Thursday, May 25, 2006

Leaving Saltoro and a path to Peace II

I am seeing a lot of ideas being paraded about Siachen, some of these are plain absurd and I took the time to write out a few responses to the more memorable ones. There was an interesting article on Bharat-Rakshak which speaks to some of this.

1) Leaving Siachen will leave the Karakorum pass undefended

No it will not. This may have been the case 20 years ago when the Nubra valley was undefended. Over the past 20 years there has been a lot of infrastructure development and the quality of arms available to our army has improved dramatically. We can now defend the Nubra valley and no credible threat to the Karakorum or passes closer to the mouth of the Nubra exists.

1b) The Pakistanis will be able to lay a pipeline to the Karakoram Pass via Siachen.

No - that is just a fantasy. The temperatures and the terrain are too adverse. If our experience with kero pipelines between Dzingrulma and Kumar Camp is anything to go by then even Pakistan with its special status with Allah can't lay a pipeline there. The best place for a pipeline currently is along the KKH from Hassan abdal to Kashgar. It is ofcourse much cheaper to actually lay a pipeline north from the gulf of Martaban to Mandalay and from there east to Guizhou. For the geographically challenged - those places are in Burma.

2) The Pakistanis will infiltrate terrorists into Leh through the passes in the Nubra Valley like they did in Haji Pir!

Unlikely - they can still use Haji Pir. It is atleast 10,000 times easier to infiltrate a Jihadi into India from Haji Pir than it is to have him trudge it out across the Siachen. Haji Pir is actually harder to seal than Siachen in some ways. I know Haji Pir has become a cause celebre among some folks, but infiltration routes are all over the place.

3) There is no point demilitarizing - the Pakistanis will simply occupy the posts we vacate and the Army will have to dislodge the Pakistanis and retake posts.

It is unlikely that the Pakistanis will reoccupy the heights. They have been whining about the costs of Siachen for far longer than anyone in India has. Even if they occupy the heights the Indian Army will not have to retake the posts. As they have not authenticated the AGPL. We will be able to strike across it. Without an AGPL - there will be no imaginary line the Americans will be able to hold us to. If they start something there is no guarentee that we will stop on the Saltoro now.

4) The Americans will support Pakistani aggression in Siachen.

And what else is new. The Americans rely on keeping the Pakistani military feeling good about itself and are generally more than happy to encourage adventurism in the Pakistani Army brass. Now that Pakistan holds the Al Qaida Nuclear Bomb over America's head, there is atleast one more reason for the US to love its hand picked Pakistani General Staff. Ofcourse they will encourage the Pakistani army to do something very stupid on Siachen - why is this such a big surprise?

5) The Pakistanis will be very keen to do something to show that they are not the losers on Siachen.

Yes - they will most certainly want to do that. That is precisely what they will get by way of their refusal to authenticate the AGPL. A completely fake victory that will allow them go on printing fake maps and passing them off as authentic to the world. And the world led by the Americans will sagely nod whenever a Pakistani flashes the fake map in their face. Who knows a year or so down the road Peter Lavoy will write a major book about the success of strategic mythmaking in Pakistan and he will cite Siachen as an example.

6) The Pakistanis will definetely escalate in Siachen.

Lets think this one through. If they escalate in Siachen - we will accuse them of having betrayed our trust. The last time we did that was in Kargil. Yes I know Kargil was a very bloody war - and we lost a lot of brave young men in that war. But what did Pakistan go through? Even if we pretend that no Pakistanis died in Kargil - what did Pakistan have to do to regain India's trust? Can Musharraf or some able Pakistani General tell us what that was?

7) The "Siachen Demilitarization" is yet another example of Indians selling out their own country - Pakistan is sure to betray our trust and attack us.

In that case - atleast we can now look forward to seeing a rerun of the "Kargil Surprise" saga.

The Who's Who and What's What of Pakistan

When reading about Pakistan - it helps to know who is speaking for what interest group. This should help decode what is really being said and most importantly who *not* to pay attention to.

I deconstruct Pakistan as follows. The political core of Pakistan wrapped around three major industries - narcotics, black marketeering and terrorism (murder for hire).

The narco-industrialists used to control most of the world's grade -4 heroin production in the late 80s and early 90s. After the fall of the Taliban - the production activities have dropped, a number of the refineries have quite possibly relocated to Kurdistan or to Afghanistan itself. The narco-industrialists of Pakistan continue to make large sums of money from trafficing in narcotics because in all cases the refineries have to recieve morphine base or opium gum from Afghanistan or release the heroin to their markets and the only way to get to the sea lanes of communication from Afghanistan is via Baluchistan or via Port Qasim in Karachi. Remember that the sea lanes are the cheapest form of transport - you pay nothing for floating sedately on the water. The narco industrialists of Pakistan also manage the conflict economy that arises from the trade in drugs. How big is this economy? some say it is $ 40 Bn, the size of Pakistan's white economy but I feel this may be an over-estimation. This is why the Pakistanis love the UAE so much because most of the money earned in the narcotics trade is remitted via UAE. There is no point in naming names - I leave it your intelligence to guess who speaks for this community.

Black marketeering as an activity relies heavily on Pakistan's ability to procure cheap items at a low cost and then smuggle them into places and sell them at a price that is below the going rate. It helps a lot if the item is completely unavailable through legal channels eg. nuclear tech. or missile tech. A large portion of this activity also includes trade in conventional arms. The arms that Pakistan sells are made by the Pakistani military-industrial complex. This comprises the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), Wah Nobel Corp., a group of companies operating from under the Fauji Foundation, the Shaheen Foundation and the Bahria Foundation - all run by ex-servicemen. The Pakistan Army and their front organizations also run a kind of SBIR/"Cottage Industries Board" type program and through engage a number of skilled armourers in Darra Adam Khel area to make small arms. PAEC and KRL are responsible for the nuclear side of things. A small cache of arms is still available from the "Ojhri fire" but this cache was a big boost to this activity over a decade ago. It may be recalled that Mirza Aslam Beg was the prime mover on the sale of centrifuges to Iran. Some of you may also remember that Javed Nasir was the person responsible for shipping arms to the Bosnians during Clinton's time. And of course you all probably know that Hamid Gul's daughter owns the largest of the trucking companies in Quetta. All three were around when the Ojhri depot went up in flames.

That leaves terrorism - i.e. murder for hire. The Pakistanis entered this trade in 1979. The CIA subcontracted Zia-ul Haq to kill Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Zia subcontracted the Islamists of Pakistan to raise an army of Jihadi drones. These drones can pretty much be programmed to kill anyone. This makes them a handy tool to have in any conflict management scenario. They are real life manchurian candidates. There a number of Deobandi preachers that were hired to carry out various parts of this programming. The big five used to be the heads of the Jaish, the Harkat, the Sipah-e, Al Badr and the laskhar of Jhang and the most terrible the army of the faithful. Today ofcourse these activities are often marketted under the brand name "Al Qaida" or "International Islamic Front" etc..., earlier they also went under the name of "Secret Army of BCCI" and other more colorful epithets. Today who ever claims to speak for any of these groups - effectively speaks for the entire murder for hire business. I am sure you know all the names by heart thanks to my friends B. Raman and Kanwar Pal Singh Gill.

So where does that leave PM or Shortcut or the ISI and the other people that float across our TV screens and entertain us?

Well, I feel they are important too, but for a different reason. I tend to think of them as referees in a match ( well.. actually less match and more free-for-all). It is they who organize the interaction between these groups and ensure that a common minimum agenda is hammered out. Without the common minimum agenda - the inter group friction would make profit impossible. That my friends is just about everything I know about the political economy of Pakistan.

It is not a lot to go on - but it does help make sense of the world from time to time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

K Sub on Pakistani Nuclear Blackmail of the US

The article by K Subrahmanyam is likely to ruffle a few feathers. Some people believe public diplomacy and strategic communication plans that rely heavily on projecting an image of invincibility or at the very least of not being scared of anything. This sort of thinking is on ample display in the posts by one Dnirody on the Bharat-Rakshak forum. Dear Dnirody - it really helps to know what you are talking about ... before you actually open your mouth.

No amount of spin doctoring can alter the following facts:

1) There is no way for the target country to locate a nuclear device once it has been placed into a major population center.

2) The only ones who know precisely where such a device has been placed or where such a device might be placed are the nation state that ordered the placement of the device.

3) The operation to render-safe such a device is fraught with risk. A situation like this is completely unlike a "broken arrow" scenario.

4) Deterence does not work against an adversary that does not work against an irrational actor.
The only way to deal with such a situation is keep the adversary engaged in an apparently benificial relationship and in doing so create the rationality needed to make a deterrence scheme effective.

It is not such a big deal that Pakistan is blackmailing another country, but that in allowing itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan, the country is creating the core of a desire to live that is essential to make deterrence effective vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Such a strategy requires patience - and feckless idiots like Dnirody are unlikely to ever appreciate the value of patience.

An old friend of mine once wrote a wonderful article, a masterpiece on the nature of Indian strategic thought called the Monkey Trap. This is in essence what is at play with regards to Pakistan at all levels.

The Pakistanis want to believe that they are the inheritors of the legacy of the Prophet. Their leaders are willing to justify the use of nuclear weapons as part of an attempt to make this fantasy a reality. By deliberately pandering to their corrupt elites' desire for wealth and stature, you create a comfort zone around the elite - and this creates the foundation of a deterrence scheme. The message of the deterrence scheme is simple, follow the rules of deterrence or the comfort zone will evaporate.

KS is correct the US (like India before it) has succumbed to Pakistani blackmail. And like India - the US is attempting to set up a comfort zone around Pakistan's elite that will given them the ability to make a viable deterrence scheme.

Without cooperation and discussion with India - there is no way in which the US can build any comfort zone around the Pakistani elite. Team Bush or even Team Cheney or even Team Rumsfeld, ultimately you have to come to us - because you see - without India - there is no Pakistan.

Dnirody in his infinite wisdom brings up this point:

The article totally overlooks what ought to be a natural reflex, that Washington no doubt is hatching contingency plans if an INDIAN nuke goes missing or indeed what to do should at some point New Delhi join the ranks of The Threat. It is worth noting that these days this may be as simple as not voting with the US on, say, the IAEA or at the UN or coyly escaping the enveloping, choking, embrace of the Pentagon. Further, the attitude of New Delhi to the US today has absolutely no bearing on the formulation of contingencies, perhaps someone ought to focus some attention on that.

Well ... perhaps our "erudite" friend Dnirody's dissociative fugue state makes him forget that US contingency plans on dealing with Indian nuclear weapons have existed for decades now. All throughout the Cold War - India was very much in the Pentagon's cross hairs. This is nothing new to us - we are quite used to the idea of having our nuclear installations attacked. Apart from the Pakistanis - we don't have a treaty specifically forbidding such an attack with anyone else.

The US will not actualize a contingency plan to attack Indian nuclear installations simply because India resists the amorous advances of the Pentagon or does not support the IAEA. This is Dnirody's lack of understanding, there are a host of other reasons why the US will activate the contingency plans, but politeness demands that I not discuss those things.

The actual US contingency plan vis-a-vis Pakistani nuclear weapons probably make the Pakistanis laugh till they turn blue. I couldn't possibly comment on the success probabilities of any US strike plans against Indian nuclear installations.

And lastly, despite Dnirody's wet dreams - General Beg is not a voice to be easily ignored.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anger over the Agni III decision

Some of my friends are quite upset over the decision to delay the Agni III test. As there is clearly no explicit pressure on the GoI in this matter, the Government's decision to exercise "self-restraint" is being viewed in some quarters as being excessively sensitive (the word used is "pandering") to American sensitivities.

I cannot really comment on whether the GoI necessarily agrees with the notion that they are "pandering" to the Americans but I will reiterate my views on ballistic missiles.

Ballistic missiles are in my opinion - obsolete.

Ballistic missile launch systems barring the submarine launched variety are increasingly compromised due to improvements in satellite imagery and other forms of electronic surveillance.

The presence of an ever increasing number of counter-measures like the ABL, the ATL and the THEL are under intensive development and the development speed of these systems will outstrip anything we in India can manage on the ballistic missile front. Our development cycles are simply too slow to compete with the development cycle for counter-measures in the developed world. Nations like Pakistan will be able to leverage access to these technologies far more easily than we will be able to.

Given that there has been almost unhindered flow of technology from the West to China, it is difficult to imagine that Chinese clones will not be deployed close on the heels of the American systems.

Deploying a ballistic missile system is a very costly and painful affair - that cannot be undertaken without tangible benifits.

Bearing all these things in mind, it is difficult for a sane person sees the Agni system as nothing more than a high technology research program and a way of carefully educating the Armed Forces of India about their role in a nuclear deterrence scheme. A sane person does not see any test of the Agni system as a signal of immediate hostile intentions.

However despite the obvious, the non-proliferation community with its emphasis on utter lies and meaningless hype is very likely to focus adverse publicity on any Agni systems test. In order to preserve funding for their brand of religious activity, the Non-Proliferation Theologians will brand any test of the Agni system as an expression of India's desire to use nuclear weapons. Due to the extreme grip that the non-proliferation community has on the media in the world, it is likely that the Agni test could easily provoke a negative reaction among US policy makers.

The passage of the Indo-US nuclear cooperation deal is difficult enough without the added pressure from the Non-Proliferation hype mavens in the US media. Unless something credible is done to show that India is doing its bit to ensure passage of the bill, it will be hard for India to deflect responsibility for the failure of the bill in US Congress.

I want the bill to pass in the US Congress as much as the next guy, but given how much money the Pakistanis are throwing at anyone trying to scuttle the bill and the extent to which the Non-Proliferation people are willing to lie in public to protect their funding and not to mention the unbridled atmosphere of corruption that prevails in the US Congress; I am now convinced that there is a very very very real chance that this Indo-US Nuclear bill will not go through Congress.

I don't fault the US elected representatives for their actions. They have been fed a steady diet of non-proliferation propaganda for the better part of 50 years. And corruption in government is simply a part of the human condition. I am merely looking at the big picture and the picture looks grim.

It is best to admit that fact and prepare for such an eventuality.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

My response to Brig.(r) Shaukat Qadir

A friend of mine emailed me this article by Brig.(r) Shaukat Qadir and asked me how I would respond to it. I present my answer below.

Dear Shaukat,

I have reflected upon the issues raised in your article and the following things came to mind.

1) The deployment of Indian security forces in India's territorial boundaries is not something any foreigner can dictate to India. Some security analysts have attributed the recent violence in J&K to the fact that terrorist groups inside Pakistan are now operating outside the control of the ISI or still have access to arms caches that the ISI dumped inside Jammu and Kashmir. The threat is unlikely to receed until either the caches are recovered or the groups acting independently of the ISI control are forever silenced in Pakistan. Consequently India cannot withdraw its troops.

2) I am aware that your army has lost effectiveness in POK after the recent earthquake. I understand if this makes people in GHQ nervous but please remember that if we had any hostile intentions we would have acted by now. We didn't - that should tell you where our interests lie. If you are that keen on additional troops and war material - get them off the Saltoro ridge.

3) You have pointed out that the Pakistani establishment only reluctantly called off support to the Kashmir Jihad when it realized that it could not make good on its Sept 11 promise made to the US to cut down on Jihadi groups. So by this logic the prime cause of Musharraf's unpopularity is his peculiar engagement with the US, and whatever anger Musharraf faces from the Kashmiri groups he has betrayed, is more directly a result of his promise to the Americans and less directly related to anything India ever asked him to do.

4) I agree that President Musharraf's promise and subsequent performance has led to considerable problems within Pakistan and that President Musharraf is not well liked in Pakistan. Musharraf cannot command the respect of the Jihadi ranks and his effectiveness as controlling their impulses is eroding. Perhaps this is what is making Washington lose interest in him? - an interesting question.

5) Pakistan has a long history of exporting its internal violence to its neighbors. We are well aware of this ability of the Pakistani elite to deflect blame onto others for their shortcomings. We are extremely well versed with the famous "blame a Hindu or a Jew" culture of Pakistan. So today when General Musharraf, world famous friend of Bush, is worried that his American friend may not like him - we find it no surprise that he is eager to blame India for the situation. Just like he is blaming India for the situation in Baluchistan. When anything goes wrong in Pakistan - everyone except Lord God Musharraf himself is at fault.

6) It appears that Musharraf has succeeded in getting Abdul Qadir Khan off the hook. It is very clear that Pakistan will get away with nuclear proliferation for the foreseeable future. To most countries this would have been manna from heaven. Not so for the inflated egos of Pakistan - people in Pakistan actually believe that they should get way more. I think this is a direct byproduct of the whole "Land of the Pure", "Pakistan uber alles" mentality that pervades light headed folk of Islamabad. India cannot be seriously expected to take a positive view of Pakistan's antics on Capitol hill as the Indo-US nuclear deal reaches Congress.

7) We are well aware of the risks of dealing with the puppets of Islamabad. We question whether any of them are serious about peace especially when they are avowed miltiarists who rely on anti-India hatred as means of keeping them in power. If the current dispensation in Islamabad is serious about peace it should - as J K Sinha has recently stated in his piece in IDR- open the LoC.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What I CANDU - You CANDU Too...

I doubt the Canadians at AECL would understand the title of this post.

A friend emailed me this piece by Leonard Spector. In this piece Leonard Spector argues,

At a time when the international community is focused on the potential for misuse of civilian nuclear technology in the case of Iran, India has now broadcast to the world that CANDU reactors are an outstanding example of "peaceful" technology that can be appropriated most conveniently for producing nuclear weapons. What a bitter endorsement for Canada.

Furthermore he says,

Certainly, under the circumstances, no Canadian government could propose new CANDU sales to India. And what country concerned about the appearance of its nuclear power program will want to incorporate the CANDU, with its new seal of approval from the Indian nuclear weapons establishment?

My dear Leonard, this is blithering nonsense -

Firstly, the Canadians cut supplies to India claiming that the Indians used the CANDU to make" a nuclear bomb". This was in 1974, now exactly which idiots have gone around believing that the CANDU is proliferation proof after that? - Can you name a few?

Secondly why would India want to import a CANDU when we can build them ourselves?

And thirdly, the Indo-US nuclear deal will kill the NPT, after that happens per your Non-Proliferation doomsday prophets nations the world over will queue up to buy nuclear weapons related technology. In that scenario India's open declaration of the "military status" of its INDU reactors (err.. in your language they are called "CANDU-Clones") should effectively advertize the value of the CANDU to nations seeking to participate in this nuclear gold rush. Do you seriously believe that the Canadians are not going to sell CANDUs to people that might want to make bombs from them? They've known about the potential for weapons related use for years, did they care then? hell no... why would they care now?

The only reason the Canadians care is that India will be able to compete for the same markets the Canadians want to access and unlike Canada - the Indians will make stuff cheaply.

Unfortunately for so many the laws of nature are not proprietary, neither for that matter are the principles of physics. The products of engineering development are proprietary but not in perpetuity.

You see the whole idea of respecting another's property rests on a more fundamental regime of respecting each other. When you don't respect the other person, why will the other person respect you?

When Canada cut supplies to India's civilian nuclear program in 1974, they did so with the express intention of killing the Indian nuclear program. So while the Indians toiled night and day to build and improve the reactors, the Canadians sat pretty on their huge reserves of Natural Uranium and carried out a few minor alterations to the design. For the most part development of the CANDU PHWR slowed to snail's pace in Canada. I guess the Canadians thought there would be no competition - they probably assumed that the Indians were idiots who would never make something as complex as a CANDU.

Reality has become as a terrible bite in AECL's ass. The extent of indigenization of the INDU reactors and several advanced features they contain probably make the Canadians feel nervous. It would royally suck for Canada to have to become an importer of CANDU spares from India some day. I mean what if the Indians suddenly decide to cut the supply of spares? What will the Canadians do then? buy cheap knockoffs from Pakistan? or perhaps they could buy stuff from China? Is such a future too far off?

A Canadian friend of mine was lecturing me on the futility of the battle on Siachen. I listened quietly because to hear a Canadian talk about us wasting time over a useless chunk of ice... is well.. simply too amusing to pass up. I recall Canada's rich history of trading up the Avro Arrow for that piece-of-garbage called the BOMARC and expect that they will shortly do the same.

No my dear Canadian friends, I am not deaf, I am simply ignoring you. You really should not have cut supplies in 1974 - that was a seriously bad choice.

And what is the worst you can do? you already dropped the ball on the Kanishka trial.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Is it time for General Musharraf to go?

I am reading a spate of articles in the press all written by the faux journalists that form the bizarre communication network between the Pakistani Government and the US Government. All these so-called journalists have some sort of press ID card, but also seem to extensively freelance as consultants and advisors to a number of corporate groups in the West. These people seem to have excellent ties with both governments and their travel between the countries is seldom hampered.

First Ahmed Rashid, friend of... never mind.. writes about the "rocky relationship" . Then Najam Sethi responds to the "rocky relationship" which suggest ways in which Gen. Musharraf might be relieved of his resposibilities. Then ofcourse Najam Sethi also responded to the Fund for Peace article on the "Failed State of Pakistan" with the following gem...

Pakistan has reached the point of a necessary strategic paradigm shift in its history. A conflictual model no longer suits its territorial dispensation, given its outlets to the adjacent regions. It no longer needs “strategic depth” to confront anyone; instead, it needs to become alive to the prospects of transit trade across its “narrow” territory. But before that it must exercise control over the territory it owns. Far from ending up as a failed state, it may be the only state in the region with a bright future if — and this is the big IF — the army and political parties can effect functional and stable rules of the game.

We have Air Marshal Ayaz Ahmed Khan, who tells us that

National unity is becoming a mirage because of unbridgeable political and ideological fissures. The rulers and the opposition are at daggers drawn and unable to agree even on vital national issues. Pakistan undoubtedly is faced with leadership problems.

Then we have Simon Tisdall in the Guardian who says

Inside Peshawar's cloistered mosques, high in the rugged passes of the North-West Frontier, and deep in the upholstered opposition salons of Lahore, there is growing consensus it is time for Pervez Musharraf to go.

And to top it all off, we have Hugh Barnes with "Only spies can stop the chaos", a very surprising and bizarre account of his visit to the ISI compound in Rawalpindi and also of the effect that the Pakistan Army's looting of earthquake relief has played in the alienation of Pervez Musharraf.

Mind you, I am not counting what Ayman Al-Zawahiri and other notables say, because we all know that they can be made to say whatever Musharraf asks them say.