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Relevancy of Russian Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in current NATO-Russian threat environment

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Non-strategic nuclear or tactical nuclear (NSNWs) weapons are basically battlefield weapons and used to hit counterforce (Command and control, nuclear facilities etc.) target of enemy and they are used for limited purpose. NSNWs include Artillery, mines, SRM (small range missile), bombers, ships and submarines etc. There is no exact definition of range and yield of tactical nuclear weapons but just that tactical weapons have smaller yield than strategic weapons[1]

During cold war era there was clear distinction between strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons in term of range and yield. Non-strategic nuclear weapons had low yield and range and were used to target any specific area. But after cold war there is blur line or we can say now there is no more clear distinction between both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons as their delivery system, range and yield have been improved. Now they have same capability as strategic weapons and can create huge destruction on large scale.[2]

Russia use term ‘Non-strategic nuclear weapons for its tactical or conventional nuclear weapons. It is clear indication that Russian perspective on Tactical nuclear weapons is far different from American perspective. What is the definition of non-strategic nuclear weapons still there is no common consent on it. But it is the fact that Russian tactical weapons are strategic as they have same capability or yield as one strategic weapon has and some weapons have more destructive capability than the bombs which were released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Basically these non-strategic nuclear weapons were not covered in strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START and Intermediate nuclear force INF.[3]

Russia justify its non-strategic nuclear weapons in this way that its survival is under threat due to European countries whom US has provided extended deterrence and there is huge conventional asymmetry vis-a-vis US and NATO countries. Due to this reason Russia wants to keep NSNWs. There is a ratio of almost 3,000-6,000 NSNWs which can be delivered in counter response to NATO or European theatre. Russian stance towards non-strategic nuclear weapons is that she is relying on these weapons to make deterrence effective and to give message to US and its NATO allies that in case of any armed aggression, Russia will use nuclear strike against them.[4]

Background

United States was the first to start arms race as she developed its nuclear weapons and then Russia followed the same suit. In the early 50’s both started to develop tactical nuclear weapons to use in battlefield as there was nuclear rivalry between soviet and US so there was huge competition between both of them. In mid-1970’s soviet was ahead in term of mega tonnage then USA[5].After the dissolution of USSR, geo-politics had changed the dynamics of the world and according to particular strategic environment soviet adapted the method of limited use of atomic weapons to deter its potential adversary (US and NATO) as soviet was comparatively weaker than US in term of conventional weapons that’s why for soviet this was the only way to curb the crisis. Russia realized non-nuclear but strategic conventional armaments as being of potential use in such scenarios[6]

Throughout the cold war nuclear weapons were central to strategy of the US and Soviet as both states had focused on limited war so both decrease the number of nuclear weapons These Include long-range missiles, magnitude bomb, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMS) and heavy bombers etc. These were basically to hit counterforce target of enemy forces and side by side they also positioned number of strategic weapons beyond their own zones along with the troops. Respective weapons typically had less Yield and range so they had less power than nuclear weapons. These weapons were used for battlefield to achieve tactical and limited purpose.

In 1987 soviet and the US signed Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, removed intermediate and middle range cruise missiles. But after the disintegration of Soviet Union there was huge security concern and soviet economy was also collapse and the conventional superiority which soviet had on US during cold war but after cold war Russia get weak in terms of technology and conventional weaponry and according to particular geopolitical circumstance the US also alter its weaponry. Due to further advances little attention was given to tactical nuclear weapons or strategic nuclear weapons. It is clear from the fact that in Presidential nuclear initiative (PNI) from 1991-1992, little attention were given to tactical nuclear weapons and in START, non-strategic weapons were also not included.

Non-Strategic Nuclear weapons (NSNWs) during cold war

US Doctrine and military strategy:

NSNWs were installed for protection of the U.S. allies against hostility which was posed by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact allies, side by side these weapons were against other adversaries as well. For the US and its NATO allies it was under the strategy of flexible response. According to this strategy, NATO did not claim that they will use nuclear weapons against any sort of attack but they preserved the capability to deter the escalation of war. This was a sort of balance of resolve under which US and NATO influenced the perception of soviet so that soviet don’t escalate the crisis but give up.[7]

As the Cold War was about to an end, NATO recognized that now there is no need of having nuclear weapons at large scale or to defeat ant tactical attack from the side of soviet. As now Soviet is not able to launch full scale war on NATO. Side by side NATO also understand that these weapons would continue to play a crucial political role in NATO’s strategy by putting ambiguity in the concentration of any potential adversary that in case of any aggression NATO can use its nuclear arsenal.[8]

US Force structure:

During cold war US shaped and resize its non -strategic nuclear weapons according to particular security threat environment.US had deployed these weapons on zones of NATO and Asian allies in order to provide extended deterrence. In l970, US started to reduce its non- strategic nuclear weapons about more than 7,000 and in late 1980 NSNWs were less than 1,000.US reduced because its NATO allies were also agreed that less number of weapons are enough for the purpose of deterrence but having a good quality .Now US focus was on upgradation of its arsenals as she was not perceiving any immediate threat from Soviet .Between 1980-1988 US developed and upgrade its nuclear arsenals, which include, GLCM (ground launched cruise missiles) ,IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missiles), SRBM(submarine range ballistic missiles),and also build new bombs for navy but after the collapse of soviet Union, US stopped its modernizing programs and both soviet and US signed intermediate nuclear force(INF) to eradicate all short and medium range cruise and ballistic missiles[9]

Soviet doctrine and military strategy:

Like US, Soviet reliance was also on nuclear weapons as a military strategy[10]. During cold war soviet has doctrine of NFU (no first use) but this doctrine can be changed anytime by any state according to particular circumstances. The other thing was that soviet strategic nuclear weapons were more cohesive than US and these arsenals were also useful in case of any astonishment attack or preventive attack[11] .In 1980, Russia also started to reduce nuclear arsenals as they said that strategic weapons have shattering effects but at the same time they are used for deterrence.

Force Structure:

During cold war, Soviet Union had installed number of delivery vehicles to deliver NSNWs (nonstrategic nuclear weapons). In different periods, it installed devices that were so minute that they could adjust in little container, nuclear mines, shells which were used for artillery, short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, short-range air-delivered missiles, and gravity bombs. The USSR installed these arms on almost 600 centres, some of which were positioned in Warsaw Pact states in East Europe including some western and southern outside of the nation and all over in Russia. In 1991, after disintegration soviet was left with about 20, 0000 of non-strategic nuclear weapons before dissolution of Warsaw pact it was almost 25, 0000 NSNWs. [12]

Non-Strategic Nuclear weapons after Cold War

US strategy and doctrine

NSNWs are still central to strategy of US and NATO policy and US maintained its doctrine of First use (FU) and US relies on amalgam of conventional and nuclear weapons maintaining both offensive and defensive posture and continue to deter and providing extended deterrence . “New Strategic Concept” which were retained in April 1999 specified, “To defend concord and to prevent conflict or intimidation, the Coalition will maintain amalgam of both strategic and conventional weapons. Strategic weapons make a unique contribution in interpretation the dangers of belligerence in contradiction of the Coalition in numerable and offensive”.[13]

Furthermore, the 2010 Strategic Concept stated more reductions in nuclear weapons, in the upcoming future. The allies are “strongminded to follow an inoffensive world for all, in a way that promotes international stability according to Non-proliferation treaty, and is grounded on the belief of security for all.” Whereas coalition had “affectedly concentrated the quantity of strategic weapons based in Europe” and also reduced the role of strategic weapons in NATO plan.” Besides, the arms control progression “should concentrate on the discrepancy with the superior Russian stocks of short-range nuclear weapons.” so, nevertheless  NATO no more watched Russia as an opponent, the coalition deceptively arranged that the discrepancy in  NSNWs (Non-strategic nuclear weapons) could generate security apprehensions for some supporters of the coalition.[14]

Force structure:

From side to side, the late 1990s, George W. Bush Government, the United States preserved almost 1,100 non-strategic nuclear weapons in its dynamic stock. Around about 500 were air-delivered bombs organised at centres in Europe. Whereas the rest of arsenals, counting some extra air-delivered shells and almost 320 strategic equipped sea-launched cruise missiles, were apprehended in storing zones in the United States[15].US has condensed the quantity of its centres in Europe that stock strategic arsenal from over 125 centres in -1980s to 10 centres, in seven countries, in 2000.[16]

Russia military doctrine strategy

In past, 20years, Russia has reviewed its strategic and conventional weapons with succeeding varieties looking to dwelling a huge dependence on strategic weapons. Like, the armed doctrine delivered in 1997 permitted for the use of strategic weapons “in case of a riskto the survival of the Russian Coalition. “Doctrine printed in 2000 prolonged the environments when Russia may be used strategic weapons to comprise outbreaks using weaponries of mass destruction in contradiction of Russia or its partners “and side by side in rejoinder to large-scale hostility exploiting non-strategic nuclear weapons in circumstances serious threat to the security and sovereignty  of the Russian Alliance[17]

In 2010, it did not definitely approve the preventive use of strategic weapons. But also specified that “Russia assets the precise to usage of strategic arsenal in comeback to a use of strategic or any sort of additional weapons of mass destruction; biological and chemical weapons in contradiction of her and her supporters, and side by side in a case of an hostility in contradiction of her with conventional weaponries that would place in risk the survival of the state.[18]So, there is little indication that Russia strategies to practise strategic armaments at the very start of a clash, before it has involved with conventional armaments. Russia might recourse to the practice of strategic weaponries first, in ongoing limited war.[19]

Force structure:

Non-strategic nuclear weapons in Russian storage, it is very difficult to get idea about that how many NSNWs Russia possess. This ambiguity originates from various factors: improbability about the quantity of nonstrategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs) that the Soviet Union had positioned and stored during 1991, in this year President Gorbachev broadcast his PNI; improbability about the speed of warhead abolition in Russia; and thirdly, ambiguity almost whether all warheads detached from positioning are still programmed for exclusion. Soviet Union might have installed 15,000-25,000 NSNWs(Non-strategic nuclear weapons) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through the 1990s, Russian administrators specified that they had finished the arsenals extractions authorized by the PNIs and had ensued to eradicate weapons at a degree of 2,000 each year.[20]

Russia had also seemingly concentrated the quantity of armed centres that could install nonstrategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs), has merged its storing capacities for these arsenals. According to an estimate, the Soviet Union may have almost 500-600 storing locations for strategic armaments by 1991. By the end of this particular period, this amount may have deteriorated to almost 100. In previous 10centuries, Russia might have additional amalgamated its storing positions for strategic arsenals, recollecting almost 50 in manoeuvre[21]

21st century: Relevancy of Russian Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in response to current NATO threat environment

The strategic balance in Eastern Europe turned a dramatic turn following collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. Newly born Russia was far-cry of previous super power. Though threat was gone, but NATO instead of restricting its capabilities and influence continued to expand, ultimately absorbing more states in Eastern Europe. After Global war on terror, NATO-Russia tensions eased down to great extent but after American with drawl from Anti-Ballistic treaty in 2002, Russia decided not to give extra leverage to arms control agreements with NATO, one of it was maintenance of credible fleet of Tactical Nuclear Weapons which in Russian perspective are called Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons (NSNWs).

Russia is economically far behind from Western Europe and US .Russian has about 30% of world’s natural resources which include precious metals, oil and gas. By exporting these resources, Russia produce a huge revenue but in 2014 after decline in oil prices and sanctions which were imposed by US and European countries on Russia on its defence and energy sectors, due to its annexation of Crimea and these all circumstance lead towards deterioration in Russian rubble .[22] Another aspect is, Russia exported its Gas and oil to European countries and during Ukrainian crisis Russia used gas as a mean to blackmail European states[23]. Europe made 75% of Russian export and it was huge share in Russian economy[24].After sanctions imposed by US and European Union (in term of technology and shale oil production and other sectors) in response to that Russia cut down its supply of gas to European nations due to which it effect the gross domestic product(GDP) of Russia[25]

European states are now relying on renewable energy resources; fossil fuels and shale oil etc.[26] Now Russia is no more able to blackmail European states to fulfil its own geopolitical interests and European states has freed them from the Russian import of oil and gas. Due to such economic conditions, Russia has only option of non-strategic nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterrence against its adversaries as she don’t has enough to build new arsenals as US. Russian defence budget is just 5% of American defence budget[27].

Another justification provided by Russians on its non- strategic nuclear weapons is NATO’s drill inside Baltic States, Russia provides another justification of its non-strategic nuclear weapons as NATO is expanding towards eastern European states and Baltic States and it’s a severe threat for Russia .NATO is doing agreements and improving conventional and nuclear competences and deploying nuclear capable missile on Eastern Europe and Baltic states near to Russian territory not only this NATO and US are also supporting oppositions inside Russia. NATO is also agree to support Allie’s forces in term of readiness, training and command and control whereas US pledged under European Reassurance initiative (ERI), in which US will provide security assurance to its European allies, on its eastern border to deter and provide  advancing resistance against a Russian conventional attack. But NATO maintained a comparable force in West Berlin to serve same interest as US, and it was fruitful for more than forty years in dissuading a Soviet (Russia) endeavour to alteration the status quo by might or coercion. [28]

Russia is facing adversary which is far ahead in every aspect; smart weaponry, long range missiles which are highly conventional capable, well trained soldiers, nuclear weapons kinematic and non-kinematic means of warfare etc. In response to it Russia has its non-strategic nuclear weapons and side by side building its offensive and defensive capabilities, conducting military exercises, verified delivery system of nuclear and conventional weapons and it seems that Russia is signalling US that though there is asymmetry between them but still Russia can respond US and her allies with its present capabilities. [29]

 The Russian nuclear arsenal is not just for outdated nuclear deterrence, just to prevent the status quo but it is also to be used as a tool of bullying. At the same time, Russia’s nuclear bluffing has generated the perception that a nuclear attack in Europe is once again possible. And it has upraised concerns about Russia’s supposed “escalate to terminate “strategy – a strategy that forecasts forced threats which include concrete limited nuclear use, to sack conventional war on Russia’s standings [30]

In a situation that would echo in the West, Russia might decide to slice out territory from one of the Baltic States through amalgam of both conventional and nuclear weapons, opening with an instant conventional interchange to generate a “fait accompli” and will hit counterforce target and in turn it will hit adversary’s capabilities. Russia will try to do limited war but in case NATO react to this strike rapidly and Russia feel its conventional defeat than there is chance that Russia will go for nuclear strike. [31]

Russia didn’t declare what is its nuclear threshold but Russia has military doctrine of first use (FU) and she can launch attack on NATO due to miscalculation as this is game of perception or misperception.

Withdrawal from the ABM (Anti- Ballistic Missile) treaty by US in 2002.This is also tremendous security concern for Russia as US is building Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) and US has deployed BMD in Europe and to counter BMD, Russia has deployed non-strategic nuclear weapons[32]. Deployment of missile shield in Europe means that, “there is preparation of first strike capability”, according to Putin. Russia has its Iskandar program in response to BMD and current status of this program is not clear up till now.[33]

Due to lack of precision guided non -strategic nuclear weapons like submarine launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) maintained by space technology, don’t have effective command and control C4ISR (computer, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).Still Russia needs to work on all of these aspects.

Conclusion

Russian outlook on its Non –Strategic Nuclear Weapons, deal with both of political and military aspect. Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons have played a central role in the military strategy of Russia against its potential adversary US and NATO after the disintegration of Soviet Union. Russian armed forces still lag behind in term of hi-tech weaponry; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),Precision guided conventional weapons and electronic warfare competences with respect to US and NATO. Russia is relying on old soviet military hardware though she is investing in building new military hardware but full implementation is not happening as Russian economy is weak after its dissolution. Russia has capability to attain limited territory with limited options but to fight with major rival, it will take a long way to go.

Though there is asymmetry between Russia and NATO. Russia is behind in terms of technological development but both are doing tit for tat mechanism like US has deployed BMD in response to which Russia launched Iskander missile though it is short range but can cover eastern European states. Both states are doing this for their survival according to realistic perspective but this is engaging both of them in arms race which is very disastrous as it can instigate crisis.

Agreements like INF (Intermediate nuclear forces), PNI (Presidential Nuclear Initiative) and START treaty didn’t pay attention towards Non- strategic Nuclear weapons which was very crucial to discuss but to different other developments NSNWs were ignored. There are chances that both Russia and US will extend New START treaty but it remains to be seen that whether they will include Non –Strategic Nuclear weapons or not. 


[1] Brian Alexander, Alistair Millar, ed. (2003). Tactical nuclear weapons: emergent threats in an evolving security environment (1. Ed.). Washington DC: Brassy’s. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-57488-585-9. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

[2]Ibid.

[3] Robert M.Gates,(senior fellow at centre for a new American security), “Russia’s Evolving nuclear doctrine and its implications’’, Foundation pourla recherché strategique, 2016

[4] Tom Nichols, Douglas Stuart, Jeffrey D. McCausland,BOOK, Tactical nuclear weapons and NATO, 2012

[5] “US and Russian Tactical nuclear weapons: A forgotten threat”, enter for global and health security”,PSR,2016

[6] Robert M.Gates,(senior fellow at center for a new American security), “Russia’s Evolving nuclear doctrine and its implications’’, Fondation pourla recherché strategique, 2016

[7]“The United States retains substantial nuclear capabilities in Europe to counter Warsaw Pact conventional superiority and to serve as a link to U.S. strategic nuclear forces.” National Security Strategy of the United States, White House, January 1988, p. 16

[8] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “The Alliance’s Strategic Concept,” NATO Office of Information and Press, Brussels, Belgium, 1991, para. 8.

[9]CRS Report RL30033, “Arms Control and Disarmament Activities: A Catalog of Recent Events”, by Amy F. Woolf

[10]CRS Report 97-586, “Russia’s Nuclear Forces: Doctrine and Force Structure Issues”, by Amy F. Woolf and Kara Wilson

[11]Ivan Safranchuk, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons in the Modern World: A Russian Perspective,” in Alexander, Brian and Alistair Millar, editors, Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Washington DC: Brassey’s Inc., 2003), p. 53

[12]Joshua Handler, “The 1991-1992 PNIs and the Elimination, Storage and Security of Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” in Alexander, Brian and Alistair Millar, editors, Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Washington DC: Brassey’s Inc., 2003), p. 31.

[13]The Alliance’s Strategic Concept, approved by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 23-24, 1999.

[14]ibid., pp. 7-8

[15]“NRDC Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2007,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 2007.

 16USNuclear Weapons in Europe, 1954-2004, by Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen. Bulletin of the

Atomic Scientists. November/December 2004

17Joshua Handler, in Alexander and Millar, Tactical Nuclear Weapons, pp. 23-25

18 “Russia’s Military Doctrine,” Reprinted in Arms Control Today, May 2000

19New Russian Military Doctrine, Available at Opensource.gov, February 5, 2010.

20Pavel Podvig, “New Russian Doctrine and Preventive Nuclear Strikes,” Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, October 14, 2009, http://russianforces.org/blog/2009/10/new_russian_doctrine_and_preve.shtml

21Lewis Dunn, “Non-strategic Nuclear Weapons Control: What is the Problem?,” in Larsen, Jeffrey A. and Kurt J. Klingenberger, editors, Controlling Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons: Obstacles and Opportunities, United States Air Force, Institute for National Security Studies, July 2001, p. 17.

22 Hans M. Kristensen, Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Federation of American Scientists, Special Report No. 3,Washington, DC, May 2012, p. 68, http://www.fas.org/_docs/Non_Strategic_Nuclear_Weapons.pdf.

23Julian Cooper, “The Russian economy twenty years after the end of the socialist economic system”, journal of Eurasian studies, 2012.

24Andrea Thomas, “Russia and Ukraine Mustn’t Use Gas as Blackmail Tool, Says EU Official”, The wall street journal, 2014.

25Sam Meredith, “US ratchets up pressure to break Russia’s stranglehold over Europe’s energy market”, CNBC, 2017.

26Kimberly Amadeo, “Ukraine Crisis: Summary and Explanation, How Ukraine crisis threaten the EU, 2017.

27Fiona Harvey, “Shale and non-Russian gas imports at heart of new EU energy strategy”, 2014.

28Julian Cooper, “The Russian economy twenty years after the end of the socialist economic system”, journal of Eurasian studies, 2012.

29Richard sokolsky, “The New NATO-Russia Military Balance: Implications for European Security”, 2017.

30Jacek Durkalec, “Nuclear-Backed ‘Little Green Men:’ Nuclear Messaging in the Ukraine Crisis”, Polish Institute of international Affairs, July 2015, www.pism.pl.

31Nikolai N. Sokov, “Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation“,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 2014, http://thebulletin.org.

32Paul Goble, “Putin Believes He Can Win a War with NATO, Piontkovsky Says”, The Interpreter, 10 August 2014, www.interpretermag.com.

33Alexel Arbatov, “A Russian Perspective on the Challenge of U.S., NATO, and Russian Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons”,

34Andrei Akulov, “Iskander – Response to BMD. Should West Further Provoke Russia? (II)”,strategic culture foundation, 2013.

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Maintaining Command of the Sea: Maritime Doctrines of Pakistan and India

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Maritime and naval component is an important part of political, economic and military domain of a maritime nation. This component enhances a states role in foreign policy, diplomacy, economy and especially in military domain to further its national interests. Pakistan and India apart from being a hostile neighbors with over 3,323 km of international land border also share maritime space in Indian Ocean Region. To ensure robust presence and control of the maritime frontiers it’s the responsibility of the navy and its maritime forces to establish the writ of the state in alignment of national interests. For this purpose to understand and devise the role and duties of the navy a doctrine is established which acts as a anchor to establish the norms of the naval and maritime components and develop understanding among tri services (Army and Air-Force) and also of one state’s national maritime objectives with other states. Thus, for this purpose the establishment of a naval doctrine is necessary for a maritime nation. Pakistan being a responsible maritime state has published its own maritime doctrine termed as “Preserving Freedom of Seas” in December 2018.India on the other hand enjoys largest coastline of 7,516 km among any other maritime state with its blue water navy ambitions. The Indian Maritime Doctrine which was published in 2009 highlights the naval ambitions of yet a developing state which causes grave concerns and challenges to Pakistan’s maritime interests in the Indian Ocean Region. Thus, a comparative analysis of both these doctrines underlines the aims and objectives of how both these states perceives the space of Indian Ocean Region.

Indian Ocean Region

Indian Ocean Region is the worlds third largest water body which comprises an area of 65.556 million sq km and have a coastline of 66,526 km. The IOR lies in one of the worlds most contested region which is rich in natural resources including fossil fuels, oil and gas, fisheries and untampered ores and minerals. The IOR has four most crucial access points or choke points namely water ways of Suez Canal (in Egypt), Strait of Hormuz (between Iran and Oman), Strait of Malacca (located between Malaysia and Indonesia) and Bab-al-Mandeb (located near Djibouti and Yemen). The area is currently facing various turmoil’s and challenges including civil unrest, state conflicts and is in the lime-light of the major power politics and strategic interests. The northern part of Indian ocean region ferries 70% of sea borne oil trade and about 50% of sea borne trade.[1]

Pakistan and India both share a significant importance in the international politics due to their geographical positioning and relevancy to major land and maritime routes. Pakistan enjoys an area of 350 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone in Indian Ocean Region, while, India maintains a significant larger jurisdiction over 2.8 million sq km of space in Indian Ocean.[2] With over two naval engagements of 1965-1971 and disputed territories in the region including Sir Creek dispute, both of these South Asian states hold Indian Ocean as a vital component of their strategic apparatus in political, diplomatic and military domains. The economic importance attached to the mercantile component of the Indian Ocean Region thrives the economy of not only Pakistan and India but also the world at large with the onslaught of advance sea borne container freights and other vessels.

Pakistan’s Maritime Doctrine 2018

The Maritime Doctrine of Pakistan Navy was published in December 2018 during Maritime Security Workshop which was held at Karachi.[3] This doctrine was published after a research of seven years by the academicians of Naval War College. The doctrine is a comprehensive document on issues pertaining to the maritime affairs and role of Pakistan Navy in mitigating them in the light of national interests. The main role as highlighted by the document is to protect the vital maritime interests, ensure national security and mitigate threats posed by any sea based source, economic viability and implement vital foreign policy tools and diplomacy through the naval component. Other major factors highlighted by the doctrine highlights the commitments of Pakistan at the international level and the responsible role played by Pakistan to fulfill its role to ensure peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region under its Area of Responsibility (AoR).

According to the document, the role of the doctrine is to establish particular set of principles which are advocated by major policy narratives acquired through experience and provide guidance pertaining to certain issues. The purpose of the doctrine should be to highlight the important factors, give accurate and authentic information, while, remaining flexible with continuous change. The doctrine helps in analyzing and managing change, the shared principles and practices, and is the force behind the institutional development which pursue fundamental national objectives. The interplay between the policy, strategy and doctrine is based upon the national interests and objectives enunciated in the constitutional directives issued by political leadership.[4]

The Naval and Maritime Strategy

According to the document the naval strategy deals with the aspect of employment and deployment of the naval forces in time of war and peace. While, the maritime strategy comprises of a broader domain encompassing the issues pertaining to maritime ecosystem, economy, trade, security and safety, threats and opportunities emanating from the maritime domain. The economic component include the sea borne trade, fishery and marine resources, natural resources, while, the threats include sea borne human, drug trafficking, gun-running, piracy and poaching.

Maritime Force

The naval component of the strategy comprise upon the employment and deployment of naval fire power against surface, sub-surface, air and ashore based threats. The domain of the naval strategy also comprises of the electromagnetic and cyber domain also which are neutralized by various hardware assets and human capital having technological edge over the adversary. This technological edge is ensured by maintaining advanced cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, amphibious assault ships and other fleet auxiliaries.

Foreign Policy Tool

The maritime forces maintained by a state should be flexible, versatile, and sustainable giving them mobility and readiness to operate when and where needed as the need arises, thus, ensuring the naval supremacy of a maritime power nation. Moreover, navy is an important component of the foreign policy ensuring the pursue of entailed objectives such as freedom of navigation, extension of alliances through friendly port visits, aiding in humanitarian and disaster relief operations among others.

International Maritime Regimes

The interaction of states on the high seas is regulated and controlled by various international regimes mainly United Nations Convention Laws of Seas (UNCLOS-1982). The role of the international maritime regimes is crucial to regulating the sea space between the states. Pakistan being a responsible member of the international community is a member of various cooperative, economic and security regimes. Regimes such as Indian Ocean Maritime Affairs Cooperation which was ratified in June 1983 focuses upon ocean governance and management. The Indian Ocean Rim Association which was signed in Mauritius in 1997 focuses upon regional technological and economic cooperation in maritime domain among member states. The International Maritime Conference such as AMAN are held biennially from 2007 by Pakistan to promote cooperation among regional naval forces and share same sense of security towards the maritime threats and challenges. Western Pacific Naval Symposium emphasizes upon pragmatic cooperation between the major states and has developed code of unplanned encounters in sea among the member states which ensures safety and develop bilateral relations.

Maritime Security Initiatives

The maritime security initiatives were readily taken in the aftermath of the 9/11 incident in order to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through the international water ways. These initiatives ensure that the sea is safe from all threats and challenges. These initiatives comprises of issues relating to conventional maritime security issues, state sovereignty, non-traditional maritime security problems, terrorism, territorial disputes and human and drug trafficking issues. The initiatives comprises of International Ship Port Facility Security Code ISPS, which was launched in December 2002, focuses on security issues pertaining to port facilities and maintaining good order at sea. Other initiatives such as Automatic Identification System AIS is similar to Identification of Friend or Foe IFF but on sea regulating the movement of sea vessels and personnel onboard. Other multifaceted maritime security initiatives include Secure Freight Initiatives SFI, Proliferation Security Initiative PSI and Container Security Initiative CSI. These initiatives monitor sea based cargo and personnel movement through various checks and balances using non-intrusive equipment and optical character recognition instruments.

Maritime Environment

The progressive rise in the economic power centers especially in Asia-Pacific from trans-Atlantic has raised the stakes for the maritime component of trade, geo-politics and strategic dominance in the region. The threats in the region include jeopardizing the maritime trade due to political purposes, sea lanes of communications, combat restricted exclusive economic zones. The increasing maritime threats include smuggling, human and drug trafficking, gun-running. Moreover, the initiation of  China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC is the pilot project to enhance the economic importance of the Gwadar port and Pakistan in the region.

Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

Climate change is a considerable threat which is dramatically impacting the coastal domain, increasing the sea level, changing the wave patterns, soil sedimentation and unpredictable storm events. These alterations impact the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem and also threatens the coastal regions.

Collaborative Maritime Security

The collaborative maritime security initiatives include Pakistan’s active participation in the Combined Task Force 150 and 151 which has been regularly commanded by Pakistan Navy. These task force ensures that the water ways in the Northern, Western and Central Indian Ocean are kept free from piracy and trafficking, ensuring a safe environment to the economic trade and free movement of sea freight.

Command Of The Sea

The command of the sea is projected through maritime power which enables a nation to control the sea through various spectrums of threats including surface, air, electromagnetic and cyber domains. The naval strategies are adopted by various sea based platforms which perform naval blockade, Force benign role such as ensuring balancing and avoiding head on collision with a greater enemy, naval diplomacy, coercion, gun-boat diplomacy and deterrence at conventional, sub-conventional and nuclear level among many others.

Maritime Command and Control

Maritime command and control is ensured by having a situational domain awareness across the sea based on technological advanced intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition ISRTA systems. Thus, the domain awareness helps in establishing a more robust and flexible strike element according to changing threat environment. The contemporary increase in sub-conventional maritime threats has forced navy to converge its focus upon threats generating from non-state actors either at land or sea.

The nuclearization of the Indian Ocean by the adversary has raised the stakes in the region, while, the adversary is still instigating in sub-conventional warfare under the cover of nuclear umbrella. Thus, the deliberate desire of the enemy to keep the conventional theater alive calls upon changing the apprehensions regarding the conventional threat. The Pakistan Navy considers that the prevalence of deterrence across all the spectrums must be ensured and upon the failure of the deterrence the protection of maritime interests must be ensured at all costs. For this purpose Pakistan Navy has adopted the approach of provocative, and flexible mobility using the sea space, regulating attrition from multi-dimension cause dilution of enemy forces. Lastly the approaches include hit first with maximum effects and minimum application of force. The nature of naval warfare in coming era will require a robust and flexible force posture ensuring stealthy capabilities. The high-tempo and high-intensity diversion and disruption of sea lanes of communications of the enemy using submarine component of the force to dominate the war theater are among the major priorities of the navy.

The future warfare environment would be in a network centric environment which would be prone to cyber threats upon the major critical infrastructure. Navy is working on ensuring that the force is ready to overcome the future challenges in coming years ranging from information wars to cyber threats and ensuring interoperability of land and air-forces in synchronization with navy thus ensuring accomplishment of goals as desired by political leadership.

The Comparative Analysis of Pakistan’s Maritime Doctrine with Indian Maritime Doctrine

The maritime doctrine of India was published in 2009, which propagated the increasing role of Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region highlighting the Blue Water Navy ambitions of India. The doctrine of Pakistan Navy contrasts and contradicts the Indian Naval apprehensions at various points. While, both of the doctrines ensure to maintain the conventional and nuclear deterrence and ensure capability enhancement to overcome the upcoming information and cyber warfare domains. The Indian Naval doctrine undermines the chances of any Force-Benign and force balancing posture and subsequently highlights the of the role of maintaining a strategic superiority in the region. While, the maritime doctrine of Pakistan ensures that it is a responsible state by complying to international commitments pertaining to maritime domain. Indian Navy on the other hand does not highlight and discuss the importance of the maritime security initiatives altogether. Thus, this aspect highlights the Indian Naval ambitions to acquire superiority in the region.The contrasts in the doctrines of India and Pakistan are there to persist, but there are various similarities along various points relating to the command of sea and on war. The highlighted points include the realization of prevalence of sub-conventional warfare and the rapid change in the battle field and role of the navy in terms of combating various threats. The role of the navy has enhanced from maintaining control of the sea at non-conventional low intensity conflicts to conventional and all out nuclear conflicts including the total-war scenarios.[5]

Recommendations

To maintain strategic stability and effective control over the maritime domain it is recommended that Pakistan should engage in effective diplomatic relations with states in Indian Ocean Region especially Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar and engage in enhancing the naval capabilities of these states, lease naval assets and deploy listening posts in the region to maintain surveillance over Indian naval movements. This ambit could be further expanded to Strait of Malacca especially Malaysia, Indonesia and in Strait of Hormuz due to its economic and strategic importance as more than 80% of energy resources for Pakistan flow through the Persian Gulf.  Pakistan should  diplomatically engage Gulf States especially Oman which hosts Indian Naval listening post in Ras al Hadd to monitor the potential hostile naval activates of India Navy in specific which has enhanced its patrolling in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.[6] For maintaining an effective maritime domain awareness in the region it is recommended that Pakistan Navy should develop an Information Fusion Center (IFC) in the region including allies states which would enable to maintain a joint maritime domain awareness, further enhance the ambit of its Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) and Amman Naval Exercises.[7] This would enable the navy to develop a comprehensive network centric capability which would act as force multiplier and enabler for the navy to obtain its objectives as described in the maritime doctrine effectively. The strategic competition in the region and the changing strategic and military alliances following formulation of US Indo-Pacific Command following multiple strategic agreements between India and USA following 2+2 Dialogue, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA),[8]India US Logistical Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOSA), Basic Exchange Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue[9] would enhance Indian naval capabilities to project its blue water ambitions not only in the Indian Ocean Region alone but beyond that especially in South China Sea and Persian Gulf.[10]Indian also have developed its Information Fusion Center for Indian Ocean region to enhance its maritime domain awareness with collaboration with regional and international partners including US and Australia in December 2018.[11] Thus, following materialization of these agreements especially COMCASA would enable India to use not only US and NATO maritime domain awareness assets but also the real time and exclusive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in potential areas of interest in Indian Ocean Region and South China Sea vis-à-vis Pakistan and China’s naval capabilities. Thus, the emerging strategic picture following contemporary shifts in the region especially in maritime domain would pose a considerable threat to viability of maintaining command of the sea for Pakistan in its area of interest. For this reason Pakistan should develop and enhance considerable force structure, establish and deepen its strategic relations with the regional allies mainly China for enhancing its naval capabilities and maintain command of the sea according to its national interests and to counter the threats posed from Indian Blue Water ambitions.

Conclusion

The Indian Ocean Region is a shared space between not only the two South Asian neighbors but also by the whole world which is connected by the intricate web of land, sea, air and cyber links. The role of doctrines is to ensure stability and maintain rationality among the state actors in their dealings at various levels of analysis. The maritime doctrines of both Pakistan and India ensure that while they both long for peace and stability in the region they will not undermine their national security at any cost. To ensure peace and stability in the region, Pakistan has showcased its commitments to international community ensuring that it’s a responsible nation. While, the Indian on the other hand with their aspirations of becoming sole regional power are undermining their commitment to peace and security in the region. While, the trade and economics are a crucial part of the maritime domain Pakistan is working on readily to reinvigorate its economic resources to pursue its national interests accordingly. It is advised that India with its power ambitions may act a regional destabilizer that would enforce Pakistan to take provocative steps to maintain strategic balance.


[1] “Indian Ocean Region,” US Naval War College, https://usnwc.libguides.com/IndianOcean, Accessed on December 19, 2019.

[2] “The Exclusive Economic Zone of the Seas around India,” Geography and You, January 24, 2018,  https://www.geographyandyou.com/exclusive-economic-zone-seas-around-india/, Accessed on December 19, 2019.

[3]“President launches first Maritime Doctrine of Pakistan,” Pakistan Today, December 21, 2018, https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/12/21/president-launches-first-maritime-doctrine-of-pakistan/ (Accessed on December 19, 2019).

[4] Naval Headquarters, Islamabad, ”Maritime Doctrine of Pakistan Preserving Freedom of Seas,” 2018.

[5] Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defense (Navy), “Indian Maritime Doctrine,” 2009.

[6] “Indian Listening Station In Oman Monitoring Pakistan’s Naval Communications,”Aamen, February 27, 2013, https://www.aame.in/2013/02/indian-listening-station-in-oman.html

[7]SOHAIL A. AZMIE,“Regional maritime security patrols: Pak Navy’s initiative for preserving freedom of the seas,” The Nation, June 2, 2019, https://nation.com.pk/02-Jun-2019/regional-maritime-security-patrols-pak-navy-s-initiative-for-preserving-freedom-of-the-seas

[8] Ankit Panda,“What the Recently Concluded US-India COMCASA Means,” The Diplomat, September 09, 2018,   https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/what-the-recently-concluded-us-india-comcasa-means/

[9]Patrick M. Cronin, “US Asia Strategy: Beyond the Quad,” The Diplomat, March 09, 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/03/us-asia-strategy-beyond-the-quad/

[10]Dinakar Peri, What is LEMOA?,The Hindu, August 30, 2016,https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/What-is-LEMOA/article15604647.ecein

[11] Pradip R Sagar, “Indian Navy launches Information Fusion Centre to boost maritime security,” The Week, December 22, 2018, https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2018/12/22/Indian-Navy-launches-Information-Fusion-Centre-to-boost-maritime-security.html.

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Defense

Gray Zone Conflicts in Asia Pacific

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The Asia Pacific region holds front row seat in geo-political, economic, and strategic issues in international relations. The pivot to Asia policy of the west following shift of economic and technological base from the Atlantic to the Pacific region which tends to challenge and shift the global balance of power, western led international democratic system, following the economic rise of China. Thus, the emerging challenge put west in a precarious situation in which they felt to defend their hegemony and control over the region. For this purpose the west mainly US called upon using is diplomatic, economic and military elements of national power to contain the rise of China and maintain its hegemony over the region. Thus, the emerging tug of war for power domination in the region have given rise to gray zone conflict in which both sides are engaged in disrupting activities in between the threshold of diplomatic norms and total war. Either it be ongoing trade war, diplomatic and political or military coercion to a level which is short off any direct engagement leading to war and carried out to acquire veiled national interests. Thus, to analyze the gray zone conflicts in the Asia Pacific we can analyze and unfolding increasing hostility in South China Sea region. The ongoing US-China Tariff wars, increase in military diplomacy by the US in Asia Pacific under containment of China policy, use of coercive diplomacy and sanctions by the actors involved. Thus, analyzing and taking these dimensions into consideration we can categorize the contemporary events and policies adopted by the major powers along the sidelines of gray zone tactics.

Gray Zone Conflict

The changing nature of warfare strategies are based on engaging the enemy with an indirect approach which is above the line of normal diplomatic practices and below the threshold of an all-out war. This scenario has been described by various scholars as a Gray Zone Conflict in the strategic studies lexicon which is  broad manner means the activities which are conducted beyond the steady state deterrence in an attempt to obtain security objectives without resorting to direct use of sizeable force in conventional manner. The actors involved use various tools ranging from political coercion, disinformation campaigns, political and economic coercion, cyber and space based operations and most importantly use of proxy and state controlled elements are used to carryout the gray zone tactics. The use of these tactics could also be accessed by the analyzing the following toolkits:

Information and Disinformation Information Operations:

Use of print, electronic and cyber media domains to manipulate and distort the information or spread disinformation to create confusion and perish the enemy’s will to resist by spreading propaganda and sowing doubt. US and China both have engaged in a constant disinformation campaign against each other in contemporary era where US is continuously propagating China as a revisionist and oppressive state which is engaged in oppressing Uyghur Muslims in Xingang region, shifting the regional population into re-education camps. US being wary of China’s economic rise and game changing project of BRI is persistent to sabotage China’s growing economic rise and for this purpose has excessively propagative that China’s BRI projects have hidden objectives based on their vague deals, debt trap policy which would exploit weak economic countries giving China exclusive access and control over the resources of the poor states. China on the other hand has recently revived its foreign policy approach and is actively engaged in countering allegations waged upon it in international media which Chinese used to avoid previously. Trump administration has continuously blamed China of involving of corrupt practices blaming it to cover up spread of Coronavirus Covid-19 as early as November 2019, while, the world came to know about it in January 2020 with help of bribing WHO which didn’t carried out its job and helped China in covering the issue, thus, Trump administration tried to hide its own incomitances by articulating this narrative.

Political Coercion:

The use of coercive instruments which can illicit or licit tools to affect and manipulate the decision making and political composition process within a state to reach for a desired outcome. China has over the years tried to assert its control over the Hong Kong which is currently being run under one state two systemspolicy. China recently changed its security and internal prosecution and extradition policies following which riots and civil unrest erupted in Hong Kong. According to Beijing the increase in civil unrest had been fueled by foreign elements mainly UK which is trying to instigate the current situation to increase political instability in the region. China has also openly criticized the role of US intelligence agencies mainly CIA in order to disrupt the political situation in Hong Kong. John Bolton in his memoirs have also accused Trump administration of colluding with Chinese CCP under Xi Jinping to assist Trump government in reelection in 2020 presidential campaign, a claim which is denied by both states. But this highlights the level of political coercion and manipulation among the major powers to acquire control and power.

Economic Coercion:

The use of coercive economic and financial tools, use of sanctions, illicit financing, effect the exchange rate, balance of trade of an adversary to achieve desired objective. US-China world leading military and economic powers were engaged in trade war during July 2018 when US imposed tariffs and restrictions upon imports from China as it felt threatened that its economy was engaged into unfair and unequal trade with China which also violated the intellectual property codes and conducted corporate espionage harming US industrial sector. US was suffering from over $ 336 billion trade deficit and over $566 billion net trade deficit. Thus, President Trump placed tariffs over Chinese imports and China retaliated in kind. In July 2018 Trump administration imposed 25% tariffs on $50-300 billion worth of imports from China and China as a result imposed 25% of US goods comprising $34-60 billion.

The emerging trade wars between US and China is not isolated only to the trade wars but has its implications infringed into complex global economic system which is interdependent and proportionally linked with the policies and economic decisions made by one state impact others directly. China’s economy during 2000 was barely at par with US until China became part of World Trade Organization WTO in 2001. This gave China exponential growth opportunities for building its export relations ships with other states resulting in 10-40% turn over ultimately making its GDP over $14.2 trillion second to US only which had a GDP of over $21.44 trillion. China accounts for 50% of global growth and 30% of global prospects. The economic tensions resulting from US-China trade wars amid the pandemic had negative impact on global economy.

The trade wars among major economic giants have impacted the global economic integration with impact on businesses not only in US and China but have placed the global economic fabric in a flux and tension. US initiated trade wars against China to destabilize its economy, bring back the industries and factories back to US mainland from China. But according to wall street journal in January 2019 reported that China’s trade surplus amounted to $ 323.32 billion following US tariffs implementations despite Trumps efforts to restrict imports from China. This highlights that the enormous amount of imports and control of global trade market by China has over shadowed the US attempts to impact it. But it had adverse impact on global economic growth as according to IMF world economic outlook report the global economic growth had decreased from 3.6% in 2018 to 3.3% in 2019 following US China trade wars.

 Due to the impositions of tariffs US economy faced a drop of 0.3% of its GDP while its real consumption decreased by 0.3% and private investment by 1.3%. The economic rift between US and China also caused the stock exchange market of US to lose investment and over 1000 points in foreign exchange in August 2019. In contrast China was able to withstand the impact following the economic battle with US due to its control over the world economic supply chain. Thus, giving an insight that the US was much more vulnerable and dependent upon Chinese economy for its normal economic growth and consistency in supply chain. Following this, the US retracted from its economic war and lower the tariffs on imports from China by reducing over 15% of its tariff from over $120 billion imports while maintaining a tariff ban of over 25% on $ 250 billion worth of goods import. In response China reduced tariffs over $75 billion import trade from US. Following the peace trade agreement both states will work on enhancing their economic cooperation, improve and carry out legislative trade reforms. Thus, analyzing this situation the complex economic interdependence had forced both major powers to retract from their aggressive economic posture and negotiate their way out as the survival for their economies depend upon relative gains approach.

Cyber Operations:

Use of cyber domain to wage attacks in cyber domain by hacking, using viruses, trojan attacks, attack critical infrastructure, carry out disruption in communication, distortion of information and manipulation of political processes using malicious malware in cyber domain. US and China have both engaged in organized cyber operations against each other. While US had blamed China for carrying out industrial and corporate espionage, intellectual property theft using cyber domain.  US has banned various Chinese electronic gadgets and devices, telecom giants and revamped its own technological coordination from China based upon allegations of espionage and intellectual property theft conducted by China. The recent ban on Chinese tech giant Huawei from US and arrest of its CEO from Toronto Canada has been made under this context.

Space Operation:

Outer Space has become a competing zone for major power actors and they are in constant friction to maintain their dominance and hegemony by disrupting the competitors position of advantage  by interfering in space-enabled services, equipment, communication and satellites data uplink procedures. Both China and US are actively engaged in claiming the cosmos for themselves. Space is considered the battlefield of the future, with major states including the USA, China, and Russia maintains a constellation of 1327, 263 and 192 respectively out of over 2666 satellites in space. The majority of satellites used by these states act as important ISR platforms, communication relay bases, with scientific and environmental applications. The USA is the first state which has inaugurated its space force as a separate armed force on 21 December 2019 with a hefty budget of over $1.4 trillion. These space forces are designated to perform three major functions in strategic military roles which are to collect ISR, enhance protected communication and protected data link within the command hierarchy and also to protect own space assets while destroying and targeting enemy space-based assets by using kinetic kill vehicles such as Anti-Satellite Weapons ASAT or directed energy weapons. Both China and US have developed orbital and space missions to outer space in which China has gained subsequent advancement which was marked by landing its spacecraft Chang’e 4 on dark side of the moon for the first time in history. China recently also launched its orbital and rover mission to Mars naming Tianwen-1 consisting of a lander, rover and an orbiter in a single space flight which is also a remarkable feat in itself.

Proxy Support:

Use of non-state, quasi state elements to wage or obtain military objective or control a certain territory to influence or achieve specific political outcomes.    

Provocation by State Controlled Proxies:

The use of paramilitary elements in conjunction with private entities while aiding and financing them to achieve certain interests through informal use of force. This also includes sabotage activities, clandestine intelligence operations and use of private military contractors which operate outside the realm of normal state control and authority. 

SCS is one of the major focal point of friction between  China and the West. The region is estimated to be a rich source of energy and natural resources, a major sea lane of communication with geo-strategic implications. China has been asserting its control over the region under its revisionist policies claiming on  historic suzerainty claims and 1948 nine-dash line. China has actively gained its control over the region by creating military bases on  artificial islands in Spratly and Paracel islands, carried out extensive geo-logical surveys for extracting resources in the region while rejecting the concerns of regional states by deploying Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) strategy. While US has been actively engaged in enhancing its  diplomatic and military  cooperation with regional states to coerce China under the premise of Freedom of Navigation (FoN), increasing its military cooperation and carrying out routine naval and aerial patrols in the region. During May 270July 2020, US had carried out various air sorties of its strategic air command over the South China Sea and near Taiwan Strait in a blatant and blunt act of aggression and assertion against the Chinese A2AD and claims over SCS. China also had carried out month long naval exercises in the SCS region in response. US had also deployed strategic weapons in Okinawa, Japan and in South Korea by deploying Terminal High Altitude Area Defense THAAD, and Patroit Air Defense Systems (PAC) to keep China in check.  US has also enhanced its ambit of operations in the region by creating Indo-Pacific Command on May 30, 2018 which is under the area of responsibility of US 7th Fleet. Thus, the SCS have the potential to be a major flash point of confrontation between the major powers in the future if the brinkmanship has not been maintained by the either side if balance of power in the region is shifted. US also has engaged in Quadrilateral military partnership which include US, Australia, Japan and India. US had recently arrested and convicted a Chinese female PLA officer on charges of espionage and VISA fraud as she was working on cancer research in US on false identity along with three other people on similar charges.

Conclusion:

In contemporary era various geo-strategic and political events are unfolding in Asia Pacific region. While, the major powers are trying to reinstate and assert their control, hegemony while the revisionist state is upon the verge of consolidating its own strength over the region to further counter and challenge the status quo. While the Thucydides trap is a prevailing phenomenon when we talk about the competition in Asia Pacific region. Thus, by observing the situation in the context of above mentioned toolkit that helps in analyzing the role of gray zone techniques, we can say that US and China is engaged in gray zone conflict in Asia Pacific region, where both actors are trying to avoid crossing the threshold of a conventional and total war and deterrence and perusing their veiled interests by engaging political, economic, cyber and space operations and proxies. The region is also engaged in a complex economic interdependence situation which tends to effect and impact the global economy in an adverse manner. The outcome for a major power competition as defined by Thucydides is based on a zero sum game / absolute gains, while such a scenario can emerge if both states are unable to maintain the brinkmanship and cross the threshold of total war based upon misconception and wrong interpretation of each others actions.

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Defense

The Rafale Obsession

Moaaz Awan

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In the midst of great fanfare, the Indian Air force inducted five French-made Rafales into its inventory. These are the first five of a batch of 36 Rafale fighters purchased by New Delhi in a controversial multibillion-dollar deal. The planes are inducted over the longstanding demand of the IAF to diversify its inventory. The Rafales landed at the airbase at Ambala for rapid deployment amid rising tensions with China. The big question, however, is, if five Rafales change the strategic balance in India’s favor?

The answer is a big no! When comparing the Rafale with the J-20, there frankly is not much of a comparison. Acording to Global Times, Chinese expertsinsisted that the Rafale is only a third-plus generation fighter, and does not stand much of a chance against a stealth fifth-generation fighter like the J-20. The J-20 is a complete 5th Generation stealth fighter while the Rafale only has some stealth features. At most the Rafale is a 4th Generation Fighter and no doubt it would breathe new life into the IAF, but India already has Su-30s which are 4th generation too. It is not that the 4th Generation fighter is a new thing for the IAF. If so, then why all the fanfare?

India’s top twitter trend since the 29th of July was all about Rafales. Hashtags like RafaleInIndia, RafalepowersIndia, and the likes were trending in the Indian social media circles. The ruling BJP took full credit over the landings and India’s mainstream media gave the jets a red-carpet welcome, televising their whole 7000 Km journey from Bordeaux, France. Such a welcome is unparalleled in aviation history, as if a Messiah has arrived. Not to mention, Rafale is a French Made Fighter, and since when have imported products become a source of national pride? 

The “Rafale obsession” can rightly be explained by the phenomena of “Delusions of Grandeur” which unfortunately has gripped India thanks to its mainstream populist media. India is the 2nd largest population and with its great human resource it is no-doubt poised to be one of the major players in global politics. But it is too soon to consider itself as a regional power, let alone a global one.

The “Rafale obsession” also plays well with the ruling BJP. Clearly, in the recent tensions along the LAC, India woke up to a vigilant and vibrant PLA on its borders, something that New Delhi did not expect. At least not under the current increased US maximum pressure campaign. After the unfortunate death of 20 Indian soldiers, and the rising domestic pressure on the failure to control COVID-19 infections, the arrival of Rafales provided badly needed face-saving to the BJP leadership. But what is truly alarming is when the leadership can’t distinguish between myth and reality.

In a veiled threat to China, India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on the arrival of the Rafales tweeted about the Rafales capability and how India’s neighbors should be worried. This is a very dangerous trend as it shows that even India’s top political leadership is having Delusions of Grandeur. It is very pertinent that the Indian leadership should be fully aware of its military capabilities otherwise there is a chance of gross miscalculation on their part.  Overestimating military capabilities can lead to sudden unfounded confidence in one’s limited capabilities. In such circumstances it might be very easy to climb up the escalation ladder, only to realize later that the capabilities at hand are limited. The events of the 27th February 2019 serve as a stark reminder to the dilemma at hand.

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