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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

India Acquiring Thermonuclear Weapons: Where Is The Global Outcry?

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The atomic bomb revolutionized modern warfare not by enabling the mass slaughter of civilians but by vastly increasing its efficiency—the ease with which densely populated cities could be annihilated. Many of the crucial details are top secret, and the mundane terms used in official discussions tend to hide the apocalyptic consequences at stake.

A new nuclear arms race has begun to match each other’s overkill capacity. The new nuclear arms race does not center’s on the number of weapons but it depends on the qualitative refinement of nuclear capabilities and their increasing deadlines.

Recent nuclear missile tests by India show that India is blatantly flaunting its nuclear power vertically, posturing as tough and responsible “protectors” while in reality it puts the world at large risk. This attitude from Indian side of continuous arming herself up is alarming for the region to a greater extent.

When we shuffle the pages of history, it appears that India – a champion of nuclear disarmament during much of the Cold War – reversed its position in the 1990s. With the passage of time their double standards have led them built their nuclear arsenal at a faster pace. Former Indian governments’ position was – that nuclear weapons are unacceptable weapons of mass destruction designed to slaughter civilians – no longer holds sway in New Delhi.

Perhaps equally distressing is the behavior of the international community that up till now failed to loudly condemn India for their continuous missile and nuclear development program.After critically analyzing the current and past events one can come to know that the world powers and so called pundits of nuclear disarmament failed to criticize the actions of India to a greater extent. In contraststates have responded with deafening silence or worse: a renewed focus on rearmament. These moves by India creates incentives – or perhaps a pretext – for other states to develop similar arms.

India even after acquiring nuclear weapons is yet not internationally recognized as a nuclear-weapons state under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India detonated its first plutonium device, which it called a “peaceful nuclear explosive” in 1974. Again in 1998, it tested its first nuclear weapons under the ambit of peaceful nuclear explosion. Since India conducted its tests in 1998, India has undergone impressive developments for both its nuclear program and missile arsenal.

It is necessary to expose these myths and highlight the existing realities. India sees its nuclear weapons capacity to be an integral part of its vision as a great power, and its nuclear program is important for both its prestige and security doctrine. Currently, India is increasingly developing its nuclear capabilities that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons, raising the stakes in an arms race with China and Pakistan.  These revelations highlights that India is expanding its weapons and enriching uranium in addition to plutonium. India’s nuclear deal with the United States (US) and the granting of a waiver for importing nuclear materials (which must be for non-military purposes) allows it to use more of its indigenously produced nuclear material for weapons. India is has also heavily invested in research on using thorium in reactors (or even potentially weapons), which will free up its other nuclear material for weapons. India hopes to soon operate thorium reactors.

Meanwhile, the US Foreign Policy magazine in 2012 reported that India had built two top-secret facilities at Challakere, Karnataka. These sites would be the South Asia’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories and weapons and aircraft-testing facilities.  The research further stated that further says that another of the project’s aim is “to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal. Despite these activities, the US and its Western allies are busy selling nuclear reactors and material to India for commercial gains and advocating its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

None of the South Asian states believe the common story of India’s nuclear program—that India developed nuclear weapons in response to China’s or Pakistan’s nuclear program. Nuclear test of India was an extension of India’s aspiration to become a great power. It is beyond doubt that as long as the international community focuses its efforts on “irresponsible” nuclear behavior, such as proliferation and nuclear testing, global nuclear disarmament will remain difficult to achieve.

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The Original Sin of Space

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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There has been a lot of talk in the news these past several months about the current American administration’s interest in the creation of a new ‘Space Force,’ both in serious terms and in comedic light. This perhaps has distracted people from realizing just how much ‘space’ has been an important and expansive part of American national security and is increasingly crucial to 21st century global security across many different countries.

A brief history of this domain shows that a military element has always been part of the American conceptualization of space and its usefulness. After all, there were satellites even before there was a NASA. In fact, DARPA (the secretive and to most Americans mysterious Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was created FIRST. This in turn made some fairly wise minds in Washington realize it might behoove the nation to create a more open, civilian-oriented agency that could proudly toot the country’s space achievements with full transparency while the more national security-oriented DARPA could remain behind-the-scenes and out of the limelight. Thus, peaceful exploration and the advancement of national security science have always been closely and strategically aligned for Americans when it comes to the final frontier. It also means the American understanding of space as an important domain for the projection and maintenance of power.

It is because of this innate duality from the very beginning that most of the extensive legal acts and treaties that have developed over the decades have not always made every important area of cosmic definition and demarcation explicit. Locational sovereignty, territoriality, type of mechanisms used, definition of technological purpose, and many other important concepts are still left a bit open for creative interpretation when it comes to objects in space. This was perhaps not such a major concern when space was basically dominated exclusively by the United States with no real rival competitors on the near horizon. But today sees the emergence of several so-called near-peer competitors who may or may not share the same interests about the utilization of space as America. The opinions and ultimate behaviors of countries like China, Russia, and India, to name a few, will become paramount vis-à-vis this overall lack of legal and diplomatic space specificity.

This criticism isn’t even about the frustrating inability to definitively acknowledge the difference between ‘militarization’ and ‘weaponization,’ something that has been relatively analyzed in the past decade. After all, the reality today is that 95% of all satellites launched into orbit are ‘dual-use.’ Ostensibly this means that while the formally pronounced purpose for most satellites is commercial and non-military, they can all be easily converted on the fly (pun intended) so that they suddenly become quite strategically militaristic and weaponized, or at least connected to a weaponized system. Again, none of this seemed overly concerning or dangerous when space was the habitat of a single country that also happened to dominate the on-the-ground global economy and military development races. But the horizon that once seemed incredibly distant, or even possibly fictitious, is now unbelievably closer than anyone could have guessed just a decade ago. That dominance is now not so dominant.

This is why before anyone, America included, gets more serious about talks to create an active space force of any kind, it would be better for the global community to fix what was space’s ‘original sin.’ These once benign ambiguities in past space treaties have now been combined with malignant ambiguities in present-day space technologies that create a critically dangerous new domain with far more than just a single dominant player. These grey areas of space potentiality provide ample opportunity for friend and foe alike to manipulate and provoke new areas of conflict between states on the global stage. With no global consensus, formal rules, explicit restrictions, vague definitions, and ambiguous legal interpretations, what could possibly go wrong?

At the moment, there seems to be an international presumption that space is a ‘new’ thing and thus modern concepts of global governance, peace mediation, and weapons-free are the natural characteristics that will dominate the domain. This is dangerous because of how historically inaccurate it is when it comes to man’s presence and purpose in space. Since space has always had within it the potential for being a domain for warmaking (and states saw it as such literally from the very beginning that they began to make technology to reach it), there need to be concrete steps taken today to ‘correct’ the ambiguities of the past. This demands the creation not just of a single space force by a single country, but an internationally-created and consensus-governed multination alone. This is the path most likely to result in moving forward focused on the peaceful advancements in science that space exploration inevitably brings, rather than focused on the powerful innovations in weapons and military strategy that also comes with space exploration. This science-dominant focus for peace might also result in the creation of new legal projects that the majority of the world (and the most powerful players more importantly) will sign on to and obey. For now there are not only no such legal projects being drafted with this purpose in mind, there really aren’t any states or non-state organizations clamoring for the need to do so. There is just so much innocent assumption about the natural good and righteousness of space. It is not that these assumptions are entirely erroneous. It is just that these hopes are too easily toppled when space’s original sin is not addressed.

So, if the ultimate desire is to see space develop into a domain that only represents the best of humanity and the peaceful advancement of technology for all of humanity’s progress and prosperity, then international organizations the world over need to start being a bit less naïve, a bit more honest, and a bit more ambitious. After all, one country’s space force can just as easily be another country’s space invader.

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The role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with regional terrorism

Sajad Abedi

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The creation of a Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq was a great step that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) took to increase the military power of the people and the army against ISIL, which caused to open the blind knot of the confused Iraqi crisis in a large extent.

The onset of the political crisis in Iraq and Syria led regional and transnational actors to pursue a particular policy in the face of insecurity, based on their own interests. Given the geopolitical and geostrategic significance of the two countries in Southwest Asia, the approaches of each of these actors differed in their dealings with the story. Strategies and policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, compared to some supporters of chaos and insecurity in the field of foreign policy based on religious teachings, rationality, interests of the Islamic nation and national interests, It is therefore very different from the contradictory and shaky policies of the governments contending to fight terrorism, human rights and democracy.

Change the rule of game in Syria

With the onset of the Syrian crisis and the role of regional and transnational states that were largely in the interests of the terrorists and rioters, Iran also expressed its willingness to resolve the crisis with Syria’s desire. Initially, activities began on diplomacy, and Iran was able to play a diplomatic role, and invited some countries, such as Russia and China, to play a more active presence in the Syrian case. Despite the effective efforts in this field, Iran came to the conclusion that not all diplomacy capacities could be used to cope with insecurity and they have to pursue the issues more seriously. Although this presence declaration was not so favorable to the US and its allies, it was natural that the national interests of each country, such as Iran, were at the head of national security, and our country also has a tolerance border to these areas. The Islamic Republic of Iran could not simply witness the crisis of various confrontational and terrorist groups and their supporters in the region, with only the role of spectator in the scene. Defense policy of Iran in MENA region has based on the principles , therefore on the basis of these principles, Iran protects the sovereignty of legitimate and legal governments. Naturally, due to the principled belief of the Islamic Republic of Iran about the sovereignty of the Syrian people to determine their political destiny, the support of the legal government of the country against insurgents was emphasized as a general principle in foreign policy. In the battlefield and defense policy, the Syrian government faced turbulence on the one hand, which was gradually expanding its influence, and on the other hand, US and its allies make any attempt to support terrorists militarily and financially. The Syrian government’s approach and its defense policy to deal with this crisis was accompanied by weaknesses and in the set of these approaches, there was little efficiency to solve the problem.

The weakness in identifying the causes and sources of insecurity and the lack of use of the popular mobilization in dealing with terrorists and the unfamiliarity of the Syrian classical army with urban warfare led to a more complicated crisis. The presence of these factors led Syria to invite Iran to fight the terrorists, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as the executive arm of the regime, went to this country for guidance and controversial activities. With the presence of the IRGC in the area and the use of military advisories by the Iranian forces, the Syrian army began to regain defenses, and practically with changing the rules of the game, the terrorist attacks were stopped in many areas. It was so; the classical Syrian army has developed its defense capability in dealing with terrorists and has been able to learn urban warfare techniques with the help of the IRGC’s training and Finding a defense policy with the lowest casualties. Using the power and capacity of the popular mobilization and communication with tribes and tribesmen, as well as the followers of religions and different creeds and the intelligence assistance provided by the Syrian army, put the terrorists in a state of turmoil. Those countries who had pursued the Syrian conflict  on the basis of  their arrogant goals , now saw their hopes unattainable.

Westerners and other supporters of the terrorist currents in this situation were completely concerned about the changing circumstances on the battlefield and tried to accuse Iran of military intervention in Syria. Although it was very good at first glance on its interest, but the release of documents from the insurgents proved that Western, Arabian and Hebrew axis support Terrorist and Takfiri groups in obvious and hidden. Along with this, the victory of the Axis of Resistance in Aleppo as a result of the military assistance and military advisories of IRGC and the widespread use of mass mobilization was a turning point in the Syrian case, strengthening the Syrian government’s position to continue to confront the insurgents and Terrorist groups. The influential role of the IRGC in Syria has led advocates of terrorism, especially the United States, who used to take all the necessary tools to weaken Iran’s position in the region, Following the developments on the Syrian front, they were forced to confess the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran to resolve the crisis and urge Iran to engage in Syrian settlement talks.

When ISIL borders narrowed

The rise of ISIL as a terrorist power in Iraq and Syria has caused changes in equations in the region since a few years ago. The rapid progress of the Takfiri (unbeliever) group in the Iraqi crisis had created difficult conditions. The ISIL have faced little resistance of IRAQ and Syria. The combat capability of this terrorist group and the support of the Arab countries of the region on the one hand, and the apparent betrayal of some of the commanders of the middle classes of the Iraqi Army and the Ba’athist survivors of the Saddam Hussein era, It provided the ground for the Takfiri group to flourish in military arena like a rebel horse for a long time and occupy vast sections of Iraq’s five major provinces. In those days, Invisible whispers of some US-led countries was announced, the formation of an unlucky coalition would be called in the name of the anti-ISIL coalition, but its initial rumblings fell from the very first days of its formation. The bitter satire was that some of the Arab and European countries that participated in this coalition were the main suppliers of financial and weaponry of ISIL. The US and European advanced aircraft fighters targeted civilians instead of bombing the positions of this takfiri (unbeliever) group.

Naturally, these promotional measures did not contribute to containment of terrorism but it was also strengthened it. Since Iran saw the lack of integrity  between participating members as the most important reason for the failure of the coalition, has pursued another path to assist the Iraqi people to repel ISIL. Arms assistance and advisory services to the army and volunteer groups in Iraq were one of the effective ways for Iran to eliminate this intrigue. For example, Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish region of Iraq, said in a news conference that Tehran has provided weapons to Peshmerga forces. We demanded weapons and Iran was the first country to provide us weapons. The creation of a Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq was a great step that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) took to increase the military power of the people and the army against ISIL, which caused to open the blind knot of the confused Iraqi crisis in a large extent. The successful operation of the IRGC in Iraq’s field greatly weakened the role of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition in the country and raised Iran’s position as the guiding and the leadership of the resistance. The military and intellectual confrontation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps with ISIL as the most dangerous combat force against the resistance axis, while limiting the sphere of influence and the circle of their activities, has also led to the defense of Iraq’s territorial integrity. The IRGC’s advisory operations in Iraq led to mobilization of different a range of country including the Kurds, Sunni tribes and Shi’a Hadesh al-Sha’bi against ISIL, and retreating terrorists and Takfiris (unbeliever) from the occupied territories. The other thing was that as a result of these efforts, the ghost of war and chaos that had shadowed Iran’s border lines in the early days had been forbidden hundreds of kilometers away.

Meanwhile, the role of Major General Hajj. Qassim Soleimani is undeniable. The nations of the region considered him as one of the greatest saviors. Therefore, the Strength of the IRGC in resolute clash with regional terrorists has increased our soft power for boosting bargaining and growing popularity in other countries.

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