Arms race endangering regional peace | By Sikandar Noorani


Arms race endangering regional peace

RISING tension among big players posing a constant threat to regional and global peace. News has been pouring in one after another about the induction of high speed long range missiles, sophisticated fighter jets and state-of-the-art air defence systems by regional stakeholders.

Countries which talk a lot about peace are producing the most destructive weapon systems and selling them to the highest bidders.

Undeniably, cut-throat competition between big powers has multiple potential consequences for the region as well as for Pakistan.

Turkish and Indian deals of the S-400 system from Russia have irked the US to a great extent.

How can the US ignore the arrival of the Russian S-400 system in India which enjoys the informal status of American-appointed policeman in the region?

Any presidential CAATSA waiver for India seems a kind of test for the US in the backdrop of recent sanctions on Turkey over a similar S-400 deal with Russia.

Besides weighing the options on CAATSA waiver, the US is deeply irked by the recently-conducted test of hypersonic missiles by China.

Interestingly, it is a matter of deep concern for both the US and India, especially for the latter amid ongoing tensions at the LAC.

It is not only the S-400 deal from Russia which bothered the US! Tension over Ukraine pushed the US to flex military muscles in the form of strategic bomber flights near Russian borders.

While objecting upon this provocative move, Moscow has sent a strong signal by conducting a test of anti-satellite hypersonic missiles.

In this backdrop, Biden and Putin held a two-hour long video meeting to discuss the contentious issues.

Besides this, US military experts visited air-bases in Ukraine which is quite a provocative posture.

Situation seems quite complex for the US! On one hand, it expects India to pose a potent threat to China but, on the other hand, it never wants Russian weapon systems adding up on New Delhi’s inventory.

China and Russia are jointly emerging as a big headache for the US.

Though India was elevated on QUAD forum by the US as a readily available cure for China-Russia problem but New Delhi’s reliance on Russian military hardware remains a major impediment for Washington’s best laid plans.

It seems more apparent that India would continue to irk the US and rest of the QUAD members in the longer run.

Before the settling of S-400 dust in the US, Russian President Putin had visited New Delhi where future deals for arms manufacturing and the S-550 system were reportedly on top of the agenda.

The US has all the reasons to be anxious and dissatisfied over such undesired developments.

Obviously, loyalty of India is being questioned behind the closed doors in US Congress Committees.

The US policymakers are raising very pertinent questions that why is a preferred strategic partner like India so thickly engaged in a huge arms deal with the rivals of America?

More disturbingly, these developments are emerging at a time when the US is facing very strong confrontation from Russia and China on multiple issues including Ukraine and Taiwan.

A balancing act from India is in the pipeline as evident from External Affairs Minister Jai Shankar’s visit to the US announced immediately after President Putin’s tour of New Delhi.

In 2018 after signing the S-400 deal with Russia, in order to avoid CAATSA, India inked a $1 billion deal with the US for procurement of National Advanced Air Missile System-2.

How and where these treacherous balancing acts would settle is important but all regional stake-holders feel more threatened with Indian uncontrollable obsession with lethal weapons.

Alarming accelerated militarization along the LAC and LoC by India is a threat to the existing balance of power in the entire region.

If New Delhi continues to endanger regional peace with stockpiles of latest missiles, jets, nuclear capable submarines and surveillance systems; issue of Kashmir would turn more complex with every passing day.

Indian deployment of the S-400 system along its northern borders though optically poised against China but it would actually pose a serious challenge to Pak security matrix.

China has already deployed this system along the LAC, therefore, India is primarily focused on maintaining dominance over Pakistan to avoid more Abhinandan-style embarrassing episodes in future.

Recent developments clearly depict that irresponsible conduct on part of global players continue to be a major factor in shaping the greater conflicts.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the victims of such manipulative practices.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed even after decades of suffering.

How peace can prevail in a specific region without cutting the arms supply to a state openly involved in oppression, aggression and human rights violations.

India is a major arms client for Russia, France and the US.India is entrusted to play a lead anti-China coercive role from the QUAD platform.

What happens with common people of Kashmir in the hands of Indian security forces carries no importance for the arms suppliers.

Western selective concerns revolve around Indian reliance over a rival force Russia.

Vested interests get preference over human issues.War economy especially arms deals matter more than much talked about peace.

Pakistan needs to adopt a pragmatic approach to deal with the threats emerging from recent regional and global re-alignments.

Fixated approach towards a major global player or a non-flexible policy must be avoided.

Complex unfolding of events on eastern and western borders demand a flexible approach more inclined towards delicate balancing acts.

Pakistan’s long-term commitment with China should not be built at the cost of relations with the rest of the world.

It needs no further evidence that Indian balancing acts have exposed it as an unreliable partner in the QUAD primarily due to its deep obsession with the idea of dominance over the region through military might.

Pakistan, while taking a timely lesson from India, should balance out ties with the relevant players for restoration of peace, regional stability and collective prosperity.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.


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