India plans to purchase around $1 billion of US anti-missile technology of the sort presently deployed in several NATO states.
Sputnik reported that the Indian Defence Ministry approved a deal to buy America’s National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) in order to protect the capital of New Delhi from any possible Pakistani or Chinese attacks, with this move being the latest in the global trend of states setting up missile defense infrastructure. It’s unclear how India envisions integrating this massive American military investment into its majority-Russian-supplied armed forces, especially considering its official desire to buy Moscow’s S-400 anti-missile system which could theoretically be made redundant by this new purchase. Looking beyond these technical concerns and addressing the larger strategic ones at play, however, it’s irrefutable that India is striving to upset the erstwhile strategic balance between itself and neighboring rival Pakistan by undercutting Islamabad’s nuclear second-strike potential and therefore decisively shifting the military odds of any prospective war between the two to New Delhi’s favor.
This is a destabilizing development that can only be responded to in several ways, all of which accelerate the ongoing arms race in the region. Pakistan can of course resort to symmetrical measures by acquiring its own anti-missile systems, but the only comparable counterpart to the American one is Russia’s S-400s, which Moscow might be reluctant to sell to Islamabad so long as New Delhi goes through with its original purchase. Even if it backed out of that agreement under the US’ heavy CAATSA pressure, India could insinuate that it might pull out of other profitable deals if Russia armed its rival, thus making Moscow think twice about this possibility. Therefore, the most realistic options available for Pakistan are to invest in satellite sensor capabilities, improve the submarine portion of its nuclear triad, and research hypersonic missile technology.
China just launched a new Pakistani satellite last month and is reportedly building eight submarines for its top Silk Road partner, so these two responses are already being advanced, while it can be assumed that work is underway on the third one as well but will probably take much more time to yield any tangible results. So long as the nuclear balance between Pakistan and India can be maintained, then a conventional military peace between the two Great Powers is assured, but the disruption of this equilibrium is dangerous for the entire world because of the encouragement that this could give either state to launch a first strike. Thus, it’s in the interests of global stability that parity is upheld between these two parties, and Russia would do well to consider the creative opportunities that it has at its disposal for ensuring that this is the case.