Confidence- and Security-Building Measures for India and Pakistan

By Hilali, A. Z. | Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, April-June 2005 | Go to article overview
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Confidence- and Security-Building Measures for India and Pakistan

Hilali, A. Z., Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

This article presents a conceptual and historical overview of confidence- and security-building measures between India and Pakistan in order to provide a context in which to evaluate prospects for the mitigation of conflict between these two countries. It examines such sites of conflict as Kashmir and the Siachen Glacier, as well as concerns over nuclear proliferation, and evaluates the measures that have been taken so far in relation both to processes of arms control and of political negotiation. Keywords: security, confidence building, arms control, India, Pakistan.


Confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) are practical actions aimed at creating attitudes of cooperation. The primary objective of this concept is to generate confidence between rivals (enemies) or nations in competition--the sense that cooperation is both possible and is better than confrontation. Scholars working in this area argue that national interests can be promoted when two countries use political and diplomatic means to defuse mutual tension and that conflict can be avoided if fair steps are taken by both sides and that a win-win strategy is better than a zero-sum game, where the gains of one party result in losses for the other. (1)

In their most general sense, CSBMs are instruments for the prevention of war and conflict and for the resolution of existing conflicts between regional neighbors or parties to the kind of long-standing confrontation, exemplified by the Cold War, in which normal channels of communication are weak or have broken down. (2) The utility of CSBMs is perceived to derive from their gradual creation of an atmosphere of mutual trust, transparency, and predictability in slow and incremental steps in order to provide alternatives to confrontation and conflict where differences between states recur or have been inflamed or where new points of contention have arisen. (3)

Thus, CSBMs are a complex phenomenon. They have been useful, however--primarily in constructing new forms of military and civilian relationships to change the nature of hostility and mutual misperceptions. (4) Moreover, in the absence of strong political commitments, peace activists and security institutions have proposed CSBMs as a starting point for a process of mutual familiarization and willingness to move beyond confrontation and competition to cooperation and reconciliation. (5) CSBMs are a conceptual and procedural tool based on the assumption that parties to a conflict have a mutual interest in pursuing at least some cooperative solutions in order to realize a shared goal. The rationale underlying CSBMs is that a gradual process of confidence building is the key to overcoming obstacles on the way to realizing a mutually beneficial goal. (6)

This article is a modest contribution to the effort to promote CSBMs as a tool for cooperative security in South Asia, focusing primarily on India-Pakistan and on the potential contribution of CSBMs to the regional arms-control process. It begins by addressing the intellectual and academic foundations for a confidence- and security-building approach to conflict management in general and arms control in particular. It briefly describes the origin and evolution of CSBMs in the superpower and European contexts, the defining characteristics of CSBMs, and the role they are designed to play. I then consider the general conditions necessary for CSBMs, insights from the cumulative CSBM experience, as well as the relevance of CSBMs outside the European context in which they originally emerged.

After assessing the role that CSBMs could play in the Indo-Pakistan context, I offer some reflections on the empirical data gained from the multilateral CSBM negotiations that have been carried out between India and Pakistan.

Socioeconomic Background of South Asia and CSBM Experience

Many of the international structures of the Cold War have been dismantled, much of the world is heading toward regional integration, market economies are said to be reshaping a new world, and democratic forces are replacing many repressive regimes; relations nevertheless remain very chilly in South Asia, which remains one of the most volatile and explosive regions in the world.

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