Indo-Russia S-400 deal: Implications for Pakistan By Tariq Khalil

PUTIN-Modi signed a US$5b deal under which Russia will supply India S-400 missile system and that is major game changer in South Asian strategic environment. More so it is part of around multi billion dollar deal with Russia comprising scores of other defence equipment. This is beside what India is seeking from USA. For Russia being cash starved is a big deal from any standard. They are offering this weapon system to China as well thus it can not be said undue tilt towards India though it is a message to US, not with standing their threats. For Pakistan it needs to studied in-depth to assess the strategic threat it will pose to Pakistan in coming days and deep Strategic implications. Is it India’s answer to Pakistan’s Nuclear Tactical Weapons.
Even equipped with S400 system they do not pose any deterrence with a range of 400 km, in case Pakistan deploys its assets with tactical cunning and surprise. Any anti missile activity in a spectrum of 400 km will have nuclear fall out in areas down below, including posing a threat to their armour and combat troops. It is to be seen what will be US reaction. With multi billion dollars weapon deals, over 1.4 billion commercial market, and strategic ally, will USA impose sanctions on newly acquired friendship, strategic partnership and new darling. No- they will find a way out. Americans are past master to ignore where they feel their interests are / can be jeopardised. See their response after Journalist Jamal Khoosgi’s murder in Turkey. A superb hot and cold drama is being played by USA.
The new weapon in the first place is going to be deployed against western borders, as its deployment against China is questionable. Most important, what other activities are associated with it . Quietly India making all diplomatic efforts to Join Nuclear Suppliers Group in Second Plenary session going to be held in December. That have US blessing and South Africa has supported India’s entry. India is working with Argentina and Brazil. By joining Austria Group India displayed it is ready to accept strict control on Nuclear supplies. But in 2016 sessions China opposed India’s entry and its all efforts were of no use. Now after Wuhan meeting and Xi visit will situation change? But international arena saw some fast moving changes. USAs opposition to CEPC, squeezing Pakistan on the issue, and now S 400 deal , the chances are situation will not change. After Hydro, nuclear energy is the cleanest and cheapest . There Is therefore immense commercial opportunity in nuclear supplies. India is very keen to harness this business as stronger cash flows will strengthen its ambitions to procure high tech weaponry. Further it’s formal recognition as nuclear state. It here Pakistan must play its cards well to ensure if India is accommodated Pakistan must be included not only to ensure regional balance but also for commercial benefits.
India is very conscious of it air power and navel balance with Pakistan. As for airforce is concerned Russian Sakhui high altitude fighter is the priority one. Deal with Mirages on the anvil but mired in controversy. But most important are S400 is the system useful against China. The limitation is 400 Km and in spite of the mobility , keeping in view barriers of High mountains tactical and technical surprise can be achieved by China. In nuclear threshold , the scenario could be to dangerous with nuclear fallout from the air even if incoming missiles are destroyed mid air. In the Indian Ocean , to have supremacy, Indian vision 2050 is to attain mastery of sea to replace USA in Indian Ocean.
Though it is portrayed for the containment of China but its implications for Pakistan are grave. CPEC is considered as threat to US and Indian interests and diminish Indian hegemony in Indian Ocean and Straight of Melaka. There, Pakistan figures out. A grave threat is emerging for the Pakistan’s coastal belt. Karachi Gwader highway. Port of Gwader itself will needs resources to protect it. In the east Keti Bander is very vulnerable and allow Indians to manoeuvre from rear ( Sir Creek)and sea flank posing serious threat to Karachi . With present fiscal situation Nation as whole is required to wake up. This means, USA will employ all its efforts to capitalise on the present fiscal needs of Pakistan and squeeze it for non commercial objectives. As General Max Rtd asserted and put all the blame of US defeat in Afghanistan on Pakistan this boogie will also be continued to be raised . To avert default on debt payments stabilise the economy left by previous regime knee deep in debt. Pakistan need of IMF was evident fro day one unless alternative are made available.And , thus maximum squeeze will be employed by IMF to achieve non commercial ends. To counter India, Pakistan lack resources to plan a deterrence in sea and in air, whereas it can mange on ground. Weak economy will not allow any room. Defence of the country is directly linked to strong economy and economic policy, Sound internal policy with zero tolerance for crime and corruption. But in the present scenario it is an up hill task. Coupled with above a strong vibrant pro active foreign policy be pursued
Unfortunately Pakistan’s political elite is fighting for crumbs, unaware or with who care attitude. Last ten years virtually our policy wavered day to day and has been reactive. Vested personal interests of leaders compromised a strong foreign policy and national interests .Drastic measures are required to control fiscal problem where as Pakistan needs quick realignment in its strategic posture. In Indian ocean Chinese and Russian help be probed in case of any eventuality. Pakistan should move towards manufacturing of enhanced flotilla of submarines and fast moving combat attack boats to protect coastal belt. This is cheaper option in the present circumstances. But- all this need economic revival . Similarly there is requirement to make people of aware of dangers they are likely to face. In some of Indian states bordering Pakistan movements have been launched to educate masses in civil defence in case of war. We must learn a lesson what is happening in ME. Nations who do not rise are destained to dust bin of history.
—The writer, a retired Brigadier, is decorated veteran of 65 & 71 wars and a defence analyst based in Lahore.

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