Tame the Reflex

Tame the Reflex

It is, at this point in time, not clear what Indian Army Chief, Bipin Rawat has in mind or what his real agenda is in making insensate and rather provocative remarks. The reference here is to the General’s remarks about, “calling Pakistan’s bluff” in terms of the use of nuclear weapons. Rawat, speaking to reporters in New Delhi, also dismissed assertions that Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons had effectively countered India’s ability to impose a conventional military war on the neighboring country. “We will call their bluff. If given the task, we will not say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons, “he added. In some senses, Rawat’s assertions and remarks betray a certain aggressiveness and bellicosity that appear to simmer under the surface. And, in the scheme of things, it is the state of mind and mental posture that is the real danger in terms of the adversarial dynamic between India and Pakistan. In other words, it is not the actual posture and nuclear doctrines and deterrence philosophies but the incendiary rhetoric that has the potential to escalate tensions of the two countries. While India and Pakistan have different nuclear doctrines but, in the main, deterrence between the two had held, despite pressures and tensions. This means that the material aspects of the doctrines are not where danger lies but it is in the domain of emotion, passions generated thereof and the attendant or ensuing rhetoric that is a cause for alarm. The rhetoric that is emanating right now might have a feel good factor for the powers that be in both countries, but, as history demonstrates eloquently, it can cascade to a tipping point where the emotional calculus of decision makers in India and Pakistan reaches a point where recourse to nuclear weapons might not be unthinkable. The condition that is referred to will break all paradigms of deterrence which, in the ultimate analysis, is based on “actor” rationality. Emotions will, if this scenario comes to pass, upend rationality and the unthinkable might become real. So, in terms of the India and Pakistan dynamic, it is actually the war of words and the escalation of rhetoric thereof that needs to be moderated or nipped in the bud. All this becomes more poignant given the drift of world politics where there is no clear cut leader in the comity of states to mediate relations between India and Pakistan. The onus then falls on the two countries to thwart and ward off an ugly situation from panning out. It is, therefore, time to give sobriety and prudence a chance over reflexive hostility.