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Nuclearisation of Indian Ocean | Editorial

Pakistan has expressed concern over covert practices of India, which is engaged in carrying out tests of nuclear-capable, long range, submarine missiles in the Indian Ocean. The Indian move could impact the delicate strategic balance of the region. In March 2016, India reportedly started conducting a test of its homegrown intermediate range Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) K-4 secretly from an undersea platform in the Bay of Bengal in a bid to boost its deterrence capability. The reported Indian tests have resulted in the ‘nuclearisation’ of the Indian Ocean. Both neighbouring states are already engaged in regional conflicts, making the possibility of regional nuclear war a big concern. That leaves both countries too vulnerable to a nuclear launch by accident, miscalculation or even cyber attack.

By carrying out the test, India has violated an agreement reached with Pakistan in 2005 on the pre-notification of ballistic missile tests. Highlighting India’s irresponsible attitude, it brings into focus the uncomfortable scenario of India’s ambitions of getting nuclear hegemony in the India Ocean, a scenario that is fraught with many risks. Command and control systems cannot be declared perfect, with room for human and mechanical and systematic errors. The possibility of an unauthorised launch—or even an authorised launch without time for due consideration is simply too high. Moreover, the recent induction of nuclear powered submarines and other warships clearly indicates Indian hegemonic posture in the region that is creating security dilemma for Pakistan. This is indeed a cause of concern. Why did India not notify Pakistan while conducting a long-range ballistic missile test? However, Pakistan needs to demonstrate maturity and should not blindly get engaged in the nuclear arms race.

This development that is not a new phenomenon could be a catalyst to stability as the outcome of a conflict could be disastrous for all the parties. Interference in individual countries could be minimised possibly at least with regard to a major conflict, but at the same time, it could also open up greater possibilities for non-conventional conflicts and proxies engaging in sub-conventional warfare. Could these issues be addressed and risks minismised? That should be the main focus of all nuclear-armed countries in the littorals of the Indian Ocean.

Pakistan needs to raise the issue at the international level. Those who want peace in the region will never encourage India’s decision of making investments in nuclear weapons. It will only give boost to the relentless subcontinental competition for nuclear arms. Nobody is oblivious of the terrible consequences of using nuclear weapons. Therefore, these weapons should never be used in any case, and all states should cooperate and follow nuclear agreements in letter and spirit for the sake of humanity. Instead of focusing on the acquisition of more advanced nuclear capability, more efforts should be made to promote regional cooperation. Arms build-up by various states is hardly necessary in a world that badly needs peace. Instead of getting involved in an arms race and making irrational increases in defence budgets, rival states should spend money in those social sectors that need their immediate attention. It is also necessary for Pakistan and India that instead of escalating tensions and increasing military expenditure, they should work for the establishment of lasting peace. Pakistan and India being neighbouring countries should focus on basic problems of their people. They should try to bring prosperity to their nations instead of indulging in an irrational nuclear arms race.


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