World over nuclear flashpoints have been springing up like anything. These flashpoints have made the world much more unstable than what it used to be. Kashmir, Ukraine and Korea are amongst the most active and dangerous ones at present. Any escalation between the parties can lead to an all-out war with disastrous efforts which may never be mitigated. There is a definite arms race in South Asia, although not overt in its characteristics. With increase in weapons stockpile, we are at the brink of a nuclear war every passing day. Or are we?
While we may argue that nuclear weapons are undoubtedly a dangerous proposition, can we not say that they have prevented the skirmishes worldwide from turning into full scale wars? A perfect example is the Kargil War. India and Pakistan declared themselves as nuclear powers in 1998. This was followed by a brief Kargil War in 1999. Pakistan, riding on the fact that it had a sizable nuclear stockpile to counter India, occupied strategic Indian peaks leaving India red-faced. The Indian Army then undertook a serious challenge to oust these invaders and ultimately succeeded. What if the war would have continued? There was a serious possibility of it turning into an all-out war on all fronts with a high chance of involvement of nuclear weapons. However, I personally believe that it was the threat of the consequences of nuclear fallout which prevented both the nations from resorting to full scale devastation. In the end Pakistan anticipated Indian caution correctly. This was followed by a bold attack on the temple of the world’s largest democracy, the Indian Parliament, again leading to troop mobilization along the LoC. Perhaps in all subsequent years Pakistan has tried to provoke India and India has had ample reasons to resort to aggression yet perhaps it is the elephant in the room, aka, the nuclear weapons which prevents an all-out war.
India and Pakistan have been at each other’s throat since Independence and even after 1971, there have been ample instances where a war would have been justifiable. But the threat of international fallout and the inability to control the effects of a nuclear war has resulted in wars being fought at a micro level. Kim-Jong-Un may or may not have a nuclear stockpile but his veiled threats are enough to keep the Americans and South Koreans guessing leading to peace on stand-by mode. As the nuclear deal with Tehran has been signed off, the Middle East will become another nuclear flashpoint with Israel also being an alleged nuclear power.
All in all, worldwide, the possibility of a nuclear war has kept nations at bay which ensures that no skirmish turns into an all-out war with unimaginable consequences. With the number of instances of this being higher, one can correctly argue that due to the presence of nuclear weapons, many a war has been prevented from escalating. Nuclear stockpiles are playing a major role in de-escalating tensions.
The danger though is still very real. There are nations which possess the virtue of responsibility and in their hands these weapons have indeed become weapons of peace. India being one such nation. Despite ample provocations from Pakistan, we have managed to put off an impending war on more than one occasion simply by the threat of a nuclear war which I doubt Pakistan would have been able to outlast. However, was India to give Pakistan reason to start a war, would the ISI and the army hold back from going nuclear?
The threat of an atomic war seems very real with unstable nations like Pakistan being able to possess weapons of mass destruction. The civilian government in Pakistan has as much say as the President in India. It is merely titular and the army runs the show. The army and ISI’s goals are short-term and they would see a nuclear war as highly beneficial despite knowing India’s superiority. Besides this, Pakistan harbors terrorists which not only attack India but also Pakistan. Unstable nations like Pakistan would never be able to safeguard their stockpile so as to not let it fall in the hands of extremists. In fact they would have a conflict of interest from keeping these weapons safe from a LeT or ISIS for example.
So despite the nuclear weapons being weapons of peace in the hands of countries like India, US, Russia, etc. Pakistan and North Korea are the prime example of rotten apples whose immediate goals clearly take precedence over peace and stability. With responsible nations, nuclear weapons supplement diplomatic back channels to resolve conflicts from escalating into all-out wars but with unstable pseudo-democracies, they are indeed weapons of mass destruction.