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Archive | April, 2012

…and then there was fire

What Agni-V’s success means to India.

Yesterday, India conducted a successful test of the much-awaited Agni-V nuclear-capable missile off Wheeler Island, Orissa.  Agni-V incorporates advanced technologies including composite rocket motors and micro-navigation systems, and has a range of over 5,000 km. The test itself is the most significant technological demonstrator of India’s evolving nuclear capability since the Pokhran tests of 1998.

By all standards, yesterday’s test was a long time coming.  Hindered by high-technology denial regimes led primarily by the U.S., India’s strategic missiles program has experienced delays and setbacks over the course of the last 15 years.  However, the absence of criticism from the U.S. on yesterday’s test is a testament to how far the Indo-U.S. bilateral relationship has come since Pokhran.  As Shashank Joshi notes, “[i]f this had happened 15 years ago, it would have been condemned by the U.S.”

However, it is important to exercise caution and not get unduly carried away with yesterday’s successful test.  Unfortunately, India’s mainstream media has displayed misguided, almost vulgar bellicosity in its reporting of the success of Agni-V.  The same mainstream media that claimed that India wasn’t even prepared for war against Pakistan just two weeks ago, was all set to launch a punitive nuclear attack against China yesterday.  Some TV news channels also featured animated videos of Agni-V hitting targets in China!  This shrillness, rhetoric and lack of credible analysis does a tremendous disservice to the profession of journalism and to the people of India.

Yes, Agni-V was an important step, but India has many more significant challenges to overcome in the evolution of its nuclear capability.  The significance of Agni-V ties directly with India’s “No First Use” (NFU) nuclear doctrine, which requires a mature secondary-strike capability for any NFU position to be credible.  Effectively, a secondary-strike capability means having the ability to retaliate in an imposed nuclear war via land (typically, missiles), air (strategic bombers) and sea (submarines) — the so-called “nuclear triad.”

However, two of the three legs of India’s nuclear triad  are only just evolving.  Agni-V’s successful launch notwithstanding, it will take several years before it can be fully inducted into India’s armed forces.  Further, as India’s stature and interests on the global stage grow, there will be a need in the future to adequately consider and account for threats beyond its shores and neighborhood.  This will mean the development of missiles with ranges longer than Agni-V, which will take not only advanced technological expertise to achieve, but also considerable political will.

India’s sea-based deterrent is also lagging.  Since India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant, was revealed about two years ago, its operationalization has been significantly impacted by delays in its sea trials.  It is unlikely therefore, that it can be inducted into the armed forces before 2014.  Moreover, India’s submarine-based ballistic missile program is at a nascent stage.  While the short-range SLBM Sagarika (K-15) has undergone some trials, the longer-range K-4 is still under development and is unlikely to be ready for tests in the next 4-5 years, going by previous record.  This means that India is unlikely to realistically achieve credible sea-based deterrence before 2020.

India’s avowed position of never employing a nuclear weapon first in combat means that it must develop its secondary-strike capability with purpose.  It can ill-afford to go through additional iterations of lethargy and ineffectual decision-making in operationalizing and maturing its nuclear triad.  Naturally, India’s nuclear arsenal must also quantitatively and qualitatively evolve to reflect current and emerging threats.  The value of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems lies in convincing adversaries of their credibility and ability to inflict unacceptable damage in retaliation, should the need arise. The need of the hour therefore is to focus on these aspects rather than engage in injudicious and myopic chest-thumping.

 

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Urdunama: Khula Khat

Jamaat ud-Dawwa’s (JuD’s) leader Hafiz Saeed recently published an “open letter” to Pakistan’s parliament, protesting its decision to restore on-land NATO supply routes and “conditional re-engagement” with the U.S. The pamphlet bears the letterhead of the JuD, but appears to speak on behalf of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), further confirming the futility in attempts to distinguish between the two, or indeed between the DPC and the MJC brotherhood.  This “open letter” was brought to light by journalist Omar Quraishi (thanks to @Vikram_Sood for the link) .  The pamphlet was pasted outside one of Karachi’s most upscale stores (اردو).

To the Members of Parliament:

As you are aware, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has presented its recommendations on relations with the U.S. and the issue of NATO’s supply lines during the joint parliamentary session on March 20, 2012.  News reports indicate that NATO supply lines are being restored due to U.S. pressure.  It is also allegedly being proposed that taxes on NATO supplies be increased and that 50 per cent of the traffic be transported via rail.

The Difa-e-Pakistan Council has already communicated its thoughts to the Parliament on the above proposals, and would further like to remind the Parliament that:

  1. Parvez Musharraf entered into secret and verbal agreements with the U.S. that ultimately were detrimental to our own security and to the security of our Afghan brothers.  However, if these agreements are now being given formal consent via the Parliament, it sets a very dangerous precedent.
  2. The East India Company had also entered into similar agreements with the Mughal Empire, which resulted in the colonization of India.  If the Parliament accedes to these agreements, Pakistan’s sovereignty will no doubt be compromised.
  3. We must be cognizant of the fact that restoration of on-land access routes to NATO will negatively impact our relations with China.
  4. The bold bipartisan decision to ban NATO supply routes after the Salala incident brought confidence to the people of Pakistan.  However, if these routes were to be reauthorized, it would create confusion and instability in our country.
  5. It is indeed worrying that India is being given on-land access to Afghanistan and West Asia via Pakistan.  In fact, this presents a far greater risk to Pakistan than the restoration of supply routes to NATO. The U.S. and India have recently concluded joint military exercises in Rajasthan.  Granting India route access to Afghanistan via Pakistan and entering into trade agreements with that country present a security threat to Pakistan and risks annoying friendly nations such as China.
  6. We must consider that NATO containers travel through all provinces of Pakistan and have previously been targeted and could be targeted yet again if supply routes are restored.  Thus, the U.S. might use repeated attacks on its trucks as a ruse to invade or establish a military foothold inside Pakistan, claiming a lack of confidence in the Pakistani armed forces’ ability to safeguard their assets.
  7. The U.S. has never honored any of its agreements with Pakistan.  It instead blamed Pakistan for the Salala altercation.  Are we about to endorse these actions, and that too via our own Parliament? Would this happen, Pakistan will be engulfed yet again by the flames of terrorism fanned by the likes of the U.S., NATO and India.

Dear Members of Parliament, we ask that you consider our requests objectively.  We ask that you depart from the tradition of parochial policy-making and think instead of Pakistan’s citizens and its future generations.  If you were to make your decisions against the will of the people of Pakistan, it will hurt the nation and our Afghan brothers.  Please remember that those helping people who burn the Quran and kill our brothers will be accountable for their sins in this life and beyond.  May Allah assist you in doing right by your people.

Your well-wisher,

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed

Ameer, Jamaat ud-Dawwa Pakistan [Source]

The “open letter” is interesting because where India and the U.S. are concerned, the LeT/JuD (unlike other jihadi outfits) has seldom differed with sponsors in Rawalpindi.  However, it would also be nearly impossible for a decision in Pakistan’s parliament to have been concluded on the future of ties with the U.S. and on NATO supply routes without consultation and approval from GHQ.

Effectively, the GHQ is being drawn into making compromises on U.S. demands out of reluctance yet again, as it was at the beginning of U.S. operations in Afghanistan in 2001.  It has since pursued a policy of  supporting U.S.-led operations, while covertly attempting to undermine them.  Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj’s antics, the Haqqani network’s activities inside Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad are but examples of Pakistan’s attempts at subversion.

While Rawalpindi might have agreed ostensibly to restore NATO supply routes, it does so out of necessity and with every intention to keep the pressure on the U.S. and allied forces with 2014 in mind.  To that end, it might employ a series of agents to do its bidding. Historically, groups such as the LeT have been primarily been India-focused.  But this might be changing if Rawalpindi is committed to temporary bonhomie with India. The recent attacks by the Taliban in Kabul and not-so-subtle threats in bullet #6 above might be harbingers of a dangerous summer.

Note: Source and additional detail updated based on the pamphlet on the Difa-e-Pakistan Council website.

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