Conference on Hague Code of Conduct held in Colombo

Thursday, 24 January 2019 02:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Foundation for Strategic Research, an independent French think tank, in cooperation with the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka held a seminar on ‘Dealing with the Missile Threat in South Asia’. The event was held with support from the European Union External Action Service. 

Sri Lanka was selected as the venue of this conference due to its long history of non-alignment, its support for non-proliferation and for being a neutral venue where both India and Pakistan (South Asian nuclear states) could come together to openly discuss contentious issues. 

The seminar was held on 15 January 2019 at the Taj Samudra hotel, and featured academics from think tanks and government advisors from across the world. Among them was Ambassador Zamir Akram, the current advisor to the Strategic Plans Division of the Government of Pakistan and Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, the Director of the South Asia division of the Atlantic Council. Key themes discussed in the conference included how the Hague Code of Conduct can be utilised as a confidence building tool on the topic of WMD vehicles, the causes and effects of missile development in South Asia, and space development. 

It was acknowledged during the conference that the Hague Code of Conduct is a useful mechanism to build confidence and help non-proliferation efforts. This was because of two main factors. Firstly, it was observed that the Code of Conduct requires countries to make a yearly submission of their ballistic missile policies. This can include the number and type of Ballistic missiles as well as the location of the launching sites. Secondly, it was identified that the Code of Conduct requires states to release pre-launch notifications. These include information about the timing of the launch, as well as its planned direction. Such measures can increase transparency and have the potential of reducing tensions between states that have ballistic missiles.

A key example was Pakistan’s vehement objection to India’s testing of K4 Ballistic nuclear capable missiles. Since Pakistan was unaware of the missile launch until it occurred, they were taken by surprise and were therefore convinced that India were intent on carrying out a second strike capability. If India had adhered to practices laid out in the Hague Code of Conduct, Pakistan would have been able to receive advance notice and possibly negotiate with India very At the least, the dialog channels would have been open; thus possibly reducing tensions.

It was also noted that, at times, missile defence systems could increase tensions between the two states. This is due to the state maintaining the system sensing a unilateral edge over the other; thus breaking the strategic stability brought about through deterrence. An example was seen last May when Pakistan accused India’s missile defence system of disturbing the strategic balance of the Indian Ocean. Despite India maintaining that its system was for peaceful purposes only, it was understood that missile defence systems create ambiguity and have the potential of unintended conflict.