Lowering nuclear threshold

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Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

INDIA-Pakistan strategic competition and Great Powers interest in the region have made the South Asian strategic environment complex and unpredictable. Today, the Great Powers have been engaging the South Asian leading states for the pursuit of their global strategic objectives. The Americans announcement of ‘Pivot of Asia’ or China’s containment strategy in Asia-Pacific in 2001-2002, Russia’s assertive military actions in Crimea, Ukraine in 2014 and Syria in 2015, and China’s signaling to monitor and oppose the external interference in the South China Sea affairs have immense impact on the South Asian strategic environment. Nevertheless, the transformation in the global strategic environment alarms about the lowering of nuclear strategic environment in South Asia.
South Asian states, particularly India and Pakistan are equally enthusiastic for cooperation with the Great Powers to sustain their regional autonomy and purchase high-tech military hardware. Neither India nor Pakistan is advanced in military know-how. Therefore, both states are depended on the technologically advanced nations for military hardware purchases and relevant transfer of technologies. The alarming fact is the absence of arms control constituency in both India and Pakistan. Thus, both states continue manufacturing military hardware indigenously and purchasing weaponry from the technologically advanced nations.
Importantly, New Delhi permitted local private companies to work with foreign players to make high-tech defence equipment in India on May 20, 2017. Premier Narendra Modi government also announced to spend $250 billion on the modernization of its armed forces over the next decade. Indeed, New Delhi armed forces modernization scheme is very attractive for the military industrial complex and thereby it is endeavouring to facilitate New Delhi to purchase military sophisticated hardware. Simultaneously, it is destabilizing for South Asian Strategic environment.
The Great Powers selectively transfer sophisticated technology to improve their allies’ indigenous research and development military programs. The selective-cum-discriminatory approach about the transfer of technology is perilous for the regional strategic stability. It not only undermines the arms race stability but also subvert the conflict sustainability between/among the belligerent’s neighbours. In theory, the discriminatory transfer of technology policy of the supplier nation in a nuclearised region, such as South Asia, certainly lowers nuclear threshold. Precisely, increases the chances of conventional war spiraling into nuclear exchanges or war.
Since the end of Cold War and subsequent shift in India’s foreign policy in 1992, New Delhi has been receiving technological assistance from the developed world. New Delhi shunned its indigenous technological driven programs, especially indigenously military build-up programs for modernization of its armed forces. For instance it abandoned its indigenous ballistic and cruise missile program—Integrated Missile Development Programme of Defence Research and Development Organization of India. India’s willingness to purchase military hardware from military technologically advanced nations makes it attractive for the American and European military industrial complexes. India is intelligently using its attractiveness for transfer of space technology for advancing of its ballistic missiles inventories.
The United States led western world not only expressed its willingness to sell military hardware to India but in certain cases they agreed to transfer the duel use technology to India, i.e. nuclear and missile. The American nuclear commercial lobby realized that India is a big market for its nuclear reactor industry. Similarly, the American space enclave decided to capture India’s big space market. For uninterrupted transfer of material as well as technology to India, the Bush Administration amended US Foreign Assistance Act 1954. And also had facilitated, India in getting waiver from Nuclear Supplier Group in Sept 2008.
The United States strategic partnership with India is gradually creating military imbalance in the South Asia strategic environment. The transformation in military power entailing military asymmetry between the strategic competitors encourages the advantageous state to launch a preventive war against the adversary. Paradoxically, the Washington primary objective is to build India militarily to check the Chinese rise in Asia, while India is determined to advance its military muscle to establish its hegemony in South Asia.
New Delhi’s hegemonic aspiration maybe acceptable to the smaller neighbours of India, but Pakistan is unwavering to sustain its sovereign stature in the international community particularly in South Asian strategic environment. Pakistan’s endeavour to sustain the strategic equilibrium with its limited financial resources and indigenous nuclear weapons program certainly frustrate Indian ruling elite and strategic community. The frustration of the Indian ruling elite has been multiplied during the recent years. To conclude, India’s ruling elite and military establishment irresponsible destabilizing claim about the conduct of strategic strikes in September 2016, did not spiral into lethal border conflict. Nevertheless, it alarms about the lowering of nuclear threshold between India and Pakistan.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]

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