Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII) hosted a two-day workshop for women parliamentarians on “The International Strategic Environment and Pakistan’s Policy Imperatives” on April 17th and 18th, 2019.
On the first day of the workshop held at Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights, Dr. Shireen M. Mazari gave an overview of the international strategic environment in the post-bipolar era. She argued that after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, NATO required a new rationale for its existence and started out-of-area operations- Afghanistan being a key example of this. Dr Mazari emphasised that currently, the principle of “Coalitions of the Willing” is being applied to allow direct intervention by certain states, thereby bypassing the UNSC.
While discussing the situation in the Middle East and West Asia, Dr. Mazari referred to Ralph Peter’s article titled: “Blood Borders” that was published in the June 2006 issue of the US Armed Forces Journal. Peter’s predicted that powerful Muslim states would be weakened and ultimately broken up – a phenomenon that has in fact been unfolding in the Middle East. In the post-9/11 era came the Greater Middle East Initiative GMEI, or Broader Middle East Initiative BMEI which claimed to promote liberal democracy and freedom of speech in these Muslim states, and resulted in the Arab Spring. However, there is still great instability in the region which has resulted in weakened Arab states. This instability created a power vacuum which further strengthened non-state actors and is reflected most clearly in the rise of the militant group including Daesh. She argued that with all these developments unfolding in the Middle East, Pakistan must also recognise the threats and challenges emerging from the western side of its border.
On Pak-US relations, Dr. Mazari said that Pakistan should revise its overall US policy and redefine its relationship with the US. She said that the US’ strategic goals in the region directly contradict Pakistan’s objectives. She stated, “The US wants to contain China, isolate Iran and make India a regional hegemon”. She criticised the US’s unilateral decision to opt out of international agreements – a move that has led to more chaos in the system. She noted that the Trump Administration’s decision to recognise Israel’s claim on the Occupied Golan heights was in direct violation of international law. Dr Mazari cautioned against Narendra Modi’s pledge to abrogate Article 370 which provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and Article 35-A of the Indian constitution will change the demography of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
Whilst talking about Pakistan-India relations, former Ambassador Zamir Akram noted the root cause of friction between the two countries is the divergence of their strategic objectives. India sees itself as a regional hegemon and expects its neighbours to be subservient, however, Pakistan is “not small enough to be intimated.” He highlighted several causes of tensions between the two countries including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, asymmetry between conventional military forces and terrorism.
Ambassador Akram stressed that India is modernising its conventional military force and has operationalised its Cold Start Doctrine to wage a limited conflict with Pakistan, short of full-scale war. In response Pakistan adopted a Full Spectrum Deterrence posture to deter Indian provocative war strategies. He pointed out that Pakistan deterred India’s Cold Start doctrine by developing the short-range missiles known as Nasr. Mr Akram said that India’s efforts to develop a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system has forced Pakistan to develop cruise missiles that cannot be detected by the radars and MIRV capable missiles that can penetrate a defence system by confusing the BMD system. He said that Pakistan’s basic effort has been to ensure that as long as the credibility of its nuclear deterrent remains intact, it can prevent an out-break of full-scale war.
Terming the Kashmir freedom movement as “a genuine struggle” for the right to self-determination, Mr Zamir Akram emphasised that after the 9/11 attacks, India “found it very convenient to align itself with the US in order to project the Kashmiri struggle as terrorism.”
Mr Akram said that following the Pulwama attack and the ensuing military confrontation between Pakistan and India in February 2019, both countries were on an “escalatory ladder”. He said that the Indian military action was “restrained” because of the fears that “if they go beyond a certain point it could lead to a nuclear exchange.”
In his concluding remarks, Mr Zamir Akram stressed that Pakistan would have to see whether India have such leaders who are ready to find a solution with Pakistan the way Mr Vajpayee was looking for. “I don’t see such a leadership in India at the moment…Mr Modi is certainly not one of those kinds of leaders and he is not interested in any solution with Pakistan.” Mr Akram said that Pakistan would have to draw a distinction between a dialogue and a solution. He said currently there is no hope of a dialogue between Pakistan and India that could lead towards a solution.
On the second day of the workshop held at Parliament, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari gave an overview of the non-proliferation and arms control regimes while drawing attention to Pakistan’s nuclear policy. In the non-proliferation regime, she spoke about two approaches: a US-centric discriminatory approach and a universal non-discriminatory approach.
She said Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was inherently discriminatory which called on the five recognised member states to act “in good faith” towards nuclear disarmament.
However, the article remained non-binding, she said, adding the NPT did not focus on vertical proliferation while stressing horizontal non-proliferation.
Dr Mazari highlighted Pakistan’s position on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) that is currently being negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament. She stressed Pakistan’s position to have member states reduce their existing stockpiles of fissile material before capping its future production.
“Without reduction of existing stockpiles of fissile materials, suspending its future production would leave Pakistan at a disadvantageous position relative to India’s larger nuclear stockpiles,” she asserted.
Discussing the non-proliferation issues, she criticised the trend post-9/11 in which international focus was shifted from non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to nuclear programmes of certain countries such as Iran and Pakistan.
Discussing India’s nuclear posture, she said India was enhancing its nuclear triad — its capability of launching nuclear weapons from land, air and sea. She said India had also retreated from its commitment on the No First Use Policy in 2004, claiming that it reserved the right to use nuclear weapons. Discussing Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and how it rested on maintaining a credible minimum deterrence, she argued that India’s Cold Start Doctrine, a strategy to engage Pakistan into a limited conflict, was effectively countered by Pakistan’s successful development of its short-range ballistic missile, Nasr, which was able to plug the gap at the tactical level of war.
In response to India’s BMD system, Pakistan has test-fired Babur-III submarine, launched cruise missile (SLCM) and Ababeel surface to surface ballistic missile capable of delivering multiple warheads using Multiple Independently-targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology.
The Babur-III SLCM provided Pakistan a credible second-strike capability, according to the minister.
In order to avoid an arms race in South Asian, Dr Mazari said Pakistan had earlier proposed several suggestions to India, including a moratorium on nuclear testing, which India refused. Pakistan also suggested India established a strategic restraint regime in the region which the country again did not accept.
Highlighting Pakistan’s role in arms control and disarmament, she said prior to 1998 Pakistan had repeatedly introduced a resolution at the UN regarding a nuclear-weapons free zone in South Asia.
“Pakistan had also offered India to renounce the development of nuclear weapons in the region but no initiatives were taken on these proposals. Pakistan signed the international convention on nuclear safety in 1997 as a part of the country’s commitment towards the non-proliferation regime,” she said.
After the nuclear tests in 1998, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority was created as a competent and independent body for the regulation of nuclear safety, radiation protection, transport and waste safety, she said.