NATO’s Expansion: Implications For South Asia Security – OpEd

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As a result, of the war between Russia and Ukraine, the National Security Strategy (NSS) framework has led a new debate, and it appears that joining NATO is the best defense for Scandinavian countries. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine as the biggest to occur since World War II and the start of hostilities on the EU continent. Due to this, in establishing a new security environment that significantly changed the nature of contemporary politics, unexpectedly, resulted in the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. 

Historically, two Nordic nations Finland and Sweden had been following the path of military neutrality until February 2022. On April 4, 2023, Finland joined NATO as its 31st member. In addition, Sweden as a 32nd member on March 7, 2024, formally joined the alliance. This occurred after both Turkey and Hungary ratified Sweden’s accession treaty with delays. Through this significant step, Finland and Sweden’s joining NATO could be seen of the shifting dynamics of security threats and the need to form a collective defense alliance in order to safeguard their interests to maintain strategic stability. 

The North Atlantic Treaty, which signed on April 4, 1949, formed the Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that was a military alliance formed to be a counterbalance of Soviet armies positioned in central and Eastern Europe at the aftermath of the World War II. In fact, this significant move has provoked the geopolitical environment, which has provoked Finland-Sweden to adopt a policy of military non-alignment.

As, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, defines by NATO which states that the signatory states agree that, defines the core principles of NATO that for any such undeclared and armed attack upon any one among them in EU, North America or anywhere else, the same will be considered as happening to all of them (NATO). Thus, USA’s being an internal strength within NATO empower prioritizing collective defense, which is not only beneficial to the collective defense, but also to the national security and deterrence. Under this article it explained that the Russian Federation was described as “the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area” in a June 2022 statement from the 30 NATO members, which also reaffirmed their “unwavering support” for Ukraine. The statement also included an official invitation for the two nations to join NATO.

Finland and Sweden such decision to join NATO directed towards a new debate and its implications for the South Asia. India as a strategic partner of the US and Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally may impact differently, considering their various historical and geopolitical ties to other NATO members. For India, it could see the accession as beneficial for her interest. The strategic cooperation between India and the United States has been strengthening over the last few decades. Therefore, India may view these Nordic nations’ admission to NATO as a further sign of their alignment with Western nations, especially the US. 

In comparison to India’s regional adversaries, especially China and Pakistan, this alignment may strengthen India’s strategic position. India may also explore this as a chance to strengthen defense relations with NATO by exchanging intelligence, holding joint exercises, and transferring technology. India could also use its expanding alliances with NATO members to bolster its defense capabilities and tackle shared security issues like maritime security and terrorism. 

On the other hand, Pakistan might react more cautiously to NATO expansion. Pakistan and the United States have had a complicated relationship throughout history, characterized by times of close collaboration and tense hostilities. Pakistan’s strategic assessment mostly shaped by its rivalry with India, and it with recent US-India’s growing relations, particularly NATO’s countries, will influence towards India. In future, the NATO membership of Finland and Sweden could exacerbate regional security issues, especially in South Asia sensitivity where both India and Pakistan have fought wars. In this backdrop, Pakistan may take a more cautious stance towards NATO expansion because of this impression, maybe asking Western nations for reassurance about its own security interests and concerns.

In defining relations with NATO Allies, Pakistan as the Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) and India as a US strategic partner would alter due to NATO expansion. The possibility for changes in defense cooperation and diplomatic ties now arises from Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO. 

Pakistan has become a Major Non-NATO ally (MNNA) in 2004, following the September 11 attacks 2001, by joining the US in the War on Terror. Nevertheless, since gaining its independence, India has upheld a policy of non-alignment and strategic autonomy. It has not pursued formal alliances with military blocs like NATO, despite working with other nations on defense and security matters. 

In fact, the possibility of NATO partners making a strategic alliance with India, which would be a result of Indian civilization’s status as an American strategic ally, has the capacity to balancing the South Asian equilibrium many places and would have implication for Pakistan. .This situation, especially, might increase the danger of armed conflict in South Asia that would certainly aggravates current issues and cause a vicious cycle of military escalation, endanger strategic stability and arms race.

Dr. Abida Rafique

Dr. Abida Rafique, Research Officer, CISS AJK

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