A round table discussion was organized by the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Islamabad titled” Conventional and Nuclear force Modernization and its Regional Implications” on June 06 2016 at the Centers’ conference room in Islamabad. The objective of the event was to engender a discussion on the curve of nuclear discourse in South Asia, its dynamics and its influence on the discourse of nuclear deterrence in future South Asia.
Dr Christine Leah, a strategic military affairs and a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University’s Grand Strategy Programme was the speaker at the event.
Speaking at a Roundtable Discussion on ‘Conventional and Nuclear force Modernization and its Regional Implications’ at the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Dr Leah, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University’s Grand Strategy Programme, said: “Even if we reduce the role of nuclear weapons or arsenal size, we might see a conventional arms race fill the gap left by nuclear weapons”.
She said this was particularly true in Pakistan’s context where nuclear weapons were seen as an equalizer to “superior Indian conventional forces”
She explained that any reduction in the role of nuclear weapons would “graphically expose conventional imbalances in South Asia” and regretted that Western powers do not pay much attention to this situation.
“Western powers tend to silo-off nuclear issues from conventional ones, probably too much to the detriment of …. relations between India and Pakistan,” the scholar, who has also authored a book ‘Australia and the Bomb’, said.
“You cannot disconnect nuclear weapons and nuclear strategies from issues of conventional force imbalance and thus from conventional arms control,” she emphasized.
Dr Leah said she does not see much scope for arms control and disarmament efforts in Asia-Pacific region.
She reasoned that the region, which did not have experience about formal legal arms control agreements, would find it difficult to reach agreements and, if that happens, ensuring the implementation of accords would be problematic.
Dr Leah suggested that instead of disassociating nuclear issues from conventional ones, it would be better to think in terms of overall military balance.
Executive Director CISS Ambassador Sarwar Naqvi said that in Pakistan security concerns vis-à-vis India dictated the conventional and nuclear policies of the country.
“In the case of Pakistan and India, whatever happens is a function of our bilateral relationship. We have overwhelming security concerns…some very real concerns, because of the history of our conflict,” he said.
“If there is de-escalation … it cannot be done in isolation by just one of these two countries (India or Pakistan). It has to be done by both. It’s a grim outlook, we don’t like it but it is the way it is.”
Amb Naqvi was also of the opinion that with nuclear deterrence enjoying pre-eminence in the stability discourse, people tended to overlook conventional deterrence.
An interactive and stimulating question and answer session followed the discussion.