Last month, in an unprecedented event, a superfast object from India flew into Pakistan and crashed near Mian Channu, a city at a distance of 124 km from the Indian border. It was later identified as BrahMos, a supersonic, nuclear-capable missile developed jointly by India and Russia. Indian authorities acknowledged the incident after two days when Pakistani military officials thoroughly briefed the media regarding missile’s flight trajectory and its potential hazard to civilian air traffic that was heavy at the time.
Ideally and legitimately, it should have led to a serious response from the international community as both India and Pakistan are nuclear states and incidents like these speak volumes about the crisis instability that exists in South Asia. More than 1.5 billion people are directly vulnerable to one miscalculation but the consideration it got globally was minimalistic because a war is going on in Europe. In retrospect, the cause of the ongoing war in Europe could arguably be traced back to the underplaying of the issue through the years and not engaging with stakeholders the way they needed to be, and eventually, we are witnessing the largest ground assault in Europe since World War II.
Understanding the matter better
The United States and like-minded allies have consistently championed the cause of ‘rules-based international order’ where institutional liberalism is at the helm of international affairs. The west takes credit for the longest spell of relative global peace courtesy of the same rules-based international order. Particularly in the security domain, the order calls for the role of international institutions, backed by democratic states, to ensure avenues for peaceful resolution of conflicts between countries, preserving the principle of sovereignty and integrity, and most importantly, preventing the use of force and spread of weapons of mass destruction.
However, the critics have argued that the idea behind such an arrangement is to maintain the global dominance on part of the United States via institutional control and selective intervention as the reaction to a particular violation of the said ‘rules’ depends upon the actor committing it.
For the United States, the only challenger that matters in more than just the economic calculations has been China. The U.S has been weighing options to contain the Chinese economic, military and to a lesser extent, cultural stretch in Asia and beyond. The closest working arrangement that the United States so far has managed to assemble Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or simply “Quad’. A loose working arrangement of 4 democracies, the USA, Australia, Japan, and India has been there for the past two decades but its existence was perceived differently from all participating countries until recently. There seems to be a consensus now that primarily the group would tackle the issue of maritime cooperation and security in the Indo-Pacific, re-establishing the rules-based order which is offset by Chinese assertiveness.
The response on part of the United States of America towards India has been way more lenient on issues that it otherwise has dealt with an iron fist for other nations. It came as a blow to the ‘alliance of democracies’ against China when India was the outlier in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, yet it seems that the U.S Quad partner in South Asia would get away once again without having to face the consequences. The purchase ofthe S-400ABMD system serves as a good example here.
China and Turkey were punished under Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) while India’s case has been continuously brushed under the carpet. Hence, it comes as a no surprise that given India’s significance in the broader scheme of things for the United States against China, a nuclear-capable missile taking off from India towards a nuclear power Pakistan has largely gone unperturbed.
The BrahMos incident could have been a good opportunity to work on the missing pieces of the jigsaw in crisis stability in the event of an armed conflict between India and Pakistan. Both countries could have used the opportunity to work on mitigating such mishaps and strengthened the working relationship to prevent a catastrophe in the future had India agreed to a joint investigation. India has shifted the initial assessment of ‘technical fault’ to ‘human error’ for the launch of the missile.
It was expected since BarhMos is central to the export expansion of India’s defense-industrial complex and concerns were raised about its technology after a technical fault was deemed as the likely cause of the accident. However, the real reason for the bizarre and a potential escalator accident might never come out as the world in general and the United States in particular simply do not care enough. And the manifestation of not caring enough to do something substantial until it’s too late is what we are seeing in Europe right now.
Akash Shah works as a Research Officer at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad. His work mainly focuses on Military Technology, Developments and Militarization in Outer Space. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.