US Nuclear Hypocrisy over Pak BMD System By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

US Nuclear Hypocrisy over Pak BMD System By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

NEEDLESS to say, it has been a chronic American attitude to view the Pakistan nuclear programme with a jaundiced eye. Last week, US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions (albeit without any concrete evidence) on four entities—one the Belarus-based company and other three, the China-based companies—for their alleged involvement in supplying “missile-applicable items” to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program thereby pointing that the sanctions move is not intended to punish but to bring about a “change in behaviour.” For Pakistan, the US move is politically biased and legally hypocritical simply because Pakistan has been a victim of US policy of double standard in South Asia.

In a statement issued in Washington on Friday last, the US State Department claimed that the entities—three Chinese and one from Belarus—were particularly assisting Pakistan’s long-range missile endeavours.‘’ The Department of State is designating four entities pursuant to Section 1(a) (ii) of Executive Order 13382’’. The four alleged suppliers are: Belarus-based Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant; PRC)-based Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited; PRC-based Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co Ltd; and PRC-based Granpect Company Limited.

Pakistan ‘’rejects political use of export controls’’. In response to the American allegations, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said, “Such listings of commercial entities have taken place in the past as well on allegations of links to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program without sharing any evidence whatsoever.’’…the same jurisdictions” claiming “strict adherence” to the non-proliferation of weapons and military technologies would sometimes make exceptions “for some countries” and have even waived licensing requirements to help them obtain advanced military equipment’’, the statement added. Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on April 20 categorically opposed US accusations in the arms control report by holding that China is fully committed to its international obligations, instead of pointing fingers at China, the US should assess its own record, which is contradictory to global nuclear disarmament goals.

US nuclear hypocrisy is well-evident in South Asia: In 2008, some NSG members chartered grave reservations— about the US grant of unjust waiver to India, believing it would undermine the non-proliferation regime —as some of the NSG members were worried that India’s nuclear arsenal will be replenished. Notwithstanding the fact that the NSG-stipulated guidelines prohibit commercial nuclear activities with a non-NPT state, the 2008 clean waiver was approved by the NSG. Rather, the deal unjustifiably foreshadowed India’s status as a quasi- de jure nuclear state in South Asia.

India exploits the NSG waiver: Time proved that in the pretext of the US-India nuclear deal (signed in October, 2008 and subsequently amplified during President Obama‘s visits to India in 2010 and 2015 respectively), India accelerated its nuclear weaponization programme. Moreover, the deal also provided a cushion to India to get entry into multilateral nuclear arrangements, including the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016, the Wassenaar Agreement (WA) in 2017 and the Australia Group (AG) in 2018. India’s MIRV BMD undermines South Asian strategic stability: Needless to say, strategic stability in South Asia is embroiled with technological arms race.

On March 11, 2024, India tested its Agni-v MIRV. Nonetheless, India’s entry into Missile Technology Control Regime, MTCR (a political agreement between 35 member states) drastically affects strategic balance in South Asia. Actually, after acquiring MTCR membership in 2016, New Delhi accelerated its missile and space programmes, thereby having an easier access to advanced technologies of ballistic, supersonic and hypersonic missile systems, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) like Global Hawk and Predator. Still, questions must be raised about India’s commitment to the export control regime.

Paradoxically, in recent years, owing to its dangerous breaches of nuclear safety and security, India has emerged as an irresponsible nuclear South Asian state – profoundly endorsed by India’s scowling operational failure of a BrahMos missile launch into the Pakistani territory on March 9, 2022. But in contrast to its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, India is cultivating the benefit to export nuclear arms. India delivered first batch of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines on Friday (April 19), as part of a $375 million deal signed by the two countries in 2022, news agency ANI reported. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also referenced it in an election rally in Madhya Pradesh, saying, “Bharat is acquiring the image of an arms exporter.’’

Strategic imperatives of Pak MIRV-Missile Programmes for the development of such MIRV capable missiles by Pakistan, it is Islamabad’s strategic response to threat perceptions emerged and entailed by India’s efforts to develop and expand its ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme in that Islamabad apprehends that India’s operationalization of its BMD systems on land and at sea would significantly undermine Pakistan’s ability to retaliate to an Indian first strike. Pakistan also worries that the Indian BMD programme—espoused by New Delhi’s enhanced missile capabilities, ‘’especially in terms of speed and precision—is part of an Indian strategy to launch counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s deterrent forces.’’

Therefore, Pakistan took a proactive decision to develop and test multiple independent missiles, including the Ababeel—a MIRV-tipped surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missile. Thus, after the April 2022 launch of the Shaheen-III medium-range ballistic missile, in October 2023, Pakistan conducted the second test launch of the Ababeel missile. The test was a glaring illustration of Pakistan’s response capabilities as India’s ballistic missile defence system— being tested and developed. Foreseeably, India’s acquisition of BMD accompanied by other advanced missile technologies poses a perilous threat to Pakistan. Pakistan is determined not to compromise its indigenous Missile Defence System- capability-a combination of Ballistic, Cruise, Hypersonic capable missiles— aimed at ‘’strengthening deterrence and enhancing strategic stability in the region through the operationalization of full-spectrum deterrence in the overall construct of credible minimum deterrence’’.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law. He deals with the strategic and nuclear issues.


US Nuclear Hypocrisy over Pak BMD System By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


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