On May 15, 2016, India test fired a supersonic interceptor missile, much to the dismay of Pakistan. The 7.5-meter, 1.2-ton solid fuel interceptor missile, nicknamed “Ashwin,” was built with its own mobile launch mechanism along with advanced homing and tracking capabilities (1). Although post-flight analysis is still being conducted to determine the efficacy of the new technology, India’s publicized interest in developing an anti-ballistic missile defense system has certainly caught the attention of Pakistani authorities. In a study conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India was ranked sixth in military expenditures worldwide, allotting $51.3 billion to the military in 2015 (2).
If India’s new project is successful, they will be the fourth country to have effectively created an anti-ballistic missile defense shield, following the United States, Russia, and Israel (1). Advisor to Pakistani Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was quoted on Radio Pakistan commenting that, “such a missile test disturbs the regional balance of power,” and that Pakistan intends to proliferate its defensive measures to compete with India (3). Tension between India and Pakistan has been high ever since the 1999 Kargil War over Kashmir, during which both countries reportedly positioned ballistic missiles against one another, albeit a full-blown war never erupted between them (4).
During this time, rumors about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities provoked an international response, leading the U.S. to advise India against further military involvement across the international border. India conceded, withdrawing from the conflict and signing the New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship (NFDR) in 2005. NFDR gave India the opportunity to develop an anti-ballistic missile defense system with help from the U.S., a strong gesture in favor of bilateral ties with India (4). The pact was renewed in June of 2015, reinforcing those ties and reminding Pakistan that India is a force to be reckoned with. The establishment and renewal of NFDR represents a significant power shift in South Asia in favor of India. As India refines their anti-ballistic missile defense shield, nuclear deterrence—once a powerful tactical device for Pakistan—is no longer a threat (4). Faced with this reality, Pakistan must move quickly if they are to remain a formidable adversary to India, making it likely that they will look to buy their own anti-ballistic missile defense shield as soon as possible (4). Pakistan may look to buy defense technologies off of the U.S., though it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will comply in light of NFDR. Hence, the renewal of NFDR not only heightens competition between India and Pakistan, but in doing so also increases tension between the Pakistan and the U.S., who must continue to remain loyal to India. Simply stated, every step India takes towards developing a successful anti-ballistic missile defense shield is a step towards gaining the upper hand on Pakistan. The resulting tilt in the South Asian balance of power potentially leaves the prospect of a formal war between India and Pakistan up to India, launching Pakistan back to the drawing board.
(1) "AAD Interceptor Missile Successfully Test Fired off Odisha Coast." Odishasuntimes.com. Odisha Sun Times, 15 May 2016. Web. 1 June 2016.
(2) Cawis, Jereal. "Total World Military Spending Hits $1.7 Trillion In 2015: Here's A List Of The Top 15 Spenders." Techtimes.com. Tech Times, 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 June 2016.
(3) Bhat, Aditya. "India Augments Its Ballistic Missile Defence Shield, Test-fires Indigenous Interceptor Missile." Ibtimes.co.in. International Business Times, 16 May 2016. Web. 01 June 2016.
(4) Rashid, Dr. Qaisar. "India's Anti-ballistic Missile Defence Shield." Dailytimes.com/pk. Dailytimes, 18 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.
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Iliana Arbeed is a student at the University of Southern California originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Law with a double minor in International Relations and Italian. She is involved in several campus organizations including University Student Government, and spends her summers pursing business and legal internships and traveling abroad. Outside of USC, she has studied at Oxford University and is looking forward to spending Summer 2017 at the American University of Rome. She started working with Global Intelligence Trust in 2016 as a Security and Legal Specialist prior to becoming an Editor. Her professional interests range from national security and intelligence to international law, and she plans to receive a combined law and business degree in the future. She aspires to work for the U.S. government or to work as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations.