India's diplomatic coup d'état by making the US President agree to become the Guest of Honor for the Republic Day celebrations for 2015 needs applause. However, even as India's growing stature in the global geopolitical and diplomatic arena is commendable, few incidents in the neighborhood continue to remain critical issues of concern.
While the rabid disdain and hatred that Pakistan has institutionally built against India is not a new thing, the worsening internal security scenario inside Pakistan, the growing strength of the Jihadist elements and increasing suspicion about the presence of a large number of Jihadi sympathizers with the Pakistani establishment including the Pakistan Army have all contributed towards creating a considerable amount of concern in India.
The Threat from Growing Nuclear Arsenal of Pakistan
This has now been more compounded by the recent estimate by US based Council of Foreign Relations that by 2020 Pakistan is slated to have more than 200 nuclear bombs in its arsenal. In nuclear parlance, numbers may not matter much per se since one thermonuclear device may be good enough to wreak havoc. It is not that Pakistan would ever get a chance to use all of the 200 bombs and not that it would continue to exist even if it uses one against India.
Threat of Falling in the hands of Terrorists
But larger the arsenal the higher the chance of some of those falling in wrong hands and that is the real cause of worry for India. With the growing support base of ISIS in Pakistan and with a plethora of radical Islamist terror groups starting from Al Qaeda to Tehreek e Taliban to Jandullah and several others waiting for the US to exit the Afghan theatre to start their renewed offensive in Afghanistan, the possibility of them being steered towards India remains high.
It had happened in the same way in late eighties of 20th Century when with the exit of Soviet Forces from Afghanistan and an abrupt end to the Afghan war as a result of US leaving too, Pakistan systematically exploited the situation to channelize the trained, radicalized but unemployed Mujahids towards Kashmir.
The possibility of that being repeated remains profound and a weaker Pakistan coupled with emboldened Jihadi elements make the matter worse for India. The spate of terror attacks on Pakistan military installations by Jihadi elements vindicate that security of nuclear arsenal would continue to be a cause of concern and a real one.
Should Only India be Concerned?
The fear of a stolen nuclear bomb from Pakistan should not just be a worry for India but also for several other countries including US. Several radical Islamist terror groups who are not even operating in the region may be highly interested in getting hold of one and there is no easier place today than Pakistan which is perpetually on the verge of being declared a failed state.
A Cornered Pakistan May Play the Worst Game with Nuclear Arsenal
Pakistan has already been on the back foot but has been cornered further since the advent of Modi at the helm of Indian national affairs. In the border regions along the LOC, its intransigence of mindless firing and shelling, which was always tolerated by the erstwhile UPA regime by keeping the Indian Army and BSF on the leash, has now been reciprocated by unprecedented firing from the Indian Armed Forces which has been given a free hand by the Modj administration. Diplomatically as well it has been snubbed time and again and with the rising global acceptance of Modi, the ensuing visit of Obama as India's guest during India's Republic Day next year, Pakistan is feeling more cornered.
Therefore for Pakistan to repeat another 26/11 with the help of non-state actors possibly with nuclear weapons and then feign ignorance or non involvement of the state in it or the Islamist Jihadi elements getting hold of a stray bomb and repeating a 26/11 with the same, can bring an apocalypse in not just South Asia but elsewhere as well.
What India Needs to do...
India therefore needs to work more vigorously towards developing a credible anti-ballistic missile system, strengthening of the coastal and border security grid and on more ground level intelligence. In other words, it has to prepare for the worst instead of presuming that good sense would prevail or that divine intervention would take care of eventualities before they strike. Easier said than done with challenges remaining on each front but with a state like Pakistan as a neighbor, peace of mind is perhaps a luxury.