Originally Published 2004-03-22 04:27:26 Published on Mar 22, 2004
On March 9, 2004, Pakistan test fired solid propellant Shaheen-2 ballistic missile, which is supposed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead upto a range of 2500 kilometers. The aim of the test as stated officially was ¿to ensure the reach of the missile was sufficient to deter aggression and prevent military coercion¿. The speculations -or unstated aims- of the test were
Missile Antics by India and Pakistan
On March 9, 2004, Pakistan test fired solid propellant Shaheen-2 ballistic missile, which is supposed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead upto a range of 2500 kilometers. The aim of the test as stated officially was 'to ensure the reach of the missile was sufficient to deter aggression and prevent military coercion'. The speculations -or unstated aims- of the test were</font> </p> <ul> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Demonstrate its strategic capability to India. Ever since Operation Prakaram, Pakistan has often accused India of military coercion.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Related to India's deal with Israel to buy Phalcon airborne radar system that has been officially criticized by Pakistan and India's Agni 3 missile test, expected to be carried out in the very near future.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">To convey to its domestic audience that the A Q Khan nuclear leaks affair had not compromised Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes.</font> </div> </li> </ul> <p align="justify" class="greytext1"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">A negative feature of this missile test and political messaging was that it was conducted within 62 days of the much-proclaimed Islamabad Declaration. But the positive features were (a) Pakistan gave advance notice of the test to India as per Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two governments in Lahore in February 1999 (Lahore MoU) (b) no political rhetoric or jingoism followed the tests in either country, and (c) there was very mild reaction on the test from foreign countries; USA and Japan merely conveyed prudence and no more. <br /> <br /> Ballistic missiles are the most effective delivery vehicle for carrying any weapon of mass destruction and are, therefore, an essential part of a credible strategic deterrent system. The primary purpose of any missile flight-testing is to validate technical designs. In Indo Pak strategic environment, however, they also carry a sub-continental 'instability price' due to</font> </p> <ul> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Short distances, a short flight time and therefore a very short warning.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Ambiguity about the possible warhead; whether it is a conventional or an unconventional warhead.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Command and control systems for strategic weapons in both countries are still evolving.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">India and Pakistan do not possess a foolproof control mechanism to prevent an accidental launch or self-destruct system, should a missile follow an errant trajectory.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Lack of real hotlines (communication system) at political and military levels between the two countries.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Pakistan and India do not have mutual transparency or independent means to confirm missile non-deployment or deployment.</font> </div> </li> </ul> <p align="justify" class="greytext1"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Historically, ballistic missiles have always played a major role in 'political messaging' as well as in terms of conflict escalation. In India and Pakistan, such missiles have become an attractive part of military parades to convey and often exaggerate technological and military capabilities. (While in Service, I had objected to such displays unless a system was operationally inducted into the Service. But the enthusiasts over-ruled it by making these missiles a part of the Defence Research and Development Organization contingent). In Pakistan, ballistic missile models have been erected in several cities to highlight Pakistan's macho military image and a matching response to balance India's progress. <br /> <br /> In the recent past, Pakistan, sometimes India too, has timed ballistic missile tests for conveying political messages to domestic and/or foreign audiences and to convey military strategic signals to each other. The political message given by a missile test is generally three-fold. First, the test provides technical validation and a successful test enhances deterrence capability. &nbsp;Second, the public perceives it to be a major national technical breakthrough and acquisition of an important capability. Thus, it enhances&nbsp; popularity of the government and the political party in power. Thirdly, the message involves diplomacy management of international reaction. <br /> <br /> The following instances will indicate how Pakistan and India have attempted to exploit these tests in the last few years</font> </p> <ul> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">In April 1998, Pakistan tested its first Ghauri (North Korean liquid- fuel Nodong missile). This resulted in MTCR sanctions for Pakistan and North Korea.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">In April 1999, India conducted the Agni missile test. Within two days, Pakistan retaliated by test firing Ghauri and then Shaheen-I (solid fuel) missiles. The message was clearly of one-upmanship.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">During Kargil war, according to Bruce Reidel, the US administration used the ballistic missiles issue to put pressure on Pakistan. It conveyed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Pak Army, without his knowledge, had deployed ballistic missiles and was about to escalate the crisis.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">In January 2002, soon after Jehadi terrorists' assault on Parliament when Indian troops were still deployed (but major crisis moments had already <br /> passed after General Musharraf's January 12 speech), India test fired Agni-1 thus escalating the crisis without taking any advantage.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Consequent to Kaluchak incident in May 2002 when tension rose high and there was again a serious talk of war, Pakistan test fired three Hatf&nbsp; (Ghauri, Ghazanavi and Abdali) ballistic missiles.</font> </div> </li> </ul> <p align="justify" class="greytext1"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Although the last instance made no real impact on the Indian military and India's External Affairs Ministry official termed it as &nbsp;'missile antics', Pak President, General Musharraf believed that he was successful in conveying its deterrent signal. On June 17, 2002, he stated, "By testing with outstanding success, the delivery systems of our strategic capability, these men (Pakistani scientists) validated the reliability, accuracy and the deterrence value of Pakistan's premier surface-to-surface ballistic missiles systems of&nbsp; the Hatf series....". Most Pakistanis continue to have such a notion about their strategic weapons capability. <br /> <br /> The above incidents show how Pakistan, and sometime even India, have &nbsp;been using missile flight tests for sending political and strategic messages. Such messaging has very often resulted in unnecessary political rhetoric, crisis hype, warped conclusions, and also triggered outside diplomatic intervention. It may also be noted that this kind of political or strategic messaging through missile tests does not figure in the Sino-Indian security environment. <br /> <br /> I believe that political messaging for domestic, international community, and for the purpose of deterrence has by now run its full course on the sub-continent. Political messaging through missile flight-testing has now lost its value. If India and Pakistan are serious in taking the Islamabad Declaration (January 2004) forward, both nations should take note of the possible negative technical and operational consequences (as mentioned earlier) and get down to working out detailed confidence building measures. A start for this purpose has already been made in the Lahore MoU. &nbsp;We need to carry that forward by working out implementable short and long term measures such as: -</font> </p> <ul> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Establishment of Nuclear Risks Control Centers in both countries.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Avoid ballistic flight-tests during a crisis situation/period.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Eschew political and military rhetoric concerning strategic weapon systems.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Work out means of communications at military and political levels in a crisis situation.</font> </div> </li> <li> <div align="justify"> <font size="2" class="greytext1">Avoid triggering events that may cause immediate military reaction/ escalation.</font> </div> </li> </ul> <p align="justify" class="greytext1"> <font size="2" class="greytext1"> <strong>General V P Malik ,Former Chief of the Army Staff, and currently President, ORF Institute of Security Studies, New Delhi.</strong> <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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