Pakistan’s conundrum

India’s development of a missile defence system will complicate the Pakistani military’s war planning. The indian army’s cold start strategy, for instance, has put huge pressure on the Pakistani economy by forcing Islamabad to crank up the production of nuclear weapons as well as delivery systems such
as ballistic, cruise and tactical missiles.
The latest Indian test is likely to create
more insecurity in the Pakistani
military establishment.
According to a report by the World Politics Review, “India’s pursuit of strategic technologies, including BMD capabilities, has created extreme paranoia in the Pakistani defence and security establishment. Pakistan has already drastically increased its nuclear arsenal in recent years in response to India’s BMD efforts.” Pakistan is not content with having an adequate number of nuclear weapons to deter India from launching an attack. It wants to match India nuke for nuke.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Pakistan is on course to have the world’s fifth-largest inventory of nuclear weapons, and is spending more than $2.5 billion on nuclear weapons annually. Given Pakistani obsession with matching India weapon for weapon, it is likely Islamabad will try and develop a made in Pakistan BMD. At the same time, it will attempt to buy systems from outside as a hedge against failure.
Either way the impact on the Pakistani economy will be immense. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute lists India as the fifth largest military spender with an annual budget of $51 billion. In contrast Pakistan’s military budget is a paltry $7.6 billion. In overall economic terms, India’s GDP of $2 trillion is the seventh largest and dwarfs Pakistan’s $269 billion economy which is ranked 41st in the world.
Considering such economic disparities, there’s no way Pakistan can match India missile for missile. Overspending on defence could well bankrupt Pakistan, especially in the backdrop of western economies no longer having the inclination or the capacity to bail it out as they did in the past. Pakistan’s military leadership is obsessed with growing its atomic arsenal to the detriment of its economy. Terrence P. Smith of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says that for Pakistan, nuclear weapons have become a “psychological equaliser”.
“In working to double the size of its already substantial nuclear arsenal, Pakistan continues to place a disproportionate focus on its nuclear programme ahead of other key security concerns. This behaviour is far from new. In 1972, Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously proclaimed, ‘Even if we have to eat grass we will make nuclear bombs’. Four decades later, Pakistan continues to pursue this strategy of nuclear buildup at any cost, thereby diverting resources away from other programmes that could attempt to address the country’s internal security and economic threats.” India’s BMD could be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of the Pakistani camel.
While any military spending is wasteful, it is a bit like insurance premiums – they hurt but when there’s a crisis you are glad you invested. Besides the obvious benefits, missile defence research could have lucrative spinoffs. Russia’s extensive R&D in strategic missile defence led to the development of battlefield missile defence systems such as the S-300, S-400 and S-500, of which the first two are in great demand worldwide. Similarly, India can be an exporter of low cost battlefield missile defence systems.

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