WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s security threat comes from India, which has moved to a new strategy of conducting surgical strikes inside Pakistan, says a new study which also warns that despite nuclearisation, the possibility of another war in the region cannot be ruled out.

The 15-month study project by a Washington think-tank, the Brookings Institution, focuses on the “strategic chain” linking Pakistan, India, China and the US.

It argues that the strategic dynamics among these four nuclear powers cannot be understood or effectively addressed on a strictly bilateral basis.

“While Pakistan responds strategically to India, India responds both to Pakistan and China, which in turn responds both to India and the United States,” says a report released on the completion of the project.

Read: India has built a 'secret nuclear city': Foreign Office

The 76-page document is the first Broo­kings publication articulating the Pakistani perspective on its nuclear doctrine.

“Without Indian restraint, Pakistan is unlikely to constrain its programmes unilaterally. Without Chinese restraint, India will be very reluctant to limit its programmes unilaterally or engage in bilateral controls with Pakistan that, according to India, would limit its options vis-a-vis China. And without US constraints on capabilities of concern to China, Beijing may continue to resist curbing its strategic modernisation efforts,” it argues.

The study notes how India and the US have expressed concern about longstanding Pakistan-China cooperation in important areas, and Pakistan has expressed concern about India-US cooperation in important areas, especially in the wake of the US-India civil nuclear deal.

Although not included in the study, the report also explores the influence of other major powers on South Asia’s strategic dynamics, arguing that Russia too is an additional link in the chain.

The report warns that as the nuclear gap between China and India narrows, China may increase its interest in the India-Pakistan nuclear competition. This is because China “fears that the widening nuclear and conventional military gaps between India and Pakistan may threaten regional stability,” the study adds.

It includes a paper on Pakistan’s strategic environment and doctrine authored by Syed Muhammad Ali of the Centre for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad.

The paper summarises Pakistan’s threat perceptions and the steps it is taking to deal with those perceptions.

It argues that “Pakistan’s security threat comes from India” and the longstanding unresolved Kashmir dispute lies at the heart of tensions between the two neighbours.

The author notes that India’s political elite, with its growing economy, is pursuing an ambitious and destabilising military build-up, to become a global power and regional hegemon.

New Delhi, emboldened by a Western-supported military build-up, is less willing to pursue a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, while the Kashmiri people continue to struggle for their UN-recognised right to self-determination.

“The absence of a meaningful, sustainable and result-driven dialogue and the growing strategic partnership between India and the United States are matters of grave concern for Pakistan,” the author warns.

He notes that 42 years after its first nuclear test, New Delhi spends almost seven times more on its military than Islamabad. The author believes that India’s growing conventional and strategic capabilities are overwhelmingly poised against Pakistan.

He also examines the Indian “Cold Start” doctrine, which “aims to rapidly launch shallow thrusts inside Pakistani territory to capture and use it for coercing Pakistan”.

The author points out that the large-scale Indian development of highly-mobile and armoured mechanised formations, artillery, rapid airlift capabilities, forward displacement of troops and garrisons, supporting communication infrastructure and massive spending provide compelling evidence of operationalisation of the “Cold Start” doctrine, despite Indian official reluctance to formally accept it.

He notes that India has the oldest, largest and fastest-growing unsafeguarded nuclear programme of all non-Non-Proliferation Treaty states and the entire developing world.

Rejecting India’s argument that its missiles are meant to tackle a perceived threat from China, the author argues: “The most advanced, accurate, and operationally-ready Indian missiles can be employed against Pakistan more effectively than against China.”

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2017