception has always had resentment towards India which explains the intensity of this rivalry.


What has India done?

The Indian national security establishment has always been in pursuit of a well-focused and robust policy towards Pakistan’s acts of state sponsored terrorism. Let it be the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament or the 26/11 Mumbai attacks or even the 1993 Bombay serial blasts, the Indian national security establishment has had vast number of debates on what should be India’s posture towards Pakistan? India always looks to mobilize international opinion for condemning Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism and diplomatically isolate Pakistan which the South block (Ministry of External Affairs, India) has recently been upping the ante on. Likewise, India has called off its participation in the SAARC Summit scheduled to be held during November 2016 in Islamabad. This strongly conveys India’s anger through recognized diplomatic channels.

Surprisingly, this has never motivated Pakistan to alter its foreign policy towards India or they aren’t even diplomatically isolated in the world. The Chinese have vested interests in Pakistan especially with the USD $46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic corridor and the Gwadar port. Therefore, the Chinese are systematically trying to prevent Pakistan’s isolation in the world by vetoing many UN resolutions proposed by India which aim to declare Pakistan as state sponsor for terrorism.

The divergence of options:

Nevertheless, the recently conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads in POK have signaled the world that India is no more “pussy-footing” on its policy towards Pakistan, perhaps it is going to adopt a muscular posture which could bring Pakistan to its knees for exporting terror on Indian soil.

I feel India has a spectrum of options in its hat for achieving this objective. Though the nuclear dimension of both nations discourage them from waging a conventional war like that of 1947, 1965, 1971 or 1999, it has certainly motivated India to look out for other innovative methods which could help accomplish its objective. Therefore, I am going to throw light on one such option which is the Cold Start Doctrine.

The Cold Start Doctrine:

The cold start doctrine was founded in 2004 post the slow mobilization of forces during Operation Parakram in 2001-2002 following the attacks on the Indian parliament by militants from Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The cold start doctrine embodies India’s limited war capabilities and allowed India to obtain an offensive posture vis-à-vis its usual defensive posture towards Pakistan. Dr. Walter Ladwig describes the Cold Start doctrine as

The goal of this limited war doctrine is to establish the capacity to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan that would inflict significant harm on the Pakistan Army before the international community could intercede, and at the same time, pursue narrow enough aims to deny Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level.”

Emphasizing on the military jargon of the cold start doctrine the Indian army’s offensive power would be restructured into eight small division sized “integrated battle groups” that have the capability of launching multiple strikes into Pakistan from different areas (Ladwig). The Indian air force and naval aviation is also expected to pitch in and give close air support to the integrated battle groups which could literally bring Pakistan to its knees.

A very famous book “Not War, Not Peace?” written by Toby Dalton and George Perkovich also do throw light on the significance of the cold start doctrine to be a “provocative strategy” which could eventually compel Pakistani military and the rogue ISI intelligence organization to act on such terror groups whom they have been nurturing since the very formation of Pakistan. The cold start doctrine is an operational asset of the Indian army where even the UN Envoy to Pakistan Maleeha Lodhi has been on record to say that “India’s cold start doctrine should be contained”.

What lies ahead?

This arch-rivalry does seem quite enigmatic and complicated. However, looking at the current dynamics emerging in this relationship and certain assets of India like the Cold Start doctrine, I would like to conclude by saying that India does have the wherewithal to keep Pakistan at the bay.














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