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Prospects of India’s BMD Program and Strategic Implications for South Asia

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Strategic stability in South Asia has stayed delicate due to plethora of variables. Three fundamental threats to strategic stability in South Asia have been discerned as arms race, crisis instability and escalation risk between two nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan.[i] Security pandits have articulated that the increasing security dilemmas among India and Pakistan show a sterling test to South Asia’s strategic stability and to the deterrence symmetry. Induction of advanced conventional and non-conventional weapons with modern capabilities for instance, precision guided missiles with high level of readiness, sophisticated hypersonic and supersonic missiles, and ballistic missile defense system which can wreak havoc on rival’s countervalue and counterforce targets, is an eternal destabilizing threat for the region. India is struggling to acquire adequate Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system since 1990s. The Nuclear Agreement in 2005 between India and the US, was eager achievement for New Delhi to obtain its augmented desires of nuclear arrangement. The United States permitted New Delhi to use nuclear related material for the sake of peaceful purposes, India did defy not only to use material for nuclear triad (missiles, aircrafts, submarines) but also gradually operationalized the defense missile system to ameliorate its strategic position in the region. The India’s Ministry of Defense stated that New Delhi has excessively achieved its supreme milestone in building strategic capabilities to intensify security against incoming missiles of rival state.[ii]

However, Pakistan has worked on the development of dual-use of missiles, soothing offensive and defensive moods, which inadvertantly exposed Indian vulnerabilities to pre-emption and retaliation of Islamabad. Therefore, suitable convergence of nuclearization conjoined with ballistic and cruise missiles have favored Pakistan’s deterrence potential and credibility, which has compelled its rival state India to ensure the consideration of balance of terror in the region and distend its strategy in the purview of environment.[iii]

Meanwhile, New Delhi’s continuous arms struggles, in particular, advancements of its defense capabilities are deliberately making uneasiness for Pakistan. Therefore, the South Asian nuclear states are moving towards an unending arms race, which will categorically undermine the deterrence and stability of the region.

India’s Ballistic Missile Defense System

Since 2006, India has conducted ten tests of ballistic missile defense (BMD), it was successful in seven tests. In 2017, it conducted the test of high altitude interceptor missile with ambition to enhance ‘kill’ capacity in protect with endo and exo atmosphere against enemy’s incoming ballistic missile.[iv] New Delhi officials have stated that this intercepting system would safeguard major cities i.e. Delhi and Mumbai. On contrary, Islamabad officials have declared that development and acquisition of BMD system may give false sense of security to India and this would put the region into abyss of arms race and instability in the region is inevitable.

India’s development of defense shield forces is an effort to acquire more avid BMD system but unfortunately this offensive posture and inductance of sophisticated weapons are threatening strategic stability of South Asia. This adapted posture of India is in contention with Pakistan’s credibility of deterrence scale. Besides this, New Delhi has acquired two-tiered missile defense shield to protect its metropolitan cities. First tier is Prithvi Air Defense (PAD), this can intercept the enemy’s missile at high altitude of 80 km with the range of up to 2000 km. Second tier is Advanced Air Defense (AAD), this can hit enemy’s missile at lower altitude of 30 km. [v]In October 2016, India and Russia had signed an inter-governmental agreement over the supply of S-400 missile system, during the BRICS Summit. After two years, a formal agreement of $5.47 billion deal signed on October 5, 2018. The Asian News International reported on September 9, 2019 that Russia would deliver five S-400 Triumph missile systems to India within 18 to 19 months. The like, Indian news agency reported that delivery of S-400 might not be possible before the end 2021 due to the COVID-19 engagement.[vi]

New Delhi is trying to acquire multi-layered BMD system and enormous shield against China and Pakistan’s incoming missiles to shield its cities,[vii] and hinder foreign forces against pre-empted. India gives alienated arguments to justify its BMD program. One, it would curtail and impact the speedy Chinese military influence, and the other is, in distint sequence of events i.e. peace time, war time, post-incursion, defense program would formidably impact Pakistan’s counter and retaliatory measures. Instead other contentious factors are, for instance, power projection, prestige, geo-strategic, and geo-political ambitions to enlarge its approach in the region. Implausibly, India is going to be one of the five nations with operationalized BMD program.

The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)’s insufficiency in engineering BMD high technology, New Delhi is working together with states like Russia, the US, France and Israel to get support in technology sector related effective missile defense system, according to Indian Politician Ashok Sharma.[viii] Moreover, increasing strategic cooperation and excessive partnership between India and the US gave deceitful opportunity to India to get membership of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)[ix] and Wessenaar Arrangement (WA).[x] Besides this, kind contract to acquire dual use material like space technology, missile related high-tech, and augmented BMD system. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report of 2017, Indian imports of defense sector was ascent by 43% from 2007-2016.[xi] The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 20, 2017, declared that the government of India would spend $250 billion in the next ten years on its military modernization.[xii]

What India Believes?

According to Indian security scholars, BMD program is an appropriate option to protect itself from Pakistan’s retaliatory action and has an efficacy to protect from Pakistan’s ambiguous nuclear posture or the last resort option to use nuclear weapons against India. In other words, belligerent development of BMD program is the ability to attack Islamabad’s counterforce targets with cognition that there would be no risk from Pakistan to retaliate against India—in war time there would be no option of retaliation with Pakistan because Indian BMD will completely obliterate incoming ballistic missiles of the opponent.

Why else Might India’s BMD Program exist? What other purposes might it Serve?

Indian mannerism regarding its contentious perception is that its BMD program could destine to protect countervalue and counterforce targets from any hostile nuclear terrorist attack, there are greater chances of attack from either Pakistan or China.[xiii] Likewise, a research associate at University of Oxford and expert in South Asian nuclear studies, Rajesh Basrur asserted that India’s development and acquisition of defense missile system could reduce aforementioned vulnerabilities with certainity, if not completely banish it.[xiv] On the contrary, Pakistan takes on Indian silly argument with the assertion that its nuclear warheads are in safe hands, its national command and control program is meticulous, powerful and satisfied in standard with international community obligations. It is less confident to ruminate over Pakistan’s nuclear program and its use against New Delhi because warheads are confidential and unsought discovery for terrorists.

Indian strategic pandits argue that development of defense shield forces could help India to lower its offensive warheads and capabilities, the process will lead to encourage arms control mechanism among two nuclear states. As President Reagon estimated that development of American BMD program “could pave the way for arms control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves.”[xv]

The proponents of New Delhi’s installing of BMD system emphasize that its deployment would motivate the strategic stability in South Asia and would lead to unequivocal non-proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles from South Asia.[xvi] Theoretically, Indian BMD deployment would slow the production of missiles in the region.

Insofar, Pakistan gives paramount argument that Indian BMD system would boost India’s trust in its ability to strike first with the cognition that it would protect itself during war situation.

India’s BMD and Strategic Implications

Hypothetically, Indian BMD program has a defensive inclination, however it is a basic proportion of offensive intending to direct pre-emptive or preventive nuclear strikes without risk of Pakistan’s retaliatory nuclear strikes. It is an endeavor to mark the balance of terror, which is causing deterrence stability among New Delhi and Islamabad. Without a doubt, deterrence stability between the opponent neighbors is essential for enduring the strategic stability in South Asia.

India’s BMD program is to guard against missile strikes from Pakistan, the BMD programs likewise fortify the Indian air defense system. After fruitful development and organization of PAD and AAD, India managed dealt with Russia over S-400 missile system.[xvii] Henceforth, the BMD installing subverts the balance of strategic nuclear deterrence between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. The ramification is that BMD program may give the Indians a false sense of   security;[xviii] encouraging the Indian hawks to overlook the Pakistani ballistic and cruise missile defiances and effectively oppose confidence-building measures or endeavors to persevere through strategic stability in South Asia. India’s BMD program could have the following destabilizing results:

The defensive weapons, especially BMD, could sabotage the feasibility and efficacy of ballistic missiles. The trade off of the offensive strikes dents the validity of the retaliatory strikes, which deter the enemy from hostility. The likelihood of retaining a rival’s retaliatory strike in a crisis situation, which subverts the deterrence ability of a state wanting to dissuade the enemy with its ballistic missile capacity. Nonetheless, the BMD destabilizes the deterrence stability.[xix] The deterrence instability sabotages the strategic stability between the strategic rivals.

Second, the defense missiles deployment is a risk to nuclear deterrent stability involving strategic instability. It is destabilizing in light of the fact that it escalates a nuclear weapons contest among India and Pakistan. Many security scholars persuaded that BMD changes the nuclear order and reshape strategic stability, and can urge Indian leadership to take part in offensive activities or first strike, on the reason that they are safe to Pakistani strategic forces retaliation. That is the reason; the Indian ruling elite threatened to direct surgical strikes to demolish Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ability. On October 5, 2017, the Indian Air Force Chief Marshal, B. S. Dhanoa, had guaranteed that the Indian Air Force (IAF) could focus on Pakistan’s nuclear sites and could extend the surgical operations.[xx] The gravest risk presently is that India and Pakistan will jump into a stand-off that is neither in light of a legitimate concern for New Delhi nor Islamabad.

Third, India’s 2003 ‘nuclear draft depends on a counterforce strategy in India.’[xxi] The BMD arrangement expands the Indian hawkish leadership enticement for counterforce surgical conventional attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities to end the nuclear threat. Advocates of this course accept the Indian missile shield and threat of further heightening by India would dissuade Pakistan from reacting militarily to a limited first strike.[xxii]Perhaps, expanding confidence in the operational steadfast of the Indian BMD system can urge Indian hawks to execute enunciated strategy “jaw for a tooth” to bow-down Pakistani armed forces. Curiously, Islamabad will respond with its supposed tit for tat strategy, if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil.

Fourth and final, there are greater chances of pre-emption from both nuclear weapon states, if India deployed the BMD system. Chances of uncertainty will obviously be increased and commanders from both sides will perceive imminent threat from each other, in such case they will opt the option of launching nuclear missiles.[xxiii] That’s the situation where Thomas Shelling has called it “the reciprocal fear of surprise attack.”[xxiv] This puzzling situation rambles Pakistan to enhance the credibility and efficacy of its ballistic and cruise missiles to fix tit-for-tat against Indian BMD program before India attacks first. Curiously, Islamabad’s advancements of modernization of offensive forces makes Indian defense shield ineffective. Hence, many securitists and analysts have debated vis-à-vis concluded that America has spent billions of dollars to ornate missile sites with modern technology weapons but it still has not shoot down North Korean missiles. On the whole, Indian so-called defense shield encouraging the risks of war anda larger portion of GDP spendings are proposed to spend on defense sector.

Pakistan`s Response to India’s BMD System

The acquisition of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) by New Delhi in South Asian strategic architecture, clearly, intensifies Islamabad’s security dilemma clueless. Pakistan should act as intentional charlatan and must counter Indian BMD with intelligence. For this reason, Pakistan refurbishes its military posture, particularly nuclear posture, if India crosses the defined threshold of Islamabad, it would not hesitate to wipe out Delhi’s military threat.[xxv] Definitely, it is the time for Pakistan’s current policy makers that they neither avoid the economic circumstances nor compromise deterrence credibility. Whereas, the arms race with Delhi is not in favor of Islamabad. Pakistan can only win this race with viable option of ‘refusing’ to run in the race, even so, it cannot disdain the factor of India’s BMD program, but it can modernize its offensive weapons, do dual-use of these missiles, increase the size and speed of weapons, and increase its efficacy to penetrate Indian BMD program.[xxvi]

Although, Islamabad’s ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence’ nuclear posture has evidently deterred the state from Delhi’s coercive blackmailing of conventional and non-conventional threats.[xxvii]As Jeffrey Lewis has pointed out, “An enemy who can be deterred will be deterred by the prospect of a counterattack, even if it consists of only a few nuclear weapons. Beyond that minimum threshold, nuclear weapons provide little additional deterrent benefit.”[xxviii]Thus, Pakistan burnishes its offensive missiles with relative engineering to increase its efficacy in penetrating to defy enemy’s BMD system.

Hypothetically, there are three viables options to baffle and penetrate enemy’s BMD program:

First, the Indian BMD shield can be overpowered by a storm of ballistic missiles using the multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) technology to convey multiple conventional and non-conventional warheads. With MIRV the weapons can be propelled to various targets, can likewise be directed to one target to penetrate a missile defense system of the enemy. MIRV capability empowers Pakistan’s strategic forces to take on multiple targets with complacent of precision by a couple of missiles. It can also upset and destroys the radars of Delhi defense system. Military commanders have believed that MIRV is exceptionally viable against the enemy’s ballistic missile defense system.[xxix] On January 24, 2017, Islamabad successfully tested the medium-range, ballistic missile Ababeel, which has the capability to deliver multiple decoys and warheads. The range of Ababeel is almost 2,200 km — it can easily reach to major cities of India — it can storm multiple targets and it would be exceptionally lethal for the India’s defense shield. Michael Krepon and Travis Wheeler appropriately brought up that If New Delhi chooses to retain the expenses of ballistic missile defenses for high-value targets, alongside the radars to track and detect the enemy missiles, these costs will be futile.[xxx]Briefly, Ababeel is a ballistic missile to ‘kill’ India’s BMD shield.

Second, while using fighting aircraft with high speed to strike deeply and launch nuclear attack on enemy country, in that case, enemy’s defense system technologically will not resist the attack.[xxxi] Finally, attacking the enemy state and penetrating its BMD system with supersonic cruise missiles flying at low-altitude is possibly a vibrant option to defy enemy’s BMD system.[xxxii]The like,in December, 2016, Islamabad conducted the successful test of medium-range missile called Babur-2.

Pakistan can additionally improve the adequacy of its missiles by advancing and commissioning decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, warheads with exceptionally low infrared induction and Multiple Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) to storm multiple warheads over incoming targets. Subsequently, Pakistan’s qualitative and quantitative improvement in its nuclearized cruise and ballistic forces have posed a daunting challenge to the Indian BMD program.

Notwithstanding, Pakistan would need to build up a BMD system to ensure its significant cities’ protection, even so, it is not advisable option for Islamabad due to high cost. Altogether, India hopes to go for MIRV advancement and extending the ranges of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and land-based missiles for counterforce targets against enemy. Pakistan have various choices of changing its ballistic missiles into MIRV high-tech when it felt necessary. The prime applicants with Pakistan are the Shaheen-II and Shaheen-III missiles, with the range of 2,000 km and 2,750 km, respectively, these offensive forces can approach any city of India within few minutes. Intensifying tactical and strategic weapons (i.e. Nasr, Ababeel)with upgraded version and validity would credibly enough to penetrate and destroy adversary’s deployed BMD program, no worries, how the devastating BMD system might be.[xxxiii]

Conclusion

To sum up, today indigenous BMD program for Islamabad is neither advisable option nor executable because it will lead to unending arms race – a destabilizing factor for South Asian strategic stability. In this manner, Pakistan’s missile program reveals that its ballistic and cruise missiles are becoming more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate. Pakistan is solely dependent upon offensive ballistic and cruise missiles rather than moving towards defense program, yet the proceeding of nuclear deterrence among Pakistan and India guarantees the strategic stability in the region.

Indian induction of defense programs like AAD, PAD and the S-400 missile system to its ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, would be an effort to acquire more avid system but unfortunately this would put the region into abyss of arms race and instability. Admittedly, it is known to the world that New Delhi is trying to acquire multi layered BMD program which is intensifying arms race inevitable in the region. The development and acquisition of defense system may give false sense of security to India. In the exchange of fighting with enemy, Pakistan has dedicated faith that it will take care of incoming missiles of India. Therefore, in a conflict it would be impossible for India to have such a system that can intercept short range missiles flying with low-altitude like Ghaznavi, Nasr, and Babur, insofar, it is a leverage for Pakistan to ensure efficacy over Indian BMD system. It has been the Indian attitude which compelled Islamabad to enter into vertical arms race, and develop cruise and ballistic missiles like Raad and Ababeel equipped with MIRV capability. To counter India’s vulnerability to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the main path is to quantitative and qualitative advancement in Pakistan’s tactical and strategic weapons. It is critical to note that Pakistan isn’t looking for parity with India yet just keeping up the balance of terror to keep up peace and stability in region. This is the Indian offensive posture and inductance of sophisticated weapons which is threatening strategic stability of South Asia.

References


[i] Asma Khalid, ”India’s Balistic Missile Defense System: Strategic Implications,” Modern Diplomacy, Sep. 29, 2018 (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/09/29/indias-ballistic-missile-defense-system-strategic-implications/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

[ii] Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,” The Washington Quarterly, 40:3 (October 2017): 188.

[iii]Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for India-Pakistan Strategic Environment,” NDU Journal, 25 (2011): 3.

[iv]Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,” The Washington Quarterly, 40:3 (October 2017): 187.

[v] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Report: India’s Homemade Anti-Ballistic Missile Shield Ready,” The Diplomat, Jan. 08, 2020 (https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/report-indias-homemade-anti-ballistic), accessed date July 24, 2020. 

[vi] Air Cdre Jamal Hussain, “India’s Acquisition of S-400 Air Defence System: Implications For the PAF,” Strafasia, Feb 13, 2020 (https://strafasia.com/indias-acquisition-of-s-400-air-defence-system-implications-for-the-paf/), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[vii] Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,” The Washington Quarterly, 40:3 (October 2017): 190.

[viii]AshokSharma, India’s Missile Defense Programme: Threat Perceptions and Technological Evolution,Manekshaw Paper15 (New Delhi: Centre for Land Warfare Studies, 2009), 15.

[ix] “The Missile Technology Control Regime at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, July 2017 (https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/mtcr), accessed date July 21, 2020.

[x] “What is the Wassenaar Arrangement?” Wassenaar Arrangement, https://www.wassenaar.org/, accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xi] “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2016,” SIPRI Fact Sheet, February, 2017 (https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/Trends-in-international-arms-transfers-2016.pdf), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xii]“Rigid rule trip Modi’s $250 billion plan to modernise India’s defense,” The Economic Tmes, July 13, 2018 (https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/rigid-rules-trip-modis-250-billion-plan-to-modernise-indias-defence/articleshow/60370605.cms), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xiii] Mehtab Ali Bhatti, “Indian BMD and the Prospects for South Asian Strategic Architecture,” STRAFASIA, August 04, 2019 (https://strafasia.com/indian-bmd-and-the-prospects-for-south-asian-strategic-architecture/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi]Manpreet Sethi, “Nuclear Arms Control and India: A Relationship Explored,” Arms Control Association, September, 2010 (https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010-09/nuclear-arms-control-india-relationship-explored), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xvii] Nitin J Ticku, “S-400s A Game-Changer For India; Indigenous Missile Defense Systems Useless: Chinese Expert,” The Eurasian Times, May 07, 2020 (https://eurasiantimes.com/s-400s-a-game-changer-for-india-indigenous-missile-defense-systems-useless-chinese-expert/), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xviii] Hasan Ehtisham, “Indian BMD will offer false sense of security,”  The Express Tribune, Sept. 12, 2017 (https://tribune.com.pk/story/1503613/indian-bmd-will-offer-false-sense-security#:~:text=India%20is%20geographically%20vulnerable%20in,route%20but%20an%20offensive%20strategy.), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xix]“Russia’ssale of S-400 missiles to India may destabilise region: FO,” Dawn, Oct. 20, 2018 (https://www.dawn.com/news/1440164), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xx]Vishnu Som, “We Were Ready to Strike Pak Army Brigades Day After Balakot: Ex- Air Chief BS Dhanoa,” NDTV, Dec. 15, 2019 (https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/bs-dhanoa-ex-indian-air-force-iaf-chief-were-ready-to-strike-pakistan-army-brigades-day-after-balako-2148986), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxi] Zafar Khan, “India’s Ballistic Missile Defense: Implications for South Asian Deterrence Stability,”* p.193.

[xxii] Asma Khalid, “India’s Balistic Missile Defense System: Strategic Implications,”*accessed date July 25, 2020.

[xxiii]Manpreet Sethi, “Nuclear Arms Control and India: A Relationship Explored,” Arms Control Association, September, 2010 (https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010-09/nuclear-arms-control-india-relationship-explored), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xxiv] Schelling, Thomas, “The Reciprocal Fear of Surprise Attack. Santa Monica,”CA: RAND Corporation, 1958 (https://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P1342.html), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxv] “Pakistan has Cost-effective soultion to India’s latest ballistic missile defence system: Report,” The Economic Times, Nov. 07, 2018 (https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/pakistan-has-cost-effective-solution-to-indias-latest-ballistic-missile-defence-system-report/articleshow/66535188.cms), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xxvi] Mansoor Ahmed, “Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Their Impact on Stability,” Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, June 30, 2016 (https://carnegieendowment.org/2016/06/30/pakistan-s-tactical-nuclear-weapons-and-their-impact-on-stability-pub-63911), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxvii] Sannia Abdullah, “Pakistan’s Full-Spectrum Deterrence: Trends and Trajectories,” South Asian Voices, Dec. 14, 2018 (https://southasianvoices.org/pakistan-full-spectrum-deterrence-trends-trajectories/), accessed date July 23, 2020.

[xxviii] Jeffrey Lewis, “Minimum Deterrence,” Arms Control Wonk, June 30, 2008 (https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/201936/minimum-deterrence/), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xxix]“Pakistan has Cost-effective soultion to India’s latest ballistic missile defence system: Report,” The Economic Times, Nov. 07, 2018 (https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/pakistan-has-cost-effective-solution-to-indias-latest-ballistic-missile-defence-system-report/articleshow/66535188.cms), accessed date July 22, 2020.

[xxx] Michael Krepon, “The Second Coming of MIRVs,” STIMSON, Jan. 26 2017 (https://www.stimson.org/2017/second-coming-mirvs-0/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

[xxxi] Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “Countering Indian Ballistic Missile Defense & strategic stability in South Asia,” 2018 (https://ndu.edu.pk/issra/issra_pub/articles/margalla-paper/Margalla-Papers-2018/02-Countering-Indian-BMD.pdf), accessed date July 24, 2020.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Saba Hanif, “Indian BMD program: Strategic Response of Pakistan,” Modern Diplomacy, April 19, 2020 (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/04/19/indian-bmd-program-strategic-response-of-pakistan/), accessed date July 25, 2020.

Mehtab Ali Bhatti is pursuing degree of strategic studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His major areas of interest include political science, international affairs and security studies.

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The Greek-Turkish Standoff: A New Source of Instability in the Eastern Mediterranean

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Since 2011, Eastern Mediterranean affairs have mainly been marked by instability due to the civil wars in Libya and Syria. Recently, a new source of tensions further perplexes the situation—the Greek-Turkish standoff. Currently, Athens and Ankara disagree over sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Specifically, they both claim rights in maritime zones which have not yet been delimited. The nature of the problem is not new, dating back to November 1973. What is new is the breadth of maritime zones the two sides disagree upon. The attention has shifted towards the Eastern Mediterranean in the last ten years, while it had only focused on the Aegean Sea before energy discoveries were made in the Levantine Basin in 2009.

Greek-Turkish relations were relatively calm from 1999 until 2016. In 2002, Athens and Ankara launched the so-called “exploratory talks,” a format to exchange views on thorny issues informally. The 60th round of bilateral exploratory talks took place in March 2016 and was the last until now. After 2016, cooperation between Greece and Turkey continued—for example, on the management of the refugee crisis—but the latter employed a different foreign policy approach. Seeing the EU door almost closed and having to deal with the post-coup domestic priorities, President Tayyip Erdogan sought to strengthen his country’s regional role. He placed more emphasis on national security issues and was not hesitant to forge closer ties with Russia and China. He has lacked predictability in international affairs.

Eastern Mediterranean waters could not but come to Turkey’s interest when hydrocarbons were discovered in the Basin. Cyprus followed Israel in proceeding to explore and exploit some reservoirs, such as the Aphrodite field, in close collaboration with some international energy companies. Like any other sovereign country in the world with resources, it had the right to develop them. The Republic of Cyprus had already entered the EU in 2004, but the island remained divided after the Turkish military invasion of 1974. From the very beginning, Turkey disagreed with the practices of the Cypriot government and acted to protect, in its view, the Turkish Cypriot community. Such actions became bolder in 2018. Turkish vessels began researching and drilling in Cypriot waters, although the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is grounded on international law. The reaction of both the EU and the U.S. was very mild. As a result, Turkish ships uninterruptedly continue their operations as of today. Having been disappointed with the EU’s stance, on September 21, 2020, Cyprus decided not to sign the list of European sanctions against Belarus unless Brussels moves to impose sanctions on Turkey over its violation of Cypriot sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

August 2020 saw Turkey expand the same policy in regard to Cypriot waters, particularly maritime zones south of the island of Kastellorizo. The Turkish government sent the “Oruc Reis” ship to conduct research in disputed waters, according to the terminology of the American administration. It was accompanied by frigates causing Greece’s similar reaction. The research lasted for more than four weeks. On September 21, Ankara did not renew the relevant NAVTEX fueling speculation about its motivations. While maintenance reasons are officially presented as the main reason for the return of “Orus Reis” to the Antalya port, the decision is generally seen as a sign to diffuse tensions in view of the EU-Turkey summit of September 24–25, where the possibility of sanctions is likely to de discussed. Nonetheless, Turkey has declared the vessel could soon continue its mission.

The crisis is far from over. External mediators, namely Germany and the U.S., call for dialogue. Other partners such as Russia, China, France and the UK also advocate for a diplomatic solution. In principle, dialogue remains the only way forward. However, Greece and Turkey have completely different agendas. Turkey opts for negotiations without preconditions on a variety of themes. Experience from history—when the Aegean Sea was the epicentre of attention—shows Ankara is aware that international law would hardly favour its position, should talks only be concentrated on the delimitation of the continental shelf. The Turkish government endeavours to boost its argumentation by publicly talking about the geographic position of Kastellorizo, yet steadily combines other demands along with the proposed arrangement of maritime zones. Greece suspiciously sees this tactic.

Another reason for pessimism is that Turkey complements its position about future dialogue with Greece with some proposals on the island of Cyprus. Specifically, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has talked about the establishment of an equitable revenue sharing mechanism and other schemes with the participation of all parties, including the Turkish Cypriots. Whether the two themes, Greek-Turkish relations and the rights of Turkish Cypriot and perhaps a revival of talks on the Cyprus Question are to be linked, will be seen. As a matter of principle, Athens and Nicosia do not accept the participation of the Turkish Cypriot administration in any negotiations or meetings. And they both see the Cyprus Question as an international and European problem. Having said that, Greece and Cyprus raise provocative Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean at the EU level, whereas Turkey prefers direct negotiations on outstanding issues. Despite this alignment, Athens does not negotiate on behalf of Nicosia.

So, where are we? NATO “deconfliction” talks are continuing and Germany is pushing both Greece and Turkey to engage themselves in new exploratory talks. The most delicate part of the task is not to talk about the need for dialogue but to make dialogue a success before a new military crisis occurs. Russia has also offered to mediate if asked, as the problem is an area of concern for the American administration and NATO first. From a Greek perspective, good ties between Russia and Turkey are a thorn in Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s initiative to mediate. Of course, this can also be a blessing in disguise. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decided to publicize his interest in holding a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin at the end of July, while important meetings between Greek and Russian officials took place in recent days. Foreign Ministers Dendias and Lavrov regularly talk to each other. Greece strives to achieve balance between its clear foreign policy choices and the difficult but possible rewarming of ties with Russia, acknowledging the rising role of the latter in the South.

From our partner RIAC

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Why the “Coronavirus Ceasefire” Never Happened

Dr. Andrey KORTUNOV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From our partner RIAC

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Defense

India’s strategies short of war against a hostile China

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

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

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

Options for India

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

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

Foreign Policy

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

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

Military policy

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

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

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

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

Strategic partnership with US

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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