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India’s Ballistic Missile Defense System: Strategic Implications

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Strategic stability in South Asia has remained fragile due to multiple factors. Three common threats to Strategic Stability in South Asia have been recognized as crisis instabilities, arms race and escalatory dangers between two nuclear adversaries India and Pakistan. Security experts have analyzed that emergence of security tri-lemmas (among China-India-Pakistan) also pose a serious challenge to South Asia’s strategic stability as well as to the deterrence equilibrium. The development of advanced conventional and nuclear weapons system with high level of readiness and precision strike capabilities, and supersonic and hypersonic missiles with the capability to destroy adversary’s strategic weapon system are highly destabilizing for the region.

Both South Asian nuclear adversaries are introducing several offensive and defensive weapons and are engaged in improving the ranges and technological sophistication of their arsenals. However, India is modernizing its missile system naturally creating uneasiness for Pakistan. The successful launch of its nuclear-capable Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni-IV and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V has worsened the regional security situation. India is also working on its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) System and has been pursuing it since 1990s. India-US nuclear agreement of 2005 was the major milestone for India to fulfill its aspiration as the nuclear deal allowed the US to provide nuclear related facilities that India would not only use for peaceful purposes but also to fulfill its nuclear strategy goals of operationalization of a nuclear triad; and successful induction of a BMD system.

Although India is working on its BMD system, it has not yet deployed it.  BMD system is yet to be tested in integrated mode by using low-altitude and high-altitude Advanced Air Defense interceptor missiles. However, it has conducted several successful tests of its missile defence system in a separate mode. Additionally, India is in the process to strengthen its missile defence shield. India’s rationale for the BMD is based on multiple factors including security, prestige, power projection and to fulfill its geostrategic and geopolitical goals in region.  With the successful induction of its BMD system, India will be the fifth country to have operationalized BMD-system.

Implications of India’s BMD for?

The Induction of Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMDS) in South Asia will destabilize the strategic stability of the region for the following significant reasons: First, operationalization of BMD system will neutralize Pakistan’s ballistic missile capability; second, it encourage the state to launch first strike; third, it will increase the security dilemma and encourage the arms race because operationalization and induction of BMD system will force Pakistan to make quantitative and qualitative improvements in its missile inventories to ensure its security.

Pakistan’s Response

Induction of BMD system in South Asia will force Pakistan to increase the readiness, precision strike capability, increase the ranges and payloads of its missile system, and thus escalate the arms race and increase the fragility of strategic stability among the countries that depend on nuclear deterrence to maintain peace. Therefore to counter India’s vulnerability to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the only way is to quantitative and qualitative increase in Pakistan’s strategic weapons. And it is significant to note that Pakistan is not seeking parity with India but only maintaining the balance of power. In this regard Pakistan’s MIRV capable Ababeel and Babur-3 are viewed as logical responses to ensure strategic stability.  Ababeel is surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of delivering multiple warheads using Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. This is enough evidence that Pakistan possesses the ability to maintain the credibility of its strategy of nuclear deterrence against the ballistic missile defences due to its ability to deliver multiple warheads. In addition to MIRV, Pakistan also achieved second strike capability with the successful test of Babur-III.  It is a nuclear-capable SLCM proficient to evade the radars and defence systems of adversary. Therefore SLCM and MIRV capable Ababeel are logical additions that have the ability to neutralize Indian BMD system.

In light of above facts it can be inferred that due to changing regional security scenario, induction of sophisticated weapons and unresolved disputes, the peace in South Asian security environment has remained fragile.  India’s BMD has the ability to disturb the deterrence equilibrium. Therefore only policy potion for Pakistan is quantitative and qualitative improvements in its nuclear weapons   and missile program to maintain strategic stability and ensure the credibility of its nuclear deterrence. Thus, Pakistan is not seeking parity with India but only maintaining the balance of power to maintain peace and stability in region.

Asma Khalid is currently working as Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached asmaakhalid_90[at]hotmail.com

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The Real Reason(s) Trump Backed Off On Iran

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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War is a failure of reason, it has been said, and war with Iran makes little sense after they have faithfully complied with their nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), endorsed as it has been by the Security Council.  It was the US, and the US alone, choosing to abrogate the deal that has resulted in the current confrontation — an unequal one in the unexpected sense that the US carrier is a big fat sitting duck for Iran’s locally manufactured  sophisticated missiles.  Additionally, its air defenses supplied by Russia will render aerial bombing an expensive proposition in airplane losses. 

A brief description of Iran’s missiles that pose a danger to the US fleet or air attacks is in order.  First, Iran’s missile program is domestic with help from Russian and China.  Iran now has the capacity to produce anti-aircraft missiles with up to long-range capability, such as the one used to destroy the $120 million sophisticated US drone which was not without avoidance measures.

Of greater worry to the task force must be the Qader anti-ship missile with a 300 km range (about 190 miles).  It can counteract electronic warfare measures and can be launched from land, sea or air, extending its range.  Deadlier still is the Khalij Fars anti-ship ballistic missile that slams down on a ship at Mach 3.  It is much harder to defend against, particularly The Fateh Mobin version which uses infrared sensors for terminal guidance and is equipped with radar evasion features.

Iran’s missile inventory extends to a dozen or more functional types including medium range ballistic missiles.  The Iranians often note these are of domestic manufacture, which in itself is a consequence of the long trade embargoes — yet another unintended consequence.

Of course, Iran also has the ability to use conventional weapons like mines to close off the Strait of Hormuz to tanker traffic, causing chaos in the world economy by throttling fossil fuel exports.

Iran is also now firmly within the China-Russia axis, and it remains a major supplier for China.  The latter is expanding the sea port of Gwadar in Pakistan, round the corner from the Gulf, to enable tankers to unload for overland transport, cutting transit time to the Chinese border to less than 24 hours … that is when the north-south artery in Pakistan is extended to Gwadar.  Infrastructure development and improvement is part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative to which Pakistan signed on almost immediately.

Since the rest of the signatories to the Iran Deal including the EU have declared Iran to have abided by it, the US is alone in the world in its unwarranted intransigence.  In the recent past, the US has withdrawn from an anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Agreement on climate change and has threatened to pull out of NAFTA — the latter leading to hurried minor changes.  So here’s a question:  if the US were not the 800 pound gorilla on the block, who would want to negotiate with such an unreliable partner? 

It all goes to show that when Trump called off this military escalation, he was not just thinking of the 150 Iranians he claimed would be killed, he was also concerned about US casualties and the loss of a ship or two, future relations with China and its partners, the lack of support from Europe, and the uncertainties of war — all with one eye on the 2020 elections. 

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Bright Future of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

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There are many countries in this region eagerly wanted to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The region is under severe threats, either it is US-Iran Tension or Sino-US trade War, Afghan Issue or Syrian Crisis, Yemen War or Egyptian issues, Pak-India Tension or South-China issues, all evolving situations are signs of a big threat to the region. Under this scenario, the emergence of regional alliances is very much natural.

Originally 5 countries: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, established this group on 26 April 1996. Its scope was very limited to border security only. After the disintegration of former USSR, newly established Central Asian countries were facing challenges like drug smuggling, human trafficking, extremism, and terrorism, etc. But later on, Uzbekistan joined this group.  The formal creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of 6 countries, but was signed in June 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.

SCO was not very popular or very active till China launched BRI – mega initiatives for Infrastructure, Connectivity, Trade & Economic Development, Security & Stability, Peace & Harmony, etc in 2013. SCO gained further momentum in 2017 when Pakistan and India joined it.

Today it is in limelight and has attracted the attention of the whole world. It was and is not against any single country of any group of countries. But, it reinforces the UN Charter and wanted to implement the UN charter in later and spirit. SCO wants the protection of humanity, and human right, whether a small nation or big, a rich country of poor, a strong state or weak, humanity deserve equal treatment. SCO stands for the resolution of all disputes among states amicably by dialogue and diplomacy. The use of force is not the option and must be avoided. Blood-shed and coercion are not accepted by any civilized nation or individuals.

Unfortunately, after the fall of the former USSR, America emerged as a unique superpower and the world turned into a unipolar world. Iraq was destroyed unilaterally without getting any approval or involvement of the UN Security Council. Libya was destroyed in the same manner. Afghanistan was invaded by by-passing the UN.

China and Russia were not in the mode to offer any resistance at that time. But things changed, when the Syrian crisis started, Russia offered resistance and Americans were compelled to announce the withdrawal of its troops from Syria.

The US-North Korean tension started two years ago, and the US wanted to attack North-Korea. But American could not attack as there was no consent from Russia and China. It is very much visible that the world has already emerged as multipolar.

Indo-Pacific alliance is focused to “contain China” and “counter Russia”.

With this in the background, it is sufficient rational and justification for the strengthening of SCO.

This region is highly populated and inhabits almost half of the world population. Similarly rich in natural resources. Yet very poor! There exists a huge potential for this region to overcome poverty, and gain prosperity. There is a dire need to promote cooperation, mutual understanding, harmony, and stability. The region is facing extremism, terrorism, and instability. SCO is an appropriate platform. Many countries in this region feel a light of hope and prosperity in SCO.

I can foresee, expansion of SCO in the near future. Many countries may join SCO as full members, and some as Observer or guests. Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Belarus, Nepal Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, etc many countries are expected to join in due time.

SCO may need to amend its charter to cope with the evolving geopolitics and demand of the regional countries. Expansion and improvement of the Charter are very much fore-see-able. SCO has a bright future and may ensure the bright future for this region.

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Pentagon plan and dream to maintain supremacy in Indo-Pacific

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On June 1, the US Defense Department published a report on military objectives in the Indo-Pacific Region (IPR). The report, delivered by acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, contained a number of key points which he also outlined at the 18th International Conference on Regional Security “Shangri-La Dialogue” in Singapore. According to observers, the Pentagon report has become the first official military strategy of the kind for the region. What are the guidelines of the US military strategy in the context of Washington’s general policy in one of the most strategically important regions of the world?

In its National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Military Strategy (NMS), the Pentagon presents a wide-rangiong view on the present and future of the Indo-Pacific Region, which, most likely, coincides with that of the US administration. According to the report, since Indo-Pacific is of crucial importance “for America’s future”, it is therefore one of the top priorities for the Pentagon. One half of the world’s population live in the region, while its GDP makes up 60 percent of the global one. Countries of the region boast 7 of the world’s 10 largest armies. 6 states possess nuclear weapons. 9 of the top 10 seaports are in the region; and the region accounts for 60 percent of all maritime international trade. A third of all shipments run through the South China Sea.

The report says the United States has been maintaining presence in the region as a “peaceful” and “constructive” force since the 18th century, and is thus a “Pacific nation”.  US trade with countries of the region has amounted to $ 2.3 trillion, and direct US investment in countries of the region $ 1.3 trillion is more than the cumulative figures of China, Japan, and South Korea. A quarter of all US exports go to Indo-Pacific Region, while shipments to China and India have more than doubled in the last ten years. Thus, the past, present and future of the United States is inextricably linked with Indo-Pacific.

What presents the main challenge to the security of the region and the US interests is competition of states, which is based on geopolitical rivalry. First of all, we are talking about China. The report unequivocally identifies the anti-Chinese vector of US military policy in the Indian-Pacific Region. China, according to US military, under the leadership of the CPC, “is seeking to shift the balance of strength in the region in its favor,” relying on the modernization of its armed forces, “a number of influence-boosting operations, and economic methods used to coerce other states.”

The Pentagon report is set to prove that the US policies are “completely different.” In 2017, President Trump proclaimed that the United States deems the region “free and open”, “reliable, safe, prosperous and open to the benefit of all countries.” Through the Pentagon, Washington expresses its intention to encourage governments that “act in an appropriate way” and countries whose citizens “enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms.” It thus vows to maintain “order based on the rule of law”, which is “a prerequisite for peace and prosperity for all.” According to Pentagon experts, “the United States proposes strategic partnership, not strategic dependence.”

However, differences and understatements do stand out. The United States is against the “prevalence of any one power in Indo-Pacific.” To this end, the Pentagon de facto plans to pursue a policy of maintaining military supremacy of the United States. In words, America is against “strategic dependence”. But the allies are required to purchase American weapons and hardware, in accordance with the price list to be presented by the Pentagon. In the long run, they are expected to “give a support shoulder” for America to keep its dominant position in the region. Finally, in response to China’s thoroughly developed One Belt One Road Initiative, which provides a development program for decades to come,  Washington, through the Pentagon, puts forward but an abstract formula of “new strategic corridors” and “new roads”. The American idea hinges on the streamlining of traditional military ties with old allies and two or three dozen billion dollars which are supposed to stimulate “productive cooperation” with new partners.

Such a discrepancy in purposes and means of achieving them does not prevent American military strategists from portraying China as one of the three main “threats” to regional stability and security. China is seen as a “revisionist power,” which intentionally “enters into confrontation,”  as, allegedly, “its political, economic and military agendas are expansionist by nature.” Beijing’s  ultimate goal, in the opinion of the Pentagon, is “to secure hegemony in Indo-Pacific in the near future.” And in the long term, it is set on “ensuring global supremacy”.  While the United States, according to the Pentagon, in the long term seeks to establish “transparent and non-aggressive” relations with the PRC. But…. only if Beijing complies with American conditions. Why not the other way round ?!

China has indeed become one of the pillars of the current model of globalization and represents the opposite of America under Trump. Unlike Washington, Beijing strongly supports further liberalization of trade, both in the Indo-Pacific Region, and in the rest of the world, and it favors multilateral creative cooperation between countries of the region. According to Beijing, a good strategy for mutually beneficial development should embrace several elements. First of all, countries should join efforts in the process of building an open economic system based on the principles of mutual benefit and “gains for all”. Also, it is necessary to promote a growth model based on innovation, and “tap into new sources of development”. Such an approach is relies on joint development, integration and interpenetration of cultures and technologies. Finally, economic development must be inclusive and its results and fruits must be accessible to all countries and territories.

Moscow is promoting a similar regional and global development agenda. In the Indian-Pacific Region, Russia is pursuing a course for “ensuring sustainable, comprehensive growth” for all countries and peoples. Objectives of such a scale and duration can be achieved only through effective integration of economic processes, by means of open and mutually beneficial cooperation. In this regard, Moscow supports efforts towards the creation of a free trade zone in Indo-Pacific. However, the Pentagon looks at the policy of the Russian Federation from an entirely different angle. In the report Russia is described as  “a reborn malign actor” which seeks to regain and expand its influence in Indo-Pacific “in every direction”. Speaking through the military, Washington categorically refuses to admit that other countries’ policies may be more attractive than those of America, or that Moscow’s consistent efforts aimed at bridging the gap between China and the United States are aimed solely at stabilizing the international order. On the contrary, the Pentagon is extremely worried about the development of comprehensive partnerships between Russia and China in the diplomatic, economic and military spheres. For Washington, Moscow and Beijing’s efforts to build an equal and fair international system are “subversive”. It is also noteworthy that in the report, which is formally dedicated to the Indo-Pacific Region, the Pentagon is suspicious about the activities of Russia and China in the Arctic.

The third major headache of the Pentagon in the Indo-Pacific Region is the “rogue state) of North Korea. According to the military, the US position remains intact – until its complete nuclear disarmament the DPRK will remain a military threat to the United States. There have been no constructive suggestions. Instead, the US is considering the possibility of using force. The Pentagon does not foresee changes in the policy on North Korea confirming that Washington’s course remains tough and is “ultimatumlike”.

The subtitle of the report is “Readiness, Partnership and Strengthening Regional Cooperation”.

“Readiness” means maintaining peace through using force and deterrent, which require a multi-task group of armed forces capable of “securing victory in any conflict” over the shortest time possible.

“Partnership” in Indo-Pacific is declared by the Pentagon as one of the top policy priorities. But it is still unclear whether this is a course that echoes that of the Trump administration in Europe, where Washington is de facto trying to split the EU. A split comes to mind as one reads a statement about the Pentagon’s interest in forming coalitions of two, three, or four countries. Or this course could involve a secret front, since it mentions the traditional for Trump’s critics statement about allies as America’s “unparalleled advantage” over rivals and competitors.

Thus, the third goal declared is “Strengthening Regional Cooperation”, this time through the transformation of existing US military ties in accordance with the currently fashionable concept of  “network security architecture.” As an incentive to attract potential allies to this “network”, they propose expansion of cyber operations and military activities in outer space.

However, upon further reading of the report, it turns out that, in the Pentagon’s understanding, “cooperation” implies, in the first place, the policy of promoting  “monetization” of the alliance, which was formalized by Trump’s NSC in December 2017. Allies and partners are required to “make a contribution”, primarily by increasing the budget for the purchase of American weapons. The issue of the supply of weapons and equipment, in implementation of the provisions of the National Security Council, as well as the National Military Strategy, is becoming one of the Pentagon’s top priorities. And this is despite the fact that over the past three years, sales of American weapons and equipment to countries in the region have already increased by more than 65 percent.

Overall, the report, like any other publications of this kind, persistently presents the strategically optimistic prospect of “upcoming future achievements” in the region under the leadership of the United States. But will the Pentagon- proposed scenario yield the desired “security and prosperity” to countries of Indo-Pacific? The Indo-Pacific Strategy, announced by Trump, crosses out a whole range of steps which were taken by Obama. And the results of the policy of the current administration can easily be reduced to zero by the successors.

The Pentagon is trying to convince the world community of the US readiness to fight a long and fierce battle for dominance in the Indo-Pacific Region and in Asia as a whole. However, the conclusions of the five dozen pages of the report would fit on just one, the main message being the same – America first. But since not everyone agrees with this, the United States will likely have to adjust its strategy in the region to reality. 

From our partner International Affairs

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