Saturday, September 12, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Sept 11, 2015

NCA meeting The National Command Authority (NCA) met on Wednesday, September 9 with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the chair and the top civilian and military leadership in attendance. The meeting emphasised that national interests would be protected at all costs by maintaining a full spectrum deterrence. The state, it was underlined, is fully cognisant of the evolving security dynamic of South Asia. While the regional security environment was reviewed, the meeting was briefed on the fast-paced developments on strategic and conventional capabilities in the neighbourhood. In view of the growing conventional asymmetry, the resolve was reiterated to maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability in line with credible minimum deterrence without indulging in an arms race. Full confidence was expressed in the robust nuclear command and control structure and the security of strategic assets. Pakistan would remain actively engaged with the world on nuclear stability and security issues. In its appraisal of the non-proliferation debate since it last met, the NCA expressed satisfaction on Pakistan's enhanced outreach to the multilateral export control regimes. Pakistan reiterated that it shares the goals of non-proliferation and is committed to playing its role as a mainstream partner in the effort. The NCA meeting reiterated Pakistan's interest in joining the multilateral export control regimes on a non-discriminatory basis, including membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to give it deserved full access to civil nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, particularly to meet its energy deficit. While the NCA reiterated its stance of peace and strategic stability in South Asia, for which conflict resolution was the necessary means, it also expressed concern at the absence of such a mechanism between Pakistan and India. A comprehensive briefing to the meeting by the Strategic Plans Division Director General dealt with the repeated apprehension in some quarters internationally that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands by pointing to the 30,000 strong security force guarding the nuclear arsenal. Reports have spoken lately about Pakistan possessing 120 nuclear warheads to India's 100. But other reports also point to India's rapidly growing nuclear and conventional military capabilities in the absence of a conflict resolution mechanism. The upsetting of regional strategic and conventional stability is a cause for concern. One think tank has reported that India has sufficient fissile material, both reactor and weapons grade plutonium, for more than 2,000 warheads. In addition, India is pursuing the addition to its arsenal of new weapons systems, including submarine-launched intercontinental and medium range ballistic missiles and improvements to its ballistic missiles defence. There is no reliable estimate available of India's missile inventories. The growing conventional asymmetry is doubly dangerous in the presence of doctrines like Cold Start (a limited war). Juxtaposed with the current tensions with India, the dialogue suspended since January 2013 and skirmishes on the Line of Control and Working Boundary, the whole scenario is scary. The NCA's argument that it does not want to enter into an arms race is correct in principle, but the ground realities and developments may inexorably lead to just such an outcome. It goes without saying that an arms race, nuclear or conventional or both, is not in the interests of either country, burdened by mass poverty and the demands of progress and development. The only way out of misperceptions about the other is to return to dialogue. The fact that the Pakistani Rangers-Indian Border Security Force meeting is taking place in New Delhi as these lines are being written is a hopeful chink of light in an otherwise dark horizon. The sooner Islamabad and New Delhi find the path back to the negotiating table, the better. That path seems to suggest itself in the light of the series of debacles in the dialogue as being none other than quiet diplomacy, proper preparation at the level of officials before the leaders meet, and the additional conduit of back channels that offer the advantage of discretion away from the glare of publicity.

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