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Unmanned Military Weapons: International Humanitarian Law without Human Terrain

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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Unmanned Military Weapons (UMW) system based on Autonomous Weapons Technologies (AWT)  mesmerizes doppelgängers of Terminator-style robots; deadly machines backed by convoluted artificial intelligence which is qualified of exterminating human beings devoid of being impeded by human sentiments and traditional constrictions. This image is akin to science fiction and raises challenges about the development of UMW that vanguard the international legal discourse in the contemporary circumstances.UMW is innovation,and its adherence to the core principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) must be ensured. It is now obligatory upon the international community to address the lego-political, moral and ethical ramifications of the development of robotic technologies that might have lethal consequences.On October 24, 2010, in a report to the UN General Assembly Human Rights Committee, Christof Heyns—a Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions—opined that UMW systems flagged “serious concerns that have been almost entirely unexamined by human rights defenders or humanitarian actors” at the anvil of IHL. Therefore, UN must constitute a panel to evaluate the legal, moral and ethical aspects of UMW that are being mushroomed in the US and deployed fortarget killings in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In June 2010, another UN official Philip Alston requested for terminationto CIA-guided drone airstrikeson Al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives and suspects in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Alston articulated that killings ordered far from the battleground could lead to a “PlayStation”mindset. The CIA contested his findings by statingbut without confirming that it conductedthe airstrikes and military operations “within a framework of law and close government oversight.” Heyns—a South African Professor of Law—was of the view that there was a need to discuss responsibility for civilian casualties and how to ensure that the use of robots complied with IHL, and human rights standards for developing the AWT. Thus, Heyns asked the UN to take up the issue head-on by exhorting the then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organizea group of national representatives, philosophers, IHL experts,human rights defenders,developers and scientists to promote a debate on the legal, political, ethical, and moral implications of UMW systems. There is a fundamental question that must immediately be addressed,i.e., should lethal force ever be permitted to be fully automated and unmanned? Is it legally and morally correct to allow UMW to kill humans on the battlefields? Is it in compliance with IHL to transfer the decision from human being to machines to kill humans?

International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) released a document on November 19, 2012,called Losing Humanity: The Case against KillerRobots, wherein a ban on the production and use of UMW was advocated. Subsequently, US Department of Defence (DoD) circulated a Directive 3000.09 wherein DoD adumbrated its policies on the development and use of UMW.   On April 9, 2013, Heyns askedfor a moratorium on the development of UMW until an acceptable legal framework is developed. However, the UN, IHRC,andDoD differed on the solution,andthey together commenced from the hypothesis that UMW would broach challenges of compliance to IHL. Therefore, the core principles of IHL such as principles of distinction and proportionality are insufficient to address the troubles raised by the UMW which require a more planned,controlledand coordinated legal regime to be emplaced to ensure the legality and morality of the use of UMW.There are also questions about the existing principles of command responsibility which are not adequate to provide the adherence of UMW with the IHL principles.

Unmanned Military Weapons?

Aroboticist Noel Sharkeydefines an unmanned machine as one that “carries out a preprogrammed sequence of operations or moves in a well-defined environment.” In contrast, anautonomous machine operates in an amorphous environment. It is de rigueurto distinguish between weapons that are developed and designed as automated and unmanned weapons and weapons that are trulyautonomous. The term “autonomy” can be challenging to define as it alludes to highly intelligent robotsthat are capable of individual decision-making. The reality looks a lot less like science fiction,and more like everyday robotics.Inquintessence, what makes a machine autonomous is its environment of operation rather than its internal procedures. The DoD espouses a comprehensive definition of UMW whereunder “a weapon system once that is activated, can select and engage targets devoid of further intervention by a human hand. It includes human-controlled UMW systems that are designed to allow human operators to supersede theoperation of the weapon structure but can chooseand securetargets without further participationafter activation. The DoD definition’s essential requirement is that once activated; it can “select and engage targets” without further human input. Human Rights Watch (HRW) adopts an identical definition “any robot that can select and engage targets without human input, even if there is a human oversight, will qualify as a fully autonomous robot.” Thus, these definitions encapsulate the distinguishing nature of UMW that humans are not indispensable for the targeting decision-making process. In essence, there is a difference of predictability between UMW automatic weaponry. An automatic weapon system is wholly predictable except a breakdown. However, the UMW can only be anticipated as a sequence of similar results. It is crucial to have the determination of distinction to appreciate the capability of UMW of having compliance with IHL norms.

The emergence of UMW can develop in two different directions: as the expansionofhuman soldiers or as the replacement of humans in the battleground by unmanned proxies.In other words, the distinction is between UMW that expand or replace our soldiers and those automatic war machines that could be potential soldiers. Currently, the dominant perception is that robots will be deployed only to supplement andbroaden our soldier’s engagement in thehostilities. In this context, UMW system isappreciatedas weapons that keep humans away from combat. Primarily, the UMW is the latesttechnological advancement that originated from the traditional archery. In the same way, the diagnostic responses to the potential introduction of UMW are notunusual. However, any introduction of new weapons is challenged by some as unethical or illegal.However, the idea that UMW will replace our soldiers is gaining currency in the years ahead. The UMW system is more than an extension of humans when they have the potential to decideto kill without human engagement in the hostilities. However, the deployment of drones could be castigated for a multitude of reasons, but their competence of compliance with the principles of IHL is indisputablebecause humans are involved in the targeting process.Whereas the UMW would take human operators out of the decision-making architecturethat has been contemplated under the IHL regime. It is an acceptable war doctrine that human beings have been maintaining distance from war through technology and weapons development since antiquity. But visualizing battle without humans has not yet been imagined and removing human soldiers from the war process would be a paradigmatic shift in the event of UMW system development.

The Future of UMW

Currently, the UMW is not in action entirely,but it has been growing gradually at a pace that has not been seen before. Several weapons systems are attaining full autonomous abilities. International experts like Werner JA Dahm in his piece “Killer Drones Are Science Fiction” published in The Wall Street Journal on February 15, 2012, stated that the deployment of UMW is predestined and impending in the future. He further contends that the technology required for “fully autonomous military strikes” is already present. The development of UMW would augment vertically and horizontally with aspects of operations such as take-off and navigation, and lead to full autonomy over time.With the technological advancements, more and more sophisticated sensing and computational systems will becarried out.The increased tempo of warfare and pressures to minimize casualties will also create demand forUMW. Several weapons systems include semi-autonomous capabilities already, and the level of automation in weapons systems is progressively increasing.

Recently, the South Korean military has posted an immobile sentinel robot in the Korean Demilitarized (KDZ) which can detect and select the military objects. Such a robot can respond with lethal or non-lethal force by the attending situation on the ground. However, the final decision about targeting must be of human beings and not of robots as robots would decide without human intervention. Nevertheless, the robot is competent to select and engage targets without human application, but its location in the KDZ makes it uncalled for the robot to differentiate between civilian and military objects. However, arobot treats any person as a hostile combatant who crosses the pre-demarcated line. The Aegis-class cruisers of the US Navy currently has the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems (PC-inWS) which are autonomously capable of performing its searches, detection, evaluation, tracking and killing assessment functions.  The PC-inWS has been designed in four types: (1) semi-automatic, where humans command the firing decision; (2) automatic special, where humans decide targets, but the software determines how to execute them; (3) automatic, where humans supervise the system, but it operates without their input; and (4) casualty, where the systems does whatever is necessary to save the ship.

Thus, the UK has been testing a new semi-autonomous aircraft called Taranis and BAE Systems—the Designer—hailed it as an “autonomous and unmanned stealthaircraft” capable of autonomous aviation. However, humans have been retained for the time being,but they are likely to be replaced gradually. The X-47B—a semi-autonomous drone—the US has been developing that will take off and land without human deployment. The developer assertsthat it is a mechanism that “takes off, lands and aviates a preprogrammed mission, and then returns to base with a mouse click administered by its mission operator. The mission operator supervisesthe machine’s operation but does not actively involve in flying it via remote control as is the situation for other unmanned weapons systems currently in operation.The current development of X-47B does not envision autonomous target selection but would be capable of semi-autonomous flight. The development of UMW has been integratedinto all roadmaps of the US forces since 2004.The US Air Force’s Flight Plan proposesthat by the year 2025 completelyautonomous and unmanned flight systems will be a reality. Sharkey claims to have read certain robotics development projects from more than 50 countries including Canada which ispresently engaged in developing UMW systems.The US Air Force Major Michael A. Guetlin states that “[it] is not a matter of ‘will’ we employ [autonomous weapons]; it is a matter of ‘when’ we employ them.”

UMW System Advantages

Some tactical and operational factors promote the development of lethal UMW systems. The UMW systems are cheaper to operate than human-operated weapons and are capable of performing continuously, without the need for rest.Gordon Johnson, a member of the now-defunct Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command, highlighted the benefits of UMW: “They don’t get hungry. They are not afraid. They do not forget commands and directives. They do not worry if the guy next to them has just been hit or targeted. Will UMW do a better job than humans? Of course, Yes.Human operators are susceptible to fatigue and exhaustion.Though it can be possible to broaden mission times for humans of up to 72 hours with performance enhancers, eventually a human needs rest. The UMW is capable of performing for as long as their batteries sustain them. As battery and recharging technologyadvances, the possible mission and target time for UMW will continue to increase. A smaller number of humans are required for the operation of UMW systems. It may soon be possible for a single operator to manage a swarm of semi-autonomous drones, or for a single human commander to assign mission parameters to UMW, and monitor them from a secure distance. Therefore, it will allow for a distancing of the human warfighter and the battle space and expands the battle space. Consequently, the combatwill be able to be conducted over a much larger area than before. UMW has the capability of processing battleground information in a faster and efficient manner than human operators. UMW could be installed with a multitude of sensory technologies like infrared and thermal vision, high definition cameras and state-of-the-art acoustic sensors that would enhance UMW’s superiority over sensory capabilities of humans.

There are vulnerabilities with the modern remotely guided vehicles due to the possibility that would interfere with enemy satellites, radar systems or radio frequencies. However, the UMW systems assuage these anxieties as they would be capable of performing without perennial contact with base camp.At present, remotely piloted systems have a delay time of about1.5 Seconds, restrictingtheirefficacyin a greatertempo battlespace. Thus, the impugned delay would make it impracticalfor a remotely piloted system to combatin aerialwarfare, which UMW aeronautical capabilities would make achievable. The proponents of UMW advocatethat UMW may, in fact,bemore adept at adhering to the principles of IHL than the soldiers logic and emotions. The UMW systems might be capable of performingmore conservatively because they would not lunge forpreservation instinct. Therefore, robotic sensors would be better well-equipped to make battleground observations and surveillancethan human combatants. The UMW would be designed without emotions that are bound to cloud sense of judgment of human soldiers, but UMW would be free from all the psychological infirmities and frailties of scenario fulfillment; the experiencesand occurrencesof human beings which they use as new information to fit their pre-existing belief patterns and combat orientation.

No Wrap-Up

It is, indeed, a reality now that UMW systems are here to stay as inalienable war machinery of the modern world and it is destined to be vertically and horizontally gradational in their advancement. The deployment of UMW systems posesa multitude of challenges including adhering to the IHL principles of distinction and proportionality. In IHL, principles, and standards have been defined for human soldiers and technology might never be able to substitute human beings in entirety. Making a distinction between civilian and combatants needs computational processing capability that has not been accomplished as of now. With the requisite technology development, the definition of civilian may not be adequately specific for UMW software. Therefore, the idiosyncratic and circumstantial nature of proportionality entails an assessment of dynamics that might not be workable for the machines. Further, there are ethical and moral challenges emanate from the UMW systems such as should the decision to kill a human being be assigned to a drone or robot? Having vigorously assessed the potentialchallenges of adherence to the IHL principles, we must not attribute UMW systems a higher standard than human management of warfare. However, there are umpteen instances of war crimes, indiscriminate attacks, crimes against humanity, and disproportionate use of force by the human soldiers in the human history. The introduction of UMW system is flgrantly bound to lead to the moral detachment and unethical expansion of battle space. But UMW has to peregrinate a long way before matching the human mind and human sense of justice. The UMW system is not necessary for making the distinction and calculating proportionality if measured against the human input.Nevertheless, human soldiers would be there in the loop as a goofproof when UMW system is first deployed in the battlefields; their engagement would fade away with the time. With the diminishing of human engagement, the complications confronted by the UMW in adhering to the principles of IHL would be unprecedentedly prominent necessitating the comprehensive lego-institutional analysis to re-conceiving the human terrain of International Humanitarian Law.

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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COVID-19 and Challenges to the Indian Defence Establishment

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain situation all over the world. It is defined as the greatest challenge faced by the world since World War II. At a certain point, the pandemic had forced world governments to announce lockdowns in their respective countries that led to more than half of the human population being home quarantined. Since then, social distancing, travel bans, and cancellation of international summits have become a routine exercise. Most sectors such as agriculture, health, education, economy, manufacturing have been severely hit across the globe. One such sector which is vital to national security that has been impacted due to the pandemic is defence.

The effect of influenza and pneumonia during WWI on the US military was huge. The necessity to mobilise troops across the Atlantic made it even ideal for the diseases to spread rapidly among the defence personnel and civilians. Between mid-1917 and 1919, the fatalities were more so due to the disease than getting killed in action. Due to COVID-19, there have been many implications within the defence sector. Amid the ongoing transgressions in Ladakh, it becomes imperative to analyse the preparedness of the Indian defence establishment to tackle the challenges at hand.

Disrupting the Status Quo

Many personnel in the Indian armed forces have been tested positive for COVID-19. This puts the operational capabilities at risk. In one isolated incident, 26 personnel of the Navy had been placed in quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19. The French and the Americans had a great challenge ahead of them as hundreds of soldiers were getting infected onboard their Naval vessels. Furthermore, the Army saw some cases being tested positive as well. In one such incident, the headquarters of the Indian Army had to be temporarily shut down because of a soldier contracting the virus. These uncalled disruptions are very dangerous for our armed forces. These disruptions challenge the recruitment process and training exercises.

Since the Indian Army has been involved in quarantining tasks, this exposes the personnel to the virus. As a result of this, the first soldier was tested positive on March 20 in Leh. Among them, those who work as medical personnel are even more exposed to the virus. In order to enforce damage control to the operational capabilities, the Army made sure that the non-essential training, travel, and attending conferences remained cancelled. They called off any foreign assignments and postings for the time being. The Army also made it a point to extend leaves for that personnel who were already on absence. This was a major preventive measure adopted to prevent further infection.

As a result of the lockdown that had been imposed nationwide, the defence services were forced to temporarily stall all the activities that relate to soldiering during peacetime. These activities include training, pursuing professional qualification, fitness tests and regimes, equipment maintenance such as unit assets and stores, up-gradation of the cadres among others. Since the Indian Army boasts of a force that has signed up voluntarily to guard the borders, most of the troops are away from their families, which makes it even more difficult during the times of crises. The mega biennial naval exercises scheduled to be held in Vizag were cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 41 navies were planned to be a part of the joint exercises called MILAN. The Service Selection Board (SSB) training and the recruitment process have been put to a halt as well. This will severely impact the intake process for this year.

Handling Biohazards

The Army’s capable of operating in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment and has sufficient equipment like infantry vehicles, helicopters and tanks which can operate without any hassles. Since instances of chemical warfare have been witnessed in West Asia and other regions in the last two decades, the focus of the Army has been on that and not on biological warfare. Most Armies believe that bio-weaponry is still fictional and won’t come into play any time soon. Naturally, due to this mindset, most Armies are not capable of handling biohazards. This is a major setback in the time of COVID-19 and has to be addressed.

Riding Down the Slope

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian economy has been nose-diving day by day. This is some bad news for the defence sector since the military spending will possibly be reduced as a result of the slowdown. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent. This is one of the lowest in the history of post-independent India. Allocations and spendings will naturally take a hit and will take a long time to revive again. Defence manufacturing will also face a setback and discourage indigenous players who are looking at getting involved in the manufacturing and innovation sector. MoD has already received the Ministry of Finance’s circular that called for the defence spending to be limited to 15-20 per cent of the total amount allocated. This will ensure that the defence budget is not the priority for the finance ministry. A gap of Rs. 1,03,000 crore has been highlighted between the requirement and the allocated money. More than 60 per cent of this allocated amount anyway goes towards paying salaries and pensions. This means that the modernisation efforts will face a major slowdown in the next two years. Defence procurement is already difficult due to the bureaucratic hurdles, now the monetary crunch only adds more woes.

Moreover, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier that more than 9,000 posts belonging to the Military Engineering Services (MES) will be abolished in the said industrial division. The reason cited was that this would bring about a balance to the expenditure. Due to the lockdown, the military development has taken a hit and has seen a decline in the production of freights. As of now, there is no manufacturing that is ongoing as far as fighter planes or aircraft, in general, is concerned. Some of the signed defence deals and contracts are said to be reviewed due to the financial crunch. India’s defence budget is expected to see some cuts due to the economy slowing down. The pandemic has worsened this even further. There is already an existing order to cap the spending for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Most of the payments that are being disbursed is largely that of paying for the existing contracts. This will diminish any scope for procurement of newer defence equipment that helps in modernising the armed forces in the long run. According to a report, it says that the Ministry of Defence is looking at a savings of anywhere between Rs. 400 and 800 billion in the 2020-21 financial year. To quote Yuval Noah Harari from his recent article in the Financial Times would seem relevant in this case, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.”  India has displayed the significant political will to make impactful decisions during the pandemic. The question is, how far and how soon can we push ourselves to be prepared on all fronts?

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Rafale deal: A change in aerial balance in South Asia?

Shaheer Ahmad

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The induction of the first consignment of five Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force inventory is considered to be a game-changer in the aerial balance of the South Asian region. A multi-billion-dollar package will be beneficial to increase the air prowess of Indian Airforce. While equipped with weapons of tangible accuracy including long-range SCALP and Meteor missiles, it will be able to hunt any target with accurate precision.  The arrival of French-made engines has concerned neighboring Pakistan and China due to its high accuracy of conducting sea and ground attacks.

The experience of operation ‘Swift Retort’ and Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, compelled New Delhi to introspect the efficiency of IAF in any major or minor engagement in the future. The deal to acquire Rafale fighting jets to plug the loopholes in the aerial power of IAF was inked in September 2016.  This induction is meant to enhance the Indian Air force’s operational capabilities and will also assist it to overcome the technological disparity with the US manufactured Pakistan’s F-16 and Chinese Chengdu JF-17 thunder. However, the task for PAF to restrict IAF moves in the future has become more challenging. Despite its competence and better training of its personals as compared to IAF the air superiority is still not guaranteed if the technological gap between IAF and PAF gets wider. Notably, it’s hard to assess the proficiencies of one jet over another because the ‘man behind the machine is more critical’. 

Rafale is a twin-engine Medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRC) whose design instigate from Dassault Mirage with an up to date frame of the 1990s, already used by the French Navy and air force as well as by Egypt and Qatar. Furthermore, these jets were also engaged in combat missions in Afghanistan and Libya where they demonstrated a high proficiency. Whilst JF-17 thunder holds a conventional design originating from Mig 33 having an airframe of 1980s and it also demonstrated its capabilities in PAF’s Operation “Swift Retort”.

In an overall assessment, JF17 is a lightweight, conventional, fuel-economical, and cost-effective jet aircraft. The most momentous factor in JF17 thunder is it’s beyond visual range capabilities and integration of AESA radar that will not only allow detecting the wide-ranged targets but also to detect and lock multiple targets instantaneously. Meanwhile, it is less disposed to jamming and leaves a low sign to radar that makes the detection of fighter difficult hence increasing its reliability. Moreover, a crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform and its cost-effectiveness makes itself a suitable aircraft for the Pakistan air force. Similarly, the ability of any up-gradation domestically for JF-17 also increases the feasibility of this aircraft, while Rafale lacks this opportunity because Indians lack the platform that can guarantee any domestic up-gradation for Rafale. Generally, Dassault Rafale is advanced in airframe, delta wing Canard design, semi stealth specter to counter threats as well as MBDA meteor that makes it a very affluent fighter with a high operational cost.

Rafales are considered superior over existing fighter jets present in PAF inventory and with the advanced technology they will relish an edge over Pakistani jets. But in case of any aerial engagement on Pakistani soil, Experts orate that in such a scenario Pakistani fighters will enjoy an edge due to its enhanced Air defense ground environment (ADGE) and also a window will remain open for PAF that when and where to carry out a counter strike as it did during operation ‘Swift Retort’. In such case, Indian numerical advantage and war resilience will be of less significance because these factors are relished by the party having a counter-strike option and that party will decide that how much allocation of resources is needed to engage for a mission after having a careful assessment of adversary’s air defense capabilities.

It’s also important to know that PAF and IAF can carry out surprise air raids nearby to the international border in peacetime without the probability of interception by adversary radars. Neither sides have the strength and capabilities to maintain 24/7 air surveillance across a 3323-kilometer long international border. Hence it’s also necessary for Pakistan to counter or deter any kind of surgical or tactical strike in the future. But the concern is still there that after the Balakot experience will India be deterred for conducting similar strikes in the future?

While viewing this scenario and having an experience of Balakot episode, PAF efforts to enhance its capabilities of airborne intercept radar and BVR missiles in JF-17 thunder’s fleet are noteworthy.  However, PAF should pursue an up-gradation on its existing F16 squadron. The presence of Rafale and S-400 air defense system will be challenging for PAF to retaliate, but the Indian S-400 and Rafale jets can’t shield the whole international border so the PAF needs a careful assessment to choose the targets that are not under the umbrella of S-400 or the access of Rafales while keeping in mind not to carry out an action that can trigger the adversary towards any escalation.

In a nutshell, the arrival of French-made engines equipped with long-range SCALP and meteor missiles having high precision is not only beneficial for Indian air prowess but it has also concerned its neighbors notably Pakistan for countermeasures. The experience of Operation Swift Retort and the recent military standoff in Ladakh has compelled New Delhi to modernize its Soviet-era air force by the induction of Dassault Rafales that will provide IAF an edge over the existing fighter jets in PAF’s inventory. However, the crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform increases the feasibility of JF-17 thunder in PAF’s inventory. Hence in case of any aerial engagement in future the numerical advantage will be of more concern as 100+ JF-17 thunders will relish an edge over 36 Rafales and PAF will have the option of counterstrike that when and where to carry out a retaliation after carefully assessing the adversary capabilities in light of S-400 air defense system and Dassault Rafales. Hence Rafale jets have air superiority over existing Pakistani fighter jets but it can’t alter the aerial balance in South Asian region unilaterally.

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Pakistan’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Commitment Towards Non-Proliferation

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Ever since Pakistan became a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy has been in practice on the principles of restraint and responsibility. Pakistan was even reluctant to enter the club of nuclear weapon states but soon after India had conducted its first nuclear test in the year 1974, going nuclear became Pakistan’s strategic compulsion. India’s series of nuclear tests in 1998 had compelled Pakistan to demonstrate its nuclear weapon capability accordingly to restore the strategic balance in South Asia. The development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability primarily serves the purpose of a credible and reliable defence against the existential threat from India and to maintain peace and stability in the region. After the inevitable nuclearization of South Asia, Pakistan has never been a part of any arms race in South Asia.  Pakistan can neither afford and nor have an intent to indulge in an arms race in the region This is evident from the very fact that Pakistan has always been open for dialogues and arms control initiatives at the regional and international levels. In this regard, Pakistan’s recent proposal at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva is also part of its responsible nuclear diplomacy to urge the international community to take steps and develop consensus on arms control and disarmament. These factors show Pakistan’s commitment and adherence to achieve the goal of nuclear non-proliferation. 

As part of its non-proliferation efforts, in the past, Pakistan had also proposed various Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)at the regional level. For instance, in 1974 Pakistan had proposed to make South Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ), in1978 proposal for the joint Indo-Pak declaration renouncing the manufacture and acquisition of nuclear weapons was presented. Similarly, in 1979 Pakistan had proposed the mutual inspection of each other’s nuclear facilities to build confidence and promote transparency. Moreover, being a responsible international player, in 1979 Pakistan had proposed to simultaneously sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)along with India as non-nuclear-weapon states. In 1988 Pakistan had proposed a bilateral treaty to ban the nuclear tests to elude overt nuclearization and reduce the nuclear risk. With the high risk attached to the emerging technologies and delivery systems, in 1994 Pakistan had proposed the South Asia zero-missile zone. Hence over the period, Pakistan has continued its efforts towards nuclear CBMs by proposing various regional and bilateral non-proliferation initiatives. These were aimed at strengthening strategic stability and to reduce the risk of any nuclear conflict in the region. Unfortunately, India has always shown a negative attitude to all such proposals and disrupted various technical, political, and strategic level talks on nuclear CBMs. This historical evidence further validates Pakistan’s appropriate nuclear diplomacy and enhances its credibility as a responsible nuclear-weapon state.

In continuation of its responsible nuclear diplomacy, most recently at the plenary meeting of CD, being held in June 2020, Pakistan has put forth its concerns regarding the nuclear disarmament. While speaking at the conference, Pakistan’s permanent representative to CD Ambassador Khalil Hashmi deliberated upon that with the emerging global conflicts, the consensus on non-proliferation and disarmament has also abraded. The likelihood of a resumption of nuclear testing by countries like the USA, Russia, and India and increased prospects of nuclear use has made the global arms control regime dormant. The increasing trend of double standards and discrimination of the western countries was also highlighted. It was pointed out that the politics of granting waivers to certain states particularly India serves as one of the reasons that the confidence in the nuclear non-proliferation regime has eroded. India’s aspiration of regional hegemony and aggressive military posture against Pakistan are the main contributing factors towards instability and turbulence in South Asia. Moreover, India’s non- compliance with international law has emboldened it to intimidate its neighboring countries and to continue its brutalities in the Kashmir region. India’s irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric combined with its enhanced and aggressive nuclear capabilities is a huge threat to regional peace and security.

To address the above concerns, Pakistan has outlined eleven points roadmap to build the global consensus on non-proliferation. Some of the important steps include; the ‘right of equal security for all states’ in both conventional and non-conventional domains at the national and international levels. The SSOD-I (Special Session on disarmament) has unanimously agreed to this principle of equal security. This shows that Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy and its non-proliferation efforts have been acknowledged at such an international forum. Another pragmatic step would be that through a non-discriminatory Fissile Material Treaty, all the states must eliminate the current fissile material stock and abandon future production. Likewise, all non-nuclear-weapon states must be provided with security assurances until nuclear disarmament is achieved. A non-discriminatory and universal agreement must be developed to address the concerns regarding the proliferation and development of ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) systems. Furthermore, there is a need to strengthen laws to prevent the militarization of outer space and development of LAWS (Lethal Autonomous Weapons System) to be brought under international regulation. Hence to deal with the existing and future challenges to nuclear non-proliferation, international efforts are needed to rethink and re-evaluate the foundations of the non-proliferation regime.

Hence, in this nuclear age, global strategic stability cannot be achieved through discriminatory non-proliferation measures. There is a need for an enabling environment at both the global and regional levels for successful nuclear non-proliferation engagements. In South Asia, India’s offensive doctrines of a limited war under a nuclear overhang, nuclear brinkmanship, and notions of a splendid first strike have posed a serious threat to regional security. In this regard, CBMs and crisis control along with nuclear risk reduction are direly needed to help reinstate a stable regional nuclear order. This would likely serve the key to enduring peace and stability. Despite India’s perilous and pessimist role in the non-proliferation realm, Pakistan should continue to act responsibly and maintain a constructive and responsible nuclear diplomacy.

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From the very beginning an open U.S. intervention in the Syrian conflict caused heated discussions in the world community concerning...

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More can be done to ensure a green recovery from COVID-19 crisis

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