Since coming into power, Pakistan’s new government is pursing the objective of peaceful neighbourhood. A number of initiatives are on the cards to improve relations with all neighbouring counties, especially India. In December 2013, a peace dossier was delivered to the Indian Prime Minister which proposed a comprehensive strategy for sustainable bilateral relations. It is expected that after the elections, the new Indian government will likely reciprocate.

In any pursuit of peace between India and Pakistan, arms control and arms reductions will be one of the main challenges. Over previous years, Pakistan has been forwarding viable proposals and in this regard a Strategic Restraint Regime is still on the table. Despite raising the bogey of China for international consumption, over 80 percent of Indian weapon systems and around 90 percent of military command and control structures are Pakistan specific. India has no application of its huge inventory of armour, short legged aircraft and tactical missiles in the context of China. Beside the domain of military inventories, India’s dangerous doctrinal notions like Cold Start doctrine, Pro-Active Operations and massive nuclear retaliations in case of the use of battlefield or tactical nukes, are serious psychological barriers in the way of viable disarmament. These issues must be addressed in a mutually acceptable way.

Arms build-up in the India-Pakistan scenario is no longer a bilateral issue because India maintains that its main military threat emanates from China. However, India has bilateral trade of US$ 80 billion with China, and so this is paradoxical. Besides creating other perceptional distortions, this position has made any arms control or arms reduction initiative unworkable, and has made it a trilateral matter.

India continues to follow a trajectory of massive arms build-up, which has a direct bearing on the stability of this region. India is the biggest buyer of arms in the world. During the last five years it has imported nearly three times as many weapons as China and Pakistan combined. Indian imports of major weapons have gone up by 111 percent in the last five years as compared to 2004-08. Its share of total global arms imports has increased from 7 to 14 percent of the global arms trade, thus making it the world’s largest importer. Its imports are 14 per cent of the global total.

India has replaced China as the world’s biggest arms buyer since 2010. The total volume of global arms sales was up by 14 percent in 2009-13 compared to the previous five years. With its domestic defence industry struggling to manufacture high-tech arms, India is in the midst of a defence spending binge. Russia’s role of main supplier of weapons to India reflects the legacy of the cold war era. India now faces challenges of upgrading and modernising its vintage weapon systems dating back to the 1970s and 1980s—a reminder of the close Indo-Soviet relationship during the Cold War.

India now seeks to diversify its sources, looking particularly to the US and other Western countries. Last month’s data from reputed journal “IHS Jane’s” showed that India became the biggest buyer of US weapons last year, amounting to $1.9 billion. However, during 2009-13, the US accounted for only 7 percent of India’s purchases.

US exports of major weapons increased by 11 per cent between 2004–2008 and 2009–13. China has further cemented its position as a major exporter of arms, replacing France as the fourth largest arms exporter. The main recipient region in 2009–13 was Asia and Oceania, followed by the Middle East, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

During 2009–13 India invested heavily in air-strike capabilities. It received 90 of 222 Su-30MKI combat aircraft ordered from Russia. It also received 27 of a total of 45 MiG-29K combat aircraft ordered for use on its aircraft carriers. India has 62 Russian MiG-29SMT and 49 French Mirage 2000-5 combat aircraft on order. It has also selected, but not yet ordered, 144 Russian T-50 tanks and 126 French Rafale combat aircraft.

In recent years, submarines have increasingly featured among the acquisitions of many Asian countries. While China and Japan continue to build their own designs, other existing submarine operators have imported new boats. During 2009–13 India received a nuclear-powered sub marine from Russia; it is also building 6 French submarines under licence and plans 6 more. A series of safety and security related incidents— particularly submarines related— led to the resignation of the Indian Naval Chief. Nine officers and men died in the last six months in two submarine accidents with one submarine written off and another grounded. It indicates that the Indian Navy is suffering from the phenomenon of pursuing an unrealistic overreach.

Factors like a widening gap in the conventional capability and setting up of anti ballistic-missile defence systems by India are contributing towards the weakening of nuclear deterrence as well.

While Pakistan should continue to strive for durable peace with India, it should keep an eye on Indian trends with respect to the arms build-up. Under the circumstances, when India is making an all out effort to accentuate the imbalance in conventional weapons, Pakistan’s peace initiatives stand a lesser chance of success.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.

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