New Delhi’s obsession with expanding its nuclear arsenal does not seem to abate. The recent missile tests it carried out near the Bay of Bengal are alarming in the sense that there is a strong threat of the Indian Ocean becoming a nuclearised region. Indian armed forces and scientists have also designed schemes to expand the umbrella of nuclear arsenal in the form of submarines that can fire Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) in the future. Although the country hasn’t achieved ICBM status yet, there are multiple reports that such missiles are currently being worked on. Furthermore, India is also in the process of achieving ‘second-strike capability’ to potentially counter Pakistani nuclear attacks. The recent test launch of Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile on Wheeler Island is a serious cause of concern for regional balance of power. The AAD missile has been in development for several years and its prototypes were also tested. However, the new version of this missile signifies the fact that India is indeed preparing for a second-strike capability, which will potentially create a new arms race in the region. Nevertheless, Russian experts in Moscow have pointed out a key flaw in India’s goals that include a failure to have enough response time to counter a nuclear strike given how close its enemies are in the region.
Pakistan has already shown serious concerns over India’s ambitions to nuclearise the Indian Ocean. There are some 32 littoral states along the ocean and India could potentially influence all of them in creating a nuclear umbrella. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, has rightly stated that Pakistan will take necessary measures to augment its defence capabilities in addition to highlighting dangerous implications of New Delhi’s plans at international forums. He further highlighted the notion that Pakistan shall counter India’s hegemonic designs without entering a new arms race by diplomatically approaching the 32 littoral states. This is a positive statement by Aziz, as India’s approach to regional defence has largely remained hegemonic ever since it launched the ‘Smiling Buddha’ project in 1974.
Despite major security challenges since 9/11, Pakistan has taken many steps to ensure nuclear security within the state’s domain. A robust mechanism of deterrence capabilities and top-notch security features for Pakistani nuclear arsenal has been lauded globally. In contrast, India’s mechanism for nuclear security has remained questionable due to radioactive materials being stolen or misplaced around the country for a number of times.
Nevertheless, India had a civil nuclear deal approved from the US, in 2006 and is also vying for full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The discrimination shown on part of the international community is unsurprising given how Pakistan was repeatedly shunned in the past. Hence, Pakistan’s stance on both the nuclear deal and NSG membership is largely correct.
Diplomatic measures are essential to counter India’s nuclear ambitions on a global scale. However, the arms race must not enter a new phase and steps must be ensured for a balance of power in South Asia with peace being a top priority for both Pakistan and India for short and long-term social and economic prosperity of the region.