Stimson in the News

Deterrence Stability in South Asia: Stimson Hosts Zachary Davis and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Feroz Khan

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On Tuesday, January 15, Brigadier General (ret.) Feroz Khan and Zachary Davis spoke on a “Strategic Restraint Regime 2.0,” and “Transparency and Deterrence Stability” as part of Stimson’s programming on South Asia.

Khan is a lecturer in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey. He is the author of the recently published book Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb, a history of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Davis is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a visiting research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. He previously held senior positions in the executive and legislative branches of the US Government with the Congressional Research Service, State Department, Congressional committees, and the National Security Council.

Khan began his remarks by outlining challenges to strategic restraint in South Asia. Challenges included the changing relations between major players in the region, as well as competitiveness, lack of an assured security framework, conventional force modernization, and India and Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenals.

Feroz Khan

He went on to discuss the US proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime between India and Pakistan following nuclear tests in 1998, and reasons for its failure. Elements involved a minimum deterrent posture with limits on missiles and nuclear weapons, comprised of locational restrictions on nuclear weapons’ storage and assurances that nuclear weapons would remain de-mated. He cited various factors leading to the proposal’s failure, including Pakistani insistence on a Kashmir settlement as a pre-requisite for negotiation, waning US political interest, and a lack of understanding between India and Pakistan of the importance of arms control and confidence-building measures.

Khan elaborated on lessons learned from the failed Strategic Restraint Regime proposal, applying them to his argument for creating a new Strategic Restraint Regime, based on five principles: 1) a culture of conflict resolution and reduced tension, 2) both states’ eschewing sub-conventional strategies and low-intensity conflict, 3) recognition of the nexus between nuclear deterrence, conventional force balance, and physical locale of military infrastructure, 4) development of institutionalized mechanisms designed to prevent crisis triggering events, and 5) an agreement free from prejudice from any threat assessment of other countries. He ended with specific restrictions on nuclear, missile, and conventional forces to be included in the proposed Strategic Restraint Regime 2.0.

Davis’ remarks focused on the benefits and potential drawbacks to transparency regarding nuclear issues and deterrence stability; specifically, he noted that excessive transparency between India and Pakistan could be undesirable. He noted that total transparency clarifies inequality, exacerbating security threats and possibly accelerating an arms build-up in both countries. He reasoned that “frosted” transparency, that clarifies thinking and rationale behind the development and employment of weapons and posturing is preferable. Some translucency, used carefully as one tool in a wider toolbox, can yield positive results.


Zachary Davis

He went on to highlight ways that leaders in South Asia can take positive steps toward increasing regional strategic stability. These included confidence-building measures, NRRMs, as well as bi-and multilateral transparency measures. Davis stressed the importance of bilateral discussions which include talks about force alignments and capabilities, leading to understandings of the deterrence relationship between India and Pakistan. He further noted that these discussions would not need to yield any formal agreements, but could help reduce the risk of miscalculation by either side.

Davis finished by citing potential areas of cooperation between India and Pakistan. These included joint monitoring of the moratorium on nuclear testing, nuclear safety and disaster preparedness, and avoiding incidents at sea. He also touched on arms control as a way for both sides to agree on an acceptable status quo, without signaling weakness.

The talks were concluded by a short question and answer session moderated by Stimson co-founder and director of South Asia programming, Michael Krepon.


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