Friday, March 31, 2006

The strange case of Fazl ur Rehman Khalil

I have just heard about the recent attack on Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil is one of the old hands of the jihad. He was the head of the Harkat ul Mujaheddin though over the past decade, some felt that he was increasingly in the background. Fazlur Rehman Khalil was recently in the news firstly on account of a somewhat public disagreement with Maulana Muhammed Farooq Kashmiri, the HUM's chief of operations and later in connection with the Umer Hayat (r/o Lodi California) . It may be recalled that FBI informants suggested that people in Lodi had hosted Ayman al Zawahiri, the "Al Qaida No. 2" .

Some Indian analysts have suggested that Musharraf is having a hard time on two fronts. One the one hand, the US is making increasing demands to have people like Fazlur Rehman Khalil arrested and brought to trial in the US. Initially Fazlur Rehman had allegedly been interviewed by the FBI, but if Harkat Ul Mujaheddin has overseas operations in the US - as evidenced by the training of Umer and Hamid Hayat at the Tamal/Tarnal terrorist training camp near Rawalpindi, American pressure will be very high. On the other hand, Pakistani Deobandi clerics are the core of the Taliban, and most radical Islamist groups in Pakistan. Most of the assasination attempts on Musharraf have been organized by the Deobandis. Musharraf cannot openly challenge the Deobandis into a showdown. This is a fight he will not win.

Fazlur Rehman is not some random person that anyone can pick up and beat up. He always travels with a heavily armed escort (that fellow you see in the back of the photograph is one his personal bodyguards and he carries an AK-47 assault rifle) . Whoever beat Khalil up, didn't get into a firefight with Fazl's escorts. This narrows the field down to someone who knew the guards and whom the guards did not feel they had the authority to stop. This narrows it down to two suspects - the Pakistan Army ISI people that run the HUM or Maulana Farooq Kashmiri - the heir apparent to the HUM.

A man of Maulana Khalil's stature has been killed in Pakistan- one would expect a massive upsurge of violence to follow and yet everything is quiet. There are no riots, no shia mosques being blown up, no christian churches being bombed. And all this while - one of the most respected warriors of Islam is battling for his life after having been beaten by unknown people. There is no attempt made by the press secretary of the HUM to ask the government to investigate the matter, and the mullahs who can't wait to scream at a moment's notice are keeping very very quiet.

There is one thing however - the US can no longer ask for Maulana Fazlur Rehman's extradition. From what I hear - Maulana Rehman is unable to get up from his bed.

And that my friends, concludes the strange case of Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil.

I wonder what the Harkat's website will have to say about this.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The next step in the Indo-US nuclear deal - going through Congress

I have been pondering the problems that the deal will face in the US congress. This is what I could come up with.

The Americans want India to buy a dozen or so LEU (Low Enriched Uranium) reactors. Given the extremely large number of reactors and the high price, India will ask for license production of components and assorted technology sharing. We have always done this - even with the Russians. The license production is usually accompanied by no-reverse engineering and non-competitive marketing guarentees from the Indian side. Every deal we have signed for Jaguars, Su-30s, the proposed Mirage 2000 deal etc... all fall into this logic.

Companies on the US side are keen to see this happen. The outsourcing of production of components to India will improve the competitiveness of American industry. Making them cheap in India, the Americans will be able to pull their nuclear power industry out of the hole they have dug for it. Higher profits for the nuclear industry will mean that it will be able to attract investment and George W. Bush's vision of a future powered by nuclear energy as opposed to oil will be closer to a reality.

However there is a major obstacle on this "first" route. Uranium enrichment technology is seen as having the highest proliferation risk as it is easiest to make a working nuclear bomb with HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium). Thus the transfer of Uranium enrichment related technology from the US to India will have to overcome all kinds of safeguards. Also a number of countries, especially the small countries like Germany, Netherlands, etc... which have traditionally been "willing" to "export" uranium enrichment related products will be very upset by the unfairness of it all. I can't imagine why several sections of the Russian and FSU "export" community will be very happy about the prospect of India just buying American enrichment technology off the shelf. Given how easy it is to twist things in knots in Congress, I expect numerous problems on the US side if this "first" route is followed.

A "second" route which offers an alternative to the transfer of enrichment related technology is the import of all LEU for Indian reactors. In the unlikely event that India agrees to this scheme, the proliferation risks are extremely high for LEU, and transport costs would be very high. The ability of the Indian market to support such high generation costs will be low. We will see a repeat of the Dabhol project where fuel for the power plant was imported at several times the cost of local procurement. This will create a politically unsustainable environment on the Indian side and induce extended periods of severe instability at the center.

A "third" route to pursue with regards to Indo-US nuclear trade would be to abandon the LEU fueled reactors sale altogether. A much lower proliferation risk would be to provide India loans to construct 10 reactors of the Natural Uranium fueled INDU-PHWR (Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor) variety. These reactors will then be under IAEA safeguards and there will be NSG guarentees for a supply of natural uranium. Natural Uranium has the lowest proliferation risk of all the various fuels. It is extremly painful to refine and by itself natural Uranium is harmless. The cost of transporting it would be very low. The spent fuel rods from India's "civilian" reactors will be stored under IAEA surveillance for the foreseeable future. As long as there is fuel for the reactors, India could hope to produce electricity from them and repay the loans it has taken to construct them. If the fuel supply stops, the loan repayments would automatically stop also.

The loans required to construct the INDU-PHWRs would completely change the face of Indian industry. Building so many PHWRs of such large capacity, would lead to quantum leaps in India's manufacturing ability. A major uplift of Indian industrial sector would enable India to compete for a number of large-scale manufacturing contracts. This would benifit all US industries - not just the nuclear sector - and vastly improve the global market in manufactured goods. As the US nuclear industry will be the first to avail of the improved production capacity in India for nuclear quality materials, they will still be able to retain their edge and improve their ability to attract investment.

However allowing this "third" route to materialize would require a fuller exchange of ideas between the Indian and American nuclear establishment. These contacts are currently forbidden under obsolete non-proliferation laws. These laws will have to change if the GWB's dream is to be realized at all. These minor laws are relatively easier changes to make then to have changes to export control laws on enrichment technology.

The path of least resistance appeals the most.

Monday, March 27, 2006

What exactly was Pakistan trying to hide by bribing the 9/11 commissioners?

I was asked by an American friend recently:

What is Pakistan trying hide, everyone knows that they are involved?

This seems to make sense, yes Pakistan is a cesspool, most of the "bad guys" are there, even Bin Laden is most likely there, so what were the Pakistanis so keen to see removed from the report.

B. Raman has recently written about the likely contents of the original 9/11 commission report that were "likely to damage the image of Pakistan"

The 9/11 Commission report has two key omissions

  1. The role of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in 9/11: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh told Gen. Ehsan ul Haq and Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan about the Sept 11 attack a few weeks before it happened. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was also believed to be involved in transfering cash ($100,000) to Mohammed Atta at the instructions of Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (then head of the ISI).
  2. The Daniel Pearl Murder: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh also played a major role in the murder of Daniel Pearl. Danny Pearl was in Pakistan to interview the head of a secretive sect, the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra headed by on Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The sect was believed to be behind Richard Reid's attempt to blow up an American Airlines flight after 9/11/2001 and Syed Ali Shah Geelani is believed to be very close to high ranking Pakistan Army Generals. Talking to Geelani would have helped answer several important questions about 9/11 and the Pakistan Army's islamist core. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh lured Danny Pearl into a trap and killed him. After the warrant was issued for his arrest, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh sought shelter in the houses of retired Pakistan Army officers, and serving Pakistani Army officers including General Musharraf tried to make it seem as if it was Daniel Pearl who was at fault for "asking too many questions"
So this is what the Pakistanis payed money to wash away - any semblance of information and credible record that would point a finger of guilt at Pakistan's general staff.

Remember, per the grand narrative of the War on Terror, the Generals of Pakistan were not involved in anything untowards. After 9/11 they strongly supported the US in its decision to wipe out the Taliban and secure Pakistan and they promised in perpetuity to secure US interests in the region in exchange for monetary and political incentives.

Any mention of their duplicity pre-9/11 would cause a seed of doubt to be sown and with that the ability to look like "enlightened moderates" in the post 9/11 world would diminish. Where is Mahmood Ahmed today? the once proud commander of the Rawalpindi crops, the master of the ISI legions? shovelling horse manure at the Fauji Fertilizer Company? now compare that with Pervez Musharraf, the toast of town in most capitals of the world.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

So what's wrong with taking a bribe to fix the 9/11 report?

I wrote to a friend in the US about this allegation that Pakistanis bribed the 9/11 commissioners and I asked him why he felt Americans would not be outraged by such a fact. His reply is listed below:

It is one thing to modify the wording of the 9/11 report to meet the recommendations of a State Department or White House staffer. These people are paid to determine the most efficient strategy to meet US aims in the world and if they say that overt criticism of Pakistan is not good for ensuring US success in the War on Terror, then that is a fact that has to be accepted as is.

It is treason however to make changes to the 9/11 report because a lobbyist, asks you to do it for exactly the same reasons that the White House or State Department people did. This is because the lobbyist is a paid agent of the Pakistani government looking out for Pakistan's national interests. When you allow a foreign government to change the wording of a document critical to Homeland Security, you are literally selling out your country. If you agree to wipe off the blood of the 9/11 victims from Pakistani hands for a few thousand dollars, then there is no telling what you will do for just a few dollars more.

However most Americans will not be able to make out this subtle difference. The culture of lobbying is so strong on Capitol Hill that people think it is okay to lobby for absolutely anything under the sun. Barring a few enlightened souls in DC, no one will notice this. The American media will ignore it because it will only jeopardize the already perilous state of US-Pakistan ties. The Americans are so obsessed with the image of having a democracy that they are ignoring the reality that the values on which the democracy is founded are being systematically eroded.

If this is true, then India must take note of the fact that Pakistan's money can talk big on Capitol Hill. Recall for a moment that despite being a tenth of the size of India, Pakistan can manage a Pakistan Caucus that is half the size of the India Caucus. A number of people are on both the Pakistan Caucus and the India Caucus even though the India Caucus was formed first. If the members of Congress are so easily seduced by Pakistan's offerings, that they do not think twice about modifying the 9/11 report. There is very little chance that they will allow the Indo-US nuclear deal to go through.

I suspect that corrupt people can only see this as an opportunity to extort money from both parties. I can easily imagine unscrupulous congressional staffers walking around the offices of Indian and Pakistani lobbyists alternatively offering their congressman's or senator's support for and against the India-US nuclear deal in exchange for campaign contributions or other goodies.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pakistan bribed the 9-11 Commission members

I was reading the Hindustan Times this morning, and quoting the Friday Times, the article said

The Friday Times report cited a Pakistani Foreign Ministry official who said that “dramatic changes” were made in the final draft of the 9/11 Commission Report “after Pakistani lobbyists convinced the commission’s members to remove anti-Pakistan findings.” Obviously, any direct connection between high-ranking Pakistani officials and the perpetrators of history’s worst act of urban terrorism would have had devastating consequences for Pakistan. Instead the Bush administration seems to have used the knowledge to pressure Musharraf to act against al-Qaeda. That his strategy has not worked is obvious, because rogue elements in the ISI have ensured that the so-called war against terrorism has gotten nowhere near capturing Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar. According to the Friday Times report, some 75 US Congressmen have been won over by lobbyists through the obvious process of bribing and inducements to support the Pakistani cause.

K Subramanyham in his latest piece says:

It speaks of the enormous self-confidence of Pakistani diplomats that they were willing to disclose to their Public Accounts Committee that they bribed members of the 911 Commission, to get drastic changes made in its final report. Not only that. The story was leaked to the Friday Times to be published on the day President Bush was in Islamabad. They were throwing a challenge to the US. Bush proclaimed in the wake of 9/11 that he would punish any country that harboured terrorists. Five years later, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahari are still safe in Pakistan.

In my opinion this is a calculated attempt on the part of Musharraf's army to widen the gap between the US Congress and the US President. There is little doubt that the 9-11 panelists will soon line up to deny allegations of graft but what will suffer will be image of the US Congress as a credible body responsible for oversight on the executive branch of the US government.

This will doubtlessly push the US Congress towards some ill concieved censure of the US President.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nunn's opposition to the US-India nuclear deal

I have recently read Sam Nunn's suggestion that fissile material cut off conditions be imposed by Congress on the US-India deal. This is after Nicholas Burns has already informed Congress that this will break the deal.

Nunn is the driving force behing NTI and the Nunn-Lugar act, which aims to curtail proliferation of fissile material from FSU stocks. NTI and its Nunn-Lugar act associates sit on an enormous pot of money from private and US govt. sources that is funnelled into FSU state to help "retrench" nuclear weapons related facilities and personnel.

Old fashioned people like me who speak french instead of gibberish might be tempted rephrase the above paragraph as - NTI and other Nunn-Lugar act channels are providing "economic incentives" for people on the Russian blackmarket to play along with US proliferation control ideas.

In the old days when the NP regime held, the Indians payed through their nose for everything. The Russians like the good old friends they were - sold India a few things, but overpriced the material citing non-proliferation hassles that would have to be faced down. If India comes off the restricted items list - the overpricing has to go away and the market will automatically become more competitive. Russian blackmarketeers that are addicted to overpricing the stuff going to India are going to suffer as India will no longer be a captive market. I can't imagine that they are going to be happy.

All of which probably goes some distance in explaining Sam Nunn's disappointment. Some Russian blackmarketeers are now going to turn to Sam Nunn and say .. "What is your government doing...? You told us that your government was against the sale of these things and now they are changing their mind... ? We are losing profits we made by selling things you allowed to India and now you want to drive us out of the market with open competition from your companies? - and you'd better make up the difference... otherwise who knows what we might sell on the market... you are losing credibility with us, the US is losing credibility in Russia."

Sam is in a difficult spot. So are all his buddies at the Sam Nunn School at Gatech... the real architects of the NPT.

Monday, March 20, 2006

India's Faultlines : The eastern half falls away!

I was looking around on the internet for articles by my old friend Capt. Bharat Verma of India Defence Review and I found his latest article at this webite.

In his latest writings Capt. Verma speaks about India's faultlines; this article is an excellent summary of all the problems we are facing today as a nation.

Capt. Verma points out that
  1. India is ringed by failed or failing states,
  2. The China Pakistan nexus is extermely strong and seeks to harm India,
  3. Bangladesh and Nepal are serving as launchpads for ISI operations in India,
  4. India's access to energy resources in Central Asia is difficult
  5. Maoist menace in Nepal is spreading fast into parts of India
  6. States like Bangladesh and Burma are exporting problems through porous borders
In the past people used to talk about a North-South divide in India, but Capt. Verma very astutely points to the presence of a developmental divide running approximately along the eastern flank of the Chotanagpur plateau. The eastern part of India is now in turmoil as poor development is providing a rich hunting ground for a number of extra-national trouble makers.

In my opinion, Capt. Verma is right. Most Indians do not know enough about the eastern parts. While the economies of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa are mildly put - depressed, the North East lacks development. Most Indians do not know enough about the North East and the diverse cultures there and consequently development planned in New Delhi often has a completely unanticipated impact on local conditions in the North East.

Many of you may see this article as an impassioned plea by Capt. Verma to deal with Pakistan more firmly - but I see it as quite a bit more than that. I see it as Capt. Verma's way to draw attention to the lack of understanding in our national debate of the problems of Eastern India.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Exhibitional Deterrence: Does it Work?

Nitin Pai asked me what I felt was the role of `exhibitional' deterrence in a national security calculus, i.e. does showing off our national capabilities help deter adversaries?

I want to avoid making sweeping statements about the value of `exhibitional' deterrence as a whole but I feel the following holds without exception:

  1. Deterrence regimes are context specific, akin to a conversation between two specific people. What is said by one party as an implied threat has to have some controlled impact on the other party. The implied threat cannot induce a state of disregard in the target.
  2. Exhibitionism as a form of national behavior - is seen as a direct reflection of a national sense of insecurity. By repeatedly displaying that part of the nation's "body", the polity is attempting to draw attention away from other parts.

For example, the Pakistani Defence Day celebrations are an attempt to showcase Pakistan's military might and remind the Pakistani public (ad nauseum) that the Pakistan Army is the sole entity in Pakistan capable of defending it, but does this inspire fear in the Indian Army? I am sure that people in the DMI at Delhi watch the defence day parades, but does it scare them?

Alternatively the Qin emperor Shi Huang built a mighty wall around 200 BC. The wall served to create a huge industry that economically entangled the newly unified states of China. In later years this wall was the precursor to the Great Wall of China (later built by the Ming Dynasty to keep the Mongols out). Built at great cost in money and life, the Wall speaks to the skill and engineering genius of the people of China, but did it really keep the invaders out? Or did it even remain solely a symbol of the strength of the emperor's political will? What did the Chinese people think of their wall when Europeans began to land on the shores of Shanghai? Didn't it seem like a complete waste then?

Exhibition has a role to play in communicating your national security views, but exhibitionism as a part of national security calculus comes with many caveats. Lest we want to be caught again, like the priests of Somnath, subjugating our national genius to worship idols that cannot protect us - we must take great care in sustaining illusions brought about by exhibition.

Friday, March 17, 2006

With all due respect to the enthusiasts!

Nitin Pai's blog - The Acorn epitomizes the positive attributes of India's educated and forward thinking elite. Nitin's views are balanced and well though- out and his incisive writing brings into sharp focus the underlying dynamics of any issue.

Tragically Nitin's understanding and sense of responsibility is not reflected by others in the wider community of Indian defense and security enthusiasts. The problem is particularly visible among the tech-savvy Indian expats in the US. I have spoken to several of these people and I feel they simply put too much sugar in their coffee.

I can understand the desire of Indians to believe that India is capable of achieving any technological aim it sets out to achieve. I strongly support anything that urges Indians to innovate and to think afresh about age old issues, however too many techies are obsessed with the idea of a visible display of military power. This tendency is vividly seen the predominance of gaudy defense (sic) websites that seem to pander to this desire to see "cool pics". The forums in these places are devoted to meaningless discussions aimed largely at satisfying an audience that seems more at home in a Roman ampitheatre than in Gandhiji's India.

It appears for all intents and purposes, the internet is gradually driving away the calm and reasoned prose traditionally used to articulate our national security sentiments and in its place we are seeing big jpegs, jazzy mpegs and bold fonts that urge the reader to themes like "intervention". This all seems about as impressive as a sound and light in the diwan-e-khas in Lal Qila - a caricature of the power of the Mughal Empire - a sophisticated insult to the military genius of Aurangzeb and the social brilliance of Shahenshah Akbar.

I suppose that such a shift could be useful - provided the people that it is used to convey meaningful and accurate information regarding the views of our national security people. If however the imagery is used solely to provide a platform for ill informed speculation about the Government of India's intentions, then I fear we are being led down the path to perdition.

The "defense enthusiast" techie is psychologically vulernable to notions of inferiority based on India's apparent lack of military technology. To him or her the blind pursuit of such technology is an acceptable goal of national policy. This (hitherto uniquely Pakistani) tendency of turning ploughshares into swords is now gaining ground among the techies of India.

I am writing this because I have become pained after a very distrubing conversation with an Indian chap called Mr. Ved, who seems to be convinced that India is somehow intent on turning PSLV technology into an ICBM. All his views seem very similar to the views of Arun Sharma and Sanjay Badri Maharaj, both respected defense commentators who engaged in a speculative exercise on the possibe design for an Indian ICBM. My current sparring partner Mr. Ved, does not understand that the speculative analysis of these non-governmental experts does not reflect GoI thinking on the issue in any manner or form. This is simply some out of the box thinking by people who are familiar with such systems.

India does not seek to build an ICBM. In the light of the advances in IMINT, SATINT, and MASINT the ICBM platform is not longer as survivable as it once was. This does not rule out the development of an ICBM. It is possible to pursue an ICBM program for purely industrial reasons - a large production run involving the building of a hundred ICBMs in India could possibly sustain a very large industrial sector, however an equally large sector could be sustained by active participation in the commerical satellite launch market and through new economies generated by an unrestricted regime of trade in high-tech items.

While a few defence enthusiasts in India may think that is a great idea to build a hundred ICBMs! - the Government of India has to face the fact that an economy based on a trade in high-tech items will be more robust and sustainable than an economy based on building thing that you bury into the ground and hope are never discovered. The Government of India cannot afford the same level of irresponsibility and misplaced imagination that some tech-junkie can have.

Yes it is a free country - but there is such a thing as talking too much nonsense. This PSLV-to-ICBM idea is totally absurd - regardless of who it comes from.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The US-India Nuclear Deal: Constraining the Indian Nuclear Program

A friend of mine saw this article by Professor M. D. Nalapat and asked me the following question:

Does the nuclear deal with the United States limit India's nuclear program in any way?

I think it does.

Firstly, the safeguards regime breaks up existing synergies in the Indian nuclear establishment. By segregating India's establishments into a "civilian" and a "military" sector - the flow of knowledge between these establishments is interrupted and a sizable portion of the facilities now under the civilian sector will have to be duplicated inside the military sector. This is part of a changeover cost that India will have to absorb. As Prof. Nalapat suggests, this could very easily impair India's building of the Thorium based power cycle.

Secondly, as several high ranking NSC types in India have editorialized, the deal ends up enforcing an effective cap on India's weapons grade Pu production. By placing intrusive safeguards on a number of reactors, the deal places limits on India's ability to rapidly turn all of its reactors into weapons grade plutonium factories at any particular instant. If India takes any facility off the "civilian" list then the deal is automatically voided.

Thirdly, the deal firms up India's voluntary moratorium on testing into a deal-breaking clause. To many people this is unacceptable. There is an inward-looking streak in India on foreign policy issues. Per the logic of this inward looking view - decisions of national security should possess an extraordinary degree of autonomy. India's decision to test will rest on its perceptions of the local security situation, and there is no reason why India's decision to test or not to test should be linked to anything other than that.

So why do I still support the idea of the deal?

Well because - we do not have the Uranium to fuel up Tarapur and the Non-Proliferation movement throughout the last thirty years has successfully stifled our technology sector. In my opinion the need for Uranium at Tarapur and the need for an uninterrupted global exposure of our technology sector far outweigh the limitations listed above.

The question of what exactly constitutes credible minimum deterrence is an open one. There are several ways of thinking about the problem, but bearing in mind that credibility does not hinge entirely on the apparent size of the stockpile alone, perhaps it is possible to have an open mind on certain things.

Ultimately, in the even that the nuclear program successfully delivers the Thorium based power solution, we will have to repeatedly choose between whether to make fuel rods or to make weapons with our fissile material. Remember weapons sit in holes in the ground and rot away spending their precious energy irradiating the heavy metal shell that encase them, and fuel rods will make energy which will drive prosperity.

This will always be a difficult choice to make.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Taking a second look at Xinjiang

A friend of mine emailed me this paper from the USI website and asked for my comments on it.

I found the paper difficult to read as there were repeated references to standard texts in international relations, but the paper accurately lays out that the Chinese are hell-bent on assimilating the Uighers into their version of a Chinese national identity. That sounds fine in theory, but this assimilation is a one way street, the Uighers are expected to conform to the Chinese way of life and the Chinese will systematically wipe out anything that represents Uigher culture. In short - this is not an exchange between equals.

Sohum Desai, an independent writer in his work on Xinjiang says,

In general the fate of the Uighers evokes strong reactions among many Indians and thus the exploitation of economic opportunity in Xinjiang presents India with a considerable challenge. This challenge cannot be met without building up a detailed knowledge of the situation in Xinjiang.

I am always hard placed to find a good and reliable news source on Xinjiang. I find that Google is a good place to start, but that seldom provides analysis. One wonders what is a good place to begin reading a basic analysis of Xinjiang's current political economy.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Does anyone take Non-Proliferation Experts Seriously?

Another joke was emailed to me last night. This ISIS report insists that the Indian enrichment process is both "shrouded in secrecy" and "leaking sensitive information" at the exact same time.

The author accuses DAE of hiding the requirements of RMP Ratehalli from the Indian people but then also points out that the most of the equipment for RMP Ratehalli is purchased through public advertizements in major Indian newspapers esp. the all too familiar Times of India.

Furthermore the author contends that the process of floating public tenders for RMP related purchases encourages Indian and foreign suppliers to "purchase, for a small fee, the detailed blueprints, manufacturing instructions, and specifications of a particular item. "

And apparently these suppliers can then "sell the item or underlying technology to other customers with the expectation that few legal consequences would result from Indian prosecutors"

If David Albright ever tried to use something remotely mechanical like say -- a screwdriver, he might have learned that the crude sketches supplied alongside a tender are not sufficient for actually building anything that remotely resembles a centrifuge and that merely knowing something about the material specificiations is not enough to actually build a working centrifuge or anything else for that matter.

A far greater number of usable details regarding centrifuge technology are available from western technology suppliers in places like Germany and Japan. The level of drawings and data made available along with Indian tenders is no different from the detail available in a standard engineering book on the subject freely available in most libraries in the US.

With the Pakistanis displaying a willingness to sell anything that isn't nailed down at KRL - centrifuges, nuclear weapons designs, and god knows what else - the Indian release of information is simply insignificant. The Pakistanis were running full page ads in the national newspapers agreeing to sell every imaginable component in the Uranium enrichment process... where was Albright's brilliance then?

Much angst is also directed against Indian companies like " Precise Vacuum Systems Pvt. Ltd. ", which has entered the vacuum pump market, Albright accuses them of " reverse engineering" as the company website claims, that its vacuum pumps are "manufactured [based] on technology drawings of a world leader in vacuum pump technology.” Also he feels that companies like Precise Vacuum Systems Pvt. Ltd. are capable of " dangerous exports or re-exports". And then David asks that India should "must stop illegal or questionable overseas procurements for its nuclear program. "

Well... as I understand it David Albright simply wants to make sure that the Pakistanis alone are able to trade with impunity on the black market. God forbid - if Precise Vacuum Systems Pvt. Ltd should drive one of David's Pakistani friend's companies out of profitability. No no... per David ... only the Pakistanis are to have a run of the black market... The man hasn't lifted a finger to stop Pakistani proliferation, but is very keen to ensure that paperclips which are also made for the Indian DAE's head-office aren't accidently sold to Iran or something like that.

David Albright told us Pakistan has 50-90 nukes.

David Albright also told us that Pakistan should be given access control systems

So David... How many access control systems should Pakistan be given? 50 or 90? with a 100% error margin on the number of nukes the Pakistanis have... how on earth does anyone do any serious counter-proliferation.

Is that why the now famous Musharraf Assassination Attempt scenario played out at the Woodrow Wilson school made absolutely no mention of Albright's non-proliferation ideas - even in the footnotes?

If the better part of the old NESA and State Department's Pakistan Analysts crowd don't take this joker Albright seriously - why should anyone else?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Juhaiman al-Utaibi and Bin Laden

In his article on Osama Bin Laden, Ahmed S. Hashim states,

We should judge the year 1979 as transformative in Bin Laden’s life. In that year three major events shook the Middle East. On 26 March, Egypt and Israel made peace, a peace that was denounced by Arabs and Muslims the world over as a sellout. Two months earlier, an Iranian revolution led by an ascetic cleric, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, toppled the shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the most powerful ruler in the Middle East and the most important pillar of U.S. security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf. Finally, in December, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, a Muslim country with an unstable Marxist puppet government aligned with the Soviet Union. We do not know whether the first two events, momentous as they were, had much impact on Bin Laden; the last event definitely did. In one of his earliest interviews Bin Laden recalled, “When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once. I arrived within days, before the end of 1979.”

I find that a bit odd, I would be more inclined to think that as a young Saudi who increasingly questions his way of life, a more stunning example of assertive Islamist action would be available right at home, why would even a semi-pious Sunni boy like Bin Laden look to Shia Iran for leadership - when Juhayman al-Otabi had just seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca on November 20, 1979.

Why was Bin Laden shielded from Otaibi's famous epistles, "The Law of Loyalty and Obedience: Corrupt Government"?

Is it just me or does Bin Laden's agenda seem curiously similar to what Otaibi was espousing then?

This is indeed food for thought.

An interesting footnote is the alleged role of the Pakistan Army in storming the Grand Mosque as stated in this website:

On November 20, 1979 the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized by a well-organized group of 1,300 to 1,500 men under the leadership of Juhayman al-Otaibi. A former captain in the Saudi White Army (Saudi Arabian National Guard), he declared himself to be the Mahdi, the redeemer of Islam. [1]. After the two week long siege of the Mosque by Saudi Arabian special forces. Many things were tried to break through the doors of the mosque, including tanks, but failed in the end due to the strong doors. The Minister of Defence, Prince Sultan, finally called the Pakistani Army to handle the situation. As a Muslim country, Pakistan was eager to offer help. It was General Zia-ul-Haq at that time who directed the Pakistan Army and who finally captured the mosque with the help of French paramilitary forces. Upon entering the mosque, it was full of dead bodies and waste. The fleeing rebels tried to escape through water tunnels around the mosque, which were then flushed with water to bring the rebels out. 67 people were captured alive and later beheaded.

Given how much Bin Laden came to rely on Pakistani hospitality in later years, did he not know about the Pakistani role in ending Utaibi's seige?

PSLV as a First Strike weapon.

Normally I do not waste time reading nonsense, but ever so often the sheer amount of blithering nonsense gets to me and I have to actually read it.

I came across this extremely stupid piece by Richard Speier.

Here Speier argues that the PSLV, can be converted into an ICBM called "Surya", something that the author acknowledges exists currently only in the realm of editorial opinion by non-specialists - i.e. people who have no clue.

Range estimates of the Surya vary by a factor of three and the central suggestion seems in the entire piece seems to be that the Surya is a variant of the PSLV or the GSLV.

Incidently the estimated cost of one PSLV is in the range of 20 Million USD and the accuracy of a ballistic missile based on the PSLV would be very small.

The author grudgingly acknowledges that a platform of such size has no survivability and that India seems to have no current plans for a dispersal and storage of ICBMs but then quickly moves on to suggest that the PSLV could be used as a "First Strike" weapon.

What exactly does that mean? well.. in plain english it means that the US should treat every PSLV launch as a threat because - it might contain a nuclear warhead aimed at the US.

To an idiot this would all seem very plausible but what does it all look like if you are not a complete idiot?

If you are not a complete idiot you might well be inclined to think that - a PSLV carrying a nuclear bomb could only be manufactured at the rate of about one missile every year. It takes that much time for the Indians to make one of these.

Someone who is not an idiot would notice that it would take over 96 hours to actually get a PSLV ready for launch. This would give US satellites atleast 12 chances to overfly the launch site.

Every PSLV launch is accompanied by a flurry of publicity because thousands of employees at ISRO know that one is imminent and the ISRO website usually publicly announces a launch atleast a month ahead of time.

A person with one functioning brain cell would note that the flight time for a B2 Spirit stealth bomber from Diego Garcia to any point India is less than 12 hours.

All taken together a person who is not a complete idiot would see that the PSLV nuclear launch vehicle would have an abysmally low probability of actually getting a nuke to its target. In the 1950s the PSLV would have been a holy terror but in the year 2006 it simply has too many competitors.

Now if you are reasonably intelligent you might even be inclined to compare the likely success rate of a 1950s style nuclear delivery vehicle with its modern day competitor... the cargo container.

Costing just a few thousand dollars, this magnificient piece of technology would have a 94% survival probability (given that only 6% of them are actually checked by the security forces) and would be able to deliver a warhead weighing upto 20 tons to any point on the face of this earth.

Who in their right mind would want to waste millions of dollars building a stupid missile?

Would even the Pakistanis - those masters of strategic miscalculations bother with building a missile of higher range?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Containing Pakistani Proliferation

In my last post here I stated that that the Pakistanis would ask for a clean slate with regards to proliferation matters and that the Americans would ask for credible assurances with regards to proliferation in return.

In his summary of the discussions between Bush and Musharraf on nuclear matters, B. Raman writes,

It is learnt that when Musharraf urged Mr. Bush to agree to civilian nuclear energy co-operation with Pakistan, Mr. Bush told him that so long as the entire truth regarding the role of A. Q. Khan and his associates in nuclear weapon proliferation and their suspected contacts with Iraq and Al Qaeda was not established to the satisfaction of the American public and the international community, the question of any US-Pakistan co-operation in the field of civilian nuclear energy just did not arise.


He reportedly said that while the IAEA had considerable information on A. Q. Khan's role with regard to Libya and Iran, the picture is incomplete with regard to North Korea, his contacts with the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and with Al Qaeda. In this connection, he also referred to the recent warning of bin Laden about another terrorist strike in the US homeland being planned by Al Qaeda.

The summary then goes on to discuss how the US and Pakistan are working out ways to ensure that A Q Khan is adequately interrogated to US satisfaction without appearing to make the Pakistanis lose face.

There is also considerable discussion in the lay press about high-technology defence deals and sales to Pakistan.

The process alluded to in my earlier post - of meeting Pakistani needs has begun. Desensitization of the A Q Khan issue is a logical first step in that regard. However I do feel there is need for a cautionary note: excessive movement on the A Q Khan front will only invite instability in Pakistani and American ties and incentivize unpredictable behavior among Pakistanis.

A relatively simple scenario which could cause instability would one in which A Q Khan suddenly disappears. The Pakistanis would stand accused by the Americans of having reduced America's chances of interrogating him and Islamist groups would suggest that Gen. Musharraf had handed over A Q Khan to the Americans. The enraged Islamist groups could seize this as a signal to oust President Musharraf and civil unrest would push Pakistan very close to tipping point. Irrespective of whether the Islamists succeed - the pain to Pakistan from such unrest would be tremendous.

It is perhaps in Pakistan's best interests to ensure that A Q Khan remains in plain sight.

Friday, March 03, 2006

What Pakistan wants.

So George W Bush has finally landed in Pakistan.

Oddly enough, I have come to some reasonably firm conclusions about what the Pakistanis will ask from him.

The Pakistani wish list is as follows:
  1. A clean slate for the Pakistani establishment. A signal to resume outward proliferation activities and nuclear deals. Pakistan cannot ask for an acceptance of its nuclear status because it has already recieved that on Sept 12, 2001, but getting A Q Khan off the hook effectively legitimizes the global nuclear black market. By effectively legitimizing it, Bush will be able to secure Pakistani cooperation in keeping surveillance on it. It will be as if Pakistan is a member of the NSG.
  2. Pakistan will ask for access to several high end military items. They will most likely recieve the support they ask for as the balance equation in South Asia no longer exists.

In stark contrast to the abstract nonsense of the non-proliferation theologians, the Bush administration is following a more pragmatic policy of engagement with the Pakistanis. This engagement is the key to ensuring that Pakistan has a disincentive to damaging proliferation.

One is tempted to compare this trip to Pakistan to President Carter's trip to Iran. It may be recalled that while the SAVAKis went around the countryside killing dissidents at will, the President congratulated Arya Mehr on his outstanding record on human rights. Though there are many parallels, the situation with Musharraf is fundamentally different. Only the hand that anointed him can undo him.

Arya Mehr alas ... answered to a higher authority.

Khuda Hafiz,