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
Negating Nuclear Bluff
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.
A Likely Path to Nuclear Annihilation
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.
Optical Missile Tracking Systems and Minimum Credible Deterrence
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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