Indian Ballistic Missile Defence System and South Asian Strategic Stability

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India, however in its pursuit to attain regional hegemony and prestige, trying to remove this sense of mutual vulnerability by going for aggressive military force postures and attainment of technology.
Image courtesy: Dawn

The actual use of nuclear weapons by the two South Asian nuclear rivals has been barred since overt nuclearization and the sense of mutual vulnerability is there. The mutual vulnerability entails that the two states have the power and capability to attack each other but due to the fear of terrible relations in response, they refrained from indulging in such activity, and nuclear deterrence prevails, which becomes the reason for regional stability. India, however in its pursuit to attain regional hegemony and prestige, trying to remove this sense of mutual vulnerability by going for aggressive military force postures and attainment of technology. India intends for a multi-layered defensive shield and has indigenously developed a part of it, and has attained the technology from the US, Russia, and Israel as well in order to complete its four-layered defensive shield, in its capital New Delhi and Mumbai. This pursuit of the BMD system can create a false sense of security in the minds of Indian policymakers, and that could destabilize the region as they could go for any aggressive action against Pakistan, with the intention of defeating the enemy at every level.

Also read: India’s obsession with “limited Strikes” and options for Pakistan

Besides the procurement of the Israeli Iron Dome system, India acquired the Russian S-400 Triumf Air Defence System as well, in a $5.43 billion deal between India and Russia, in 2016. The delivery of this system started in November 2021. The S-400 system is developed by the Almaz Central Design of Russia and can primarily engage cruise missiles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and aircraft, at an altitude of 30km and 400km in the range.

The introduction of a ballistic missile defense system in South Asia can make the already volatile region even more unstable, by increasing the chances of war in the region. The acquisition of such a system will make India even more aggressive and could potentially lead to instability. India could potentially attack Pakistan’s Political, economic, and strategic sites, with a view that they can halt the attack in response to that, which is really absurd.

India is trying to destabilize the deterrence equation, and hence Pakistan has to take appropriate steps beforehand in order to maintain the credibility of its deterrence. Pakistan, keeping in view the economic constraints has not indulged in the development of the BMD System but is looking for more viable options to maintain strategic stability in the region.

Also read: Evolving India nuclear doctrine and posture: implications for Pakistan

Though the BMD system has some vulnerability as well, as no system could give 100% protection, as it is effective against UAVs, aircraft, and cruise missiles, and not against ballistic missiles, hence, the credibility gets undermined. Moreover, India will be only protecting a few cities under this umbrella, and not the whole of the country falls under this, which will spark outrage amongst the Indians as well. Furthermore, given the short flight time between the two countries, the debris can still fall on the Indian side, causing damage over there as well. Moreover, the efficacy of Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) can’t be undermined, as BMD can hit only one missile at a time, and the MIRVs or launch multiple missiles simultaneously, BMD wouldn’t be able to intercept them all, which undermines the credibility of the BMD System.

The end of the cold war gave rise to the regional hegemonic mindset, to which South Asia also became the victim. This approach has become the reason for regional chaos and instability. India continues to aspire to its hegemonic behavior and continuously indulge Pakistan in a conventional and unconventional arms race, the negative impact of BMD will also be driven in South Asia by compelling the vertical arms proliferation, which will further the instability in the already volatile region. Though Ballistic Missile Defence System is a defensive technology, but India wants to exploit it offensively against Pakistan, by creating a false sense of security and going aggressively toward Pakistan, and exploiting the strategic, economic and political assets for a bargain. Furthermore, BMD also undermines the core of regional stability which is the concept of deterrence. The exclusion of the phenomenon of nuclear deterrence will accentuate the arms readiness, and ‘use it or lose it’ strategy by the other state for its protection. Hence, it could prove to trigger nuclear war in the South Asian region.

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