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.


At 8:33 AM, Blogger Apollo said...

The Indo-US nuclear deal is a dud, it won't pass. The congress will attempt to pile condition after condition which India won't accept and at somepoint everyone will walk away.so why worry about the non proliferation lobby which controls the media which will scuttle the bill anyway? even if someone wrongly accuses u of stepping on a dog's tail, it is reason good enough for them :)

and i disagree that Ballistic missiles have become obsolete. there is no way any country can defend itself completely against a full scale missile attack. the only way a missile can be neutralised is to take it out on the launchpad for which u need a B-2 or F-117 and if it is launched from a sub? even uncle sam can't do anything about it.

and the ballisitic missile is never launched in solo. it is launched with a host of decoy missiles etc.. leave those tactical details about putting it in beijing's backyard to the competent hands of the Armed forces. it is their job to do that and they will.

The point is our UPA govt's decision to put the Agni-3 test on hold is plain wrong and inexcusable.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Apollo,

Lets assume for a moment that the Indo-US nuclear deal fails. Where will the blame fall?

Yes I agree that the media will blame India for the failure of the deal, because lets face it most media sources are paid off by friends of the Non Proliferation lobby.

However in the real world - the one you don't see on CNN - where trust - above all else - matters the most - the blame will fall on the Bush Adminstration, they will be seen the world over as being people that make promises that they are incapable of keeping.

It is important at this point therefore to not do anything that (in the real world) makes it look like it is GoI's fault that the US Congress voted against the deal.

As regards the Agni system, yes I agree that for the foreseeable future (~ next 15 years) countermeasures systems will remain vulnerable to numbers. But therein my friend lies the rub - India simply does not have the industrial capacity to produce the Agni in numbers much less to deploy it.

This is simply a matter of India's national industrial capacity. No amount of missile testing by DRDO can change that in the next 15 years. We simply do not have enough lathes, mills and drills to produce the quality and quantity of materials required to build and deploy a sizable ballistic missile force.

The Armed forces could in theory be issued dummy missiles to practice deployment strategies on, but that will make them about as competent as the jokers next door.

The only way to ensure that the Indian Armed Forces are indeed competent to be part of a missile based deterrence system is to enhance their participation in the missile testing activity. This will expand their understanding of the complicated workings of these systems. Bear in mind that the average Agni is atleast a hundred times more complicated than the most advanced tank, ship or aircraft in the Indian arsenal. The Armed Forces of India need to be brought up to speed on the working of this technology and that will take time.

If India is not repeat what the superpowers did - i.e. deploy inadequately trained crews with missiles of poor performance at high level alerts (and then spend the rest of the time s*itting bricks about a systems level failure that accidentally sparks a nuclear war) - then the Indian armed forces have to be trained and prepared quite a bit more.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Apollo said...

maverick, it is very simple we need to distringuish what is in our national interest and do whatever it takes to secure it.

If it is in our national interest to have a strategic arsenal of a certain size say 5-10 years from now then we work backwards and get everything that is needed in place from now onward. we get those lathes, machines, drills and train our forces adequately and deploy them. why bother about anything else? why bring in irrelevant arguments when matters of utmost national importance are involved?

At 1:46 AM, Blogger cynical nerd said...


Nations need to do what needs to be done. As far as I know, nothing was written about missile testing on the Indo-US "civil" nuclear agreement.

GoI seems to have spent 1000's of crores on Agni III only to lie in the basement gathering dust. This is a repetition of what Shri PVN Rao did for Agni I.

I don't see how can we successfully test a submarine-based BM without getting the land-based version correct. Heck, the US still performs several tests of its Minutemen tests not to mention the subcritical fireworks.

The non-proliferation community will in any case never support this deal unless it results in CRE.

I'd say we'd rather kill this deal ourselves by sending in a few Agnis. The $40 bn investment planned in buying foreign reactors can then be invested in
- getting the Thorium cycle up and running
- massive solar and windpower generation
- bio-fuels a la Brazil
- and ofcourse those CO2 emitting mega thermal plants.


At 4:26 AM, Blogger mukunda said...

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At 5:52 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I feel is not in our national interests to be blamed for the failure of the Indo-US bill to pass in the US Congress.

It is in our national interests to have a robust economy protected from attack by credible deterrent.

Now I leave it to the reader's imagination what the words "robust" and "credible" mean.

At 6:15 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Cynical Nerd,

We cannot produce any system be it land based or submarine based in quantities required to deter a non-subcontinental adversary.

In the case of the SLBM, the biggest technological hurdle is the underwater launcher itself. This is a completely different regime of research and development than what is done in the testing the Agni.

The Minuteman system tests are more in the way of fine tuning, the Agni is quite a ways off from that. We will have to test the Agni a few hundred times before we can claim that the system is ready for fine tuning.

I have only good things to say about PVNR.

At 6:40 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I am sorry but the software does not seem to support an edit option.

I speak of failure early on because I want to hedge against a sense of disappointment.

The US Congress today is mired in corruption cases. Most US parliaments (i.e. their state legislatures and city councils) are not much better off. In several states, the Governors are facing corruption charges. The entire polity seems to slosh around as undercurrents flowing among the vast pool lobbyists shake it. This is the environment which the Indo-US nuclear deal is trying to navigate.

The lobbyists and the people who pay them are in some sense the real parliament but they operate purely on short-term economic principles. The oil industry is among the biggest backers of the pool of lobbyists. The oil industry reacts negatively to the development of alternative power resources and has been traditionally hostile towards the nuclear sector. India's emphasis on Thorium based fuels does not sit well with them. Even if no one else gets it - they know that Thorium will set India free from the clutches of the international oil market.

The Bush adminstration could in theory navigate a path through this mess. However the adminstration itself is split. Vice President Cheney is generally regarded as be unfavorably disposed towards India and he is believed to be strongly associated with most major players in the oil industry. Vice President Cheney's dislike of India has to do with the manner in which Enron's Dabhol venture fared in India. PMO officials from the NDA have interesting stories about the days that preceeded Enron's declaration of bankruptcy.

Usually if the President of the US promises something, and that too someone with the name Bush says something - well then it is the word of God himself - question it only to the peril of your life. However you may recall that Vice President Cheney was once considered to be presidential material but he was eclipsed by George Herbert Walker Bush. Richard Cheney and George HW Bush went back a long long time, so it seemed okay, but it is unclear to me how precisely Richard Cheney would feel about being second fiddle to another Bush. I do not understand enough about US politics to comment on the balance of power between President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Should the balance tilt in Vice President Cheney's favor - the likelihood of this deal not going through Congress rises dramatically.

Factors like this make a positive prognosis for the passage of the bill difficult. Especially given the declining popularity of the President.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi maverick,
1)agreed to what you have written. But the successful passage of bill in the US congress also hinges on pakistan reacting very negatively.Recently someone mentioned that pakistan is a failed state. This deal is very much in america's security interests. I have tried examining this point but could not succeed much. If someone could point out why deal is so important to USA interests, then I will be grateful.

2) Does anyone want another 9/11 to take place. I feel that long cooperation on several fields will lead to the successful passage in the US congress.This long drawn battle in fact helps both.

3) Meanwhile I am intrigued by the some strange behaviour
a) Bush refusing to disclose full details to US congress. The media was projecting that this deal will allow India to make 50 bombs per annum.This itself has caused such heartburn leading to talk of a sellout.God only knows what will happen if Bush reveals all to the US congress. Come on man, US looked the other side when pakistan was making bombs with Chinese help, proliferating to rouge nations. Will USA not look the other way when we are cooperating with them on several fields with pakistan being most important amongst them.
b)Why did Robert Balckwill meet BJP leaders recently trying assuage them against any unfavourable sections of the nuke deal. It looks as if the BJP leaders have fallen silent after Blackwill's visit.
c) with India agreeing for a possible FMCT(just a talk ,chanackian) interestings will take place at sargodha.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger maverick said...


The deal is in America's interests because

1) It vastly reduces the competition that India might give the US over carbon based fuels. This allows the Americans the maximum possible time to structure their oil addicted economy.

2) The deal firmly puts India on the path towards a thorium based fuel cycle. This goes a long way in ensuring that India's emissions are significantly lower than projected. The shift in India towards clean fuel can be used to leverage China which is less likely to change its fuel utilization pattern on America's urging.

3) It keeps India from entering the nuclear black market for its needs. There are currently too many people on the nuclear black market who dislike the US and unlike the old days when one Khan network was enough to keep control of the trade, today there are simply too many players in the market for the Americans to successfully track. They have to legitimize the nuclear black market and bring people towards a more open trade.

4) America's nuclear industry is in the doldrums. To rescue this industry a cheaper manufacturing base is needed. A technologically skilled population that is not innately hostile to Nuclear Power might provide a way of doing this. Ultimately the US also needs to shift to more eco friendly fuel sources and it has to come up with a way of manageing enormous nuclear waste problem. India's idea of mixing reactor waste with fertile material is the only solution known to this problem.

All Americans that matter have to come around to this point of view. Unless they do the deal will fail at some level. The failure in congress will be an excellent way of gauging the pressures inside Americas polity.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger maverick said...


The FMCT is in India's interests if there is a verification mechanism - without it the idea is meaningless and can be supported with no consequence.

I don't know if all elements of the US government necessarily do not want another 9-11 to happen. It must be borne in mind that in a document called the Project for a New American Century, at least some americans had suggested that a 9-11 style event was necessary to revitalize the economy. So I am not entirely convinced that no American ever wants 9-11 to repeat. There are all sorts of agendas at play here and it is really hard to understand what is going on.

The American cooperation in the international arena is not something that is considered particularly reliable. The American penchant for peddling hype makes it difficult to put faith in most of their representatives. A more difficult problem arises from the fact that the Americans actually believe that they invented the international order. Most Americans who matter are not well versed in history and do not grasp that an existing international order predates the one that the Americans are trying to jam into place. This causes a misperception among many American leaders that they can take arbitrary positions in the international arena and not be held to account for changing them.

It is all a rather complicated process - communicating with the American leadership.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


responding to the post:

1. Pakistan tested the Ghauri 4 times. Russia tested Topol M twice, Bulava the same number of times. The latter two are important because they display a significant leap over previous Russian systems.

2. The Indian Government is in existence to serve the interests of the Indian people. If it tends to answer to American Congress, they're based in the wrong capital.

3. What we do is our business, no one else's - especially when it comes to securing the lives of Indian voters and children.
If the Indian Government cannot articulate to the US Congress that the Agni 3 is specifically for China, and link the Tibet issue to it, I say, the government officials (in question) should resign.

4. The Lasers might be in a great phase of advancement but I dont think they'll make their entry into China fast enough for Agni's to be obsolete. I think you give too much credit to the Chinese.
Besides, if the progress is as you note, there are a lot more countries who will have hundreds of useless missiles. That they're not abandoning them for other weapons speaks a lot, doesnt it?

5. On linking of Agni 3 and the Nuke Deal - the Agni 3 has been ready for testing, since nearly 2 years - the deal only came into being last July. There's more to it than just the deal.

Oh and I share your pessimism of the deal, but on the opposite end - I believe the deal will go through - AFTER more concessions from India.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...

Oh, and before I appear to be too eager a proponent of ballistic missiles - I'm not.

I'd much rather see a Brahmos with range of 3000+km. But, as of now, because of whatever problems New Delhi has with increasing the range of the Brahmos, our only option is the Agni 3.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger mukunda said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:59 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi bangaloreguy,

I don't see a problem in the Government hedging against the failure of the deal in the US Congress. This cancellation is perhaps the most polite way of sending the Bush Administration a signal that we are both aware and concerned about the fate of the July 18 agreement.

The Brahmos will never have a nuclear warhead on it. That violates the INF treaty and our no escalation cause with Pakistan.

The Agni may or may not have anything to do with someone other than China. The point is that testing a missile is seen as part of India's intentions towards its neighborhood. Testing an Agni will certainly upset the Chinese. Today the Chinese have some vague idea that this Indo-US nuclear deal is against China's interests. A test of the Agni will solidify that perception.

The non-proliferation community seems to be setting itself up as the main communicator with China. The enthusiasm with which Robert Einhorn and Henry Sokolski are overtly defending China gives this fact away. The Non-Proliferation community already dislikes the deal for reasons that have nothing to do with China. It works to the Non-Proliferation community's advantage to see India hand them a stick to hit the Indo-US nuclear deal with.

If the Non-proliferation community can successfully project itself as someone who can communicate with China, then they will permanently wedge themselves into the India-China deterrence equation - in the manner they have squeezed themselves into the India-Pakistan deterrence scheme. I need to think of the consequences of this. I am not sure where it will lead.

I don't have that same sense of pessimism about the UPA leadership nor am I affected by this latest round of anti-MKN-itis that is doing the rounds in Delhi. So I can't in good conscience make any allegations that the deal compromises India's security.

Will India be required to make more concessions to get the deal through congress? Yes I suppose it will, but then the US will have to make changes also. I don't worry about this so much. You see if the deal does not make it through Congress, there will be no reason to treat any other offer made by someone with the name Bush. With that - all credibility in US foreign policy will be at an end. This will several orders of magnitude worse than the mess with the Dubai Ports World deal.


I am not sure if I follow you. Please elaborate.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


Sorry, not aware what the INF treaty is, please elaborate.

I wouldnt see a problem if the Agni 3 came up for testing anytime after July '05 - and then the Govt agreed to wait until either the deal was in place - or the brouhaha died. But the Agni came up for testing much earlier. So linking the Agni to the deal is a red herring.

And this red herring can be sustained because our successive governments have cared not to react to anything that threatens our national security.

On the Brahmos - I dont necessarily mean it having a nuke, but an Indian cruise missile having one. Dont quite see either India or Russia agreeing to a jointly produced missile of increased range and nuke carrying capability - violating MTCR in the current climate is not good.

"The point is that testing a missile is seen as part of India's intentions towards its neighborhood."
Yes, and the intention is to tell the neighbourhood, and the world, that India intends to defend its citizens, who elect democratic governments.

Why should the United States back a country that does not intend to secure its own borders and people?

If I may say so, being a great power comes with the responsibility of taking the right choices - even if it upsets some people.

The Non-proliferation "community", as you call them, have been around for what - 30 years now?
So they're not new. Are you saying that in 30 years, our governments are still literally clinging onto some life-raft in dealing with them? After 30+ years, are we still held hostage to the assumptions and lies of the Non-proliferation Ayatollahs, who, in any case were never on India's side - and probably are not going to be so in the predictable future?

At 4:31 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi bangaloreguy,

The INF treaty of 1987 forbids arming cruise missiles with nuclear weapons. Though we are not signatories to the treaty we do respect the sentiments that drove the ban.

If we arm the Brahmos with a nuclear warhead then we will be forcing an escalation with Pakistan. The opportunity to build a nuclear-tipped cruise missile had come in the early nineties in the form of a DRDO UAV project that was dubbed a poor man's cruise missile. The Rao govt. deliberately stamped out that idea. It was simply too destabilizing.

At this point testing the Agni will only invite blame for the failure of the deal to pass the US congress.

India already defends its people. The Agni test only marginally increases any sense of security that people may enjoy. The vast bulk of India's security operations stand to gain absolutely nothing from an Agni test.

There is no such thing as a "Great Power". All that is a psywar staged by some states against their own people. A carefully inserted slant into the media to hide the shortcomings of their national elite. The Indian elite has never subscribed to such fantasy.

We have traditionally always stated that we are merely a great civilization which seeks to find its place in the community of nations. If some nations need to wear a paper hat and be called "Great Powers" as they muddle about the international scene then that is a fiction that I have no problem entertaining. How effective that is in protecting the capital bases key to that nation's influence in the international arena? that is something I have no answer for. We are quite simply the proverbial "meek" that inherit the earth.

I find the show of being a "great power" quite amusing but I have no wish to see India become a part of that particular cabaret troupe.

Like Gandhiji, I prefer an India where the people are confident of their own strength and their own abilities. An India where the government has to periodically massage a missile in public, sounds more like Pakistan to me.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi bangaloreguy,

The non-proliferation community is an established power base in Washington D.C.

This community draws on two major sources for its power:

- The US based energy and defense industry groups which fund the foundations that fund the non-proliferation projects. These projects provide the NPAs with their media pulpits.

- Actors in the nuclear and high-technology black market. These people supply the NPAs with agendas to preach from those pulpits.

In the old days one hand fed the other, i.e. the industrial groups wanted to discourage the development of indigenous technology in third world countries and the black marketeers were keen to charge ridiculous amounts to peddle their crap in the third world. So the NPA came up with a carefully worded propaganda campaign that ensured that legal trade in technology was banned and illegal trade in high-technology products was incentivized. The technology black markets flourished and anyone caught with their hand in the till got away without a single protest from the NP yahoos. The energy companies gleefully rubbed their hands as the high-technology restrictions and the artificially inflated prices in the black market kept the third world from exploring energy alternatives and kept it firmly chained to whatever prices the energy producers chose to dictate to it.

Today this scam is unworkable. The NP community has collected too much dead weight. There are too many people who have begun believing the NP community's propaganda about controlling technology distribution. These people want to see the Industrial groups and their favored black market distributors punished. The NPA leadership knows that this can't be done so they are at a loss to control the true believers.

The industrial groups now find themselves at odds with the black marketeers. They no longer trust the black marketeers and there is considerable fear in D.C. that the Pakistani end of the black market is keen on handing a working weapon to Al Qaida. There is a desire in the industrial groups are worried that these attacks could shock the hypersensitive western financial system forcing corrections that leave them penniless.

The black marketeers are now at odds with the industrial groups. Their is a much maligned profession, and they are slowly getting tired of the harassment that comes with it. The anger that is welling up in the Pakistani black marketeers is amazing. They are seriously considering doing the Americans harm. The black marketeers view themselves in a larger than life way, many of them see themselves as demigods. An ego clash is likely to be very bloody.

The energy lobby is caught in a flux. They are gradually being forced to acknowledge that they have been fools all these years and have with their callous exploitation of global resources endangered the world. However they can't instantly change their resource utilization patterns - they need time to adjust something like 30-50 years before they can change over their plants. In this interval they are looking for new technologies and the ways to implement them. Herein lies the problem - they can't exploit the third world labor market to make cheap transition technologies without allowing the third world access to technology.

The once conveient menage-e-trois of the people with money in the US, the black marketeers and the high priests of Non Proliferation is now increasingly unworkable.

We need to stay as far away from this house of cards as we can. And that my friend is all we are imo doing.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger mukunda said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi maverick,
will have to go through the reply to bangaloreguy about NPA power base.
We are facing a security crisis, GOI has projected it as an energy crisis.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


Did you mean this treaty?

That was to get them off Europe, dont see how that's relevant to us? There are enough countries with nukes on cruise missiles anyway.

Besides, both our dear neighbours are darn good at signing treaties and violating practically all the relevant clauses. I dont see either of them using cruise missiles just for bunker busting.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger maverick said...


We _currently_ do not use a large percentage of oil and natural gas for electricity generation purposes. If we make a decision right now to go in for ONG based generation, then our ONG consumption will spike up. Also for the next 50 years we will not be in a position to cut down our ONG consumption. This will become a major problem for the US. Today the US dominates the oil market as a consumer, and that allows it to dictate the price. Tomorrow if India decides to set up say 15 3GWe ONG fired plants in the next ten years, the India will outpace the US in ONG consumption and that will give India leverage in the ONG market at American expense. This is what the US planners are trying to avoid.

Iran is a test case in this. If India decides to offer Iran something no one else is willing to give it - say a PHWR assembly with a reprocessing plant. India will be able to literally outbid everyone else at the table. Even if this proposed sale never goes through - the Iranians will demand more from western companies seeking to exploit the South Pars field and in doing so it will drive up the price of ONG exploitation.

The US is currently trying to slowly move it economy off its dependence on oil. Most people in the US energy industry acknowledge that this transition will not occur fast enough to possible climatic effects from "anthropogenic" increases in atmospheric CO2. The last thing the Americans need is for countries like India and China to competitively exploit ONG and continue to pollute the world long after the Americans have stopped.

Indo-Russian government to government trade is overground. However there is a no-questions asked side to trade in dual use items, and it is this part of things which involves dealing elements of the Russian black market. The Russian end of the high-tech black market ultimately dances to Americas tune - esp. after the fall of the Soviet Union.

I will reply to the rest of your emails offline. I have been busy with work and unable to get to them. Apologies for the delay.


The context of the INF treaty of 1986-7 suits our situation with Pakistan. In our case no early warning systems are useful as the time of flight to a target is very short. It is not enough time to determine anything about the nature of the event. This makes the situation very very unstable. There could easily be a situation where something is misinterpreted by one side and it sparks a nuclear war.

So to ward against such an eventuality, the Indians and the Pakistanis held a dialogue in the 80s. After this dialogue both sides accepted that neither would mate its warheads to its ballistic missiles. This increased crisis stability in the India-Pak nuclear deterrence regime.

The INF treaty banned the use of ground based nuclear tipped cruise missiles in the European theatre because they rendered the early warning systems useless. Their removal greatly stablized the European theatre against a sudden nuclear escalation.

We have adhered to the principle of avoiding escalations and never suggested that we intend to arm our cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. We have passed up several opportunities to do the same with any number of our DRDO UAV projects.

The Pakistanis in power - acknowledge this reality and consequently maintain a very measured stance on nuclear affairs. The result is that Pakistan's fidelity in communications on nuclear affairs is never in doubt in India.

The internet has changed this to some measure. All manner of Pakistanis, mostly idiots with no concept of what they are blathering have taken to talking about these issues. Perhaps they are taking their cue from the army of nuclear experts that has emerged after the 1998 tests or perhaps their army encourages them to deliberately talk rubbish in the hope of getting positive media coverage. In substance it does not really matter.

The path to escalation is not one that the Pakistanis should feel compelled to explore and should they reach some uncharted fork in the road due to their idle musings they should be made to consider the full consequences of their actions before they undertake another step in the wrong direction.

At 2:33 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


There are 2 different threads here. One is our deterrence vis-a-vis Pakistan another is our deterrence vis-a-vis China.

We cannot compare our situation to the US and Russia's purely because we're all neighbours - and ballitic missile flight times are fairly small compared to what the US and Russian missiles would undertake.

In fact with Pakistan, its negligible - which's why ABMs arent worth sh*t, for India!

In the case of Pakistan -
Now, using a cruise missile instead of a ballistic missile will obviously work towards fewer scenarios of a mistake leading a nuclear holocaust.

Unlike a ballistic missile, we get tons more time with a cruise missile - which ideally should give a better indication of things that can happen - and for people to confer, react.

As for China, they already have nuke tipped cruise missiles, a few Brahmos from ours will not change the balance significantly enough. Considering the amount of firepower they have v/s us.

At 5:56 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Bangaloreguy,

Our situation with Pakistan is comparable to US-USSR nuclear situation in the European theatre where similar questions about the lack of response time were raised. If the Chinese deploy their nuclear weapons on the Tibetan plateau then our situation with them will also have many features that mimic the US-USSR situation in West Germany. In order to defend ourselves we will be forced to target Tibet - a people we have no quarrel with.

A cruise missile can easily be flown in a low altitude profile that evades radar. A cruise missile launcher does not need the elaborate preparation and unusual mobility that a ballistic missile launcher needs. It can operate even in more ordinary surroundings and thus it is very difficult to detect a cruise missile launch. That is why the INF treaty banned all nuclear tipped cruise missiles in the European theatre.

The US-USSR nuclear situation also reflect a number of general features common to these phenomena. These underlying dynamics of nuclear standoffs apply in our cases also.

There was a thread on BR that spoke about these things


it may be worthwhile to look at this thread.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger mukunda said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi maverick,
have cleaned most of my comments in the forum. Sorry if my writings have caused hurt to you.

At 3:34 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


thanks for the link, pretty good discussion there.

My point is, in an Indo-Pak scenario:

Agni/Ghauri(whatever they've named it now) will reach destinations anywhere between 11 and 25 minutes. And once launched, cannot be called off.

A cruise missile, while theoretically undetectable, will, on the other hand give respective goverments a minimum time of 30 minutes to call them off.

Even accidental launches can be called off/destroyed mid-air.

Cruise missiles may not be easy to spot at, but unlike Ballistic missiles, you hardly expect just one of them to be going around - because of their ease, they're generally gonna be in groups - AND for the increased range they cover & payload they carry, they're definitely gonna be much bigger and heavier than the brahmos is currently.

Also, a nuke-tipped cruise missile is gonna infuse a certain level of unpredictability to our nuclear response, isnt it? What would the Pakistanis rather mess with - a nuclear India which tells them when they'll press the button, or one that doesnt?

as for the Chinese, we NEED to have strategic deterrence with them. A nuke-tipped cruise will be a leap in strategic terms, and deter more effectively than before.

btw, are you saying there are no nukes on the Tibetan plateau? I was given to understand some DF21s are already there.

At 8:43 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Mukunda,

I have replied to your email. I am not offended at all - anyway please check your email.

Hi Bangaloreguy,

Intercepting cruise missiles after launch is the stuff of science fiction. The missiles are specificially programmed to avoid radar detection. You would have better luck intercepting an aircraft because it is actually bigger than a cruise missile.

The point I am making is that there cannot be any unpredictability when communicating your nuclear intentions.

>> What would the Pakistanis rather mess with - a nuclear India which tells them when they'll press the button, or one that doesnt?

If the Pakistanis feel we are not being completely on the level with them on our intention to use/not use the nuclear missile - i.e. if they feel that they cannot determine whether we are preparing to launch a nuclear weapon at them or not - then they have no choice but launch their weapons. This is a use or lose scenario for them.

The same applies to the Chinese. Without a way to read our intentions they are left with no choice but to launch their weapons at us.

The exact same thing happens to us if we are unable to read Pakistan's intentions with regards the use of nuclear weapons.

The inability to read your opponents intentions in the nuclear deterrence arena precipitates a breakdown of deterrence. That defeats the whole purpose of having a nuclear deterrent in the first place.

The Chinese do not have any missiles deployed South of Amdo (Qinghai). There are no missiles or nuclear weapons in the T.A.R. where the delivery systems would have the range needed to hit targets in the Gangetic plain.

At 6:46 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


I dont know where you got the idea from, but I never talked of cruise missile interception - if they could be intercepted, they're useless.

What I did say that a cruise missile can be controlled more effectively than a ballistic missile one.

Use it or lose it scenario does not apply here - especially when India is a declared second-strike power.

A Use it or lose it scenario would apply if we have occupied their territory - and on the move - otherwise, there's little point in triggering a war which no one can stop.

I was specifically referring to the nuclear threshhold wrt India. If one's unsure of the nuclear threshold of the enemy, how likely are you to risk a nuclear war - or in crossing the threshhold? Very unlikely.

Its not the ability to read your opponents intentions, but the inability to read what the threshhold is for the intentions to become action which keeps deterrence.

Just ballistic missile preparartions arent the only clues to launches. For the amount of Naval assets the US has, China can always assume that there are preparations on - and launch, but would it? or has it?

Cos there are many other signals that allows one to interpret what's happening.

China doesnt have a use-it or lose-it scenario wrt India - its the other way round.

How do you stress that China doesnt have any nuke-tipped cruise missiles in the Tibetan region? What factors lead you to that conclusion - and why do you assume the factors will fail when it comes to India?

IF you know there are no Chinese nukes in the TAR(as you put it) - then you're wrong on the deterrence question, arent you?

Oh, and, there are quite a few authors who point to China storing nukes in Tibet. Why/how do you say they dont?

At 2:58 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Bangaloreguy,

Until we have guarenteed-second-strike, our No First Use has a very narrow connotation. It simply means that we will not nuke anyone without serious cause. What precisely is "serious cause"- I cannot say - I can say however that we have no intention of sitting around waiting to be nuked.

A cruise missile cannot be reprogramed in flight. Once launched the profile is adjusted to evade radar so there is no question of interception. If you cannot detect a launch there is no question of countermeasures. The US USSR standoff had that benifit the launch of the ICBMs could be detected and countermeasures could be effected on the US side to determine whether a missile had been launched or not. This room does not exist with a cruise missile as we simply cannot detect a launch.

Intention is a crosslinking of action and thought. If you cannot read the intention - deterrence fails.

I do not wish to comment on how the Americans and Chinese read each other's intentions.

Read the authors claiming that there are nukes in Tibet carefully. They all say that the weapons are stored in Amdo. There are no nuclear tipped missiles on the plateau.

How precisely this is verified at the GoI level, I do not want to get into. Lets just say that the Mavericks do all kinds of things.

> IF you know there are no Chinese nukes in the TAR(as you put it) - then you're wrong on the deterrence question, arent you?

I am not sure I follow this, please elaborate.

At the present time India and China do not have nuclear weapons pointed at each other.

At 2:42 AM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...


Hadnt seen your reply. btw, if you'd rather not discuss some details in here, would mail do?

While, I'd tend to agree that we'd not sit around waiting to be nuked, I'm not convinced that anything other than NBC attack will call for a nuclear response. We've always kept our "commitment" to international law/ our own declared policies pretty much thru our independence days till now. I dont quite see how large chunks of our territory can be taken away. So an NBC is the only relevant scenario, imo.

A cruise missile cannot be reprogramed in flight.

I'm not saying it can be. I'm saying it can be destroyed mid-flight.

If you cannot detect a launch there is no question of countermeasures.

Intention is a crosslinking of action and thought. If you cannot read the intention - deterrence fails.

Yes, but surely, intention cannot be solely determined by whether there are nuke tipped cruise missiles or not.

I do not wish to comment on how the Americans and Chinese read each other's intentions.

How precisely this is verified at the GoI level, I do not want to get into. Lets just say that the Mavericks do all kinds of things.

Precisely. A government does not have just X as its verifying criteria for missile launch or preparations for missile launch/capability.

Which's what I've been trying to stress.

What I meant to say when I said

"IF you know there are no Chinese nukes in the TAR(as you put it) - then you're wrong on the deterrence question, arent you?"


If you know whether Chinese weapons are not in a certain place - then you obviously have a mechanism to verify/gather that piece of info.
The same is true whether for Pakistani or Indian weapons.

So why the objection to cruise missiles?

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