ISLAMABAD, Oct 23: Although it is generally believed that nuclear deterrence is the reason behind the stability in South Asia, the lack of clarity in policies of both India and Pakistan regarding pursuit of conventional weapons may offset this stability.

During a workshop on “Deterrence stability in South Asia” at a local hotel, security analysts, foreign policy experts and academicians discussed the dynamics of the stability with special focus on the changing geo-strategic scenario.

The workshop was organised by the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) in collaboration with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Washington.

Speaking on the occasion, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said the 1998 nuclear explosions by India and Pakistan led to the emergence of new regionalism with China, South Asia, Central Asia, Saudi Arabia and Iran being its main components.

However, the nuclear explosions also left a negative trend in the shape of a great game to contain China that was inimical to the cold war era.

The region cannot afford this trend, he added.

The senator said going nuclear created a sense of national self-confidence in Pakistan where anti-India factor was no longer the main factor in general elections.

Though there have been localised conflicts like the 1999 Kargil incident and intermittent skirmishes on the Line of Control (LOC), the overall fear of an all-out war with India was not present. In other words, the two nations had demonstrated themselves to be responsible nuclear powers, he said.

However, due to its huge economic and strategic significance, New Delhi had gained undue world favour especially in the shape of the US-India nuclear regime which Mr Mushahid said violated not only the American laws but also the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

George Perkovich, the author of a book on India’s nuclear bomb, while referring to the geographical proximity and the dynamics of interconnectivity of the two countries as well as China, said the deterrence stability in South Asia was unprecedented and unique.

He said even though very few people, even among politicians and government officials in Washington, knew about the region, the US was always concerned about how to prevent a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan.

He added that the US was also consistently deliberating on how to stop the use of nuclear weapons by terror elements against its interests.

Dr Adil Sultan said the huge disparity in the defence budgets of the two South Asian countries could force Pakistan to return to the conventional arms race.

He maintained that there was an emerging discriminatory trend in world politics in dealing with the two countries. India was also working to enhance the mobility of its nuclear missiles and would have ‘anytime-anywhere’ capability, he said.

Dr Sultan said the Indian military fighting conventional wars in a nuclear environment could compel other regional powers to go for tit-for-tat measures threatening stability in the region.

Brig Feroz H. Khan, while speaking on the American perspective to the deterrence stability in South Asia, said technological innovation was going to change the deterrence stability.

He said the US was worried whether India and Pakistan would be able to avoid a tension and what role Washington could play in such a situation.

The lingering issues of terrorism and non-state actors threatening peace was also a matter of concern for the US.

He said the two countries in South Asia had not reached the simple and complex learning stage about their nuclear arsenals.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal said India’s development of nuclear missiles with the range of up to 5,000 kilometres showed its hegemonic designs even beyond the borders of China and Pakistan.

He said the two countries were not willing to enter into an arms control arrangement.

Academic Salma Malik said in both the countries, there was a strong constituency of conflicts primarily driven by security concerns and the two nations were going in a circle talking about all issues but doing nothing to resolve them.

Besides, there has been a marked increase in the number of hardliners in both the countries, he added.

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