EXPLAINER: China's role in the successful launch of Babur 3 by Pakistan and why it should worry India

Experts believe that Pakistan could station its nuclear subs mounted with Babur 3, along with Chinese subs, at the port of Gwadar.

The successful testing of Pakistan’s nuclear capable Babur 3 has brought the South Asian country tantalizingly close to entering the ‘nuclear triad club’, a grouping of countries capable of delivering nuclear weapons from air, land and water.

Presently, China, Russia, the United States, India and possibly Israel are part of the ‘nuclear triad club’. Once Pakistan is successfully able to test launch Babur 3 from its submarines, it will formally be among the most powerful nuclear powers in the world.

However, Pakistan’s entry into the elite group of nuclear powers is sure to pose serious headache for arch-rival India, with both nuclear-capable countries having fought three wars since 1947.

The launch of Babur-3 also marks a new phase in relations between India and China, as multiple security experts believe that Beijing is prominently helping Islamabad develop its weapons and nukes arsenal. There is a perception in India that China’s growing support for Pakistan’s military is aimed at checking India.

So, India has several reasons to worry about from the success of Babur 3.

China-Pakistan military nexus against India out in the open

  • Security experts believe that Pakistan couldn’t have developed Babur 3 missile without support from China. “Babur 3 is quite similar to Chinese C802 missile in many respects. It is highly likely that there was technology transfer from China to Pakistan over the last few years,” AB Mahapatra, the Director at Centre for Asian Strategic Studies-India (CASS-India) reckoned during an interview with InUth.
  • Mahapatra said that China was trying to balance India’s growing prowess in the realm of intercontinental ballistic missile technology.”China’s ICBM program still has room for improvements, and India’s successful testing of Agni-V recently brought almost all of China in the range of India’s nuclear-capable missiles. Beijing is now employing the strategy of helping Pakistan to counter India’s growing military prowess,” he said.
  • According to Mahapatra, India’s successful launch of 5000-km range Agni V missile was the likely “trigger” behind Pakistan’s testing of Babur 3, which he says was done with Chinese support. An editorial in China’s state-controlled Global Times was highly critical of India’s Agni-V test and warned that Beijing could help Pakistan develop advanced missile systems if New Delhi continued with its ICBM programme.
  • “The timing of Babur 3’s launch is critical,” Sarral Sharma from New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) said. Also a member of a group that’s been calling for more people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan, Sharma noted that Pakistan’s testing of the submarine-launched missile on the heels of India’s Agni-V test launch couldn’t be mere coincidence.
  • There is believed to be a consensus in India’s security and intelligence establishment that China helping Pakistan to upgrade its naval capabilities has got to do with Beijing’s massive economic stake in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • The $46 billion Chinese-funded project ends at the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Pakistan. Mahapatra from CASS-India said, “Gwadar is definitely going to be the base where Pakistan and China are going to dock their nuclear capable submarines.”

How does Pakistan compare to India in sea-based warfare capability?

  • While China is trying hard to bring Pakistan’s navy on par with that of India’s for reasons of its own, Pakistan has still got some catching up to do if it has to match Indian Navy’s capabilities out in deep waters.
  • “Pakistan embarked on a navy modernisation program just five to ten years ago. India’s nuclear capable INS Arihant submarine way superior to Pakistan’s subs,” Mahapatra said.
  • Mahapatra even expressed doubt about Pakistan being able to successfully use Babur 3 with its navy’s Agosta90B diesel submarines. “Pakistan may not be able to make it to the nuclear triad club at all.” Interestingly, there were reports in Indian media that Pakistan may have faked the launch of Babur 3. There, however, hasn’t been any official statement from India to verify the claim.                                         Also read: Was Pakistan’s Babur-3 missile launch fake?
  • Mahapatra, however, added that India would be faced with serious security challenges if Pakistan is able to mount its Babur 3 missile on its subs. “Babur 3’s striking range of 450 km could make some of India’s oil rigs and even Mumbai vulnerable.”

(Source: Twitter)