BALAKOT TO MIAN CHANU: CRITICAL QUESTIONS FOR PAKISTAN
India did it once again, thought ‘accidentally’, it is claimed by New Delhi.
A supersonic Indian missile landing in Pakistan’s Mian Chanu on March 9 raises serious questions for ‘strategic stability’ in South Asia. India regrets that it was an accident. Yet, as raised by Pakistan’s foreign minister and representatives of relevant institutions, the incident proves it once again that security and safety of Indian strategic weapons and delivery systems is highly compromised and questionable. Rather threatening, it would not be wrong to say so.
Just imagine the damage it could cause had it come in contact with a passenger plane. There are plenty of them flying around, all the time. The missile was actually flying at that very altitude where passenger jets usually cruise, in medium to long-haul flights. And it was just a lucky moment that civilians on the ground in Pakistan were spared. Besides, how can one be sure that it would not be repeated again?
International communities must understand that India’s strategic posture, and its technical and procedural weaknesses if its ‘regrets’ are to be believed, pose serious challenges not only to Pakistan but to regional nations as well as international air and maritime traffic. New Delhi must be held accountable, if potential bilateral, regional and global disasters are to be averted.
But beyond this, the incident also raises some serious questions for relevant institutions in Pakistan. These questions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Does Pakistan not have the capacity to shoot-down an aerial object that remains flying within its territory for almost 4 minutes? (It was three minutes and 44 seconds to be precise.)
- Was it not intended to shoot the missile down, at all, after it was found on our radars? In that case, were we sure that it was not carrying any warhead? And more importantly, how could we be sure that while hitting the ground, it would not damage the civilian population?
- Are we sure that India was not testing our response capability in the name of an accident? Would it not give a confidence to India that Pakistan does not have such a capability? Or at least the confidence that Pakistan needs more response time in such an eventuality?
Let us not forget what happened almost three years ago. Formations of Indian fighter jets violated Pakistan’s airspace and sovereignty in a blatant way, and attacked Balakot. Yes, Pakistan Air Force instantly scrambled it jets in response and the Indians ran away, in a matter of seconds. At that time also, the debate revolved around very valid point that any air force in the world needs a minimum time to manage a response in such as a situation – and Pakistan Air Force indeed was very quick. True, and every Pakistan feels proud about its air force. But the question still remains: what happened to Pakistan’s anti-aircraft guns and relevant ground-to-air defense systems at that time? Are those not effective or responsive enough against such challenges?
Strategic stability in South Asia is of vital importance for Pakistan’s sovereignty, and the questions above are of pivotal nature in this connection. Pakistani nation needs forthright, reassuring answers. Let me conclude by saying that I remain among the proud citizens who are confident that their armed forces are fully capable of defending the country against any challenge that so arises. That very confidence makes it even more important for me to have the answers to above questions.
The author is CEO of Policy Pak and Founding President of the Eurasian Century Institute, Islamabad-Pakistan. He may be accessed at email@example.com