By M Suleman Shahid

July 22, 2016
India's BMD System and Challenge to Strategic StabilityOn May 15, 2016, India conducted a trial of its ballistic missile defence (BMD) system by testing its new anti-ballistic missile, Ashvin Advanced Defense (AAD), from the coast of Odisha – home to the Integrated Test Range, the primary missile test facility in India, located in the Bay of Bengal. The AAD successfully hit the incoming ballistic missile Dhanush, which was launched from Indian Navy vessel from the Bay. Intrinsically, the primary motive behind the Indian BMD program is to counter Pakistani missiles in the event of war, and provide a shield to main Indian cities. Furthermore, it is also probable that India is trying to test the space for fighting a limited war with Pakistan under the shield of the BMD system.

Pakistan has reacted to this test with concern, arguing that such Indian BMD tests will disturb the regional balance of power, and said the issue would be raised at international forums. Alongside, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sartaj Aziz stated that Pakistan will now also certainly acquire the advanced technology it needs to similarly improve its defense.

India began work on its BMD systems program in the early 1990s to especially counter the threat of Pakistani ballistic missiles. Initially, over 40 companies were involved in the program, whereas currently the US and Israel are also involved in providing assistance to India for developing this dangerous technology that will certainly disrupt regional stability.

Currently, in the same context, India is also developing other war machinery projects, such as nuclear submarines, SLBMs, Anti-satellite technologies (ASAT), cyber warfare technologies and shaping a‘Cold Start Doctrine’ (CSD) to identify the space it has for limited war. These asymmetrical advancements are great concerns for strategic stability, and may further entice the host country towards the actual pursuit of a limited war.

Irrespective of these other projects however, the BMD system alone will severely undermine the strategic stability between these two relatively equivalent nuclear weapons states. It will not only disturb deterrence stability by limiting the enemy’s capability to inflict ‘unacceptable’ damage, even if it can absorb a‘first strike’, but it also instigates an opponent to strike first, if they believes they are threatened. Such developments increase the level of strategic instability so much that any false alarm, technical fault or miscalculation has the potential to become an accidental cause of war. In the case of India and Pakistan, the former holds the advantage by possessing a BMD system, nuclear submarines and ASAT technology, while Pakistan, lacking all these advanced technologies, gets placed in the position of the threatened state.

In times of crises, these technologies will cultivate a sense of military ‘superiority’in India, encouraging it to activate its provocative CSD strategy, under the cover of the ballistic missile shield and second strike capability. Pakistan’s defense is similarly ‘India centric’, and unquestionably, in order to maintain the integrity and defense of the homeland, not only its armed forces but the civilian leadership will be looking to take every tough decision in the book, and utilize every measure it has available. If India attempts to start a limited war under the umbrella of its BMD system, then there is very limited possibility that the limited war will remain limited.

Secondly, given that the Indian BMD system is currently in its development phase, the impetus is now on Pakistan to put in place any necessary countermeasures to assure its defense, before the Indian shield goes live. It is the only way that any Indian superiority in war machinery will not compel Pakistan into further ‘gunboat’ or coercive diplomacy.

In this context, Pakistan must seek to improve the quality and quantity of its entire nuclear arsenal – in particular its ballistic missile force. The number of the nuclear warheads it possesses ought to exceed the ‘actual’ number of defined targets, so that in the event of war, despite the shield of the Indian BMD system, some missiles and warheads should be able to penetrate the offensive territory. Alongside, Pakistan must also concentrate on the development of its long range missiles, given that India is shifting some of its nuclear force into the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. An improvement in the quality and quantity of Pakistani ballistic missiles, like Shaheen III (range 2700 kilometers), especially long range missiles, could have the potential capability to counter the Indian second strike capabilities located in these islands, and hopefully discourage India from taking any provocative initiatives against Pakistan.

Currently, on the one side, India is stockpiling massive numbers of arms and fast becoming a serious source of regional instability, while on the other, the major powers, especially the USA, are assisting India in mega-projects that encourages this instability such as the development of the BMD system, the Indo-US nuclear deal, and most recently, supporting the Indian entry into Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) on a ‘favoritism’ basis. During every crisis between India and Pakistan, the USA has played the role of a mediator, defusing crises and emphasizing upon confidence building measures, and yet it is also the US that is assisting India in the projects and agreements which are at the heart of strategic instability in the region. With Pakistan however, the US takes no such stance, and is far from ready for any similar cooperation with Pakistan. The major powers’ dual policies in the region therefore, are primarily responsible exacerbating tensions among these historic adversaries.

Provocative Indian actions are compelling Pakistan to not only improve the quality and quantity of ballistic missiles, but also modernize and increase the size of its entire strategic force. In this context,the country is being forced to concentrate on options like improvements in its cruise missile force and Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) missile, improvement in tactical missiles and assured second strike capability. These capabilities are being developed not only to deter India from taking any unnecessary aggressive action towards Pakistan, as has been its wont, but it also becomes a source of confidence to Pakistan during any crises. Historically, Pakistan has always been the one to propose confidence building measures to reduce the risk of nuclear war and stabilize the strategic competition between the two, but India has always furthered the arms race by perpetually introducing modern war machinery in the region. Pakistan has also proposed the ‘strategic restraint regime’ to India, to decrease missile and conventional forces proportionally but India rejected this idea as well. In the end, Pakistan is left with no option but to take effective measures to restore the strategic stability and decrease the likelihood of any war between two nuclear armed countries.

He tweets at (@M_S_Shahid)

By M Suleman Shahid

March 31, 2016

After 9/11, the international community has been considering non-state actors as the greatest threat to world peace and security. Loose nuclear material and other weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) falling into the hands of terrorists comprises one of the greatest challenges in this context. As a result, the international community has taken many initiatives in the form of treaties, UN Resolutions and agreements to strengthen security around nuclear and other WMDs installations. Currently there are many initiatives that have been taken to strengthen the security of WMDs, like the UN Security Council Resolution 1540;Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material; Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, 2005 Amendment; International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities; Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism; Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction: Statement of Principles.

Before the start of Nuclear Security Summit 2010global attention was better focused on nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. However the Summit has shifted this focus entirely towards the security and safety paradigm. This move of the global nuclear order is due to the fact that the concept of nuclear security encompasses all relevant issues ranging from non-proliferation to safety and security of WMDs materials. Furthermore, the summit also provides the opportunity and a platform to de facto nuclear countries, i.e. Israel, India and Pakistan, to express their interests and concerns in front of an international audience. These countries are generally denied access to NPT Review Conferences as they are not signatories to the NPT, and the NSS is one of the few major platforms where they have effectively been able to put forward their perspectives on these issues.

The fourth and final summit is now due to be held in Washington on 31stMarch and 1stApril 2016, in which leaders from most invited countries will be participating. However the final Summit has lost much of its charm before it has even begun, as one of the key participants, Russia, has excused itself ahead of the event. Without Russia, this is a major power, a core player in global geopolitics and on such international forums, the final communiqué risks losing much of its strength and effectiveness. The country’s rationale for non-attendance in the final leg of the Summit series is the argument that nuclear summits are interfering in the activities of established and recognized international organizations such as the IAEA, which already tackle the issues being taken up at the summits, and that the NSS attempts to ‘impose’ the “opinions of a limited group of states” on international structures, which is “unacceptable.”Russia has stated that it will focus instead on a similar conference, also to be held in 2016, by the United Nations nuclear body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Furthermore, in the upcoming as well as in previous summits, Iran and North Korea have deliberately been kept from participating, despite their vital importance in the context of nuclear security as generally accepted nuclear players. North Korea is a nuclear weapon country, possesses delivery systems and an aggressive posture towards its neighbors in particular and world peace at large. One of the aims of the summit was to create awareness and a sense of responsibility among nations about the security and safety of nuclear material. Both North Korea and Iran have many nuclear installations and are part of the nuclear club, but the security issues surrounding their nuclear installations continue to be neglected by not having invited them to any of these four summits. The exclusion of Iran and North Korea in addition to the retraction of Russia from the Summit has put a serious question-mark on the credibility of final communiqué.

While initially the NSS was only focused on the security and safety of civilian nuclear energy installations, its scope is gradually expanding to cover the security and safety of nuclear material for military usage as well. This is because currently, approximately 83 percent of nuclear material is being used for military purposes, while only 17 percent of fissile material is being used for civilian purposes. However nuclear weapons states are resistant to this initiative as it calls for a higher level of transparency regarding their nuclear weapons programmes, and no state loves the idea of transparency where its weapons programmes are concerned.

Some stakeholders desire the continuation of the NSS as a parallel body to the IAEA, to specifically watch over the nuclear material of the world. Other countries, like Russia and Pakistan, however, consider it is a challenge to countries’ sovereignty. In this regard, both Russia and Pakistan have emphasized that civilian nuclear technologies are already being run under IAEA safeguards and instruction, and there is no need for any parallel mechanism to deal with nuclear security issues.

Obama’s initiative of these Nuclear Security Summits has also been criticized for various reasons, the first and foremost of which is that initially Obama showed willingness to ratify the CTBT, and resolve the issue of FMCT at the CD forum, but to date nothing has been achieved on either front. Obama’s statement on “Global Zero” also appears to be mere political rhetoric, as all previous efforts at international forums have either disappeared or become silent. Similarly, the Nuclear Security Summit also increasingly seems to be political rhetoric achieving little more than moral ground at international forums and reinforcing the US’ status as ‘protector of the world’, while taking no substantive actions to strengthen non-proliferation and security regimes in reality. It is also argued that given Obama’s status as the first black president of the US, he desires to associate ‘new records’ and a certain level of prestige with that status, particularly through ‘gimmicky’ breakthroughs such as the rehabilitation of relations with Cuba and Argentina, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the Global Zero Initiative.

Nonetheless, a major contribution of the Nuclear Security Summit is that it has created more awareness among world leaders regarding the safety and security of WMDs and related issues. In this context, countries have taken more progressive actions, strengthened security measures and established various training centers for the capacity building of the personnel from relevant departments.