September 27, 2011

India and the US plan for potential Pakistan's crises: military-to-military talks with the Pakistan military?

Gururaj Pamidi

The entire world appears to be alarmed about the internal situation in neighbouring Pakistan and its losing battle to growing radicalisation within the country. The fact that the all powerful Pakistan Army, apparently, is not making that extra effort needed to curb rogue elements and appears determined to lead the country down a self destructive path has many western analysts worried.

The fact that Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state adds to the discomfiture of the western world. The declarations of the Pakistan Army generals about their confidence to guarantee the "safety' of its crown jewels appear to run hollow and have not reassured the world. It is in this light that the latest expert report issued this weekend and reported in the Global Security Newswire urging India and the United States to secretly plan joint responses to multiple potential crises in Pakistan needs to be noted. The report is said to have analysed various scenarios including a threat to the Pakistan armed forces' oversight of the nation's atomic arsenal falling into wrong hands and the government descending into chaos.
The respected Pakistani daily Dawn has reported on this issue and it says that the report, co-sponsored by the US Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Institute India, urges New Delhi to open channels of communication with the Pakistan military while advising the United States to do everything possible in assisting Pakistan in protecting its nuclear arsenal. The Dawn quotes Ambassador Robert Blackwill, the co-chair of the report, who is said to have told Foreign Policy magazine, "If the society at large becomes more chaotic, more violent, if Islamic extremists have more influence inside the country, then one has to worry whether at some point the Pakistan nuclear complex has been penetrated by terrorists or Islamic extremists of other persuasion. The United States and India should be talking in a contingency way about what one country or the other might try to do in those circumstances. And what the two of them could try to do to prevent that from happening"
There is no dispute in the fact that India shares the concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. The concern is not just about the nuclear weapons per se but also includes the security of the fissile material and this assumes increased significance due to Pakistan's feverish pace in multiplying its stockpile. As it is, it is said to possess more nuclear warheads than India and appears to be well on its way to possessing the fourth largest nuclear stockpile in the world. Pakistan has the ""world's fastest-growing nuclear stockpile"" and could have as many as 200 warheads within the next 10 years, according to a July 2011 analysis published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It is precisely due to these reasons that India is constantly attempting to engage in a discussion with Pakistan on these issues. India sincerely desires a peaceful nuclear neighbourhood and that is the reason that nuclear confidence building measures are being pursued with all sincerity. A nuclear armed Pakistan which is stable and has full control of all its strategic assets is in the interests of a secure neighbourhood. 
Until now, India has steadfastly maintained its repose and confidence in the ability of Pakistan to safeguard its nuclear assets. Notwithstanding the internal turmoil that is rocking Pakistan, there appears to be no let up in the stranglehold of the Pakistan Army on all vital aspects of the country's governance. There is no reason to disbelieve that this situation will change any time in the near future. India needs to re-invigorate the confidence building measures between the two countries. Towards this end, the suggestion in the report that "India's leadership should develop channels, including military-to-military, to talk with the Pakistan military" merits serious deliberations by the policy-makers.
Gururaj Pamidi is a Senior Research Fellow at the United Service Institution of India (USI)
(The views expressed in the article are that of the author and do not represent the views of the editorial committee or the centre for land warfare studies)

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