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Tag Archives | nuclear

The ties that bind

Enough about curry and cricket.

U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron is in India on a three day state visit.  His visit comes on the heels of his trip to Turkey, where he pledged to support that country’s membership to the European Union.  Some say that is part of the Mr. Cameron’s new foreign policy initiative to woo the East.  Indeed, in an op-ed in The Hindu, Mr. Cameron declared as much:

From the British perspective, it’s clear why India matters. Most obviously, there is the dynamism of your economy. In the U.S., they used to say: “Go West, young man” to find opportunity and fortune. For today’s entrepreneurs, the real promise is in the East. But your economy isn’t the only reason India matters to Britain. There’s also your democracy with its three million elected representatives — a beacon to our world. There is your tradition of tolerance, with dozens of faiths and hundreds of languages living side by side — a lesson to our world. And there is this country’s sense of responsibility. Whether it’s donating reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, peacekeeping in Sierra Leone or providing intellectual leadership in the G20, India is a source of strength to our world. [The Hindu]

Faced with government debt and high levels of unemployment, Mr. Cameron will do what he must to revive his country from the global economic slump.  At the backdrop of a domestic debate on immigration, Mr. Cameron arrived in Bangalore — not New Delhi — visiting Infosys’ technology park and HAL, where a $800 million deal between BAE and HAL for 57 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) was signed.

The U.K. is already India’s largest trading partner in the E.U.  Trade between India and the U.K. has, and will continue to amble along, increasing annually in absolute terms, while decreasing in terms of U.K.’s overall contribution to India’s economy. Certainly, India is open for business and any mutually beneficial opportunity for trade and commerce is welcome.  But if the goal of Mr. Cameron’s visit is to forge the bonds of an “enhanced relationship” with India,we will need to move beyond the (dare I say) mundane and begin talking about issues of strategic importance to each other; for India, this includes  energy and security.  Indeed, France has shown that such an engagement model can be successful.

In this respect, news of progress on civilian nuclear cooperation and the AJT deal, though long overdue, is perhaps welcome.  However, it is as yet unclear if U.K.’s leaders truly understand and are willing to commit to a more broad-based partnership with India.  It is also unlikely that India will bother to sit around and wait.

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New submarines for the Indian Navy

Where are the questions from the media?

The Times of India ran an article on July 11, 2010 indicating that the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister A.K. Antony approved the allocation of Rs. 50,000 crore ($11 billion) towards the construction of six “next generation” submarines for the Navy, via a project codenamed Project-75 India (P-75I):

[The DAC] has finally decided that three of the six submarines will be constructed at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai and one at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) in Visakhapatnam, with the help of a foreign collaborator. “The other two submarines will either be imported from the foreign vendor directly or constructed at a private shipyard in India. Fresh estimates show each of these six diesel-electric submarines will cost almost Rs 8,500 crore,” a source said. [The Times of India]

There are several issues relating to the new project that should be of concern, not the least of which should be the amount allocated, which appears excessive for six conventional submarines (maybe The Times of India can clarify what was so  “new generation” about the subs). If a decision was taken to allocate such a large sum of money towards a project,  it should have been directed towards augmenting the indigenous nuclear submarine program, with India’s mid- to long-term security interests in mind.

Further, if MoD’s past record in cost projection is any indicator, $11 billion will be a significant underestimation.  Initial estimates of about $950 million for the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, escalated to almost $4 billion.  Going back further, the  SU-30MKI deal  was initially estimated at about Rs. 22,000 crore, as against actual final costs of about Rs. 40,000 crore.  Again, based on MoD’s past record, a six year time estimate for the roll-out of the first of these submarines (which seems excessive, in and of itself) is likely fairly optimistic.  If MoD’s primarily concern is about plugging potential gaps before the Scorpene submarines become available (beginning 2014), a more effective sourcing strategy would be through a short-term lease agreement with another country.

The MoD’s lethargic approach towards requirements projection and sourcing, coupled with this Defence Minister’s obsession with self-reliance in manufacturing and “squeaky-clean” defense deals (let’s face it, they don’t exist) have already negatively impacted India’s defense preparedness.  This is further compounded by the almost complete absence of probing questions from the press on such issues.

“Mother of all” defense deals are good attention grabbers, but requirements for several other basic, but un-sexy equipment — grenades, howitzers, assault riffles, helmets, bullet-proof jackets, night vision devices and others — have been documented, re-documented and distributed to their final resting place, where they gather dust in some old office in South Block.

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Link Digest: June 18, 2010

Rounding off news, views and analysis, this is (the first installment of) your weekly Link Digest:

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“Seeking tangible deliverances”

Entertaining Pak’s wish-list will impact Indo-US relations.

This rather optimistic piece by Baqir Sajjad Syed surfaced in the Dawn yesterday, conveying GHQ’s wish-list and expectations from Washington.  Rawalpindi feels the need to tell the Americans that it is time to “move on from symbolism and concretely address Pakistan’s core security concerns and its immediate economic needs.”  Pakistan is therefore “seeking tangible deliverances” from the US.  Translation, give us the reigns to Afghanistan, get India to budge on Kashmir and give us a nuclear deal along the lines of the Indo-US 123 Agreement.

The last demand is interesting, given how its need is articulated in the Dawn.  While the article submits that nuclear energy was needed to meet its growing energy needs, Islamabad really wants it because it doesn’t want to see itself being discriminated against vis-a-vis India.  In other words, rehyphenate the dehyphenation. Polaris has an excellent take on this sort of fallacious equating.  But this theme isn’t a stranger to discourse in some circles in the US.  Christine Fair’s Wall Street Journal piece in February recommended a “glutton for punishment” approach, where the US would offer Pakistan a “conditions-based” civil nuclear deal in return for Pakistan refocusing its efforts in resolving Washington’s conundrum in AfPak.

Forget that such a proposal would be shot down by Congress (by non-proliferation nazis in Mr. Obama’s own party, for starters) faster than Dick Cheney with a rifle.  Or that even in the very unlikely event that the Obama Administration could succeed in obtaining the blessings of the House and the Senate, there would be no way the Nuclear Suppliers Group would grant a waver to Pakistan (a non-NPT signatory), given its rich and vibrant history of nuclear proliferation.  Indeed, the very notion that the Obama Administration would consider such an arrangement with Pakistan would hurt an already ailing Indo-US relationship.  This blogger will therefore suggest that such a proposition be relegated to intellectual discussion only.

But Mr. Obama has done a terrific job on foreign policy, these past several months: appease your adversaries and alienate your allies.  The Western media is replete with articles about Dr. AQ Khan, as if Dr. Khan ran his “nuclear Wal Mart” independent of any official sanction from the powers-that-be in Rawalpindi.  For those Pakistani apologists in DC suffering from short term memory loss, The Washington Post serves up a timely reminder:

As troops massed on his border near the start of the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein weighed the purchase of a $150 million nuclear “package” deal that included not only weapons designs but also production plants and foreign experts to supervise the building of a nuclear bomb, according to documents uncovered by a former U.N. weapons inspector.

The offer, made in 1990 by an agent linked to disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, guaranteed Iraq a weapons-assembly line capable of producing nuclear warheads in as little as three years. But Iraq lost the chance to capitalize when, months later, a multinational force crushed the Iraqi army and forced Hussein to abandon his nuclear ambitions, according to nuclear weapons expert David Albright, who describes the proposed deal in a new book.

Oh, and lest anyone seek to absolve the Pakistani State of any wrongdoing, let David Albright’s conversation on CNN with Wolf Blitzer serve as a reminder:

BLITZER: Is [AQ Khan] under any restrictions whatsoever?
ALBRIGHT: No. He’s actually launched a media campaign to try to say he didn’t do any of this. And so, it’s almost outrageous that he want us becoming free mounting a media campaign to clear his name supposedly, and ironically when he’s in court, he actually says he has no contact with western media, so he’s trying to have it all ways, and I think it’s a travesty in justice.
BLITZER: Because he was involved in helping not only the Iranians but the Iraqis and others, Libya, right?
ALBRIGHT: That’s right.
BLITZER: And then he was under house arrest by the Pakistanis, but no law even under house arrest.
ALBRIGHT: That’s right.
BLITZER: And the U.S. has never really had an access to questioning directly.
ALBRIGHT: That’s right. No one has. And the Pakistani government served as questioners for all, including the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other countries. It was very unsatisfactory.

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