Dr Muhammad Khan
While Pakistan emphasises for the establishment of Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) in South Asia, India has once again emerged as the world’s largest arms importer. The latest report of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reveals that India is world’s top arms importer, with 14% global arms imports. The report also indicate that, Russia is world’s top arms exporter (supplier), garnering 70% of the Indian market. The strategic restraint regime, proposed by Pakistan, following 1998 nuclear detonation by India and Pakistan aims to achieve three objectives: one, to ensure nuclear restraint, two, to bring a conventional balance and three, the settlement of all outstanding disputes between Pakistan and India.
Indeed, the sole objective of the SRR was to avoid any nuclear catastrophe in Subcontinent, even accidently, which could only be ensured through nuclear restraint. Since nuclear weapons have brought a strategic stability in the region, therefore, the next phase would be to minimize the purchase and possession of the conventional arms by both South Asian rivals. The minimization of the conventional arms can be achieved through the peaceful settlement of all disputes, pending for their resolution, ever since the partition of Indian into two independent countries. SRR would reduce the arms race in the region, which in fact, takes away a major chunk of the economies and GDP of both countries.
Unfortunately, India has found to be a reluctant partners in the implementation of SRR, whereas, it (SRR) aims to benefit India more than Pakistan. Indian has world’s second largest population (1.3 billion now) with over 35% population falling below the poverty line. The global standard of poverty would include even more percentage towards poverty in India. Indian indulgence into arms race, being the biggest arms purchaser of the world would mean maximum of its GDP is diverted towards arms procurement, with India entering into a self-imposed arms race without having threat from any of its neighbour(s).
Indian arms imports are three time higher than, China, a rising global power, which have proportionate economy to support its arms imports and global rivalry with a super power. Following India, China stands number two with just 4.7%, Australia third with 3.6% and Pakistan as fourth with (3.3%). Indian arms imports have risen over the year and now at the top, with Russia, EU and now US becoming its major arms suppliers. As per defence analysts, India maintained its top arms importer status in 2013, 2014 and now in 2015.
The heavy Indian defence expenditures are likely to continue in foreseeable future. This is going to be a dangerous trend, increasing the threat for Pakistan, in a way, involving Pakistan too in the continuing arms race. Initiation of the idea of strategic restraint regime by Pakistan was indeed a step towards peace through resolution of issues, rather through stockpiling of arms and increasing the threat level by each other. As per realist scholars of international relations, there is no end to power maximization and India is rightly following the offensive realists like John J. Mearsheimer, who equates power with material capabilities, rather with the outcomes. India indeed, follows the same philosophy, in blind move forward for attaining the status of a major power.
In the recent meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA), convened on February 24, 2016, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan re-emphasized, its desire of “establishing the Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia and the inescapable need of a meaningful and sustained comprehensive dialogue process for resolution of all outstanding disputes”. The NCA meeting also approved the “inter-agency process to ratify the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (Amended) by Pakistan.”
This meeting (22nd NCA Meeting), was though a scheduled event, yet, debated and discussed two important aspects. One, the US and Indian concerns over the tactical nuclear weapons of Pakistan and two; the aspects which would be discussed in the forth coming Nuclear Security Summit, being held in Washington on March 31 and April 1, 2016. The Nuclear Security Summit, started in 2010, is a forum, which deal with “preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons”. Though currently there are only nine countries having nuclear weapons, but the nuclear security summit, brings leaders from across the world to discuss various proposals for attaining this goal. For the 4th Summit, President Obama, especially invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narindra Modi.
Since, the Nuclear Security Summit is an initiative of the President Obama, therefore, he would like to formulate a comprehensive policy outcomes towards safety of nuclear weapons, this time, being his last summit as US President. This is the right opportunity for the Pakistan to convince the international community and particularly the US and India not to raise concern over physical security of Pakistani nuclear arsenals. There is multi-layered security system working for the security of Pakistani nuclear arsenals, leaving zero chance for the terrorists to even know the location of Pakistani nuclear arsenals. Indian unprecedented development and supplies of Uranium through NSG is certainly an issue, Pakistan must raise its concern for the strategic stability in South Asia. Moreover, it must pursue its case for establishing SRR in South Asia.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.