Ever since Pakistan became a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy has been in practice on the principles of restraint and responsibility. Pakistan was even reluctant to enter the club of nuclear weapon states but soon after India had conducted its first nuclear test in the year 1974, going nuclear became Pakistan’s strategic compulsion. India’s series of nuclear tests in 1998 had compelled Pakistan to demonstrate its nuclear weapon capability accordingly to restore the strategic balance in South Asia. The development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability primarily serves the purpose of a credible and reliable defence against the existential threat from India and to maintain peace and stability in the region. After the inevitable nuclearization of South Asia, Pakistan has never been a part of any arms race in South Asia. Pakistan can neither afford and nor have an intent to indulge in an arms race in the region This is evident from the very fact that Pakistan has always been open for dialogues and arms control initiatives at the regional and international levels. In this regard, Pakistan’s recent proposal at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva is also part of its responsible nuclear diplomacy to urge the international community to take steps and develop consensus on arms control and disarmament. These factors show Pakistan’s commitment and adherence to achieve the goal of nuclear non-proliferation.
As part of its non-proliferation efforts, in the past, Pakistan had also proposed various Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)at the regional level. For instance, in 1974 Pakistan had proposed to make South Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ), in1978 proposal for the joint Indo-Pak declaration renouncing the manufacture and acquisition of nuclear weapons was presented. Similarly, in 1979 Pakistan had proposed the mutual inspection of each other’s nuclear facilities to build confidence and promote transparency. Moreover, being a responsible international player, in 1979 Pakistan had proposed to simultaneously sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)along with India as non-nuclear-weapon states. In 1988 Pakistan had proposed a bilateral treaty to ban the nuclear tests to elude overt nuclearization and reduce the nuclear risk. With the high risk attached to the emerging technologies and delivery systems, in 1994 Pakistan had proposed the South Asia zero-missile zone. Hence over the period, Pakistan has continued its efforts towards nuclear CBMs by proposing various regional and bilateral non-proliferation initiatives. These were aimed at strengthening strategic stability and to reduce the risk of any nuclear conflict in the region. Unfortunately, India has always shown a negative attitude to all such proposals and disrupted various technical, political, and strategic level talks on nuclear CBMs. This historical evidence further validates Pakistan’s appropriate nuclear diplomacy and enhances its credibility as a responsible nuclear-weapon state.
In continuation of its responsible nuclear diplomacy, most recently at the plenary meeting of CD, being held in June 2020, Pakistan has put forth its concerns regarding the nuclear disarmament. While speaking at the conference, Pakistan’s permanent representative to CD Ambassador Khalil Hashmi deliberated upon that with the emerging global conflicts, the consensus on non-proliferation and disarmament has also abraded. The likelihood of a resumption of nuclear testing by countries like the USA, Russia, and India and increased prospects of nuclear use has made the global arms control regime dormant. The increasing trend of double standards and discrimination of the western countries was also highlighted. It was pointed out that the politics of granting waivers to certain states particularly India serves as one of the reasons that the confidence in the nuclear non-proliferation regime has eroded. India’s aspiration of regional hegemony and aggressive military posture against Pakistan are the main contributing factors towards instability and turbulence in South Asia. Moreover, India’s non- compliance with international law has emboldened it to intimidate its neighboring countries and to continue its brutalities in the Kashmir region. India’s irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric combined with its enhanced and aggressive nuclear capabilities is a huge threat to regional peace and security.
To address the above concerns, Pakistan has outlined eleven points roadmap to build the global consensus on non-proliferation. Some of the important steps include; the ‘right of equal security for all states’ in both conventional and non-conventional domains at the national and international levels. The SSOD-I (Special Session on disarmament) has unanimously agreed to this principle of equal security. This shows that Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy and its non-proliferation efforts have been acknowledged at such an international forum. Another pragmatic step would be that through a non-discriminatory Fissile Material Treaty, all the states must eliminate the current fissile material stock and abandon future production. Likewise, all non-nuclear-weapon states must be provided with security assurances until nuclear disarmament is achieved. A non-discriminatory and universal agreement must be developed to address the concerns regarding the proliferation and development of ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) systems. Furthermore, there is a need to strengthen laws to prevent the militarization of outer space and development of LAWS (Lethal Autonomous Weapons System) to be brought under international regulation. Hence to deal with the existing and future challenges to nuclear non-proliferation, international efforts are needed to rethink and re-evaluate the foundations of the non-proliferation regime.
Hence, in this nuclear age, global strategic stability cannot be achieved through discriminatory non-proliferation measures. There is a need for an enabling environment at both the global and regional levels for successful nuclear non-proliferation engagements. In South Asia, India’s offensive doctrines of a limited war under a nuclear overhang, nuclear brinkmanship, and notions of a splendid first strike have posed a serious threat to regional security. In this regard, CBMs and crisis control along with nuclear risk reduction are direly needed to help reinstate a stable regional nuclear order. This would likely serve the key to enduring peace and stability. Despite India’s perilous and pessimist role in the non-proliferation realm, Pakistan should continue to act responsibly and maintain a constructive and responsible nuclear diplomacy.
COVID-19 and Challenges to the Indian Defence Establishment
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain situation all over the world. It is defined as the greatest challenge faced by the world since World War II. At a certain point, the pandemic had forced world governments to announce lockdowns in their respective countries that led to more than half of the human population being home quarantined. Since then, social distancing, travel bans, and cancellation of international summits have become a routine exercise. Most sectors such as agriculture, health, education, economy, manufacturing have been severely hit across the globe. One such sector which is vital to national security that has been impacted due to the pandemic is defence.
The effect of influenza and pneumonia during WWI on the US military was huge. The necessity to mobilise troops across the Atlantic made it even ideal for the diseases to spread rapidly among the defence personnel and civilians. Between mid-1917 and 1919, the fatalities were more so due to the disease than getting killed in action. Due to COVID-19, there have been many implications within the defence sector. Amid the ongoing transgressions in Ladakh, it becomes imperative to analyse the preparedness of the Indian defence establishment to tackle the challenges at hand.
Disrupting the Status Quo
Many personnel in the Indian armed forces have been tested positive for COVID-19. This puts the operational capabilities at risk. In one isolated incident, 26 personnel of the Navy had been placed in quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19. The French and the Americans had a great challenge ahead of them as hundreds of soldiers were getting infected onboard their Naval vessels. Furthermore, the Army saw some cases being tested positive as well. In one such incident, the headquarters of the Indian Army had to be temporarily shut down because of a soldier contracting the virus. These uncalled disruptions are very dangerous for our armed forces. These disruptions challenge the recruitment process and training exercises.
Since the Indian Army has been involved in quarantining tasks, this exposes the personnel to the virus. As a result of this, the first soldier was tested positive on March 20 in Leh. Among them, those who work as medical personnel are even more exposed to the virus. In order to enforce damage control to the operational capabilities, the Army made sure that the non-essential training, travel, and attending conferences remained cancelled. They called off any foreign assignments and postings for the time being. The Army also made it a point to extend leaves for that personnel who were already on absence. This was a major preventive measure adopted to prevent further infection.
As a result of the lockdown that had been imposed nationwide, the defence services were forced to temporarily stall all the activities that relate to soldiering during peacetime. These activities include training, pursuing professional qualification, fitness tests and regimes, equipment maintenance such as unit assets and stores, up-gradation of the cadres among others. Since the Indian Army boasts of a force that has signed up voluntarily to guard the borders, most of the troops are away from their families, which makes it even more difficult during the times of crises. The mega biennial naval exercises scheduled to be held in Vizag were cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 41 navies were planned to be a part of the joint exercises called MILAN. The Service Selection Board (SSB) training and the recruitment process have been put to a halt as well. This will severely impact the intake process for this year.
The Army’s capable of operating in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment and has sufficient equipment like infantry vehicles, helicopters and tanks which can operate without any hassles. Since instances of chemical warfare have been witnessed in West Asia and other regions in the last two decades, the focus of the Army has been on that and not on biological warfare. Most Armies believe that bio-weaponry is still fictional and won’t come into play any time soon. Naturally, due to this mindset, most Armies are not capable of handling biohazards. This is a major setback in the time of COVID-19 and has to be addressed.
Riding Down the Slope
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian economy has been nose-diving day by day. This is some bad news for the defence sector since the military spending will possibly be reduced as a result of the slowdown. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent. This is one of the lowest in the history of post-independent India. Allocations and spendings will naturally take a hit and will take a long time to revive again. Defence manufacturing will also face a setback and discourage indigenous players who are looking at getting involved in the manufacturing and innovation sector. MoD has already received the Ministry of Finance’s circular that called for the defence spending to be limited to 15-20 per cent of the total amount allocated. This will ensure that the defence budget is not the priority for the finance ministry. A gap of Rs. 1,03,000 crore has been highlighted between the requirement and the allocated money. More than 60 per cent of this allocated amount anyway goes towards paying salaries and pensions. This means that the modernisation efforts will face a major slowdown in the next two years. Defence procurement is already difficult due to the bureaucratic hurdles, now the monetary crunch only adds more woes.
Moreover, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier that more than 9,000 posts belonging to the Military Engineering Services (MES) will be abolished in the said industrial division. The reason cited was that this would bring about a balance to the expenditure. Due to the lockdown, the military development has taken a hit and has seen a decline in the production of freights. As of now, there is no manufacturing that is ongoing as far as fighter planes or aircraft, in general, is concerned. Some of the signed defence deals and contracts are said to be reviewed due to the financial crunch. India’s defence budget is expected to see some cuts due to the economy slowing down. The pandemic has worsened this even further. There is already an existing order to cap the spending for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Most of the payments that are being disbursed is largely that of paying for the existing contracts. This will diminish any scope for procurement of newer defence equipment that helps in modernising the armed forces in the long run. According to a report, it says that the Ministry of Defence is looking at a savings of anywhere between Rs. 400 and 800 billion in the 2020-21 financial year. To quote Yuval Noah Harari from his recent article in the Financial Times would seem relevant in this case, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.” India has displayed the significant political will to make impactful decisions during the pandemic. The question is, how far and how soon can we push ourselves to be prepared on all fronts?
Rafale deal: A change in aerial balance in South Asia?
The induction of the first consignment of five Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force inventory is considered to be a game-changer in the aerial balance of the South Asian region. A multi-billion-dollar package will be beneficial to increase the air prowess of Indian Airforce. While equipped with weapons of tangible accuracy including long-range SCALP and Meteor missiles, it will be able to hunt any target with accurate precision. The arrival of French-made engines has concerned neighboring Pakistan and China due to its high accuracy of conducting sea and ground attacks.
The experience of operation ‘Swift Retort’ and Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, compelled New Delhi to introspect the efficiency of IAF in any major or minor engagement in the future. The deal to acquire Rafale fighting jets to plug the loopholes in the aerial power of IAF was inked in September 2016. This induction is meant to enhance the Indian Air force’s operational capabilities and will also assist it to overcome the technological disparity with the US manufactured Pakistan’s F-16 and Chinese Chengdu JF-17 thunder. However, the task for PAF to restrict IAF moves in the future has become more challenging. Despite its competence and better training of its personals as compared to IAF the air superiority is still not guaranteed if the technological gap between IAF and PAF gets wider. Notably, it’s hard to assess the proficiencies of one jet over another because the ‘man behind the machine is more critical’.
Rafale is a twin-engine Medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRC) whose design instigate from Dassault Mirage with an up to date frame of the 1990s, already used by the French Navy and air force as well as by Egypt and Qatar. Furthermore, these jets were also engaged in combat missions in Afghanistan and Libya where they demonstrated a high proficiency. Whilst JF-17 thunder holds a conventional design originating from Mig 33 having an airframe of 1980s and it also demonstrated its capabilities in PAF’s Operation “Swift Retort”.
In an overall assessment, JF17 is a lightweight, conventional, fuel-economical, and cost-effective jet aircraft. The most momentous factor in JF17 thunder is it’s beyond visual range capabilities and integration of AESA radar that will not only allow detecting the wide-ranged targets but also to detect and lock multiple targets instantaneously. Meanwhile, it is less disposed to jamming and leaves a low sign to radar that makes the detection of fighter difficult hence increasing its reliability. Moreover, a crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform and its cost-effectiveness makes itself a suitable aircraft for the Pakistan air force. Similarly, the ability of any up-gradation domestically for JF-17 also increases the feasibility of this aircraft, while Rafale lacks this opportunity because Indians lack the platform that can guarantee any domestic up-gradation for Rafale. Generally, Dassault Rafale is advanced in airframe, delta wing Canard design, semi stealth specter to counter threats as well as MBDA meteor that makes it a very affluent fighter with a high operational cost.
Rafales are considered superior over existing fighter jets present in PAF inventory and with the advanced technology they will relish an edge over Pakistani jets. But in case of any aerial engagement on Pakistani soil, Experts orate that in such a scenario Pakistani fighters will enjoy an edge due to its enhanced Air defense ground environment (ADGE) and also a window will remain open for PAF that when and where to carry out a counter strike as it did during operation ‘Swift Retort’. In such case, Indian numerical advantage and war resilience will be of less significance because these factors are relished by the party having a counter-strike option and that party will decide that how much allocation of resources is needed to engage for a mission after having a careful assessment of adversary’s air defense capabilities.
It’s also important to know that PAF and IAF can carry out surprise air raids nearby to the international border in peacetime without the probability of interception by adversary radars. Neither sides have the strength and capabilities to maintain 24/7 air surveillance across a 3323-kilometer long international border. Hence it’s also necessary for Pakistan to counter or deter any kind of surgical or tactical strike in the future. But the concern is still there that after the Balakot experience will India be deterred for conducting similar strikes in the future?
While viewing this scenario and having an experience of Balakot episode, PAF efforts to enhance its capabilities of airborne intercept radar and BVR missiles in JF-17 thunder’s fleet are noteworthy. However, PAF should pursue an up-gradation on its existing F16 squadron. The presence of Rafale and S-400 air defense system will be challenging for PAF to retaliate, but the Indian S-400 and Rafale jets can’t shield the whole international border so the PAF needs a careful assessment to choose the targets that are not under the umbrella of S-400 or the access of Rafales while keeping in mind not to carry out an action that can trigger the adversary towards any escalation.
In a nutshell, the arrival of French-made engines equipped with long-range SCALP and meteor missiles having high precision is not only beneficial for Indian air prowess but it has also concerned its neighbors notably Pakistan for countermeasures. The experience of Operation Swift Retort and the recent military standoff in Ladakh has compelled New Delhi to modernize its Soviet-era air force by the induction of Dassault Rafales that will provide IAF an edge over the existing fighter jets in PAF’s inventory. However, the crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform increases the feasibility of JF-17 thunder in PAF’s inventory. Hence in case of any aerial engagement in future the numerical advantage will be of more concern as 100+ JF-17 thunders will relish an edge over 36 Rafales and PAF will have the option of counterstrike that when and where to carry out a retaliation after carefully assessing the adversary capabilities in light of S-400 air defense system and Dassault Rafales. Hence Rafale jets have air superiority over existing Pakistani fighter jets but it can’t alter the aerial balance in South Asian region unilaterally.
India’s Hegemonic Design for Indian Ocean Region
“Whoever controls the Indian Ocean has India at his mercy. India cannot exist, without the Indian Ocean being free. The Indian Ocean, therefore, remains truly Indian.” (K M Pannikar, 1945)
Indian Ocean Region has become a hub of trade and economic activities over the decades because the major maritime trade route passes through it. The IOR provides an outlet to the Persian Gulf states to supply oil all around the world. The West completely depends on the oil of the Middle East which is supplied through the Indian Ocean Region. The IO connects Africa, Middle East and East Asia with the USA and Europe. Approximately 40% of offshore oil production of the world comes from the Indian Ocean. In the future, the dependence on the supply route will increase which is likely to upsurge hostilities in IOR. That is why this region is termed as one of the most dangerous regions. In the post-Cold War, terrorism, smuggling, piracy and political instability made this region volatile. The IOR is a waterway of commerce. India imports 70% oil through the Indian Ocean region. India’s 95% trade is carried through the Indian Ocean. Any interference in the IOR has a devastating political-economic impact on India. For that reason, the Indian Navy is keen on controlling IOR. It is ascribed as the hegemonic power due to its hegemonic strategies and dominating nature. India as a hegemonic power wants to regurgitate its maritime strategy to appear as the security provider of IOR. The IOR is now witnessing a strategic competition of regional and international powers to get a hold on it. Indian Navy is one of the fifth largest Navies of the world with 250 aircraft and 171 vessels. India developed two nuclear submarines namely Chakra and Arihant capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles.
The nuclear submarine of India is a threat to IOR. India is ambitious to control the Indian Ocean and it is gaining access to the strategic location of Duqm and Chabahar ports. The Iranian port Chabahar will provide India access not only to Afghanistan but also to the Central Asian States, Russia and Europe bypassing Pakistan. The Duqum port provides access to the Red Sea. The hegemonic designs of India are aimed at isolating Pakistan and control the IOR. India’s decision to develop a port in Indonesia, a military base in Seychelles Island and agreements with France, Singapore and the USA is evident that it has ambitious strategies for IOR. The PM Modi visited the Maldives soon after assuming the second term. The BJP government is focusing on the BIMSTEC (a regional organization)to prioritize relations with members’ states such as the Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka Indian Navy aims to include 200 ships fleet by 2027 as per Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) to secure the interests of India in the IOR. The MCPP will bolster India’s influence on the region. The IOR has seen power competition during the Cold War era and currently, India is aspiring to acquire the status of the hegemonic power of IO. India’s strategic partnership with France and the USA provides access to Djibouti near the horn of Africa and Madagascar and Diego Garcia. India has 295 assets of the navy that includes 139 patrol aircraft, 14 frigates, 16 submarines, 22 corvettes and 11 destroyers. In 2016, India signed the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement with the USA to open up equal access to both states in each other facilities. India also deployed its ships in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to take maritime operations. Indian Navy is making use of its strength and capability against the neighboring states specifically Pakistan. Albeit, Pakistan is numerically less but always stands against Indian aggression. Operation Dwarka is evident in PN professionalism and dedication. On September 7, 1965, the PN attacked the Indian town Dwarka to destroy the radar station which was providing guidance to the Indian bombers. In the war of 1971, once again the PN proved its professionalism. The Pakistan Navy submarine Hangor get down the Indian INS Khurki killing 176 sailors and 18 officers on board. This was the largest wartime casualty by the Indian side. Once again Indian Navy carried out aggression against Pakistan in the post-Pulwama incident. Pakistan Navy blocked the entry of Indian Scorpene Class submarine into Pakistani waters on March 4, 2019. Pakistan Navy didn’t attack the submarine. This is the second detection of the Indian Navy submarine by the PN. Earlier, in 2016, PN detected an Indian 209 class submarine in November 2016 following the Uri incident. The Indian Navy attempted underwater hostility against Pakistan but it was also detected by the PN Air Arm’s P3C Orion aircraft. The PN forced the Indian submarine to surface to reveal the identity. It shows the sinister ambitions of the Indian Navy in the IOR. By doing so, the Indian Navy desperately tried to gather intelligence information and sabotage the joint project of Pakistan and China CPEC and Gwadar. After the Pulwama attack, an Indian Navy vessel entered into Muscat and remained there for two weeks fearing the PN patrolling in the sea. Later on, it was rescued by the large aircraft carrier to rescue it back home port. This incident is a contradiction to the Indian Naval Chief claims that he made in 2018 with Republic TV and Navy Day address that the Indian Navy is ahead of Pakistan Navy and PN is not a threat to India. Moreover, the Indian Navy is witnessing a number of incidents since 2013 that raise concerns over the professionalism of IN. In 2017, the rear hatch of the Indian Navy Arihant nuclear submarine was left open accidentally which lead to the saltwater flooding in the submarine. Following the incident, the submarine remained nonoperational for 10 months. The same year another nuclear submarine of IN Chakra suffered damage to its sonar dome while entering into the Visakhapatnam harbor port. The security IOR requires skillful and professional navy that the Indian Navy doesn’t retain. In August 2013, INS Sindhurakshak incident 18 officers and sailors died. The incident happened due to age-related problems. The life service of the submarine is 30 years and most of the IN submarines are 3 decades old. In 2014, INS Betwa was hit while entering into the Mumbai port. In March 2019, an INS Sindhukesari caught fire. In the same year, another incident of firing took place in INS Vikramaditya killing one officer Lt Cdr DS Chauhan while it was on board. The former Chief of Indian Navy Admiral D K Joshi made political establishment and bureaucracy for the mishaps of the Navy. The Indian Defense Minister ManoharParrikar briefed parliament that in 2011 approximately 24 submarine accidents have been taken place in the Indian Navy. Indian defense analyst Ajai Shukla also pointed out the weakness of the Indian Navy in equipment procurement which is a hurdle in the modernization of the navy. Russia delayed the delivery of the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier for four years and consequently, the Indian Navy has to rely on the aircraft carrier that is operational over the 60 years. The Indian Navy is relying on the aging war shipments. Out of 10 kilo-class Russian submarines, 3 out of service. Out of 10 Sindhughosh Kilo-class types of diesel submarine, only 8 are operational while one is exploded and one is in dire need of patch-up. The aging vessels and submarines put in danger the operation safety and national security. In the meantime, the incidents of INS are increasing. American Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment reported that IN submarine incidents are likely to grow until and unless India addresses the institutions and structural issues. Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta called Indian Navy as “arming without aiming”. Indian Navy cannot retain its control over IOR due to red tape of bureaucracy, political interference, mishaps of the submarine and aging Naval fleets. Therefore, it needs to work with the Pakistani Navy to secure the IOR.
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