Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII) hosted a workshop on “Changing Arms Control Dynamics in the Emerging Global Scenario and its Impact on our Region” on November 29th, 2019. The workshop remained successful in providing key insights and recommendations for minimising the dangers posed by nuclear weapons modernisation and emerging technologies, and strengthening the arms control architecture.
Welcoming a panel of speakers and guests, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Human Rights and Founder of the Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII), Dr. Shireen Mazari, chaired and moderated the workshop. In her opening remarks, Dr. Mazari gave an overview of activities of the institute and the workshop. She noted that the core purpose of the institute was to conduct research and host workshops, seminars and conferences on security and strategic issues in order to facilitate informed decision making. She highlighted that the main objective of the workshop was to explore the changing arms control dynamics and to analyse its impact on South Asia. She said that the purpose behind hosting the workshop was to assess how valid existing arms control regimes were against the backdrop of emerging technologies and in which direction the world was moving in the context of nuclear arms control and disarmament.
While talking about shifts in nuclear arms control and disarmament, Mr. Khalid Banuri, former DG ACDA, highlighted the current age of transition where the world is in a flux with new alliances being formed, emergence of nationalist leaders all over the world, and an increasing emphasis on weapon modernisation. Discussing the background of nuclear evolution, he stressed that when states acquire nuclear weapons, the first thing they want to do is to consolidate themselves and meanwhile there are efforts to ensure that these are weapons of survival and there is emphasis on nuclear arms control, they tend to think of “exercising options” – technological as well as doctrinal. He highlighted that after acquiring nuclear weapons, the US and the former Soviet started to consolidate themselves. However, when the risk factor started to increase, the two countries reached a consensus on discussing nuclear arms control – which led to negotiations that helped avert the biggest possibility of crisis among nuclear states, i.e., the Cuban Missile Crisis.
While discussing the broader picture of the evolution of nuclear arms control, Khalid Banuri said that after consolidating and experiencing the risk and the nuclear missile crisis, several attempts were made to enhance this, including the INF Treaty; during the Cold War, arms control architecture was to ensure survivability and deterrence. However, he underlined that today there is more emphasis on technology.
Elaborating on the changing nuclear arms control architecture, Khalid Banuri said that these two major powers are now in very different situations and there is an attempt to ignore nuclear arms control treaties as states are resorting to newer technologies and there is an increasing focus on larger arsenal and trends on the thinking of usability of the weapons. Along with that, the aggressive posturing and risk assessment, which actually had led to arms control, is now being side-lined while states think of newer weapons and enhancing arsenal is being led by US as it has significant technologies which has also enabled it to venture in space weapons.
Regarding the changing trends in nuclear arms control in South Asia, Mr. Banuri noted that the earlier South Asian strategic environment was led by restraint and confidence building measures. However, India’s current expansionist nuclear approach is the biggest threat to nuclear arms control in South Asia. India is making advancement on both doctrinal as well as technological side; a state that is going in both directions is doing two things: asking technologists to give them what the doctrine wants and creating doctrines that will create more aggressiveness.
Mr. Banuri added that India’s doctrine signalling; abandoning of the No First Use (NFU), walking away from restraint to trigger happy doctrines, canisterised weapons and anti-satellite weapon tests, reflect India’s expansionist thought which is bound to create instability in the region. While discussing the Balakot misadventure of February 2019, Khalid Banuri highlighted how it was a testimony of the irrational Indian leadership that would lead to security dilemma, and would risk stability and emphasised that the broader risk in South Asia is the brinkmanship coming from the Indian leadership.
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