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Role of External Actors in Nuclear Politics of South Asia

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The strategic landscape of the South Asia is comprised of India and Pakistan’s equation connected with the role of other great powers in region.  Geo-strategic position and introduction of nuclear arsenal has played central role to transform the relations among South Asian states and great powers.

The conflicting national interests, historic rivalries, states objective to enhance conventional and strategic forces quantitatively and qualitatively and role of great powers in regional politics has increased the complexities of South Asian strategic environment. The recent trends, such as Trumps offensive rhetoric against Pakistan, Indo-US nexus, Russia’s role in strategic calculus of India and Pakistan, and China’s expanding strategic interests and economic investment in the region has identified the profound changes in the South Asian politics.

Significance of South Asia in the strategic calculation of great powers i.e. US, Russia and China cannot be ignored. It is important to explore that why South Asian region is important for the great powers? In the case of US: involvement of US in Afghanistan, existence of Chinese strategic and economic presence in the region and non-proliferation concerns has played important role in evolution of relationship between US and South Asia. Russia’s role in the South Asia is increasing due to two factors: First, strategic interest including evolving Afghan situation; Second, economic benefits from regional states.  Consequently, driving factor for China’s role in South Asia’s politics is its strategic interests in the region as well as South Asian states are viewed important to fulfill its objective of economic integration.

Strategic co-operation of India and the US has changed the pattern of relationships between the India, Pakistan and US. South Asia is important for the US due to its interests in Central and West Asia. Since August 2017, Pakistan-US relations are on critical stage due to the criticism of Trump administration on Pakistan’s role in war in terror. On the other side, the positive trajectory of Indo-US relation: growing bilateral ties in defence and economic sphere, geoploliticising of nuclear cartels including NSG, and American support in multilateral international agreements such as STA-1 and COMCASA has dramatically changed the South Asian nuclear politics . Therefore in the US, India is viewed as stable economy, special ally in reconstructing Afghanistan, and counterbalance to China. Pakistan is seen differently with opposite lens.  Additionally, Strategic role of China in the Indian Ocean Region and construction of CPEC are grave concerns of US in the region.  Existing trends in South Asia, demonstrates the existence of focused regional strategy of the US in South Asia.

Russia is major defence partner and primary supplier of conventional and strategic weapon systems to India. Russia has provided cruise missiles, combat jets and battle tanks to India. Both states have recently signed the S-400 missile system deal. At the same time, Russia is expanding its defence sales in South Asia and provided the Mi-35M to Pakistan in 2017. Pakistan and Russia are enhancing defence and military ties and conducted the two joint exercises between Russia’s forces and Special Forces of Pakistan. These developments have indicated that Russia is diversifying its defence and economic interests in region.

China’s policy in South Asia is comprised of two rationales: First, economic interests based on the objectives of economic integration; Second, strategic interests to maintain stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as enhancing its diplomatic and economic influence with other state of South Asia.

South Asia is indispensible region for great powers due to its political, geo-strategic and economic significance. Power play of super powers in the region has negatively affected the strategic dynamics of south Asia especially the balance of power has been disturbed between south Asian nuclear neighbors due to the polarization between China, Russia and US.  Significantly, region is essential for great powers to pursue their strategic interests in Asia. In recent years, a major shift has been observed in the South Asia policy of the US. Offensive rhetoric of Trump administration shows that India-US strategic ties are getting stronger.  The US is using the India’s card to counterbalance the China in the region. In this regard, US is playing key role in modernizing the conventional and strategic forces of India. Indo-U.S Nuclear deal, special NSG waiver, membership of WA and MTCR to the India has potential to disturb the strategic balance in South Asia. These nuclear politics has negatively affected the South Asian strategic dynamics as well as global non-proliferation efforts. In order to maintain deterrence equilibrium and stability in the region, it is imperative for Pakistan to modernize its conventional and strategic forces. Pakistan has maintained the credibility of its deterrence through development of sophisticated battle field weapons such as “Nasr” and “Ababeel”. But still, growing ties of India and US, expanding defence acquisitions of the India and emerging security and strategic environment of South Asia, necessitates Pakistan to increase strategic ties with China and Russia to ensure interests at national, regional and global level.

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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Defense

A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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Defense

Aspects of the American maritime strategy

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Let’s start from a premise that should be completely obvious from a strategic point of view: Any maritime strategy, whether the English one – from the eighteenth century to the Second World War – or the American one, is necessarily a long-term strategy and therefore requires long-term investments by looking for where it is possible to anticipate future challenges. We think in this regard of the nuclear aircraft carriers of the Gerald Ford class whose first series should be put into place next year. If the United States has decided to invest substantial resources in the context of the projection of maritime power this depends on the need to consolidate its naval power, consolidation possible both thanks to the economic and financial power they have at least until today and thanks to technological innovation. (let’s think both of the fact for example that the USA is the only nation that builds catapults for flat deck aircraft carriers and to the fact that with the new class of Ford aircraft carriers the Navy will equip itself with electromagnetic catapults that will be able to increase by about one third the current capabilities of the catapults).

Of course, such large investments on the aircraft carrier front are certainly not accidental since these play a fundamental role of traditional deterrence – both in the sense of being able to threaten armed intervention in the event of a crisis – and of nuclear deterrence as long as the aircraft departing from the aircraft carriers being equipped with nuclear weapons, albeit with low potential, they play a very important deterrent role. In short, the aircraft carrier allows the use of gradual or flexible deterrence.

But in order for the US naval power to be effectively consolidated – especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific and therefore as a function of anti-Chinese containment – today as yesterday (we allude to the cold war) the American military infrastructures present in key strategic junctions on a global level allows it to exercise its naval power effectively: the strengthening of the military partnership with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines must be read just as a renewed interest on the part of the American in the fundamental role of naval power. all these reasons together can only lead us to define the United States as a real modern thalassocracy.

It is no coincidence, on the other hand, that the Obama administration has turned its attention to East and South Asia starting from the realization that the future of the world is at stake in these geopolitical contexts.

In fact, on the front of economic competition with China, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed in 2016, a treaty to which – among others – Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, excluding China. Barack Obama has spelled out his foreign policy program, called The Obama Doctrine, rejecting isolationism and supporting multilateralism. In other words Obama has explicitly pursued the tradition of realism embodied by “senior” Bush and by Scowcroft military interventions, too often supported by the State Department, the Pentagon, and think tanks, should only be used where America is under imminent and direct threat. In an environment where the greatest dangers are now climate, financial or nuclear, it is up to US allies to shoulder their share of the common burden. While agreeing that the relationship with China will be the most critical of all, his political program emphasizes that everything will depend on Beijing’s ability to take on its international responsibilities in a peaceful environment. If it did not do so and allowed itself to be conquered by nationalism, America will have to be resolute and take all initiatives aimed at strengthening its multilateralism in the function of anti-Chinese containment. It is therefore very likely that the current US president Biden will carry out a strategy of this nature.

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