China, India and Pakistan share a history of military confrontations. A number of dynamics like conventional asymmetries, nuclear offensive and defensive capabilities, the arms race, ballistic missile development and an absence of crisis stability mechanism have increased the fragility of strategic stability in South Asia.
In the South Asian region, the arms race is proportional to India’s conventional and nuclear developments. In order to pursue its global and regional ambitions, such as to cover the gap with China and to gain superiority over Pakistan, India has increased its nuclear and missile programme rapidly. Consequently, the recent developments in Indian Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system are the matter of great concern for the regional states, especially for Pakistan. The developments in Indian BMD system and the upcoming collaborations with the US, Russia and Israel have added new dimensions to the regional security equation.
India started the acquisition and development of BMD system in the 1990s to enhance its nuclear capabilities. Indian missile programme is based on Agni and Prithvi series and pursues exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric BMD system, with the future objective to acquire the wholesome system. A successful test of the endo-atmospheric missile, Advance Area Defence (AAD) is a notable step towards the development and acquisition of two layered BMD system.
On February 11, 2017, India conducted a successful test of high altitude inceptor missile, Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV). According to the analysts, such developments and Indian pursuit of BMD has the ability to damage the global non-proliferation efforts, and it will challenge the very basis of strategic stability and deterrence in the South Asian region.
The developments in Indian BMD system depict that India is quickly heading towards higher war-fighting capabilities from its minimum deterrence posture. Though India claims that it’s enhancing its capabilities to counter China, the analysts maintain that such capabilities will allow India to adopt offensive strategy over Pakistan. Indian BMD system will increase the instability and regional security dilemma. It will force the regional states to improve the quality and quantity of their nuclear arsenal.
Other interconnected issues are regarding the effectiveness of BMD and a false sense of security because a BMD system cannot guarantee the absolute interception and destruction of the target.
Indian pursuit of BMD system has complicated the security calculations of regional states. It is viewed that it will have a spillover effect on its neighbouring states thus triggering and consolidating a new arms race in the region. It is imperative for Pakistan to take effective measures to counter the volatility instigated by Indian BMD. Acquiring or manufacturing its own BMD system is almost impossible due to economic restraints. The viable options in this context are the qualitative improvements in the nuclear arsenal to target the vulnerabilities of Indian BMD.
In this regard, Pakistan’s surface to surface ballistic missile, Ababeel has a significant contribution in the defence arrangements of Pakistan. Ababeel is capable of delivering multiple warheads using Multiple Independently Target Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. It is a constructive addition to the Pakistan’s defence.
The writer is Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad. She can be reached at Asmaakhalid_90@hotmail.com