Who is responsible for Arms race in South Asia

C Kiran - 

Influential countries in the Western and the Eastern hemisphere of the world have long been indulging in buying weapons. Recently, South Asia’s future as a peaceful region became questionable when India decided to buy a S-400 missile defence system from Russia. This will, inevitably, begin another phase of an arms race in South Asia, further destabilizing the peace process that has not yet been fully realized. Earlier in October 2018, India signed a deal with Russia to buy five S-400 missile systems worth US $ 5.4, one of the largest deals in India’s history.

This deal will have multiple effects. First, it will create India’s hegemony in the region as a key arm’s buyer. Second, India-Russia ties will fortify following this deal and it could lead to other such deals, and agreements between the two countries based on the transfer of technology, resulting in bolstering diplomatic and bilateral ties. Third, India’s arsenal might be a deterrent to China’s presence in the region, which is expanding with each passing year. While Russia delivers this missile system to India by 2020, Pakistan should have a counter-narrative to this arms deal or else the regional balance of power may shift. Pakistan, however, did have one, just days after the India-Russia deal, China decided to sell to Pakistan 48 military-grade drones. The total price of this deal is still hidden. According to the Global Times, China and Pakistan will jointly-collaborate in manufacturing these drones. How will India or the US respond to the Pak-China deal is still to be seen. It is interesting to note that India’s intention to develop and expand its weapon’s base is not new. However, to what extent can India defend itself in case of a surgical strike is the question.

According to Pakistan’s National Command Authority, Pakistan’s Ababeel, a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV), was equipped and operational to counter the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system of India. Now that India and Russia have inked the weapon’s deal, Pakistan is expected to develop its MIRV system as the stakes have become higher.

What was brought to the fore through this India-Russia deal was the United States’ utmost displeasure; for Washington was trying its best to persuade other countries not to enter into an arms deal with Russia. Apparently, the US was threatening to invoke Section 231 of Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of September 2017. However, Russia, under Vladimir Putin’s shrewd leadership, went on with the deal with India.

The United States’ intentions indicate equipping India with an arsenal to overshadow both Pakistan and China in terms of military might

Even though the Trump administration imposed sanctions on China for buying fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, in breach of US sanctions imposed on Russia for interfering in the 2016 US Elections, Russia did not budge when signing the deal with India. This must have been disconcerting for the Trump administration, as Russia stands tall in front of United States’ sanctions and directives.


Interestingly, it was the United States that waived the sanctions over India and granted it the opportunity to buy weapons from Russia. This will inadvertently have an impact on US-Pakistan ties. Washington’s green signal to India to buy these weapons will facilitate New Delhi in imposing its hegemony over the region and, especially over Pakistan. Moreover, the United States’ intentions indicate equipping India with an arsenal to overshadow both Pakistan and China in terms of military might. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) may be the reason. Where Pakistan and China are fortifying their relations with CPEC, US may want India and Russia to create a bond to counter Pak-China unity.

Another reason why the United States is backing India to buy weapons is to create a bloc which includes India, Japan, and Australia, three allies of the United States. The long-term plan, as it seems, is to limit China’s diplomatic, trade and military activities in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Far East Asia. Furthermore, China’s advancements and unpredictable actions in the South China Sea is also cause for concern for the United States.

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