South Asia’s Security landscape is comprised of regional competitive strategies that stimulate hostile relations and rivalries between India and Pakistan due to multiple historical and political factors. It is ironic that despite having two nuclear powers in its vicinity, South Asia cannot project an optimistic image as both these countries (India and Pakistan) share unfriendly ties. Bilateral relations of both states have been stressed by various significant strategic, geopolitical, and political issues. Various wars and limited conflicts have occurred between both states since 1947. Due to the history of deteriorated relations and their security concerns, both states aim to enhance their conventional and nuclear capabilities and undergo military arms production and modernization. Therefore, the introduction of nuclear weapon capability is viewed as a critical tool to ensure peace and stability as nuclear weapons have established strategic and deterrence stability in the region. However, at the same time, the nuclear weapon capability has fueled the missiles and nuclear arms race. India’s quest for sophisticated forces and aims to increase conventional and strategic arms can disturb the balance of power in the region that is considered perilous for regional strategic stability and peace. Under such dynamics, it is investable to establish an institutional mechanism to reduce the arms race and maintain strategic stability. Therefore, Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are viewed as viable solutions to counter the growing regional peace and security challenges.
Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) refer to those actions or procedures taken to abate tensions between two or more states. They are broadly defined as procedures that deal with and avert or resolve doubts between states. They mainly intend to build trust and avoid escalation of hostilities. The main aim of the Confidence Building measures is to diffuse tensions and minimize the degree of fear and mistrust between the conflicting states. These measures aim to make the behavior of the involved parties more predictable, and thus suspicion and anxiety amongst them are reduced. The CBMs foster de-escalation of a conflict by building trust between the differing parties. “No one can dispute the need and relevance of building confidence between two antagonist parties for the resolutions of conflicts.”
Confidence Building Measures play an essential part in inculcating the notions of security and stability in states. Another primary objective of the Confidence building is to aid the progression toward arms control and disarmament negotiations. CBMs are considered significant to reduce apprehension, misinterpretations, faulty calculations, and chances of surprise attacks.
India’s development and deployment of missiles have the potential to impact the complex geometry of deterrence, arms control, and crisis stability in the region. India’s growing capabilities and shifting nuclear policies can have a ripple effect on the region, especially Pakistan. Indigenously developed Prithvi-II, supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, NGARM, and nuclear-capable Shaurya missiles are intended to launch pre-emptive counterforce strikes. The missiles seem to result in deterrence and crisis instability while increasing the arms race among nuclear adversaries. Above mentioned missiles may tangle the defender state in a “use them or lose them dilemma” to maintain the heightened readiness concerning the recent reinterpretation of India’s no-first-use (NFU) policy.
Subsequently, arms control is an essential component of the confidence-building process. “The theory behind CBMs, which were first introduced in the mid-1950, is that they provide a propitious atmosphere for arms control”. Last but least, another important task performed by the CBMs is to eradicate the elements of concealment and secrecy in military-related activities of states. This helps distinguish between the genuine and speculative suspicions about the intention or risk posed by an existent and potential adversary. Nevertheless, another critical requirement is safeguarding and improving the states’ national security rather than endangering it.
In emerging dynamics, both promising trends and disturbing developments awkwardly coexist worldwide. It puts forward an ambiguous landscape with puzzling circumstances. So under such a situation, the political leaders can utilize the CBMs to bring out the positive and guard against the negative. Due to these factors in the prevailing strategic landscape, Pakistan demands nuclear and convention restraints to maintain peace among South Asian nuclear neighbors. Primarily, India should understand the obligation of being a nuclear weapon state instead of following the “ambiguous offensive strategies” in its nuclear doctrine. In this regard, the establishment of Pakistan’s proposed Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) is significant due to its three interconnecting elements: First, nuclear restraint to maintain deterrence stability; second, conventional arms balance; third, for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. A Strategic Restraint Regime would help maintain strategic and deterrence stability and accelerate the peace process in the region. It could be employed to build trust and avert the chances of escalation. By effective implementation of strategic restraints, both states will be able to make their decisions more confidently in a less hostile and more stable environment. Both nuclear rivals have signed various bilateral military and non-military confidence measures, most notably the yearly exchange of lists of nuclear facilities and Operationalization of Director Generals Military Operations (DGMOs) hotlines. However, emerging regional and global landscape trends are demanding to shift the focus from offensive traditional security measures. Primarily, India should understand the obligation of being a nuclear weapon state instead of following the “ambiguous offensive strategies” in its nuclear doctrine. In this regard, the establishment of Pakistan’s proposed Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) is significant due to its three interconnecting elements: First, nuclear restraint to maintain deterrence stability; second, conventional arms balance; third, for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. A Strategic Restraint Regime would help maintain strategic and deterrence stability and accelerate the peace process in the region. It could be employed to build trust and avert the chances of escalation. By effective implementation of strategic restraints, both states will be able to make their decisions more confidently in a less hostile and more stable environment.
Also, opportunities such as the exchange of the lists of nuclear facilities every year, the operationalization of DGMOs hotlines, and the exchange of greetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Shahbaz Sharif can be dubbed as a light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, it is the right time for India-Pakistan to utilize these opportunities to initiate formal dialogue to evade misunderstandings, assist states in preventing crises and maintain peace.