The Danger of War and Significance Of Confidence Building Measures Between India & Pakistan

South Asia’s Security landscape is comprised of regional competitive strategies that stimulate hostile relations and rivalries between India and Pakistan due to multiple historical and political factors. It is ironic that despite having two nuclear powers in its vicinity, South Asia cannot project an optimistic image as both these countries (India and Pakistan) share unfriendly ties. Bilateral relations of both states have been stressed by various significant strategic, geopolitical and political issues. Various wars and limited conflicts have occurred between both states since 1947. Due to the history of deteriorated relations and their security concerns, both states aim to enhance their conventional and nuclear capabilities and undergo military arms production and modernization. Therefore, the introduction of nuclear weapon capability is viewed as a critical tool to ensure peace and stability as nuclear weapons have established strategic and deterrence stability in the region. However, at the same time, the nuclear weapon capability has fueled the missiles and nuclear arms race. India’s quest for sophisticated forces and aims to increase conventional and strategic arms can disturb the balance of power in the region that is considered perilous for regional strategic stability and peace. Under such dynamics, it is investable to establish an institutional mechanism to reduce the arms race and maintain strategic stability. Therefore, Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are viewed as viable solutions to counter the growing regional peace and security challenges.

Classifying CBMs: Strategic Concerns, Objectives, and Significance

Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) refer to those actions or procedures taken to abate tensions between two or more states. They are broadly defined as procedures that deal with and avert or resolve doubts between states. They mainly intend to build trust and avoid escalation of hostilities. The main aim of the Confidence Building measures is to diffuse tensions and minimize the degree of fear and mistrust between the conflicting states. These measures aim to make the behaviour of the involved parties more predictable, and thus suspicion and anxiety amongst them are reduced. The CBMs foster de-escalation of a conflict by building trust between the differing parties. “No one can dispute the need and relevance of building confidence between two antagonist parties for the resolutions of conflicts.”

Confidence Building Measures play an essential part in inculcating the notions of security and stability in states. Another primary objective of the Confidence building is to aid the progression toward arms control and disarmament negotiations. CBMs are considered significant to reduce apprehension, misinterpretations, faulty calculations and chances of surprise attacks.

India’s development and deployment of missiles have the potential to impact the complex geometry of deterrence, arms control, and crisis stability in the region. India’s growing capabilities and shifting nuclear policies can have a ripple effect on the region, especially Pakistan. Indigenously developed Prithvi-II, supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, NGARM and nuclear-capable Shaurya missiles are intended to launch pre-emptive counterforce strikes. The missiles seem to result in deterrence and crisis instability while increasing the arms race among nuclear adversaries. Above mentioned missiles may tangle the defender state in a “use them or lose them dilemma” to maintain the heightened readiness concerning the recent reinterpretation of India’s no-first-use (NFU) policy.

subsequently, arms control is an essential component of the confidence-building process. “The theory behind CBMs, which were first introduced in the mid-1950, is that they provide a propitious atmosphere for arms control”. Last but least, another important task performed by the CBMs is to eradicate the elements of concealment and secrecy in military-related activities of states. This helps distinguish between the genuine and speculative suspicions about the intention or risk posed by an existent and potential adversary. Nevertheless, another critical requirement is safeguarding and improving the states’ national security rather than endangering it.

In emerging dynamics, both promising trends and disturbing developments awkwardly coexist worldwide. It puts forward an ambiguous landscape with puzzling circumstances. So under such a situation, the political leaders can utilize the CBMs to bring out the positive and guard against the negative. Due to these factors in the prevailing strategic landscape, Pakistan demands nuclear and convention restraints to maintain peace among South Asian nuclear neighbours.

Types of Confidence Building Measures

The nature of the conflict determines whether the CBMs should be unilateral, bilateral or multilateral. CBMs can be military, diplomatic, political, or cultural, and they can be uniformly functional in conflicts between, across, and within states.

The steps for confidence-building at a unilateral level often occur at the commencement of more direct contact between the immediate conflict parties. However, if success is achieved early, the CBMs do not become useless later on. Confidence building is essential in achieving sustainable resolution once a significant political negation starts. The International and regional organizations play an essential role here, especially in issues related to security. A more bilateral approach toward confidence-building also comes into play at this stage. The parties now are better able to make agreements on joint initiatives to solve their issues. Confidence building is also essential when parties move into official, substantial talks and conclude an agreement.

  • Military CBMs
  • Diplomatic CBMs
  • Cultural and political CBMs
  • Economic CBMs

India-Pakistan Relations and CBMs

The history of Pakistan-India’s bilateral relations is full of conflicts and crises as many historical and political issues have strained the relations. In recent years, South Asia’s security landscape has become more complex due to India’s security policy encompassing the use of force to achieve larger strategic goals surpassing the national defense of regional states. Its intention to seek hegemony, unilateral decision over Kashmir in August 2019 and expansionism policy is reflected in its recent military escalations. India’s offensive action in Balakot exposes its aggressive posture to manipulate conventional war or missile attack risk. Also, Pakistan’s cautions and international reports regarding prospects of India’s false flag operations or use of force against Pakistan further impose severe repercussions on the regional stability. While growing hostility, India-Pakistan efforts for the resumption of harmonious relations are comprehended as a surprise in both countries. However, talks regarding the backchannel diplomacy among the government officials of both states were rejected by Pakistan and India. In contrast, prospects of backchannel diplomacy and recent rapprochement call for formal procedures to abate tensions between two nuclear-weapon states.

New Delhi’s quest to develop sophisticated missiles, production of conventional and strategic forces and ambiguous nuclear policies are likely to undermine already fragile regional stability. India’s offensive posture calls for Pakistan’s counter-strategy to ensure its security and maintain force balance against India. To counter India’s aggressive designs, Pakistan has a Full Spectrum Deterrence. Along with it, Pakistan’s short-range Nasr, Medium-range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) Ababeel equipped with Multiple Independently-targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) technology, and nuclear-capable Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) Babur.

Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are formal procedures and agreements that would help accelerate the region’s peace process. They can be employed to build trust between India and Pakistan and avert the chances of conflict escalation. They may include any sign of peace initiative in a Bilateral treaty. By effective restoration of CBMs, both states will be able to take their decisions more confidently in a less hostile and more stable environment. The formal dialogue process is indispensable to avert or resolve doubts to build trust and avoid escalation during a crisis. The CBMs may require the states to become more transparent and explicit about their military and political intent and military capabilities.

Whereas South Asia security dynamics highlight that India’s attempts to establish a favourable strategic environment through offensive policies may lead to more friction and conflicts that would have critical implications for peace-building efforts or any prospects of CBMs.  South Asia’s security landscape emboldened by the India-US strategic partnership, India’s growing military modernization, and attempts to achieve military superiority are vital factors disturbing prospects of peaceful co-existence in South Asia. India’s attempts to establish escalation dominance in 2019, its policy of military assertiveness in the region and actions driven by domestic political objectives put forward a complex situation for the developing communication channels or future of CBMs.

Subsequently, various factors create hurdles in establishing effective nuclear CBMs in South Asia. Most significantly, the trust deficit between India and Pakistan is the greatest obstacle to these formal communication links. Although CBMs provide the atmosphere for improving inter-State relations and establishing trust between adversarial states, some level of trust is even necessary before CBMs can be negotiated. Hence, a limited level of confidence is an essential prerequisite for effectively pursuing the CBMs. In the light of their past experiences, states remain dubious of each other’s intentions and thus shape their policies accordingly. Secondly, the territorial disputes in Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek also limit the effectiveness of CBMs between India and Pakistan. Significantly India’s abrogation of Article 370 and 35A to end Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy, the introduction of New Domicile laws further enhances the instability between the states and disturbs the normalization process. The water issue between both countries also plays a major role in this respect. Despite signing various agreements, they still face problems settling their issues in the water sector. This further adds to the doubts regarding the future of any previous or ongoing agreements signed between them. Another obstacle is that India’s recent military modernization programme has also triggered an arms race in the region.

Additionally, India’s development and deployment of missiles have the potential to impact the complex geometry of deterrence, arms control, and crisis stability in the region. India’s growing capabilities and shifting nuclear policies can have a ripple effect on the region, especially Pakistan. Indigenously developed Prithvi-II, supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, NGARM and nuclear-capable Shaurya missiles are intended to launch pre-emptive counterforce strikes. The missiles seem to result in deterrence and crisis instability while increasing the arms race among nuclear adversaries. Above mentioned missiles may tangle the defender state in a “use them or lose them dilemma” to maintain the heightened readiness concerning the recent reinterpretation of India’s no-first-use (NFU) policy.

Subsequently, India joined the hypersonic missile race with the successful testing of HSDTV on September 7, 2020. The HSDTV technology will assist India in developing a hypersonic missile, BrahMos-II. Therefore, New Delhi’s quest to develop sophisticated missiles, production of conventional and strategic forces and ambiguous nuclear policies are likely to undermine already fragile regional stability. India’s offensive posture calls for Pakistan’s counter-strategy to ensure its security and maintain force balance against India. To counter India’s aggressive designs, Pakistan has a Full Spectrum Deterrence. Along with it, Pakistan’s short-range Nasr, Medium-range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) Ababeel equipped with Multiple Independently-targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) technology, and nuclear-capable Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) Babur.

Subsequently, recent months have witnessed multiple headlines announcing ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC), resumption of bilateral trade and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s de-escalation attempts by sending a goodwill letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. Given the heightened state of bilateral tension in the wake of India’s August 5, 2019, decision and the Balakot-Pulwama crisis, the exchange of messages between Pakistan’s and Indian Prime Minister can be viewed as an attempt to dial down hostilities and revival of bilateral ties.

Primarily, India should understand the obligation of being a nuclear weapon state instead of following the “ambiguous offensive strategies” in its nuclear doctrine. In this regard, the establishment of Pakistan’s proposed Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) is significant due to its three interconnecting elements: First, nuclear restraint to maintain deterrence stability; second, conventional arms balance; third, for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. A Strategic Restraint Regime would help maintain strategic and deterrence stability and accelerate the peace process in the region. It could be employed to build trust and avert the chances of escalation. By effective implementation of strategic restraints, both states will be able to make their decisions more confidently in a less hostile and more stable environment.

Pakistan’s officials’ statements in the past also reflect Pakistan’s desire to maintain peaceful relations. Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa stated on February 02, 2021 stated, “It is time to extend the hand of peace in all directions.” Along with discussing the ideals of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence, Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa emphasized on the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict according to the wishes of the Kashmiri peoples. Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, also highlighted the significance of peace in response to the Indian counterpart’s letter. For Pakistan, “Kashmir remains central to meaningful engagement”, stated on several occasions by Pakistan’s political government. The statements of government and military officials highlight Pakistan’s desire to resolve the Kashmir conflict and create durable peace in the region.

Conclusion and Waf Forward

Based on the above analysis, it can be derived that for the maintenance of peace in South Asia, harmony between India and Pakistan is indispensable for regional stability. Trust rests on the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) that the two countries need to impart to develop a relationship that yields optimism and harmony. Moreover, the recent missile crisis highlights that nuclear CBMs are the most vital measures to be given utmost importance. Though India and Pakistan initiated the process of confidence-building about the nuclear weapons capability in 1988 by signing the first nuclear CBM, the results have not been as prolific as expected. Unfortunately, the history of CBMs in South Asia is not very remarkable. The course of negotiation has remained very slow. This could be attributed to several stifles like trust deficit, Kashmir issues, India’s offensive action, Indian domestic politics and the rise of Hindu nationalism. The ongoing dynamics and new government in Pakistan highlight hope for the formal peace process between India and Pakistan; however, even small steps such as the restoration of the ceasefire agreement and the opening of communication lines among DGMOs at the LoC have opened the window of hopes for both states.

Both nuclear rivals have signed various bilateral military and non-military confidence measures, most notably the yearly exchange of lists of nuclear facilities and Operationalization of Director Generals Military Operations (DGMOs) hotlines. However, emerging regional and global landscape trends are demanding to shift the focus from offensive traditional security measures. Primarily, India should understand the obligation of being a nuclear weapon state instead of following the “ambiguous offensive strategies” in its nuclear doctrine. In this regard, the establishment of Pakistan’s proposed Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) is significant due to its three interconnecting elements: First, nuclear restraint to maintain deterrence stability; second, conventional arms balance; third, for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. A Strategic Restraint Regime would help maintain strategic and deterrence stability and accelerate the peace process in the region. It could be employed to build trust and avert the chances of escalation. By effective implementation of strategic restraints, both states will be able to make their decisions more confidently in a less hostile and more stable environment.

 

Also, opportunities such as the exchange the lists of nuclear facilities every year, the operationalization of DGMOs hotlines, and the exchange of greetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Shahbaz Sharif can be dubbed as a light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, it is the right time for India-Pakistan to utilize these opportunities to initiate formal dialogue to evade misunderstandings, assist states in preventing crises and maintain peace.

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About Asma Khalid 11 Articles
Author is Editor of the Melange International Magazine and Research Associate at Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR). Her research interests include South Asian Security and Strategic issues. Her analysis of these issues has featured in national and international publication platforms.