The aim of this paper is to analyze the implications of Pakistan Second Strike Capability on the stability of South Asia using the lens of structural realism. This paper is divided into four main parts that are how Pakistan second strike capability will influence policies at national level within in Pakistan at government level and response of epistemic community towards this development.

Secondly, how Pakistan second strike capability will have its impact on regional dynamic especially its effects on Indian side at their government level and in terms of its effects on the epistemic community of India. Thirdly, what would be the international response with respect to Pakistan second strike capability? According to the international community, this would have the stabilizing effect on the South Asian region.

India already has a second strike capability it’s the ability of the state to strike back at the enemy through sea-based nuclear weapons as their backup. But what if Pakistan also acquires this capability it would have a stabilizing effect on this region. This would balance the power in the South Asian region. The first question that is needed to be answered is whether Pakistan has a second strike capability or not. If Pakistan has a second strike that is claimed in conference arranged by SVI in Islamabad former Defense Secretary retired Lt Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi assured those present of Pakistan’s Second Strike Capability against India - a military term meaning that Pakistan is in a position to defend itself should its land-based nuclear Arsenal be neutralized This revelation completely changed the security dynamics of the region. However, Gen Lodhi, refrained from going into further details about what exactly constitutes Pakistan’s second strike capability or whether it was land, sea or air based, nor did he provide any clues as to whether Pakistan was any closer to achieving a submarine-based “assured second strike capability” considering that India is known to be working towards this .

Pakistani sea-based second strike capability will depend on a sea-launched alternative of the Hatf-VII Babur cruise missile. The Hatf-VII a medium-range subsonic cruise missile that is submarine-based launch system would need to operate in waters relatively close to the potential enemy’s shores (in Pakistan’s case, India). This brings up a problem for Pakistan’s plans for a sea-based deterrent that more established nuclear powers with sea-based deterrents such as the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom haven’t faced. The credibility of a second strike capability lies in the difficulty of detecting submarines carrying submarine-launch ballistic missiles. Undersea radars and other anti-submarine warfare techniques already a major point of interest for the Indian armed forces could undermine Pakistan’s sea-based deterrent.

Pakistani Government stance on Second Strike Capability

The official stance of a government of Pakistan can be traced back in 2012 when they announced the creation of a Naval Strategic Force Command. It implied that the country now possessed a sea-based second nuclear strike capability. But there is no official stance about Pakistan second strike capability because government officials avoid giving any statement related to it. The likely chances are that Pakistan is near to acquire second strike capability. According to experts, Pakistan has a potential as they had been working on improving their Naval Strategic Force since 2012.

As per India Today, “Pakistan will build two types of submarines with Chinese assistance the Project S-26 and Project S-30. The vessels are to be built at the Submarine Rebuild Complex (SRC) facility being developed at Ormara, west of Karachi. Intelligence sources believe the S-30 submarines are based on the Chinese Qing class submarines-3,000-tonne conventional submarines which can launch three 1,500-km range nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from its conning tower. A Very Low Frequency (VLF) station at Turbat, in southern Balochistan, will communicate with these submerged strategic submarines.”

This provides evidence that Pakistan is working on building its Naval Strategic force with the help of the China. They are improving the existing capacity of their submarines that can carry a nuclear warhead over them. S-30 Submarines are replicated copy of Chinese Qing class submarines that have an ability to launch a 1,500km range of ballistic missiles. But at the official level, we have no statement that claimed that Pakistan government accepted openly that they have acquired or near to the point of achieving Second Strike Capability. Although Indian side accused Pakistani side they have Second strike capability but they are avoiding to claimed it.

Epistemic community views about Pakistani Second Strike Capability 

Pakistani epistemic community viewed Pakistani Second Strike capability critically because according to them the never-ending arms race between Pakistan and India will have the destabilizing effect on the region. According to the epistemic community of Pakistan, the second Strike capability will disturb the stability in the region. India will go further for an arms race in order to achieve arms superiority in the South Asian region. The increase of nuclear weapons within the region will have negative repercussions. It would increase the number of nuclear arsenals in the South Asian region.

The epistemic community of Pakistan viewed Pakistan Second Strike capability critically as for them it is another form of nuclear escalation between two regional players. Pakistani Second Strike Capability will not have stabilizing effect on the region. India will not accept Pakistan’s Second Strike Capability as it would undermine the power of Indian Second Strike Capacity. The balance of power as per Indian side will be disturbed because when both countries will have Second Strike capability.

The epistemic community advocated the idea of Nuclear Free Weapons Zone in South Asia because it would initially limit the number of nuclear weapons in the region and then eventually towards complete disarmament of the South Asian region. It was rejected by Indian side the epistemic community criticized the Indian role for not preventing nuclear proliferation in the region. The unnecessary arm race in South Asia is a source of concern and worry.

Indian Official Stance about Pakistan second strike capability

The Indian government openly accused Pakistan that they have Second Strike This would undermine their ability to influence Pakistan and other regional states according to their national interests. But if Pakistan acquires the Second Strike Capability it would undermine their power within the region. India has aspirations to become a regional hegemon in South Asia such developments would hurt their interests and their long-term goals in the region. India always suspects Pakistan actions because of their historical bitter legacy and history of wars between both countries.

Indian media and their government blamed Pakistan. They have Second Strike Capability and they got this technology from China. Indian observed Pak-China relations closely because for them the mutual relations between these two countries would harm their interests. India has border issues with China. The Indian government is suspicious of Pakistani policy posturing because they are major rivals in the region and compete with each other within the region. India is economically more viable than Pakistan. In terms of their nuclear capability they are more or less equal.

According to Indian side Shaheen III would suggest that Pakistan will have the ability to target Indian naval vessels in the Bay of Bengal. Pakistan would need an extremely effective and accurate terminal guidance system. This would help a missile to trace the targeted vessels movement and adjust its trajectory accordingly after flying across the entire Indian mainland. Another benefit which would make Shaheen III standout could be the multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) capabilities. Pakistan would use these payloads on Shaheen II as well.

From an Indian perspective, the status-quo is highly irrational and unstable in the long-run. The Indian problems are further increased by the fact that the Pakistani state is in despair today with a multilayer of threats emerging from its domestic instability. A society which is near to collapse with serious problems of insurgency, ethnolinguistic and politico-religious clashes and a failing economy gives India an upper hand. Despite Islamabad’s statement that its atomic weapons and the related infrastructure is in safe hands with multiple layers of security but there is a deep sense of uneasiness in the Indian strategic landscape.

Views of Indian Epistemic Community

Indian epistemic community viewed Pakistani Second Strike capability critically because according to them the never-ending arms race between Pakistan and India will have the destabilizing effect on the region. According to the epistemic community of India, the second Strike capability will disturb the stability in the region because India will go further for arms race in order to achieve arms superiority in the South Asian region. The increase of nuclear weapons within the region will have negative repercussions.

The epistemic community of India viewed Pakistan Second Strike capability critically as for them it is another form of nuclear escalation between two regional players. Pakistani Second Strike Capability will not have stabilizing effect on the region. Pakistan will not accept Indian Second Strike Capability. This would undermine the power of Pakistan Second Strike Capacity and balance of power in the South Asian region.

The epistemic community advocated the idea of limiting the number of nuclear weapons especially sea-based nuclear arsenals in South Asia. It would initially limit the number of nuclear weapons in the region and then eventually towards complete disarmament of the South Asian region. It was rejected by Pakistani epistemic community as they criticized the role of Pakistan for not making this region a stable and peaceful place without nuclear weapons.

Impact of Second Strike Capability on South Asia

According to Pakistan, their Second Strike Capability will have stabilizing effects on South Asia region because it would balance the power between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan are two major powers of this region they need to build consensus in order to get rid of unnecessary arms race within the South Asian region. The Pakistani perspective is based upon their perception of security as they feel insecure from India.

According to an epistemic community of Pakistan, it will not bring stability but instead, this would start another type of arms race between India and Pakistan. The security dilemma is the main reason why these two states can never feel secure as they suspect each other behavior and their foreign policies. The epistemic community is of the view that they should control their nuclear arms race in order to secure the peace of the South Asian region. This can only be achieved by building trust between India and Pakistan.

India on the hand is of the view that Pakistan Second Strike Capability will have a destabilizing effect on South Asia because it disturbs the balance of power. Pakistan Second Strike Capability will undermine the power of Indian superiority in terms of creating a security threat for them by challenging their abilities to launch the possible attack if they are targeted by Pakistan. In general, Indians view Pakistan Second Strike Capability as the major threat to their security. The security dilemma will cause more harm to the stability of the South Asian region.

According to Indian epistemic community, the Pakistani Second Strike Capability will cause more problems for both countries because they already feel insecure from each other. This would create more apprehensions about Pakistan. They are not willing to work for the stability of South Asian region their national interests are most vital than the regional security and harmony. The Indian epistemic community is very critical in explaining the role of Pakistan in promoting peace in the region and  ending the never-ending nuclear arms race in South Asia.

Theoretical Explanation 

According to structural or neo-realism first two concepts ‘anarchy’ and ‘structure’ are entwined. The ‘structure’ of the international system is called as ‘anarchic’. ‘Anarchy’ does not imply the presence of chaos and disorder. It simply refers to the absence of a world government (Waltz 1979, 88). With no overarching global authority that provides security and stability in international relations. The world politics is not formally and organized in hierarchical order. International politics is shaped by ‘anarchy’, in contrast to domestic politics that is structured by ‘hierarchy’. The international system is often defined in terms of an anarchic international structure.

An ‘anarchic structure’ has two main characteristics First every actor in the international system is responsible for protecting itself this interpretation the international system is “self-help system”. This system is consists of egoistic units who mainly search for to survival. National states are the only entities in international relations that have the centralized legitimate authority to use force to look after them from external threats. Sovereign states are the main units of the international system and the primary actors in world politics. Therefore, the organizing principle of the international structure is ‘anarchy’, and this ‘structure’ is defined in terms of states. Secondly, states always feel threatened by a potential attack from others.  

According to structural realism international world order is anarchic in nature as there is no centralized authority means that at international level there is no authority that regulates the behavior of states. The states are independent in their domestic dealing with people residing inside the state. Sovereignty is a power of a state to do whatever within the boundaries of the state no external power can interfere into the matters of the state. The state protects itself from threats by self-help as there is no authority that can provide security to the state.

Pakistan Second strike Capability is based upon the structural realism main assumptions that at international level there is anarchy that means there is no single authority at the international level that can ensure the security of the state. Under these circumstances, Pakistan Second Strike Capability is based upon the principle of self-help. Pakistan had to rely on its capabilities to ensure her security.

Pakistan feels insecure because India acquires Second Strike Capability and the balance of power is disturbed in the South Asian region. In order to ensure the security of Pakistan, they also acquired Second Strike Capability and try to balance the power in the South Asian region. As per structural realism, it is right of the state to ensure its security by relying on their abilities without any help from external powers or external actors to protect their vital national interests. In case of South Asia, Pakistan and India are rivals and both competing with each other to dominate the regional politics of the South Asia.

In my view, Structural realism explains the behavior of Pakistan because they feel insecure of growing non-traditional security threats emerging from India. India is far more superior in comparison to Pakistan in terms of its conventional power. Pakistan is competing with India by increasing nuclear capability and tactical weapons also called as mini-nukes. Pakistan is small state as compared to India in terms of its size and power. There is no centralized authority that can provide security to all states so they had to rely on their capacity to protect them from external threats.

Pakistan is relatively an insecure state because of the historical legacy of bitter relationships with India and they have fought numbers of wars in order to reassert their power within the South Asia. Pakistan is not as strong as India but Pakistan tried to project its power within the region. The Second Strike Capability of Pakistan is the example how they are trying to maintain a balance of power in South Asia. Although India has aspirations to become regional hegemon Pakistan is trying to maintain a balance to prevent India from dominating the whole region of South Asia. According to structural realism, anarchy is the main root cause of the conflict and insecurity that why states tend to accumulate more power in order to feel secure. The structural realism explains Pakistan Second Strike Capability in most appropriate manner because it is the international structure that is forcing Pakistan to improve their security by increasing their capacity to deal with insecurities. 

Conclusion

According to Pakistan, their Second Strike Capability will have stabilizing effects on South Asia region because it would disturb the balance the power between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani perspective is based upon their perception of security as they feel threatened from India. According to the Pakistan, their Second Strike capability will help to maintain a balance of power because India already has second strike capability if both states have this capability. It would balance the power configuration of South Asia.

Pakistan Second strike Capability is based upon the structural realism main assumptions that at international level there is anarchy which means that there is no single authority at the international level.  Under these circumstances, Pakistan is also improving its ability to protect her from potential threat emanating from the Indian side. Pakistan Second Strike Capability is based upon the principle of self-help. Every state is dependent upon their own capacity to protect them from external threats.

India on the hand is of the view that Pakistan Second Strike Capability will have the destabilizing effect on South Asia because it will disturb the balance of power in the region. Pakistan. In general, Indians view Pakistan Second Strike Capability as the main threat to their security. The security dilemma in case of South Asia will cause more harm to the stability of this region.

To conclude the stability of South Asia is dependent upon the behavior of both Pakistan and India they need to build trust and their nuclear doctrine are not very clearly stated as they have few abstract concepts within their doctrines. Pakistan and India need to remove the misunderstanding to bring peace and stability in the region. South Asia is a significant region in terms of its geostrategic location and its role in international politics is promising because they take part international negotiations on disarmament and non-proliferation.

Mehwish Akram

Mehwish Akram holds masters degree in International Relations and currently doing M Phil in Political Science. Her areas of interest are Democracy, Political theory and Environmental politics .

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