ISLAMABAD: With stability in the region increasingly coming under stress due to India’s aggressive posture, Pakistan would have to maintain the credibility of its deterrence, Centre for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad (CISS) believes.

“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,” CISS said in a special report ‘Pulwama-Balakot Crisis and Operation Swift Retort’ launched on the first anniversary of ‘Operation Swift Retort’ against aerial incursion by India in February 2019, says a press release.

“Pakistan, therefore, needs to be vigilant and cognisant of the evolving nature of the threat spectrum and continue to maintain the credibility of its full spectrum response,” the report further said.

Pakistan, the report recommended, needs to seriously take into account Indian arms acquisitions as well as destabilising doctrinal trends as manifested in new thinking on preemption and counter force posture. It noted that India was continuing with its hostile rhetoric against Pakistan and aggressive actions at the Line of Control (LoC).

CISS Executive Director Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said 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 was 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 destabilising statements, adding 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 prioritise 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 15 years despite that being a burning desire of the Indian military and political leadership.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2020