Need to establish strategic restraint regime in SA

Dr Rizwan Naseer

REINCARNATION of India’s Nuclear power status in post cold war times, had been the agenda on Atal Bihari Vajpyee’s election campaign and therefore, on 11-13th May, 1998, he showcased nuclear might which earned him huge fame within domestic political circles in India. Such a provocation led Pakistan to follow suit by testing its own nuclear weapons on 28th May, 1998 consequently invoking stiff sanctions on Pakistan and India. A month later, permanent members of United Nations Security Council (P-5) issued a joint communiqué and Mr. Strobe Talbott Deputy Secretary of State under Clinton Administration laid down five conditions to be freed of sanctions and one amongst them was accepting a “strategic restraint regime”.
The rationale behind the proposal of strategic restraint regime was seeking pledges from India and Pakistan not to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in close proximity of each other. This diplomatic manoeuvring of Washington should be extolled which aims to deescalate between New Delhi and Islamabad. But George W. Bush waned such efforts by handing over 123 Agreement (Indo-US civil nuclear deal) to India which was materialized in 2008. The irony is that after clinching the deal the non-signatory (India) of NPT, CTBT and FMCT, was entitled to trade civil nuclear technology with other members of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which collectively work for nuclear non-proliferation. It also recognized India as responsible nuclear weapon state while on the other hand declined Pakistan’s appeal to be treated the same way.
National Command Authority (NCA) which is the main decision-making body on nuclear issues and it oversees research and development, deployment, command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has emphasized for establishing a ‘Strategic Restraint Regime’ in the region. India, after obtaining Indo-US civil nuclear deal, has stepped up development of conventional and nuclear weapons and exponentially increased fissile material stocks. India provokes arms race in the region which certainly may have adverse effects on regional peace and security. India has already built an aircraft carrier (INS Vikrant) and now is in the process of commissioning second aircraft carrier. Nuclear submarines (INS Arihant) are also close to commissioning and soon India would be accomplishing nuclear triad.
According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is ranked as largest arms importer globally which indicates that it’s pursuing hegemonic designs over neighbouring states and catching up with China’s military modernization. But India’s military modernization has directly undermined Pakistan’s security. Such a security dilemma compels Pakistan to maintain strategic balance against India. Modernization of military technology requires quite a heft cost and developing states encounter other challenges of socio-economic development as well. Pakistan’s economy is gradually indicating better signs of improvement and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would expedite economic growth by attracting more foreign investment.
Pakistan is also fast recovering from lesions of US triggered war against terror. To provide better living standards to its nationals, the government is vying to attract foreign investment and boost trade which would ultimately result in national prosperity. But if India continues to develop more advanced missiles, aircraft carriers, nuclear capable submarines, then Pakistan would have no option but to counter-balance; which would certainly cost huge to Pakistan. But internal challenges are equally important to cope with for both regional players. ‘Strategic Restraint Regime’ as proposed by NCA Pakistan is a better option for India and Pakistan.
This regime may diminish arms race and dwindle down chances of escalation between both nuclear armed states. Pakistan is adhered to doctrine of credible minimum deterrence which means ‘no first use’ and better management of the deployment and command and control system of the nukes.
Upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in March, 2016 is a salutary platform for all nuclear weapon states that they would be hammering out future strategies to prevent risk of nuclear terrorism and improved global nuclear security architecture. Additionally, minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium, plutonium and crippling the smuggling of nuclear-related material and technology would also be the primary agenda.
Pakistan can raise voice at that forum about proposed Strategic Restraint Regime and urge participating members and international organizations which include about 58 states and European Union, Interpol, International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations, to advocate this regime to bring India to terms. Such a diplomatic move would improve Pakistan’s image as a responsible nuclear actor and its compliance to IAEA rules. If India agrees to establish this regime, then both nuclear powers may debar costly arms race and improve the lives of their respective nationals. Pakistan’s diplomats should vibrantly present this proposal at International forums and demonstrate Pakistan’s resolve to regional peace and security.
— The writer is an Assistant Professor & teaches International Relations at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology Islamabad.

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