Enhancing strategic stability is a common goal for India and Pakistan, as affirmed in the Lahore Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and other statements. Many concepts exist on how this could be achieved. The Colombo Group* seeks to identify small but substantive steps that can contribute toward strategic stability. Such steps should be practical and mutually acceptable.
One possibility for incrementally furthering this goal is afforded by the fact that it is only a matter of time before some of the ballistic missiles held in the inventory of both sides will become obsolete. Reasons for this obsolescence include safety concerns, cost of maintenance, and significantly decreased reliability.
This project outlines practical steps toward the transparent and irreversible elimination of some ballisic missiles. Pakistan’s Hatf I and India’s Prithvi I are two missiles that are approaching obsolescence, and are candidates for dismantlement. Such elimination could occur on a unilateral, bilateral, or cooperative basis. Pursuit of a bilateral approach would build confidence and act as a catalyst for discussion of strategic futures.
The Colombo Group has studied the modalities of mutual, transparent reductions of ageing missiles. While reviewing the history of missile retirements worldwide, the group examined ways in which a mutually acceptable process of retiring missiles can contribute to strategic stability. We identified the approaching obsolescence of Hatf I and Prithvi I as an opportunity to advance confidence building measures. The group then developed a comprehensive understanding of the practical and technical feasibility of verification and transparency.
The National Military Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria provided an ideal venue for conducting practical transparency exercises on full-scale solid and liquid-fueled missiles. The Group gained insight from Bulgaria’s experience in the transparent elimination of missiles. For the first time ever, participants from India and Pakistan undertook unique, rigorous, two-sided missile dismantlement exercises. The first exercise demonstrated transparency by exchanging photographs of the missiles before commencement of a dismantlement process. The second exercise demonstrated the concept of reciprocal on-site visits to designated missile locations. The participants negotiated the use of techniques, technological tools, and procedures for managed access to gain an appreciation of the perils and opportunities inherent in sharing missile dismantlement information, while also protecting one’s own sensitive data.
The Group concluded that such techniques and procedures could be appropriate for demonstrating transparency in the retirement of Hatf I and Prithvi I.
* The Colombo Group is a collection of primarily South Asian security experts who in their private capacity, and in collaboration with selected international experts, develop pragmatic options to enhance regional stability.
Against the backdrop of the renewed India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue (Peace and Security), the Colombo Group envisions a number of follow-on activities in the coming months. These include:
• Convene workshops in Islamabad and New Delhi to:
o Engage the broader strategic community in each capital.
o Elaborate the confidence building potential of the Initiative.
• Conduct a Joint Transparency Exercise in the region with stakeholders from India and Pakistan.
• Publish op-eds and scholarly articles to promote understanding of the relevant concepts.
It is the considered view of this Group that the transparent elimination of obsolete missiles would not diminish Pakistani or Indian security and will in due course enhance mutual confidence and promote strategic stability.
Brigadier General (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal
Brigadier General (Retd) Feroz Khan
Major General (Retd) Qasim Qureshi
Brigadier General (Retd) Naeem Salik
Dr. W. P. S. Sidhu
Dr. Manpreet Sethi
Dr. Monika Chansoria
Mr. Mansoor Ahmed
International representation at Colombo Group meetings has included participants from the following countries:
Bulgaria, France, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States
(N.B. The Colombo Group Initiative is supported by the Center for Global Security Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California.)