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Tuesday Sep 18 2018

‘Pakistan opts for deterrence as India initiates sea-based nuclear weaponry’

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi has said that India’s sea based nuclear weaponry initiative has compelled Islamabad to take measures for deterrence in order to keep strategic stability paradigm stabilised.

“Our Eastern neighbour has introduced sea-based nuclear weapons which was a major deviation, and a major nuclear change, between our two countries. So we think once you disturbed this strategic stability paradigm then there is an increased risk of war or conflict,” he said, adding that in order to address the threat Pakistan opted for the minimum deterrence required to plug this gap.

Talking to media at the embassy in Washington on Monday afternoon, Admiral Abbasi said Pakistan was facing security issues, especially threats from its Eastern neighbour, for which it has an elaborate programme in place. The program provides all the tools, procedures and settings under the Central Command which runs through Strategic Plans Division. “Sea-based nuclear weapons provide assured second strike capability which disturbs the equation, so unless we equate that the imbalance might induce India to start a conventional war,” he added.

‘China not setting up base in Gwadar’ 

When asked, Admiral Abbasi dismissed the concern that China was setting up a base at the Gwadar Port, and insisted there was “absolutely no truth to that”. He said there were no plans to hand over any base to foreign navies anywhere in Pakistan, and emphasised that Gwadar was purely a commercial harbour and only Pakistan Navy would have “a big base there”. He said so far no foreign warship had entered Gwadar, but whenever that happens it would be open to all other navies including French, Royal and that of the US.

He further said that Pakistan signed a deal with China in early 2016 to purchase eight conventional submarines. The program will mature in 2025, half of them will be built in China and the rest in Pakistan.

Referring to recently inked India-US maritime agreements, Admiral Abbasi said such deals were not “a zero sum game” and would not mean that the US was holding exercises with India and not with Pakistan.

“Pakistan is going to hold multi-national maritime exercises in February next year, where some 50 navies from around the world, including the US and Chinese navy will take part," he said. Last such maritime exercise took place in 2017 in which 37 countries participated. However, the naval chief urged that the US should share intelligence gathering with Pakistan to combat drug trafficking through sea routes.

He added that unless there was a political resolution with India, there might not be any joint Pakistan-India maritime exercises. He said that under Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, the two countries as members work together.

Although the Trump administration suspended the International Military Education and Training support, he said, the training would not stop as Pakistan was utilising its own national funds for the programme. He also maintained that the administration should not have cancelled security assistance to the country but regardless of the fact Pakistan wants a relationship with the US based on equal respect. The naval chief further said that the Pakistani Navy has sufficient resources for the task it has to perform hence it was not seeking to purchase any navy-related aircraft from the US, however, it is looking for a replacement programme for P3C Orions, which were damaged in a terrorist attack at the Mehran base.

He said that certain planes were outdated, and the new demand was for a long range maritime aircrafts, but that could be from any country.

Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan: Admiral Abbasi

Responding to another question, he emphasised that there was no such thing as “strategic depth”. Pakistan regards Afghanistan as a separate sovereign country and treats it as such. “Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan remains the same, which is that it wants peace and stability. We don't want large tracts of territory inside Afghanistan, which are ungovernable outside the writ of the government. Pakistan actually faces a lot of threat from Afghanistan already, and thus trying to have a fence along the 2,300 kilometres border for $500 million.”

Admiral Abbasi was in US to attend the International Seapower Symposium, which was established to provide a forum for senior international naval leaders to discuss common maritime challenges and opportunities to enhance international maritime security cooperation.

Before heading to Rhode Island for the purpose, Admiral Abbasi had a stopover in Washington.

Speaking with the media along with Ambassador Ali Siddiqui, the naval chief said that since Pakistan is situated in one of the world’s most important geo-strategic location, its navy was taking necessary steps to protect international shipping.

“Pakistan has been a part of an international coalition, combined with maritime forces operating under the auspices of naval central command since 2004. During all these years, we have made immense contribution by investigating thousands of vassals, and intercepted thousands of kilograms of drugs, narcotics,” he said, adding that the aim is to work with international partners for maritime security in the region.