A former Pakistani army major general has said that the possibility of an "accidental" nuclear war breaking out between India and Pakistan could not be ruled out because of a lack of "robustness in the decision-making systems in both countries".
In a study presented at South Asia roundtable organised by the Brookings Institution this week, Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani claimed that possessing nuclear weapons systems placed serious demands on a nation and its government, the foremost of them being, the need for internal political stability and strong institutions.
Simultaneously, the Daily Times quoted him as saying that efforts were needed to address issues like proliferation, safety, security and stability and the avoidance of a nuclear war by miscalculation.
Basing his conclusions after a series of extensive interviews with US and Pakistani officials, besides scholars, former civil and military officers and those now responsible for the security and safety of nuclear programmes, Major General Durrani said that there was a "consistent perception of concern" for the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, apprehensions about the robustness of the decision-making system, the lack of conflict reduction mechanisms in the region."
According to Gen Durrani, although Pakistan had not declared a formal nuclear doctrine, he was able to determine four national nuclear policy objectives in his meetings with Pakistani officials.
They are: deterrence of all forms of external aggression that endanger national security, achievement of deterrence through the development and maintenance of an effective combination of conventional and strategic forces within the country's resource constraints, deterrence of Pakistan's adversaries from attempting a counter-force strategy against its strategic assets and finally, stabilisation of strategic deterrence in the South Asian region.
He, however, suggested that while the present situation might not be all that bad on the ground, the training of military and non-military security forces should be brought up to international standards, based on a realistic threat assessment of the threat of terrorism.
Major General Durrani also recommended that political pressures should be controlled by reducing the radical religious influence in both Pakistan and India and resolving lingering disputes through dialogue.
"Crisis management should be implemented through a series of political and military confidence-building measures, including special emissaries, a crisis management agreement, media management, additional hotlines, notification of alert status, separation of nuclear weapons from delivery systems, flag meetings and cooperative border monitoring," the paper quoted him as saying.
He further said that nuclear proliferation should be avoided through legislative changes, stronger fiscal and technical control of weapons programmes and improving operating procedures of weapons security.