Center for Strategic Decision Research



Prospects for Peace and Security in South Asia

Ambassador Asif Ezdi
Ambassador of Pakistan to Germany

The subject I will be speaking on is one that I think has considerable relevance for the theme of this conference. I will be talking on the prospects of peace and security in South Asia following the India-U.S. nuclear agreement. South Asia is not currently among the top subjects that preoccupy the international security community. That is a good thing. The region is currently going through a period of relative calm—dialogue is taking place between Pakistan and India and the level of rhetoric between them is considerably less heated than what the world has been used to for a long time. But the question must be asked: How real and how lasting is this calm?


To put the matter in perspective, I would like to go back to how things were about five years ago immediately before September 11. Two months before the terrorist attacks on the United States, the president of Pakistan and the prime minister of India met at Agra, the first meeting of the leaders of the two countries in two years. The fact that they met at all was a significant development, because, until then, the Indian prime minister had refused to meet the Pakistani president unless certain preconditions were met, the principal demand being that Pakistan end its support for the freedom movement of the Kashmiri people, which India describes as “cross-border terrorism.” But the Agra summit failed because hard-liners in India’s military and political circles overruled those who were in favor of dialogue with Pakistan.

September 11 was a godsend to Indian hard-liners because it made terrorism, in particular “Islamic terrorism,” the number one international enemy. This fit in with India’s effort to portray the Kashmiri freedom struggle—which India maintains is nothing but “cross-border terrorism”—as not just India’s problem but a problem for the entire international community. In pointing its finger at Pakistan as the “epicenter” of terrorism, India not only cited Pakistan’s support for the freedom movement in Kashmir but also Pakistan’s close ties with the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s decision in October 2001 to disassociate itself from the Taliban government in Afghanistan and to join the international coalition against terrorism was a disappointment to India because it stymied the Indian plan to isolate Pakistan diplomatically.

When the Indian parliament was attacked by terrorists in December 2001, India saw it as an opportunity to pursue its aims towards Pakistan and accused the country of complicity in the attack. It refused to accept Pakistan’s proposal for an international inquiry and made a series of peremptory demands on Pakistan. To maximize pressure on Pakistan, India took a number of steps calculated to escalate the already tense situation that culminated in the massing of nearly one million Indian soldiers in battle positions on Pakistan’s borders.

Indian leaders described this policy as one of “coercive diplomacy.” As a result, Pakistan and India were brought to the brink of conflict. Fortunately, good sense ultimately prevailed, and 2003 saw a gradual de-escalation by India. In January 2004, the structured bilateral dialogue—the so-called “composite dialogue”—that had been launched in 1999 but interrupted by India was resumed. This dialogue has taken place on two tracks: confidence-building and dispute resolution. While there have been some developments in the area of confidence-building measures, little headway has been made in dispute resolution, in particular on the core question of Kashmir. Pakistan believes that without a resolution of this dispute, lasting peace and stability in South Asia will continue to elude us.


The deliberate escalation of tension pursued by India in 2002 in order to “coerce” Pakistan had one significant consequence that India had probably not foreseen and did not intend: The fact that active hostilities did not break out showed the world the stabilizing effect of the nuclear capability that the two countries had demonstrated by conducting nuclear tests in 1998, a situation not unlike the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The hope now must be that just as the American–Soviet confrontation of 1962 was followed by détente, the Pakistan-India confrontation of 2002 will also lead to the realization that the military option is no longer available for a resolution of political problems and differences.

Whether this hope will be fulfilled remains to be seen, for two reasons. First, only about four years have elapsed since the events of 2002, which is too short a time for us to form a judgment on their long-term impact on the behavior of future Indian military and political decision-makers. The second reason is that the recent conclusion of a civil nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States has increased the chances of miscalculation by Indian leaders regarding possible future military confrontation with Pakistan.


In my country’s view, the import of nuclear fuel allowed to India under this deal for its civilian program will enable it to divert significant quantities of indigenous fissile material for its nuclear weapons. India already has a record of diverting nuclear technology provided to it in the past for peaceful purposes. It exploded its first nuclear “device” in 1974 by diverting U.S. and Canadian civil nuclear technology. According to one estimate, the India-U.S. nuclear agreement will now enable India to produce about 50 more weapons a year, greatly enhancing its weapons arsenal. This will adversely affect the strategic balance in South Asia, which was established by the nuclear tests of 1998 and which prevented the outbreak of conflict in 2002. In Pakistan’s view, the object of strategic stability in South Asia would be better served under a package approach for Pakistan and India aimed at preventing a nuclear arms race in the region and promoting restraints, while ensuring that the legitimate needs of both countries for civilian nuclear power generation are met.

To conclude, I would like to emphasize four points:

1. Peace and stability in South Asia are closely linked to resolving the Kashmir issue and maintaining strategic stability in the region.

2. By enabling India to accelerate its nuclear weapons program, the India-U.S. nuclear deal is likely to have a negative impact on strategic stability in South Asia and will make the region a more dangerous place.

3. The India-U.S. deal has reduced the incentive for India to resolve the Kashmir issue with Pakistan. As a result, progress in the current Pakistan-India dialogue has become more difficult.

4. The members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) who have been asked to approve the U.S.-India deal should take into account the consequences that such a step would have on the peace and security of South Asia.


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