It is undeniable that South Asia cannot afford another weaponry race among nations in the wake of recent frictional events between India and Pakistan under continued aggression of present Indian regime. After S-400 deal, India is moving towards the acquisition of multi-layered missile defence system. Pakistan’s Foreign Office has rightly expressed concerns over United States’ recent approval of Integrated Air Defence Weapon System IADWS sale to India. Surely such a deal would fuel the offensive posturing of India and is likely to disturb the strategic balance in South Asia, precisely putting Pakistan into another security dilemma. Additionally, the regional dynamics do not allow any offensive state to continue with acquisition of latest weaponry and bringing an asymmetry to already volatile region.
The proposed Integrated Air Defence Weapon System IADWS with an estimated cost of US $1.87 billion, is currently deployed around the Washington DC. It comprises of launchers, targeting and guidance systems, advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) and Stinger missiles (shoulder-fired Man-Portable Air Defense System, which is relatively effective, lightweight, reusable launcher), 3D Sentinel radars, fire-distribution centers and command-and-control units. IADWS is the advanced form of National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS-II).
According to Delhi’s Air Defence Plan, the national capital is set to get a multi layered missile defence system similar to that of Washington. The NASAMS will form the innermost layer of the protection of Delhi, as per the proposed overall air defence plan of the national capital. The layer over the NASAMS will be formed by indigenous Aakash defence missile system with a 25-km range. The Russian S-400 systems, scheduled for delivery in the October 2020-April 2023 timeframe, will provide the second layer of protection. These are the highly automated and mobile S-400 systems, which will have missiles with interception ranges of 120, 200, 250 and 380 kms, backed by their associated battle-management system. It is followed by Barak-8 medium range surface-to-air missile systems, jointly developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries and Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO). The indigenous two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD), comprising of advance air defence (AAD) and Prithvi air defence (PAD) interceptor missiles, system being developed by DRDO will be the outermost layer of Delhi’s missile shield.
Sale of such sophisticated weapon system to India carries serious implications for Pakistan and will bring repercussions for the whole region. Beside cross border conventional and sub-conventional attacks lately, Indian political and military leadership has repeatedly threatened Pakistan with an intent to be more aggressive in the strategic and cyber domains. Acquisition of IADWS signals the future intensity of airspace violation by India as was done in the recent past (Balakot airstrikes). Pakistan’s foreign office also expressed its concern and warned the international community of possible false flag operation by India to divert attention from its real-time state-sponsored terrorism.
Rather than ensuring peace and stability, the air defence weapon system sale to India shows US’ unwillingness to keep the regional equilibrium intact. In complete disregard to this concern, both the US and India obstinately proclaim that the latter one intends using such defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces, and to expand its existing air defense architecture to counter threats posed by air attack. Nonetheless, it will strengthen the US-India strategic partnership. In other words, despite Indian government’s blatant aggression and adventurism, the US stands unconvinced of India’s potential to drag the region into a confrontational future. Furthermore, the major powers’ continued defense support to India indicates deliberate neglect of regional peace. With enhanced air defense capability, firstly India puts Pakistan under pressure of acquiring equitable technology. Secondly, with such advancement India is likely to become more belligerent towards its rival states which would increase the chances of warfighting that could eventually cross the threshold.
To prevent further destabilization of the region, Pakistan proposed a discussion on a strategic restraint regime for South Asia which includes the proposal to avoid the induction of weapons contributing towards lowering of nuclear threshold. With normalizing strategy and prompt resolve, Pakistan has responsibly prevented an escalation in the region despite Indian provocations. It is now international community’s responsibility to carry out an in-depth analysis of regional dynamics and trace frictional events between the two nuclear weapon states. Furthermore, major powers with their rational and responsible approach must ensure regional stability via unbiased and stabilizing initiatives which would encourage both parties to avoid escalation.
*The author is a Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.