Monday, April 28, 2008

Valid and Invalid Criticisms of the DAE


I have decided to try and put across my opinions about what constitutes valid and invalid criticisms of the DAE. These are what I think is right - I am open to changing any or all of these

I do not wish to clutter this post with details of why I think these things are valid and invalid but only briefly state that I feel a criticism is valid when there is verifiable information in the public domain which can accessed to make/face it. Pushing the debate into realms where the DAE or any other government organisation cannot answer on account of secrecy issues makes a criticism invalid - in my opinion.

I am happy to answer any questions that my readers may have about this in my comments section. Again this is just my opinion, I will defend it because I have put it up here - but I am not averse to changing it.

So here is what I think.

Valid Criticisms

1) DAE has focussed on high volume electricity generation for industry. Very little work at the DAE has focussed on rural electricity needs. India's rural agroeconomies need electric power to navigate increasing constraints from limited land and water resources.

2) DAE's projects given their sheer size have long cycle times i.e. the projects require quite a bit of investment and it takes a very long time to get from the design board to the prototype and to the final product. The India's industrial R&D needs a partner in the GoI with greater flexibility and agility.

3) In the 1998 tests, the DAE demonstrated designs that achieved 40-50kT and could be *scaled* to reach yeilds in the 150-200kT range. It is unclear if this is sufficient to meet the nation's shifting deterrence needs even within a credible minimum deterrent framework.

Invalid Criticisms

1) The DAE's efforts at developing the bomb have denied India technology vital for India's industries to be internationally competitive.

2) The DAE has not been honest about its capabilities in the bomb arena. This is harming the country's ability to frame deterrence arguments.

3) The DAE does not appreciate the need for peer review of its performance. It is operating without any checks and balances.

And yes, to prempt any questions in this regard - I am desperately trying to recover from that utterly disasterous mess that the debate on the forum has turned into.

Feel free to attack me - I am an anonymous fellow with a mouth the size of the planet Jupiter - and I have no connections to GoI - but as a citizen of India, I request you to kindly leave GoI personalities out of it. You think Mr/Mrs. big-famous-person in India has balls/noballs/toomanyballs etc... I don't want to hear it. Feel free to insult me as much as you want - I will not hold it against you - but leave big people out of it. We are all little people - lets act like it.

Democracy in India needs a vibrant debate - but please keep the debate to a level where even fools like me can follow it.

I request that you trust me - if I don't get it - then the change that the average Abdul comfortably sipping a cutting of chai alongside me at the Rambharose batata vada stall outside Vikhroli station is unlikely to get it either.

For the record - I am not for or against the Nuclear Deal with the US.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

CAT has nothing to do with the bomb.

There is no LIF capability at CAT Indore.

CAT merely designs and builds various laser systems and no - it has not invested in anything that remotely resembles an LIF experiment.

Just because words like "hohlraum" or "equation of state" turn up in a CAT annual report does not mean they are investing in an LIF capability. Making anything that CAT already does look like an LIF experiment will not serve India's interest or CAT's interests.

It costs an ungodly amount of money to do these LIF experiments - it is simply cheaper to test a few designs and see what happens. The only reason one would justify doing this work is if there was fusion based energy generation option that we were developing. The Americans have clearly indicated that they are going to do everything in their power to prevent fusion from being an energy source. We do not have the strength to fight them on this issue at this time and there are significant technology barriers to fusion based energy generation happening in India right now. For us the Thorium route is more feasible at this time.

People on the forum constructing imaginary bomb related LIF experiments at CAT is no different from Pakistanis inducting imaginary F-22s into the PAF.

CAT cannot validate any thing related to the bomb design. That is outside of its capability.

CAT's role is to develop high end laser, electron beam, and x-ray technology with an eye on the industrial market for lasers in India. There are two emerging laser markets in Indian industry - high stability frequency narrowed lasers as aids for various measurments and high power lasers for cutting applications. Another sector that will take off in the next five years, is biological spectroscopy - as you know India is emerging as a hub for a lot of bio related R&D and most government planners have anticipated a need for locally developed and maintained x-ray/electron beam, and laser sources.

CAT has a small group of people who work on interesting physics problems because that is the only way to create benchmarks for the laser technology it does develop. Ultimately you have to demonstrate the quality of your product and a physical phenomena serves as natural calibration point. And that is all it does.

I can understand it if some American or German company wants to hegde against a potential peer competitor for the Indian laser market by fucking CAT's chances at producing technology India's industry can use.

I can completely understand it if some foreign company wants to have CAT blacklisted to hobble its potential for profitable international cooperation.

This is normal behaviour in the business world.

What I do not understand is a how a bunch of people who call themselves rakshaks are falling for that sort of thing.

When the BJP government tested in 1998, the yeild was questioned by the NPA for two reasons - firstly to publicly reassure the Pakistanis by feeding their notions of Indian incompetence and secondly to gain as much information as possible about the Indian bomb. This is a good fraction of what the NPA are paid to do and they did what they were paid for. After the Pakistanis felt reassured the NPA stopped asking questions and the controversy over the yeilds died down as the NPA asked the media hounds to back off.

Now the nuclear deal on the anvil and the NPA's false god is under threat - the NPA are once again acidly provoking a discussion on India's nuclear capabilities. They are keen to find out how the proposed transfer of technology and nuclear fuels will affect India's nuclear weapons capabilities.

The position of the Indian national security setup is that the proposed ToT and fuel is purely civilian in nature and does not affect the Indian nuclear weapons program. Per the Indian point of view, conveyed via several channels, India's nuclear weapons options are completely dictated by its perception of its general security needs. If the US wants India to pick a fight with China to get the Chinese to cough up more loans for the failing US economy - India will need to pursue larger yeilds and ICBM development. If on the other hand the US wants India to help it loot Iranian oil, India will have to expand the size of its arsenal to hedge against potentially damaging proliferation scenarios in the Islamic World.

The US can't expect India to partner up on their screw-China/ screw-Iran ideas and simultaneously cut down on its weaponisation options.

This fact is known to the NPA - and so they are out fishing to find out what we are really capable of. If the find out what we are capable of - then US negotiators peddling screw-China/Iran ideas can gain traction point.

I simply point out that we are under no obligation to tell them.

There is no love lost between us and the NPA and frankly, we are disappointed by the NPA's inability to arrest proliferation in the US. One simply does not see the RRW becoming a replacement for older warheads - as far as any one can tell the US simply intends to make more warheads and call them "Reliable Replacement Warheads" without actually dismantling the old "unreliable" ones. This is a proliferation far in excess of Iran's 1-2 bombs and Saudi Arabia's 10 bombs and the NPA have no say in this. It seems the NPA are completely useless when it comes to stopping real proliferation and their only purpose is to make informed sounding noises about irrelevant shit.

The OFBJP types are very keen to block this deal because of legacy issues and most of them are a little too susceptible to the "sky is falling" type stuff. The NPA appear to have convinced them to pursue the idea that India somehow needs a bigger bomb. They are aiding the NPA fishing trips.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The relevance of the Mahabharat and the Ramayana in the present day

When one reads Indian epics, one comes away with a sense of a "glorious" but somehow "lost" past. As readers today, we seem distant from the developments of an age gone by ... a much simpler time when everything worked the way it was "supposed to". Some of us relate to personal aspects of a character in the story and attempt to model ourselves after their conduct - so begins the Cult of Arjuna, or Sita and so on. The "rationalists" among us quickly dismiss these cults as being irrelevant in the modern age.

Yet it seems obvious that while the structure of personal choice may have been different in an age gone by - the manner in which personal choices interact with social dynamics are largely ... unchanged. If one does something that society finds positive/negative one gains its approval/disapproval. The net social approval one gains in any act decides ones' social capital.

At the end of the day... both the great epics of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharat revolved around the question of legitimacy in a complex and highly structured social order. Legitimacy is a measure of social capital. In each epic, the personal actions of the characters, as depicted by the writers of the epics, colour the reader's perceptions of the character's claim to legitimacy.

In order to understand the relevance of the great Indian epics, I ask you to journey with me into the distant land of the Khans.

The Khan-i-Khanan has been plagued since his first day in office by questions of legitimacy. Those close in often look upon him as an usurper - who took the legacy and rightful place of another. Yet others somewhat further away see him as an unlawful leader who played with the ideas of justice to secure his access to power. A still further away, an utter disdain manifests among those that care to speak of him, a veritable cult of disfavour has built around him. His only supporters appear to be a small group of clerics whose loyalty he secured in the early days of his political career. Among the waqia nahvis is considered polite to describe him as affable but incompetent.

It is said that these limitations were well recognised in the past and the choice of succession weighed heavily on Abbaji. Rumour has it that a Prince was consulted by Abbaji and it is the advice of the Prince that decided the matter of succession. It is also rumoured that Abbaji allowed the Khan-i-Khanan as much freedom as was reasonable and so the Khan-i-Khanan picked people that thought themselves to be comparable in competence to Abbaji himself. Perhaps the Khan-i-Khanan thought that surrounding himself with wazirs of Abbajis calibre would protect him from harm, but it appears that this has unanticipated results.

In any case, it is too late to change that now. There is a real problem that the potnahvis cannot simply hide in his books. The Amir-al-Umara is convinced that the predictions of the jyotish are correct and Shani will remain firm in its place in the charts. Abbaji's khaas, who is currently the Wazir-ul-Harb was sent to sort things out but instead he returned bearing bad news that the Amir-ul-Umara was largely "spinning his wheels" and "burning gas" - the consensus between the Wazir-ul-Harb, Amir-al-Umara and the Potnahvis was that wasteful expenditure was rising.

Rather than do the obvious, the Khan-i-Khanan, decided instead to send his vice regal to Ctesiphon, and manged to arm twist them into releasing more fuel. This necessitated a rearrangement with followers of Ali.

At the time this was going on, the Waqia nahvis were asked by the Khan-i-Khanan's men to keep silent. It is here that the idea of illegitimacy has come to plague the Khan-i-Khanan again. As the Waqia nahvis are susceptible to the idea of illegitimacy - the Khan-i-Khanan cannot silence them without a visible gesture. As the waqia nahvis put pen to paper, their lack of silence will completely colour perceptions of the legitimacy of the Khan-i-Khanan throughout the land.

A growing sense of illegitimacy among the people at large will not benifit the Khan-i-Khanan.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Understand Writings on India-Pakistan Relations

A lot is being said about Indo-Pak relations by various commentators and frankly the sheer volume of opinions can be overwhelming and confusing.

At this point, I offer my readers the following way of organising the views that are out there.

I personally tend to organise views on Pakistan into four broad regimes,

1) Emergent Situations: Views that highlight sudden unexpected dynamics inside Pakistan that departs from the prevailing consensus on Pakistan's trajectory eg. assasinations, shifts in the drug market, accidents etc... I tend to place a lot of the views on emerging patterns of terrorism in this category - these assessments are given high visibility in the media, but honestly their reliability varies. Most of this material comes from eyes on the ground - news reporters who try to bring out as much information as rationally possible from an event that seems unanticipated.

2) Short Term: Usually, relating to the next two-three years. This is comparable to the timescale on which we anticipate dynamics in the "civilian" authority system that now being put into place in Islamabad. Shifts inside the military's leadership are also relevant. A lot of these views come from people who meet the key personalities - reporters, diplomatic staff, "travellers through the region" etc...

3) Medium Term: Typically on the three-ten year scale. This is typically the timescale for any serious military research and development project in Pakistan, and so any security policy that controls a proliferation risk has to be sensitive to this sort of time frame. It is also the timescale on which any major problem inside Pakistan vis a vis resources distribution (eg. water or land) will become prominent. This kind of view usually comes from "think tanks".

4) Long Term: This is the ten-thirty year timescale. It is here that one can look for the effect of changes in perceptions among the general population eg. the effects of Islamisation, "Roshan Khayali" etc... This view is usually shared only between the Sons of Mother India, and it is usually never really released to the aam junta - however a crude reflection of it may be found in the mood of the analyst community in general.

Most of the newer analysts out there tend to pick a category and contain their comments to a specific time frame. This is because they are "new" and don't have a sense of how their little picture gels with the larger picture. Sometimes, governments and others tend to push analysis of a particular time frame into the media in the hope that public opinion is prepared for the most relevant dynamics inside Pakistan (I only sparingly approve of such conduct). The US is currently inundated with "new" analysts and that kind of thing tends to have predictable consequences - and I understand the US desire to put all their product out there - this way they get the "new" folks reviewed for free.

The "old hands" have seen it all - they know how to carefully interlace the writings with comments relevant to each time frame and please understand the "old hands" have been writing about Pakistan for *decades* now - they have had time to see the long term - the newer lot simply hasn't - so you can't expect them to write about it.

This leaves the people in the "middle" - not so "new" analysts tying to get into the "old hand" category. There are really two kinds here - ones who will become "old hands" and ones who won't. I personally find that a "new" analyst who tends to carefully preface her/his writings with a defined time frame and carefully segregate opinions and speculations from verifiable facts has a better chance of becoming a "old hand" than someone who does not do these things.

That sets the stage for me to tell you all my feelings about the present state of things.

With regards emergent situations, I feel that it is best if India retains the ability to seek out more information if it chooses to. I realise that this means ties have to maintained at a level where communication is easier and yes I do appreciate the potential risks that entails.

As short term dynamics is concerned, again, there must unfettered access to the sources - the key persons themselves and to this end, a little courtship is necessary given the situation that has prevailed in the last two decades - we have become so distant, that needs to change.

The medium term is quite obvious to everyone - Pakistan is going to run out of water, land and food, population pressures on the land and going to create unsustainable patterns of immigration from rural belts to Pakistani cities, and the lack of emphasis on urban industrial growth will come to haunt Pakistan. For a lot of this kind of analysis, we can rely on stand-off information gathering, lately, as you all know, India has made considerable advances in stand off surveillance technology and after Kargil, a good bit of emphasis was placed on training new people to do this kind of work. A precise application of these tools should enable us to remain aware of relevant developments.

That leaves the long-term stuff. I don't want to comment on the specifics as it is not my place to do so - but broadly speaking, stress in India-Pakistan ties was at its highest during the Partition. Subsequently, stress in this relationship has only risen in response to stresses inside Pakistani society. In my opinion this is perfectly normal - India and Pakistan - are part of the same cultural landscape - one affects the other. An ideal long term situation in Indo-Pak ties would be if the coupling between India and the stresses in Pakistani society (and vice versa) is kept to a manageable level.