Experts concerned about safety, security of Indian nuclear arsenal
Islamabad : Experts believe that last month’s Indian missile incident has not only renewed concerns about the safety and security of India’s strategic arsenal, but has brought into question the credibility of BrahMos missile system, which Delhi is planning to export.
“India is fast building a triad of BrahMos cruise missiles and is producing and deploying these missiles in large numbers. It is expected to be their key capability to execute their counter-force ambitions. However, the incident in a way has shown the chink in the armour – the weakness of the particular missile,” Ali Sarwar Naqvi, Executive Director at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Islamabad, said.
Naqvi was wrapping up a roundtable discussion on ‘Indian Missile Fiasco: Technical Malfunction and Failure of Diplomacy,’ which had been hosted by CISS. The discussion was held in the context of a BrahMos Cruise Missile landing in Pakistan on March 9.He said the incident needed to be seen in the context of Indian counter-force strategy, no-first use pledge, pre-emption planning, and alertness levels.
“The overall clumsy management of its (Indian) high-value conventional and strategic weapon systems has been repeatedly exposed by multiple Uranium theft incidents, and the nuclear submarine Arihant episode. It all adds up to an alarming situation about safety and security of Indian systems,” Naqvi maintained, fearing that the incident could have led to Pakistani retaliation and vertical escalation, if Pakistan had not exercised prudence, restraint, and responsibility.
Naqvi, however, pointed out Indian “callousness and ineptitude” that raised serious questions about India’s command and control, security and safety procedures and physical safeguards to prevent accidental launch during simulation exercises, routine maintenance, and peacetime.
India had earlier this year signed a deal for export of BrahMos missiles to Philippines. The Philippines had, after the March 9 incident, sought a clarification on it from Delhi.
Dr. Rizwana Abbasi, Associate Professor at NUML, agreed that the incident could affect BrahMos export plans and noted that India initially claimed that the incident resulted because of a malfunction, but after realizing the implications of the stance for the sale of the weapon system to foreign countries, it started suggesting that missile got fired due to human error.
While emphasizing the need for India and Pakistan to jointly probe the incident, Dr. Rizwana said, it was required because the missile had violated Pakistan’s airspace, spirit of existing bilateral agreements, and international aviation protocols. She further said that a joint probe would help in establishing the facts around the incident, rebuilding bilateral trust, and mitigating future risks.
Syed Muhammad Ali, Director Center for Aerospace and Security Studies, presented three probabilities that could have led to the incident—technical malfunction; a field-commander going rogue; and intentional firing. He further deliberated on the technical, operational, nuclear command and control, doctrinal, safety, security, and diplomatic aspects of the incident.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor at SPIR, Quaid-e-Azam University, pointed to the nervousness in Delhi. “This nervousness is dangerous even in conventional military environment and we are living in a nuclearized environment,” he said while discussing the possible reasons for that nervousness. He said Pakistan’s response was confident and responsible.