Security Implications of Livingston Proposal on Kashmir:
Curbing Nuclear War Risks, the Arms Race, and Defense Burdens

Rodney W. Jones
Member of Kashmir Study Group
President, Policy Architects International

January 2003

Security Benefits of a Kashmir Settlement

A settlement of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan would remove the prime cause for war between the two states. Now that both states are nuclear-armed, a settlement in Kashmir also would greatly reduce the risks that residual military tensions over other bilateral disagreements might escalate into a nuclear war with incalculable consequences.

Further, these military security benefits of a settlement in Kashmir could unleash political propensities in both countries for using economic resources for constructive, economic development purposes. This could mean curbing the current bilateral arms race in conventional, nuclear and missile capabilities and encourage a large reallocation of budgetary resources away from defense expenditures towards social, health, and educational investment goals. It could also permit Pakistan to turn affirmatively towards economic and trade ties with India.

In the context of expanding free trade globally, a progressive opening of trade and investment with India would have significant multiplier effects on economic growth, energy resource utilization, and positive technological development in both countries - lifting them both to a new level where income distribution would improve the standards of living of their entire populations in a self-sustaining way. This could, finally, give new impetus to political reform and incentives to improve the functioning of the democratic strands of both polities, reinforcing the rational and legal barriers to military conflict.

The dispute over Kashmir is one of few post-World War II instances where nominally democratic states have been trapped so deeply and intractably in squandering scarce resources on a post-colonial territorial dispute. An externally facilitated settlement along the lines of the Livingston proposal could unspring this trap for both countries, free the Kashmiris to pursue their culturally rich heritage and entrepreneurial bent, and reopen one of the most beautiful parts of the world again to tourist access and sustainable development.

Security Vision in the Livingston Proposal

Acting successfully on the principles in Kashmir: A Way Forward, the Livingston proposal would deactivate the "active" dispute by agreement among the parties to stand down from rigid contending positions, and would evoke legitimacy for new political conditions that would be inherently peaceful. Enacting the Livingston principles could transform the erstwhile conflict over Kashmir into conditions of security in the disputed territory for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris.

The extent of the reconstituted Kashmir would reflect the wishes of the residents of the parts of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. "The portion of the State to be so reconstituted shall be determined through an internationally supervised ascertainment of the wishes of the Kashmiri people on either side of the Line of Control." The remaining passages in Livingston that bear on security and encapsulate its security assumptions - and that require the development of implementing arrangements - would establish the following objectives or requirements:

  • Free access of a reconstituted Kashmir to and from both India and Pakistan, consisting of:
    • Freedom of individual movement, and
    • Free transit of people, goods, and services across residual Pakistani and Indian boundaries within Kashmir (e.g., the "Line of Control") subject to tripartite arrangements
  • Demilitarization of the area of the reconstituted Kashmir, except to the extent necessary for Pakistan and India to:
    • “maintain logistic support for forces outside the [reconstituted] State that could not otherwise be effectively supplied;" and
    • along either side of the LOC, "until such time as both India and Pakistan decided to alter it in their mutual interest;" but
    • "Neither India nor Pakistan could place troops on the other side of the Line of Control without the permission of the other state."
  • Pakistan and India would share "responsibility for the defense (external security) of the Kashmiri entity."
  • The reconstituted Kashmir "would itself maintain police and gendarme forces for internal law and order (internal security) purposes."

What do these objectives and requirements provide for, and what do they leave unstated, or not yet fleshed out?

What the objectives provide for operates on several levels. On the most basic level, they provide a voluntary framework for incorporating the wishes of the Kashmiri people on both sides of the LOC in a level of self-government, and in freedom of movement and commerce, that could be immensely productive internally, as well as through ties with India on one side and Pakistan on the other.

The reconstituted Kashmir envisaged by Livingston is a secular state. This has security implications. For India a secular self-governing Kashmiri entity would be congruent in principle with India's own secular constitution and address Indian political concerns that no state entity in which India has an interest (e.g., responsibility for external defense), be constituted on the basis of religion (or on the religious affiliation of a majority community per se). It may sit less well with Pakistan as an Islamic republic - as things stand today - but is consonant with what the Muslim League originally envisioned for Pakistan where the state itself would be based on modern (secular) law, not religious law. This secular dispensation is inherently antithetical to politically organized religious extremism, and once operative in self-governance and effectively policed, would do much to keep such tendencies in check. It is a necessary condition for the restoration of social and political harmony in Kashmir's religious diversity, and thus a critical ingredient in "law and order" -- or internal security.

Transforming Principles and Objectives Into Implementation

From a security standpoint, the key implementing issues of Livingston for adoption (or negotiation) by India and Pakistan in the areas of "responsibility for external defense" and "demilitarization," foreseeably, would be:

  • limitations on the nature and levels of Indian and Pakistani military and security forces (regulars and paramilitary, and equipment) allowed to man the LOC (as long as it is observed), the numbers of forces permitted, and the conditions of access -- all factors that inherently would be in tension with or balanced against the principle of "demilitarization".
    • if permitted by implementing agreements, the external monitoring arrangements (including numbers of personnel and nature of airborne and on the ground presence);
  • limitations on the nature and levels of military and security forces, and access routes, permitted (or guaranteed) through the territory of the new Kashmir entity to the external borders between India and China, and Pakistan and China, and between India and Pakistan where past LOC boundaries (e.g., Siachen) are not delimited on the ground and may extend into the northern or northeastern mountainous region (Karakorams and Himalayas) beyond the territory of the new Kashmir entity;
  • adjustments in the delimitation or demarcation of the LOC itself (as long as it is observed), a subject not further addressed here;
  • security agreements by India and Pakistan respectively with the new Kashmir entity, as well as between India and Pakistan, regarding conditions of emergency that presumably could be the basis for injecting pre-defined types and levels of forces to support the police (internal security) of the new entity, should they be needed, limitations on the scope and intensity of the operations of such forces, and articulation of the authority of the Kashmir entity to establish conditions of pace and location of entry, duration, and exit of such security forces, along with appropriate monitoring criteria for any external or international monitoring arrangements related thereto;
  • a common sense understanding of "demilitarization" of the new Kashmir entity would be, with respect to the LOC:
    • withdrawal from the territory of heavy fire-power, e.g., artillery and mortars;
    • no stationing or storage of tanks or armored fighting vehicles inside the territory;
    • no prepositioned fixed wing fighter/ground attack aircraft or armored combat helicopters inside the territory;
    • restriction to light arms and intrusion-detection equipment for the LOC (as long as it is observed)
    • no land mines along the LOC
  • A common sense understanding of "demilitarization" of the new Kashmir entity with respect to "responsibility for external defense" would include:
    • defined restrictions on (or allowances for) Indian and Pakistani heavy equipment or ordnance kept at staging and storage points along defined access routes within the territory of the new Kashmir entity, when such facilities may be necessary for the logistical support of external defense;
    • permitted zones for overflight by Indian and Pakistani military surveillance aircraft and light helicopters, and, if agreed, external monitoring arrangements of movements by such aircraft;
    • numerical restrictions on Indian and Pakistani regular and paramilitary security forces not only along the LOC but also numerical and locational restrictions on such forces elsewhere within Kashmir, subject to but as may be needed for the external defense mission.
  • Consideration be given to expansion of the existing UN observer force, or to creation of a new international force, with missions and capabilities related to monitoring the limitations described above.

Reduction of Nuclear War Risks

India's and Pakistan's testing and introduction of nuclear weapons, equippage of nuclear-capable aircraft for nuclear missions, and development and acquisition of ballistic missile delivery systems have created the inherent risk of nuclear escalation and nuclear war in South Asia. While nuclear weapons are widely thought to be usable in such a context only for deterrent purposes, as weapons of last resort, the actual military balance and crisis-ridden nature of the rivalry between India and Pakistan is fraught with problems that make the risk of nuclear escalation quite serious indeed. The latest two conventional military confrontations - that of Kargil in mid-1999, and the recent mobilization following the attack on India's Parliament in December 2001 and lasting through 2002 - have both occurred "under the nuclear shadow."

A high degree of nuclear crisis instability can be anticipated in the event of an outright conventional war breaking out between India and Pakistan across their international border, especially if India invades the heart of Pakistan in Punjab, or attempts to sever Pakistan's lines of communication between Sindh and Punjab. Faced with potential attrition of its air force and wearing down of its ground forces, and fearing conventional preemptive attack on its nuclear assets, Pakistan could easily be forced into a nuclear use-it, or lose-it, dilemma - the essence of what is sometimes described as a "hair-trigger" condition. This is a structural problem in which one side has a huge advantage in conventional forces and strategic depth, and the other has smaller forces and a relatively shallow strategic depth.

This is an inherently unstable condition from a nuclear deterrence perspective since at least one side has no secure second strike capability. The proposition here should not be read as a pejorative judgment about the rationality or reliability of civilian or military decision-makers under military crisis or nuclear crisis conditions in either country but it must be acknowledged that both sides to date have severely limited experience with the construction of secure nuclear command and control arrangements and both are on a steep learning curve. On a technical level and under military crisis or conventional conflict conditions, many things could go wrong, and might lead to contemplation of the use of nuclear weapons, or to the perception by one side that the other is getting ready to use nuclear weapons, with enlarged potential for tragic miscalculation or overreaction.

The fact is that if the Kashmir dispute were to be settled, the political and military conditions that could lead India and Pakistan to the brink of conventional war, or toward nuclear crisis and escalation, would be greatly diminished. This is not to say that the risks of deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons would disappear altogether, since neither Islamabad nor Delhi is now willing to give them up. It is merely to say that with a Kashmir settlement, the most likely precipitants to their use between the two countries would be removed. India claims that China is a nuclear threat to India that must be countered, and this remains a problem that will continue to complicate the Indo-Pakistani relationship as well. India seemingly is engaged in a come-from-behind arms race with China, not just a nuclear arms and missile race with Pakistan. But a Kashmir settlement would make conditions within South Asia much less brittle and less confrontation-prone.

Reduction of Other Defense Burdens

The most immediate security beneficiaries of a Kashmir settlement along the lines of the Livingston proposal would be the Kashmiris themselves. It is the Kashmiris disproportionately who have suffered loss of life, and paid a high price in disrupted educations and livelihoods. Ironically the high level of Indian security force mobilization in Kashmir has injected financial resources into the state that have also distorted the normal Kashmiri economy, particularly tourism. The distortions and imbalances will have to be worked out but the long term effect of a restoration of peace, and the new condition of free individual and commercial movement between Kashmir and India and Pakistan respectively, will eventually provide that restorative and more.

For India and Pakistan, the reduction in the defense burden could, logically, be huge - potentially releasing half of the defense expenditures on each side to more productive purposes. Peace dividends never work quite that simply, to be sure, and there would be considerable political resistance to steep military reductions on either side, especially of regular military forces. But a gradual abatement of military threat by both sides against each other could lead to incremental reductions that would be economically positive and productive for both, with large cumulative effects over time.

This defense burden reduction could take place in two areas. One would be reduced defense expenditure on military service manpower, with reductions in the size of the regular armies -- the place where reductions would not be at the cost of service integrity, as arguably they might be if one looked only at the navies, especially Pakistan's Navy. The other would be in expenditure on equipment and modernization, including equipment related to nuclear weapons delivery and strategic reconnaissance capability. Modernization of heavy equipment could be reduced to a slower pace, although Indian preoccupations with China would still fuel its rationale for military modernization. Reductions in Pakistan would be particularly beneficial economically, in enlarging the space for rational agricultural and industrial modernization and investment.

Consider the following metrics as illustrative of how defense burdens in Pakistan and India have escalated since the 1980s, and how any reductions, or even a flattening of India's accelerating expenditures, could allow very substantial reallocation of resources to the civilian economy.

Chart 1 shows Indian and Pakistani defense expenditures from 1970 to 2002, based on IISS Military Balance figures, standardized in US Dollars. The dollar-denominated amounts rise far less rapidly than the rupee-denominated amounts. The dollar denominated amounts realistically reflect external purchases, but understate the purchasing power internally for manpower. Chart I also shows important events on the time-Iine, such as the Soviet invasion and exit from Afghanistan, the beginning of the Kashmir insurgency, and the 1998 nuclear tests.

Indian military expenditures rose very rapidly in the 1980s, a period of equipment procurement and modernization from foreign sources, dropped in the early 1990s, and then rose very sharply in the late 1990s. Indian military expenditures rose from less than $4 billion in 1979 to $10 billion in 1990, dropped to about $7 billion in 1992, and then skyrocketed up to about $18 billion in 2002. The upper line shows the addition of atomic energy, space, and high technology spending to the basic profile of regular military service spending - although these figures were not broken out separately until 1995. Even these figures in the upper line probably understate the true defense expenditures by India.

Pakistan's profile in the same period rises more modestly (although Pakistan's defense expenditures as a proportion of its GDP are roughly twice as high as India's). Pakistan's defense expenditures (as officially published) rose from a little over $1 billion in 1979 to a peak of about $4 billion in 1998, and then have declined somewhat in subsequent years, to about $2.6 billion currently. Pakistan, like India, probably has off-budget expenditures that are not reflected in the official budget, and in Pakistan's case the unseen figures may be greater, proportionally, than India's, although probably significantly smaller in absolute terms.

India's regular armed force personnel numbers have always been large and have grown relatively slowly over the last two decades to a level today of about 1.3 million. But India's paramilitary forces have expanded more substantially from about 655,000 in 1988 to a level today of nearly 1.1 million, an increase of about 70 per cent in 14 years. India's total military and paramilitary manpower today is about 2.4 million, altogether a very large security force. The Kashmir and Northeastern insurgencies probably account for the bulk of the increase in the paramilitary forces, about half of which have real teeth. India's Home Guard, the other half, is not seriously combat-capable in an external role.

Pakistan's regular military forces in 1989 totalled 520,000 and today have grown to 620,000, an increase of just under 20 per cent. Pakistan's paramilitary forces in 1988 were given as 89,000 and today stand at about 290,000, although 185,000 of this number (two-thirds) consists of National Guard, youth, and women's organizations that are essentially symbolic and not seriously combat-capable in an external role.

More study would need to be given to provide a confident estimate of the potential level of cost savings from a Kashmir settlement that could be achieved by reducing Indian and Pakistani security forces. But it would not be unreasonable to expect that India's regular forces could be reduced by 10 to 20 per cent, and its externally oriented paramilitary forces by up to 50 per cent. Roughly similar reductions in Pakistan, in proportional terms, probably could be achieved. If the net defense cost reductions in India were to approach about $2 billion a year annually, after two or three years -- this would only be a 10 per cent reduction, a fairly modest drop compared with recent increases. In Pakistan a 10 per cent reduction would save at least 250 million a year, and perhaps more, if it were applied to off-budget expenditures as well. It would not be unreasonable to expect that achievable reductions would be as much as 20 per cent after five years, or roughly $3.5 billion a year in India, and about $500 million a year in Pakistan. Reinvested in productive ways, these amounts could have substantial positive effects in both economies and societies.


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