It pains me to write this article since I see myself as a Gandhian and a dove but I know enough to realise that being a Gandhian and a dove does not help you to win a war. So, if someone wants to read only about the “Samson Option” that I think India should adopt you can directly go to the last section of this essay and read it as I refuse to mention it before giving the reasons why I am proposing it.
Imposing war in India
There is no doubt that India is at war- if someone disagrees compare Indian Armed Forces casualties (not including accidental or natural deaths) in the past one year against the US Armed Forces casualties in the Middle East and Afghanistan in the same time- Indian numbers are far higher.
That most of these casualties have been inflicted by Pakistan based terrorist groups in coordination with its military-intelligence-civilian-religious institutions is not a secret to any in the Indian defence establishment. Any response or potential response to these outrages from the Indian side is immediately met with almost always by a top Pakistani military or civilian official threatening to bring about nuclear Armageddon on India. What is worse is that India does not have a solid plan to counter a potential nuclear strike from Pakistan- India hasn’t weaponized KALI and BMD has not been deployed.
But what if there was an option- via which Pakistan would not even dare to talk about using nuclear weapons against India let alone use it- this is what I call “India’s Samson Option”
This is no place to talk about the Biblical Samson- but the Samson option was said to be in the nuclear doctrine of Israel during the Cold War. Under this doctrine- if the military of Israel is on the verge of being overwhelmed- it would nuke Moscow. The USSR thinking that this was a de facto nuclear strike from the US would nuke the US leading to an all-out nuclear war potentially destroying the entire planet. So, the basic threat being- if we go down, we will take the whole world down with us. Or, as the legendary Israeli defence minister Moshe Dayan crudely puts it- “Israel should be like a mad dog, too dangerous to disturb.”
Let us keep one thing in mind as we move forward-this threat of Israel using the Samson option could have worked because Israel was seen as joined at the hip with the US.
Let us now come to the Indian subcontinent. India is not seen as joint at the hip with anyone. But what about Pakistan? Gradually it is becoming clear that due to the souring of relations between the US and Pakistan, Pakistan now depends to a large extent on the diplomatic and financial cover that the Chinese provides them.
Davies’ J Curve
At this point I would like to clarify a point made by Prof. Christine Fair who recently said that international isolation would not play a great role in dissuading Pakistan from terrorism because in the 90s Pakistan was heavily sanctioned against but it kept up with its habit of assisting, abetting and committing terrorist activities. I respect Prof. Fair a lot but she seems to have overlooked the issue of Davies’ J Curve.
In simple words Davies’ J-Curve talks about how revolts, revolutions, civil wars and other massive internal disturbances cannot be started by a starving populace but has to be instead preceded by a growth in income and standard of living and then a sudden dip in them. This phenomenon has not been well researched but after the Arab Spring has garnered a lot of interest from young academics, since the countries where the Arab Spring took place like Algeria, Syria and Libya- experienced significant economic growth till the end of the 1st decade of the 2000s and then just before the year when the Arab Spring broke out there was massive increase in food inflation caused by natural disasters in several food exporting regions of the world- from Australia to Brazil and from Canada to Russia, which wiped out the gains made in the initial boom years. This is supposed to have fermented popular anger in several Arab countries which is said to have led to a revolution.
So, coming back to Prof. Fair’s point, there is no certainty about whether what played out in 1990s will play out again in the 2010s and 20s. This is because even though the material changes in the lives of the poor in Pakistan in the last two decades have been minimal- they have been substantial for the powerful middle and the elites classes of the country.
So Pakistan needs money to keep up the roof of its faltering economy and the only country willing to give Pakistan that money- no questions asked seems to be China- albeit for its own interests but it only fortifies my point that Pakistan now is increasingly more dependent on China than ever before.
Alignment of Interests
There is one other reason why I think Pakistan’s dependency on China is complete- which is its waning support from its other big international backers- the US and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Recently, a petition to declare Pakistan a terrorist state garnered 500000 signatures from US citizens in only a week- showing the total turning of public opinion against Pakistan. There are two issues concerning the support of Pakistan by Saudi Arabia. Firstly the kingdom is currently beset with financial worries and so cannot be expected to come out strongly against one of its biggest customers and the fastest growing large economy in the world- India. Secondly, the myth amongst the Saudis that they would simply acquire a nuclear weapon from Pakistan which they help build through financial assistance, at the time of their need, has been truly busted not only through what was witnessed in the Iran nuclear crisis but with the rapidly eroding trust with its biggest international backer- the United States.
Also, there needs to be an externalisation of the anxiety of the Indian diplomatic and military establishment regarding what will happen if there was ever a two frontal attack on India by both Pakistan and China at the same time. That it has never happened in the past does not assure us that it won’t happen in the future especially when the strategic interests of China and Pakistan are now more aligned than ever before. China is the biggest arms exporter to Pakistan, China is building the CPEC through territories claimed by India but which are currently under Pakistani control, China blocks India’s attempts to sanction Pakistan based terrorist like Masood Azhar in the UN, China fully backs Pakistan’s calls to frustrate India’s attempt to get into the NSG and the UNSC.
So, it is time for the Indian establishment to put their anxiety at rest- India’s concerns regarding Pakistan are not at all being recognised by China- in fact China and Pakistan seems to have largely common interest not only economically, but also militarily and diplomatically which are not only contrary to India’s interests but also largely hostile to it.
These anxieties could be assuaged to a considerable extent through the Samson option that I have proposed below.
The Samson Option
If Pakistan ever uses nuclear weapons against India, regardless of the tonnage- in its response India would initiate devastating nuclear strikes against both China and Pakistan. This option preserves India’s policy of no first use. Exactly like Israel’s Samson’s Option the Indian establishment should not recognise this but just let academics, journalists and defence analyst discuss it in their papers. India could even let China and Pakistan know about this policy behind closed doors but maintain complete deniability publicly. This option also makes China responsible for the rogue behaviours of Pakistan.
The biggest advantage of this option is scaring China. Chinese leaders and people are not scared of anything like they are of chaos, unrest and instability due to the collective national memory of the 19th and the early 20th century and this is used by the CPC repeated to scare its people off from democracy. So, what could be more chaotic and destabilizing than a nuclear strike? This would incentivise China from sanctioning Pakistan from even uttering the N-word in its belligerent messages against India and could even force them to ask Pakistan to limit their nuclear weapons expansion which the rest of the international community has failed to do.
Moreover this option has a lot of advantages for India. Firstly, politically and administratively- Indian establishment will not have to spend a single paisa to adopt this option- because it is just a theory which does not need any specialised military equipment to implement. Secondly, Pakistani establishment and their pet terrorist units would for the first time in decades be operating without their nuclear umbrella against India. Thirdly, possible Indian strikes against Pakistani terror installation will not come with the danger of Pakistani nuclear backlash. Lastly, given India’s no first use doctrine which even my proposed Samson option preserves talks and compromises can be started between India and Pakistan without Pakistani nuclear blackmail.
These positive outcomes will take a long time to come to fruition. But, I do not see Pakistan replacing its current major international backer – China with someone else during that time because China would keep growing in stature as a global power at least in the near future and Pakistan could be predicted to hedge its fate with China’s at least for the time being.