ISLAMABAD: Leading international experts believe that while regional security was being adversely impacted by India-Pakistan rivalry, it has now been further complicated by the rivalries of great powers.
They were speaking on the last day of the two-day international conference on “Nuclear Deterrence and Strategic Stability in South Asia” that had been organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), an Islamabad based think tank.
The conference was addressed by a number of international as well as local experts. The think tank believes that equilibrium of nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan is the underpinning of the South Asian strategic stability.
Pakistan’s former permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva Zamir Akram said that while deterrence equilibrium may have been achieved in South Asia, but there is no nuclear order in the region. He reminded that nuclear order, which is based on managed systems of deterrence and abstinence, is achieved through multilateral or bilateral agreements, processes of dialogue and moratoriums.
He recalled that Pakistan-India agreement on non-attack on nuclear facilities; Lahore agreement; unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests; and initiation of other Confidence Building Measures was the first step taken towards setting up of a nuclear order in the region. However, the opportunity for a stable nuclear order was lost by India’s rejection of Pakistani proposal for Strategic Restraint Regime.
The situation has been further complicated by absence of a dialogue between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, increased hostilities along the Line of Control and Working Boundary and the repression of the freedom movement in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Underlining Pakistani commitment for a stable and sustainable nuclear order in the region, Ambassador Akram said Pakistan remains ready to resume dialogue in bilateral and/or multilateral format for this purpose.
“Nuclear order is further destabilised by impact of emerging global developments; US-China rivalry, US-India strategic partnership, Nuclear waiver for India and continued discrimination against Pakistan,” he added.
Former director general Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA) at the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) Khalid Banuri said India was responsible for the problematic situation wherein two nuclear weapons states were not talking to each other. “South Asia is caught up in endemic hostility, where India is refusing to come to the table”.
Speaking about the security dilemma in which the region is caught, he noted that cannisterisation of missiles, acquisition of S-400 missile systems, and nuclearisation of Indian Ocean by India were disturbing developments.
Dr Zafar Khan, who is teaching at National Defence University Islamabad, proposed that security dilemma could be mitigated through creation of some form of restraint regime in South Asia, adhering to agreed confidence-building measures, maintaining a moratorium on nuclear testing, increasing economic integration and most importantly seeking resolution of outstanding issues particularly the core of Kashmir.
Dr Kenneth Holland, who is associated with the American University of Afghanistan, maintained that trust and confidence between India and Pakistan, based on mutual benefit was key to achieving strategic stability in South Asia. He noted that the region’s stability was also being affected by the security and economic interests of three great powers; China, Russia and the United States. “The rivalry between China and the U.S. is the strongest force affecting South Asia’s stability, one consequence of which is that India is an ally in the American Indo-Pacific strategy,” he stressed.
Dr Bhumitra Chakma from The University of Hull, in his presentation which reflected the Indian perspective about the challenges of strategic stability in South Asia, said strategic stability in South Asia is being strained by multiple factors. “Indeed, South Asia’s nuclear security dilemma is complicated not least because of India-Pakistan enduring rivalry, it is also complicated because of its extra-regional dimension,” he expressed.
About the absence of steps for normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India, Dr Chakma said, “Deterrence stability will remain challenging as long as the two countries cannot come to a political understanding.”
He further said that deepening strategic partnership between China and Pakistan, as manifested by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, raised fears of encirclement in India. He, therefore, proposed a triangular dialogue on nuclear doctrinal and operational issues involving China, India and Pakistan for addressing strategic instability in South Asia.