Lack of confidence between Pakistan and India



April 17, 2023

Lack of confidence between Pakistan and India

Fahad Ali looks at a Lack of confidence between Pakistan and India

The Lack of confidence between Pakistan and India conflict carries the potential of breaking out into something serious and to avoid such a possibility it is important to develop and apply measures aimed at restoring confidence between the two countries. Such measures are required to include unilateral, bilateral or multilateral actions or procedures that act to reduce military tensions between the two rival states as they are essential to preclude conflict. Bringing about confidence entails making sure that conduct of countries are more calculable and predictable so that states can have certain expectations with regard to the behaviour of other states. In this respect the international community has devised multiple confidence building measures that are applied throughout the world. Approaches vary but in general there are four main areas that are required to be taken care of in this context: communication, constraint, transparency and verification.

Keeping in view the complexities of Indo-Pak relations it is imperative to be particularly careful about communication channels between them help to defuse tensions during moments of crisis or provide a more regular consultative mechanism. Another aspect pertains to constraint measures that are designed to keep military forces at a distance from one another especially along borders. These measures could include the advance notice of troop movements above a pre-agreed level or placing constraints on military exercises. Limited force deployment zones, or within-out-zones, also restrict the type and number of military equipment or troops permitted in or near a certain territory or border.

The conflict-prone Indo-Pak relations require taking transparency measures that foster greater openness of military capabilities and activities. Such measures may include pre-notification requirements, data exchanges and voluntary observations of another state’s military exercises and operating procedures. Nuclear transparency measures also include unilateral declarations of nuclear-related data that would help build a vaster understanding. Decisions to declassify information about their military fissile material stocks could prove to be of high value ultimately.

It is also suggested to strongly follow verification measures that are designed to confirm or verify a state’s compliance with a particular treaty or agreement. These can include aerial inspections, ground-based electronic sensoring systems and on-site inspections. Aerial inspections enable parties to monitor compliance with force deployment limitations in restricted zones, to confirm data exchanges, and to provide early warning of potentially destabilising activities. On-site inspections, in particular, can help verify that states are complying with agreements. Inspections may be carried out by third parties, opposing parties or jointly. Such verification has been found to allay fears and this measure could be very usefully employed between Pakistan and India. It is not an easy measure to implement but with a little bit of focus it is practicable and is highly advisable.

India and Pakistan are nuclear powers with a history of conflict. Their history is interspersed with war, conflicts on issues of bilateral importance and a simmering territorial dispute over Kashmir. These conflicts have created a situation where each country expects the worst of the other. In an ideal situation, India and Pakistan would develop stabilising measures to address the variety of nuclear-related issues between them. These include preventative measures to minimise conflict escalation; measures to assist in crisis management at times when tensions are heightened, and perhaps when conventional conflict is already in progress; and measures to manage de-escalation, and bring the regional parties back from the brink of nuclear conflict. India and Pakistan have developed Confidence Building Measures (CBM) – like structures and agreements since the countries’ independence. Since then, most of the CBMs now in place were prompted by the wars in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, and by periods of high tension associated with military exercises conducted between 1986 and 1991.

The first observation about the India-Pakistan relationship and their attempts to ease tension is that the parties have been more reactive than proactive in seeing that conflict does not break out again. A lesson is that CBMs cannot be forced upon parties that are still infused with such raw emotion and mistrust. The first nuclear CBM was the Prohibition of Attack Against Nuclear Facilities, which was signed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December, 1988. It was ratified in 1991 and implemented in January 1992. The bilateral agreement prohibits attack, directly or indirectly, against nuclear installations or facilities in either country. In an effort to be more transparent, the agreement also requires an annual exchange of lists detailing the location of all nuclear-related facilities in each country. Lists of the facilities covered by this agreement are now exchanged periodically but often have not been wholly accepted by the other side.

Over the years, both countries have made their own separate initiatives to decrease tension. At times, Pakistan has proposed bilateral nuclear arms control measures with India, declaring, for example, that it would be prepared to join the NPT or accept other non proliferation measures if India did so. But India has rejected these proposals, arguing that they do not address the nuclear threat India faces from China, and that nuclear disarmament questions should be addressed as global rather than regional issues. India released its draft nuclear doctrine in August 1999 stating that in view of the very high destructive potential of nuclear weapons, appropriate nuclear risk reduction and confidence building measures will be sought, negotiated and maintained.

Currently both India and Pakistan are voluntarily maintaining a moratorium on further nuclear testing. These unilateral commitments illustrate one of the highlights of CBMs, in that, CBMs are often easier to achieve than formal arms control agreements. CBMs are flexible enough that they can be tacit and informal, such as India and Pakistan’s general understanding about testing, or quite specific, such as the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Facilities. After the 1998 nuclear tests, India and Pakistan had to confront more openly the reality of their now nuclearized neighborhood.

According to Lahore Declaration of 1999 the two sides committed to exchange information on their nuclear doctrines and security concepts; prevent accidental nuclear crises; work on measures to improve control over their nuclear weapons; review existing CBMs and emergency communications or hotlines arrangements with a view to upgrading and improving these links; and strengthen India and Pakistan’s unilateral but just three months later, fighting broke out over Kargil and the technical details to the Lahore document were never worked out.

As is often the case between India and Pakistan, implementing the agreements suffered setbacks and became hostage to political tensions over territory. This absence of trust and confidence among the leaders of India and Pakistan, as was evident during the Kargil crisis of May-July 1999 that became a major cause of tension in South Asia and undermined the significance of CBMs agreed to by Pakistan and India. Many observers note that until both the countries agree to finalise details about working out a suitable conflict-avoiding conduct, nuclear risk reduction in South Asia will remain rhetorical. An important lesson is that the emphasis of Indian and Pakistani leaders on declaratory measures is not that productive in an atmosphere devoid of trust. A no-first-use policy is low on substance and difficult to verify without intrusive measures to demonstrate a reduced state of readiness, including keeping warheads separate from delivery vehicles and other indications of recessed deterrence. TW

Fahad Ali is associated with maritime trade


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