Farce, Lies & Deceit: Pakistan’s Nuclear Czar’s unending Brinkmanship

 By Ankit Kumar
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Any assessment or study conducted on Pakistan’s Nuclear programme post 2000 barely misses a name which is Lt Gen Khalid Ahmed Kidwai (Retd). An officer of 42 Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Long Course, he was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in 1970. The retired General is perhaps the most celebrated Pakistani Nuclear Analyst in Pakistanas he never misses an opportunity to make headlines through his ‘incautious’ statements regarding Pakistan’s Nuclear intentions that are largely against India. Since the inception of the Strategic Planning Division (SPD) in 2000, Gen Kidwai remained the longest serving, irreplaceable head of the SPD till 2013. He received 12 extensions for his service since his formal retirement from the Pakistan Army, perhaps making him the only three star General with most number of extensions of his service. It is understood that Gen Kidwai has been the henchman of Pakistan’s Nuclear establishment since its inception and he still continues to drive the official narrative all alone on behalf of Pakistani state through his precarious and provocative speeches at various national and international forums. Most of them end up puzzling analysts who try hard to assess and predict Pakistan’s ambiguous nuclear behaviour and its future.

In a recent address at a joint workshop conducted by a renowned Think Tank based in London and a Pakistani Think Tank, General Kidwai gave a 30 min solo pre scripted speech on “South Asian Strategic Stability: Deterrence, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control’’ which ended up being only India centric. [1]Although it is unexpected of him to speak unbiased, most of the speech constituted crude Pakistani agenda which were highly misleading, alarming and is a far cry from reality. Not all of them can be pointed given that they are countless in numbers but the author intends to bring out the important ones to uncover the farce, lies and deceit in them.

In less than two minutes of his address,Gen Kidwai puts Pakistan at the helm of restoring strategic balance with India in the conventional and nuclear domain. However, in striking reality, Pakistan fails and does not intend to do so, respectively. Pakistan has failed to strengthen its conventional armed forces given its poor economic state of affairs and still lags far behind India in conventional domain. Consequently, this has strengthened its faith and reliability on asymmetric and unconventional means of fighting all kinds of conflicts be it even a limited airstrike like Balakot exposing new ebb of nuclear intentions and uncanny rhetoric.

The General further admits that Pakistan will not indulge itself in strengthening its conventional capabilities rather will invest  more in nuclear weapons. Conscious of the fact that Pakistan is presently the fastest growing nuclear weapons state, Gen Kidwai’s statement adds to the irrefutable fact that this growth is not stopping anytime soon thus lampooning efforts of the international community to counter vertical proliferation. Talking of integration of its nuclear and conventional military strategy, General explains how Pakistan wishes to achieve stability in South Asia. Having felt no necessity of providing merit to the statement, the General beefed up the already blurring distinction between conventional and nuclear warfighting. Such integration adds confusion to a proper nuclear signalling which can lead to misinterpretation during war thus having catastrophic consequences. This integration in fact is already been put to practice in a dodgy manner by putting a nuclear capable missile (Babur-3) on conventional boat (Agosta 90B diesel electric submarine).  [2]

The General later spoke exhaustively on Balakot Crisis brandishing how nuclear weapons saved the day for Pakistan. He further admitted that its nuclear capabilities could have been brought into play and such capabilities deterred India. However, the other way of looking into [3]this admission is looking at the extent of insecurities that the Pakistani leadership was ready to put its nuclear stakes in , even in times of  a limited scale mobilisation, being already aware of the fact that India possess an active and far effective second strike capability.

Aware of the fact that Pakistan’s authoritative military ruled for 32 years in its 72 years of independence from British, which was characterised by 3 major military coup, General Kidwai did his utmost to paint a ‘not so’ subtle propaganda of democratic rule in Pakistan since 2008. Ironically, it is to be noted that Gen Kidwai spent his 19 years in the same military which had Pakistan under its strict military control under Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Gen Parvez Mushrraf- Not to forget that Gen Kidwai was appointed at the Strategic Planning Division by another military dictator Gen Parvez Musharraf. Wondering about the current so-called democratic state of Pakistan, one doubts Gen Kidwai’s “democratic process” remark. Extension of service of Gen Qamar Bajwa for another three years till Nov 2022 debunks such claims. Point to be noted is Pakistan awaits its national elections in 2023. The extension to Gen Bajwa was given through an amended bill by Pakistan’s national assembly stepping aside court’s decision. Sounds very democratic? Not very likely to Gen Kidwai who received most extensions too.

While one does not expect a neutral assessment of South Asia’s nuclear dynamics by Gen Kidwai, one is astounded by extrapolation of facts in his pre scripted speech. While being much threatened by India, Gen Kidwai’s speech reflects narcissist behavior of Pakistan in South Asian security.  While India may not intend every nuclear development against Pakistan, Pakistan takes it all on its head unmindful of the fact that China possesses greater challenge to India than Pakistan. Whether this is thoughtful ignorance or a second grade assessment, one has no clear answer.

Keeping fact, assessments and rhetoric aside, on a lighter note, Gen in his 30 minutes speech uses the word ‘strategic’ 98 times. It amounts to use of ‘strategic’ every one minute. Not to miss his point form explanations of his claim. In general point form explanation is a very military style format. While he may be out of military service, his old military way (Pakistan) of looking into nuclear dynamics is still intact in him. Gen Bajwa till today continues to drive the official Pakistani narrative of nuclear Pakistan. At the most senior level, no other nuclear analyst with a senior military background is allowed to speak and received with such fanfare. He continues to serve as unofficial ‘nuclear czar of Pakistan’.

References:

[1] https://www.iiss.org/events/2020/02/7th-iiss-and-ciss-south-asian-strategic-stability-workshop

[2] Rehman, I. (2020). Murky Waters: Naval Nuclear Dynamics in the Indian Ocean. [online] Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Available at: https://carnegieendowment.org/2015/03/09/murky-waters-naval-nuclear-dynamics-in-indian-ocean-pub-59279 [Accessed 26 Feb. 2020].

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bInVdvk39e0&t=1864s