The militarization of Europe reinvigorates the arms race in South Asia

The militarization of Europe reinvigorates the arms race in South Asia

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Global powers’ strategic competition and alliance makeovers influence the strategic orientation of smaller militarily insecure states, including Pakistan. Besides, it incites an arms race at regional and global levels. Therefore, governments divert immense resources toward military modernization rather than addressing looming global economic, environmental, food, and health problems.

The European continent is at the cusp of large-scale land warfare, compelling the European states to revamp their defense policies to encounter a steadily progressing second Cold War, potentially spiraling into a hot war in Asia and Europe.

The Russians’ invasion of Ukraine exposed the military’s vulnerability of the Baltic States, Romania, and Poland. Furthermore, the new membership applicants of the alliance— Finland and Sweden— are equally worried. Hence, Russian aggression is the root cause of the European continent’s mega-militarization, termed by President Biden as the “NATO-ization” of Europe.”

NATO’s Madrid summit convened at the end of last month charted a blueprint for the alliance in a more dangerous and unpredictable world. The alliance 2022 Strategic Concept focuses on NATO’s core purpose: the collective defense of the Euro-Atlantic area. It is grounded in the possibility of an attack against the allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia is identified as “the most significant and direct threat to allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” and China is described as a ‘systemic challenge’ to Euro-Atlantic security. Notably, for the first time, NATO declared that China poses a challenge to the alliance.

President Biden pledged 100,000 American troops, warplanes, and warships for Europe and compelled the European members to expand the NATO response force from 40,000 to over 300,000 soldiers to be held at higher readiness levels. NATO is doubling from four to eight multinational battle groups in Eastern Europe.

The suspension of a dialogue process between India and Pakistan and the number of flashpoints with potential for conflict have sustained an arms race and a sense of regional insecurity.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

The end of Nordic states’ neutrality and the coming of the Swedish and Finnish under the United States’ nuclear umbrella signify the worth of nuclear weapons in the defensive fence of the sovereign states. NATO’s strategic concept recapped “nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.” The increasing reliance on nuclear-deterring capability rationalizes nuclear-armed states’ qualitative and quantitative upgrade of their nuclear arsenals. Consequently, the number of nuclear warheads could rise globally.

The Europeans are cautious about developments in the Indo-Pacific region because the developments in that region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security. Therefore, the Europeans consider both QUAD and AUKUS imperative for maintaining the balance of power and ensuring deterrence against China in the region. Moreover, these alliances are aimed at information and technology sharing, defense capabilities, and strengthening related industrial bases and supply chains. Indeed, the militarization of Europe reinvigorates the arms race in the Asia-Pacific.

South Asia, a region defined by fragile economies and poor populations, deep-running historical tensions, territorial disputes, and the presence of the great powers’ strategic interests, cannot ignore or distance itself from European military modernization. In particular, the suspension of a dialogue process between India and Pakistan and the number of flashpoints (Line of Control and Line of Actual Control) with potential for conflict has sustained an arms race and a sense of regional insecurity.

To address the transforming global strategic environment, India, a key actor in South Asia, has adopted a strategy of heightened engagement with the United States via bilateral and multilateral arrangements such as deepening strategic partnerships with various agreements— LEMOA, BECA, COMCASA— and the QUAD. These agreements increased the United States’ defense trade with India from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in 2020.

The arrangements mentioned above certainly multiply Pakistan’s security challenges. For instance, the strengthening of the QUAD inevitably increases Indian naval power. The Indian navy’s advancements intensify the security dilemma puzzle in the region, compelling the modernization of Pakistan’s navy. Thus, recent NATO members’ decision to boost their defense spending to check Russia’s assertiveness in Europe and increase China’s role in Asia-Pacific would deepen the arms race between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan is encountering a double challenge in the current transforming international strategic environment. First, Islamabad’s explicit desire to shift its National Security outlook from geostrategic to geoeconomic seems to be getting a lesser workability domain. Second, Islamabad must invest in sophisticated conventional, nuclear, and missile capabilities and integrate various emerging technologies to solidify its defensive fence.

Pakistan’s economic situation is not conducive to purchasing sophisticated military hardware externally. Moreover, it lacks indigenous emerging and disruptive technologies proficiency to modernize its non-nuclear strategic capability indigenously. Hence, it must rely on the indigenous conventional and nuclear warfighting capability. The increasing reliance on nuclear arsenals causes a strategic and tactical nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan.

In summary, the asymmetrical invasion of Ukraine and the militarization of Europe are not taxing Europeans alone but also South Asians. The increasingly chaotic world affairs are neither in the interest of developed nor developing states, significantly when their economies are disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

- Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @zafar_jaspal

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