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Tensions in South Asia: Pakistan test-fires multiple target nuclear missile

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Pakistan on January 24 Tuesday successfully test-fired its second indigenously-developed nuclear-capable missile Ababeel, capable of engaging multiple targets with high precision with a range of 2,200 km, which brings many Indian cities within its striking range. The test firing comes two weeks after the launch of submarine-fired Babar III that Indian side military analysts as usual dubbed as “fake”.

Pakistan military said Pakistan has successfully conducted the flight test of surface-to-surface nuclear-capable missile ‘Ababeel’. Ababeel is capable of delivering multiple warheads using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology, Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a statement. “The test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system,” he said. Ghafoor said: “The development of the Ababeel weapon system was aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment and has the capability to engage multiple targets with high precision, defeating the enemy’s hostile radars.”

The missile has a maximum range of 1,367 miles, and is capable of carrying multiple warheads using the Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle technology. According to Inter Service Public Relations, the media arm of Pakistan’s military, the test was conducted to validate the weapon’s abilities.

On 8 January, Pakistan conducted its first successful test fire of submarine launched cruise missile Babur III having a range of 450 km. The missile was fired from an underwater, mobile platform and hit its target with precise accuracy.

The Babur weapons system incorporates advanced aerodynamics and avionics that can strike targets both at land and sea with high accuracy, according to ISPR. It has been described as a low flying, terrain hugging missile, which carries certain stealth features and is capable of carrying various types of warheads.

ISPR adds the missile will be a powerful deterrent for the country. Ababeel can be armed with nuclear weapons, and engage multiple targets while overcoming enemy radars.

High-ranking Pakistani government officials praised the flight test as a landmark achievement for the country’s military.

Pakistan’s demonstration follows its nuclear-capable Babur-III launch on Jan. 9, and a number of test-firings conducted by its neighbor India, which have contributed to escalating tensions between the historically hostile nations.

India’s Defense Research and Development organization test-fired its Agni IV ballistic missile on Jan. 4, and launched its guided Pinaka Rocket Mark-II on Jan. 12.

Indian military prowess

This development comes just weeks after the neighbouring rival India ill-focused on Muslim neighbors, successfully test-fired the nuclear-capable Babur-3, its first Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 450 kms. In an apparent reference to India, the release said, “The development of the Ababeel weapon system was aimed at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment.”

India considers itself the super power of the SA region having first obtained nukes threatening the regional nations, especially Pakistan and Bangladesh. .

Referring to India’s test of its nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile on January 2, Pakistan had also cautioned members of MTCR that introduction of destabilising systems such as “missile defence programmes” and “inter-continental ballistic missiles” in South Asia pose a “risk” to regional stability.

A country’s non-proliferation record is one of the key criteria to join MTCR.

Like India Pakistan has also intensified its efforts to join the exclusive club of countries, controlling exports in missile technology, since India joined the elite grouping last year as its 35th member.

Notably, India was successful in joining MTCR, ahead of Pakistan’s all-weather ally China, whose application is pending since 2004. However, experts say that Pakistan’s controversial record in nuclear proliferation and absence of its patron China inside the club are major obstacles in Islamabad becoming a formal member of MTCR. India has reason to celebrate with semi-explosives all over the country just as it does when it wins a cricket match after fixing it in its favor. .

Pakistan has cautioned members of MTCR that introduction of “destabilising systems” like “missile defence programmes” and “inter-continental ballistic missiles” in South Asia pose a “risk” to regional stability, in an apparent reference to India. Pakistan’s “serious concerns” over the introduction of such systems in South Asia were expressed to a delegation of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a 35-member elite grouping that includes India and controls export in high-end missile technologies, a Foreign Office (FO) statement said. “Pakistan highlighted the risks posed to regional peace and stability due to the introduction of destabilising systems such as missile defence programmes and inter-continental ballistic missiles,” the FO statement said.

India is the only country in South Asia having successfully tested inter-continental ballistic missiles. “Pakistan was, however, committed to avoiding any kind of arms race in South Asia,” it said, adding that Pakistan’s proposal on establishing Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) in South Asia which covers nuclear and missile restraint remains on the table. “Pakistan believes that progress on this proposal (SRR) through meaningful dialogue can promote peace and stability in the region,” it said.

Concerned about regular rissole tests in India and Pakistan and their seemingly never ending conflict over Kashmir, the United States also weighed down on Pakistan’s test of Babur-3 missile urging it to ‘exercise restraint regarding the use and testing of their nuclear capabilities’. “We continue to urge all states with nuclear weapons to exercise restraint regarding nuclear and missile capability testing and use, and we encourage efforts to promote confidence building and stability with respect to those capabilities,” former US state department spokesperson John Kirby had said.

Highlighting Pakistan’s non-proliferation credentials, Additional Secretary, FO, Tasneem Aslam told the MTCR that Pakistan has always remained in the “forefront to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction” and has “always followed international standards while delivering weapons”. Aslam also briefed the delegation led by Ham Sang-Wook, the current MTCR Chair, about the administrative, legislative and regulatory measures taken by Islamabad for the establishment of a robust command and control system, an effective and comprehensive export control regime, and the steps taken to improve physical security at all levels. “Pakistan’s export control regime is at par with the best international standards and its national control lists encompass the items and technologies controlled by the MTCR,” Aslam said.

Pakistani diplomacy

Pakistani diplomacy is indeed commendable. On the eve of test firing, Pakistan released 218 Indian fishermen who had allegedly strayed into its waters. Despite a thaw in bilateral ties, Pakistan has now released 439 Indian fishermen as a “goodwill gesture” in the last 10 days. The 218 fishermen were freed from Malir jail on instructions from the interior ministry as a goodwill gesture, jail superintendent Hasan Sehto said.

This is the second batch of Indian fishermen released from Pakistan jails since relations between the two countries became tense after the September terror attack on an Indian Army base in Uri for which India has blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed organisation.

On December 25, the Pakistan government had freed 220 Indian fishermen who were in jail for more than a year as goodwill gesture after Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday.

The Indian fishermen who were released will be handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah border. He said that around 110 more Indian fishermen remain in Landhi jail in Karachi.

Last March, the Pakistan government had released 87 Indian fishermen who had been languishing in jail in Karachi for the last two and half years.

Fishermen are being increasingly used as useful foreign tension tools by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the troubled Indian Ocean/Arabian waters further complicating the regional tensions being generated by nuclearized South Asian powers India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue.

Pakistan and India frequently arrest each others’ fishermen for violating the territorial boundary. Poor fishermen from both countries routinely find themselves arrested for illegal fishing as there is no clear demarcation of the boundaries between the two countries in the Arabian sea near Sir Creek and lack of technology has made life difficult for the fishermen of both countries.

Last Friday, Pakistan maritime security agency arrested 66 Indian fishermen for illegally fishing in Pakistan’s territorial waters. Fishermen from both countries end up languishing in jails for years even after serving their sentences and their only hope of getting released is through ‘goodwill’ steps.

Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen in December as a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions with its neighbour and pawing way for good neighborly relations to resolve the vexed Kashmir issue in favor of Kashmiris to regain sovereignty from occupation nations.

Sri Lankan atrocities

Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka with strained relations over Lankan army’s war crimes against minority Tamil community during the Rajapksha era – agreed to release fishermen in each others’ custody, a joint statement said on Monday, a move that is likely to ease tensions between the countries which have held fishermen captive for crossing territorial waters.

After ministerial level talks in Colombo, Sri Lanka reiterated its demand to end the practice of bottom trawling, a technique that involves sweeping the sea bed for fish, and India gave assurances that it would gradually phase it out.

Critics oppose the method because the catch is indiscriminate and could wipe out entire fishing species, making areas unsustainable for fishing.

It was not immediately clear from the statement issued by the two governments and published on the website of the Indian ministry of external affairs how many fishermen were being held by either side, or for how long they had been detained.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that fishermen who cross territorial waters can be warned and fined but not arrested. But India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka do exactly that, clearly violating all sea laws. They expect their respective “protectors” on the UNSC would shield their crimes.

And, they are not entirely wrong! Veto members seems ot enjoy their power to gain fortunes form these countries, among other such “troubled’ nations. No surprise, India is deadly focused on a possible UN veto handle to control the world with its corporate lords that sponsor joint cricket exercises.

While India and Pakistan continue to test missiles to retain the parts of Jammu Kashmir under their respective control, Sri Lanka does not testifiers missiles in the absence of any such Indo-Pakistan problems. However, Sri Lanka is scared of India more than Pakistan with which it does not have any close sea links to fight territorial claims.

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Defense

Negating Nuclear Bluff

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The war of words between India and Pakistan’s militaries prove that both South Asian nuclear states are intertwined in a traditional security competition. Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, while delivering the annual Army dinner, stated:”We will call the (nuclear) bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff.” Such statements of calling the ‘nuclear bluff’, ‘increased cross- border firing by Indian forces, which coupled with the proclamation of surgical strikes can lead to crisis instability in the region.

Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor responded to the Indian army chief’s ‘nuclear bluff’ assertion by saying that such statements are unbecoming from a person of a responsible stature. He further stated that “Well, it’s their choice. Should they wish to test our resolve they may try and see it for them..…Pakistan’s credible nuclear deterrence is the only thing stopping India from a war.” Such statements by the Indian military officials, and a quick calculated response from Pakistan, have raised the concerns of security analysts regarding the regional security and strategic dynamics.

It could be an appropriate tactic of General Bipin for securing finances for the modernization of the Army, but an absurd and destabilizing statement for the strategic stability in South Asia. According to the analysts, such statements by Indian military officials can lead to crisis instability and force the Pakistan to hasten its evolution towards war fighting nuclear doctrine. Another alarming reality is that General Bipin has failed to realize the repercussions of misreading Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability and too much confidence in India’s Cold Start Doctrine. Hence, Pakistan’s successful test of the ‘submarine-launched cruise missile Babur (SLCM Babur)’ can be viewed as a befitting response to India.

According to Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Babur is submarine-launched cruise missile with range of 450 km. It was fired “from an underwater dynamic platform” and “successfully engaged its target with precise accuracy; meeting all … flight parameters”. The development of Babur (SLCM) is a significant component of a “credible second-strike capability” and a step towards reinforcing Pakistan’s policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence through self-reliance and indigenization.

Previously, on January 9, 2017, Pakistan conducted its first successful test of indigenously developed submarine launched cruise missile Babur-III.  Babur-III is also advanced, mature and indigenously developed series of cruise missiles. The First test of Babur-III was considered by Pakistan’ security planners as a major milestone and a right step in right direction towards reliable second strike capability. After the successful test of  Babur-III, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, while congratulating the nation and the military on the first successful test-fire of the Submarine Launched Cruise Missile stated: “The successful test of Babur-3 is a manifestation of Pakistan’s technological progress and self-reliance.” He added: “Pakistan always maintains policy of peaceful co-existence but this test is a step towards reinforcing policy of credible minimum deterrence.” Therefore successful test of Babur-III, submarine launched cruise missile finalized the triad of Pakistan’s nuclear forces and second test of Babar on March 9, 2018 has enhanced Pakistan’s deterrence based on Second Strike Capability.

Another significant factor which forced Pakistan to acquire Second Strike Capability is India’s doctrinal transformation as it is clearly transforming its Nuclear Doctrine. New trends are emerging in India’s nuclear strategy as it is moving towards a ‘first-use’ or even a ‘first-strike nuclear strategy’. India’s nuclear doctrine is based on the ‘strategic ambiguity’, therefore it has been anticipated that India is shifting its nuclear strategy towards ‘counterforce targets’ rather than ‘counter value targets’. The second emerging trend is that India is moving towards the strategy of “First Use” or “Preemptive strike” from the “No-First Use strategy”. The abandoning of no first-use, development of missiles defense shield, fake claims of surgical strikes and calling the nuclear bluff are developments that are perilous for the regional security. Indeed, such events have forced Pakistan to maintain deterrence through qualitative and quantitative developments in nuclear forces. In the strategic landscape of South Asia, the presence of Pakistan’s credible second-strike capability is imperative for the continuity of the strategic stability between/among strategic competitors: India and Pakistan.

Subsequently, harsh statements by Indian military, its shifting nuclear doctrines and maturing sea based/ballistic missile defense developments capabilities are threatening for Pakistan. Such developments by India have been countered by Pakistan by carrying out two tests of nuclear-capable missiles, ‘Babur-3’ submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and ‘Babar’. Pakistan’s tests of SLCM has further reinforced the debate on South Asian maritime security, second-strike capability and missile defense technologies in the regional landscape. To conclude, it’s impossible for the Indians to alter the strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. Though Islamabad is not matching the Indian conventional military buildup, yet it is gradually advancing its nuclear arsenal. Hence, Pakistan’s successful test of indigenous Submarine Launched Cruise (SLC) Missile ‘Babur’ has negated India’s desire to call Pakistan’s ‘nuclear bluff’ and has augmented the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence strategy. Addition of ‘Babur’ in Pakistan’s military inventory confirms that Pakistan armed forces are prepared to thwart any kind of Indian armed forces military adventurism.

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A Likely Path to Nuclear Annihilation

Eric Zuesse

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U.S. President Donald Trump asserted on the morning of April 12th, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” This statement from him is interpreted here as constituting a public promise from him to start the overt phase of America’s invasion of sovereign Syrian territory, no longer just continue the prior phase, which has relied instead upon America’s proxy forces, which originally were the ones that were led by (U.S.-Saudi-Qatari-UAE supplied and armed) Al Qaeda in Syria, but increasingly now are Syria’s Kurds, which have taken control over a third of Syrian territory, in Syria’s northeast. This area includes the oil-producing region, from Deir Ezzor northward, and the conquest would cripple Syria’s economic future, so that U.S-Saudi control of the entire country would be only a matter of time.

On April 4th, Emily Burchfield, a program assistant at the Atlantic Council — NATO’s leading PR agency — headlined the following, in order to explain the U.S. military’s (i.e., NATO’s) objectives in Syria (and the whole headline-bloc is quoted here, because it succinctly states the article itself): Analysis: Washington Still Has Work to Do in Former ISIS Territories

Before the U.S. pulls out of Syria, Washington needs to address a governance gap left in some former ISIS territories. Otherwise, marginalized Arab communities will likely ally with the Syrian government or extremist forces, writes Emily Burchfield of the Atlantic Council.

The U.S. military, in other words, cannot accept that “marginalized Arab communities” will “ally with the Syrian government.” Analogous within the United States itself would be if some foreign power refused to accept that “marginalized White communities” will “ally with the U.S. government.” In other words: this is clearly a military demand (a demand that came to be expressed here by a paid employee of NATO’s top PR agency, the Atlantic Council) to break up the country.

Whereas the prior U.S. President, Barack Obama, had tried everything short of all-out direct military invasion — as contrasted to indirect invasion by U.S. proxy armies of jihadist mercenaries — in order to conquer or at least to break up Syria, the current U.S. President, Trump, is resorting now to the direct military invasion route: he’s taking the path that Obama had declined to take.

Syria’s allies are Iran and Russia. These allies have enabled Syria to survive this long, and they all would be capitulating to the U.S. if they accepted the U.S. military invasion of Syria. For them to do that, would be for them to display, to the entire world, that the United States is their master. The U.S. Empire would, in effect, be official, no longer merely aspirational.

In the case of Russia, since it is the other nuclear super-power, this would be not just a surrender to the other nuclear super-power, but also Russia’s doing that without even waging a conventional-forces war against the U.S. Empire. That is extremely unlikely.

Consequently, Russia is probably now (on April 12th) coordinating with Iran, and with its allies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, a conventional-forces war against the invaders.

If that conventional-forces war inflicts more damage to U.S.-and-allied forces than they inflict against Syria, that would, in military terms, constitute a “military defeat” for the U.S.

This would leave the U.S. only two options:

Either accept that Russia is another nuclear super-power (which the U.S. Deep State has refused to accept), and end the previously subterranian war to conquer it that was started by George Herbert Walker Bush on the night of 24 February 1990, or else blitz-attack Russia itself in order to eliminate enough of Russia’s retaliatory weapons so as to ‘win’ the nuclear war — i.e., inflict even more destruction upon Russia than Russia would still possess and control the surviving weaponry to inflict against America in response.

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Optical Missile Tracking Systems and Minimum Credible Deterrence

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There was a time in human history when nuclear technology was the “it” technology; no one could imagine anything beyond it. The destruction and wrath it brought was not only terrifying but mesmerizing. It was fascinating for ordinary people, leaders, scientists and states that the smallest particle of matter upon breaking can release energy which could burn down a whole city in seconds. Thus, invention of nuclear weapons changed the way of thinking of nations, states and leaders. Mastering the fission of radioactive atom to enable it to release energy is not a child’s play; states invest billions in currency to make nuclear weapons.

At the operational level, a nuclear weapon requires delivery systems. In this regard, strategic bombers, ships, submarines and missiles are commonly used delivery vehicles by the states. But, one of the most significant and reliable delivery systems is missiles, With missiles, states can launch nuclear pay load from their own territory or from any other place without risking its human resource, in case of sending bombers. Missile technology all around the world is growing by leaps and bounds. After nuclearization, both Indian and Pakistan pursued missile technologies including ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, ballistic missile defences, Multiple Independently re-entry targetable vehicles and inter-continental ballistic missiles as well. States invest in nuclear weapons because it helps them achieve deterrence which stops states from using nuclear option due to fear of unacceptable damages to one’s vital interests. However, to endorse credibility of nuclear weapons, states invest in military modernization.

The main objective behind nuclearization of Pakistan was to create deterrence against India but without indulging into arms race. Thus, policy of minimum credible deterrence was developed by Pakistan. Later on, after India’s attempt to exploit the levels beneath nuclear threshold, Pakistan resorted to the policy of full spectrum deterrence without going for arms race. So, to create credible but minimum deterrence at the start of year 2017, Pakistan tested multiple independently reentry targetable vehicle (MIRV), which can deliver multiple nuclear war heads in one go.

Development of MIRV by Pakistan is neither consequence of ambitious national objectives nor is it meant to initiate an arms race in the region. But, it is to make nuclear deterrence viable against India’s BMDs which can intercept incoming ballistic missiles through interceptors and destruct them in the air.

Pakistan, due to its economic restraints could not go for BMD in response to India; as it is an expensive technology that has yet to achieve 100% success rate. So, considering its options, MIRVs came out as the most rational choice. However, MIRVs are one of the most complex technologies in which missile can carry more than one warhead in a single launch and with the capability to hit multiple individual targets. They require technological sophistication in not only sending so many vehicles in one launch but also in yield and most importantly in accuracy. With enough yield and accuracy MIRVs provide states the capability to go for pre-emptive strikes. Thus, MIRV have the capability to overwhelm the BMD system and resultantly eliminate the false sense of security under which India could go for first strike.

To increase the accuracy of MIRV missiles, Pakistan bought highly sophisticated, large scale optical tracking and measurement system from China. According to national news agency, Pakistan has deployed this sophisticated technology in battlefield. Before Chinese system, Pakistan was utilizing indigenous systems. Nonetheless, it will help Pakistan record high-resolution images of a missile’s departure from its launcher, stage separation, tail flame and, after the missile re-enters atmosphere, the trajectory of the warheads it releases. These functions will be possible because the system bought by Pakistan comes with a pair of high-performance telescopes equipped with a laser ranger, high-speed camera, infrared detector and a centralised computer system that automatically captures and follows moving targets. However, what makes this system unique is its ability to detect missile up to range of several hundred kilometers through the help of its telescopes. The timing of these telescopes are precisely synchronized with the atomic clock. Thus, now Pakistan can track different warheads going in different directions simultaneously. Moreover, through visual imagery, the missile developers can improve the accuracy and design of missile in much better way.

So, with this technological uplift, Pakistan will soon add Ababeel (MIRV) into its operational missile inventory. But, these actions by Pakistan are not to give rise to arms race rather they are the reactions to the actions taken by India. BMDs by India never strengthened nuclear deterrence or stability rather they eliminated the deterrence by nulling the credibility of ballistic missiles. As a result, to maintain credibility of its deterrence though minimum means, Pakistan opted for MIRV, as missile tracking systems are essential in improving the accuracy and designs of missiles. If anything indicates arms race in the region, it is India’s ICBMs, naval nuclear fleets and space weaponization.

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