The formation of international regimes established after World-War -I and II was aimed at maintaining international peace and security. However, a stable world order demands a just and fair approach by major powers. Of course, in South Asia, this factor is overshadowed by the complex dynamics of the region. The stability matrix of South Asia is always under stress, due to long-lasting conflicts between — India and Pakistan, further aggravated by great power competition in the broader Asia-Pacific region.
In the global context, the western bloc, primarily the United States (US), is focusing on containing China’s economic rise and its influence in Asia-Pacific through strengthening of bi-lateral trade and strategic partnership with India. Due to great power competition, the international community has overlooked the security element in the context of South Asia, which can endanger regional peace and strategic stability.
Due to great power competition, the international community has overlooked the security element in the context of South Asia, which can endanger regional peace and strategic stability.
In 2008, US and India signed a nuclear deal in order to assist Delhi in coping with its energy crisis. This eventually has led to the potential of strengthening its strategic capability. Under this deal, the US enabled India to get a Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) waiver. This exception to India has set a precedent for its membership in export control regimes, including Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The moment India became a member of MTCR, it extended the range of BrahMos missile from 290km to 490 km. The waiver aggravates the situation and affects regional strategic stability. For instance, in March 2022, this was illustrated during the BrahMos missile incident. This was the first time in history that one Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) launched a missile attack on another NWS, with zero reaction from the international community. The Indian actions or intentions should have attracted the attention of the international community, particularly, as India is considered being an adherent of export control regimes. On the contrary, in a similar development in November 2022, when the eastern border of Poland was likely struck by a conventional S-300 air defense missile of Russia, killing two people. The incident was taken up as a serious matter by the international community.
India has embarked upon building military prowess and strategic advantage in an unprecedented manner. The cooperation by the West has led India to enhance its defensive capabilities through military and technological advancement. It is enhancing its nuclear capabilities by developing its fast breeder reactors, nuclear powered sub-marines, Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), acquiring Ballistic Missile Defense while strengthening its air defense mechanism. Proliferation of such high-impact weapons capabilities can put the strategic stability at risk. With all this, India can opt for an opportunity to carry out preemptive operations against Pakistan. This is so because India’s weapons/missiles are already on ready to launch mode, which was also anticipated during BrahMos missile incident. Moreover, the strengthening of Indian defense capabilities would assist Delhi in changing its nuclear policy from No First Use (NFU) to First Use and military strategy towards counter force targeting and first strike. This would inevitably compel Pakistan to take some assertive measures in order to prevent any outside threat.
Since India is considered as an important strategic ally of US, its inclusion in other security alliances could further disturb regional peace. For instance, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad axis) will push India to boost its naval coverage and exercises in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) in order to dominate it. On the other hand, the majority of Pakistan’s trade is seaborne, dependent upon the safe and secure sea-lanes of communications. India, which has a Hindutva ideology and wants to suppress Pakistan in order to maintain its regional supremacy, can get a chance to opt for a naval blockade which can hinder Pakistan’s economic activities in IOR. The Indo-US strategic partnership has enabled Delhi to enhance its defense capabilities, which is reinforced by possible formation of an alliance between India, France and US (INFRUS). This aims to empower India by enhancing its deterrent capabilities against regional powers. In another incident, India became confident of waging a limited war against Islamabad. India conducted a so-called surgical strike against Pakistan in Balakot in 2019. This could have resulted in hardcore response but Pakistan reacted responsibly to deescalate the situation. Given Indian belligerence and hegemonic designs, a future conflict may not remain limited and can escalate to total war in South Asia. This will surely have spillover effects in the region and beyond.
Given Indian belligerence and hegemonic designs, a future conflict may not remain limited and can escalate to total war in South Asia. This will surely have spillover effects in the region and beyond.
The special treatment of India by the US and the west has given it confidence to desire conducting a hot -testing of thermonuclear devices and has been requesting the West for its support, by using the card of stability matrix in Asia-Pacific. If it happens, Pakistan will be left with no option but to enhance its deterrent posture to the best of its capabilities.
It is high time that the international community and the established regimes should realize that the exceptional favors for India for their vested interest can create challenges for sustaining strategic stability in the region. To overcome such challenges, Indian hegemonic ambitions to be a regional policeman must be put in check to maintain regional peace and stability.
Dr. Rahat Iqbal is currently working as an Associate Director Research at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad, Pakistan. She holds a Ph.D. Degree in International Relations from University of Peshawar, Pakistan. She can be reached at Rahatemail@example.com or can be followed on twitter@rahatiqbal4