ISLAMABAD: India’s development of modern military and nuclear technology has undermined the security of deterrence on the subcontinent through its strategic partnership with the United States.
This was the essence of an online dialogue on ‘Two Decades of Indo-US Strategic Partnership: Effects on Strategic Stability in South Asia’ sponsored by the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS). The event was arranged to hear Pakistani and Indian views on the space, missile and nuclear policy of India and see how India benefited from the founding agreements it signed with the United States.
Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, retired CISS Executive Director, said that the Indo-US strategic relationship began with the suggestion of the US think-tank group in 1992 for the then incoming Clinton administration to map a new South Asia policy in which India had a prominent role. He added that the Indian diaspora played an important role in defining the United States strategic thinking of India as an Asia-Pacific net protection provider and in fostering New Delhi as a counterweight to China.
Both defence agreements negotiated over the span of two decades under the Indo-United States strategic alliance underpinned this strategic thinking, the notable of which are the four American basic General Protection of Military Intelligence Arrangement (GSOMIA) agreements signed in 2002, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed in 2016, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement
Dr Naeem Salik, senior fellow at CISS, said that India’s space programme had attained phenomenal success only in the late 1980s, when the country agreed to merge its space and nuclear programme as complementary binaries.
On March 27, 2019, when the country carried out its first anti-satellite (ASAT) exercise, an exclusive military capability historically held only by the United States , Russia and China, India’s advanced space technology was demonstrated.
He spoke about how New Delhi had been enabled by India’s signing of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to develop improved models of missile types, including supersonic missile systems and possible hypersonic capabilities.
Though giving an Indian perspective on India’s missile and nuclear programmes, Prof. Rajesh Rajagopalan of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University said that South Asian strategic stability is a feature of the actions and capacities of the region’s states.
Another CISS senior fellow, Dr Mansoor Ahmed, talked about how India’s developmental programme has changed nuclear latent capability over the past two decades.
This covers the non-guarded civil nuclear energy policy (comprising heavy water reactors) and the nuclear fuel cycle.
More precisely, he saw India’s manufacturing capabilities of fissile materials, including uranium enrichment and fuel reprocessing plants, as having increased exponentially in terms of their scale and quality.
In his opinion, India’s stockpile of a massive strategic reserve of high-quality plutonium reactor-grade, which is weapons-usable and far exceeds the fueling criteria for the future breeder programme, is equally worrying.
He also cautioned that the nuclear build-up of India, combined with its increasingly increasing missile and space programme, was catalysing transformation in the role of Indian power and doctrinal thought, which could create uncertainty and weaken the stability of deterrence in South Asia.
Dr Adil Sultan, dean of Air University, expressed concern that simple agreements such as the BECA have a particular effect on Pakistan as they would strengthen the tactical awareness and preparedness of the Indian military for preparing precision strikes against Pakistan.