Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A view of the situation in Pakistan by Subramanyam Sridharan

An old friend from the disreputable forum, Subramanyam Sridharan, who has a great interest in Pakistan, had the following to say about the situation there.

Pakistan finds itself once again at cross-roads and predictably it seems to take the road that will lead to one more fall in the series of falls in its chequered history. One may ask what’s new as Pakistan has been simply lurching from one crisis to a more serious another for all its years of existence? Some fear that this time, the fall could be far too serious to recover from. What is it that this time it makes some so nervous, unlike before ? Their fear is the dramatic and implosive collapse of the State itself. Earlier falls were cushioned and though they hurt, they were not fatal. There are also others who believe that though a fall looks imminent, there is no need to fear the worst and like the cat of nine lives, Pakistan will somehow survive though considerably weakened. For them, the scenario of an exploding Pakistan leaving behind a black hole is still farther away. Let us analyze what is happening inside Pakistan today.

The State of Pakistan has been propped up by four pillars since its birth. These have been the feudalistic elites, the Islamists, the Army, and the Government of the United States (GotUS). Let us see how each one of them is contributing to the downfall of Pakistan and this would determine the extent of the disaster about to befall Pakistan.

Even a secular-at-heart Jinnah used the Islamists whenever he needed and the feudalistic elites have continued this policy. While the Deobandi clerics opposed the secession of Pakistan from India for their own reasons, they jumped into the bandwagon when they saw an opportunity and soon hijacked the State for their own narrow vision. Slowly but steadily they gnawed at the base of the State creating situations that in turn strengthened their hold on the masses and governance. They started with the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 over the furious opposition from a then fairly significant minority community and thus set the stage for theocracy; they then started the anti-Ahmedi riots in 1953 apostasizing that community. The feudalistic elites of Pakistan are also represented in the top echelons of the Pakistan Army and even a mildly religious Field Marshal Ayub Khan had to turn to the Islamists to defeat Fatima Jinnah in 1964. In the 70s, a secular socialist, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto “appeased” the Islamists by declaring Islam as the state religion, ex-communicated the Qadianis, announced Friday as the weekly holiday, changed Red Cross to Red Crescent, ordered closure of all restaurants during the holy month of Ramadan, convened the Heads of States of all Islamic countries in Lahore in 1974 and anointed himself as the foremost leader of the Ummah. It was also the same Z.A. Bhutto who coined the term “Islamic Bomb” for his proposed nuclear arsenal and the brand of socialism that he wanted to implement as “Islamic Socialism”. Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s period is too well known to be recalled, for Islamizing the entire country and future generations including the then only surviving functional institution, the Pakistani Armed Forces. In the aftermath of Gen. Zia’s assassination, when Benazir Bhutto took over, she only more vigorously implemented many of Zia’s policies like the terror in Afghanistan and Kashmir as she once again turned to the Islamists for supplying the cannon fodder for her pet projects. Nawaz Sharif, who followed Benazir, was a protégé of Gen Zia anyway and his desire for a caliphate with himself as a caliph were behind all the support he extended to the mushrooming terrorist organizations. By this time, Pakistan had become the centre of gravity for all Islamic terrorism from Philippines to Bosnia including Indonesia, Myanmar, India (of course), Afghanistan, China, Chechnya, Uzbekistan etc. The continued winking by the US, which had the greatest influence on Pakistani Army and Government, emboldened ISI to target the US itself through its proxy, the Al Qaeda and the rest is history. This preamble to the history of terrorism spawned by Pakistan is to set the context for the current status. Every ruler in Pakistan, including the redoubtable Quaid or the powerful military dictators, had to dance to the tune of the Islamists in the past sixty years. It is unclear if the feudalistic elites of Pakistan truly comprehend the costs of their fraternization with the Islamists.

The callous attitude of the feudal elites allowed the Islamists to gain ground politically and achieve respectability through a political outfit came about in mid-2002 when the newest military dictator, Gen. Musharraf, gave a form to the mullahs and Islamists through the entity of MMA. The ISI enabled MMA to secure majority in NWFP and share power in the Sind and Balochistan. It is no wonder therefore that lawlessness, which used to be confined to FATA, has now totally taken over NWFP and the Islamists have imposed Talibanism in the entire province. Effectively, NWFP is an independent Islamic unit within the somehow-still-federal Pakistan, with the federal government having very little control there. Gen. Musharraf therefore decided to make a virtue out of necessity by entering into deals with the various Islamist terrorist factions there much to the chagrin of those countries which have contributed to the ISAF across the Durand line. This was done to protect the honour and dignity of the Pakistani Army which was beginning to lose men in large numbers in operations there against the Al Qaeda terrorists. The Islamist middle level officers of the army forced Gen.Musharraf to take this line.The emboldened Islamists, who had assiduously prepared the ground over several decades through such fundamentalist organizations as Tableeghi Jamaat and the madrassahs, are now spreading far and wide within Pakistan. The Lal Masjid episode, where AK-47 and stick wielding Taliban men and women abduct the police and generally dictate to a cowering administration in the capital of the Islamic citadel, their forced ban on selling music CDs and videos right in the heart of Pakistan, their fatwa against Nilofer Bakhtiar ultimately resulting in her losing the party position and ministership, the killing of the Punjab woman minister for Social Welfare, Zille Huma Usman recently are pointers to the strength of the Islamist lobby today. The inability of Gen. Musharraf to alter the Hudood and Blasphemy laws, in spite of his promise to the contrary, his failure to alter the curricula followed by the madraasahs and even mainstream schools, and his benign handling of terror chiefs such as Hafeez Saeed, Masood Azhar, Qari Saifullah etc. are proof that the jihadi Islamists have deep roots. Look at the Islamist credentials of somebody like Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the President of PML-Q, on which party’s existence democracy is said to be functioning in Pakistan. He negotiated, on behalf of the State of Pakistan, with the fiery Lal Masjid cleric and ended up doing the kar-seva for the new mosques the Islamists are demanding ! The Pakistani Minister for Religion, Mr. Ijazul Haq, the well known fundamentalist hardliner, openly admitted to having helped the Lal Masjid cleric escape the police who caught him red handed in arms smuggling. It appears that with the elections approaching (however sham they could be, they still need to be held to escape censure from Western allies), Gen. Musharraf is keeping all options open to keep himself in power by pandering more and more to the fundamentalists, especially with the rumblings being heard nowadays among the lotas of PML-Q. Benazir has raised several times, the alarm of creeping Talibanization in the country and even Nawaz Sharif has spoken about this. The Taliban have the same religious outlook as the Wahhabi Saudis and the recent mediation of the Imam-e-Kaaba and the Saudi ambassador in the Lal Masjid issue only portends more Saudi type indoctrination in Pakistan. It is well known how Saudi funding and the understanding between Zia-ul-Haq and King Fahd of KSA led to the spread of wahhabism in Pakistan in the 80s. Thus, Musharraf’s ruse of using the Imam of the Kaaba to handle the Lal Masjid situation may indeed lead to more troubles. It also shows that even a powerful military chief and the President of Pakistan is unable to take on the mullahs. Even a hardline strategic analyst like Ms. Shireen Mazari, who otherwise defends the jihadists eloquently, has been vocal against this menace because Talibanization has even begun to affect the normal day-to-day life of the privileged elite. When both Gen. Musharraf as well as the Opposition leaders talk about the certainty of Talibanization if they respectively do not come to power, it proves that Pakistan will be more and more Talibanized whatever the outcome of the elections. The current political situation is terribly chaotic. The leading opposition parties, PPP of Ms. Bhutto and PML of Nawaz Sharif are unable to forge a strong alliance for historic reasons. The conglomeration of various parties that constitute the ARD had never been able to project unity. Pres. Musharraf has cleverly driven a wedge in opposition unity by winding up a few corruption charges against Ms. Bhutto. The opposition unity is therefore fractious. The only two real contenders to the gaddi at this stage are Gen. Musharraf and Ms. Bhutto. While the General has by his actions (or is it inactions ?) ever since assuming power has clearly favoured the jihadist Islamists, Ms. Bhutto, in her earlier two avatars as Prime Minister acted similarly. She has also shown the propensity to talk more sensibly while out of power and do the very opposite while in power. For his part, Nawaz Sharif is an overt Islamist having wanted to introduce ordinance for establishing a caliphate in 1998. Gen. Musharraf has recently warned of Talibanization of Lahore and Karachi. The oft-repeated cliché that democracy will root-out terrorism in Pakistan is therefore misplaced because most of the society, including their top leaders, there believes in fundamentalist extremism. The fundamentalists are therefore certain to become more powerful irrespective of the ensuing elections. The coming election will therefore irreversibly establish the supremacy of the Islamists.

The second pillar that seemingly supports the State is the Army. Many have started saying that the Army is a parasite on the economy of Pakistan and the Generals are having a gala time in the Praetorian state. The recent book “Military Inc” by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa dissects the military-business nexus that has paid enormous dividends down the decades to the men in khakhi (lest I be termed a male chauvinist, I hasten to add there are few women in positions of power who can enjoy similar fruits). The President general Musharraf has showered on them such positions as Vice Chancellors, CEOs, Ambassadors, Administrators etc to buy their support and also dangle the carrot to those in Army’s top echelons today. However, what is rotten is that the Army has been on an irreversible path of fundamentalism for quite a number of years now. Of course, nothing more can be expected of an army whose motto includes jihad. People like Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, Mirza Aslam Beg, Javid Nasser, Hameed Gul have played a leading role in the Islamization process. In the assassination attempts against Gen. Musharraf, dozens of middle level officers from the Army and Air Force were implicated and many have since been executed. As recently as Sep. 2006, several young PAF officers were arrested for planning to kill Gen. Musharraf using rockets. While the middle level officers have an Islamist’s grouse, the top level officers have another, against the CJP in particular for his suo motu actions. They want to make a horrible example of the CJP so that others would not question their actions in future. The current crisis involving the CJP is therefore, one between the Army and intelligence agencies on the one hand and the CJP on the other. This view is strengthened by the PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain terming it explicitly so and also by the presence of the intelligence chiefs at the President’s Camp office where the CJP was summoned and asked to resign by the President who himself was in full military regalia. The recent Corps Commanders’ meeting which requested strict action to be taken against those who spoke ill of the Army (and used pretty strong language at that) lends further credence to the involvement of the Army in the judicial crisis because the CJP is supposed to have been critical of both the Army and the intel agencies. The service chiefs have also supported Gen. Musharraf in the latest National Security Council meeting. In effect, the Army has given an ultimatum to Gen. Musharraf to act or else and the General will, in all likelihood, resort to strong measures (especially with the support of the US as detailed below) and this is certainly going to lead to a lot of violence in the charged and deeply divided atmosphere of today. With the ‘holy cow’ Army coming under increasing influence of the jihadist Islamists on the one hand, and critical scrutiny from the minority intelligentsia, their behaviour could be irrational in future. In any case, they want to further tighten their grip on the country.

The role of the GotUS, the fourth pillar, has been, as usual, dubious. Following rules of statecraft which demand that country’s interests be placed above anything else, GotUS has been a consistent supporter of the Pakistani Army rulers and Gen. Musharraf is no exception even at this late stage. Recently, Nicholas Burns lent strong support to Gen. Musharraf even as the latter was saying that he could use ‘extra-constitutional methods to retain power’ but expected the General only to do more for the US. This kind of blind support from the Ayub days onwards has been the standard refrain of the GotUS, leading to the frustration of the more democratic aspirants of power. The close linkages established between the top levels of the two armies have always permeated the political corridors of the Foggy Bottom. Gen. Musharraf will therefore be emboldened to act irrationally invoking the ‘doctrine of national necessity and interests’. His depiction of “deluge after Musharraf” has the Foggy Bottom worried and the GotUS may not really rock the Musharraf boat during its lame duck period.

So, while Musharraf might yet win a third term (remember he has taken oath twice so far in a perfidious act to continue in power), and while there could be a lot of uncertainty regarding elections, one thing is for sure. A nuclear-armed, Islamic Jihadi terrorism sponsoring Pakistan is rapidly sliding into more chaos and is losing control of itself irretrievably.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hint Hint!!

If there is nothing for India to do there... then Sahab has better things to do with his time.

He does not want to add to anyone's troubles nor does he want to be seen as eye candy for the paparazzi. He can easily get his photo taken with any number of celebrities in India.

Hint... Hint...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Fast Breeder: NPA Strategery

In the NPA fantasy view, the fast breeder is a weapons production facility.

To understand the root of this fantasy view, you have to grasp that in the US, an astoundingly large number of scientists have devoted their lives to building weapons. Every single item of their genius has been enslaved by a war machine that constantly churns out a new and devastating weapon each day. So it becomes very difficult for such people to think that anything does not have a weapons use.

The NPA closely associate with the nuclear weapons community and to them all nuclear activities are essentially weapons related and because America carried out nuclear weapons related activities under the guise of civilian research and funded critical weapons related sectors under innocuous budget headers... India "must be doing the same thing". There is a natural tendency in this community to over project the weapons angle to everything.

The American intelligence community as a whole seems less prone to this especially these days... perhaps there is some memory of the failure of Sept 11 and the more recent failure to adequately examine the Iraqi WMD evidence? who knows... but it seems all too easy in the case of India to use the suggestion of WMD activities by India to get IAEA inspectors in there and we all know these IAEA missions are fig leaf for intelligence collection activities by the US.

In theory it is possible to transmute anything into anything else, however it is simply not possible to this economically. India's breeder reactors are an attempt to get an idea of what can be done economically. This is the only information worth protecting there.

The US currently lags the world in civilian nuclear technology. Though it is many light years ahead of the world in making things like nuclear weapons, it has to import breeder technology and fissile material refining technology. There is considerable interest in the US to find out what India has figured out in field of economical breeder operations and despite all that you may want to believe about Americans, they will not hesitate to copy India's technology and mass produce it. India lags the world in mass production, otherwise we would have hundreds of nuclear reactors and breeders by now... and if the Americans get their hands on it, they will deprive India of markets.

Please understand, India can compete with US in certain fields and it is impossible of anyone in India, even the most foreign educated economist to ignore this. This is why every article on the "Rise of India and China" in the lay press in the West speaks with such an obvious sense of alarm.

In Iraq, the WMD allegation was used to gain the US intelligence agencies access to Iraq. When the agencies could find no evidence of WMD production. The US knew it was safe to invade Iraq. The international inspection regime was used to get the US a way to securing it interests.

It is not different in the case of the fast breeders, only the interests are not about seizing India's oil. It is about seizing the fruits of India's intellectual exertion.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Elephant Analogy

In the jungle, the Elephant merrily goes about it way. It does not harm other creatures despite the fact that it has enormous size and strength. It is a vegetarian that largely lives absorbed in itself and its search for food and I suppose its search for enlightenment or perhaps where to take its next mud bath. Honestly I don't really know what goes on in an Elephant's mind, I have never had the change to sit and talk to one.... but anyway the point is that the Elephant does its own thing and doesn't seem to be constantly seeking to change the jungle order or harass others.

The only time that an Elephant does something terrible is when someone tries to get between the Elephant and what it wants. Then too it helps to bear in mind that the Elephant isn't doing anything substantially different from what another animal would do in such a situation - only given the Elephant's sheer size, even the slightest shift in its mood results in a devastating impact on the fools who get in its way. A most undesirable outcome from the perspective of the jungle order is if there is an Elephant on the rampage. (Actually in a place called Tezpur angry elephants have been known to play a most undersirable and economically damaging game of "tip-a-mig" or even pick fights with entire rows of innocently parked jaguars)

There are some who value an Elephant for its tusks or simply as trophies for their hunting lodges, and they come up with elaborate hunting strategies to shoot an Elephant. Some people want to catch one and tame one, to make it do all manner of things. This really isn't a smart thing to do in the wild... you are better off messing about with those bred in captivity.
It is all fine to say you have an Elephant gun, most people don't know what it is like to actually load an Elephant gun, so if you miss... a straight fight between you and an Elephant that really doesn't like you... is not something you want. If you have missed... run.. run as fast as you can... and hope the Elephant doesn't get you. Honestly, you might do well to turn the gun on yourself at that point and yes then too... don't miss.

In the jungle of international relations, India is the Elephant. India is foraging for energy, in the jungle when an Elephant is looking for food, you really don't want to get in its way.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The real deal with the NPT

In India the NPT is seen as a clever ruse created by the US to give it a final say on nuclear affairs. Per the Indian perception the US has floated a vast amount of propaganda to secure itself a moral high ground in the world of nuclear affairs and from this position of altitude in the global order, it secures its interests in the global nuclear arena. As a result of this, the Americans can do whatever they want, and no one is going to question them.

The NPA are the guardians of this strategy. Their approach to other nations seeking to change their place in the nuclear pecking order is to shove the NPT in their face and then use percieved violations of the NPT as grounds for leverage against them.

The Chinese have turned this strategy on its head. They have violated the NPT and used the threat of more violations to get the Americans to sign off on whatever changes the Chinese wanted made to the global order. As the Chinese have evolved this approach over many years, and because the Chinese approach does not directly conflict with American claim to moral supremacy over them, the NPA have developed a way of handling Chinese behaviour. They have invented a language of absurdity, a network of lies to pretend that the Chinese have done nothing wrong in the quest for leverage. This allows the NPA to pretend that nothing is wrong with the NPT.

The Indian approach is very different. The Indians do not violate the NPT as they are not bound by it. They do not subscribe to the idea of American moral leadership of the global nuclear agenda as they do not think the Americans really want to see a nuclear weapons free world. The absence of any steps by the US towards nuclear disarmament speak volumes for their lack of enthusiasm. The Indians are happy to give the Americans an illusion of dominance as long as India gets what it wants from the international order. Alternatively if India is denied what it wants, India will simply point out where the NPT is obviously broken and take away the NPA ability to pretend that nothing is wrong with the NPT.

The NPA are free to carve out another NPT without India's advice on how to do things but that will meet the exact same fate as this one.

The India US nuclear deal negotiations

Regardless of what is being thrown about on the negotiating table currently. India has done everything reasonable in its power to convey its requirements for the deal and US can't meet them.

I do not think the Bush Administration has the political capital necessary to change the Hyde act nor does it have the will to undertake another ardous trek across the political landscape of America to hunt for more political strength. That is a tapped out resource and there is nothing the Admin has to offer right now to the American people.

As things stand today in the US, the economy is addicted to cheap carbon based energy. A petro-dollar recycling scheme on a global scale ensures that the effective price of carbon energy is very very low in the US. Given this background, the Carbon fuels industry enjoys staggering political power inside the US. It is impossible for the US Government to do anything that directly or indirectly breaks this carbon fuels mafia's hold on power. Additionally key families in the American nomenklatura are heavily invested in the future of carbon energy. They are not going to help India break its dependence on carbon fuels. It simply does not make economic sense to them.

After 1945, the US has relied on its "dominance" in the arena of nuclear affairs to deflect the possibility of having a Hiroshima/Nagasaki on American soil. After bringing the nuclear horror into this world, the last thing they want is to get nuked themselves. This imperative remains unchanged and at the heart of this dominance is the supremacy of the American inspired NPT norm system. Irrespective of how absurd the words of the NPT gospel may seem, overt subservience ot the gospel is essential to keeping up the illusion of America's moral dominance over the world of nuclear affairs. The roots of the NPA tree go very deep.

An enlightened leader in the US could have navigated this dangerous landscape, however none presents with adequate political capital. The closest thing we had to this was President Bush, and the failure of his administration to do anything about this leaves India staring at the prospect of a complete absence of political security for its trading arrangements with the US. Please understand, some officials in the PMO and elsewhere may feel a sense of optimism, but the bulk of India's national security community will only greet such such developments with their natural pessimism. This is India you are dealing with, our pessimism makes hobbes wet his pants.

The failure of these negotiations will impose an immediate political cost on India and the US. In India the government of PM Manmohan Singh will be seen to have mismanaged ties with the US. This charge of mismanagement is a very very very serious one in India. In the present political climate it will stick quickly, and it will hurt badly. In the US, though there will a relatively smaller immediate sense of political loss, there will be a much longer lasting adverse impact on Indo-US ties. In India the US will be seen as nation that has picked up the nasty Pakistani habit of making Presidential level commitments that they have no way of keeping. In effect India will end up hoisting the US on a far higher moral pedestal than the makers of its dominance strategy ever intended for it to be on, and in doing so it will effectively hollow out any claims of American moral dominance. America will find itself wearing Pakistan's shoes in Indian eyes, perhaps the most horrible way in which this equal-equal thing could have rebounded.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

India's Reprocessing Activities and Power needs

There was a request for a clarification on India's interests in these matters, I am attempting an answer, this is by no means complete but rather a first pass.

India has pursued reprocessing as part of its three stage closed fuel cycle program. The original conception of this program suggested that spent fuel rods containing Reactor grade Plutonium would be reprocessed. The separated Plutonium would then be burned along with Thorium in a fast breeder reactor. The spent fuel rods from the fast breeder would be reprocessed to recover Uranium-233, which in turn would be burnt with more Thorium in another breeder reactor. The spent fuel from this breeder reactor would be reprocessed to extract more Uranium-233 which would be fed back into the chain. This idea has undergone several evolutions as India's material scientists, engineers and physicists have taken a deeper look at issues. To date we can find no reason why this is unfeasible. Though conceptualised in the early 50s, this three stage closed loop fuel cycle even today is still far ahead of its time. In fact it represents the only efficient resource utilisation idea that is even discussed in the industry today.

In addition to this, India has demonstrated the ability to carry out a small amount of reprocessing aimed at producing plutonium for its weapons. India does not currently make weapons from reprocessing imported fuel. At the present time, India's nuclear arsenal is maintained at levels commensurate with the needs of a credible minimum deterrent. The nature of the deterrent may evolve to keep with the international climate but at the current stage India has no intention to reprocess spent fuel into weapons.

To be absolutely clear, if current pattern of electricity consumption is used to project electricity usage into the future, then even with the three stage cycle Indian reactors will produce only about 20-25% of the country's energy needs. This may appear as an argument against nuclear power, but it isn't. The key point here is that a serious pursuit of the nuclear option reduces India's reliance on carbon fuels, and even more importantly keeps India's high technology sector alive and kicking!

Today electricity usage is highly inefficient. The distribution grids are hopelessly lossly and average home appliances which consume a substantial amount of electricity are ridiculously inefficient. Barring heating and airconditioning, a majority of residential electricity consumption can run off a low voltage, low current line. If there is a shift towards the use of low voltage, low current appliances, it is very plausible that domestic electricity consumption will decline precipitously. Very preliminary tests run in developed countries show that it is possible to reduce the amount of electric power consumed by factors of three or so. Assuming the residential demand accounts for about 50% of the projected demand, a reduction in that demand by a factor of three will make it possible to significantly decrease India's utilisation of carbon fuels.

Capping the utilisation of carbon fuels at the present level will permit us to put into place a number of carbon emission control measures and limit the possibility of global warming. Additionally the demand for low power grids will enable the fuller utilisation of other renewable sources of energy. As you all know renewable sources like wind or solar power or even biogas have limited generation capacity, it is very difficult to build plants that produce in excess of a few megawatts of power and production is intermittent. However if you only consume a few watts per house, then a power source like this could easily be used to supply a neighbourhood on a small local grid. This would allow us to stay away from the expensive and lossy high power grids currently in use. A concurrent shift in the pattern of energy utilisation in the transportation sector is not entirely out of the realm of possibility, hybrid technology demonstrates that it is possible to design something that has a far smaller carbon footprint.

There is another imperative towards reduction of carbon fuels usage. Today the bulk of India's population relies on coal and firewood for energy. Without these in most places there would be no way to cook food. The search of coal and firewood takes up a large portion of a day for India's poor and yes there are well over 250 million of them! Little children leave school and go looking for firewood instead! The ecological and human cost of this relatively disorganised exploitation of forests and minerals is staggering! We simply have to provide alternatives to avoid an ecological catastrophe.

In order to achieve any of these reductions in carbon fuel utilisation or even to provide alternative means of energy generation, India will need a very active high technology development sector. That in sum, is what the game is all about. Can we make this nuclear deal in such a way that it does not cripple out ability to carry out the research we want? Ofcourse foreign interests will always want us to be subservient to their economic desires, but that doesn't mean we flop over on our backs and let them have their way.. does it?

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Pokhran test of 1974 and other issues

I was surfing the disreputable forum and I found a reference to the first test of the PNE at Pokhran in 1974.

The PNE was an implosion device made with Pu separated from research reactors at Trombay.

We did not "enrich" Plutonium, i.e. separate Pu-239 from Pu-240. This was technologically beyond our (or anyone else's) capability at the time.

The American anger over India's actions stems mostly from the manner in which India defies American authority in a highly studied fashion.

It is vital that all Indians understand that Americans want to be on top of the world. They have trouble conceptualising America as "just another nation".

One of the things that sets the US apart in the community of nations, tragically is that it is the only nation that has actually used nuclear weapons. At the time that American policymakers decided to use the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were keen to end the war with Japan on their terms. In a rush of short term thinking they neglected to fully comprehend the long term consequences of their action.

There were two unavoidable consequences of the American decision to use the nuclear bomb.

Firstly, the Americans showed the world that the power of the Atom could be repeatably unleashed to cause destruction on an unimaginable scale. This was the biggest and greatest of secrets and releasing it to mankind meant that everyone across the world would see attempt to duplicate it. Proliferation was born on that terrible instant.

Secondly, the Americans proved that you could actually use Atomic weapons. You could actually come up with a set of justifications and quite naturally convince even the sanest of men and women that the use of such a terrible weapon was inevitable.

After 1945, the American national security psyche was dominated by an invisible fear: the fear that the aforementioned realities that they had themselves demonstrated would be used to harm America.

To hedge against the possibility of a nuclear armed state using the weapon on a US target, the US invested heavily in the philosophy of deterrence. Using its access to carbon fuels, it refined large quantities of Uranium and Plutonium and made them into bombs. Any nation that threatened to use these weapons against the US would face the prospect of assured and unacceptable retaliation.

The American idea of assured and unacceptable retaliation relied on a numerical calculation. This was understandable as technology was primitive and one could not guarentee that a bomb would actually make to the target and there was always some possibility of failure and the US had to be able to project nuclear force in numbers that the adversary would find sufficiently scary. In order to deter a nation with 10 nuclear weapons the US would require atleast 100 of its own. If there were a 100 nations with 10 nuclear weapons each, the US would need atleast a 10000 weapons to deter them all. This automatically generated a cap on the number of nations that would have nuclear weapons as the US could not be expected to economically sustain an ever expanding arsenal.

The only way to effectively build a barrier to states weaponising was to control the flow of nuclear technology itself - even the peaceful variety as all technology is essentially fungible. The only way to control the size of the arsenals of percieved adversaries was to push for control over fissile material.

It is impossible to craft such a global order without a systematic effort to seize the moral leadership of the world.

However, if you use nuclear weapons to destory a city (a "mixed target" as the committee called it), to kill innocent women and children as they sleep in their beds, it becomes nearly impossible for your claim of moral leadership to have any credibility.

In order to make your claim seem credible you have to put on an elaborate show of how you are serious about being the moral leaders of this world. You have to put on a fairly loud racket that makes people forget what you really did in the past and focus on what you want them to do in the future.

People like Mahatma Gandhi, the masters of "moralpolitik", saw through this show instantly and they weren't going to forget anything.

It is this aspect of India, the way in which it very delicately and implicitly with the barest of exertions holds out a challenge to the US's claims of moral leadership in the nuclear arena, that angers the US the most.

All the economic justifications of this matter are completely orthogonal to the moral aspects of this. I would even argue that the almost unbearable dependence on carbon fuels is a consequence of the single minded pursuit of this moral agenda.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The NSG and games therein.

This is how I see it.

The NSG and others like it are a technology control cartel. The IAEA is a forum for airing views or exchanging on how the cartel should function most efficiently. The functioning of the cartel is dictated by the rules of economics and by the flow of information via the IAEA.

Can the NSG be used to scuttle the deal? yes but only to the extent that the IAEA can be used to provide information that enhances the NSG's ability to control technologies critical to the trade. If the IAEA's information points to the possibility of monetary gains from a relaxation of NSG restrictions, then the NSG will find it hard to obstruct anything.

The NPT and its flagbearers are nothing more than a bunch of psy warriors whose job is to sugar coat the cartels naked lust of control. That is all.

The State Department is obsessed with the idea of leverage through norms. This works best as long as the norms can be imposed without any real effort or cost. If there is a cost associated with imposing the norms, then one has to balance it with the percieved gains. Remember the cost is real and immediate, an out of pocket expense, the gain can be virtual. The more virtual the gain, the less alluring will be the cost of imposing a norm.

China can make trouble, so what else is new? Do they really want to hand over more missiles and bombs to Pakistan? Given how unstable the situation there is, can this be a good idea? If the Chinese go and give Pakistan nuclear weapons with the sole aim of punishing India, will the Pakistanis feel keen to restrain the terrorists in Xinjiang? what incentive will they have to do that? clearly China needs Pakistan more than they need China?

Okay what about Iran? China wants oil from Iran. I suppose you can pay the Iranians with nuclear technology, but... Will the Pakistanis feel happy if the Chinese transfer something to the Iranians directly? something that might cause Pakistan to face another nuclear armed adversary on its western border? I mean you do realise that Pakistan bills itself as the great transit economy? Then there is the other question of why pay the Iranians with nuclear technology when what the Iranians really want is more petroleum refining technology? Which is more profitable? Nuclear technology to Iran or petroleum refineries?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Why did the ATV take so long?

Again on the disreputable forum, the very same person has this to say,

On the ATV issue, funnily a lot of what Shiv Aroor says is actually true. It is a fact that AEC initially said that they could make a reactor in a juffy!

No they did not say that.

They said that if sufficient enriched uranium was available, it is possible to design a reactor that met almost any requirements. Enriched Uranium reactors tend to have the most amount of power to weight. Making enriched Uranium reliably and in sufficient quantities, in a technology denial regime is a completely different prospect.

The DAE's comments were made when the NPT's sanctions had not come into place.

Once the sanctions hit, the DAE's time was completely consumed by the effort required to keep the commercial reactor program going. The natural uranium fueled CANDUs became the focus of all the activities and the Uranium enrichment was deprioritised. Though some strides were made in Uranium enrichment, by and large the DAE made it very clear to anyone who was willing to listen that Uranium enrichment was not a level where it could be free from pressures on the import of technology.

One does not know whether the DAE considered alternative schemes for high power to weight reactors, for example the liquid metal high temperature reactors which were successfully used in many russian submarines. However it must be pointed out that such reactors were far beyond India's capability to build at the time. They were far ahead of their time in Russia itself!

The Navy did not know what it wanted in terms of a power plant. They were keen to copy existing designs and there were several unrelated delays on their side as well. I stress this is not unusual, India's submarine arm is one of the newest armed services and there was a lot that we in India simply did not know about submarine operations.

A submarine launched missile platform that could carry an actual nuclear warhead... well that was another story as well. That was another extremely hard project, purely on a technological basis. Yes we could done some clowning around and strapped a pop out skid to launch a missile from, the Americans and the Russians did that for the first generation boats, but that would have been more than simply useless, it would have been downright dangerous. If we had lost a sub to that kind of antic, the public criticism over the loss of life would have been staggering.

In short when the Navy came up with desire for nuclear sub, it lacked the understanding of what it took to actually operate one, many Navy people did not (and still do not) grasp that the operational part of a nuclear deterrent cannot be built from imported platforms and systems and no one in the country knew how to make a submarine or make a missile that could be fired from a submarine. The Navy can be credited for making a very far sighted decision and coming up with a path breaking course for India's technology sector, but the rest of India... for them this was just a bridge too far.

Fortunately for India, the Navy leadership responded very positively to the feedback from the rest of national security community and modified their aims. The Navy did not get bogged down in the ATV project but went ahead to work with national institutions to build a number of other platforms that enhanced its actual technological capabilities in apparently small but extremely meaningful ways. The great "blue water" expansion of the Indian Navy took place in this period and today the Submarine arm is simply stunning.

The ATV project is underway, it will be ready when it will be ready. There is loads else to do right now. This was the attitude taken by the Indian Navy and that is in my opinion the best thing anyone in their position could have done. The DAE and DRDO for its part focussed on subsystem development and let the Navy work out what it wanted out of the design of the submarine. As the Navy's requirements evolved the DAE and DRDO adjusted their efforts to meet the requirements.

I would love to pretend that this was some greatly planned exercise, orchestrated by some sort of master puppeteer in the SA to RM's office or the PSA to the PM's office, or even a High Power Committee but it wasn't. This was rather boringly a case of Indians talking to other Indians and understanding each other and then then doing what needed to be done. Sorry not very exciting stuff, very dull as a matter of fact, the whole matter was probably sorted out over numerous cups of tea and marie biscuits in some junior officers house.

So why is there so much bad press about the ATV.

Well... for starters, it is a great horror story, and several self appointed experts have made a career out of such epic. The story is an easy sell because most Indians are prone to self deprecation, it is a fashion of sorts and this makes it easy for people to believe such stories.
Long before the conspiracy theory attained popularity in the West, its counterpart the ballad of incurable government incompetence, had many takers in India.

The reason this story got out to people beyond India is because it became part of an international spy drama. The US hired an Indian Navy officer tasked with ATV development to spy for it. The Indian government managed to convinced the Russian Navy to give it access to one of their nuclear submarines, and this Indian officer gained access to Russian secrets and leaked them to the Americans. This did not directly impinge India's interests, but it soured India's relationship with Russia and for that sin - the officer had to be publicly mistreated. The Americans allege that the Indians planted the spy on them, though I really doubt that. The officer ofcourse was in a bad way, he was being severely punished to restore confidence in Russia's relationship with India, and so he quite naturally turned against the government and chose to vent his anger on the DAE with whon he had number of disagreements. This was a largely harmless exercise as his comments were of no real consequence once he was no longer in the Navy's payroll. The DAE had no power to do whatever was done to him, that was a show organised at someone elses' behest. This officer first sang the ballad of incompetence and that was picked up US psy ops groups and their friends in the Indian media to malign the Government of India. At the time a group of businessmen in the US were keen to see Indian market open up to them in a particular way, and they weren't very worried about how they achieved those aims. This unfortunate officer's son was recently in the news, apparently he threatened to kill the American President and was arrested by the FBI.

The ballad of incompetence died away in the late 90s only to emerge again after the Indian nuclear tests of 1998. The Non Prol. Ayatollahs (NPA) appropriated the officer and his ballad to tarnish DAE's reputation. This was part of a calculated move on their part, they wanted to down play the development of an Fusion Boosted Fission device by the DAE as they feared this would increase Pakistan's desire for a thermonuclear bomb. The NPAs convinced themselves that they could dissuade the Pakistanis if they pretended that the DAE were a bunch of idiots and incompetents whose nuclear device was a failure. I don't know whether they succeeded or not, but they certainly tried very hard.

Now the ATV ballad is re-emerging as the NPA are attempting to create a psychological atmosphere that builds distrust of the DAE. This is essential to kill the prospects of the India-US nuclear deal which the NPA don't like very much.

I hope I have addressed all the issues about the ATV here, feel free to reproduce this post elsewhere.

Why the Nuclear Triad?

I noticed a question that someone posed on the disreputable forum.

Another one (rarely, if ever discussed) - in its only material exercise, the NSAB drafted our "draft nuclear weapons doctrine". This doctrine eseentially advocated a "nuclear triad", ie, a network of air, land and sea based deterrent. Taken in as policy (de facto or otherwise), the country is therefore spenmding money land-based mobile missiles, sub-launched missiles and aircraft launched variants. Very few people have seriously questioned why India should be the third country in the world (after the US and Russia) to go in for this super expensive triad structure. Most other nuclear powers go in for one robust option - UK has selected a sub-based deterrent, China on a land missile based and so on. Why should a country like India be forced to choose a triad structure? Why shouldnt we simply concentrate on building one, surviveable second strike platform?

The answer is actually quite simple but first some inaccuracies have to be corrected.

Most nuclear powers go for a triad barring a few notable exceptions.

The French used to have a land based and air based deterrent during the Cold War. This was exquisitely expensive to maintain because France lacks any real strategic depth, but these systems were built in numbers until the first generation submarine based deterrents became viable. Today France has no enemies, they are everyone's friends, strictly speaking they don't need a nuclear deterrent but they keep the submarine based deterrent as a safety net.

The Chinese are now building a submarine based deterrent. They concentrated on a land based deterrent and for a while they tried out an air based deterrent but the Chinese aviation industry was dependent on imports and when the Chinese copied any design they imported, the foreign suppliers placed import restrictions on them. This combined with the dominance of the PLA on military decision making ensured that the PLAAF's nuclear ambitions were curtailed in favour of the PLA's own land based missle force. Given China's size, this option made economic sense as the missiles could be dispersed and survivability could be increased. Remember it took the Americans quite a bit of time to actually conduct the required number of surveillance flights using SR-71s and U-2s and establish where the Chinese deterrent was hidden. This made China's land based deterrent a sufficiently scary entity to achieve the desired international leverage.

The Russians and the Americans placed survivability on a very high pedestal and so as you know they had a triad.

That leaves the last one, the United Kingdom, and this is the notable exception. Due to the pressures of World War II, Britian's economy could not support the high cost of a deterrent. Initially while Britian could make even the vaguest pretence of being a free country, it invested heavily in air borne deterrent, the famed V force (Vulcan, Valiant and Victor). However the British soon realised that the force was irrelevant as there were a grand total of six airbases where it could be placed without attracting the enemy's attention, its survivability was questionable. This lack of strategic depth, also forced a negative assesment of any land based missile deterrent. The only choice left was to join up with the Americans and put up a common front. After much haggling the British finally agreed to deploy American nuclear armed bombers at various British airfields, they also agreed to let the Americans put a token force of Land Attack Cruise Missiles on British soil and finally they agreed to arm their Vanguard class submarine with the American Trident missile, a missile with known reliability issues. Some days I wonder whether Britian is a nuclear power at all, I even wonder if Britian is really a free country or an American colony these days.

Unlike France, India has real enemies. Like China, India has strategic depth also, but the unlike the PLA, the Indian Army is simply one armed service among three and actually sharing the deterrence responsibility vastly increases the apparent strategic depth of India. India does not have this "close friendship" or "shared anglic heritage" with America, so the Americans aren't going to rush to put their Tridents on our submarines and neither do we want something like that.

So like the Russians and the Americans themselves, we have to go it alone and we have to go for the Triad.