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Pakistan’s Second Strike Capability: Implications for South Asian Stability

Mehwish Akram

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

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

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

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

Pakistani Government stance on Second Strike Capability

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

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

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

Epistemic community views about Pakistani Second Strike Capability 

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

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

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

Indian Official Stance about Pakistan second strike capability

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

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

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

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

Views of Indian Epistemic Community

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

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

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

Impact of Second Strike Capability on South Asia

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

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

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

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

Theoretical Explanation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Will the Landscape Change following the Latest Unrest?

Nana Gegelashvili

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EPA-EFE/ARMENIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/Vostock Photi

The situation surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, which has deteriorated dramatically in recent days, has clearly demonstrated that it is becoming increasingly impossible to maintain the status quo. An urgent solution to the conflict is needed in order to avert a serious crisis.

External factors that have contributed to the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh include: 1) Russia finding itself hemmed in from all sides by the seemingly unbreakable transatlantic coalition which has given the West considerable room for manoeuvre with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue; 2) Turkey’s exponentially growing ambitions to build a new Islamic Empire, which are bolstered by the country’s strong alliance with the United States; and 3) the complete ineptitude of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, the United States and France), which has been working towards the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for three decades now without a single major breakthrough.

One thing is clear — the conflict needs to be resolved, and now is the time to do it. One thing is clear — the conflict needs to be resolved, and now is the time to do it. Meanwhile, the entire world is calling for the two sides to abandon the hostilities and sit down at the negotiating table. The conflict needs to end now.

All the attempts to resolve the conflict — the Madrid Principles, the Zurich Protocols, the renewed Madrid Principles and the talks in Kazan on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict — have looked more like possible ways out of the crisis than roadmaps for concrete actions. This is why they have all remained on paper, as none of the sides has been prepared to make even the smallest of compromises.

While the two central players in this geopolitical puzzle, Turkey and the United States (which is keen to see a settlement), may disagree profoundly on a number of issues, Ankara has always been viewed by Washington as a country of indisputable geostrategic importance and its key partner in the region, and this will not change. It is thus no coincidence that the “Turkey–U.S. Defense Cooperation: Prospects and Challenges” report for the United States Congress notes that “Turkey is a more significant ally for the United States at present than during the Cold War” given U.S. interests in the region. Turkey’s attitude towards NATO will not undergo any major changes either. According to President of Turkey Recep Erdogan, Ankara “has no intention of giving up its NATO membership or its allies.” This is something that Russia must keep in mind when developing its South Caucasus policy.

Turkey and the United States have a number of common interests in the South Caucasus that allow the two countries to work together. These interests include joint projects in the Black Sea region and call for strengthening security cooperation there, an issue that is becoming increasingly important. This state of affairs can be partly explained by the fact that the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea effectively blocked access to the Caspian Sea for non-regional players, at least for the time being, which only makes their desire to be involved in the Black Sea region even stronger.

Both the warring sides and the United States and Turkey have long expressed the desire to find a way out of this impasse, and Washington and Ankara will work together to try and ensure a quick settlement to the conflict.

As far as the strategists in Washington see it, Azerbaijan is far more invested in finding a solution than Armenia is. This is why we have seen significant changes in the U.S. policy towards Yerevan, including insisting that the latter make certain concessions in order to bring the conflict to an end. The arrival of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister of Armenia brought with it a noticeable shift in Armenia’s foreign policy towards the United States, which should make this strategy successful.

Consequently, Washington’s policy in this area will focus, first of all, on normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia, and then on opening the border between the two countries. After all, it is of strategic importance for Washington to find a solution to this problem, especially when U.S.–Iran relations are likely to deteriorate even further moving forward. This could also help speed up the settlement process, as well as promote cooperation not only between Baku and Yerevan, but also with Ankara, which should lead to Turkey and Azerbaijan lifting the land blockade against Armenia that was established during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

What is more, Washington has started to openly demonstrate its intention over the past few years to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict independently in the context of implementing its policy in the South Caucasus.

This was initially reflected in a statement given by former U.S. ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, where he claimed that the status quo is unacceptable and cannot last forever, adding that “any settlement of the Karabakh conflict is going to require the return of some portion of the occupied territories,” although events like the 2016 April War make this even more difficult for the Armenian people. And things have gone from bad to worse since then. A series of resolutions passed by the 115th United States Congress — Resolution 573 “calling on the President to work toward equitable, constructive, stable and durable Armenian–Turkish relations,” and Resolution 190 of the 116th United States Congress “supporting visits and communication between the United States and the Republic of Artsakh” (the new name of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh following a 2017 referendum) — prove that Washington intends to change the situation in the conflict zone and become the main moderator in the disagreement. In this regard, it is worth paying special attention to the main areas of Washington’s policy towards Armenia, which has been thought-out particularly well, taking into account both the need to repair relations between Turkey and Armenia, giving Yerevan access to the rest of the world, and to improve relations with the Republic of Artsakh, which could become the main stumbling block in the way of Armenia’s drift towards the West.

The U.S. approach to Armenia could thus change completely as it develops its new policy in the South Caucasus. This state of affairs also meets the interests of Turkey, which, as a key player in the South Caucasus, will welcome any positive change in Yerevan’s foreign policy towards the West. With this being the case, it could be argued that Ankara not only pursues its own geopolitical interests in the region, but also acts as an instrument through which the United States can further its policies there. This could lead to a change in the configuration of the South Caucasus as a whole, which is unacceptable for Moscow in terms of preserving and promoting its interests in the region given the fact that Armenia is key to Russia’s plans for maintaining its strategic interests in the Caucasus, as well as in the context of the “Iranian problem.”

Right now, Armenia is Russia’s only strategic ally in the South Caucasus, and ensuring the country’s security is its number one problem. Russia has always played an important role in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process, and this will not change. It thus needs to take stock of the opportunities it has to influence the resolution of the problem, which, it would seem, neither Baku nor Yerevan, nor indeed the West, fully appreciate. Moscow believes that the only way to put an end to the confrontation, which has been going on for some 30 years or so, is through political means. It would thus be fair to assume that military intervention “from the outside” is extremely unlikely, because Moscow’s main task here is to maintain at least a shaky balance between Yerevan and Baku. In other words, Moscow believes that “freezing” the conflict is more acceptable in the current climate, where neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia, which are involved in an intense ethnopolitical confrontation, have any intention of making compromises or concessions, than actually working for a final resolution to the long-standing conflict — although this approach has not yet led to peace.

However, given the escalation of the conflict, it would seem that Moscow, for which the two warring sides are of great importance, is in a position to launch the renewed Madrid Principles, which be the first step towards resolving the conflict. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia were prepared to negotiate under these principles and saw it as a blueprint for achieving a peaceful solution. However, the renewed Madrid Principles touch upon issues that are extremely sensitive for Armenia, primarily regarding the international legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has stood firm on its position that a settlement can only be reached if its territorial integrity is preserved, which means restoring its jurisdiction over Nagorno-Karabakh. This condition has been the main obstacle to the settlement of the conflict. Another important issue is the return by Yerevan of seven regions that neighbour Nagorno-Karabakh and are controlled by Armenian forces. Nevertheless, the renewed Madrid Principles project needs to be launched as soon as possible — after all, the main obstacle is the unwillingness of the parties to make concessions. Beyond that, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

From our partner RIAC

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Could a maritime chain hub between US-Japan-Viet Nam-India to tackle China?

Gitanjali Sinha Roy

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The rise of China in the last few years has been a cause of concern and as China grew economically, it strengthened its claws in the realm of defense and has been expanding its paws into the territories of other countries which is a violation of a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Chinese aggressiveness has become the bone of contention and this is a serious matter of concern for all the countries who are facing the China threat. China’s need to dominant certain trade routes; sea-lanes of navigation and communication jeopardizes the concept of a free and open navigable sea route which is unacceptable as no one country completely owns any sea-lanes and routes of trade and communication. Therefore, in order to protect the national interest and freedom of navigation of many countries, this article tries to build an argument on could there be a possibility for a formation of a maritime chain hub consisting of Guam, Okinawa, Cam Ranh Bay and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which could tackle China’s maritime aggressiveness.

Guam, a former Spanish colony and now one of the 17 non-self-governing territories of the United States of America. Guam has been a military asset since the World War II as the U.S. moved its military aircraft.  Also, during the Viet Nam War, Guam was a major asset in the Pacific as it was a base used by the Americans. Presently, it serves as a major military base for America and has the U.S. Air Force and Navy installations and is also a major hub for the submarine communications cables between the western United States of America, Hawaii, Australia and Asia. There is a huge military presence in Guam and the United States of America moves its military assets and personnel to Okinawa, the Japanese island.  Guam as a naval base port plays a rather important part as it is home to the four nuclear-powered fast attack submarines and two submarine tenders. Also, Guam has the Andersen Air Force Base which hosts the Navy helicopter squadron and Air Force bombers and along with this has two-three kilometers runways and also caters as a storage facility for fueling purposes.

In June 2020, the U.S. Naval Base Guam has been designated as a ‘safe haven liberty port’ and the U.S 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge(LCC 19) and the USS Bunker Hill(CG 52) have been placed here and eventually, on 24 June 2020, the Nimitz Carrier Strike group which consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN68), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) all placed in the safe haven liberty port in Guam. This move to make Guam a safe heaven liberty port should be seen from the perspective of a potential logistical re-supply, possible repairs and a safe place where the sailors could rest and rejuvenate themselves amidst the global Coronavirus pandemic. One needs to understand that Guam needs to be militarized to ensure that North Korea doesn’t attempt any form of attack on Japan which is under the Security umbrella of the U.S. and also, Guam which is an American territory needs to protect itself from North Korea it is in a feasible striking distance and so, this military buildup in Guam by the United States of America is justified.

Japan’s Okinawa is strategically very important for the United States of America as it is a vital component in America’s grand strategy towards the region of East Asia.  Also, the geographical location of Okinawa has a greater meaning as Okinawa is placed between the Philippines, East China Sea and the South China Sea and also the neighbourhood consists of China, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula and of course the mainland Japan which is a sure game-changer. Okinawa makes an important military outpost, protects the freedom of navigation and the American national cum security interests which inevitably help in the stability of this region. The bases at Okinawa are of geostrategic value as it deals with a fairly flexible range of positions to counter any potential threat and so, help keep interests of Japan safe especially with regard to the Senkaku Islands and the presence of America at Okinawa is a clear deterrent for China incase it tries to create any provocation. Also, South Korea is in an alliance with the United States of America and so, Okinawa also acts as a critical component in dealing with North Korea and in order to maintain peace in this region, the American marines plays a vital role as protectors. Also, for Taiwan, the presence of American forces at Okinawa helps Taiwan from China’s threats. Therefore, Okinawa plays the role of a major game-changer in the region of East Asia.

Viet Nam’s Cam Ranh Bay has always been a melting point of strategic interest since the 19th century as it was a hub of continuous positing of countries like France, Russia, Japan and the United States of America where their navies were stationed well as the Cam Ranh Bay acted as an excellent protected natural harbour along with being a refueling station. The geostrategic location of Cam Ranh Bay is near the South China Sea and this is therefore called the ‘Apple of the Eye of the East’ as it can help contain Chinese aggressiveness in the region. Also, the Japan-Guam-Australia Fiber-Optic Submarine Cable System Project is being developed with the help of Japan and the United States of America. Cam Ranh Bay if redeveloped could the most valuable asset that Viet Nam has.

India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands is as of today one of the most sort after strategic hub of islands as it is being developed into a maritime and startup hub and the recent inauguration of the submarine optic fiber cable between Chennai and these islands would change the face of digital connectivity. India has also proposed transhipment hub in the Andamans helping these group of islands become a major centre for blue economy and maritime cum startup hub. Also since 2019, the Indian Naval Air Station-INS Kohassa has been developing the island in full swing and this could well become a vital strategic outpost for India  and can easier watch and monitor the rival navies activities along with set an integrated surveillance network.

The question is how does Guam-Okinawa-Cam Ranh Bay-Andaman and Nicobar Islands form a strategic maritime chain hub?

First, Guam is an American territory, Okinawa, a Japanese territory, Cam Ranh Bay, a Vietnamese port and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian group of islands and so, all these countries are a part of the Quad and this Quad grouping is believed to tackle China’s aggressiveness.

Second, all these countries have excellent relations with another and aim for stronger strategic relations. Japan is in a Security Alliance with the United States of America and Japan is India’s all-weather friend. Due to Japan as a common friend between India and the U.S, they too have excellent strategic partnership with one another. Viet Nam and the United States have been developing relations and are working towards becoming strategic partner. Japan’s relations with Viet Nam has been a major part of their ASEAN relations and separately too, Japan has been working on strengthening stronger relations with Viet Nam and in fact, the first visit of Prime Minister Suga is to Viet Nam which highlights Viet Nam’s importance for Japan. India also has wonderful relations with Viet Nam and Viet Nam being the ASEAN Chair in the times of pandemic has played a vital role in medicine, rice and mask diplomacy and has created its niche as a vital and understanding partner in the ASEAN along with evolving as a regional and a global partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

Third, all these four countries are facing security concerns with China.  China has off late made several advances in the East China Sea, South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and all this has impacted the United States of America, Japan, India and Viet Nam as their geostrategic locations are of prime importance to these countries. China has been making aggressive claims in these waters is a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the US, Japan, India and Viet Nam.

Fourth, Japan has been the pioneer of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific region aiming for a rules-based order so as to have the freedom of navigation and access to sea-lanes and routes to all the nations. After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy at the 196thSession of the Diet in January 2018, this strategy was soon adopted by the United States of America and India. ASEAN too adopted this strategy which meant that Viet Nam too has accepted this strategy. Many believe that this Indo-Pacific Strategy is to tackle China’s aggressiveness.

Fifth, Japan’s initiative of the Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure is aimed to promote infrastructure and development cooperation among the countries could also pave the way for port infrastructural development among thee US, India and Viet Nam.

Therefore, keeping in mind, the above-mentioned arguments could well pave the way for a possible formation of a maritime chain hub consisting of Guam, Okinawa, Cam Ranh Bay and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which could tackle China’s maritime aggressiveness.

The views expressed are personal

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Hidden Traces in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Сonflict

Dr.Basel Haj Jasem

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From a geographical perspective, the location of the Azerbaijani city of Tovuz, which witnessed penultimate clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in July, proves that the recent clashes had nothing to do with the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, as it is far from the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia.

The city of Tovuz is located near the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, both of which are gates for Azerbaijan to transport its oil and natural gas, the so-called “Caspian Sea wealth,” to Turkey, Europe and other global markets.

A Blow to Russian Interests

The location of the attack or the clashes indicates that they were against Turkish-Western and Turkish-Azerbaijani interests. Nonetheless, they are also a blow against Russia’s interests and role in a region of great geopolitical importance for Moscow and other international and regional players who are worried by the state of consensus emerging Between Ankara and Moscow in Syria. Attempts are being made to repeat such consensus in Libya, with foreign media having reported headlines addressing the new “front” between Moscow and Ankara in this context.

Paris believes that the missile attack (in the first months of 2018) launched by the U.S., Britain and France in Syria created a rift between Russia and Turkey, who have different views on some issues, especially in Syria. French President Emmanuel Macron said this in a televised interview.

It is no secret that the Western attacks in Syria at that time sought, among other things, to cause a rift in relations between Russia and Turkey. Thus any disagreement between Moscow and Ankara is in the interest of the West, so the West will continue to exert pressure on the points of difference between them.

Barely hours after Moscow and Ankara announced the beginning of a Russian-Turkish agreement regarding Libya weeks ago, Macron told reporters on July 23 that “in this part of the Mediterranean, which is vital for our countries, energy and security issues are essential…The issue is related to a struggle for influence, especially by Turkey and Russia, which are asserting their presence more and more, and in the face of this, the European Union has so far done little.” He continued, “It would be a grave mistake to leave our security in the Mediterranean in the hands of other parties. This is not an option for Europe, and this is something France will not let happen.”

Russian-Turkish Rapprochement

The rapprochement with Turkey was a positive event for Russia, especially in light of the sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow after the Ukraine crisis. The Astana process was a kind of compromise, a success for both Moscow and Ankara, and Syria turned into a stage for an exciting reconciliation between the two. This coincided with the coldness of their relationship with the West.

The increased economic cooperation and growth of trade volume are beneficial for both Ankara and Moscow, which both need it. The deals signed, including a nuclear plant and a gas pipeline that will allow Moscow to gain independence from Ukraine and export its gas to Europe via the Black Sea and Turkey, all are steps of good cooperation.

The handover of the Russian S-400 system to Turkey is also a matter of pride and sovereignty for the latter, which feels the West’s betrayal of it on several issues. This includes membership in the European Union, Washington’s support for the Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) (classified on NATO’s terrorist lists), and the extradition of Gulen.

However, all of the above does not mean Ankara has turned its back on the West, as the strategic partnership continues, despite the current rapprochement with Russia imposed by geopolitics and economy.

Trying to Feel For a Pulse

Amid the exchange of accusations between Baku and Yerevan about igniting the recent clashes, whoever started it is targeting Moscow first, and secondly, torpedoing the rapprochement that is likely to develop between Russia and Turkey. It may be in the context of an attempt to feel for a pulse, see if Moscow will adopt a new position on this conflict that has extended since the end of the last century. This is especially after the recent political developments, with the new government taking office in Armenia maintaining a Western policy.

Moscow is aware that Armenia needs Russia more than Russia needs Armenia, yet a fallout would mean losing one of its back gardens in the former Soviet yard. This may affect Russia’s long-term influence and ability to manoeuvre, imposing its opinion as an international power in the global arena in general, and in the former Soviet space in particular.

Russia needs Armenia, a traditional ally, in the Collective Security Organization and other regional economic alliances, as well as in light of the Georgia-Russia conflict. Moscow also needs Azerbaijan, a country that occupies an important geopolitical position.

Moscow and Baku are linked in many areas of joint cooperation, from cross-border security and energy to the exploitation of Caspian Sea resources and transport projects. The Kremlin does not want to turn Azerbaijan or Armenia into Georgia or Ukraine again, so Moscow will not push Baku away, thus allowing foreign powers to push Russia out of the region.

In fact, one would find that Russia is allied with Armenia, and there is a state of partnership with Azerbaijan, with Moscow playing a mediating role (acceptable to both sides) in settling the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

From our partner RIAC

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