TO enhance its military power and expand its operational capabilities in order to achieve regional dominance, India has not restricted itself to the indigenous production only rather it has evolved defence and strategic cooperation with Israel. India and Israel have a strategic partnership based on common interest and has strengthened economic, military, and diplomatic cooperation between the states. According to a 2018 estimate, Israel is the 7th largest arms exporter in the world and approximately half of the military equipment is exported to India. An air defence missile system deal of worth $2 billion has been signed between India and Israel in which Israel will export medium range surface to air defence missile (MRSAM). Israel has also exported a green pine radar system that can detect missiles from 500 km range. This will provide a strategic advantage to Indian infantry and main battle tanks (MBT). India and Israel are also cooperating on Tech SAR which will enhance India’s surveillance capabilities. Israel Aerospace Industry is also assisting India in upgrading Russian developed Mi-24 helicopters and also exported HAROP attack UAVs to the Indian Air Force. India has also purchased long-endurance Heron TPs worth $400 million to enhance its UAV based weapons system. India’s reliance on surveillance through UAV indicates that India is enhancing its limited war strategy.
India’s military modernization possess a serious threat for the strategic stability of South Asia particularly Pakistan. Historical rivalry between India and Pakistan, persisting Kashmir issue which is considered as a nuclear flashpoint and the aggressive hegemonic ambitions of India is making it difficult to achieve a stable political as well as strategic environment in South Asia. The rapid development of conventional, as well as non-conventional military prowess by India, will create security dilemma for Pakistan which will trigger an arms race between the two historical nuclear rivals, thus making South Asia a quagmire in which Pakistan is being dragged unwillingly. Despite Chinese economic and strategic assistance to Pakistan, India’s military modernization together with its huge economic might will make it difficult for Pakistan to maintain the conventional balance in future. In this situation, Pakistan would be compelled to take counter India measures by either choosing a nuclear option to stop Indian aggression or to form military alliances with major powers – China in this case. While discussing the future strategic environment of South Asia one cannot rule out the chances for a limited war between India and Pakistan that has a full potential for escalating into a total war due to the possession of nuclear arms by both the states. India’s ambitions to operationalise its offensive weapons including strategies like cold start doctrine and surgical strikes against Pakistan will disturb the conventional and non-conventional balance in South Asia.
In order to deal with this situation, Pakistan has come up with countermeasures such as the New Concept of War Fighting (NCWF) which will enable Pakistan defence forces to take a defensive position and move faster than Indian approaching troops and make an offensive move before Indian military can do. Induction of low yield field-to-field tactical nuclear weapons will help Pakistan at the non-conventional front. Currently, Pakistan’s defence capabilities are considered credible enough according to scholar Charles Glaser, Pakistan has accumulated more sophisticated nuclear stockpiles including short-range missiles, cruise missiles and recently added Submarine-launched ballistic missiles – that has provided Pakistan with second-strike capability. Being nuclear power and major economies, India and Pakistan are the two most prominent states in South Asia. The traditional rivalry between them along both with conventional and non-conventional asymmetry has offset the delicate strategic balance of the region, which has disturbed regional peace and security at large. The booming Indian economy has provided it with an advantage to materialize its military capabilities to pursue its aggressive ambitions in the region. A strategic alliance between India and other countries such as the US, Russia and Israel has further supported India in its strategic manoeuvring thus compelling Pakistan to take countermeasures and further disturbing regional peace and stability.
India’s fastest-growing economy and mounting military budget that is reaching up to approximately $63.9 billion has made India the fifth largest spender on military expenditure. Apart from coercing Pakistan and becoming a regional hegemony, Indian military modernization can be accredited to its strategic competition with China. Generally, it is also believed that India is deeming at enhancing its global reach and to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean region. The shift in Indian strategic posture that is from defensive to offensive is highlighting India’s stance as a revisionist state. A constant increase in the Indian defence budget has made India one of the biggest buyers of western and Russian military equipment. Indian drive towards security is creating more insecurity for Pakistan. Military assistance and provision of strategically advanced communication technologies to India by Israel will provide India with an edge to launch hybrid attacks against Pakistan. Therefore, to create balance with India, Pakistan is in need to develop its defensive capabilities together with forming strong military alliances to gain strategic benefits. It underscores the possible effect on promoting regional arms race, enforcing Pakistan to reciprocate to reinvigorate its capability to maintain conventional parity for tactical deterrence in the region. Pakistan should revisit its policy about the Middle East where the growing strategic alliance between Israel and India can be contradictory for Pakistan’s interests. This does not necessarily mean that Pakistan has to bring a radical change in its foreign policy but a minimum working relation can be maintained. India’s growing strategic alliances with global powers are making room for asymmetrical warfare between India and Pakistan which will thwart peace and stability in South Asia. There is a need to induce arms race stability in the region by promoting multilateral arms control.
— The writer is associated with Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.