How Will Pakistan And China React To New Us-India Dynamics?
A matter of greater concern is that following various agreements between India and the US on terrorism and defence pacts including hotlines between the heads of governments in the two countries, how the n-weapon capable Pakistan reacts and how it might act in the new dynamics of Indo-US relations. China, with huge n-weapons pile, would also be cautious of the new evolved Indo-US partnership. It could not be happy with India’s rising economic and military power. Beijing has immediately reacted to the Sino-Centric joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean. The Chinese Foreign Minister said relevant disputers should be resolved by parties directly concerned through peaceful talks and consultations. India had earlier rejected China’s silk route proposal. Even on the proposal of President Obama to facilitate India’s membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group China gave a conditional support. It said India must sign NBT before aspiring for the NSG membership.
Ashley Tellis has very aptly written that “given the contested geopolitics of Asia, which is defined by several enduring rivalries, many unresolved territorial disputes, significant local power transitions, and now the continent-wide anxieties provoked by the rise of China, it is not surprising that nuclear weapons have retained their critical importance.”
The regional dimension of India-Pakistan nuclear dynamics has to be viewed in the background of four Indo-Pak wars and then continued violations of LoC and sending militants across the border and one Sino-India border conflict. China has become an all-weather friend of Pakistan. While the bonhomie between President Obama and Narendra Modi was resulting in agreements on multifarious issues, Chinese Foreign Minister reportedly called his Pakistani counterpart that they were stable and permanent all-weather friends.
The major problem is that Pakistan is a country where democracy has not been able to consolidate and grow, where the army plays an active (some would say dominant) role in domestic politics, religious fanaticism thrives, and worse its economy is in the doldrums.
“Pakistan’s propensity for military adventurism, which includes nuclear brinkmanship, is a toxic mixture. It is difficult for many countries to understand the dynamics India faces in living with such a neighbour,” noted a former Army Commander.
He added: “Pakistan has two major strategic assets: its nuclear weapons and state-sponsored terrorists. Both are controlled by the army and more specifically by the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).”
Although Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were initially described as a counter to India’s nuclear arsenal, lately—to justify its tactical nuclear weapons—the government also described them as a counter to India’s conventional superiority. Christopher Clary has warned: “Pakistan remains one of the most likely sources of nuclear risk globally—through theft of Pakistani nuclear material, unauthorized use of weapons during conflict, or intentional use in war.”
Another analyst Thomas W. Graham makes an interesting point about Pakistan balancing India’s superior conventional forces with nuclear weapons: “Pakistani writings emphasise the need for nuclear weapons to balance India’s superior conventional forces. While this logic was compelling for the U.S. in a Cold War, it is a hollow concept in terms of justifying how many nuclear weapons Pakistan needs to build and deploy to deter only one country, India….If Pakistan feels it must target India’s entire military, industrial and research complex, hold India’s major cities at risk, and be prepared to fight using nuclear weapons on the battlefield, it will require at least 300–500 nuclear weapons.”
Pakistan has been consistently justifying its fast growth of n-pile (as recently confirmed by a US Think Tank) to neutralise India’s conventional superiority and many have believed this argument. But the fact is that Pakistan was not deterred by India’s conventional superiority in the past and waged wars against its neighbour in 1947, 1965, and 1971, as well as its misadventure in Kargil in 1999. Pakistan also continues to push terrorists across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and wage proxy war there.
It now appears that Pakistan has taken steps to raise the threshold against any military intervention/ and is moving away from the strategy of nuclear deterrence to one of nuclear war-fighting. This may lead to nuclear brinkmanship and a nuclear crisis, warns a retired General.
He also says, there are also possible linkages between Pakistan’s ISI and terrorist organizations. After then President Pervez Musharraf declared Pakistan’s support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, he forced a number of senior and junior ISI officers to leave their positions because of ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and he also placed a smaller number of Pakistani nuclear scientists under house arrest.
India is among many others who are worried about the unknown jihadi supporters that “still exist inside the shadows of Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies” and that we still do not know “how close those shadows fall to nuclear weapons storage sites.”
Feroz Hassan Khan has written that Pakistan will continue to rely on China, affecting the larger Asian power balance: “While the China factor in South Asian dynamics cannot be dismissed, its inclusion in the regional construct skews regional dynamics and dims the prospect of a secure nuclear future for the region.”
But most surprisingly one continues to focus on the India-Pakistan dyad and not the India-Pakistan-China triad. Over the long term, China has supported Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes. Not only did China transfer nuclear weapon designs, but it allegedly also helped Pakistan test a weapon in Lop Nor well before Pakistan’s 1998 tests.
Similarly, the Ghazhavi and Shaheen-1 missiles are of Chinese origin, and China has also supplied nuclear power plants at Chasma and Karachi. Analysts in the nuclear and strategic fields have started asking what assistance will follow next: MIRV technology or ballistic missile submarines. A scary thought has been voiced by many Army Generals and defence analysts. “Pakistan’s history of nuclear proliferation, which was overlooked for decades by the West until AQ Khan’s black-market network was exposed, is now too well documented to ignore.
“Today, Pakistan is known to have an overcapacity of nuclear fissile material production, which it uses for missile production. Will this not tempt it to proliferate through the clandestine export of nuclear-armed missiles to countries and possibly even to non-state actors? This is a scary but plausible scenario.”
This brings us to the original question how would Pakistan strategically react to the new US-India Defence Treaty and offer to make various military equipment including drones in the country? Natural answer is, it will surely seek guidance from China. India offered to China measures for nuclear building measures but it has not been accepted so far.
One good point is that both China and the US have leverage over Pakistan and both including also Israel could be alarmed if Pakistan’s n-weapons fall in the hands of jihadis. How will these countries react is obviously apparent. This could give jitters to the rogue elements in the Pakistan Army.
China considers itself to be increasingly a peer of the United States and knows that relations will be collaborative but also competitive—if not manageable. In such an atmosphere of nuclear weapons charged hostile neighbours Modi government was wise in stitching together the Defence Security Partnership. Let the Congress and others decry the India’s alleged US-tilt. They have nothing left but to rave and rant (see main the article). And despite all these outcries India remains a big importer of Russian military equipment and its relations with Vladimir Putin have far from been broken down. The greetings the Chinese President XI sent for the R-Day are quite encouraging. Modi is also scheduled to go to Beijing this year. Keeping these geopolitical and strategic realities of South Asia in the background, the dynamics of the five-way interaction between the United States, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan is what will shape the stability of the emerging global order.
Pakistan alone holds less apprehension for India now. Obama may be a lame duck President for his domestic policies but in Foreign Affairs he remains a powerful President and that too of the most powerful country in the world.
By Vijay Dutt