“Our two countries have wasted massive resources in an arms race. We could have used those resources for the economic well-being of our people.” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said these words in the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 27th September 2013; barely a year ago. The same man now congratulates the scientist and engineers who successfully tested the Hatf-VI ballistic missile on Thursday.  Changing circumstances have made the premier lose sight of the wisdom of his own statements, it seems. The immediate hostilities may have died down, yet the deadlock still remains intact and insurmountable. Without meaningful headway in the diplomatic direction, Pakistan and India seem to be spiralling toward a much larger and longer problem; an arms race.

Most strategists assumed the Mutually Assured Destruction theory, whereby two sides with nuclear weapons will never use them for the fear of being annihilated themselves, would stabilise volatile relations and curb military spending. For a while this seemed to be the case; just like USSR and the United States reached equilibrium in bilateral relations, so did Pakistan and India; after years of full-scale warfare things quietened down to only a few cross border skirmishes.  But, just like the Cold war states, new technology, new politicians and new threats easily knocked the states out of equilibrium into another highly damaging arms race. The Hatf-VI launch came a few weeks after India tested the Agni-II. Both of these rockets are capable of delivering nuclear payload up to 2,000 km away. These tests come in a long line of ever evolving ballistic missiles, the development and launch of each one consumes vast amounts from the public exchequer. Now that India has successfully test-fired the Prithvi anti-ballistic missile, it would appear that the paradigm has shifted and another surge in spending is likely. Modelled after the Israeli Iron Dome, the new anti-ballistic missile will have the capacity to intercept oncoming projectiles, which makes it part of an elite club of countries which posses such technology, the US, Russia and Israel. This shift in the equation would not sit easy with its nuclear neighbours; China and Pakistan, both of which have border disputes with India, and would in all probability seek similar technology. Unfortunately, this arms race is not limited to nuclear technology; India, China, and Pakistan are the three biggest importers of arms in the world respectively, without taking into account the arms they produce on their own.  With active border disputes, large economies, vast populations and volatile politics, the Asian arms race presents a terrifying vision