India has introduced yet another ominous element into the already volatile security environment of South Asia, a region which is today considered the most dangerous place on earth. Indeed, the world today is in turmoil, and South Asia is at the root of most of its problems ranging from inter-state and intrastate conflicts to unresolved disputes, human tragedies, violence, extremism and terrorism. The launching of India's first missile-capable nuclear submarine Arihant now presents Pakistan with yet another security dilemma. Pakistan doesn't have to pursue numerical equality with India but in its vital security interest, it cannot and must not ignore the need for strategic balance in our region. One thing is clear. It is not Pakistan which "inducted" nuclear weapons into the volatile security environment of South Asia. We were compelled to do so. They are a reality now. They constitute an essential element of our security in the form of credible minimum deterrent. They also constitute a credible nuclear deterrent for India. But it is in both sides' fundamental interest to avert a nuclear arms race. They must move swiftly toward a strategic-restraint regime with nuclear and conventional stabilisation measures. With this perspective, Pakistan has been pursuing since 1999 its proposal for a "strategic restraint regime" based on three inter-locking elements of conflict resolution, nuclear and ballistic restraint and conventional balance. Other mutual stabilising arrangements and CBMs that we have been offering to India to prevent a nuclear and ballistic arms race included mutual risk reduction measures (RRMs), non-induction of anti-ballistic missile and sea-launched ballistic missile systems, and the maintenance of nuclear deterrence at the minimum level. Pakistan has also been seeking a mutual and balanced reduction of conventional forces. Our fears were not unfounded. India has now presented us with a fait accompli that we cannot overlook in order to once again avert the risks of security imbalance in the region. India is pursuing an ambitious sea-based nuclear system as part of its "triad" doctrine. It is overkill as it could have done without it. India seems to be assigning greater role to its nuclear capability which betrays a global ambition rather than the sense of a security threat. Beyond any doubt, India's nuclear capability is status-driven whereas Pakistan's nuclear capability is security-impelled. This is the basic conceptual difference between the two neighbouring nuclear-capable states. India justifies its sea-land and air-based nuclear capability to counter what it claims its perceived potential threat from China as well as Pakistan. What an alibi In reality, however, it is no secret that most of India's military potential has remained Pakistan-specific, and despite our repeated offers of "mutual restraint and responsibility" it has shown no reciprocity. Instead, it is pursuing a dangerously provocative 'Cold Start' doctrine aimed at developing a capability of launching a limited conventional strike inside Pakistan and quickly seizing territories in Pakistan as a tactical move without raising the nuclear threshold. India's newly acquired sea-based capability could be used to reinforce its "Cold Start" doctrine bringing Pakistan under pressure not to react with its nuclear capability. India must however understand that any adventurism in a nuclearised South Asia must be avoided. After Kargil, 'limited' conventional war is no longer an option and must never be considered. Doctrines such as Cold Start and introduction of ABMs can only undermine strategic stability. The adversary may be left with no choice but to take remedial steps thus generating an unnecessary arms race. We must not forget that nuclear weapons are not meant to be used. They are only for deterrence. The first and perhaps the last time they were used was when America's "Little Boy" and the "Fat Man" were dropped on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima wreaking havoc the world had never experienced before. Every year in August we commemorate the anniversary of that disaster in the hope that we now have become wiser and will not let another Armageddon befall on humanity. During several CBMs talks, Pakistan has been urging the need for both India and Pakistan to seriously consider doctrines which are defensive rather than offensive in nature. It is time we in South Asia instead of unleashing another round of nuclear arms race give serious thought to harmonising our respective security doctrines. Perhaps, the best course for India in this critical period of regional turmoil fuelled by a common threat of terrorism and militancy will be to acceptance Pakistan's proposal for a No War Pact, which is even broader than its so-called No First Use doctrine and encompasses both conventional and nuclear fields. Instead of raising the ante at bilateral level, we should be working together and coordinating our arms control and disarmament approaches in international forums like the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Prior to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent visit to New Delhi, India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna claimed that his country remains committed to its long-standing position on disarmament and non-proliferation, and "would welcome real action towards disarmament." According to him: "India wants a timeframe and legally binding steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons." If he genuinely meant what he said, what he should not forget is that charity must begin at home, and in South Asia, India holds the key to a stable nuclear security order as a first step towards genuine arms control and disarmament. The history of this region shows that non-proliferation cannot be ensured in a security void. Compelling security concerns have to be discussed together with measures to promote the goals of non-proliferation. Global non-proliferation regimes can best be promoted by addressing the very factors that impel proliferation. It is in this context that South Asia's problems are no longer an exclusive concern of the region itself. They now have a worrisome global dimension raising major powers' stakes in the issues of peace and security in this region. Pakistan-India nuclear dimension is the only nuclear equation that grew up in history totally unrelated to the Cold War. It is the offshoot of the legacy of outstanding India-Pakistan disputes and their perennial mode of conflict and confrontation. In a larger perspective, the cause of non-proliferation will also not be served without addressing the underlying causes of conflict in this region. Similarly, in other regions too, Middle East and Northeast Asia for example, nuclear dimension is taking roots only because of the unresolved disputes in those regions. It is time the world focused its attention on conflict resolution by addressing on long-standing issues in those regions. Durable peace between India and Pakistan is also crucial as a factor of regional and global stability. And durable peace between the two countries will come only through mutual dialogue and cooperation, not through conflict and confrontation. Even UN Security Council's resolution 1172 of June 6, 1998 adopted after nuclear tests by India and then by Pakistan, also urged the two countries to resume their dialogue on all issues pertaining to peace and security in order to remove the tensions between them, and encouraged them to find mutually acceptable solutions that address the root causes of those tensions, including Kashmir. The issues of nuclear and strategic stability in our region must be predicated on the principle of indivisible security. It is essential to eschew discriminatory regimes, whether in the area of non-proliferation or disarmament. Only criteria-based approaches on the basis of equality and non-discrimination would be sustainable. As an immediate step, the three non-NPT states should be brought into the nuclear mainstream. The international community must make the adjustments in NPT regime as required. Another development that needs to be revisited in the larger interest of this region's stability is the special "strategic partnership" including a discriminatory and country-specific nuclear deal that the US has built with India to make it a regional hegemon and a counterweight against China. This ominous Indo-US nexus would surely not serve the cause of global non-proliferation. If the turbulent political history of this region has any lessons, Washington's future engagement in this region must be aimed at promoting strategic balance rather than disturbing it. A stable nuclear security order is what we need in South Asia. The writer is a former foreign secretary