There is a consensus among Asian countries that the early elimination of nuclear weapons is unlikely to come about without a pro-active part being played by the non-nuclear weapon states because, in the perception of the nuclear weapons states, nuclear deterrence has become even more relevant in the post-Cold War world. Indian analysts are of the view that India should be prepared to enter into a process of putting a cap on its nuclear weapons only when all the five nuclear weapons states roughly come down to India's level of nuclear weapons holdings.
A consensus is emerging among Asian counties regarding the need to understand each other’s culture so that a better understanding could develop, leading to the ability to conduct an unambiguous dialogue. Diversities should not be a guiding principle, or even the single most important inhibiting factor. Commonalties have to be explored for resolving problems left over by history. Economic development and human development are strong binding factors in Asia. It would be necessary to look at a framework that supports the idea of continuation of the concept of nation states while exploring commonalities for establishing security, trade and cultural linkages. In a huge and diverse landmass like Asia, the empowerment of the state through military, economic or cultural grouping and politics needs to be supplemented by the empowerment of the people as a vital factor to ensure security.
Nuclear free zones
No discussion of Asian security can be complete without taking into account the impact of nuclear weapons as six of the eight nuclear powers in the world are either Asian countries or have deep linkages with Asian security.;The dominant view among Asian security experts today is that no country has the right to possess nuclear weapons and deny these to others. Time-bound, total nuclear disarmament is an idea whose time has come and it should be the endeavour of all Asian countries to work unitedly for the achievement of this goal.
The Start-II process is perceived to be too slow to meet the aspirations of nonnuclear weapons states. There is a consensus among Asian countries that the early elimination of nuclear weapons is unlikely to come about without a pro-active part being played by the non-nuclear weapon states because, in the perception of the nuclear weapons states, nuclear deterrence has become even more relevant in the post-Cold War world. There is now a move to target even non-nuclear forces, primarily to deal with the emerging threat from chemical and biological weapons. At the end of the Cold War, while it can be said that deterrence did not fail, it cannot be categorically stated that deterrence succeeded in preventing a major nuclear war.
In the context of nuclear weapons, the Asian countries must consider radically different and alternative approaches to Asian and world security. Morality, ethics and spiritual values cannot and should not be ignored. Security must be built on mutual trust and mutual accommodation. Substantial confidence building measures need to be put in place. In fact, a stable security environment can exist in Asia only if India and China are part of a cooperative security framework. The concept of proportionality in the reduction of nuclear weapons, introduced by the Chinese, should not be dismissed out of hand. The capping of Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons is unavoidably linked with the phased elimination of nuclear weapons of all nuclear weapons states. Indian analysts are of the view that India should be prepared to enter into a process of putting a cap on its nuclear weapons only when all the five nuclear weapons states roughly come down to India’s level of nuclear weapons holdings.
Some security experts, particularly those from the Saarc countries, advocate the concept of a nuclear-free zone in South Asia. They feel that this can be ensured by India and Pakistan agreeing to roll back, dismantle and do away with nuclear weapons. Others recommend that a similar concept of a nuclear weapons free Asia also needs to be considered. In the Middle East also there are moves towards the establishment of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. However, at present India has no option but to see the nuclear issue in both the regional as well as the global context. India’s nuclear tests of May 1998 were to a large extent in response to the discriminatory international nuclear regime. India can consider the elimination of its nuclear weapons only when the prevalent nuclear apartheid ends.
Trade real security solvent
The US is moving ahead with its testing and resurrection of the Star Wars programme despite international opposition. This will result in land and space-based ABMs, Laser and particle beam weapons and will threaten the ICBMs of Russia and China. As Russia and China are unlikely to be able to match the US theatre missile defence programme, these two countries may now have a greater stake in the early elimination of nuclear weapons. If the US takes a lead in the movement towards nuclear disarmament, other countries like France, the UK, India and Pakistan will readily follow. However, a nuclear weapons free zone, limited only to Asia among the nuclear weapons states, is an unworkable idea in the context of Asia’s security.
Europe is a willing member of the international economic and financial systems and prefers to manage security jointly with its partners. A balance of power approach is no longer central to European security. The European countries have shed centuries of hatred and conflict and have graduated to a system of peaceful competition and cooperative security with open borders, free movement of people, capital and goods.
Europe is likely to remain an active partner in an US-dominated trans-Atlantic alliance. Immediate prospects of an independent western European foreign policy and an emerging strategic role are limited. The emergence of a common currency in the European Union has been a seminal event on the geo-strategic firmament. It may not be seen today in the context of competing with the power of the US, but it is likely to happen in the future. The gradual evolution of a self-confident Europe with an independent foreign policy can only lead to greater balance in the world order.
Most experts and policy makers agree that the initiation of a process of collective dialogue would go a long way towards establishing cooperative Asian security. The real denominator of collective effort or collective security in Asia is economics. China and the US provide a good example. Trade and economic relations between them have grown, whereas the contradictions are slowly fading away. Economic cooperation is the first step towards solving existing problems and arriving at a collective security framework. The positive dynamics generated by economic cooperation can be expected to contribute to the resolution of long-standing boundary and territorial disputes more than any other single factor.
US role in Asia
If the US were to play a benign role in ensuring Asian security, much as it did in Europe, its involvement in promoting broad-based, non-polarised Asian security equilibrium through a cooperative framework would hasten the process and act as a stimulant. However, the present domination of the world by the US is seen as a major destabilising factor by many Asian nations. Therefore, most of them welcomed the “strategic triangle” between China, India and Russia proposed by Mr Primakov, the former Russian Prime Minister, even though the concept of a strategic triangle has a balance of power connotation that is now considered inappropriate. Yet, there is consensus that without meaningful US participation, Asia would find it difficult to put in place a workable collective security framework.
The present unipolar concentration of power in the US undoubtedly needs to be moderated to some extent with whatever methods and modalities can be commanded. At the same time, any formal alliance or arrangement such as the “strategic triangle” between India, Russia and China must be rejected. Though there is a need to build better understanding with Russia and China and other Asian countries so as to enhance security in Asia, as also to solve bilateral problems, this must be done without formal alliances. At the same time, it is inevitable that there has to be meaningful cooperation between India, Russia and China if the concept of collective cooperative Asian security in the 21st century is to take shape in this vast continent.
A contrary view is that there is no point in making attempts to curb US power. What needs to be done is to explore the possibility of developing a cooperative security framework where the regional and Indian, Russian and Chinese national aspirations can be accommodated amicably with US power. In this quest, all philosophical, ideological and institutional problems and obstructions have to , be eventually resolved and removed through a process of dialogue.