ISLAMABAD: China’s willingness to provide its state-of-the-art military technology to Pakistan will define latter’s ability to confront threat from India that is investing heavily in modernising its armed forces.

This was stated by former chief of air staff retired Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat while speaking at a seminar on Thursday.

He said in view of the geo-political environment, China, which has ‘considerable’ military capabilities, can potentially be the major source for buying modern military technology.

The seminar organised by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on “India’s military modernisation and counter-force temptations: impact on regional security” looked at India’s drive for modernising its armed forces by importing weaponry from foreign sources in addition to developing local capabilities and Pakistan’s options for dealing with the emerging situation.

The discussion was also in the context of greater Indian focus on development of ‘counter-force capabilities’ that could undermine the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Everyone is worried about ‘Indian potential for mischief’ and we would need more capable aircraft and weapons, says ex-air chief

The former air chief said the other major challenge for Pakistan, while buying modern technology, would be that of financing it.

China is already the leading source of advanced weapons purchases for Pakistan replacing US. According to SIPRI, which maintains the database of military expenditures, Pakistan is the top buyer of Chinese arms.

Everyone, Mr Saadat said, is worried about the “Indian potential for mischief” and it is obvious that we would need “more capable aircraft and weapons.”

He also called for developing electronic countermeasure capability to counter India’s S400 systems, acquired from Russia, and focusing on cyber warfare. The cyber warfare capability, he said, would have to be developed indigenously.

Former secretary defence production retired Lt Gen Syed Mohammad Owais also recommended closer coordination with the Chinese to remain prepared for responding to any hostility from India. He said India wants to weaken Pakistan politically, militarily, economically, and internally and this hostile posture is unlikely to change irrespective of who is in power in Delhi.

India in its quest for modernisation of its forces is supported by US and Israel. New Delhi is, moreover, putting in more resources for acquisition of modern weapon systems, he added.

Retired Air Vice Marshal Faaiz Amir, former vice chancellor Air University, while talking about the prospects of a disarming strike by India against Pakistan nuclear arsenal, said in the near to medium term there were no chances of such a strike being successful. However, with India acquiring capabilities in weapon accuracy and sensors, this assessment may change, he cautioned.

“India by enhancing its counter-force capabilities would trigger an arms race and perpetuate other dynamics that could aggravate political and military conditions,” he warned, adding Delhi’s overconfidence could lead it to believe that it can execute a disarming strike which would place the region and the world in an incredibly perilous position.

Dr Adil Sultan, director CASS, noted that India was developing capabilities that could provide it an option of pre-emptive counter-force strike against Pakistan.

“Any attempt to neutralise or undermine Pakistan’s deterrence potential to explore space for limited conventional conflict is likely to trigger a response that would eventually end in a nuclear holocaust,” he said.

He too looked sceptical about India carrying out a successful counter-force strike against Pakistan because of lacking intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and precision weapons. However, he said, development of counter-force capabilities by India would pose challenge for Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said Pakistan had so far successfully relied on “calculated and timely responses” to maintain deterrence, including development of Nasr, the short-range ballistic missile, and Ababeel missile.He said an unfortunate aspect of South Asian nuclearisation was the pro-India bias of the international community.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020

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