India-US Defence Deal 2020: Security Implications for Pakistan

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Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 fighter jets, developed by Dassault Aviation, perform maneuvers during the DefExpo 20 in Lucknow. Pakistan has expressed concern over the Indo-US IADWS deal. (Bloomberg)

by Sher Bano 23 March 2020

During recent Trump’s visit to India, both the countries signed US 3 billion dollars defence deal involving various sophisticated weapons. The deal consists of the sale of six Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters for the Indian Army and 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy. Pakistan has already shown concerns that this deal would result in further destabilizing the already volatile region. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui stated that “the sale of such sophisticated weapons to India will disturb the strategic balance in South Asia with security implications for Pakistan and the region.” She also stated that the region could not afford an arms race or conflict and urged the international community to prevent the destabilization of the region.

Since 2007 India’s defence cooperation with the US has reached US 17 billion dollars as it aims to modernize its military to achieve its ultimate goal of becoming the global power. With the recent purchase of the sophisticated weapons, India is increasing its sphere of influence in the region which is quite alarming for its neighboring countries specifically Pakistan. The defence agreement between them clearly marks close collaboration in military, conventional and non-conventional weapons which may pose serious repercussion on geo-strategic scenarios of South Asia. US being the major power is supporting India to play a larger role of the regional policeman and fulfill its long term hegemonic designs to dominate the smaller states with the help of its military strength. Hence this defence cooperation has accelerated India’s dream of becoming the global power.

Moreover India’s obsession of buying the most sophisticated weapons is a serious concern for Pakistan as it is likely to create conventional asymmetry in the region. The recent deal consist of weapons which Pakistan doesn’t have right now, hence it will disturb the conventional balance between the two states. Maritime security cooperation between India and the US is nothing but an attempt to secure the maritime domain which can cause serious maritime conflict between India and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean and international seas as well. The Apache attack helicopters are equipped with the hellfire missiles, night vision capabilities, 70 mm rockets and an automatic gun, which makes it the most lethal machine in the world. The Apache would add greater firepower and agility to the Indian ground forces for any quick and intense operations against Pakistan.

This Indo-US deal has the potential to undermine the Pakistan’s strategy of minimum credible deterrence. Hence this cooperation can have disastrous effects on the stability of the region by tilting the strategic balance between in favor of India. Pakistan should convey to the US at the highest level, its security concerns caused by the latest Indo-US defence deal. We must emphasize upon the destabilizing consequences for South Asia caused by the open ended supply of highly advanced weapons to India, creating conventional asymmetry in the region.

Pakistan being the smaller state with a fragile economy cannot afford to indulge in an all-out arms race. However, Pakistan also should not remain oblivious to growing Indo-US cooperation as it can have strong security implications. Enhanced capacity building of Indian armed forces can threaten the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear and conventional weapons. Hence a combination of expedient foreign policy along with credible conventional and nuclear deterrent could meet the desired national interest. In order to counter the conventional imbalance Pakistan has to rely on the indigenous weapon production, superior strategy and training. Pakistan needs to build anti-weapons and long-range air defense system to detect any aerial threats and reduce the pace of the Indian mechanized forces. Moreover with these capabilities Pakistan can tackle with any advantage of Indian military in the conventional domain. Pakistan should build stronger ties with China while remaining strategically relevant to the US. Pakistan must revive its economy in order to counter the negative impact of the Indo-US strategic convergence.

It cannot be reiterated enough that the Indo-US defence deal raises strong security implication for Pakistan as it further increases the conventional asymmetry between the two states which will ultimately threaten the strategic stability of South Asia. Hence Pakistan needs to improve its overall conventional capabilities in order to fill the gaps and maintain the conventional balance.

The writer is working as a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan

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