Wednesday, 30 April 2014
INDIA - ARTICLES
Tuesday, 29 April 2014
|Kashmir and the bomb|
It is the unfortunate phenomenon in strategic affairs generally, that when it is easier to discuss issues, in times of relative peace, they tend to recede to the background as less urgent and undemanding. The problem is that discussion, particularly sober discussion within one's own side and more so with the adversary, is impossible under the circumstance of crisis and impending conflict. Consequently, it would appear that an opportunity has been missed to engage equably with the nuclear factor in India-Pakistan relations. Hopefully, it would not be an opportunity rued after some future calamity.
Since Kashmir is central to any such possibility, here a view is taken of the nuclear factor in relation to Kashmir. In the recent discussion, Kashmir found mention in an oblique manner. The votaries for rescinding NFU opined that in light of Pakistani fragility, its nuclear weapons could find their way into jihadist hands state complicity. The jihadists, in league with Kashmiri extremists ensconced in Pakistan, may use this for blackmailing India to make concessions on Kashmir. Such scaremongering was used to advance their view that India may require to go nuclear to smash such a contingency. If NFU is made history, then it would enable suitable response, besides being a suitable deterrence to negative forces for taking over Pakistan's crown jewels.
The nuclear blackmail narrative has been there since the very beginning of nuclear thinking. In the early eighties, Stephen Cohen reports of an interview he had in Pakistan in which his bemedelled interlocutor suggested that one utility of the bomb, then in Pakistan's basement, was to blackmail India politically for concessions on Kashmir. Militarily, he described its utility as plugging India's reinforcement routes into Kashmir from Jammu and slicing off the Valley in the melee.
The story was duly picked up by Subramanyam, leading advocate for India's nuclearisation. He justified redressing India's nuclear asymmetry, highlighting that just as Pakistan could plug the Valley from an Indian military surge in case of conflict by dropping the Bomb at Banihal or thereabouts, India could also do so by off the other end of the Valley at Jhelum's exit. A nuclear symmetry would put paid to Pakistan's ambition to gain an upper hand in conflict and wrest Kashmir. A Pakistan brought to its strategic senses by the nuclear balance, would then reconcile to the status quo. To Subramanyam, acceptance of the status quo by Pakistan was the solution to the Kashmir conflict and at one remove to the hostility between the countries. By the end of that decade, Kashmir was on the boil, hardly in sight of the solution, though India had nuclearised by then.
What Subramanyam failed to mention, not because of lazy strategic thinking but surely so as not to complicate his nuclear advocacy, was that Pakistan could choose other options under the cover of the Bomb. In the event, Pakistan chose the route described by analysts as the 'stability/instability' paradox that has it that stability brought on by mutual deterrence at the nuclear level opens up strategic space below for exploitation. Pakistan let loose a proxy war, no doubt emboldened and eased by Kashmiri alienation and angst.
It was able to exploit the subconventional level by neutralising India's conventional might by the threat of nuclearisation of conflict in case of India wanting to teach it a military lesson conventionally. Though India studiously denies it, Pakistan prefers to believe that it has deterred India's conventional hand on occasion, testifying to the deterrence regime in the subcontinent even at a time when recessed deterrence prevailed prior to the May 1998 landmark events.
After the 'Smiling Buddha' tests, LK Advani threw down the gauntlet. Though rationalised later as India's way to smoke out Pakistan's capability and have it join India in the doghouse, his call could well have been prompted by what some regard as a millennial 'jung' between 'two' civilisations. Nawaz Sharif was left with little choice. Both ruling parties assuming that the nuclear stalemate enabled rapprochement took the leap of faith at Lahore. However, in the case of Pakistan, Sharif was ahead of his security establishment that sprung a Kargil on him and Pakistan.
To it was an extension of the undeclared war along the Line of Control, unmindful of the changed security environment post Pokhran II and Chagai. Intended to divert Indian attention, it extended the life of mayhem in Kashmir. While India's army chief then, who might well have been outside India's nuclear loop, says nuclear weapons had no part in the conflict, a nuclear chronicler, Raj Chengappa, let on breathlessly that India had upped its nuclear readiness levels. Bruce Reidel recounts Clinton's ambush of Nawaz Sharif on Pakistani military's nuclear readiness during his visit to Martha's Vineyard. Both sides claim that nuclear weapons were not in the reckoning during the subsequent crisis of 2001-02. While Musharraf said that India's restraint owed to deterrence success, India's president Abdul Kalam in a notable faux pas acknowledged as much.
This brief recounting suggests that nuclear weapons have been a factor in past crises and therefore can be expected to figure in future ones. They would also be a feature in case a crisis turns out , since Pakistan has unveiled a tactical nuclear weapon. Though its employment is expected to be in the plains sector against Indian columns advancing in keeping with its newly minted doctrine of proactive offensive, Indian commentary suggests that the plains sector is, on this count, unlikely to be site of Indian .
Instead, these may well be in the mountains sector where gains made can be kept and where Pakistan cannot readily use nuclear threats. Not only has the area Muslim population; but Pakistan also lies downstream. Nevertheless, in case there is a breakout in the mountain sector, it would place Indian troops within sight of Pakistan's national capital region, thus bringing nuclear weapons into the reckoning. Since India is giving itself a mountain strike corps, ostensibly for use on the China front, its use elsewhere cannot be guaranteed against. Gains it makes can prove nuclear provocations and would lie within fallout distance of Kashmir.
Therefore, while The Bomb may not directly and readily figure in the military calculation in Kashmir for either side, it can be hazarded that in case of nuclear use, self-restraint and regulation may also be a casualty in a post nuclear environment. Kashmir could well find itself at the rough end of an Indian stick. It is a separate issue that it would also face environmental consequences of a regional nuclear war, which even if of a threshold that does not provoke nuclear winter, can be expected to impact contiguous areas direly. Also, indirectly, once the nuclear genii is out of the bottle, motivated rationale can be manufactured, such as a need to interdict Pakistani supply lines to China under the 'twofront' concept, for Kashmir to also get a dose of the nuclear medicine closer home.
Deterrence optimists, who seem to people nuclear establishments on both sides, would be averse to such prognosis. It is for this reason that the problems that could provoke such a denouement are allowed to persist. Since Kashmir cannot expect to escape being signed by nuclear incidence, both politically and physically, it may require exerting to ensure that it does not provide the proverbial spark to the nuclear tinder in South Asia. In the nuclear era, destiny of communities and societies cannot be left entirely in the hands of nuclear armed states, since they have to face the consequence in case deterrence optimists are found wanting at the crunch.
(The author blogs at www.ali-writings.blogspot.in)
News Updated at : Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Nuclear Doctrinal Revision For The China Front
Col Ali Ahmed*
Missing in the ongoing debate on NFU, prompted by reference in the BJP manifesto to a revision of the nuclear doctrine, are the implications of any shift in doctrine for the China front. Nuclear analyst, WPS Sidhu, of Brookings India has indicated that the China factor is one among three factors that prompts revision. The other two are Pakistan’s induction of Nasr and the reconfiguration of the demated and dealerted status in light of nuclear submarines due to make their advent soon as the invulnerable leg of the triad.
The recent debate has alighted on two issues areas: one is the NFU and second is credibility of deterrence. While the discussion has confined itself mostly to the Pakistan front, no doubt with good reason, such as the volatility of relations with that state in light of long standing instability there, the China front has figured if at all in passing. Given that India has consistently privileged the China factor as motivating India’s nuclear developments, there appears a gap in analyses that this article will attempt to fill.
To Sidhu, the presence of DF 25, with a range of 3200km in Tibet and China’s surveillance capabilities together with increased border incidents must prompt rethinking in both conventional and nuclear dimensions. Conventional rethinking has already been initiated over half a decade ago and has resulted in the raising of two divisions in a defensive role and forming of a mountain strike corps. However, implications of the same on conventional-nuclear interface and on nuclear plane are of consequence for any impending revision of nuclear doctrine.
As a prelude to the discussion here, there are some mitigating factors on the China front that need noting. Firstly, China is embarked on an economy-first national endeavour that can do without buffeting by military distractions on a remote border that is not central to its more Pacific Ocean centered primary interests. Secondly, China is more attuned to global power play in which it is seen as a challenger. This means that in any stand-off with India it would only be able to muster and employ a proportion of its comprehensive national power since it would require to keep an eye out for the US and a post conflict rebalancing. Therefore, the seeming power asymmetry against India both conventional and nuclear needs moderating.
Thirdly, it is the sole nuclear power other than India that has an NFU in place. While some Indian analysts question whether this NFU is applicable to Chinese interpretation of its territory, that includes Arunachal Pradesh, to others this NFU is just as credible as any other unilateral declaration that a sovereign state can step away from at any time. Nevertheless, an NFU is in place, even if India were to take it for its planning purposes with a pinch of salt. Lastly, China and India are in a dialogue process that has gone through fifteen iterations so far. This indicates that an interface process is in place with potential for non-military conflict resolution.
With this in the background, what are implications of prospective areas of rethink, namely, NFU and credibility, for the China front?
NFU is relatively easy to tackle. In keeping with the dictates of the Draft Nuclear Doctrine of 1999, India has taken care to build up its conventional capability in order to lift upwards any nuclear threshold or need to go nuclear in a conflict. In the nuclear field, a full-fledged second strike capability resting on nuclear powered submarines packing a ballistic missile punch is still half a decade away. Agni V is yet to get operational status and into production. Therefore, since, firstly, conventionally India can do without nuclear reinforcement, and, secondly, the nuclear capability is yet to mature, there is little reason for India to go nuclear first.
Sticking with NFU at least till end decade may be militarily necessary. The strategic sense in this is that NFU keeps the nuclear factor at bay and, furthermore, provides a buffer in the form of rescinding the NFU in crisis or conflict itself serving as a telling message of India’s stakes and commitment. Politically, there is little reason to heighten tensions with China and thereby falling into line with a side role in the ongoing ‘pivot’ towards Asia of the US.
As for the second aspect, credibility, there is a case to be made for movement. India’s leading nuclear analysts, Bharat Karnad and Vipin Narang, have both pointed out that ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation that is current Indian declaratory nuclear doctrine, is untenable in respect of China. In case of China’s introduction of nuclear weapons into a conflict in a higher order mode such as against India’s heartland, then India is fully justified in having the doctrine inform its nuclear strategy. However, in case of nuclear first use by China in India’s periphery or in Tibet, India could have an operational nuclear doctrine also countenancing limited nuclear operations. This would be necessary at least over the remainder of this decade till the capability to strike China’s eastern seaboard with equal impunity as it can target Indian heartland is built up by the operationalization of the triad, IRBMs and MIRV technology.
A shift from a declaratory doctrine that in this case lacks credibility to ‘flexible’ nuclear retaliation may be necessary. The question that needs answering is: Which serves deterrence better: a doctrine that cannot be worked, or a doctrine that envisages nuclear war-fighting at lower order levels of nuclear exchange in order to deter better? After all, given the stakes involved in a border dispute, lower order levels of nuclear first use are more likely in the hypothetical case of Chinese first use.
In case of a shift to flexible nuclear retaliation on the China front, what does it imply for India’s nuclear doctrine on the Pakistan front? Does it mean that India’s atypical strategic location lends itself to a ‘differentiated’ (B. Karnad) nuclear doctrine: one for each front? Any rethinking would require answering such questions. Consequently, the China front cannot possibly be ‘missing in action’.
Col Ali Ahmed is author of India’s Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia (Routledge, 2014). He blogs at www.ali-writings.blogspot.in.
(Article uploaded on Apr. 29, 2014).
Monday, 21 April 2014
|Ali Ahmed is Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.|
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