Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
SINCE the nuclear weapons test in May 1998, Pakistani military decision-makers have been giving immense significance to the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems. Actually, without the reliable delivery vehicles, the sustainability of strategic equilibrium, which endures deterrence stability between/among the strategic competitors, is impossible. Fortunately, Pakistani scientists have been successfully manufacturing and gradually upgrading both cruise and ballistic missiles. Today, these missiles are the fundamental constituents of Pakistan’s sovereign defence strategy.
Ironically, a few analysts have erroneously been projecting Pakistani nuclear weapons programme as a fastest growing military programme. They deliberately ignore the nuclear restraint policy of Pakistan and mega investment of India’s in both conventional and nuclear weaponry. India’s bulging nuclear arsenal and determination to develop and procure missile defence systems would be destabilising both the regional and global strategic environment. The Western analysts, especially American scholars deliberately ignore Pakistani arms control initiatives and overlook India’s Cold Start Doctrine and Proactive Military Operation Strategy. They secured India’s membership of Missile Technology Control Regime. Currently, they are struggling to make India as a full-member of the Nuclear Supplier Group. They failed to realize that India’s military build-up would not check China, but severely undermine the strategic stability of South Asia. Therefore, for the sake of the continuity of strategic stability in the region, Pakistan has been sustaining strategic equilibrium with India by investing and modernizing its nuclear arsenal. Islamabad is principally against the arms race in South Asia. Therefore, at various occasions, it reiterated its arms control proposals to India.
Notably, immediately after the nuclear explosions in May 1998, the Islamabad proposed New Delhi a regional-strategic restraint regime based on credible nuclear deterrence at the minimum possible level, including non-induction of anti-ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles in the region. Recently, Islamabad expressed its willingness to sign an agreement with India on non-testing of nuclear weapon in the future. On August 12, 2016, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz stated: “We have declared a unilateral moratorium on further testing. Pakistan is prepared to consider translating its unilateral moratorium into a bilateral arrangement on non-testing with India.” New Delhi, however, did not take seriously Islamabad’s proposals of nuclear restraint regime in South Asia.
Since 1983, India has been striving to acquire reliable missile defence shield. It has been importing missile defence systems from Russian Federation and Israel. Many Indian scientists expressed their optimism about the operationalization of an advanced missile defence systems. Dr V K Saraswat a leading scientist of India’s Defence Research and Development Organization claimed in December 2007: “within three years major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai would be under a protective shield. A county, which has a small arsenal, will think twice before it ventures.” The operational success of the anti-ballistic missile shield in Pakistan-India Theatre is a debatable subject.
Many analysts have openly expressed their serious reservations on the successful function of missile shield, especially against the advanced ballistic and cruise missiles. But the success of Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system against the rudimentary Hamas rockets generated a false hope in the pro-missile shield lobby in India. Indeed, this sort of mindset is perilous for the regional strategic stability and thereby Islamabad cannot simply rule out the Indian missile defence program. Although New Delhi responded negatively to Islamabad’s strategic restraint regime proposal, yet the latter remained committed to its minimum credible full spectrum deterrence posture. Despite the adoption of a restrained approach in both conventional and nuclear weaponry, the action-reaction theory obliges the defence policy makers of Pakistan to advance their nuclear weapons capability for the sake of deterrence stability in the region. Hence, they have adopted a cautious but credible nuclear policy. Without trapping into economically devastating arms race, Islamabad has been upgrading its both conventional and nuclear defensive capabilities.
Islamabad has been manufacturing and conducting tests of various categories of both ballistic and cruise missiles. The development of these missiles augment Pakistani armed forces both counter-value and counter-force potential. Moreover, the testing of these missiles is not only having training aspect but the testing exercise have psychological impact. It reinforces the credibility of deterrence policy. Therefore, Pakistan conducted the successful test of an improved version of the medium-range and subsonic cruise missile—“Babur Weapon System Version-2”on December 14, 2016.
According to the ISPR press release: “The missile incorporates advanced aerodynamics and avionics that can strike targets both at land and sea with high accuracy.” It was reported that “700 km Babur cruise missile is a low-flying, terrain-hugging missile, which can hit targets both at land and sea with pinpoint accuracy. It also has stealth features. Equipped with the Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) technologies, it can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.”
Importantly, the timing of recent Babur cruise missile test is very significant. It would not only signal the people of Pakistan that their armed forces are prepared effectively to defend their homeland, but also cautious warmongering Indian ruling elite that they ought to refrain from military adventurism. Indeed, any sort of military aggression against nuclear-armed Pakistan shall be catastrophic for India. To conclude, the successful Babur cruise missile definitely enhances the deterrence capability of Pakistan in particular and contribute positively in the sustainability of the regional strategic stability.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.