Sunday, February 26, 2006

Understanding Pakistani concerns over the India-US nuclear deal

Anand Verma characterizes the Pakistani mentality as one overwhelmed by feelings of inferiority and a reflexive "anti-Hinduism". As the current Pakistani Army leadership equates India with "Hindus", this negative sentiment towards "Hindus" is liberally heaped upon India. This is a depressing but accurate assessment of affairs.

As a result of this, Musharraf today retains his position by selectively exploiting this anti-India sentiment. He has to show that he is capable of "defeating India". As Musharraf has gone to such lengths to tell the Pakistani people that Bush is a friend of Pakistan, he will have to show them he can use his influence with Bush to either stop the deal or get atleast as good a deal for Pakistan.

Pakistan is today economically reeling under three major problems:
  1. Its export sector has been hit due to curbs. The legal export sector is in trouble to trade quotas and restrictions. The illicit sector has been hit due to loss of control over narcotics coming from Afghanistan and due to the exposure of the A Q Khan proliferation chain which use to move a lot of stuff on the black market. This means there is less outflow from Pakistan.
  2. The agricultural sector which employs a large section of the population is weakening due to problems with water management. Unless something is done fast, Pakistan will end up becoming a net importer of food.
  3. Wealth flow inside society is weak and disparity is growing. This is creating severe unemployment and widespread disaffection.

To deal with the first, the Pakistanis are attempting to attract international investment. Their belief appears to be that if more westerners invest in Pakistan, then Pakistanis will gain leverage to ask for a removal of import quotas against Pakistani goods and services. This is the strategy spearheaded by Pakistani Prime Minister "Shortcut" Aziz. Aziz thinks that if he can fudge the macroeconomic figures for Pakistan, he will be able to attract FIIs to Pakistan. He is wrong, because FIIs are not that stupid, and because the Pakistan Army doesn't really like him and will move to frustrate him. For its part the Pakistan Army would like to see that the A Q Khan channels are restored, and that the outflow of heroin related trade from Afghanistan returns to entirely Pakistani control.

The Pakistan Army seems to be keen to deal with the agriculture issue entirely on its own. Perhaps this is understandable as a number of the landed class in Punjab has deep ties to the army. It is natural for the Army to be the vehicle for this sentiment. The Army has carefully managed to turn Kashmir from a "muslim" cause to a "struggle for water". Attention is steadily being focussed on the proposed Baghliar dam in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistanis pretend that the third problem does not exist. They deliberately act as if the ethnic and social barriers to wealth flow are unreal. It allows them to seek out a space for application of Islamist ideals. The Pakistan Army and its marriage of convenience with the Islamists works very hard at reaching into the regions of constricted wealth flow to identify vulnerabilities in those population. The Islamists then exploit these vulnerabilities to draw support for their causes. A detailed study of the economically depressed Potohar plateau will show how this scam works. Perhaps even more topical would be a study of all those people from POK that were affected by the earthquake. The LeT has made significant inroads there due to its dominance over relief operations. The Pakistanis in the Army believe that this scam is infinetely repeatable and can be extended to draw all the ethnicities into their narrow ideas of nationalism. The failure of the "ideal of Pakistan" in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) is not apparent to them, neither for that matter is the on going failure in Baluchistan.

All this will shape the Pakistani response to the India-US nuclear deal.

Musharraf will be under pressure to show that he can get atleast as good (if not better) a deal for Pakistan. He may ask for the following things:

  1. A green light for a resumption of proliferation activities. This could include the US letting A Q Khan off the hook or atleast looking the other way when the Pakistanis proliferate to other countries. Alternatively he could ask the US to agree not to ask for IAEA inspections of Chinese supplied nuclear facilities for a certain time period.
  2. US support on Pakistan's stance on the renegotiation of the Indus Water Treaty. I suspect that Pakistan wants to expand the treaty to exclude the building of any new hydel power projects in Kashmir. These projects significantly alter Pakistan's ability to make trouble there as they spawn new economies that draw Kashmiris away from unemployment.
  3. Increased US investment and loans. These will most likely be in the area of water management technology; dams, desalinators, and canal refurbishing.

I am not very clear on what President Bush will agree to in his visit. I expect that Bush will have to accept a more interventionist stand on the Kashmir issue. I expect that this will serve a signal for LeT and other outfits to start rebuilding their facilities in Muzzafarabad. Enhanced Pakistani rhetoric over the Baghliar issue, which is a prelude to a wider media campaign over the Indus Water Treaty is likely too. If Musharraf does bring up the water management issue with Bush, I feel he is likely to recieve support on that issue.

I feel the US cannot allow the "resurgent Taliban" (Pakistanis masquerading as a reborn-Taliban) to establish a hold on Jalalabad. This will allow them to sever the the Kandahar Kabul road link and spell the doom of the Karzai government. As a result there is no hope of the Pakistani Army ever regaining control over Afghan narcotics trade routes.

Addressing and accomodating Pakistanis concerns may require that the US move beyond the Pakistan Army in their dialogue with Pakistani entities.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Pakistani Nuclear Option

Pakistan knows that it cannot keep up with India in a race. They know they are a smaller country and this difference in size is a problem for their strategists.

The Pakistani nuclear option derives its logical foundation in the argument that Pakistan - a smaller country lacks depth. This lack of depth is a very broad term that speaks to both the lack of physical space and the manner in which Pakistan numerically lags India in the field of resources.

From this basic premise the following logic appears;

- Pakistani armed forces cannot hold out against Indian conventional forces,
- Pakistan needs to pose a credible nuclear threat to Indian conventional agression,
- The credibility of a Pakistani nuclear threat rests on its percieved ability to inflict unacceptable damage on India,
- A credible threat of nuclear strikes on an India's economic and political centers will be sufficient to deter India from attacking Pakistan,
- A sub-conventional conflict can be maintained with India with low escalatory potential.

The vagueness of the terms "credible" and "unacceptable" in this calculus leaves Pakistan prone to an escalatory posture vis-a-vis India. The Pakistanis do not know what the Indians will find "credible", or what they will find "unacceptable". The key determinant in Pakistani posturing is to identify exactly what those terms mean to the Indians.

This process of identification is what is becoming very difficult as India grows in economic stature.

As the Indian economy grows and new economic powerhouses emerge, the Indian notion of national space will expand rapidly. This makes the identification of economic and political centers difficult. The Pakistani military mind with its emphasis on Clauzwitzian "Centers of Gravity" is unable to grasp the complexity of the Indian economy or the width of its political base. The result of this is already visible - there has been a gradual increase in the list of cities that the Pakistanis claim they can target in their escaltory rhetoric. As Indian cities grow in size, it is not possible to target a single city with a single small bomb and cause unacceptable damage. To play the game of rhetorical escalation the Pakistanis will have to make bigger bombs and show the world that the bombs actually work or failing that they will have to make more bombs with the small designs they currently have.

Either ways - the Pakistanis still have to get a hold of expensive things they don't currently have. As the Pakistani economy is in bad shape, the only way they can pay is through the proceeds of the heroin trade or by clandestine proliferation of weapons technology. Pakistan is therefore set to proliferate more irrespective of what the world thinks it should be doing.

The Non-Proliferation community is not being sensitive to the realities of Pakistan's nuclear options.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Non-Proliferation Nonsense

It is a held notion in the non-proliferation community in the US that somehow the current state of stability in the world has something to do with their belief structure and the ideals of non-proliferation. The non-proliferation community does not see the disconnect between their ideological constructs and the underlying realities of the global political economy.

The average non-proliferation mullah sees himself in a larger than life way. He sees himself as an architect of global order - as someone defining the morality these troubled times. This is an exaggerated self image that preoccupies their thinking.

The non-proliferation mullah does not have capital resources to enforce his vision, infact all non-proliferation talking-heads get their paychecks from grants made by private foundations that have a long history of providing all manner of support to US capital management groups or to members of the USIC.

To a very large extent the non-proliferation mullah relies on the media to disseminate his viewpoint. However it is important to note that this too is is rented space as the media itself is owned by the very same American capital management groups. The non-proliferation mullah is only allowed as much time on the pulpit as he is willing to toe that particular capital management group's line. A miscommunication of the media owners' intentions by the non-proliferation mullah results in his media access being cut.

In the non-proliferation ideological sphere there are only generalizations of specific problems. There is no room for details and specific information about say... India's security concerns.

For example, a non-proliferation `expert' will tell you that the India-US nuclear deal is "bad" because then "Pakistan will worry that India's nuclear arsenal will grow and then they will invest money in expanding their own arsenal to keep apace with India." Fact is that given India's growing economic stature, Pakistan has to increase its arsenal to pose a credible threat of unacceptable damage to India. If Pakistan cannot expand its arsenal and deliver weapons to a larger number of targets i.e. Indian cities - then their deterrence scheme is no longer credible and even the slightest escalation sequence will result in their bluff being called. Pakistan does not need "India's expanding arsenal" as a reason to increase the size of its stockpile. Another thing that one must bear in mind when talking about Pakistan - is that the Pakistani Army retains international support by ensuring that the apprehensions of proliferation remain high. As long as proliferation concerns remain high - the Pakistani Army can market itself as being the only agency capable of keeping the risks managed. A larger stockpile of weapons grade fissile material directly suggests a larger proliferation threat. This second factor is perhaps a far bigger incentive for the Pakistanis to increase the size of their stockpile.

The Pakistanis - one is told - have signed a deal for 20 something nuclear reactors with China. I really want this deal to come through - though I do wonder how Pakistan is going to pay for those reactors. Even if the US gives them a loan - which I am sure Exim Bank will be happy to underwrite given Pakistan's "Non-Nato Ally" status, I still don't see how the Pakistanis will ever repay that loan. The economy of Pakistan is stagnant. It will only be a matter of time before the Pakistanis default or ask for a timeout.

If there was democracy in Pakistan, then the people would be able to tell their government that they need water. I suppose that under the right leadership, if the reactors are placed on the shore of Karachi and Baluchistan, then quite possibly the lower-riparian provinces will be able to desalinate seawater, thus eliminating their dependence on the Indus. Ofcourse as there is no democracy in Pakistan, the Pakistanis will have to quench their thirst with empty promises about the Kalabagh Dam instead and Pakistani children will be brought up on a healthy diet of musharraf jokes alone.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Energy Realities and Nuclear Choices

Few people that cruise the net (even in India) have probably read Document 10.

Lacking any film stars and/or mirch masala I doubt anyone will ever read this webpage.. Which is sad...

This unassuming article lists what I call the four horsemen of the Apocalypse:

- economic stagnation driven by high energy costs,
- rising greenhouse emissions due to reliance on coal,
- resource overutilization due to high populations subsisting of a small piece of land and
- chronic technological deficiency hampering social stability

What is the Apocalypse you ask? - to me - the Apocalypse is when the political contract that governed the land has completely failed and the vast majority of the citizens do not feel constrained by the limitations of social order. It is both anarchy and chaos all manifest in one giant rush. The Apocalypse is a state of unmanaged conflict that rapidly depletes all resources in society in a completely uncontrolled way.

Is India in 2006 merely a redux of Japan in 1937? Where a booming economy is outstripping energy resources?

The generation of the 80s and 90s learnt one and only one rule - growth was not an option - it was a necessity. The generation of year 2000 grew up in prosperity and did not see the hard fought battles of the decades gone by. Not for them the scenes of Indian soldiers bleeding to death in the streets of Jaffna... And not for them the panic in the Ministry of Petroleum when Saddam attacked Kuwait without warning. Memories faded... And with it wisdom.

Where will the energy come from and what will the cost to the environment?

Does it make sense for India to be wedded to a once-through open fuel cycle?

What made Homi Jehangir Bhabha, K. S. Krishnan and S. S. Bhatnagar feel otherwise?

Our three stage closed fuel cycle with its reliance on our abundant Thorium reserves is termed a proliferation risk. But what idiot would want to use up valuable fuels to make an enormous stockpile of weapons?

It is one thing for an oil rich US to consider investing billions into the construction of a 10,000 weapon arsenal - but will a poor India make the same choice?

Who in their right mind will choose to make weapons out of U-233 when they have more than enough Pu-239 for anything they need?

There is one enduring point that the naysayers must accept: the nuclear deal signals the end of the NPT and everything it stands for. It symbolizes end of a global nuclear apartheid and the beginning of the next phase of globalization.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pakistan and other stories.

I was poring through a book written by an old acquaintance and it helped clear my mind on several issues.

The book is called Reassessing Pakistan: Role of the Two Nation Theory.

When thinking about Pakistan, I feel it helps to keep a few key points in mind about Islam's history in the subcontinent. These points are aluded to in Anand Verma's book, but it is worthwhile to make them more explicit.

The ideological (esp. the theological) elite in muslim society in India in the past, invested heavily in two key concepts;
  1. a notion of racial superiority over non-muslims and
  2. the idea of the divine mandate for political leadership.
In order to make these ideas more concrete,
  1. heterodoxy had to be treated as a political challenge and
  2. negative discrimination had to carried out against non-muslims.

In this manner any "muslim" administration managed to alienate fellow muslims and non-muslims alike. Rulers like Akbar realized the pernicious nature of these ideals and sought to institutionalize more tolerant principles of theology - the result ofcourse was a conservative backlash that slowly gave way to what we now know as the reformation of Shaykh Sirhindi.

The ideas of social and religious exclusivity which Islamic theologians had so heavily invested in could not survive in the politically vibrant environment in India and by the late 17th century, the icons of Islamic political power had falled. It was in this period that Shah Waliallah drafted the notion of a "muslim" political force. He re-cast the held notions of social and religious exclusivity into a form of political consciousness.

Though few realize the exact genius of Shah Waliallah... by creating the concept of a political community that is drawn together purely because it is composed of "muslims" - he has effectively chained the government of any such community to the dictates of the ulema - the people that orient the idea of Islam.

Any ruler who seeks to project himself as a leader of "all muslims" becomes a slave to the Ulema who define "Islam" for the masses. Without a direct political contract with them - he cannot rule.

This process is repeating in Pakistan even today. Perhaps no one understood Shah Waliallah's genius better than Maulana Maudoodi. It may be recalled that Maulana Maudoodi initially opposed the creation of Pakistan because it would split the ummah. As soon as Pakistan was created Maulana Maudoodi embraced the state and making careful use of the well-known anxieties of the elite - enslaved them to the ulema.

As you can all tell by now... Pakistan is a favorite topic where I am concerned. I did spend some time consulting about it, sadly didn't get to visit there as often as I would have liked.

P.S. I did mention to the author that in some way Pakistan was different today than before, the extent of subservience that would be demanded from the elite by the theologians would soon exceed anyone's wildest expectations. I suggested that the famed Nazariyya Pakistan would soon be displaced by a Nazariyya Islam. The author did not agree with such a maximalist position, and argued that only social polarization would grow in the near term. Events have proven him right though I still stand by my contention.

life and death and other things in between

I was looking around for Gandhara style artwork when I came up on this piece by Dhirendra Jha and Vijaya Devi.

The color composition and the forms are quite striking and the subject matter itself is stunning.

Depicting a mythical contract between the Lord Pervader (Visnu) and the Lord Absolute (Siva), the painting presents the interconnected nature of manifest and unmanifest reality. Speaking directly to the apparent duality between immanence and transcendance, the painters speculate about the unified nature of the same.

The violent metaphor serves to focus the viewers mind - provoking a visceral response.

What a masterpiece!

Friday, February 17, 2006

What do you know I have more time...!!

I thought I had to go shopping for vegetables but turns out my wife already bought a bunch on her way home from work - which means I get more time to come and bs up here!!

Speaking of BS... I have been following this hoopla about the proposed India-US nuclear deal... why does everything pragmatic that India and the US do have to become this enormous hype-fest?

The deal has to go down - but just about everyone is keen on making it difficult.

The opposition and its criticisms have been summarized by well-placed observers

  • The Indian Government would be well advised to present a full picture of the terms of implementation of this deal to the Indian public in view of the passions and the sharp divergences that exist within the country.
  • Indian suspicions are rising in view of selective bits of information fed to Indian media by American sources who seem to be better briefed and in the know of critical details.
  • Widespread fear in India that the price the Congress Govt. would be pressurised to pay to ensure US Congress ratification for the deal would be too high. This would endanger both Indian’s strategic autonomy and on other foreign policy issues also.

  • The added anxiety was the United States’ poor record in adhering to its international agreements and commitments and shifts and reversals in US doctrine and policy.

The emphasis is mine... not Dr. Kapila's. Dr. Kapila is a serious scholar with a reputation to protect... I am merely a an internet nobody trying to sound like someone intelligent.

You know... Chairman AEC was very clear about what could not be done on the Indian side and if I know people like him... I think he was atleast as clear in July when he visited the White House.

There is no room for misunderstanding here. The Non-Proliferation people and atleast some overly talkative folk in foggy bottom are living larger than life... or at the very least speaking out of turn.

Why Maverick?

So before everyone thinks I am a Tom Cruise groupie, I think I should point out that the word mavericks has a very different connotation in India (among those that care to know it - that pretty much rules out the main bhi madonna South Bombay crowd and space aliens like people from Pune).

Until the appearance of this website, I wasn't sure that it was actually possible to talk about the connotation of the word in India.

What are the Mavericks...?

Well... technically the term is broadly used for what is now called 22 SF - and I am sure that some would say that the mavericks report to CIF (R) "Romeo Force"... but that is all just gibberish.

The Mavericks probably go through the paces at Nahan... alongside the boys from the 1, 9, 10 and 21 but it is here that the number "22" assumes significance. You see... there is no such thing as "22" on the lists... quite simply it does not exist ... the "22" is a number reserved for something called Establishment 22 that was once comanded by a saint called S. S. Uban. It is up for debate whether the Mavericks are inheritors of the legacy of the old "22" or whether they are a distant branch of the now defunct SG from the early 80s. I suppose you could find people all over the place privately willing to lecture on that sort of thing.

But what is not up for debate is that the Mavericks are the cutting edge of India's conflict-resolution capabilities. They are probably tasked directly from Unified Command in Srinagar or quite possibly from the DG. Security in the Cabinet Secretariat itself. I don't know exactly and I don't really want to know.

Am I a Maverick? .. no.. you see I am a non-violent Gandhian... I couldn't possibly do any of the things they do.

How do I know all this... what can I say.. I was a consultant once...

I just like the Mavericks because they are a very focused and perceptive lot. I like the way they approach problems - a very can-do-motivated-go-getting-type of people. I am sure that Gandhiji would disapproved of their actions but liked their spirit.

which brings me to why I like Gandhiji..

You see.... ahimsa .. actually has the word himsa in there...

Food for thought... more when I get the time.

The nice thing about having a blog is you can talk all the nonsense you want... and no one actually has to read it.