The South Asian Arms Race Revisited – India’s Dangerous Power Play


Almost 80 years ago, when the world saw its first nuclear bomb, it was believed that warfare had been revolutionized with so called ‘Golden Age’. The validation for it was later witnessed in the success of Nuclear Deterrence during the Cuban Missile Crisis between two major powers – 1962. However, South Asia, home to world’s two overtly declared nuclear weapons state, India and Pakistan, even after 24 years of reaching ‘nuclear deterrence’ remains in a haze of strategic showdown.

From Nuclear Deterrence to Nuclear Haze

In an ideal world, if Indio-Pak nuclear deterrence was successful, both countries would move beyond ancient ideas of conventional threats perception and management to work on other more critical issues i.e. national economic upkeep and threats to human security. Despite of establishing credible minimum deterrence, the imbalance in South Asian strategic equation adds up to chaos. A major strategic feature that is often overlooked is the conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan – an elephant in the room, armed with nukes. This asymmetry in the conventional capabilities of both states translates into their strategic policies, it is neither understood nor discussed that this asymmetry also spills over into the forms of deterrence capabilities both states maintain.

“There is a well-known distinction between deterrence based on punishment, which involves in threatening to destroy large portions of an opponent’s civilian population and industry, and deterrence based on denial, which requires convincing an opponent that he will not attain his goals on the battlefield”

– John J. Mearsheimer

Understood as above, Pakistan’s deterrence is aimed at denying Indian victory in battlefield, however, it is fairly obvious that Indian stated national objective for Akhand Bharat portrays its nuclear deterrence as punishment based with respect to Pakistan – an alleged breakaway region.

Recently, certain elements of Indo-Pak strategic equation have changed. While there is a general consensus among strategists that India’s regional calculations are mainly China oriented, it will be naivety to expect Pakistan to sit back and assume observer status. Coming into power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (2014) with ambitions to revolutionize India into a global superior military power coupled with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dangerous apartheid policies towards Muslims of sub-continent have created an exaggerated strategic anxiety for Pakistan.

Hard Lessons from History –Multi-Polarity & Bloc Politics

The world learned hard lessons on global peace and stability the hard way when alliance system virtually devastated world’s most advanced civilizations before world wars. Later on, bi-polarity drew a dangerous schism on the globe, creating Western and Eastern Blocs from 1945 onwards. After collapse of Soviet Union in the 1990s, world community prospered under the short-lived promise of the new Hegemon (the US) that together with other responsible members of the international community – namely the permanent members of United Nations Security Council – international strategic dealings will be transparent and regional Bullies will not threaten global peace. But that promise seems to have faded along with the hard lessons that humanity learned over centuries of warfare and suffrage as United States has channeled her foreign policy at a strategic competition characterized with occasional escalations under the pretext of ‘containing’ China.

What’s more ironic is the fact that China is very likely the only great ancient dynasty in the history who has not worked for attaining ‘Imperial’ status. The UK in Europe, Japan in the Far-East Asia, Israel in the Middle East Asia, formerly Iran in Asia, the United States has worked through regional monitors to intervene abroad. If the defense deals signed between US, her key allies and India in the last decade signify anything, it’s the fact that India, undoubtedly, is the most recently appointed monitor of US in South Asia.

India’s Bid to Complement Conventional Streams with High-end Tech – Just Dangerous or Deadly?

In past few years, India has penned down critical defense deals with the United States, pushing the region into a renewed frenzy of arms race. The three major defense agreements between US and India entail the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) which enables both countries to share data via maps and satellites for ‘defense purposes’ but can also be used for other tactical reasons like enhancing target accuracy of missiles, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) which allows both parties to utilize each other’s refueling and replenishment basis mainly in the domain of naval cooperation which enhances India’s capabilities on high seas by manifolds and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) ensures military communications at all times. An array of India’s many noteworthy defense agreements with other regional and global countries remain untouched here.

In an environment where the world’s most powerful states and alleged upholders of peace are equipping a nation ruled by an openly fascist government vindictive to one of the largest ethnic group in South Asia – Muslims – and expressly expansionist in its territorial ideology, can Pakistan afford to overlook its renewed defense requirements?

Its high time for Pakistan to put our money where our mouth is and realize the need of the hour which isn’t an arms race or any kind of race at all but a battle for survival. With India’s bid to revisit options available in the conventional realm augmented with hybrid warfare with billion dollar agreements already bagged and several in pipeline and indigenous production currently in boom, Pakistan is left with no other option but to ensure her own national sovereignty.

Pakistan is set to level up against a country whose defense budget is nearly four times higher than her own and fight a form of warfare off the traditional battle grounds with no Geneva Conventions to draw the lines between rights and wrongs committed by Indian UAVs or Precision Guided Munitions with accuracy enhanced to pin-point accuracy and no referees to determine which digital blows are below the belt.

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