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From Kargil to the Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan- Book Review

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The Author Nasim Zehra is a national security specialist and a prominent journalist. She has vast experience as columnist, television host, and teacher with extensive experience in the development field. She also writes and lectures widely on national security and global politics. She qualified MBA from the Quaid-e-Azam University and Master degree in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law, Tufts University in 1989. She has been a Fellow at Harvard University Asia Center, on the visiting faculty of the Quaid e Azam and National Defense Universities Islamabad and at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

The book has been published in 2018 after a period of 19 years of the Kargil conflict.  It is spread over 20 chapters and 529 pages. The operation which started in October 1998 and completed on 4 July 1999 has been comprehensively explained with maps and figures. The book starts with the description of importance of Kargil and major outstanding   disputes between India and Pakistan including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, water and trade. The author has referred a large number of books, relevant published documents, and interviews of concerned civil and military officials. The writer has been remarkably honest, un biased, bold, diligent and concise while penning down the events. She has eloquently explained the facts of Kargil.  The book has also covered facets like civil- military relations, decision making process in Pakistan, comparison between Kargil operation and the operation Gibraltar of 1965. Lot of efforts has been made to collect the data to make it an authenticated and unbiased accumulation of facts. The author deserves praise for the meticulous collation of proofs and weaving into a coherent narrative.  This can be considered a book containing unbiased details on the Kargil conflict. It will prove a good document for students as well as researchers who want to identify the facts about the Kargil conflict. However, there are few repetitions of narration of events which may have been avoided. A list of abbreviation may have been included.  The Kargil  operation is summarized in the succeeding paras.

From Kargil to the Coup: Events That Shook Pakistan- Nasim Zehra (Lahore: Sanga-e- Meel Publication, 2018)

The objective of  Kargil operation was to block Indian National Highway -1 (NH-1) Which is considered the lifeline to its troops in Siachen which it occupied in 1984.  The secretive operation(ops) was to cross the line of Control (LoC) and occupy Indian vacated posts. The appreciation of the planner was that Pakistan’s nuclear leverage has driven a full scale confrontation out of realm of possibilities. It was also assessed that India will not fight back like Pakistan did not react very strongly when India occupied Siachen in 1984. In the planners assessment the military and diplomatic success of ops was sure. Soon after taking over command as COAS on 7 Oct98 Gen Pervez Musharraf appointed general officers on the key posts who had similar views about the Kargil plan to be executed shortly. Maj Gen Aziz Khan was promoted to Lt Gen and appointed Chief of General Staff (CGS), Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed who was president National Defense University (NDU) asCorps Commander (Cdr)10 corps, responsible for the defense of  entire northern areas.  Maj Gen Javed Hassan was already Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA). These four generals were mainly the planners and executer of Kargil operation code name Koh-e- Paima (Ops KP). The plan was almost the same which had earlier been reviewed, and rejected by the former CJCSC & COAS Gen Jahangir Karamat and the DG ISI. The troops of Northern Light Infantry (NLI) the main arm of FCNA were given order to cross the Line of Control (LoC) in the last week of October 1998.   The Indian maintaining their normal routine had pulled back from the Drass Kargil area at the end of summer so no opposition except the extreme weather was faced by the troops. Initially it was planned to occupy 10 to 12 posts but by executing extended operation more than 100 posts were captured without detection by Indians.

A DCC meeting was held on 9 November 98 chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif which was attended by the services chiefs as well. By this time PM was unaware that our troops have already crossed the LoC. The PM visited USA in Dec 98 the US president lauded the normalization of relations efforts being made by Pakistan with India.   In Dec 98 Pakistan government was preparing for the summit with the Indian delegation to be held in Lahore in Feb 99 after a gap of 28 years.              In the same time frame a meeting was held on 16 Jan 99 in GHQ in which formal approval of Ops KP, already in progress was sought from COAS. He approved the plan on the surety of success   given by FCNA and Corps Cdr 10 Corps. The PM was taken to Skardu by COAS on 29 January, and was told that in order to give boost to the Kashmir struggle, they needed to become active along LoC. Local level operations are being under taken. He was not apprised that troops had already crossed LoC.

The PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pakistan by bus through Wagah border from 20-22 Feb 99. He went to Yadar e Pakistan and wrote in the visitor’s book “I want to assure the people of Pakistan of my country’s deep desire for lasting peace and friendship.” I have said and say this again, that a stable and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s favor. The Lahore declaration was signed on 21 Feb. The important clause is“ recognizing that the nuclear dimension of the security environment of the two countries adds to their responsibility for avoidance of conflict between the two countries”. After the visit relations between India and Pakistan had much improved which got strained after nuclear detonation by both countries in May 98.

As a part of Ops KP the Pakistani troops, between March and April 99 had occupied about 140 posts and pickets across the LoC, out of these few were very close to NH-1. Movements in the peaks were detected by the Indians in mid-April in Turtok sector after a firing incident on the Indian troops. It was assessed by Indians as infiltration of Mujahideen hence was not reported to higher command.  Pakistani troops launched an offensive on 13 May which resulted huge losses of Indian ammunition dumps in Kargil. This action appeared in Indian newspapers. India retaliated with concentrated fire power which resulted depletion of ammunition of our soldiers. The planners of Ops KP started realizing enforcement of troops and the logistic supply. By middle of May the governments of Pakistan and India were not clear about situation on LoC. Indian army was caught by surprise therefore they were reluctant to inform and finally apprised govt in the last week of May. The Indian Army started Operation Vijay on 27 May in which Indian Air Force also participated. This resulted shortage of ammunition and compromised supply lines for Pakistani troops. In addition diplomatic pressure started building. There was strong criticism that Pakistan as a nuclear state should not have crossed LoC.  The peace initiative “Lahore Declaration” which they initiated themselves has been sabotaged. 

The first formal briefing on Ops KP was given to PM   on 17 May at ISI Ojhiri camp which was attended by Sartaj Aziz, finance minister, Lt Gen (r) Majeed Malik, minister for Kashmir affairs, foreign secretary, Shamshad Ahmed, defence secretary Lt Gen(r) Chaudhry Iftikhar, and principal secretary Saeed Mehdi. All the concerned senior military officers from GHQ and Dte Gen ISI were present including COAS. DGMO started briefing saying Sir, we have made a plan to upgrade the freedom movement in Kashmir. It would be in five phases and the first has completed. There was no mention of troops crossing the LoC. The COAS guarantee the success of the operation. Lt Gen Aziz Khan(CGS) said Sir” Pakistan was created with the efforts of Quaid, and now Allah has given the opportunity and chance to you to get Indian held Kashmir, and your name will be written in golden letters. You will be remembered as Fatah-i- Kashmir.”However, no formal approval was requested nor the PM gave.  

The PM was presented with a fait accompli. The civilian officials present did not support the plan primarily it was against Lahore declaration. However, PM termed it an opportunity to take Kashmir. The defence secretary present was perturbed but did not ask questions. However Gen(r) Majeed Malik, grilled DGMO and was not in favor of this operation. The flattery about success of Ops KP was in abundance. After the meeting the Defence Secretary explained the PM that our forces have crossed the LoC and it has repercussions for war. The PM called the meeting of the concerned ministers the next day.  The Army Chief was called and asked on whose responsibility the troops have crossed LoC. The reply was on my own. However, these can be withdrawn if desired. Thereafter it was decided that government will provide support to Army. Broad understanding to general public was that fighting is going on close to LoC by Mujahedeen.In late May conversation of COAS visiting Beijing with CGS at GHQ was intercepted by Indians in which Gen Musharraf was giving instructions how to engage Delhi and the international community on Ops KP. Indians exploited this which resulted diplomatic uproar. It became awkward for the govt. The meeting of Defense Committee of Cabinet (DCC) was convened on 25 May to discuss the Ops KP, which was also attended by Lt Gen Saeed uz Zaman as acting COAS, CNS and CAS. The Army command indicated that there should be no panic. However, secretary defense had expressed his strong reservations. The CAS opposed the GHQ request for airpower to be deployed in this area saying that re- deployment    would leave Lahore and Karachi unprotected. The Naval Chief Admiral Fasih Bokhari did not rule out the possibility of naval blockade. After a lot of deliberations, the DCC gave go ahead to the Army plan. It was also decided that India be declared as aggressor, Kashmir and Kargil are linked. The resolution of Kashmir dispute can only defuse the crisis. The PM sent a letter to UN Secretary General to play an active role in de- escalating the tension between the two nuclear armed states.

Intensive diplomatic efforts by India managed to convince USA, Russia, UK and France that we were looking for peace with Pakistan but it has stabbed on our back. By end May the Indian foreign minister had received assurance from Washington, Moscow, London and Paris that they accept the Indian position that infiltrations had been pushed in by Pakistan.  Pakistan was in difficult position to convince the world that Mujahedeen have crossed LoC.The PM, Nawaz Sharif telephonic conversations with Vajpayee, Clinton and Tony Blair linking Kargil operation with Kashmir was not productive.  They demanded unconditional withdrawal. Our foreign minister visited China on 11 June to seek support, Chinese categorically told that dispute had to be resolved bilaterally.  Chinese also conveyed that they have no influence over India.  By 10 June India had assembled a large number of artillery regiments in extremely difficult terrain. Approximately 5,000 shells, mortars bombs and rockets were fired from 300 guns daily. Due to the devastation caused by heavy shelling our posts started falling. A restricted high level meeting was held in governor House Lahore on 13 June which was attended by all DCC members and services chiefs. The Naval and Air chiefs along with secretary defence were travelling in the same aircraft to Lahore decided to apprise PM the factual position. The PM, they believed, was still being misled that Pakistan is doing well and Indians would not escalate and go to war. They were also concerned to explain the PM the risks involved in this situation. In the meeting the naval chief asked COAS what is the objective of Ops PK. Fear of all-out war was also expressed by other participants.  However there was no satisfactory answer.

In this conflict officers and soldiers of Pakistan Army fought fearlessly. Some of them preferred to embrace shahadat rather than vacating the posts under extensive shelling. Capt.Kernal Sher Khan had the determination to go all over against the enemy. Carrying LMG Sher Khan alone dashed into the Indian camp, killing several soldiers before embracing shahadat.  However, the planner of Ops KP started worrying as the posts started falling in middle of June. The track- II diplomacy was also made active. R. K Mishra, point –man of Vajpayee arrived Pakistan and met Nawaz Sharif,and Niaz ANaik on 25 June. He gave message of Indian PM saying that, Pakistan and India were an inch from war, half an inch because of Vajpayee and half an inch because of Nawaz Sharif. This channel also did not succeed because India insisted on unconditional withdrawal.  The PM visited China in the last week of June to request them to mediate to work out an honorable exit for Pakistani troops but Chinese declined.  Infect their stance was also unconditional withdrawal similar toUS and other western countries.  A DCC meeting was held on 2 July chaired by PM attended by the three services chiefs. The PM briefed about his visit to china. The Ops KP came under heated discussion. Gen Musharraf gave detailed briefing .When Army rep was asked how they are losing the heights now.

The reply was we never thought that this would happen, that India would pay such a heavy price. The PM pointed out that our communication lines are being compromised and hence the sustenance for our troops was weakening. The naval and Air chiefs were critical about the operation. When asked for how long the presence can be maintained in the occupied posts. Gen Musharraf replied by August or September we have to vacate due to extreme weather. The consensus was for the withdrawal of troops. The PM got an appointment with the US president for 4 July in Washington.  Prior proceeding to USA he chaired a meeting at Chacklala airport which was attended by concerned ministers, COAS and DG ISI. The PM briefed about his discussion on telephone with the President of USA. During the meeting at Washington the US President Clinton informed Sharif that Kargil was a serious mistake, two nuclear powers were at the brink of war. The meeting ended with the declaration that Pakistan would withdraw its troops behind LoC to the pre – operation positions. Although PMtried his best to bring the point of Kashmir issue in the declaration to be resolved by American mediation but it was not agreed.  The withdrawal agreement was not liked by the Pakistani public in general.

However, the army chief supported it by saying,” there is complete harmony between the government and the army about the PM visit to Washington”. In addition, an official narrative originating from policy making institutions including the DCC fully supported the withdrawal decision. However, it became difficult for PM to convince public that withdrawal was the only solution to avert all -out war. Similarly it became difficult for Army chief to satisfy his own officers that why this operation was initiated and ended without achieving its objectives. Gen Musharraf used to say that it is the govt which has decided unconditional withdrawal.  The mistrust between the PM and COAS started increasing on the issue of obtaining approval before starting the operation. The COAS version was that we have kept the PM informed.  The govt point of view was that approval has not been taken by GHQ before starting the ops. The mistrust increased to the extent that by end Sep extra troops were employed around PM house, all his communications were being monitored. Another bone of contention was the retirement orders of Lt Gen Tariq Pervez, Corps Cdr at Quetta on the recommendation of COAS that he has publically talked against the Kargil operation. In the same time frame Gen Musharraf had talked against govt while visiting CNS at his residence. In this backdrop the PM issued retirement orders of Gen Musharraf when he was in the aircraft returning from official visit to Sri Lanka and appointed Gen Zia ud Din as new Army Chief on 12 October 1999. The Army imposed Martial Law and PM, Nawaz Sharif was arrested from the PM house the same night. In my opinion the lessons learnt from the Kargil episode for Pakistan are many but most important is the saying of French statesman George Benjamin Clemenceau who led France in WW1 that “war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men”.      

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China’s quad in the making: A non-conventional approach

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Politics of alliance can be traced to the ancient times of the East and the West. Since it affects the core interest and security of individual states, the leaders concerned seek for alliance partners in order to meet the threat they face and the gains they can expect from alliance. The U.S. has maintained its superiority in military and also created the largest alliance system in the world. Now seeing the rise of China as one strategic competitor in the 21st century, the U.S. has made all efforts to create a “quad” along with Japan, Australia and India in the Indo-Pacific. This leads to an inquiry into how China reacts to the containment led by the U.S.?

China has maintained the high-level of strategic partnership with Russia, Pakistan and now Iran. Yet they aim at strategic consensus, economic connectivity, mutual respect and equality in a challenge to any unilateral hegemony. Due to this, China’s version of the “quad” is more flexible and pragmatic in winning over states with different cultural, religious and ideological backgrounds. Yet the Biden administration has made it clear that it moves to establish a “quadruple” alliance along with Japan, Australia and India in order to insure the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific still to the U.S. favor. To that end, on March 12, the first summit among the four countries revealed their collective security talks on everything from vaccine distribution to fighting climate change, yet also including their viewing China’s efforts to modernize and professionalize its military as a strategic competition in Asia and the Pacific.

Only days after President Biden’s drive for a “Quad” in the Indo-pacific, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made his visit to China during March 22at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. This reveals the high-level quality of the relations between the two largest Eurasian powers and their agenda has deepened across nearly all dimensions of the comprehensive strategic partnership, such as from diplomacy and defense to economic and technology. The growing ties between China and Russia have aimed to establish a multipolar order that dethrones the US as the global hegemon. In light of the deteriorated relations between China and the U.S. alongside the EU, and between Russia and the Western bloc, the meeting is of strategic implications for China and Russia to consult regularly on the latest issues. Though not ready to forge a military alliance in a traditional way as indicated, China and Russia are actually confident in each other to meet any challenge of the world. The latest announcement that Russia and China would jointly construct a space station on the moon (ILRS) is another great leap forward in the establishment of what is described as the “Sino-Russian alliance in the making”. It clearly reveals that cooperation has become operationally more consequential than the frequently touted democratic partners between the U.S. and India.

During the 1990s,Joseph Nye warned the prospect of the “alliance of the aggrieved” coming from Russian and Chinese strong passion for national glory. Yet, it is very the awkward statecraft of the U.S. that has led China and Russia deftly to overcome conflicting national interests that should make them adversaries on the bilateral, regional and global issues. As Lavrov said prior to his visit, “the model of interaction between Russia and China is free from any ideological constraints. It is of an intrinsic nature, not subject to any opportunistic factors nor against any third countries.”

If the Sino-Russian strategic partnership is seen as the “strategic alliance”, the solidarity between China and Pakistan has been termed as “batie”, referring to “brothers in ironclad”. It is true that China’s normal relations with Pakistan started in 1951 and since1962, the bilateral relations have been transformed into a de facto alliance regardless of the differences in religions and ideologies. Cooperation has covered nearly all aspects from politics to economic and from military to foreign affairs over the past decades. Diplomatically, Pakistan has committed to one-China policy while China has made all endeavors to support its sovereignty, security and stability. Geopolitically, the two sides have worked closely on the joint projects like JF-17 aircrafts, civilian nuclear power plants and the peaceful settlement in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led NATO presence in the war-torn land is seen as a threat to common interest of the two countries and the stability in South Asia as well. Accordingly, Pakistan isseen as one of the key strategic partners of Beijing’s global links, along with Russia and North Korea.

Additionally, in China’s security and development agenda such as the BRI, Pakistanis sure to be a vital partner in light of the decades-long friendship and its location in South Asia near to Strait of Hormuz which links the Middle East. China has invested heavily in the region while it depends on oil, gas and many other energies. To that end, the project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been expected to enhance the strategic connectivity between the two sides to a new high-level strategic convergence. It is in a broader term, alliance forms when states have common interests and strong consensus to pursue them. For example, China, Russia and Pakistan have shared compatible interests in a constructive and inclusive solution to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of a coalition government with the participation of the Taliban movement.

Now an inquiry is whether China along with Russia and Pakistan would move toward a Eurasian bloc including Iran. On March 27, Chinese FM Wang Yi formally visited Iran, yet what China seeks for in the Middle East is not a traditional alliance like the NATO or the “Quad” in the Indo-Pacific as the U.S. has driven for. Rather, as Beijing reiterated, China acted to persuade the countries concerned to stay impervious to external pressure and interference, to independently secure its own interests in light of the regional peace and stability. Accordingly, China wants to project itself an image as a peaceful power unlike the U.S. and its allies which aim to pursue the exclusive privileges and unilateral interests in the Middle East and beyond.

During Wang’s visit, “the plan for China-Iran comprehensive cooperation” was signed with a view to taping the potentials for enhancing economic and cultural cooperation in a long run. It is said that a 25-year agreement would be able to upend the prevailing geopolitical landscape in the West Asia which has for so long been subject to the United States. Moreover, Iran has forged a de facto alliance with Russia and a strategic cooperative partnership with China. Yet, this plan is essentially a large-scale economic development agenda for Iran which has been illegally sanctioned by the United States. To that end, China and Iran vowed to support mutually on the issues related to their core interest and major concerns, including general opposition to any hegemon dictating international affairs. In effect, China has urged that the United States should first take a step to lift unilateral sanctions against Iran, and return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), instead of making unreasonable demands on Tehran.

Some people have argued that the interaction of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran can everywhere outline new geopolitical vectors, which must be taken into account by the U.S. and its allies. It is also true that without the political involvement of Pakistan, China and Russia, the peaceful settlement of the crises in Afghanistan are quite unthinkable. First, China still follows its long-term principleof non-alliance in foreign affair. Second, though stronger economically, China is a new external power with limited knowledge of the region. Considering the prospect that a high-profile deal with Iran may have been met with some backlash from the Gulf states that traditionally see Iran as an adversary, a plan involving economic cooperation is more pragmatic and necessary. Politically it is wise and rational that China-Iran plan fits within its five-point initiative to achieve security and stability in the Middle East, such as mutual respect, equity and justice, non-proliferation of nuclear weapon, collective security and common welfare.

In sum, advancement of China’s quad requires even more focus and attention nowadays. In light of this, the best thing for China to do is to make sure a long-term stability and prosperity in the entire region. For sure, China has pursued its diplomatic goals in accordance with its ancient culture and contemporary grand mission.

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UK–Russia Security Dialogue. European Security

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Photo:Emily Wang/Unsplash

Authors: Andrey Kortunov and Malcolm Chalmers*

This conference report outlines the main findings of the workshop on ‘European Security’ organised by RUSI and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in February 2021 as part of the UK–Russia Security Dialogue. The dialogue is a proven format that has provided an opportunity for RUSI and RIAC to bring together experts from the two countries to discuss key questions, including sensitive security issues, at a time when this kind of interaction is the exception rather than the rule.

UK–Russia relations have become increasingly strained over the past decade, notably from 2014 following Russia’s actions in Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, which together marked a turning point in the bilateral relationship. In the subsequent years, there have been a series of efforts by Western European leaders, including from the UK, to reset relations with Russia. Despite these efforts, relations have continued to deteriorate. Against this background, the prospect for a reset of the sort that was pursued between the US and Russia in 2009 seems, at present, dim.

Given this environment, the focus of the current dialogue workshop was on how to reduce the chances for open military confrontation between NATO and Russia, especially in Europe, and on maintaining mutual engagement in the spheres where it is absolutely crucial.

The UK’s position in Europe has undergone significant evolution in recent years, although European security remains a core focus in the ‘Global Britain’ agenda. Previously preoccupied with Brexit, the UK government has started to move beyond negotiations on the UK’s departure from the EU to fashion a revised foreign and security policy. Even though EU–UK relations might remain tense for some time, it is clear that the UK is committed to working closely with both the EU and major European powers on foreign and security policy. Equally, the transatlantic relationship will remain a core part of the UK approach to European security. As a result, UK approaches to Russia will be closely aligned with its European and North American allies.

Indeed, in contrast to the apprehension about the reliability of the US as a security partner under Donald Trump, cooperation with President Joe Biden’s administration is likely to give a new momentum to transatlantic ties. These ties are based on mutual interests and reflect largely similar approaches to Russia. Following Brexit, the UK has ensured that sanctions relating to Russia continue to operate effectively by replacing the existing EU legislation with national measures.

For Russia, it is of paramount importance which mode of interaction the Biden administration will opt for in relations with Moscow. President Biden might be a more difficult partner, but the Russian view is that opportunities for some positive moves by NATO should not be ruled out. The integration of military-to-military contact into the political discussions of the NATO–Russia Council could be an important initial step to help promote stability and manage relations. From a Russian perspective, such a move should not be seen by the Alliance as a step to appease Russia or as a departure from NATO’s established approach, but rather as a step that would lay the ground for more dialogue.

Moderate optimism can be expressed about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) regarding measures to overcome its institutional crisis and Sweden’s chairmanship in 2021, which may bring new opportunities. Russia chairing the Arctic Council from 2021 to 2023 provides a further opportunity to open the space for cooperation in some areas that affect the security situation in the High North.

With UK–Russia relations likely to be difficult, it is imperative that efforts remain focused on the realistic goal of developing a ‘new normalcy’ to stabilise the situation. Moves from confrontation to cooperation are unlikely given that both sides have irreconcilable visions of the essence of the international system and cite the lack of trust as an underlying impediment to normalisation. In this situation, it is important that efforts to exchange information and views continue and that there is further work on confidence-building measures to manage confrontation to lower risks and costs.

Summary of the Discussion

This UK–Russia dialogue workshop explored the various political and security issues affecting the contemporary European security landscape and provided an opportunity to share threat perceptions and consider the potential to mitigate security risks. The participants presented their countries’ strategic priorities and perspectives on the evolving nature of European security, including the prospects for arms control. The workshop also introduced the sub-regional perspective by focusing on the security complex in the Baltic Sea, Northern Europe and the Arctic.

The discussion focused on: the challenges that the European regional security order faces; the dangers stemming from its fragmentation; the erosion of much of the post-Cold War arms control regime; and the ebbing of the credibility of the OSCE, which faced a deep institutional crisis in 2020.

UK–Russia Relations

UK contributors noted that there have been a number of factors that have strained the UK–Russia relationship, such as the Russian annexation of Crimea and the military incursion into eastern Ukraine in 2014, Russian interference during the 2016 Brexit referendum, the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko on UK soil in 2006, the 2018 Salisbury chemical weapons attack and the attempted murder of Alexei Navalny in 2020. Some of these actions have led to the introduction of UK sanctions against Russia. Against this backdrop, the resumption of cooperative ties between the governments does not look feasible and the restoration of direct military cooperation is unlikely.

Citing this environment, the overarching idea of the discussion shared by most participants was that the status quo in relations between Russia and the UK – a ‘new normalcy’ – is not desirable but sustainable, is ‘not acceptable but bearable’. This perception about the potential for relations is likely to continue to inform the policy responses by both sides in the foreseeable future. Participants noted that the current state of affairs appears to be characterised by a situation in which both parties have reciprocal expectations that the steps towards normalisation need to come from the other side.

At the same time, participants underlined the importance of measures to reduce the chances of open confrontation. A key theme to emerge from the discussion was, thus, the need to maintain engagement in the spheres where it is most crucial.

A Russian participant expressed his concern that the decision taken by NATO in April 2014 to sever ties with Russia had grave repercussions in terms of increasing the risks of unintended military escalation. In the absence of an appropriate venue for discussions, many in the Russian expert community would like to see the governments of Russia and NATO countries start to discuss imminent threats in order to anticipate areas of tension and to set in place the means to de-escalate confrontations.

It was recognised that, at present, communication tends to start only when the risks become unacceptable, like in Syria. With important, but narrow, mechanisms for preventing dangerous military incidents already in place, there is no incentive to conduct political talks on the factors that could lead to confrontation.

It was noted that a key role for expert discussions such as the UK–Russia dialogue should be to alert governments to the possibility that ‘acceptable risks today can become unacceptable tomorrow’. The prevention of tensions or even resolution of some areas of dispute is thus crucial to managing the current difficult relations and avoiding a further dangerous deterioration. A Russian participant noted, however, that the West seems not to be ready for a selective approach to Russia which would allow for the compartmentalisation of the bilateral agenda into independent areas.

UK participants observed that while relations with Russia are difficult, the current status quo is viewed as sustainable and there are many other issues on the international security agenda for the UK to focus on beyond relations with Russia. At the same time, it was noted that if Russia does not shift its approach in the coming years, which was deemed unlikely, the transatlantic community will increasingly focus on deterrence and risk management in their relations with Russia.

It was noted that following a series of unsuccessful outreaches to Russia by NATO members, the Allies do not feel they should be the demandeurs in terms of the reset with Russia or for arms control initiatives. A UK participant observed that recent efforts by Western European states to reach out to Russia, including President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative and the visit to Moscow by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, bore no fruit and did not generate a positive response from the Russian side.

Thus, for any reset to occur, it was suggested that Russia would have to take the first steps. This would need to involve addressing the issues that have strained relations between Russia and the West, notably the annexation of Crimea, military intervention in Ukraine and actions in the Middle East, as well as Russian activities in the cyber domain. At the same time, the widespread view in the UK is that the Russian government does not believe that it is currently in its interests to make substantial concessions in relation to eastern Ukraine, over the joint management of the Syrian issue or in regard to its cyber activities.

The Challenges Facing Arms Control in Europe

The significant risks for a new arms race emerging in Europe were discussed at length. Participants were sceptical about the prospects of another golden age for arms control emerging, comparable to the one in the 1960s after the Cuban and Berlin crises, or in the late 1980s when the Soviet Union sought a radical change in its policies towards NATO and the West. Conventional arms control in Europe – based on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty – is in demise and the existing regimes are no longer considered adequate to address contemporary security threats.

There was consensus that the erosion of the nuclear arms control architecture between the US and Russia poses a serious threat to European security, even if the UK and other European states are not direct participants in US–Russia treaties. Following the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the extension at the beginning of 2021 of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Moscow and Washington was met with relief. This positive step to renew the last remaining arms control agreement was hailed by Russian and UK participants, albeit a deal reached in an emergency rather than as a result of a wide r détente.

The collapse in recent years of the last remaining confidence- and security-building measures in Europe was noted as emblematic of the rapid deterioration of Russia–West relations. The US under the Trump administration withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty in November 2020, accusing Russia of treaty violations that made continued US membership impossible. In January 2021, Moscow announced it would follow the US and withdraw from the Treaty, citing the failure of NATO signatories to agree to its demands not to share information from the Russian surveillance flights with the US.

Though the future of the agreement remains uncertain, a Russian expert welcomed the possibility of the Biden administration returning the US to the Treaty. It was opined that Russia actually launched the withdrawal procedure to send the signal to the US that renewing its participation should be considered an urgent matter.

Workshop participants indicated that it is unlikely that there will be progress towards Europe-wide conventional arms control, along the lines of the adapted CFE treaty, in the foreseeable future. Russian participants expressed support for consultations to address the risks around sensitive areas where NATO and Russia border with each other – in the Baltic and the Black Sea regions. The aim should be to, at minimum, establish the sub-regional arrangements that could prevent unintended security escalations.

It was also noted that it should be a priority to extend confidence-building measures into the Barents and Norwegian Seas, which are the overlapping areas of operations by the Russian Northern Fleet and the recently re-established US Second Fleet. Participants recognised, however, that NATO did not accept the idea of concluding separate sub-regional agreements with Russia. One of the benefits of re-establishing NATO–Russia military-to-military dialogue was identified as providing a more credible notification arrangement on ground forces and, thus, a means to improve transparency and trust.

On the arms control regime in Europe, Russian participants indicated that Moscow would welcome European initiatives on arms control mechanisms but noted that Russia assessed that European capitals are wary of Washington’s reactions to such initiatives and oversensitive to potential criticism.

At the same time, the Russian perception of Europe as lacking strategic autonomy on security issues loomed in the discussions when a Russian discussant expressed the belief that for the Russian defence establishment, talking to Europeans about arms control when the US is not at the table has no practical sense.

The fate of the Chemical Weapons Convention was discussed. A UK participant raised the issue of the large-scale use of chemical weapons in Syria, where Russia is supporting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. The use of banned chemical agents for attempted assassinations was also noted. These actions were identified as policies that seriously erode trust in Russia’s commitment to adhere to legally binding treaties.

Against the background of the chemical weapons attacks in Salisbury in 2018 and the attempted poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020 using a prohibited nerve agent, restoring the credibility of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Russia’s adherence to its provisions were seen as a cornerstone for improving relations with the West.

The deterioration of arms control arrangements was seen as reflective of the wider breakdown of the crisis management functions of the OSCE. Experts agreed that there were some improvements at the end of 2020 with agreement on the appointment of the organisation’s institutional heads and with the stable hand of the Swedish chairmanship guiding this process. But the continuous tensions around these institutions, which embody the comprehensive security concept at the core of the OSCE, and the lack of significant progress around the organisation’s regional conflict management activities, were raised. The limited levers available to the OSCE during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war were also highlighted.

A Russian expert opined that Moscow does not see a bigger independent role for the OSCE in crisis management and arms control, since it views the organisation as an instrument that has been privatised by the West. The Russia–NATO relationship was identified as a better-placed format to discuss arms control issues.

Perspectives on the Security of Northern Europe

In the session devoted to discussing Northern Europe and the Arctic, the Baltic sub-region was identified as the most dangerous environment. At the same time, the Arctic can no longer be considered as a region insulated from tensions. The vision of the Arctic as a region of peace and cooperation may no longer hold true as the security mechanisms of the past are losing their relevance.

The discussion highlighted differences in perceptions between UK and Russian specialists on the military dynamics in the region. Russia sees Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea as two distinct regions, while the UK – together with the other states of Northern Europe – increasingly see these areas as a single security space.

A Russian participant contended that assessments that Moscow is militarising the region are exaggerated; there is force modernisation, rather than the creation of new offensive capabilities. These modernisation programmes, it was argued, do not violate the military balance or provoke an arms race in the region, and are aimed to make the Russian armed forces better prepared to deal with non-traditional security threats.

A British discussant noted, however, that Russia’s increased sense of security is creating a growing sense of insecurity among its neighbours. Russia has extended its capabilities in air defence and other areas beyond its borders in order to protect its strategic forces located in the north. With new capabilities, it is able to project power beyond the Arctic into the North Atlantic.

As a result of Russian activities in the region, the transatlantic community assesses that the security environment has changed substantively. NATO, including the UK, has developed a much keener interest in the region, and NATO Arctic states that were previously resistant to the Alliance having a regional role are shifting to accept that it can be an interlocutor on Arctic military questions. There is a perception that there needs to be an Alliance response to Russian activities with a growing focus on the Greenland–Iceland–UK gap.

With new actors, including China, coming into the region, Russia is on the defensive. Responding to a question about whether Russia is prepared to talk to NATO about the Arctic and managing military tensions, it was noted that Russia is opposed to seeing more NATO engagement in the region, and security dialogue should be conducted among the five littoral states directly.

Conclusions

The workshop highlighted the importance of maintaining a channel for candid talks between Russia and the UK’s expert communities. There were a number of areas of consensus, in the sense that both sides recognised the need to maintain a dialogue without illusions in order to, at minimum, better understand each other’s perspective and positions. Participants agreed that the UK and Russia should be aware of the real potential risks of any further deterioration in European security at the cost of an arms race, or even unwanted confrontation. Dialogue participants also highlighted that, despite the bilateral difficulties, there are ways that both parties can manage the risks of the ‘new normal’ situation. There is, thus, an urgent need to explore how this can be achieved effectively.

A realistic assessment of UK–Russia relations points to the need for both sides to recognise that the focus of bilateral ties should be on developing pragmatic and limited areas of cooperation. Discussion of a wholesale reset, which is not feasible at present, should be avoided. Some of those pragmatic areas could be talks about how to make progress on arms control, ways to strengthen military-to-military contacts, and maintaining the discussions on threat perceptions and regional security.

*Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

From our partner RIAC

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Comparative analyses of Satellites Indian Navy in IOR: Options for Pakistan

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After a glaring failure in November 2008, a series of attacks happened in Mumbai, which Indian civilian and military leadership considered it a security breach from the Indian Ocean side as terrorists entered into the homeland due to poorly guarded coastal area by the Indian Navy at Kerala. It was envisioned by Indian defense minister AK. Antony.  Indian Navy’s surveillance in coastal areas. For more than 12 years from now, the Indian Navy planned to create and sustain three-dimensional forces under the realm of network-centric warfare where every component system should work under the integrated command, control, and communication systems C3S. Firstly, India Nuclearized the Indian Ocean Region now, it is going to integrate space capabilities with its modernized and enhanced communications of surface, and subsurface fleets. Additionally, to boost the strike capability of the Indian Navy to fill the security gaps in Indian Naval forces, Indian civil and military leadership especially stepped up themselves to enhance and advance India’s Armed forces to counter extraneous threats.

Furthermore, the Indian Navy is investing a huge bulk of the financial budget in acquiring satellite capabilities to improve and enhance surveillance and targeting capability. India’s ISRO (Indian Space Organization) is currently operating thirteen observational satellites in the LEO (low earth Orbit for communication and observation. But now India is transforming its purposes of satellites from non-military to military. Indian Navy is forwarding toward a “skyward strategy” of using four of its operational satellites for navigation, communication, targeting, surveillance, use of precision-guided missiles, and data collection in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

According to a report of Indian Think Tank ‘Institute of Peace Conflict Studies’ New Delhi, the Indian Navy is going to transform the use of some satellites in the maritime domain.  Indian navy would use Meteorological Satellites which are used for predicting weather while now it would be used to create fair weather for the launching of lethal precision-guided missiles and weapons. Secondly, IN would use the Electronic Ferret satellite for gathering data in IOR.  Thirdly, Navigation satellites would be used for guiding lethal weapons and to select target location. Fourth, Reconnaissance satellites would be used to link up for the effective use of naval information Technology.

Recent Development of Spy Satellites in Maritime Domain Awareness:

Indian Navy launched the Rukmini GSAT-7 spy satellite to secure real-time communication in its command, control, communications, and intelligence surveillance C4ISR for submarines,k warships, and carriers. It cost approximately 486 crores. GSAT-7 with its Multi-band land-based communication satellite would pose adverse effects for the stability of IOR. It would have 600 to 1000 Nautical miles of footprint in IOR. It is designed, developed, and launched by ISRO.

Moreover, the Indian Navy has acquired another satellite named RISAT-II to maintain a check on the deployment of troops which has cost US$4.1 billion. DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) with cooperation from ISRO would design the satellite.

The aforementioned, satellites would provide digital tactical battlespace.

Options for Pakistan Navy:

Pakistan Navy as being a peacekeeper and coastal navy is playing proactively in maintaining peace and balance in IOR. Pakistan Navy has diversified options to use space capabilities to protect its maritime interest in the Arabian Sea and the IOR. Pakistan Navy has the motto of protecting the maritime interests of Pakistan, to promote trade at sea, participating actively in international effort to maintain peace and good order at sea. Pakistan Navy despite having challenges in the acquisition of the latest technology but is doing very well at sea and achieved success in deterring aggression from its potential adversary.  As a contextual reflection, Pakistan space agency SUPARCO (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission) under the umbrella of Strategic Planning Division (SPD) which is operating arms of National Command and Authority (NCA) Launched Badr-I, and Badr-II on July 16, 1990, and in December 2001 respectively via foreign launched platforms. Badr-I and Badr-II have capabilities like C4ISR in wide range communication. Under the flagship project CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) Pakistan has signed a historic agreement to launch and develop the satellite to monitor the CPEC project from Space.

Furthermore, Pakistan Navy can also take advantage of its satellites named PRSS-I (Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite-I) and PRSS-IA both were launched by Long March SLV in July 2018. PRSS-IA is an indigenous space satellite of Pakistan. Pakistan Space program is the game changer program for Pakistan when it comes to maritime interests. Pakistan has switched its GPS (Global Positioning System) from the United States of America to the Chinese BeiDou system. PRSS-I and PRSS-IA show Pakistan’s vision of 2047 8nder which Pakistan will pursue an integrated command and control system. After the recent clash at Gallawan Valley, Pak-Sino Space Cooperation could be very beneficial as India is modernizing naval capabilities to threaten Pakistan and China.

In summary, Pakistan has always enjoyed a great history of collaboration among its armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force). Pakistan can easily counter India’s malicious geopolitical interests in IOR through Pakistan Navy via Space platform. Pakistan Navy is also using an integrated surface and subsurface network-centric system but it is also moving forward to modernize and enhance its strike precision capability.  Realistically, the Indian Navy is pursuing lethal weaponry and the nucleation of IOR along with conventional naval buildup is alarming for neighborhood states located under the geographical proximity of IOR. Pakistan Navy as a coastal Navy is doing its best to counter every aggression of the Indian Navy. For the future, Pakistan Navy needs to be very cautious while taking steps to counter the Indian Navy.

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