By Asma Khalid*
The egional competitive environment of South Asia has fueled strategic tension and security anxieties between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan share a history of hostile relations, and bilateral relations of both nuclear states have been strained by a number of historical and political issues.
Both states have fought number of wars and limited conflicts since partition. Due to prioritization of security concerns of regional states, South Asia is undergoing nuclear and conventional arms modernization. However, the inception of nuclear weapons in South Asia has not only maintained the deterrence stability in the region, but at the same time instigated a nuclear and missile arms race. Thus under such circumstances, in the aftermath of Indian and Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998, Pakistan proposed the establishment of Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) to India for a durable peace in South Asia. But unfortunately India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyee rejected Pakistan’s proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime.
In February 2016, in response to India’s growing conventional and strategic weapons development in the region, Pakistan’s officials re-emphasized the desire for establishing the Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) in South Asia. So question arises why is SRR imperative in region?
The Strategic Restraint Regime is significant due to its three inter-connecting elements: First, nuclear restraint to maintain deterrence stability; second, conventional arms balance; third, for conflict prevention and conflict resolution.
The primary objective of the Strategic Restraint Regime was to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region as India-Pakistan relations have been dominated by a action-reaction syndrome. A Strategic Restraint Regime would be helpful in maintaining strategic and deterrence stability and accelerating the peace process in the region. It could be employed to build trust between India and Pakistan, and resultantly avert the chances of conflict escalation. It may include any sign of peace initiative towards a treaty. By effective implementation of strategic restraints, both states will be able to make their decisions more confidently in a less hostile and more stable environment.
it is unfortunate that, despite the Pakistan’s efforts of the establishment of a Strategic Restraints arrangement, India has emerged as the largest arms importer in the world in 2017. According to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report of 2016, with 14% global arms imports India is world’s largest arms importer. Therefore, the objective of SRR has not been achieved due to two factors: First: India’s intention to emerge as regional power. Second: Due to the role of external powers like United States and Russia. India’s co-operation in conventional and nuclear fields with United States and Russia, especially the India-US civil nuclear deal and 2008 waiver for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), has undermined the objectives of SRR, as well as disturbed the balance of power (BOP) in region.
Pakistan has been concerned with India’s arms agreements, Nuclear Submarine, Ballistic Missile Development (BMD) system and Missile development as these capabilities are leading India towards higher war-fighting capabilities from its minimum deterrence posture. These capabilities will increase the instability in the region and forces the regional states to acquire these capabilities to maintain deterrence and a Balance of Power in region.
Additionally, Indian missile developments have dangerous implications. According to reports, India has the fastest growing missile program in the world, with India having the ability to produce 90 to 110 nuclear warheads and its fissile material production stock is increasing rapidly. Indian nuclear and nuclear related developments have direct implications on Pakistan and regional states because these developments are considered as a threat to their security, regional stability and peace. Therefore in response to India’s nuclear and missile developments, Pakistan is forced to limit its resources of national building and human development to maintain strategic balance with India.
Such factors are fueling the arms race in region, the arms race is world-wide phenomena that instigate the Security dilemma and disturb the Balance of Power. It posesa negative impact on security and strategic calculus of state and influences the political, economic progress, human development and other elements of state. Impacts of arms race are dangerous as it affects the state’s security as well as pose the serious threats to human security of states as high military expenditures are resulting in fewer budgets for social development.
To address the regional security issues and negative impacts of arms race, Pakistan is demanding for nuclear and conventional restraints. In this regard: India’s acceptance of Pakistan’s proposal, Nuclear Confidence Building Measures (NCBMs), economic progress and continued effective diplomacy can open the ways to a strategic restraint arrangements between India and Pakistan to maintain deterrence stability in the region.
*Asma Khalid, Writer is Research Associate at strategic Vision Institute Islamabad.