08.02.2015 Author: Natalya Zamarayeva

Pakistan-India: New Phase of Nuclear Tensions  

10353715_1531634943744072_7045036210909120628_n“Pakistan reserves the right to safeguard its national security interests; the operationalisation of Indo-US nuclear deal for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia,” the foreign minister of Pakistan said, describing the outcome of the visit of President Barack Obama to India in the end of January 2015.

For the first time, the current political leadership in Islamabad officially broadcast their reaction in connection with the events in another country. The highly emotional statements revealed the backlog of complaints against both Washington and New Delhi.

 -Firstly, Pakistan rejected calumnies about its commitment to terrorism.

-Secondly, Pakistan does not oppose civil nuclear cooperation and membership in the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) of those states which did not accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. However , at the same time, it does oppose granting India the membership in the NSG, believing it would be a heavy blow to the non-proliferation regime. The deal, according to Islamabad, is aimed at building the nuclear potential of India which has not done much as far as its transparency is concerned.

 -Thirdly, Pakistan opposed India’s inclusion in the UN Security Council as the permanent member, in response to US President Barack Obama’s statement during his visit to New Delhi, when he supported India’s candidancy for joining this privileged international forum.

The subject of terrorism, and the involvement of India or Pakistan in committing terrorist acts on each other’s territories, is one of the most burning issues in Pakistani-Indian relations.  Islamabad accuses New Delhi of anti-federal activities on its territory, particularly in Balochistan and the Pashtun tribal area on the border with Afghanistan.

On the eve of his visit to India, Barack Obama again engaged in the anti-terrorist rhetoric, emphasizing that the existence of militants’ shelters on Pakistani territory is unacceptable. What is more, looking ahead, let us say that the final text of the joint statement included a paragraph calling on Islamabad to bring to justice the “perpetrators responsible for the terrorist attack in Mumbai in November 2008.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan reacted immediately, stating the necessity to bring to justice those responsible for blowing up the Samjhota Express in February 2007.

Islamabad was very sensitive on the accusation of tolerating terrorism. A few hours before Barack Obama’s departure to India (in response to the president’s words), Pakistan “managed” to provide the US government agencies with a dossier of Indian involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The document, according to materials of the Pakistani press, contains convincing evidence of Indian participation in the terrorist attack of December 16 in Peshawar, which resulted in the deaths of 149 students and teachers. Although responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban Movement, Islamabad continued its attempts to prove India’s “involvement”.

  Despite these efforts of Islamabad, the accusations against New Delhi were not met with understanding by Washington. Pakistan, once again, failed to demonstrate its large-scale role in the global war on terrorism. Thus, Islamabad began to promote the concept of being the object of New Delhi’s aggression.

Islamabad believes that strengthening Indian-American cooperation benefits economic and strategic interests of both countries, but at the same time, undermines stability in the region and, as a consequence, the national security of Pakistan. The US ignores the concerns of the Pakistani government about the strategic imbalance in South Asia.

Islamabad expressed concerns about he military build-up of India which has been making large-scale purchases of weapons from Russia and the US, and is seeking advanced technologies for the production of missiles and delivery systems related to them. Its defence expenditures have increased by 12% in 2014-2015, and accounted for 38.35 billion US dollars. India has been on the list of Washington’s top buyers of military equipment for the last three years. According to Pakistan, further military build-up, considering US-India 10-year defence agreement signed in January 2015, will further strengthen the existing imbalance of conventional and nuclear weapons and, consequently, will lead to the strategic destabilization of South Asia.

Islamabad expressed concern about the deterioration of the strategic imbalance during the period of increased Pakistan-Indian tensions, especially under conditions of a breach by India of the ceasefire along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary.

With the goal of levelling the military-strategic balance, Pakistan proposed a new Strategic Restraint Regime in the region. It includes three areas: conflict resolution; nuclear and missile restraint, and conventional balance.

One of the Pakistani newspapers wrote that Islamabad’s reaction to the joint statement made as a result of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India, shows signs of a change in strategy in the region.

As for the comprehensive reform of the UNSC, which aims to make the main UN body more representative, democratic, effective, transparent and accountable, Pakistan does support it. The Security Council reform, according to Islamabad, should reflect the interests of a wider circle of the UN members.

At the same time, it sees two main obstacles for India’s membership in the SC: firstly, the entire idea of new permanent members will create additional centres of power and privileges, and can make the UNSC even more undemocratic; secondly, India, from Pakistan’s point of view, is not entitled to a special status on the Council, as it violated UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and the right of the Kashmiri to self-determination. Pakistan believes that a country which violated the UN Charter is not entitled to claim a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. At present, the foreign office has embarked on developing practical tools to block India on its way to becoming the permanent member of the UNSC.

Pakistan sees the signing of the Indo-American nuclear agreement as a violation of the balance of nuclear and conventional weapons. Taking into consideration national security interests, Islamabad adheres to the position that it cannot continue to rely on strategic stability and deterrence in the region anymore, thinking that this way the nuclear threshold can significantly decrease. It sees the building up of nuclear potential as one of the possible ways and means of equalizing the balance. In this connection, on January 29, 2015, Pakistan warned of a new round of the arms race in South Asia.

Natalya Zamaraeva, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, Pakistan Institute for Near-East Studies, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.