ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India need to expand their bilateral agreement against attack on nuclear facilities to include cyber-attacks and sign an arms control treaty for maintaining strategic stability between them, experts emphasized.

They were speaking at a webinar hosted by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on “Evolution of Nuclear Deterrence and Strategy and its Manifestation in South Asia”, the think-tank said in a press release.

Brig Dr Naeem A Salik, Senior Research Fellow Centre for International Strategic Studies, while speaking at the webinar, described the situation in South Asia as “serious and dangerous.”

In his view the situation had been complicated by technological advances, deployment of strategic forces triad by India especially in the maritime domain, mistrust between the two nuclear armed neighbours, absence of strategic restraint regime or crisis management structure, and transformation in the nature of deterrence relationships in the region owing to growing tensions between India and China.

Say agreement against attack on nuclear facilities should include cyber-attacks

He believed that India and Pakistan would have to adjust their strategies due to the technological developments on both sides.

Brig Salik observed that India’s recessed deterrence posture was vanishing because of the introduction of the nuclear element in the maritime domain as it weakened the centralized control of the nuclear weapons.

He warned that in a crisis situation one of the sides in the conflict could prematurely or mistakenly launch a nuclear strike against the other based on faulty intelligence, misinterpretation of intelligence, or by misreading the intentions of the other side especially because of acute deficiency of trust between the two South Asian rivals.

Brig Salik urged Pakistan and India to have a South Asian version of the cold war era Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between USSR and US to “bring things under control here”.

Mr William Alberque, Director of Strategy, Technology and Arms Control at International Institute for Strategic Studies, emphasized the need for paying attention to the militarisation of the outer space.

“We need to worry about outer space because we rely upon outer space for our command and control, so if in a crisis the bad guys take out one of your satellites, they might hit a satellite that you’re relying on for your nuclear command and control … that therefore presages a nuclear attack and escalates immediately,” he maintained.

President SVI Zafar Iqbal Cheema said though there has been a lot of talk on preemption at the global level as well as the regional level, it was technically difficult to do so.

India, he said, had been threatening Pakistan with pre-emptive strike against its nuclear assets and nuclear capabilities. “Preemption is an extremely impossible task, even if the adversary’s 25pc or 10pc capabilities are left behind; it can retaliate with accuracy against the aggressor,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2022

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