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India’s Evolving Nuclear Posture: Implications for Pakistan

Iqra Shahnaz

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It’s been twenty one years to the emergence of India, as an explicit nuclear weapon state (NWS), yet India needs to express the details about the core elements of its nuclear posture or nuclear doctrine like the policy of NFU, policy of minimum credible nuclear deterrence, massive retaliation and assured survivability of its retaliatory forces. India has ambitious plans for the acquisition of robust triad of nuclear forces, which includes the land-based ballistic missiles, fighter bomber aircrafts, and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). India is rapidly building up its nuclear and strategic capabilities, which is a part of its grand strategy of attaining the status of regional and global power.[1]However, India is also strengthening its nuclear force by the introduction of new generation of short-range ballistic missiles which are nuclear capable in nature along with building up its naval nuclear force. These advancements are a threat to the nuclear threshold of Pakistan and will generate the probability of accidental nuclear escalation between the major states of South Asian region, India and Pakistan. Consequently, these advancements will have severe repercussions for the region.

Since 2003 it has been observed that no official up gradation has been made by India in its nuclear doctrine, showing its commitment to the NFU policy and the posture of massive retaliation as a result of a nuclear attack and credible minimum deterrence (CMD) force posture.[2]Though, the nuclear force of India, kept on changing from the time it released its nuclear doctrine. Critical examination of nuclear forces of India depicts that India will go on modernizing its nuclear arsenals by the introduction of at least four new weapon systems, which will complement the existing nuclear- capable aircrafts, land and sea based delivery systems and is also effectively working on the expansion of nuclear missiles with short range.[3]

According to the officials of India, the nature of the nuclear and conventional challenges has been changed since India released its nuclear doctrine in 2003. India’s stance on building up its conventional and nuclear capable ballistic and cruise missile system vis-à-vis China, is an element of its force posturing. As India claimed, the development of SSBN is for the conventional naval deterrence purposes[4] but these developments by India have great implications for the twin born state of Pakistan.

Despite of such shifts and development made by India, yet the nuclear doctrine of India has not been amended, since 2003. India is unable to assess the implications of these developments pose to the neighboring state of Pakistan. A growing debate has been observed with in India regarding the shift in the main principles of its nuclear doctrine i.e. India should move away from the NFU to FU and should opt more offensive posture. In the recent years proposals have been made at different platforms about the review of Indian nuclear doctrine. The idea of revision of the nuclear policy has been presented by Associate Professor Vipin Narang. He mentioned that Delhi is shifting its long held policy of NFU, the main pillar of its nuclear doctrine.[5] However, India has adopted the moderate nuclear posture of minimum retaliatory capability for deterring the adversaries to refrain from nuclear attack. Indian nuclear experts and officials have been criticizing the effectiveness of NFU policy. The Indian defense Minister Manohar Parrikar suggested India to move away from NFU by opting the offensive policy of first strike to fully disarm the nuclear capabilities of Pakistan.[6]

Indian nuclear program and strategic shifts along with the technological advancements will have several allegations in broad for international community and specifically on Pakistan. Firstly, the vying state of India, Pakistan; it is determined to continue to scrutinize the strategic situation of India and will respond accordingly. For Pakistan its nuclear program is an essential element of survival, because of the massive conventional discrepancies lie between them. And Pakistan is also busy in its own advancements and arsenal up gradation plans due to the expanding missile and nuclear capabilities of India.[7] India continues to modernize its nuclear force by acquiring technological reforms and also shifting its nuclear policy from NFU to FU or first strike capability, it has been indicated by the successful launch of Nirbhay cruise missile that India is trying to enhance its first strike capability by abandoning the NFU policy vis-à-vis Pakistan.[8]Consequently, it will create a security spiral between the two nations to counter each other by taking the actions accordingly. This spiral will lead towards an arms race which will impact the global proliferation enormously and will have negative repercussions on the strategic stability of South Asia.

For Pakistan, the recent developments/ build ups of India are a matter of great concern. Especially, the developments made in the missile technology in addition to Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System and Indian collaboration with super powers like US and Russia along with the Jewish state of Israel have given a new dimension/ facet to the security situation of the region. These new developments especially the introduction of BMD system has posed negative implications to the neighboring state of Pakistan. And to counter India in these developments, Pakistan is also developing its nuclear arsenals, missile program and tactical nuclear weapons which is giving rise to the arms race in the region creating an action-reaction spiral.

In response to the nuclear developments and missile program of India, Islamabad is also up grading its nuclear forces and building up its missile program. Pakistan already possesses an extensive array of nuclear capable ballistic missiles with short and long ranges.[9] This includes the nuclear proficient aircrafts, ballistic missiles as well as cruise missiles. Additionally in order to counter Indian developments, Pakistan is also working on its sea based nuclear missiles. Pakistan has launched all weathers, nuclear payload capable ballistic missile Shaheen II in response to the successful launch of Indian fastest cruise missile Brahmos– which has the capability to act as a anti-ship weapon –­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­which can pose serious threats to the Pakistan’s land and naval assets.[10]

If India opts the more aggressive nuclear posture of first strike capability, it will lead Pakistan towards the revision of its nuclear posture by opting more aggressive nuclear posture to deter India. The nuclear build ups by India especially the experiment of Agni V, SLBM, and the purpose behind the acquisition of Theater Missile Defense (TMD) and becoming the member of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is bothersome thing for Pakistan. Being the member of MTCR, India achieved the waiver of exporting its missile and space technology to the nations, which are adhered to the missile group principles, India is already a member of missile club which provides it an easy access to the sophisticated missile technology.[11] So, all of these aspects have negative implications for Pakistan. And to counter India in such domains Pakistan needs to work a lot. And in this regard Pakistan is also building up its nuclear arsenals, its cruise missiles, its ballistic missiles, aircrafts and naval buildups for its security and survivability and to deter India from its hegemonic goals and to ensure  the stability and peace in the region.     

India’s evolving nuclear posture is manifested by the modernization of its nuclear forces by the acquisition of new technology. And, ostensibly it is also shifting its doctrine from NFU to FU. These developments will have grave implications on the state of Pakistan and on the region of South Asia. The emerging nuclear posture of India i.e. shift from NFU to FU will have serious implications for Pakistan; leading to an arms race and instability in the region.

The shifts in Indian nuclear doctrine will encompass severe implications on South Asian region especially on Pakistan. If India shifts away from the NFU to first use capability then Pakistan will have to review its nuclear doctrine and has to take action accordingly. Secondly the nuclear buildups and strategic developments by India are also impacting the peace, harmony and stability of South Asia and is having negative repercussions for Pakistan. Due to such developments Pakistan is also forced to take measures by developing the same technology of strategic buildups to deter India.

Delhi has also advanced its aircrafts like Su-30MKI to carry BrahMos cruise missile, which perhaps will be nuclear capable and will also extend the strike range capability of the Indian air delivered platforms.[12]Such modifications will improve the viability of the striking capabilities of the Indian aircrafts as nuclear deterrents.

India has shown most of the improvements in its ballistic missiles quality.  Only one category of equipped ballistic missiles was occupied by India in 2002 that is the short range Prithvi I with a range of 150kms.[13] Now India has multiple ranges of ballistic missiles like short range, medium range and intermediate range ballistic missiles as an element of its operational force. India possess Agni I which has a range of 700km, whereas Agni II which is a medium range missile with a projectile range of 2000 km.[14]  The highest array of operational missile of India is Agni III, which has a projectile of 3000 km and has ability to cover long distant areas of China. India has been successful in conducting the test of Agni V with an ICBM and it covered a range of 5000 km, which is considered to be less than that of the internationally recognized standard for an ICBM. It is believed that in future, India will possess Agni VI missile, which will have MIRV technology.[15]

Ballistic submarine is thought to be the most survivable leg of nuclear triad, India has also made a lot of progress in this sense. India’s indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, its construction was initiated in 1997,[16]but in 2013, it was experienced that the onboard nuclear reactor of it went critical[17]due to which this vessel didn’t get the operational status. Submarines are likely to be equipped with 12 Sagarika k-15 missiles, and it is also accounted that India is also building up a long-range missile with the name of K-4 for the INS Arihant, which will have an expected range of more than 3000 km.[18]India already acquired a surface naval platform which is used for the ballistic missile known to be the Dhanush, which might be nuclear capable. If India reached the INS Arihant’s operational status then it will truly acquire the technology of nuclear triad. This will enable India to become a part of the exclusive club of nations, which only comprised of U.S., China and Russia.

Because of the India’s goal of becoming a hegemony in the region which has been followed by it with the initiation of CIRUS reactor have left negative impacts not only on the strategic stability of the South Asian region in general but also on the belligerent state of Pakistan in particular. Along with it the nuclear deal between India and U.S. and the waiver to NSG also have negative consequences which add up more salt and pepper to the destabilization of situation among India and Pakistan. The gradual change in the nuclear policy of India has certain strategic implications on the subcontinent which also impacts the strategic environment of the Pakistan. India has already shown a shift in its nuclear policy without any of the confirmations from the leadership of India.[19] It creates a more mistrust in region and if India makes any of the gradual changes in its nuclear policy, it will automatically pulls Pakistan into the arms race.  Due to the gradual increase in the strategic forces of India, it will also drag the region into an unending arms race and will also make Pakistan and China to think of their own deterrent forces modernization.[20]It might lead the region towards a nuclear war. It looks like India is opting a more aggressive nuclear posture as India is developing more deterrent forces and also developing a triad which will impact the stable condition of South Asia as Pakistan do not afford such option because of its poor economic development. Gradual policy transformation in Indian nuclear posture to “launch on warning” or “launch under attack” which will provide India with the option of FU/ first strike capability and it will direct India to move from NFU to first use option, which will be a worrisome thing for Pakistan. Due to the absence of NFU option in South Asia would raise the reliance of states on the nuclear weaponry.[21]

Due to the strategic build ups and the missile program developments by India will lead the South Asian region in to the arms race. As these developments have negative effects on the stability of this strategic geographical entity. And have great implications for Pakistan. Pakistani strategic thinkers will also consider these repercussions serious or one of the main risk to the security of their state so Pakistan will also build its strategic arsenals to counter India. These missile and strategic developments of India has given birth to security dilemma in the region which is leading towards arms race. India’s shifting away from no first use to first use is also having severe implications for Pakistan. If India ever goes to aggressive nuclear posture, as a result Pakistan will opt a more aggressive nuclear posture than India.


[1]National Security Advisory Board, “India’s Draft Nuclear Doctrine,” Arms Control Today, July/August 1999, www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_07-08/ffja99

[2]Ibid.

[3] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Indian nuclear forces, 2017,” BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS  73, no. 4, July 5, 2017 : 205.

[4]  O’Donnell and Joshi, “Lost at Sea: The Arihant in India’s Quest for a Grand Strategy,” Comparative Strategy 33, no. 5 ( November-December 2014): 476

[5]GurmeetKanwal, “India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Reviewing NFU and Massive Retaliation,” Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, January 7, 2015,  http://www.ipcs.org/article/india/indias-nuclear-doctrine-reviewing-nfu-and-massive-retaliation-4798.html.

[6] “Why Bind ourselves to ‘No First Use Policy’, Says Defence Minister Parrikar on India’s Nuclear Doctrine,” The Times of India, November 10, 2016, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Having-a-stated-nuclear-policy-means-giving-away-strength-says-Parrikar/articleshow/55357107.cms

[7] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces, 2011,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 67, no. 91 (2011): 93, DOI: 10.1177/0096340211413360.

[8]SyedaSaiqa Bukhari, “Implications of Indian’s Nirbhay Missile Test,” Daily Times, May 22, 2019. Accessed on July 15, 2019.

[9]Musawar Sandhu, “The BrahMos Test and Its Implications For Current State of Strategic Relations Between Pakistan and India,” Eurasia review, June 4, 2019.

[10]  Ibid.

[11]Asma Khalid, “Implications of India’ Missile Program and Non- Proliferation Regime,” Foreign Policy News, June 24, 2017.

[12] Rakesh Krishnan Simha, “How the Su-30 MKI Is Changing the IAF’s Combat Strategy,” Indrus, January 5, 2014, http://indrus.in/blogs/2014/01/05/how_the_su30_mki_is_changing_the_iafs_combat_strategy_32099.html.

[13]Norris , “India’s Nuclear Forces, 2002,” 71.

[14]Kristensen and Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2012,” Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, 98.

[15]Ajai Shukla, “Advanced Agni-6 Missile with Multiple Warheads Likely by 2017,” The Business Standard, May 8, 2013,Acessed September 16, 2018,   http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/advanced-agni-6missile-with-multiple-warheads-likely-by-2017-113050800034_1.html.

[16] Norris, “India’s Nuclear Forces, 2002,” 72.

[17]Jyoti Malhotra, “How India’s Pride INS Arihant Was Built,” The Business Standard, August 12, 2013, http://www.business-standard.com/article/specials/how-india-s-pride-ins-arihant-was-built113081100745_1.html

[18]Kristensen and Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2012,” 99.

[19] Zafar Khan, “Emerging Shifts in India’s Nuclear Policy: Implications for Minimum Deterrence in South Asia,” Strategic Studies 34, no. 1(Spring 2014).

[20] Ibid

[21]Ibid.  

Iqra Shahnaz, done MPhil in Strategic Studies from National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad and BS (Hons) in defence and diplomatic studies (BDDS) from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi. Currently working as a free lancer.

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Why the “Coronavirus Ceasefire” Never Happened

Dr. Andrey KORTUNOV

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Six months ago, when COVID-19 had just moved beyond the borders of China and embarked upon its triumphant march across Europe and North America, politicians and foreign affairs experts started discussing what will happen after the virus is vanquished. The debate that ensued balanced the fears and concerns of pessimists with the hopes and expectations of optimists, with the latter believing that the pandemic and the global recession that followed would inevitably force humankind to put its differences aside and finally unite in the face of common challenges.

Six months later, we can say without any doubt that, unfortunately, the optimists were wrong. The pandemic did not bring about the changes in world politics they had been hoping for, even with the ensuing recession making things worse. And we are unlikely to see any such changes in the near future. Sadly, COVID-19 did not turn out to be a cure-all for regional conflicts, arms races, the geopolitical competition and the countless ailments of humankind today.

These persisting ailments are more than evident in relations between Russia and the West. No positive steps have been made in the past six months in any of the areas where the positions of the two sides differ significantly, be it the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the unrest in Syria, the political instability in Venezuela or the war in Libya. The fate of the New START and the nuclear nonproliferation regime remains unclear. Moscow continues to be the target of new economic and political sanctions. Russia and the West are locked in an intense information war. There are no signs of a “coronavirus ceasefire,” let alone a full-fledged peace agreement, on the horizon.

Of course, Moscow has placed the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the shoulders of its western partners. While this may indeed be true in many respects, we must admit that the Kremlin has hardly been overflowing with ideas and proposals over the past six months. Even if Moscow did want to reverse the current negative trends in global politics, it has not taken any steps on its own to do so. Nor has it proposed any large-scale international projects, or even tried to temper its usual foreign policy rhetoric and propaganda.

On the contrary, the various troubles that have befallen Russia in the “coronavirus era” – from the public unrest in Belarus to the unfortunate poisoning of Alexei Navalny – are explained away as the malicious intrigues of Russia’s geopolitical opponents. For all intents and purposes, the Kremlin is in the same position now, in September 2020, that it was in back in March. The chances of another “reset” or at least a “timeout” in relations have disappeared completely, if they ever existed in the first place.

So, why did the “coronavirus ceasefire” never happen? Without absolving the West of its share of responsibility, let us try to outline the obstacles that Russia has put in the way of progress.

First, in an environment of unprecedented shocks and cataclysms, there is always the hope that your opponent will eventually suffer more as a result than you will. Many in Russia see the 2020 crisis as the final damning indictment of the West and even an inglorious end to the market economy and political liberalism in general.

The recent statement by Aide to the President of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin that Russia is poised to become one of the top five economies in the world this year is particularly noteworthy. Not because the country is experiencing rapid economic growth, but because the German economy is set to fall further than the Russian economy. If you are certain that time is on your side and that you will emerge from the crisis in better shape than your opponents, then the incentives to work towards some kind of agreement hic et nunc are, of course, reduced.

Second, the current Russian leadership is convinced that any unilateral steps on its part, any shifts in Moscow’s foreign policy, will be perceived in the West as a sign of weakness. And this will open the door for increased pressure on Moscow. Not that this logic is entirely unfounded, as history has shown. But it is precisely this logic that prevents Russian leaders from admitting their past foreign policy mistakes and miscalculations, no matter how obvious they may have been. This, in turn, makes it extremely difficult to change the current foreign policy and develop alternative routes for the future. In fact, what we are seeing is a game to preserve the status quo, in the hope that history will ultimately be on Moscow’s side, rather than that of its opponents (see the first point).

Third, six and a half years after the crisis in Ukraine broke out, we are essentially left with a frozen conflict. Turning the large and unwieldy state machine around, rewiring the somewhat heavy-handed state propaganda machine, and changing the policies that determine the everyday actions of the army of “deep state” officials is tantamount to changing the trajectory of a supertanker carrying a load of hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It is perhaps even more difficult, however, to change the opinion that has taken shape in Russian society in recent years about the modern world and Russia’s place in it. Just because the Russian people are tired of foreign politics, this does not mean that they will enthusiastically support an updated version of Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking” of the second half of the 1980s or the ideological principles of Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Kozyrev’s foreign policy of the early 1990s.

Fourth, the balance of power between the agencies involved in the development and practical implementation of Russia’s foreign policy has changed significantly in recent years. The role of the security forces has been growing in all its aspects since at least the beginning of 2014. Conversely, the role of diplomats, as well as that of the technocrats in the economic structures of the Russian government, has been dwindling with each passing year. It is the security forces that are the main “stakeholders” in Donbass, Syria, Libya and even Belarus today. It would be fair to say that they have had a controlling interest in Russia’s foreign policy. The oft-quoted words of Emperor Alexander III that Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy, perfectly reflect the shift that has taken place in the balance of powers between these agencies. We should add that this shift was largely welcomed and even supported by a significant part of Russian society (see the third point). Of course, the siloviki are, due to the specifics of their work, less inclined to compromise, concessions and basic human empathy than diplomats, economists and technocrats.

All these factors preventing the conceptual renewal of Russia’s foreign policy can equally be applied to its geopolitical opponents. Politicians in the West are also hoping that time is on their side, that Moscow will emerge from the crisis weaker and more vulnerable, and thus more malleable than it was before. They also believe that any unilateral steps, any demonstration of flexibility in relations with the Kremlin, will be met with an even tougher and more aggressive policy. Negative ideas about Russia have also taken root in the minds of people in the West, and foreign policy is being “militarized” there just as much as it is in Russia.

Thus, neither the coronavirus nor the economic recession will automatically lead to a détente, let alone a reset in relations between Russia and the West. We are, in fact, moving in the opposite direction, once again running the risk of an uncontrolled confrontation. However, this unfortunate situation is no reason to give up on the possibility of signing new agreements, even if COVID-19 will no longer be in our corner moving forward.

From our partner RIAC

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India’s strategies short of war against a hostile China

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Since India’s independence several peace and border cooperation agreements were signed between the India and China. Prominent among them was the Panchsheel Agreement signed in 1954. A majority of the agreements were signed between 1993 and 2013. Recently genuine efforts were made by PM Narendra Modi by engaging Xi Jinping at the Wuhan and Chennai summits. But China is nowhere near to settling the border dispute despite various agreements and talks at the military and civilian levels.

After the 1962 war peace was largely maintained on the Indo China border. During the Mao and Deng era consensus building was the norm in the communist party. XiJinping appointed himself as chairman of the communist party for life. Today power is centralized with XiJinping and his cabal. Through Doklam and Galwan incidents Xi Jinpinghas disowned the peaceful principles laid down by his predecessors. China’s strategy is to keep India engaged in South Asia as it doesn’t want India to emerge as a super power. After solving a crisis on the border China will create another crisis. Beijing has declining interest in the niceties of diplomacy. Under Xi Jinping China has become more hostile.

China has been infringing on India’s sovereignty through salami tactics by changing the status quo and attempting to own the border territory. At Galwan on Xi Jinping’s birthday the PLA demonstrated hooliganism by assaulting Indian border positions. China violated the 1996 and 2005 bilateral agreements which states that both armies should not carry weapons within 1.24 miles on either side of the border. India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar mentioned that the standoff situation with China in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh is “surely the most serious situation after 1962.”China is constructing infrastructure, increasing forces and deploying weapon systems on the border.

Options for India

India led by PM Narendra Modi has implemented a realist foreign policy and a muscular military policy.India ended the age of strategic restraint by launching special operations and air strikes in Pakistan. Since the Galwan incident India has increased the military, diplomatic and economic deterrence against China. India is constructing military infrastructure and deploying weapon systems like SU 30 MKI and T 90 tanks in Ladakh. India banned a total of 224 Chinese apps, barred Chinese companies from government contracts and is on the verge of banning Huawei. Other measures include excluding Chinese companies from private Indian telecommunications networks. Chinese mobile manufacturers can be banned from selling goods in India.

India should offer a grand strategy to China. India has a plethora of options short of war. Future talks should involve an integrated strategy to solve all the bilateral issues and not just an isolated resolution of a localized border incident. All instruments of military and economic power and coercive diplomacy should be on the table.

Foreign Policy

China expects other nations to follow bilateral agreements and international treaties while it conveniently violates them. India should abrogate the Panscheel agreement given China’s intransigence and hostility. China claims 35,000 square miles of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. China occupies 15,000 square miles of India’s territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas. India’s primary objective is to take back territories like Aksai Chin. While the secondary issue is the resolution of the border issue and China’s support to Pakistan. India can leverage the contemporary geopolitical climate to settle all issues. India can target China’s soft underbelly characterized by issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and the economy. China raises the Kashmir issue at international organizations. As a countervailing measure India can raise Xinjiang at international organizations and conferences.

China has been militarily and diplomatically supporting Pakistan against India. Pakistan is a rentier and a broken state that sponsors terrorism. India can establish bilateral relations with Taiwan thus superseding China’s reunification sensitivities. China has territorial disputes with 18 countries including Taiwan and Japan. India can hedge against China by establishing strategic partnerships with US, Australia, Japanand Vietnam.

Military policy

An overwhelming military is a deterrence for China’s belligerent foreign and military policy. The 1990Gulf War demonstrated the capabilities of high technology weapon systems. As compared to China’s rudimentary weapons systems India has inducted 4th and 5th generation weapons like the SU 30 MKI, AH 64 Apache and T 90 tanks. The deterrence capacity of fighter aircrafts is reduced as they cannot target China’s coastlines due to their restricted range. Full deterrence can be achieved by ICBMs and nuclear powered submarines. With these weapons India can target centers of gravity like Shanghai and Shenzhen.

China is not a signatory to arms limitations treaties like Start I and Start II. China continues to expand its nuclear weapons stockpile and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) like DF 21 and DF-26B which are banned by the INF Treaty. India is a law abiding stable democracy in an unstable region with two hostile nations on its flanks. US and Russia can relax the arms control mechanism considering India’s’ impeccable record on peace and non proliferation. This will allow India to buy Russian weapon systems like Zircon and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, Topol and Bulava ICBMs and Yasen and Borey class SSBN submarines. While US can sell SSBN submarines and C4ISR gathering platforms like RC 135 and RQ 4 Global Hawk.

China remains a security threat for Asia. As China foments instability the APAC region from South Asia to South China Sea remains volatile. The Quad can be expanded to include Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia and multinational naval exercises can conducted in the South China Sea.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. China fought small wars with India, Vietnam and Soviet Union. Vietnam defeated the PLA at Lang Son in 1979 with advanced weapon systems and guerilla warfare. India can increase militarily cooperation with Vietnam. China attacked the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river leading to heavy PLA casualties. Historically relations between Russia and India have been close. As a result of the Indo Soviet Friendship Treaty China did not support Pakistan during the 1971 war. India can enhance its military and diplomatic ties with Russia to the next level.

Strategic partnership with US

Its time for a partnership between the world’s largest and the world’s biggest democracies. India and the US have a common objective to preserve peace, maintain stability and enhance security in Asia. India’s reiteration at leaders’ level and international forums that both countries see each other as allies for stability in the APAC region is not enough. India has to go beyond the clichés of the need for closer ties.

Due to the China threat the US is shifting its military from Europe and Middle East to the APAC region.US and India can establish an Asian equivalent of NATO as China’s destructive policy frameworks and threatening postures remain a strategic threat. India should enhance and deepen cooperation with the US intelligence community in the fields of MASINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, TECHINT and CYBINT. Both countries can form an alliance of democracies. If China militarily or economically targets one of the member country then the alliance can retaliate under a framework similar to Article 5 of NATO. Thus power will be distributed in the APAC region instead of being concentrated with China. A scorpion strategy will ensure that China does not harass its neighbors. The strategy involves a military pincer movement by India from the west and US from the East against a hostile China. India can conduct joint military exercises with the US in Ladakh. China cannot challenge Japan and Taiwan due to the US security agreements with these countries.

Conclusion

The world has entered the age of instability and uncertainty. The 21st century is characterized by hybrid warfare through military and coercive diplomacy. South Asia is not a friendly neighborhood where peaceful overtures lead to harmonious relations. China is a threat to India even in the context of a friendly relationship. Diplomatic niceties have no place in India’s relations with China. India can impose costs on China which can be more than the benefits offered by normalizing relations. The application of measures short of war without engaging the PLA will reap benefits. India can fulfill its national security requirements and global responsibilities through a grand strategy.

A policy of engagement and deterrence is crucial against an antagonistic China. While India attempts to develop cooperative ties with China it will need to continue to enhance and implement its military and coercive diplomatic strategies. China does not represent a direct military threat to India but at the same time one cannot deny that challenges remain.

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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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