Nuclear Risk-Reduction Measures in Southern Asia

in Program

India and Pakistan have now embraced the language, if not the spirit of confidence-building measures (CBMs). Government officials, media commentators,a dn researchers now use this term frequently. In China, the language of confidence-building measures is still used sparingly, and mostly with foreigners. Over time, this, too, is likely to change. 

CBM accords in sourther Asia have been negotiated between India and Pakistan as well as between India and China. Implementation of agreements between India and Pakistan, however, has been spotty, at best. Hotlines installed to ensure open communication channels between political and military leaders regularly fall silent during periods of tension. This problem is particularly evident along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir, where the level of violence has grown appreciably in recent years. Both countries claim that a 1991 accord banning airspace incursions by military aircraft is periodically violated. In contrast, implementation of Sino-Indian CBMs has proceeded in a more professional manner, but the pace of progress has been quite slow.

The need for better implementation of existing CBMs- and the negotiation of new accords- in southern Asia has been heightened since May 1998, when India and Pakistan carry lethal payloads- missiles that either now reside in Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese inventories or will appear soon enough. Nuclear testing on the subcontinent has also focused international attention on the Kashmir issue, still unresolved after fifty years of rancor, two wars over this territory, and recurring crises.

The term “confidence-building measures” covers much ground. CBMs can usefully encompass economic initiatives, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, as well as security arrangements. In light of the potentially dire repercussions that could result from heightened nuclear dangers in souther Asia, the Stimson Center suggests that more focus be placed on a subset of CBMs dealing directly with the problems at hand- nuclear risk-reduction measures (NRRMs).

The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have highlighted the triangular nature of security concerns and nuclear dangers in southern Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs owe much to Chinese support. While Pakistan measures its security requirements against India, India must pursue more complex strategic planning, factoring in China as well as Pakistan. Measures to reduce nuclear risk in southern Asia must take into account this three-cornered dynamic. 

Nuclear dangers can arise from the deployment and flight testing of ballistic missiles, from unusual activities associated with conventional forces, and from the increased violence occuring along the LoC. The three essays in this publication offer specific recommendations for NRRMs to deal with these concerns. 

Dr. W.P.S. Sidhu, currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, examines the complex dynamic behind ballistic missile development and testing in South Asia. His essay, “India’s Security and Nuclear Risk-Reduction Measures,” reviews three possible scenarios of missile regimes in the region, concluding that non-deployment with associated NRRMs offers the best possibilities for nuclear safety. Brian Cloughley, a former member of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, discusses NRRMs along the LoC in Kashmir. His essay, “Nuclear Risk-Reduction Measures in Kashmir,” proposes concrete steps to reduce dramatically the level fo violence across the Line to foster an atmosphere more conducive to a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Former ambassadors John H. Hawes and Teresita Schaffer suggest ideas for “open skies” accords for this troubled region in their essay, “Risk Reduction in South Asia: A Role for Cooperative Aerial Observation?” Their recommendations may appear ambitious for southern Asia, but these practices have already proven their worth in other troubled regions, including the Middle East.

The Henry L. Stimson Center’s programming to promote CBMs in southern Asia is made possible by generous grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the W. Alton Jones Foundation.

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