WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Friday counselled India and Pakistan to contain aggressive military doctrines and nuclear arsenals as he wrapped up the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, his signature international effort to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons and source material.
At a press conference towards the end of the summit that attracted leaders from all major powers save Russia, Obama sought to “see progress in Pakistan and India…making sure that as they develop military doctrines…they are not continually moving in the wrong direction”. He also expressed concern about “nuclear arsenals” expanding in some countries, “especially those with small tactical nuclear weapons that could be at greater risk of theft”.
The reference clearly was to Pakistan’s mini-nukes, but the US President also drew India into the picture with his reference to military doctrines, seen in some quarters as an allusion to New Delhi’s much-discussed but never implemented Cold Start Doctrine.
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Obama’s prod to India was seen as an allusion to the Cold Start doctrine, a military manoeuvre that purportedly seeks to launch punitive armoured strikes deep into Pakistan in a quick reaction response to egregious acts of terrorism by Pakistan.
New Delhi has repeatedly said it has not implemented the Cold Start doctrine, and that Pakistan has historically been the aggressor with a military doctrine of terrorism and “death by thousand cuts” aimed at changing the status quo between the two countries. Still, there was a degree of surprise in Indian quarters that the US President’s lecture came despite the restraint exercised by the Modi government, an an extension of UPA government’s Pakistan policy.
The Cold Start doctrine, a theoretical construct that has been debated in Indian strategic circles but not implemented, has rattled Pakistan to such an extent that it has developed and deployed battlefield nuclear weapons or tactical mini-nukes for use against an invading armoured corps, even if it means nuking its own territory.
Obama and other leaders have expressed fears that these mini-nukes, dispersed to field commanders, could be easy pickings for terrorist groups that frequently infiltrate Pakistani military establishments. Fearing a public dressing down, the Pakistani leadership bailed out from attending the NSS, citing the Lahore terrorist attack as an excuse.