ISLAMABAD – The foreign affairs experts and defence analysts discussed subjects from nuclear issues to conventional forces and possibility whether Pakistan and India could move towards a conventional balance, on the second day of discussions at the STR workshop on ‘Pakistan-India: A Security Route to Cooperation’ on Friday.
Lieutenant General (Retd) Talat Masood spoke about the imbalance of forces in India’s favour from 1947 onwards and how this was a major reason for Pakistan seeking a relationship with the United States. While there may have been other reasons, the balancing India factor was the most important.
Pakistan, according to Lt Gen (Retd) Masood, did manage to achieve some counter to the conventional imbalance not just through an alliance with the US, but also the strategic partnership with China. However, according to Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood, now the situation has altered qualitatively because of the strategic relationship with the US and the inflow of hi-tech weapons and technology transfers. He felt that as the conventional imbalance grows, Pakistan is tending to compensate through making the nuclear factor more critical but that also lowers the nuclear threshold.
Talat Masood put forward a number of proposals to establish what he felt was conventional stability through a greater transparency in doctrines and deployments to build confidence. He saw Cold Start as a destabilising doctrine. He also felt that movement on other fronts, such as economic including pipelines, would be extremely important. Finally he felt that in all the three forces, air, sea and ground, it was really important to understand that deployments should alter and move away from the border with Pakistan. He concluded by stressing that what was needed was conventional stability rather than a balance so that Pakistan does not seek a reliance on the nuclear to offset the conventional imbalance.
Dr Suba Chandran expressed the view that one should see the issue of a conventional balance not an end in itself but as part of a larger framework of strategic stability. He explained the differences in perceptions on China within India itself, and stated that while India is still “only looking East”, China has been in the East for years.
He felt with China India has a policy of confrontation plus engagement. He also pointed out that India was seeking strategic relationships with Israel, the EU, Japan and Australia and not all of it is Pakistan-specific. However he did admit that while India is investing in all SAARC neighbours, it is investing more in Afghanistan because of the Pakistan factor.
He spoke of Cold Start being focused on post-Mumbai and even that is still in signaling and discussion stage. Like General Masood, Dr Chandran did suggest greater transparency in doctrines and strategies and more discussions not just within the country but also across the border. He also commented that just because one has a weapon it does not have to be deployed. He also emphasised the need to examine the issue of de-alerting.
During the discussion, Dr Shireen Mazari refuted Dr Chandran’s claim that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are India specific. Instead, she pointed out that the logic for Pakistan developing nuclear weapons is similar to the Indian logic. She also threw on the table the idea of looking beyond transparency and de-alerting to actual reductions of Pakistan-specific weapons like SRBMs and conventional offensive systems on the ground, and removal of forward air bases as well as forces along the LOC.