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New Trend of Regional Security Cooperation perceived or misperceived?



Authors: Nodir Boboev & Yihan Zhang

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) started in 2012 as a multiple organization of its original member-states such as China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The main goals of the SCO range from promoting good neighborly relations and mutual cooperation in spheres of economy, education, energy etc. to the maintenance of regional peace, security and stability.

During the Astana summit on June 8-9th, for the first time since its formation the Shanghai Cooperation Organization officially extended full membership to India and Pakistan. The inclusion of these two states has not only add the number of the members from six to eight states and geographical expansion of two continents (Eurasia) and three oceans (Indian, Pacific and Arctic Oceans) but also has given all of the members equally new economic opportunities. SCO includes 8 member-states, four observer-states and six dialogue-partner states, altogether with the population of 3 bl., that is, closer to half the world’s population and nearly 20% of the world’s GDP. Besides it increases number of nuclear-weapon states from two to four which bring a significant change in the balance and prestige of the organization.

Obviously, the entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO certainly turns this organization into a full-fledged and powerful Eurasian League. India and Pakistan both are strategically important actors in the region. According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2017-18 India’s growth rate in the next fiscal will reach 7.4 -7.6%, staying ahead of China. India is one of the regional powers with estimated population of 1.3 bl. massive economy inclusion of which creates meaningful opportunities for China as well as other regional economies. And equally Pakistan’s significance is bound to the security issues of the region in general and Afghanistan in particular. It can ease the fight with terrorist and extremist groups in Afghanistan and provide stability at the regional level. In this regard, to bring both India and Pakistan into the SCO is strategically vital for the Organization in achieving its goals in the Eurasian realm.

Both China and Russia are the main drivers of the SCO. China’s role is more in the field of economy and finance rather than military-strategic power. China is the wealthy and most rapidly developing country of the SCO, capable of competing with the West in the economic sphere. Also from the perspective of demography, China is the leading member state. Russia is more of a political and military-strategic role, as the geographical position of Russia is equally important in this regard. By joining together with the huge population of India, whose economy is growing steadily, combined with the giant geopolitical and strategic power of Russia and the economic scope of China, makes the SCO one of the most influential regional blocs capable of counterbalancing any such kind of organization in the region and around the globe as well.

Frankly, India’s relation with Russia relatively is good likewise China’s with Pakistan. Russia’s consistent on inclusion of India into the organization finally got approved by China with the condition of Pakistan be included too. This move has brought a sort of balance between the two strong players in the SCO. However the support of China and Russia for their respective friends should not be allowed to spill into the organization in order to avoid any further escalation or division in the organization. As for the stance of other members of the SCO on the inclusion of India and Pakistan is concerned, they have not been so explicit or differing. They have formally put force behind the decision which otherwise was initiated the two main actors of the grouping, i.e. Russia and China. In other words, these member states either are comfortable with India and Pakistan or they have kept on with their opinions of difference if there are any. The possibility of difference in the club cannot be ignored as the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov had openly shared his reservations about the possibility of India and Pakistan joining the SCO. It is true that they need to demonstrate their wisdom and tactics.

The dynamics of current relations between India and Pakistan as the latest move to expand the SCO are highly vital to understand the prospective role of new SCO. There can be two-pronged explanation of recent developments involving these two nuclear powers. Firstly, India-China-Pakistan relations have their peculiar dynamics. The “Belt and Road Initiative” agenda sits at the top of this triangular relationship for now. Like other regions China is trying to expand its “B & R” project in South-Asia region but India is unwilling and at times openly opposing China’s initiative in the whole region. India has categorically raised its voice against the CPEC project similarly it overlooks China’s invitation to participate in the B & R forum summit in last May. Territorial disputes between China and India also lurk beneath the surface. For instance, the current disputes in Sikkim region in which the Indian forces stop the Chinese construction work on a road in territory claimed by China. In spite of Beijing’s demands, New Delhi has yet to withdraw its forces. The historic triangle of the strategic rivalry and friendship between China, India and Pakistan is another major factor. Even if China has tried to remain neutral in Indi—Pakistan rows, India always considers China to be its rival and friend of Pakistan.

Secondly, Indo-Russia, Indo-US and Russia-Pakistan relations are likely to have major impact on India’s position in the SCO. At times when Russia’s relations with the US have reach a new low, India is increasingly cozying up to the US. India’s bonhomie with Washington might not go down well with Moscow and Beijing as the two great powers have been skeptical of the US influence in this region. On the other hand Russia and Pakistan have started to improve their relations. In fact India has shown its reservation about Russia’s military cooperation with Pakistan. Yet, Moscow for its own strategic concerns has ignored New Delhi’s uneasiness.

In light of these observations, it can be argued that Pakistan might have advantage over India in the SCO in the near future. Its relations with both China and Russia are on positive note. As Pakistan has been a strategic partner of China since the early 1950s, Russia seems to be comfortable with Pakistan’s role of undermining the US presence in Afghanistan. If India’s relations with the US go to the level that Russia and China are disturbed, India’s influence in the SCO will further be undercut.

However, Pakistan’s role in view of the cross-border extremism can have serious impact on its relations with other members of the SCO, for example if Pakistan—based or Pakistan—endorsed elements are linked to any episode of violence in China’s Xingjian region or Tajikistan or even India, the organizational calculus will go against Pakistan. It will be helpful for India if Pakistan gets pressurized by the SCO for its role in cross-border extremist activities. In the meantime, the SCO members might be in a better position in urging Pakistan to change its policy towards the regional proxies if the SCO could make any break- through on this count it will be a major gain for this organization.

The SCO will have to focus on three major areas of cooperation. First of all, it should work for the collaboration between member states, especially India and Pakistan, in maintaining stability and security in the region. Terrorism and Afghanistan are major issues in this respect. Pakistan can play pivotal role in this regard. Secondly, India and Pakistan disputes should be effectively kept under check so that no crisis boils into an active war. The SCO will have to encourage both members to resolve bilateral disputes peacefully. Finally, the US influence which has been obvious in the form of its presence in Afghanistan and increasing relations with India will have to be managed properly.

(*) Yihan Zhang, international educator

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety and Security

Sonia Naz



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



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



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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