Sunday, April 30, 2006

Moonstone: What Dreams May Come

What follows is a vision of what lies ahead for the Middle East. This is my opinion and I present it before you.

As throngs of the faithful dutifully circled the Kaaba Sharif chanting the praises of the Blessed Lord an oppressive sun bore down upon them. In the alcoves that surround the periphery of the shrine, the old and young sheltered to regain their strength. As they stood in the shade their eyes briefly dwelt on a spectacle not too distant from the shrine, a shimmering needle of concrete and steel that shot upwards into the heavens. Vistors to the two thousand year old shrine could scarely miss the newcomer. A full 2000 feet high, designed by French architects and built by Askari Construction Corporation of Karachi, Pakistan - the Nishan was a testament to human genius and will. Its mere presence sent a wave of confidence throught the followers of the light that theirs' was not blighted world, an archaic form of worship withering away in the face of modernity but a faith imbued with raw substance that could create miracles even in this age.

Atop the Nishan, in the holiest of cities, sat Mohammed Akhtar Khan, the president of the omnipresent Al Khidmat Bank, the Kingdom's largest financial entity. As Mohammed Akhtar stared out his window, a rare wayward cloud from the Red Sea fluttered briefly inland and blocked his view of the Holy Haram. As the cloud gently swivelled over the shrine, is wisps lent an almost magical quality to the shrine. Ever so slowly Mohammed Akhtar Khan's eyes misted too.

A few decades ago, this would have all seemed a mere phantasm. And yet, it had happened all so quickly. In less than a century, Pakistan had catapulted from obscurity to the forefront of a new world order.

For a good fifty years after its birth the Nation of the Pure had found itself locked in mortal combat with the Hindus of India. The Hindus with their secularism and international showmanship had almost drowned the Castle of Islam. In those terrible times Pakistanis rich and poor struggled to make ends meet and constantly questioned their faith. Yet despite the travails a series of strong minded thinkers had arisen in the land and carefully charted a path for the Islamic Republic. It was these strong minds that had invested in Pakistan's quest for nuclear power and single mindedly pursued it regardless of its costs. By carefully leveraging its support to the West, the Pakistanis had built a sizable nuclear capability. The quest had brought the national economy to near collapse but in the end, strategy had prevailed and heroin - the opiate of the modern Western masses - had saved Pakistan.

By the late 1990s, Pakistan had emerged as the center of a huge nuclear black market capable of delivering from a wide menu of nuclear options. From this point on, Pakistan would never be short of anything. It was no surprise when a decade or so later, the dreaded Hindu India gave up without a fight and the Shaheen - the spirit of Pakistan - soared majestically. Pakistan was no longer a failed state but rather the fulcrum of the Greater Middle East.

The Middle Eastern states which had initially ignored Pakistan and treated it like a unwanted member of the Islamic family now saw Pakistan's obvious strength and sought out alliances with it. The misbelievers of Iran had proved to be easy pickings, their precious revolution against America had left them with everlasting paranoia. They were attracted to idea of possessing nuclear weapons like moths to fire. When they approached Pakistan, so the did the protectors of the Holy Harams. After they came, it was only a matter of time before the all the rulers in the Middle East lined up.

One after another middle eastern rulers, unable to cope with the challenges of running a modern polity in their nations, sought a nuclear amulet to wear. They believed that the nuclear ornament would scare their people into subservience, and their enemies away. With each ornament they purchased from Pakistan, they bartered away their soverignity.

A few brave rulers in the Middle East had dared to seek alternatives to nuclear trade with Pakistan, but the Islamist radicalism urged by Ayman Al Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden's speeches instantly labelled them as being apostates and collaborators of the United States. A great many were slaughtered by their own kin and the remainder died at the hands of "Al Qaeeda" assasins. Perhaps the chiefs of the intelligence services of the Middle East failed to make a correlation between the fact that whenever a ruler of a Middle Eastern country did something to upset Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden issued a fatwa calling for his assasination. Perhaps they also missed that the death warrants issued the Al Qaida leaders were always delivered from a Pakistani source. It didn't really matter now, one by one the dominos fell and the Middle East became a Pakistani protectorate.

The social dominance of the Pakistanis had taken a tad bit longer. What had begun as an obscure sub-committee, the Technical Support Working Group, of the Organization of Islamic Countries had gradually reinvented itself as the Security Council of the OIC. This Pakistan dominated body had quickly leveraged its military presence around the Holy Harems and security for Islamic conferences to ensure that graduates of Pakistani Islamic schools were given a place of priority. Gradually most Islamic conferences held in the holy cities were a Pakistani affair. Slowly the leadership of the faith had passed in to Pakistani hands. In the lands of Islam, financial systems and industries could only follow where faith would lead them.

Mohammed Akhtar Khan's reverie was interrupted by his manservant's sudden entrance. Abdal bin Qasim bin Saud had just brought Mohammed Akhtar some tea. As the well dressed Arab carefully adjusted his traditional turban and poured out the tea into a china cup, Mohammed's secretary, the refreshingly beautiful and shapely Noora al-Mansoor, stood framed in the door asking him if he wanted lunch early today. Mohammed mumbled his assent, but eyed the two young Saudis before him carefully.

"Friends not Masters..." the great General Ayub Khan had said, ... well that has certainly changed though Mohammed, he recalled is mentor the late Agha Hassan Abedi and wondered what he would have thought of all this.

"Masters not Friends.." though Mohammed..."Masters..."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My views on Iran

After my last post on nuclearization in the Middle East, I have been asked to clarify my views on Iran. I will do as such in this post.

Iran is a multicultural, multiethnic country with 70 million citizens. The current Iranian state draws upon the teachings of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni for its moral foundations. The guidance of Ayatollah Khomeni is summarized in the Wilayat-e-Faqih and this document along with a number of supervisory religious councils carefully defines the policy structure of the Iranian state.

In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeni's followers were catapulted to power in Tehran on the back of a severe public confrontation with the United States. The notable aspects of this confrontation were as follows.

The Khomeniities threatened the supply of oil from the Middle East, and cut US access to the Iranian landscape and airspace. They tested the atmosphere of cooperation that existed between Iran and Israel, and displaced US friendly narcotics producers to Afghanistan's Helmand area. Additionally the Khomenities also threatened to attack the US currency with perfect 100 dollar bills, printed on the Intalgio machines supplied by the US to the Shah of Iran and they questioned the Al Saud dynasty's claim to being the guardians of the Holy Harams of Mecca and Medina.

As the long standing agreements between Iranian, Israeli and Western intelligence agencies dissolved a number of conflicts materialized in the Middle East, most notable among these was the rise of Iranian influence in the Lebanese Civil War. American support for the Sunni Ikhwan terrorists had already alienated the Alwaites of Syria and the Khomeniites joined up with the Alawaites when it came to denying the Americans access to Lebanese territory. Israel's attempts at establishing a stranglehold on Beirut were also strongly resisted by the Syrian and the Iranian combine. Through Hamas and Hezbollah, the Iranians came to have an extended footprint in the terrorist world.

The US leveraged against the Khomeniites by projecting military force into the Gulf and surrounding region and holding out the prospect of a US invasion. This threat was never actualized. The US also pushed Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both Sunni countries as the real leaders of the Islamic world. The US also supported Saddam Hussein's Iraq in its battle against Iran, provided he secured the Iranian refinery complex at Abadan. When Saddam failed in his task, US support waned visibly. The US also officially cut off arms supplies to Iran and restored them only when Iran made similar concessions on the matter of currency counterfeiting and western hostages. Via proxies (Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) the US also engaged the followers of the cult of Masoud Rajavi as they conducted terrorist attacks on Iranian soil. The followers of Rajavi espoused a marxist ideology. The US also used its influence in the financial world to block Iranian held accounts in various banks and publicly opposed Iran on every platform in the world.

Ayatollah Khomeni had conspiciously avoided the nuclear issue in all his pronouncements against the US. Throughout the period of Khomeni's rule the emphasis in the revolutionary government was on consolidation of the clergy's hold on Iranian society. Iranian rulers have always posed a challenge to other regional empires, and in Khomeni's time this challenge was articulated by support to radical Muslim causes in these countries and by strengthening Shiite minority groups in the Middle Eastern region. This strategy is no longer as effective due to a variety of reasons but the death of Ayatollah Khomeni caused the iconic value to fade considerably and new thinking was required. Also the Iran-Iraq war which dragged on throughout the 80s drained Iran's capacity for fomenting trouble outside its borders.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeni in 1989, Iran's foreign policy became decidedly more inward looking. The quest for a working nuclear deterrent gained momentum. Iran sought out deals with Pakistan for purchasing Uranium refinement technology. Domestically this period was marked by a relaxation of the stifling rules and regulations that the Khomeniites had imposed on the war ravaged Iran. Iran moved ever so slowly out of a war economy towards a modern republic. The biggest challenge at this time was retrenching veterans of the war and ensuring that the capital made by war profiteers and war-driven industries was successfully re-invested into Iran's peace-time economy.

As with any war, the conflict economy spawned by the Iran-Iraq war was immense, and a sudden reduction in war spending was not possible. Additionally there were tremendous conflicts over the sharing of the profits of the conflict economy among the elite. This post-war restructuring was marked a number of complicated financial transactions, all underwritten politically by the Khomeniites. In order to ease this transition period politically, the Khomeniites delicately crafted two factions within themselves and created sharing formulas to ensure that a stable polity and predictable social structure could survive into peace time. The retrenchment of war veterans - many of them cripples proved extremely hard and discontent among young Iranians was high. To top everything off - the war was followed quite naturally by a baby boom.

The apparently ad hoc shifting of economic patterns and re-routing of financial channels by the Khomenites created a culture of ad hocism that came to prevail as the 90s gave way to the new millenium. This ad hocism contravened many of the core principles laid down by Ayatollah Khomeni and I term this attitude as "corruption". If ever there was discontent in Iran, it was most severe among the "new" Iranians (those born after the revolution) who were now expecting quite a bit from their government. This resentment was all directed against the culture of corruption which was all blamed on the clergy who put it in place. The political authority commanded by Khomeniites began to dwindle and even with the clergy fissiparous tendencies arose.

As this period progressed Iranian rich and poor began to hunt for moral alternatives and it was in this vacuum that the teachings of Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah Yazdi gained a following. I term the views of Ayatollah Yazdi as a variation on the general themes introduced by Ayatollah Khomeni. To date there is little in the text of Ayatollah Yazdi's views that can be seen as a contradiction of the words of Ayatollah Khomeni. Ayatollah Yazdi quickly collected a small but influential circle of followers among the intelligence and security ministry in the Iranian government. This group came to be known as the Haqqani (sometimes spelled Haghani) Circle. Throughout the 90s this group carefully muscled its way into the corridors of power in Iran and I would prefer to characterize the election of President Mahmoud Ahmednijad as the pen-ultimate step in this group's rise to complete power in Iran.

This rise to power has not come without cost. The second rung Khomeniites who are steadily being displaced by this event are unhappy. A number of business groups that supported the incumbents are now under pressure and their mouthpieces in the Iranian press are being subject to a lot of heat. A visible indication of this sub-surface anger is the behavior of the direct descendants of Imam Khomeni. It may be recalled that a certain Iranian president is related to this clan through marriage. The Yazdiites will also find themselves in a struggle against certain people in the IRGC. Sections of the IRGC are profitting immensely from a blackmarkets in various goods. It will be political suicide for the Yazdiites move against this segment of people.

A state of confrontation with the US will help the Yazdiites - the Haghani Circle - stamp their authority on the Iranian state and cement their spiritual leadership of Iran. The path of confrontation will be along the broad contours of the nuclear issue. The US too will seek out this confrontation as it will permit a wide range of contact with the Haghani circle and quite possibly allow US access to energy deposits that it has been denied thus far.

It remains to be seen if the Yazdiites can successfully manage this transition.

Much attention has focussed on the threat of American air strikes against Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. Quite a bit of bandwidth has been devoted to Israeli statements in this regard also, but fundamentally I fail to see how the air strikes help either to contain the Iranian nuclear threat or how they help to keep the Iranian political situation predictable.

One is told that if Pervez Musharraf is deposed then Al Qaida will get a hold of nuclear materials. Won't the same thing happen if the Mullahs in Iran are bombed by the Americans? There are few answers to the question of how Iran will be administered after the clergy are ousted from power. It may be recalled that similar questions were asked by people before the invasion of Iraq. Ofcourse at the time, these questions were dismissed by Secretary Rumsfeld with a wave of the hand. The results are now in plain sight.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Problems of Nepal

I came across these views by Dr. Thomas A Marks.

Some of you may recall that Dr. Marks is a world renowned expert on Maoist movements. While one finds such characters amusing, the ability of some so-called experts to use their established credentials in one area to randomly gas off about things they have no clue of is always quite stunning.

Nepal today is terrible mess.

In part this mess has been brought about by years of economic and political stagnation. The much revered monarchy today is but a shadow of its former self, gone is the assertive presence that served to guide the aspirations of the Nepali people, what stands in its place is a beleagured and tired institution, an anachronism.

A democratic order that took hold in the 1990s is has also run aground. The much promised reformation never materialized, all swallowed in the rush of caste based politics. The late King Birendra ceded power to a parliament but there was little per se that the Parliament could bring itself to do to improve the lot of the Nepali people. Unlike India, the upper castes of Nepal kept tossing power between themselves, sharing little with the underpriviledged citizenry.

All through the 90s the economy of Nepal stagnated and migrant labourers poured into India where they fell prey to criminal exploitation. Prostitution rackets and drug running cartels found a home in Nepal as the chronically ill polity sought out quick cash infusions to prevent collapse. It was here that the Pakistanis based their most brutal attacks on Indian currency. Nepal also legalized gambling and gave organized crime a permanent refuge from India's law enforcement agencies.

Having sown the seeds of suffering, Nepal today harvests pure sorrow. A culture of callousness dictates national policy. Expediency without any sense of social responsibility guides the formulation of national aims. In a nation where the King was worshipped as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the population is picking up arms against the Royal Nepalese Army. In broad daylight traffic policemen are now declared as class enemies and slaughtered.

The only way to end this without further bloodshed is for all Nepalis to sit down at a table and talk to each. The so called political elite have to listen to the not-so-elite and every attempt has to be made to identify the root causes of the Maoist insurgency and to address them.

The factors driving Maoist insurgency in Nepal are not very different from the factors driving Maoist insurgency in India. The difference is that India is a reformist state and the government is populated by competent people who seek to redress social imbalances. The result is that per capita the Maoist violence levels in India are far lower. The same cannot be said of Nepal.

All this talk of an IPKF-Nepal is fine but the circumstances were very different in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was an Island on most major sea lanes of communication - Nepal is a landlocked country. There was a huge uproar in India due to Sinhala rioting against Tamils in Sri Lanka in 1983 - the word Nepal doesn't command the same response. Unlike the last IPKF mission to Sri Lanka, a mission to Nepal should it materialize will proceed very differently. After all - the boys have been peacekeeping in Kashmir and the North East for the last 15 years. This isn't going to be like 1987 at all...

You know... while Thomas is so keen to point fingers at India, note how he is totally silent about all the offices of that the Nepali and other Maoist groups maintain in US client states in South East Asia, in those wonderful terrorist havens of Europe... the so-called "low countries"... and yes... you guessed it Canada.

Quantity (stockpile size) versus quality (testing)

A suggestion has recently been made that the Chinese nuclear arsenal is only about 100 weapons as opposed to 400 weapons as claimed by the Non-Proliferation community. While some of us will find this sudden revision of the number of Chinese weapons by the Non-Proliferation community curious, perhaps even lacking in credibility, there is little doubt that this revised number goes some distance in explaining why the Non-Proliferation theologians have been ranting about Chinese fissile material cutoffs. This completely explains the confidence with which Bob Einhorn spoke about a linkage between India imposing a fissile material cutoff and China retaining its moratorium on fissile material production. I think the term "fissile material" here refers only to the weapons usable stockpile, it does not refer to any thing that is set aside for use in a reactor.

Let's assume for the moment that I accept the working distinction between weapons material and reactor material even if the substances are identical in all respects and we make such a distinction in the case of India's stockpile. Now per the logic touted by the Non-Proliferation community, India should also agree to a "fissile material cutoff" as China has, which means that India has to keep its stocks of "weapons use material" fixed, and keep its stock of "reactor use material" separate. The Non-Proliferation community would like the word "separate" to mean "under intrusive surveillance".

So where does this leave things in India?

Well firstly, the "intrusive surveillance" is out. The IAEA agreement will take note of India's sterling record on proliferation. There is a limit to the amount of nonsense India will put up with.

Secondly the stockpile issue has a catch in it and this is something that the people in the US need to grasp. I outline the same below.

If Indian nuclear weapons are to retain the same potency as the Chinese arsenal, then they must demonstrate the same level of effectiveness. If India is to target a Chinese city with nuclear weapons and guarentee its destruction, then India will have to deliver 4 weapons per city. If the Indian weapons have a 50% delivery probability, then to eliminate one Chinese city, India will need 8 weapons. If the Indian weapons have a 50% survival probability against a Chinese First-Strike, then India will need 16 weapons to ensure that it can guarentee a hit on a Chinese city. It may be recalled that China's weapons are better tested and pack a bigger punch. The Chinese have tested a full thermonuclear device with yeild in the megatons. Chinese missiles have a higher survival probability and a higher accuracy. So it will only take 1 Chinese weapon to eliminate an entire Indian city. It follows from this that in order to keep up with China's 100 nuclear weapons, India has to have about 16 times the number of weapons.... if India is to freeze the level of weapons development and not to test anything that might improve the reliability of its delivery platforms.

Alternatively if India improves the accuracy and the survivability by a factor of 10 each (that is; 95% accuracy and 95% survivability) then India could possibly get away with having just 4-5 weapons per Chinese city. This is still 4 times as many weapons as China, so India would need 400 weapons to keep up with China's 100.

Improving the accuracy and survivability of the Indian deterrent in my opinion signifies that the India's development of a submarine based ballistic missile deterrent will have to be expedited. It may be noted that India's present level of development with ground based missiles in inadequate to deter the Chinese as the nearest Chinese target lies beyond the Tibetan plateau - roughly a 1000 miles away. This is at the outer tip of the Agni's tested range. Additionally very little is known about the Agni missile's performance at longer ranges and under battlefield conditions. Placing missiles in the Indian North-East is a risky proposition given the relative lack of depth there and targetting the Chengdu and Guizhou provinces, China's backwaters is not a viable deterrent strategy.

Alternatively if India could carry out the tests required to make a 1 Megaton warhead. Then it would be able to exactly match the effectiveness of the Chinese arsenal and keep the stockpile limited to 100 weapons.

What I am saying is that the Non-Proliferation community would like you to think that "Fissile Material Cut-offs" and "Testing Bans" go together and India can be asked to do both things - this is simply not true.

India can do either one - it can't do both!

It is incumbent upon the non-proliferation community to determine which best suits its needs. Either option is fine with India so long as India has the means to protect its security in a bad neighbourhood.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Observations about a nuclearized Middle East.

I feel the time has come to start talking about the likely shape of a nuclearized Middle East.

I begin briefly with my views about Iran. The revolutionary fervor that was injected into Iran by Imam Khomeni's revolution is now waning. Though observers like B. Raman have talked about the rising discontent among student groups and others have spoken about the manner in which women are circumventing the Islamic codes, the decline in the values instilled by the Ayatollah is most precipitous among the very men of who have been tasked with securing the citadel itself - corruption in the guardians is reaching dizzying heights. This weakening of moral fibre and conformity among the guardians of the revolution has prompted a reformation. This reformation is spearheaded by Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. Ayatollah Yazdi's "new gospel" will attempt to re-engineer Iran as profoundly as Ayatollah Khomeni's wilayat-e-faqih did. As the spiritual torch passes from Khomeniities to Yazdiites, political and economic turbulence manifests in its wake. Like the Khomeniites before them, the Yazdiites will rely on a confrontation with the US to propel themselves to the seat of power in Tehran. In addition to seeking to control Iran, the Yazdiites are (like all rulers in Iran's history) looking to position themselves as credible threats to other regional powers. The nuclear issue provides the Yazdiites, a method of least exertion, to seek out a confrontation they desire. There are other methods as well - most notably sectarian pressure in Iraq and denying shipping access to the Persian Gulf, but making a racket about Nuclear matters is path of minimum work. The Iranian nuclear quest must rely on non-US and non-local sources - countries like Pakistan are an ideal fit for this sort of thing.

Having spoken about Iran, it is prudent to talk of Saudi Arabia first. If Iran uses the nuclear issue to confront the West, the Saudis who also aspire for regional leadership and are the current global leadership of Islam, will have to follow in suit. Unless Saudi Arabia matches Iran in the nuclear arena it will lose its place as the leader of the Islamic world. An additional constraint is that in this particular matter the Saudis cannot rely on the US to bail them out. If it appears that the US has supported Saudi Arabia's nuclear quest, then the Saudis will look like American puppets. This will cause them to completely lose all respect domestically. The Saudi quest for nuclear status must therefore follow a path independent of the US, perhaps via other states like Pakistan. Assuming that the Iranian violation of the NPT legitimizes the Saudi violation, in order to retain its leadership of the Islamic world and the Middle East region, the Saudis must qualify their nuclear status vis-a-vis a number of others. Will Saudi Arabia commit to No-First Use? Will Saudi Arabia use nuclear weapons against Israel? Will Saudi Arabia use nuclear weapons against an Islamic population? etc... etc... These are difficult questions that the Saudis will have to publicly answer. Lacking the single point focus of the Iranian nuclear quest, the enormous influence of Wahabbi extremists in the country and given that Saudi Arabia has the world's largest proven stocks of oil, the Saudis will have to have a more nuanced policy on nuclear affairs. They are currently not in a position to articulate such a policy. Their reticence to talk openly will only feed suspicions about their intentions.

I now turn my attention towards Israel. The Israelis are a de-facto nuclear power. The presence of nuclear arsenals in Saudi Arabia and Iran will pose a credible and visible threat to Israel. Israel lacks strategic depth, all its population centers are small and have low survivability. They have very few water sources which if contaminated would make life in Israel impossible. Even if Israel's nuclear status also becomes visible, it is unlikely to mitigate the threat posed by the lack of depth. In order to ensure that their deterrent is credible, Israel will have to showcase its guarenteed second strike capabilities.

An overt nuclearization in Israel will spark a similar drives in Egypt and Syria. A host of smaller Arab states will clamor for similar capabilities or seek to form alliances with either Iran or Saudia Arabia for a nuclear umbrella.

The Pakistanis have for long claimed that they (not the Saudis) are the real protectors of Islam but no one takes them seriously. A nuclear standoff in the Middle East favors their rise to prominence as no country in the Middle East is capable of carrying out a nuclearization without Pakistani assistance. Iran's dependence is likely to minimize over time but the rest simply do not have what it takes to get free of Pakistan's stranglehold. A nuclear standoff in the Middle East will be choreographed by the Pakistanis through clandestine technology transfers and careful manipulation of strategic policy in the target states. Given their special relationship with China, it is possible that the Pakistanis will routinely posture in support of Chinese policy in the region.

Now I come to Washington's approach to these issues. The US has huge investments in energy industries in the Middle East. In addition to this a lucrative trade in finished products and services also exists between the US and the Middle East. Given the dependence on oil, the US has to keep all conflicts in the Middle East under control. In order to ensure that the trade in oil with the Middle East remains profitable for US companies, the US has to ensure that Middle Eastern populations remain receptive to American products and brands. This puts the US in a cultural conflict with the conservative forces in Islam. Iran's leadership after 1979 has defined a state of confrontation between the US and Islam and over the years this philosophy has spread to other countries threatening the US in tangible ways. So keeping Iran and the Islamist way of thinking under control is the central feature of US policy in the Middle East. The US would also like energy trade with Iran. Such a trade could form a part of the system of leverage vis-a-vis the Iranian leadership - a deal with the right Yazdiite could seal a strong bond between the Iranians and the US. At the present time President Bush's public policy of aggressive behavior with Iran is largely a way of keeping America prepared for an Iranian driven confrontation that will soon follow. It is not in America's interests to see Iran go nuclear without Saudi Arabia and Israel being adequately prepared. Delaying Iranian nuclearization assumes a high priority with the US. Additionally from the point of view of control over proliferation, the US desires that Syria and Egypt be retarded to the greatest extent possible. This will allow US energy interests the most amount of time to establish themselves in Iraq and to minmize their footprint in Saudi Arabia.

India's position on these affairs is not something I wish to comment on at the present time. India has already indicated that it does not want Iran to renege on its commitments to the NPT. Saudi nuclearization is recessed as of now, until more information becomes available about this, it is impossible to construct a meaningful comment on this. Broadly speaking, the constants in India's engagement with the Middle East have been:
  1. Continuation of cultural ties with all countries in the region.
  2. Stability of energy supply and related trade with select countries e.g. Iraq, Iran, Bahrain etc...
  3. Concerns about the safety of migrant workers in Gulf states.
  4. Concerns about the safety of Hajj pilgrims and visitors to Karbala and Najaf.
  5. Access to Central Asia through Iran.
  6. Ensuring that India's 200 million Muslims are not forgotten in the rough and tumble of Middle Eastern Islamic politics.

Doubtlessly these will play a major role in deteremining how India acts in the event that the Middle East is nuclearized.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Displacement psychology in Pakistan

I was shocked to read about the events at Nishtar Park.

B. Raman characterized this as a decapitation strike on the Sunni Tehreek.

I agree with B. Raman's characterization that the Sunni Tehreek was opposed to the growth of Salafi influence.

In Freudian psychology, the term displacement refers to a defensive mechanism whereby the person under stress redirects their feelings caused by one thing towards a more benign object. Strictly speaking this is a unconscious mechanism and so it can't be used to analyse the pre-meditated actions of terrorist groups.

The concept is more useful in understanding the spontaneous actions of a community as a whole.
Today the followers of the Sunni Tehreek are in a state of disorientation. Lacking a functioning leadership it will be very difficult to coordinate or control their actions. This is the closest we are going to get to see what happens when an Islamist group is decapitated. Unlike previous assasintions of key religious leaders, e.g. the murder of Azzam Tariq, or Nizamuddin Shamezai, or the recent attack on Fazl ur Rehman Khalil, this is a true decapitation strike.

The Sunni Tehreek has two main adversaries. The first is a group of Pakistan Army ISI personnel, they are Pakistani deobandis and have in the past supported groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LeJ) and the Anjuman Sipaha Saheba Pakistan (SSP). The second adversary is the Muttahida Quami Mahaz (MQM) which comprises poor urdu speaking Muslim migrants - Mohajirs from India. The MQM seeks to maintain its powerbase and looks down upon encroachment by the Sindhi and Gujurati speaking Sunni Tehreek. The Pakistan Army and the government is keen to blame this action on Wahabbi extremists but is appealing for calm between the communities.

The modus operandi of the attack at Nishtar Park clearly speaks to the involvement of PA-ISI backed LeJ/SSP type groups, though given how controlled these groups are, it is difficult to construct a logic for their actions or to acertain what this act really was. It is impossible as of now to tell if this was a spontaneous action on part of the Deobandi extremists or whether is part of an ISI plan to initiate a controlled conflict in Karachi. In past for example by creating the MQM(Haqiqi) faction the Pakistan Army ISI sought to weaken the MQM's hold on Karachi. It could be that the hand-wringing and pretence by the Pakistan Army that the Deobandi groups are out of control is part of a calculated scheme by the Army to cause splintering in the Islamist pantheon.

Without a real leadership to direct their strength, and given the overwhelming support that the ISI will pull for the LeJ and SSP, it seems likely that the Sunni Tehreek's followers might redirect their anger towards the MQM.

If the statements of Qazi Hussein Ahmed are anything to go by the MQM needs to prepare for the worst - a descent into the maelstrom.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ways of Counting: Is "more" really more and "less" really less?

Ultimately we all know what we want - the hard part is determining how much we must have.

In the arena of credible minimum deterrence we can count in the ways described below, but before we begin counting it is always good to reiterate that we are still adhering to No First Use. After that we also repeat that we subscribe to the idea of a guarenteed second strike.

What deters the enemy i.e. what does the enemy hold dear?

If it is the loss of even one major city that is sufficient to deter a potential nuclear aggressor, then we need to identify the number of major cities in the enemy's lands and examine the significance of each city to the enemy's mind. In a small country, where there are few cities, this is relatively easy to determine.

If the adversary is a larger country, then the loss of only one city may or may not have a great significance - it depends on the mindset of the leadership. A more robust approach under these circumstances is to seek a minimum number of human casualties that will have a significant impact on the adversary leadership.

An upper bound to the numbers can be reached by considering the minimum human impact needed to cause a severe civilizational crisis in the enemy country. I am not talking about about a small transient fit of madness but a complete civilizational break. A realistic number in this regard suggested by some people (e.g. Chairman Mao) was approximately 20% of a country's population - that roughly corresponds to the most professional and economically active segment.
In the case of a country of 1 billion people, this number is about 200 million.

A lower bound to the numbers can be inferred when one only considers a minimum number of significant targets (eg. one city) that we have to guarentee hitting so as to project the idea of unacceptable damage in the mind of the adversary.

Bear in mind these are only deterrence numbers. I am not talking about what will happen once we approach the threshold of use, or for that matter what will occur after a weapon has been released. No one in their right mind talks about that stuff.

Once you think about the implications that each of these numbers has, you quickly find yourself asking the question, is "more" really more or is "less" really less?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Leaving Saltoro and a path to Peace

The intensity and cost of the Saltoro War makes a disengagement from the region difficult for both sides. I can't say about Rawalpindi, but memories are still fresh in New Delhi. It was not so long ago at Subedar Bana Singh and the men of the 8 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry were asked to do the impossible by the Grace of Allah they succeeded.

Despite this painful past the Govt. of India is has cautiously tread the path towards peace on the glacier. At the present time a virtual ceasefire exists. Hostile shelling is down to minimum and aggressive patrolling is no longer carried out. The posture however continues to post a high cost in terms of resupply operations, though weapons resupply flights and patrols are operating at about a third of their usual capacity. From available information it seems that the Pakistanis are following in suit.

This apparent cooling of the conflict actually still retains a potential for a local escalation.

Though Pakistani soldiers once withdrawn from their positions on the Saltoro ridge would (like their Indian counterparts) be unable to deploy across the region without careful acclimation, the possibility of a small aggressive patrol by their units in the Gyong La area remains a possibility. Though the military effectiveness of such a venture is questionable, that is usually never a question asked by Generals at GHQ-Pindi.

The Siachen conflict consumed large quantities of ammunition. Today this ammunition is piling up at places like Dansam and Khaplu. It is possble that this ammunition could be used to reinforce Pakistani positions in the Piun/Siari area or perhaps even in the positions across the Batallik sector. Generally speaking the presence of higher amounts of ammunition in Pakistani posts usually encourages adventurism among its local commanders.

Musharraf's refusal to accept the AGPL is simply a reflection of the Pakistan Army's unwillingness to admit to defeat on the Glacier. A demarcation would doubtlessly bring involve the Pakistan Army admitting that it no longer control Qamar and Bilafond sectors. Perhaps the lies told in Pakistan in the name of Operation Ibex would also have to be exposed. While I am all for making Capt. Chahal atleast as much of a household name as Subedar Bana Singh, I can't imagine how the Pakistanis would agree to that. The Pakistanis are still addicted to a culture of military escalation. This is the prevalent definition of manhood in Rawalpindi.

Disentangling from the glacier remains a difficult affair and it is perhaps improper to close ones' mind to the possibility of a local flare up.

Our soldiers have done their bit protecting the Saltoro Ridge from Pakistan. Building a lasting degree of security from their sacrifices represents the challenge that confronts the peace initiative right now. This is not simply a matter of facing down a few local hotspots and unpleasantries - a far greater task lies ahead.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My response to Minoo P Bhandara

Dear Minoo,

I have just read your comments on the de-hyphenation issue.

I fully endorse the idea that Pakistan should be treated at least as well as India. Actually I even more strongly endorse the idea that every nation should be treated at least as well as Pakistan is treated. If only all the rest of us could get away with murder like the Pakistanis have.

I completely agree with all your comments regarding the manner in which the Americans have repeatedly used and discarded Pakistan. I would feel some indignation about this but it appears to me that by blatantly supporting every concievable anti-American cause and allying so closely with communist China, the Pakistanis haven't exactly behaved like a grateful people at all times. I don't want to get into a chicken and egg debate with you, but I do wish to point out that it takes two hands to clap.

I also agree that you have correctly compared A. Q. Khan's actions to the actions of the Rosenbergs who leaked nuclear weapons data from the US to the Soviet Union. Both A Q Khan and the Rosenbergs placed their personal sense of right-and-wrong above the the requirements of law, esp. the Official Secrets Act which they swore by. By deliberately going back on the promises they made to stick to the letter of their respective Official Secrets Act, both A Q Khan and the Rosenbergs committed a breach of faith.

I feel this kind of thing had only one just punishment and as the Americans executed the Rosenbergs, the Pakistani Government of His Excellency Pervez Musharraf, should execute A. Q. Khan. In the best traditions of Pakistani Islamic culture, A. Q. Khan should be executed by beheading in a public square and all his collaboraters should have their hands cut off. This is the punishment befitting thieves under under Shariat law.

I feel you are misinformed in stating that all your reactors are under IAEA safeguards. The Chashma series from China is not under any kind of safeguards. If Pakistan agrees to put the Chashma reactors under IAEA safeguards, the I don't see why anyone will have problem selling fuel to the reactors at Chashma. Please note Pakistan's Chashma reactors, those are imported from China - they are not exempt from IAEA safeguards. By contrast India's Fast Breeder Reactors are indigenously developed, and so India is under no obligation to put them under IAEA safeguards. So do not waste time with meaningless comparisons between your Chinese imports and India's FBRs.

I find this statement you make,

That by breaking the ‘hyphen’ which has historically marked our relationship with the US and more so after declaring Pakistan as a ‘non-Nato’ ally, the US has alienated Pakistan, as it did in 1990 with disastrous consequences for the region and the West.

has an implied threat to it. Perhaps you do not understand the implications of talking like this. You see unlike the 90s, today Pakistanis is under the greatest amount of surveillance and should 9/11 repeat in any shape of form, Pakistan would suffer immeasurably ... even if the government in power was actually not responsible for the outrage.

Today His Excellency can look forward to a comfortable retirement package in New Jersey as he has successfully safeguarded US interests, but tomorrow should God forbid an outrage occur, should Pakistani anger against the US for being "abandoned" manifest in another Sept 11 style attack, what sort of future would His Excellency look forward to? Will the American people understand why His Excellency was unable to protect America's interests despite the fact that they gave him so much?

I trust you understand where I am going with this and perhaps over a bottle of Whiskey at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, you can explain it to His Excellency.

The problem is that too many people in Pakistan do not understand the positive aspects of de-hyphenation. If the link between Pakistan and India is broken, the Pakistan could purchase defence material from the West without having to account for the likely impact on Indo-Pak relations. Perhaps you don't know that the Soviet Union does not exist anymore and that Pakistan's performance (or the absence of it) cannot be attributed to a desire to conserve strength to fight a Soviet-friendly India? Do you realize that increasingly US-Pak ties are being judge on merit alone and not on hype?

Do reflect on these things.

Much Love,


P.S. As you are doubtlessly preparing to go to the Aiwan-e-Sadr for another "heavy" round of discussions, perhaps you could take a small gift I have for His Excellency? On behalf of my friends at 163 Inf. Bde (Kargil) and 102 Inf Bde (Partapur), I have purchased a few bangles for His Excellency. I would like to make sure that His Excellency gets them so that he can wear them at his next public function.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cherchez la Musharraf

Minoo P Bhandara has written a piece denouncing the de-hyphenation between India and Pakistan and the proposed Indo-US nuclear deal.

Most of you know M P Bhandara as that Parsi who runs the Murree Brewery in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Muslims are required to abstain from alcohol per the Prophet's direct instruction. And the Islamic republic of Pakistan pretends to take the Prophet's words very seriously so the sale of alcohol to Muslims is a crime. However non-muslims may buy the alcohol and consume it but in fact most of the alcohol purchased by non-muslims is actually sold to Muslims in Pakistan. The risk in such a perverted distribution method is that the quality suffers and middlemen dilute the alcohol or make more adventurous brews and that makes it very likely that the beer you are buying is some horrible stuff that will kill you when you drink it.
The key thing if you want a drink in Pakistan is to find the right distributor. The ban on legal sales makes it easier for the distributor to make runaway profits by charging whatever he pleases. Needless to say, the profits are "reinvested" as bribes to law enforcement.

What few people realize is that an operation like the one M P Bhandara runs cannot exist in the Islamist Republic of Pakistan without serious government support and that M P Bhandara pays a protection fee. He is the symbol of all things modern in Pakistan, proof of General Musharraf's vision of a whiskey swilling Pakistan, that empowers minorities like Parsis in it. When Minoo P Bhandara speaks, we are listening to His Master's Voice.

The problem is relatively simple, His Highness Pervez Musharraf is under a lot of pressure from everyone. The way he deflects this pressure is by pretending that he is America's special friend and he can make the Americans do anything that is needed to protect Pakistan's interests. The Indo-US nuclear deal and the de-hyphenation that is inherent in it, does not sit well with the old fogies in Pakistan's establishment. These people have been conditioned to think of themselves as India's equals and they can't stomach the fact that their beloved US is treating the Indians differently. This is increasing the pressure on Musharraf and he has to do something to make it look like he is still America's best friend in the region otherwise his reign will end.