Constructing a conflict escalation framework
Indian Border Security Force soldiers patrol near the India-Pakistan international border area at Gakhrial boder post in Akhnoor sector, about 48 kilometers from Jammu, India, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. India said Thursday it carried out "surgical strikes" against militants across the highly militarized frontier that divides the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, in an exchange that escalated tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
The first step of constructing an India—Pakistan conflict escalation framework is to understand the conventional and nuclear thresholds for both states. This step will result in identifying the levels at which an eventual conflict might play out.
Different nuclear thresholds of India and Pakistan
1.1 Many researchers have previously noted the differences in the nuclear doctrines of India and Pakistan. Though Pakistan has never announced a formal nuclear doctrine, it is believed to have four central tenets: First, Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent is India-specific. Second, Pakistan has embraced a doctrine of credible, minimum deterrence. Third, the requirements for credible, minimal deterrence are not fixed; instead, they are determined by a dynamic threat environment. And fourth, given India’s conventional military advantages, Pakistan reserves the option to use nuclear weapons first._
This strategy of potential first use of nuclear weapons — on the battlefield, is in direct contrast to India’s doctrine. India’s nuclear doctrine_ articulates a No First Use (NFU)position, but commits to massive retaliation in the event that a nuclear weapon is used against it (referred to as “punitive retaliation with nuclear weapons to inflict damage unacceptable to the aggressor”). Thus, in the event that Pakistan were to target India with nuclear weapons, it will likely invite a response commensurate with India’s nuclear doctrine, regardless of Pakistan’s strategy around the type of nuclear weapon in question.