Monday, January 21, 2008

A Comment on the Shultz-Perry-Kissenger-Nunn article

The article in WSJ appears to indicate a shift in the US strategic mainstream that a world order based on certain notions of nuclear deterrence is unstable.

This article goes straight to the heart of what India has been saying now for the better part fifty years. It also implicitly suggests everything I have been talking about on this very blog.

A vital part of this from the perspective of Indians keen on disarmament is the segment of this article which proposes that the US "discard any existing operational plans for massive attacks that still remain from the Cold War days".

Such a move would undercut the need for large stockpiles of weapons in the US and Russia. From the point of view of the nuclear fuels industry it would create a huge stockpile of highly enriched Uranium and Plutonium. This stockpile - if properly downblended could yeild a fuel resource that the world finds useful in the future. For the Americans too this is benificial as it would turn their economically unsustainable nuclear weapons arsenal into a fuel resource that the world could then buy with all the "excess" dollars the Americans have been palming them. In time one hopes that at least some people in the US think outside of the Greenspan era ideas of a world that is forgiving of America's debts and devise ways of paying back those debts. Such a world order is unsustainable - no matter how many nuclear weapons you have.

A global trade based on nuclear fuels from downblended weapons grade material would aleviate the competitive pressures building up on the US drug research and development industry. Current plans to "save the American economy" rely on using US dominance in the field of drug related r&d and health technology to build new markets. This policy can only offer short term relief to the US economy as the American pharma sector like the US IT sector relies heavily on a globalised manpower base to minimise development costs. Even with strict IPR controls, the ability of the US to retain its dominance on health related technologies would be limited to perhaps a decade or less - especially if key companies in India and China decide to aggressively indigenise drug development.

Which brings me to another issue about global trade -the India-US nuclear deal - and as you all know it is - dead.

It died the day the NPA shot a stream of venom at the Indian public consciousness. The venom was designed to ignite India's fears of loss of soverignity. Dimwitted as they may be, the NPA know enough about India to get it riled up about something. By routing their venom via Indian intermediaries, the NPA have lit a blaze of anti-deal sentiment that no one can quench.

Today Indian opposition to the deal is driven entirely by "political compulsions" which cannot be overcome. The BJP opposes the deal because if it lets the Congress (I) do this, then BJP will suffer a tremendous loss of legacy. The BJP paraded itself as the party that most aggressively sought out the interests of the capital owning classes. If the Congress (I) brings uninterrupted electricity to the Indian industrial groups, then BJP will lose its power base. The Left Front, does not care for legacy issues, as the Left's political models are closer to those of slumlords - as long as economically marginalised segments exist in India - we will never cease to have a Left Front. The Left opposes the deal because it fears a loss of leverage to Indian Industrialists. The Left has successfully used its presence in the media to convince others in the Indian political spectrum that the industrialists of India are a political threat that needs to be contained before it becomes too large for anyone to handle. The combined effect of these factors is political paralysis.

It is unclear if the carbon mafiosi that paid the NPA to hit the deal understand the full implications of this paralysis. Perhaps they remain under the illusion that by curtailing India's access to nuclear fuel - they will be able to promote India's reliance on diesel and natural gas. Or perhaps they believe that deal can be held in suspended animation until the carbon mafiosi in the US have had time to retrench their long term investments in carbon energy to more lucrative ones in the nuclear/alternative fuels sector. I do not seek to imply that President Bush was somehow remiss in the manner he proceeded down the road to the India-US nuclear deal but it does appear from the tone of the American press that somehow his attempt to open doors to India alienated a large faction of the American carbon mafia. I can't imagine any other reason for so much anti-Bush publicity would accompany the anti-deal rhetoric in the US media. It is crystal clear that at least some extermely powerful carbon groups in the US were very upset with the manner in which the India-US nuclear negotiation was conducted. Given the manner in which this group relies on the idea of keeping nuclear fuel reserved exclusively for use in weapons - the sudden shift away from this idea (which the India-US deal implied) created a major stir inside the US. The deal became identified with President Bush and worse still - a Ken Lay-esque pursuit of opportunity.

It is difficult to draw a firm conclusion about the thoughts of the American carbon mafiosi - especially regarding US domestic politics but the naive notion appears among some of these people to be that countries like India will put up with this kind of harassment and shakedown forever.

I do not know if the special interest groups in US will be able to salvage this deal at a later date by somehow reversing the impact of their own psywar campaigns. I am some what pessimistic in this regard - I do not think it is possible to reverse the effects of this.

I anticipate a slowdown in India's real growth rate. This increasing growth rate has been the key to ensuring that the national import-export deficit remains manageable and a balance of payments crisis is avoided. With a slowdown of the growth rate - this deficit will assume importance as will any unanticipated costs within the economy - especially in the energy sector.
We will become extremely sensitive to shocks on oil market!


At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, Nunn, and others like them have spent the better part of their adult lives creating a global nuclear order based upon the twin pillars of a unequal and unjust treaty that is fast loosing its relevance and a deterrence scheme that has perhaps been and continues to be the most profligate waste of resources the world has ever seen. And now that circumstances of their own making have rendered the emperor naked, these people turn around and profess how wrong it all was.

Whatever the validity of their argument might be (and their argument does have merit to it), they should be the last people on earth to articulate it. These words coming from this set of people are like those of a whore lecturing on the virtues of chastity.

This argument needs a different face articulating it. KS recently wrote an oped about it. Did you see it?

Whatever new order is fashioned out of the current one, we must take a forceful part in it and not sit alone in a corner out of some imagined sense of insecurity. Otherwise it will be a repeat of the NPT fiasco.

At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


A clarification about my last post:

I know that India did not have enough clout during the NPT negotiations to have its security concerns addressed.

Today is a different story. I believe we do have enough clout to see that our security concerns are met. Unfortunately, the headless chickens running around with imagined notions of insecurity have come to dominate all public debate on the topic in India.

These people will end up hurting us by exerting a lot of pressure to sit alone in a corner whimpering in a fetal position with a thumb up our collective musharaffs. Talk about an own goal.

At 2:56 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

I saw KSub's article and that was why I chose to comment on it.

You make an important point.

I wonder how many DCH realise the link between our desire for global nuclear disarmament and our desire to see Thorium fuel utilisation grow up.

I think most DCH are keen to dismiss our disarmament diplomacy as an overt display Gandhian thinking - designed to hide our irrelevance or perhaps even as a subterfuge to keep attention off our modest efforts in nuclear security.

I doubt any of the DCH people grasp the extent to which an open economy in nuclear fuels and technology relies on complete disarmament. As long as the P5 remain addicted to large arsenals - any move towards opening up the nuclear fuels market for our needs will remain frustrated.

Without any idea of the underlying economics - people are finding comfort in information free political posturing.

I think this underscores the difference between the DCH and the NPA. The NPA know what is at the root of all this - the basic economic struggle for energy independence - but the NPA pretend we are only interested in aggressively weaponising. The DCH don't understand the economic part and actually believe we are simply trying to build a cover for weaponisation. The NPA and the DCH are forming a mutual admiration society. The NPA make outlandish claims, the DCH jump and defend India's right to do all those things - even if India is really not doing anything of the sort.

I expect the DCH herobaazi to end when the first oil shock hits.

The US economy is grinding to halt and a plunge will follow. The real estate sector has collapsed and for the first time we are seeing stagflationary trends appear. Some have rather confidently asserted that the downturn presently has no implications for India - but that might change.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

Do you have any ideas on how to go about introducing the DCH to the idea that a free trade in nuclear fuels and tech is the key to getting energy independence for India - as opposed to making nukes?

The DCH are simply too attached to the idea of large arsenals, they do not comprehend the economic unsustainability of these arsenals and they believe that just because these P5 idiots have these weapons - we in India should have them.

They see large nuclear arsenals as a manifestation of a nation's power. By contrast old hands like me see a large arsenal as an economic liability that creates as many problems as it solves. We see the obsessive possession of such an arsenal as an expression of a nation's impotence to communicate with its peers by means that do not implicitly hold out the threat of mass murder and violence. We see the large arsenals as the tools of domination used by an unrepresentative elite.

The DCH don't grasp these subtleties, I wonder if there is a way to get this across to them.

Also the DCH does not appreciate that in every country - the ultimate usability of the weapons the key power projection - lies in the hands of the scientists who make the weapons. With support from the modern day Dronacharyas - no projection of any kind of force is possible.

For that matter - if you recall how things went with the Manhattan project - it was the dronacharyas who eventually levelled the international playing field and created the idea of the balance of terror.

How do we tell the DCH that the size of the arsenal is not a matter for public debate. It will be decided by concerns of economic viability and political stability - rather than by empty sounding words about soverignity.

By biggest concern with the BJP is that their reliance on a peculiar brand of nationalism for political traction makes it impossible to define clear limits on where the concept of soverignity can be applied by their cadre. When confronted with this the BJP leading lights tend to wring their hands and brush the complaints of uncontrolled behaviour of their cadre under the proverbial carpet. I have seen this attitude among their leaders in the 90s with regards to communal violence and security issues and frankly we all know where that led to.

This inability to proscribe boundaries for the soverignity-type ideals leads to an incorrect application of this concept - and not mention that a great number of people remain vulnerable to provocations on the soverignity front.

The way the word soverignity is defined in public discourse - it is wide enough to cover the size of Miss India's breast implants right now!

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You raise a very good point about disarmament, but I have a slightly different take on it.

I do not believe that disarmament in the true sense of the term will ever take place. Scientific and technological progress has always brought with it a proliferation of newer and more destructive weapons. And once the that progress is made and its fruits realized, there is no undoing it. That is just the way it has always been. Nuclear weapons are here to stay and as much as everyone would prefer otherwise, there is no undoing them.

Hence nuclear weapons should be and will be a part of India's national security calculus. The question is in what manner should they be a part of that calculus and in what manner they best serve India's national security interests.

The problem is that the current global order for trade in nuclear technology and nuclear fuels is predicated upon the assumption that all nuclear technology and fuel is best utilized in and thus automatically destined for weapons programs. The P5's projection of nuclear weapons as being the most dominant currency of national security and the existence of their vastly bloated nuclear arsenals further reinforces this assumption. As long as the P5's apparent over-reliance upon nuclear weapons remains as witnessed by the size of their arsenals, this will continue to be the state of affairs.

However, I think that slowly the realization is dawning upon some people that nuclear technology and fuel best serve national security interests by being used towards guaranteeing energy security rather than being used to build more and more weapons. The only way to drive home this paradigm shift to the rest of the world would be for the P5 to visibly and demonstrably reduce their arsenals to more sane levels - levels that indicate that nuclear weapons are no more than just one of many parts in their national security calculus. Until that happens, an artificially skewed perspective of nuclear fuels and technology will remain and an open economy and market in their trade will remain a chimera.

This is what I think Schultz et. al. are hinting at in their oped. However, as I said before, to have any credibility this point needs to be made by someone else who does not carry the historical baggage that these men do.

If a new global order in nuclear trade is to come about, then we must not let others control the discourse that debates what the terms of such a new order might me. We must forcefully participate in it to make sure that our national security concerns regarding both nuclear weapons and energy security are not ignored. We have enough clout to ensure as much. Sure, everything will not go according to our liking but running away at the first sign of adversity and sulking in a corner is a recipe for a disaster whose cost we will have to pay for decades to come. The current opponents of the nuclear deal are behaving exactly like this. This brings me to why I support the nuclear deal. Our job in influencing the new global order in nuclear trade will become a whole lot easier if we manage to get our foot into the current one in a manner that addresses our national security concerns. I believe the nuclear deal does manage to achieve this. Unfortunately you know all too well what has happened to it due to the public antics of those who want us to run away and sulk in a corner when the going gets tough.

Before I decided to stop posting on the disreputable forum, I had posed an open challenge for people there to make an attempt to articulate a nuclear force posture for India in as much detail and with as many numbers as they could. Unfortunately no one took up my challenge. Any sane attempt to do so will lead to the conclusion that in the wider context of India's national security calculus, our nuclear weapons needs are modest. But apparently this is too much to ask for and it seems to be a lot easier to just wildly masturbate away to the idea of superpowerdom that revolves around building enough nuclear weapons to point at each and every musharaff on this planet. The Soviet Union's experience with this sort of approach to national security is entirely lost on this mob.

I think the best way to get the message across to a wider audience is to point out that beyond a certain point, amassing nuclear weapons becomes a drag on the economy, jeopardizes energy security and is ultimately detrimental to national security. A mindless pursuit of more and more nuclear weapons will leave us in the same place that the Soviet Union ended up in. At the very least, if all you want to do is to build up military capability, then conventional weaponry is a better investment than extra nuclear weapons. At least the conventional stuff has a chance to be used.

More later...

At 7:13 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

I agree with what you are saying.

There is to my mind a conceptual saddle point. Let me see if I can flesh it out.

The size of the arsenal has to match the deterrence needs of the nation.

As long as the Americans and the Russians feel compelled to warehouse large arsenals - they skew the deterrence paradigms of other countries.

Proponents of the "as small as reasonably possible" argument in India find themselves locking horns with people who think "bigger is better" and these people point to the P5 and say things like "do the British really need nuclear weapons? and yet they have hundreds of them - so why can't we who live right next to China and Pakistan have a hundred or so?"

The proponents of a smaller nuclear arsenal then reply - that at the end of the day - it is the economic position of the country that dictates the size of the arsenal.

The proponents of a large arsenal have no counter to that - and hence they argue that while actually building a large arsenal would cost money - projecting the ability to build a larger arsenal at will does not. Further more they argue - that this actually helps bolster India's image and increases confidence in the economy.

The proponents of a small arsenal do not have a response to this argument. And that is where in my opinion, where the equilibrium position of the debate lay after 1998.

With the appearance of the India-US nuclear deal, the proponents of a small arsenal have been able to project an economic cost on to this business of looking like you can make a large arsenal.

The large arsenal proponents have argued that the benifits of the deal are entirely imaginary right now and that this deal is simply a canard to reduce the leverage India gains by way of its projection strategy. Furthermore they argue that if indeed India were to go ahead with this deal - India would effectively foreswear the ability to make a larger arsenal if it needed to. They point to manner in which the US-USSR conflict escalated, and suggest that in a world dominated by China - the India-China relationship may be very very rocky and the present state of comfort - where both sides do not point nukes at each other may give way to something else.

It is here that the saddle point emerges.

Given the manner in which China is simultaneously trying elbow out the US at the top of the world and keep India underfoot in Asia - this does not seem entirely unplausible. If indeed China increases the size of its arsenal, India will have to reconsider the present size.

If the US leads the way in "disarmament" as the Shultz-Perry-Kissenger-Nunn statements suggest - i.e. if the US reduces the size of its arsenal due to economic considerations, the Chinese desire to expand the size of their own arsenal may be effectively quenched. From India's point of view, this is a good thing.

Unfortunately the proponents of a large arsenal, do not seem to grasp the immediate cost of talking openly about high volume weaponisation options. At the very least if the Chinese become convinced that the US is trying to completely undermine them in Asia - they will increase the potency of their arsenal and impose costs on India. People do not grasp how unviable the Pakistan based check on India has become in the recent years - this is the closest China has come to a visible policy failure. This is making the Chinese desperate.

By telling people about the economic benifits in terms of long term energy security one can hope to influence their utterances on this issue but frankly this has been a losing battle so far as the NPA drones have dominated the debate and neither the DCH nor the pied pipers seem to get the problems that come with excessive dependence on diesel at the present time.

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


A deterrence scheme that relies upon projecting an ability to build a very large arsenal at will is unworkable. In my opinion there is a simple counter argument to it. There are two parts to it.

First, for an image projection strategy of this sort to be meaningful, the talk of high volume weaponization has to be taken seriously by the other nuclear powers. It won't be unless it is backed up by the capacity, at least in theory, to carry it out. This capacity exists in India and so if we talk about our aim to build a very large arsenal then it will be taken seriously. Couple this with our traditional opacity in the exact size of our arsenal and we give rise to an unstable and escalatory targeting dynamic.

If the other nuclear powers do not have a good idea about the exact size of our arsenal then in light of our publicly announced aim of building a very large arsenal and the capacity to do so, the logical and prudent thing for them to do would be to target us if they haven't done so already or increase the number of weapons they already had targeted us with. That way they play it safe. At that point we would have to actually build a large arsenal otherwise all our deterrence calculations will go out of the window.

The large arsenal proponents are correct in saying that this image projection strategy will not cost any money. But this will only be so in the short term. In the long term we will have to spend a huge amount of money and build a large arsenal when the other nuclear powers take our talk of building a large arsenal seriously. As for bolstering India's image and confidence in the economy, I find the idea that India's image should be built around nuclear chest thumping to be very, err ... "Pakistani". This sort of machogiri is best left to them.

Second, as you very well know, building a credible deterrence takes a lot of time, a decade if not two. I don't see how we can build a large arsenal at will or talk about high volume weaponization options as if exercising that option is a matter of flicking a switch. A deterrence based upon this sort of talk is nothing more than a potemkin deterrence made all the more dangerous by other nuclear powers buying into it and acting accordingly.

Coming to the nuclear deal, I do not see how the separation plan curtails our flexibility in weaponization options. There exists enough capacity, in theory at least, on the non civlian side to make an arsenal that people like BK/BC and their groupies have wet dreams about. They have absolutely no point when they whine about India eschewing its weaponization options under the separation plan. Not unless they want to build an arsenal of thousands upon thousands of weapons. If this is the case then I really don't know what to say to them ... kaise ajube paida huye hai.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

I think the "bigger is better" people argue that if we wanted to make 1000 nukes and dump them on some poor fellow - we could do it and that makes us sufficiently scary even for the P5.

I don't quite not how to get them off this point of view and I fear trying to do that - even in private - will only unsettle them further and they will get more angry - not less. They will work themselves up into an escalating argumentative frenzy.

I also feel that if one openly claws away the facade of viability on the "expandable" deterrence idea - one does risk a loss of some kind. At the very least one risks sparking a discussion among the ill-informed about deterrence and that doesn't help - as the DCH demonstrate each time around.

On the other hand - if we can get the "bigger is better" people simply shut up about this - then there will be no need to tear anything down.

If we simply say that the viabilty of a larger arsenal in our context is not diminished but that the economic burdens of a large arsenal weigh very heavily on the richest of the rich - the entire discussion on the economic viability of the expansion options becomes implicit.

Can we detach the idea that having a giant nuclear arsenal is some guarentee for security?

Can we make the DCH see that for all the ready to launch nukes parked in submarines prowling the world's oceans - the Americans could not scare Osama Bin Laden into not doing 9-11? - I mean even today Bin Laden's friends make ever larger plans to unseat the Americans.

I wonder if the Shultz-Perry-Kissenger-Nunn article gives us a handle on that in some way?

If Washington was indeed keen on scaring every Osama wannabe - as so many brave American say when talking about pre-emption - why are Shultz-Perry-Kissenger-Nunn calling for less nuclear weapons? You would think that more nuclear weapons would help you kill/scare more Osamas?

So why are they changing their tune?

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The "bigger is better" people are right that if we signal our intentions to build thousands of nuclear weapons (which in theory at least we have the capacity for), then this will greatly concern the P5 and their deterrence calculations. Lets suppose that this sort of posturing even scares them. So what happens next? Do the P5 wet their collective chuddies and cower in fear of us or do they adjust their targeting plans accordingly? Remember that we are talking about people who have lived with and dealt with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at them. We will then have to deal with the very real threat of a greatly increased number of nuclear weapons pointed at us.

Now what do we do? What started out as mere posturing, a cheap stunt that was meant to deliver the imagined benefits of having a few thousand nuclear weapons without having to actually spend any money building them has resulted in greatly more nuclear weapons being pointed at us. What happens to our deterrence calculations? How to we address this increased nuclear threat to us? The "bigger is better" people need to understand that talk, even empty talk of building thousands of nuclear weapons, carries with it real consequences. Making threats has a way of setting off undesirable chain of consequences and especially threats that we are in no economic position to carry out should not be made.

I believe that the current policy of complete ambiguity with an emphasis on an arsenal as small as reasonably possible coupled with an assured second strike posture is sufficient for our deterrence purposes. There is absolutely no need to talk warhead numbers, big or small. That sort of talk will set of a chain of consequences that will impose an avoidable cost on us. Just to make myself perfectly crystal clear, I am not saying that we should or should not say this or that in public about the specifics of our weaponization intentions. I am saying we should say absolutely nothing about these specifics. The current posture of ambiguity serves us well. Both the NDA and UPA governments have followed this policy and I see no reason to change it.

This is what we can tell the "bigger is better people": Advocating specifics about our weaponization options, especially in some sort of an official capacity, is counter productive to our security interests. Complete ambiguity about these specifics has served us well and will continue to serve us well into the foreseeable future. They should find something else to publicly fantasize about.

I will try to address your points about the Schultz-Perry-Nunn-Kissinger article in a later post.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

Per the "bigger is better" argument, our projection of an enhanceable arsenal, will not provoke the P5 into increasing the size of their arsenals as their own financial situations are precarious and their ability to expand/reorient their arsenals is very limited.

If indeed at this point a P5 state has to increase the size of its arsenal or bring a larger number of weapons into operational status (from demated or storage levels) they have to justify the expense and this will mean a more rigorous interrogation of our arsenals.

Per the logic of "bigger is better", any examination of our arsenal by the P5 agencies will naturally show something that is not a serious enough threat to warrant an increase in the size of the P5 state's arsenal or even a retargetting of the weapons they do posses. The second fact is aided by our enthusiasm to sign mutual de-targetting treaties with all and sundry. A sudden shift away from the de-targetting treaties we have signed will be even more politically costly than President Bush's attempt to scrawl stuff into the margins of the NPT. So from that india-centered proliferation perspective it appears as if this is a no cost policy.

The only realistic P5 response is a technology denial regime to prevent the possiblity of the enhanceable arsenal becoming an actual large stockpile. One might even say that in some ways this entire nuclear deal negotiation process has helped shed light on the details of this regime.

From the "bigger is better" perspective - this technology denial regime is old hat - something that our critical infrastructure organisations are able to deal with quite effectively. They are able to successfully argue that this regime is fundamentally as unsustainable as the Soviet Union's centralised economy. So if one is to follow this path down with dedication - then one stays true to the original conception of Dr. Bhabha's program for sustainable use of nuclear energy and one does this all alone without any collaboration.

In the worst case scenario if the Americans do not come off their high horses, we see a bad diesel shortage that forces people to adopt consumption control, but actually forces GoI to invest heavily in DAE. The lack of diesel encourages conservatism in the military and then they work hard to make sure every artillery shell hitting Ghyari counts.

Sure we scale back some growth numbers and deliberately slow down the economy - perhaps even pull away investment from the GQ routes to secure the hinterlands. Quite possibly even bring numbers of maoists overground in order to minimize the expenditure required to kill them.

In the meanwhile America spirals into a recession and after a hard decade of poor growth - the Americans come back to the table offering their downmelted weapons as potential fuel sources for our breeder reactors.

As far as I can see - the "bigger is better" perspective is heavily contextualised and arguing against it is very cumbersome and (as you point out) possibly damaging to national security. So I am against any further confrontation with them on such issues.

At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The P5 can target us in a manner that costs them no money at all. Their deployed arsenals are far in excess of their deterrence requirements and so in their deterrence calculations they can set aside more weapons to target India from their deployed arsenals without affecting their existing targetting requirements to any appreciable degree. This does not require them to either increase the size of their arsenal or bring more weapons into operational status. They have enough operational weapons as it is.

Lets pretend that this is not so and the P5 will have to investigate the size of our arsenal to determine their course of action. Why do the "bigger is better" people feel that inviting more intrusive investigation into the size of our arsenal from the P5 would be desirable? Right now the P5 seem contend with some random NPA rubbing his two brain cells together to produce estimates with 50% error bars from some garbage-in-garbage-out investigative process. Why disturb things when our deterrence needs are met from a policy of ambiguity that affords us a lot of flexibility?

Also, why do the "bigger is better" people feel that the P5 will be as enthusiastic about detargetting agreements as us? Will they not see through the rather simple bluff that the "bigger is better" people wish to pull off? And in my opinion detargetting agreements are not worth the toilet paper they are printed on. They can be unilaterally rescinded by one side in secrecy with a good chance of the other side not knowing.

The "bigger is better" people also need to understand that enhancing the arsenal by even a moderate amount is not a matter of flicking a switch. It can not be done overnight. Doing so in a manner that is credible from a deterrence perspective will take a quite some time, measured in years if not close to a decade. They wish India to try to attempt a bluff that we will not be in position to deliver on if the P5 do decide to call us on it. This seems like a very stupid thing to do.

The current policy of ambiguity suffices for our deterrence requirements. Why shake up things? Just so that Bharat Karnad and his groupies can get an erection fantasizing about warhead numbers?

At 6:57 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

The "bigger is better" types have their eyes (and hearts) set on the throne. With Bhishma Pitamaha and others ageing - they are convinced that new "Young India" is taking shape and their time to dominate is coming.

At this point if one shatters their idols - they will get very very angry and if we had nothing else going on that anger would have been manageable.

At this point with the parliament boiling over with all manner of venom - it would not be a good idea to provoke this matter.

I agree with your points about the viability of this option but I am saying that we need to let sleeping dogs lie for now.

At the present time we are facing an energy crunch. We have always had an energy deficit - but we have never had a situation where the lack of energy resources has caused growth to decline visibly. As the Indian economy was always recessive after independence - people (including most of the political classes) have not seen the "boom and bust" scenario manifest. They have seen it on the share-markets but not in the general economy as whole.

With the failure of this deal - the energy deficit in India will now build up into an energy crunch. The prevailing wisdom of relying on a single company to provide insulation against diesel shocks will become questionable not long after.

As BC now suddenly seems to have realised nuclear energy is the most heavily regulated and monopolised trade in the world. I note how deftly he avoids blaming the Americans for creating this cartel atmosphere and how - Rice has nothing to Hyde ... I really don't understand why he doesn't accept that we Indians have nothing to Hyde either.

Our attempt was to directly negotiate with the Sardar of the cartel. Our only objective during these negotiations was to create a climate where the local manufacturing costs of nuclear power reactor technology was reduced and a provoke a more open global atmosphere for exploitation of nuclear fuels. We have made incremental progress towards these goals.

All we need to do now is keep reminding everyone that despite what the pied pipers are saying, the arsenal can only be as large as your economy permits. The "bigger is better" types have to shut up when a purely economic argument is better.

At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Let me talk about a couple of things that I haven't talked about so far before I move on to your latest post:

(1) You describe how the "bigger is better" people feel that coping with technology denial regimes is something that we are good at. Without an appropriate context that sort of a statement is completely vacuous. Yes, to a large extent we have overcome most of the technology denial regimes but that hasn't come free of cost. It has come at the cost of a painful amount of time and we have not completely overcome these hurdles.

At the risk of reigniting the great CNC wars of yore, I would like to point out the difficulties we still face when it comes to productionizing hand built lab prototypes of any sort of high end technology item. Let me also point out the paucity of labs which have the requisite equipment it takes to do the R&D required for these sort of items. This part is key. Denial of the tools it takes to do high end R&D work or high end manufacturing work is the sort of prosaic stuff where technology denial continues to hurt us by stretching out our technology development cycles. The "bigger is better" people need to look past things that go whoosh and boom when they talk about denial regimes and become aware of this cost that we end up having to pay due to these regimes. So yes, these denial regimes are unsustainable and will ultimately fail as we develop the technology that we need but the question is one of how long can we afford to take to develop this technology.

The "bigger is better" people need to stop viewing these denial regimes as something over which to show the finger to the rest of the world out of a misplaced sense of sovereignty. Also, I am troubled by the increasingly militarized view of technology development that these people seem to espouse. If we negotiate an acceptable agreement with the sardar of the technology deniers (as you put it) that lets us shorten our technology development cycles then I don't see what objection anyone could have to it. The sovereignty fueled people will have to find something else over which to go around showing the finger.

(2) One more thing about the strategy that the "bigger is better" people wish India to pursue. According to these people we get the supposed benefits of having a large arsenal without actually having to build one by signaling our intention to go about exercising high volume weaponization options that will somehow scare the P5. Further, these people argue that we wont have to carry out our large arsenal threats because if the P5 investigate the size of our arsenal to figure out their course of action, they will find out that we have no intention to actually carry out our threats. OK. At this point, how exactly are the P5 supposed to get scared about our empty weaponization talk which was the whole aim of these people to begin with? Do the "bigger is better" people not realize this gigantic hole in their argument?

(3) Coming to the economic side of things, advocating that in the worst case we just bear a hit on the economy like it is some small insignificant thing is the most vacuous argument one could come up with. It is very easy for the "bigger is better" people to sit comfortably in their secure ivory towers and ask other people to make economic sacrifices, not to mention doing so it the utter height of chutyagiri. This sort of garbage is best dealt with a "hawa aane dey ..." type dismissal.

(4) Lastly, I seem to have given you a wrong impression that arguing with the "bigger is better" people will be harmful to national security. Quite the contrary, letting them dominate all public debate on nuclear weapons policy in greatly harmful to national security. They need to be argued with forcefully in private. That is the only way to get them to shut up in public. Otherwise things will get out of control if all that is being uttered in the public space is what the "bigger is better" people holler about. Maintaining ambiguity in our force posture will not be possible if the only opinion coming out in public is of the "bigger is better" variety.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

I don't think they are in a position to dominate the debate publicly or privately.

The threat to national security comes in my opinion from an unnecessary public discussion on higher yeilds and further testing -the "gigaboom" idea that Alok was referring to.

I simply want the "bigger is better" people to shut up.


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