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A Geopolitcal Reflection on India’s Strategic and Tactical Maritime Weaknesses

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India’s global return to prominence, alongside China, has been an interesting and a fascinating story. Earlier dismissed and often disregarded, the rise and return of the two behemoths, first economically and then politically, has captured the world’s attention.

Collectively described through its portemanteau Chindia (Ramesh 2005), their combined ascension has led to many international analysts heralding a coming Asian century (Mahbubani 2008). Indeed, such tectonic shifts in balance of power, from the ‘old’ West to the ‘new’ East, has resulted in the urgency to study more closely the geopolitical turbulences it is creating in the global order. Commanding more than one fifth of global economy and containing within its borders around two fifths of humanity (Bardhan 2010, 1), China and India set to become key international players of the 21st century. At the very least, make a lasting stamp on it.

However that is the essential trouble of understanding geopolitics through either acronyms or portemanteaux, as reality often trumps such idealisation. The rise of Asia cannot be understood as a uniform phenomenon, as Asia is not a single construct. This holds particularly true in the context of China and India. Albeit their parallel rise and possessing complementary economies, the two countries remain as different as ever. Although cooperation on certain mutual agendas between these two giants remains inevitable, it is competition that will realistically mark the relationship between these two nations. Both nations share a deep mistrust engrained since their brief conflict over their disputed borders in 1962. China’s close relationship with Pakistan also remains a grave dilemma for Indian policy makers.

The New Great Game and the String of Pearls

However, Chakravartti and Lehmann (2013) state that such fierce competition will be most witnessed in maritime competition in the sphere of energy security, as both countries must fulfill its burgeoning appetite for imported hydrocarbons. This is most evidenced in China’s geostrategic String of Pearls policy in the pan Indian Ocean Region. China has invested billions in building civilian maritime infrastructure in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, that could potentially be transformed into military installations. Baker (2015) states that although the future militarization of such facilities remains a possibility and not a certainty, the relevance of Chinese strategy should be understood not limited to Chinese infiltration in the Indian Ocean Region through India’s immediate neighbors, but also its belligerence in the South China Sea, evidenced by its recent construction of airfields and military installations. Such policies manifest China’s geopolitical ambitions of locking the entire region from southern China to eastern Africa for its maritime interests, as well as the containment of India.

Already, the Indian ocean rimland extending to the Pacific Ocean accounts for more than 70 percent of global trade traffic in petroleum products, and contains the three most strategic ‘choke points’ in international energy trade, vis-à-vis, the Malacca Straits, the Gulf of Hormuz, and Bab-el Mandeb. For the moment, it seems evident that China’s economic might, maritime superiority, and proactive foreign policy are outpacing India’s in its own sphere of influence. Indian foreign policy, on the other hand, has always remained paralyzed and reactive due to various historical and geopolitical reasons (See Fukuyama 2012).

Today, India is at a crossroad where it aspires an enviable position in regional and international affairs. To meet its own current demands with success, and to compete against an adversarial China, India needs to shed its erstwhile foreign policy reluctance of strategic engagements, and forge actionable policies that put “India First”. India’s competition with China is essentially maritime. To start, India finds itself at a backfoot vis-à-vis its immediate maritime neighbors. Although India has over the last two decades made some strides in the Indian Ocean rim engaging Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa, its engagement and relations with its immediate maritime neighbours have been less successful. Not to mention Pakistan, India’s policy on Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives have been far outmatched and outclassed by China. Furthermore, although Myanmar shares a geographical and maritime border with India, and lies in the ‘geopolitical shadow region’ between the two giants, India’s obsession with the SAARC makes it ‘lose sight of’ Myanmar (Sibal 2013), even though greater strides could have been made since 2011 after Than Shwe stepped down opening the once isolated country. India’s much coveted “Look East Policy” and “Pivot to Asia” must begin with its immediate neighborhood.

Secondly, on the tactical front, India is far outpaced by China in terms of naval spending, might and outreach. Chinese naval capabilities are far superior given their numeric advantage (submarines, destroyers, frigates, and amphibious ships), technological superiority, and budget. Chinese naval operations today serve in humanitarian and international security operations (Poulin 2016). India on the other hand is merely trying to catch up. In order to project oower effectively, India must invest in a modern blue water navy. However, the political indecisiveness, bureaucratic red-tapism, coupled with laborious procurement processes have hampered the modernization of Indian navy (as also evidenced in India’s policy complications in acquiring French Rafale jets). Furthermore, recent naval accidents have glaringly exposed the weaknesses of Indian naval might.

Finally, success seems to evade India even at its home turf. This is clearly evidenced by the failure of the much hyped military joint command (army, air force and navy) that was created in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2001. The Andaman islands are located at a strategic maritime gateway to the Straits of Malacca (where more than 60,000 ships pass every year), and further to the South China Sea. An effective geopolitical vision for the Andaman islands is key to unlocking India’s Look East Policy, and matching China’s influence as far as the South China Sea (Mukherjee 2014). The joint command was again a failure of India’s policy paralysis and institutional infighting. The individual services from the start feared a loss of power and budgetary cutbacks.

Although India’s strategic interests remains distracted in securing the lines of its northern borders, it is the invisible lines of navigation and maritime security in the Indian Ocean region that has the potential to unlocking India’s destiny in the 21st century. Hopefully the Indian elephant would step up to the task, lest it is too late.

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Defense

Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety and Security

Sonia Naz

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Wyn Bowen and Matthew Cottee discuss in their research entitled “Nuclear Security Briefing Book” that nuclear terrorism involves the acquisition and detonation of an intact nuclear weapon from a state arsenal. The world has not experienced any act of nuclear terrorism but terrorists expressed their desires to gain nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has observed many incidents of lost, theft and unauthorized control of nuclear material. The increased use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes has intensified the threat that terrorist can target these places for acquiring nuclear materials. They cannot build a nuclear weapon because production of a nuclear weapon would require a technological infrastructure. Thus, it is the most difficult task that is nearly impossible because the required infrastructure and technological skills are very high which even a strong terrorist group could not bear easily, but they can build a dirty bomb.

A dirty bomb is not like a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb spreads radiation over hundreds of square miles while nuclear bomb could cause destruction only over a few square miles. A dirty bomb would not kill any more people than an ordinary bomb but it would create psychological terror. There is no viable security system for the prevention of nuclear terrorism, but the only possible solution is that there should be a stringent nuclear security system which can halt terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials.

The UN Security Council and the IAEA introduced multilateral nuclear security initiatives. Pakistan actively contributed in all international nuclear security efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. For example, United States President Barak Obama introduced the process of Nuclear Security Summit (NSS)in 2009 to mitigate the threat of nuclear terrorism. The objective of NSS was to secure the material throughout the world in four years.

Pakistan welcomed it and not only made commitments in NSS but also fulfilled it. Pakistan also established a Centre of Excellence (COEs) on nuclear security and hosted workshops on nuclear security. In addition to all this, Pakistan is a signatory of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 and affirms its strong support to the resolution. It has submitted regular reports to 1540 Committee which explain various measures taken by Pakistan on radiological security and control of sensitive materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) transfer. Pakistan is the first country which submitted a report to the UN establishing the fact that it is fulfilling its responsibilities. Pakistan ratified Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) in 2016. It is also the member of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). It can be rightly inferred that Pakistan is not only contributing in all the international nuclear security instruments but has also taken multiple effective measures at the national level.

Pakistan created National Command Authority (NCA) to manage and safeguard nuclear assets and related infrastructures. The Strategic Plan Division (SPD) is playing a very important role in managing Pakistan’s nuclear assets by collaborating with all strategic organizations. Establishment of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA)in 2001 is another development in this regard. The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and it is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS) was established under PNRA in 2014. Pakistan has also adopted the Export Control Act to strengthen its nuclear export control system. It deals with the rules and regulations for nuclear export and licensing. The SPD has also formulated a standard functioning procedure to regulate the conduct of strategic organizations. Christopher Clary discusses in his research “Thinking about Pakistan’s Nuclear Security in Peacetime” that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals are equipped with Permissive Action Links (PALs) for its stringent security. According to Pakistan’s former nuclear scientist Samar Mubarakmand, every Pakistani nuclear arsenal is now fitted with a code-lock device which needs a proper code to enable the arsenal to explode.

Nonetheless the nuclear terrorism is a global concern and reality because terrorist organizations can target civilian nuclear facility in order to steal nuclear material. The best way to eradicate the root of nuclear terrorism is to have a stringent nuclear security system.

Western media and outsiders often propagate that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals can go into the wrong hands i.e. terrorists, but they do not highlight the efforts of Pakistan in nuclear security at the national and international level. The fact is that Pakistan has contributed more in international nuclear security efforts than India and it has stringent nuclear security system in place.

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India’s Probable Move toward Space Weaponization

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The term Space Weaponization tends to raise alarm as it implies deployment of weapons in the outer space or on heavenly bodies like Sun and Moon or sending weapon from earth to the outer space to destroy satellite capabilities of other states. Thus, space weaponization refers to the actions taken by a state to use outer space as an actual battlefield.

Space militarization on the other hand is a rather less offensive term which stands for utilization of space for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance missions through satellites to support forces on ground in the battle field. Space militarization is already in practice by many states. In South Asia, India is utilizing its upper hand in space technology for space militarization. However, recent concern in this regard is India’s attempts to weaponize space, which offers a bleak situation for regional peace and stability. Moreover, if India went further with this ambitiousness when Pakistan is also sending its own satellites in space, security situation will only deteriorate due to existing security dilemma between both regional counterparts.

Threats of space weaponization arise from the Indian side owing to its rapid developments in Ballistic Missile Defenses (BMDs) and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Both of these technologies, BMDs and ICBMs, hand in hand, could be used to destroy space based assets. In theory, after slight changes in algorithms, BMDs are capable of detecting, tracking and homing in on a satellite and ICBM could be used to target the satellites for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Many international scholars agree on the point that BMD systems have not yet acquired sophistication to give hundred percent results in destroying all the incoming ballistic missile, but they sure have the capability to work as anti-satellite systems. The reason behind the BMD being an effective anti-sat system is that it is easier to locate, track and target the satellites because they are not convoyed with decoys unlike missiles which create confusions for the locating and tracking systems.

India possesses both of the above-mentioned technologies and its Defense Research and Development Organization has shown the intention to build anti-satellite weaponry. In 2012, India’s then head of DRDO categorically said that India needs an arsenal in its system that could track the movement of enemy’s satellite before destroying it, thus what India is aiming at is the credible deterrence capability.

One thing that comes in lime light after analyzing the statement is that India is in fact aiming for weaponizing the space. With the recent launch of its indigenous satellites through its own launch vehicle not only for domestic use but also for commercial use, India is becoming confident enough in its capabilities of space program. This confidence is also making India more ambitious in space program. It is true that treaties regarding outer space only stop states from putting weapons of mass destruction in outer space. But, destruction of satellites will create debris in outer space that could cause destruction for other satellites in the outer space.

On top of it all the reality cannot be ignored that both Pakistan and India cannot turn every other arena into battlefield. Rivalry between both states has already turned glaciers and ocean into war zones, resultantly affecting the natural habitat of the region. By going for ballistic missile defences and intercontinental ballistic missiles India has not only developed missile technology but also has made significant contribution in anti-sat weaponry, which is alarming, as due to security dilemma, Pakistan will now be ever more compelled to develop capabilities for the security of its satellites. So far both states are confined till space militarization to enhance the capabilities of their forces, but if that force multiplier in space goes under threat, Pakistan will resort to capability to counter Indian aggression in space as well, which will be the classic action-reaction paradigm. Thus, it is pertinent that India as front runner in space technology develop policy of restrain to control the new arms race in the region which has potential to change the skies and space as we know them.

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy: Impact on Strategic Stability in South Asia

Sonia Naz

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Most significant incident happened when India tested its nuclear device on18 May, 1974.After India’s nuclear test, Pakistan obtained the nuclear technology, expertise and pursued a nuclear program to counter India which has more conventional force than Pakistan. Pakistan obtained nuclear program because of India, it has not done anything independently but followed India. Pakistan just wanted to secure its borders and deter Indian aggression. It was not and is not interested in any arms race in the region. It is not signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT). Pakistan has not signed NPT and CTBT because India has not signed it. Since acquiring the nuclear weapons, it has rejected to declare No First Use (NFU) in case of war to counter India’s conventional supremacy.

The basic purpose of its nuclear weapons is to deter any aggression against its territorial integrity. Riffat Hussain while discussing Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine argues that it cannot disobey the policy of NFU due to Indian superiority in conventional force and it makes India enable to fight conventional war with full impunity. Pakistan’s nuclear posture is based on minimum credible nuclear deterrence which means that its nuclear weapons have no other role except to counter the aggression from its adversary.  It is evident that Pakistan’s nuclear program is Indiacentric.. Owing to the Indian superiority in conventional forces Pakistan nuclear weapons balance the conventional force power percentage between the two states. In November 1999, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar stated that ‘more is unnecessary while little is enough’.

The National Command Authority (NCA), comprising the Employment Control Committee, Development Control Committee and Strategic Plans Division, is the center point of all decision-making regarding the nuclear issue.According to the security experts first use option involves many serious challenges because it needs robust military intelligence and very effective early warning system. However, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is  concerned about nuclear security of weapons for which it has laid out stringent nuclear security system. Pakistan made a rational decision by conducting five nuclear tests in 1998 to restore the strategic stability in South Asia, otherwise it was not able to counter the threat of India’s superior conventional force.

The NCA of Pakistan (nuclear program policy making body) announced on September 9, 2015 the nation’s resolve to maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability in line with the dictates of ‘credible minimum deterrence’ to deter all forms of aggression, adhering to the policy of avoiding an arms race.”It was the response of Indian offensive Cold Start Doctrine which is about the movement of Indian military forces closer to Pakistan’s border with all vehicles. Pakistan wants to maintain strategic stability in the region and its seeks conflict resolution and peace, but India’s hawkish policies towards Pakistan force it to take more steps to secure its border. Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is very vigorously implementing rational countermeasures to respond to India’s aggression by transforming its nuclear doctrine. It has developed tactical nuclear weapons (short range nuclear missiles) that can be used in the battle field.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in 2013 that Pakistan would continue to obey the policy of minimum credible nuclear deterrence to avoid the arms race in the region. However, it would not remain unaware of the changing security situation in the region and would maintain the capability of full spectrum nuclear deterrence to counter any aggression in the region. Dr. Zafar Jaspal argues in his research that Full credible deterrence does not imply it is a quantitative change in Pakistan’s minimum credible nuclear deterrence, but it is a qualitative response to emerging challenges posed in the region. This proves that Islamabad is not interested in the arms race in the region, but India’s constant military buildup forces Pakistan to convert its nuclear doctrine from minimum to full credible nuclear deterrence.

India’s offensive policies alarm the strategic stability of the region and international community considers that Pakistan’s transformation in nuclear policies would be risky for international security. They have recommended a few suggestions to Pakistan’s nuclear policy making body, but the NCA rejected those mainly because Pakistan is confronting dangerous threats from India and its offensive policies such as the cold start doctrine. Hence no suggestion conflicting with this purpose is acceptable to Pakistan. This is to be made clear at the all national, regional and international platforms that Pakistan is striving hard to maintain the strategic stability while India is only contributing toward instigating the regional arms race.

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