Exactly a year ago, India carried out a daring airstrike at Balakot to signal that Pakistan’s terrorism export would no longer be cost-free. Internationally, this marked the first-ever conventional military attack by a nuclear-armed nation on the undeniably sovereign territory of another nuclear-weapons State.
The fact that Indian warplanes, unchallenged, struck a deep target in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province led an apprehensive Pakistan to close its airspace to all international overflights for months thereafter.
According to the “theory of nuclear revolution”, nuclear weapons offer a powerful deterrent against a major attack. Attacking another nuclear-armed State, according to this theory, is dangerous, because it could invite a nuclear reprisal.
Pakistan’s nuclear shield, however, did not prevent India from retaliating against a Pakistan-aided terrorist attack on a security convoy in Pulwama, in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The Pakistani nuclear shield failed to deter the Indian strike largely because Pakistan’s actions have long militated against the dominant theory of nuclear revolution. The theory posits that, by guaranteeing a country’s security, nuclear weapons make nations less inclined to engage in aggression or belligerent acts.
Instead of viewing nuclear weapons essentially as tools of deterrence, a scofflaw Pakistan — with China’s protection — has been emboldened to engage in roguish actions.