Improving the balance, or that old question of trust

Pakistan thumbs its nose at an accord it signed just days ago.

In what is described as a birthday gift for Gen Musharraf, Pakistan has tested a cruise missile that it claims is indigenously built. India, which only last week concluded an agreement on missile testing with Pakistan last week, was not told about the celebrations and the fireworks display.

When Indian and Pakistani officials reached an agreement on nuclear confidence-building measures on 6th August 2005, they agreed to set up a hotline between their foreign secretaries and more importantly, agreed to notify each other ahead of missile tests.

A joint statement said the two sides reached an understanding on the proposed agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles.

“The proposed agreement commits both sides to pre-notify in a structured format flight testing of ballistic missiles, with the objective of enhancing mutual confidence and engendering predictability and transparency of intent.[Dawn]

The Pakistanis may be correct in saying that since the missile they tested was a cruise missile, and not really a ballistic one. But that is only splitting hairs. As the joint statement says, the whole point is to enhance ‘mutual confidence and engender predictability and transparency of intent’. Testing a cruise missile and claiming that it falls outside the purview of the agreement reached only days ago is now way to achieve that objective.

Indeed, the timing of Pakistan’s nuclear tests suggests that it is neither interested in engendering predictability and nor in establishing transparency of intent. An environment where it’s actions remain unpredictable coupled with the retention of nuclear first-strike option give it a strategic umbrella under which it can carry out conventional and sub-conventional aggression. It is in Pakistan’s interest to raise the bogey a nuclear mishap or a nuclear war in the subcontinent, causing the international community to retain its attention on the world’s ‘nuclear flashpoint’.

India for its part appears content to respond to Pakistan’s policy of deliberate irrationalism by its own policy of rational engagement. While that may be the appropriate diplomatic response, the Indian foreign secretary’s red phone may not ring every time the Pakistanis are in the mood for some fireworks.

‘To wholesomely distrust Musharraf is to miss new opportunities’. Really?

Update: The US State Department thinks that there is nothing provocative or threatening about Pakistan’s missile testing.

Asked how the Pakistani test met the criterion of not being provocative or threatening, Mr Ereli said: “My understanding was that it was done in a way that was not alarming, that was not a surprise.” [Dawn]

5 thoughts on “Improving the balance, or that old question of trust”

  1. This missile is supposedly land based, and a land based missile that can go for only 500km, to threaten India? Not much of a great shakes, I think. Although if it gets on a mobile platform it might be more potent, what would really scare the shit out of our forces is if it gets onto the Naval arms -either on ship or on sub.

    Oh, and I dont support the post of my namesake. I am as much in favour of living in the present, and putting the clock back, as you.

  2. Thanks for the responses. I’m extremely sympathetic to the points made in rebuttal against my article, but do want to stress that my proposal really seeks to set the clock forward, rather than backward (as I clarified in a comment on my blog at http://www.prasanna.org.in). The subcontinental condition is completely different from the European one (and I eschew the EU argument completely in my piece), and it is undoubtedly vital to preserve the interests of all countries that currently comprise the subcontinent. My article therefore veers completely away from suggesting that we adapt the Indian or the Pakistani model in the reunified set-up (assuming one is better than the other) — I propose instead a ‘one country many systems’ approach in which local units retain the ability to define their governmental/social/cultural setup. I ask people to move on from current notions of nationhood that prescribe (totalitarian/majoritarian/religious/dictatorial) uniformity in a nation/country. The benefits of reunification far outweigh any perceived fears of loss of sovereignty. In fact, the only logical alternative to reunification is further fragmentation (precisely for the points you make in your rebuttal) — you can never have enough countries to meet the aspirations of all groups and sub-groups (and there is increasing clamor in all subcontinental countries for new districts/states/countries). The options are clear — one country, or far too many to count.

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