Trilateral Strategic Confidence Building Measures in Southern Asia
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Trilateral Strategic Confidence Building Measures in Southern Asia

Concerns are growing over new conflict in Southern Asia against the background of the recent India-Pakistan Pulwama-Balakot crisis and the ongoing China-India border standoff. In the report titled, “Trilateral Strategic Confidence Building Measures in Southern Asia,” Feroz Hassan Khan highlights escalatory risks in India-Pakistan and China-India relations and proposes a range of trilateral confidence building measures (CBMs) to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.  

In the absence of adequate security mechanisms, Brigadier Khan makes the case that a common agenda towards improved security could be pursued by adopting trilateral CBMs. These include linked conflict resolution processes, conventional force restraints, and unilateral, bilateral, and trilateral nuclear restraints.  

Despite the history of failed agreements and peace-making initiatives, Khan also recognizes that shifts in the geoeconomics of trade, investment, and infrastructure financing may offer insights into what may be viable in the future.  

Recommendations include:  

  1. Developing a trilateral ‘strategic restraint regime’ in Southern Asia. Building upon the Pakistani proposal of an India-Pakistan strategic restraint regime (SRR), a trilateral SRR can be developed by adding China. This trilateral SRR could include:
    -Deployment limits on conventional forces, and low force zones. 
    -Restraining nuclear threat by doctrinal assurance and non-alerting status.
    -Modernized nuclear hotlines between political and military leaders.
    -Expanding the scope of the existing India-Pakistan non-attack agreement to include non-attack on nuclear command, control, and communication (NC3) including cyberspace.
  2. Negotiating formal trilateral conventional arms control agreements by evaluating     the existing conventional force CBMs of the 1990s and transforming them into a formal conventional force trilateral arms control agreement. 
  3. Addressing the fear of asymmetric threats in Southern Asia by:
    -Establishing a political environment amenable for peace and security.
    -Refraining from the use of sub-conventional strategies.
    -Recognizing that conventional force balance and physical posture of respective militaries directly affect nuclear deterrence postures.
    -Establishing institutional mechanisms to tackle crisis-triggering events at the onset of crisis to prevent escalation.
    -Creating an unbiased trilateral framework outside of other countries’ threat assessments. 
  4. Transforming the region from the existential security-centric relationship into an economic-centric relationship by displacing traditional security priorities with economic and trade imperatives, promoting economic interdependency and shared prosperity.    
  5. Expanding the scope of existing arms control and non-proliferation regimes. The international community should accept the nuclear reality of the South Asian subcontinent and include India and Pakistan formally into the process of renegotiating arms control and non-proliferation treaties, like the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Anti-Ballistic Missile ABM treaty and maritime CBMs.   

Click on the adjacent link to download the full report.

About the Author 

Feroz Hassan Khan is a former Brigadier in the Pakistan Army, with experience in combat action and command on active fronts on the Line of Control in Kashmir and Siachin Glacier and Afghanistan border. He has worked on numerous assignments in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He served as Director Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs, in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, Joint Services Headquarters. Khan had been a key contributor in formulating Pakistan’s security policies on nuclear and conventional arms control and strategic stability in South Asia. He produced recommendations for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and represented Pakistan in several multilateral and bilateral arms control negotiations on peace and security in South Asia and international treaties related to weapons of mass destruction.   

Brigadier Khan holds an M.A. International Relations from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), John Hopkins University, Washington DC. He has held a series of visiting fellowships at Stanford University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; the Brookings Institution; Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and at the Cooperative Monitoring Center, Sandia National Laboratory. He also taught courses as a visiting faculty at the Department of the Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He has widely participated in international and national conferences on strategic issues, international security, terrorism, nuclear arms control and non-proliferation issues. He has published widely most famously his book Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the position of the Asia Pacific Leadership Network or any of its members.

Image: iStock

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