Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A Pakistani line of thinking

From Pakistan's perspective this is how things look -

0) Pakistan has no depth. No physical depth, no economic depth and no socio-cultural depth to absorb any blow by an adversary. The only option for Pakistan now is to go on the offensive and hope that that kind of apparently rabid behavior makes any potential adversaries think twice about initiating hostilities.

1) The entire situation along the Pak-Afghan border is stabilizing. The US is leaving, and the likelihood of a major security threat from Pathan nationalism is receding. The Ghani administration has signed on to keeping Panjshiris out of the intelligence machinery. The likelihood of Afghanistan being used to stage anti-Pakistan operations is diminished. Pakistan's Army has survived the American war on terror, its critical infrastructure is intact and redundancy on several levels has grown. What remains is a more robust organization that it ever was.

2) The end of the US stay in Afghanistan has also reduced the need to maintain a visible dissonance with Jihadi groups. The pretense of being anti-Jihad in Afghanistan was necessary to convince the US that Pakistan was a committed partner in its Global War on Terror. With that war ending, Pakistan can go back to its old ways in Afghanistan and end unnecessary friction with Jihadi groups in the region. Any growth in global Jihad awareness and support (IS etc...) can be leveraged to secure Pakistan's interests.

3) Through the use of artillery and air strikes Pakistan Army has demonstrated its dominance over the land. No Jihadi group can ever challenge the Army and expect to survive the encounter. For every VBIED and suicide bombing the Jihadis carry out inside Pakistani Army controlled areas, the Pakistan Army can respond with an artillery barrage or airstrike that rains 100x the destruction on the Jihadis and their dependents. The Jihadis are now acutely aware that they are the younger brothers in this family  and the Faujis of the Pak Army are the bigger brothers.

4) Given this situation, the economy has stabilized around the idea that the Pakistan Army can hold the country together. As the economy grows, so do the real estate and market investments of the Pakistani generals.

5) With regards India where Sri. Modi has been elected PM, there is cause for concern. If Sri. Modi decides to go ahead with nuclear weaponization - i.e. insert pits into packages and packages in to warheads, and warheads into delivery mechanisms - that will allow India to gain the ascendancy over Pakistan at any time. If this happens, the Pakistan Army will lose credibility and find it difficult to maintain its current position of leadership inside Pakistan. In a worst case scenario, the Modi administration would secretly fully weaponize and catch Pakistan with its pants down.

6) A fully mated and secured arsenal could cost as much as $1 Tn per year to get going and maintain. Even if India can afford that, Pakistan cannot do so. Pakistan economy is 10x smaller than India and this cost would be 2x Pak GDP. This is not a viable option from any economic perspective.

7) It is unclear if the Modi government in India wants to take on such a large expense. It is therefore vital to gauge where the true intentions of the Modi administration lie. This is an exploratory process best pursued through talks and "other things". Testing the responsiveness of the Modi government to crises involving Pakistan is part of the "other things" and provocations may become necessary to gain insights into the real architecture of decision making inside the Modi government.

8) Provocations can lead to escalations, but paradoxically escalations bring international pressure to damp down on nuclear weapons development. A potentially viable strategy to check any move by the Modi administration towards weaponization is deliberately create an escalation that brings international attention to the issue of the lack of escalation management measures for fully mated arsenals in the region. This kind of move would find support in the Chinese government which is wary of a strongly nationalistic India.

9) In the event that a provocation leads to an escalation, as long as the Pakistan Army is the first mover and initiates the ensuing conflict, it has the ability to stay ahead of India. Before initiating a provocation, it can put its own defensive resources on a higher state of readiness and that way if and when India reacts, it has reserves lined up to secure potential breaches. The entire process can follow an aufbau principle where the response timescales recorded in the previous provocation can be used to determine the level of preparedness needed in defensive resources before the next provocation is initiated.

10) The ideal escalation is one where the Pakistani Army is able to stay on the edge, just slightly ahead of a place where India would be comfortable and then either get India to back off on weaponization, or ensure that an Indian imposed escalatory freeze is more resource intensive on the Indian side than on the Pakistani side.

Hope this helps people clear their heads when they are forced to think of such issues. This doesn't have all the answers one might seek, but it offers a kind of rope in the dark to hold on to as one makes their way through complex data.


At 8:20 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Alongside relative declines in defense spending, new thinking expressed by officers in leading Pakistani military publications like The Citadel, NDU Journal, Pakistan Defence Review, and Pakistan Army Green Book has endorsed austerity measures; emphasized economic growth, technology, education, and management of water and energy resources as prerequisites for national power; and warned against an “economically destructive” conventional competition with India. Worried about the mounting costs and tradeoffs of Pakistan’s current national security posture, some officers have proposed heavier reliance on a more “cost effective” nuclear deterrent to “cover the gap” or openly considered rapprochement and normalization of relations with India. Some very senior Army leaders have also expressed openness to the latter approach.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger ACR said...

1. What about if Shri Modi decides on a partially mated arsenal ? Where the fraction that is mated is just within what we can afford but just outside what Pakistan can afford to match ?

2. Also, when you say that a mated arsenal would give India ascendancy over Pakistan, what if China supplied a second strike capability to them ?

3. Wont maintaining the credibility of our deterrent require us to test again sometime in the next 10 years or so, given the unfortunate controversy about the pokhran II thermonuclear test ?

At 5:02 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear ACR,

Seeing the economy of India and how it is growing. It is difficult for me to see how the cost of a fully mated arsenal is a deterrent to going down this route. This was certainly true in the India I grew up in. The India of my childhood was a poor country, but today's India looks like it could afford this. The ratio of my guesstimate of the required money to India's GDP today is comparable to cost to GDP ratio for the US during the cold war years. These US estimates are in the public domain as round numbers so we can do a comparison.

I don't think Pakistan can afford to spend money at that level. This is where I feel the darkest fears of Pakistan lie. Aggressive moves by India in this regard could make Pakistan's weapons of last resort into an unaffordable luxury. Most Pakistanis would feel challenged by this situation.

If Pakistan chooses to get nuclear cover from one of the P5 states, it will have to do so publicly. China will not like Pakistan becoming that close to the US and the US will not like Pakistan becoming that close to China. So my guess is that Pakistani cannot actually seek such protection.

Pakistan could hand its weapons over to Saudi Arabia, get a payoff in oil, declare itself a non-nuclear state and seek the protection accorded to it as non-nuclear weapons state in the NPT but that would be politically suicidal so no one will go down that route.

As you point out, India may need to test. The P5 experience appears to be that stockpile stewardship is difficult in the post CTBT moratorium age. There is a lot of effort being put into checking Iranian moves towards weaponization, but simple safety and reliability matters might drive the US itself towards renewed testing.

If India does test - there is the bigger question of what to test.

There are three possibilities in this regard:

1) India tests a fully mated weapon - something with a 50kT yield and high accuracy delivery platform - essentially akin to the B61-11 "smart nuke" that the US is keen on deploying. This is the highest risk platform because one is tying many complex systems (packages, warheads and delivery platforms) together. Naturally this will have the greatest impact on the regional escalation framework.

2) India tests a high yield nuclear warhead - something in the 150kT range but it is only a warhead test - not a fully mated delivery system test. This would end all debate on the Shakti series test. This option is complicated to some degree, because the government will have to explain what the difference between this weaponized configuration and the S-1 device is. As this will be only a warhead and not a full up system, the impact on regional escalations will be lesser than that of option 1.

3) India tests a true TN burn package. This is something that will have yield around 1 MT. It will not be a warhead but just a nuclear explosive device. This option will simply be regarded as a technology demonstrator by India and its impact on the regional level will be minimal. Again messaging it correctly will be critical to avoiding miscommunications.

I suspect that the international disapproval will scale roughly with the projected impact on the regional stability framework.

In terms of stability maintenance, obviously there is a need for clarity of communication. The main problem in that regard is that a fully mated arsenal puts unacceptable demands on the communication framework. Old mechanisms like the DGMOs phone conference line, the exchange of lists of nuclear sites, etc... may not be able to handle a sudden escalation. IMO this part of the Pakistani argument is accurate, the flight time for a missile or airplane with a nuclear payload is far too short to permit the kind of crisis stabilization mechanisms used in the Cold War to work in the region.

I don't know what and when it makes sense for India to test. There is a cost benefit analysis associated with each of these options.

It is really almost entirely up to Sri. Modi at this point.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger ACR said...

Dear Mav,

Among the testing options you mention, 1) requires open air testing, i.e, withdrawing from the 1963 PTBT. Most probably, 3) also requires the same: there is no place in India where an underground 1MT test can safely be done: that would trigger a 6+ richter scale earthquake. So, 2) is essentially the only option available.

I think an exercise of option 2) would lead to some immediate international opprobrium that would have very little real negative effect. At a time when we are among the very few large growing economies, we are difficult to isolate. At most, the western powers may refuse to move forward on the nuclear deal: given the existing delays in setting up nuclear power stations (public protests, land acquisition difficulties, etc), this will be a minor irritant.

My own opinion is that 2) should be exercised so that all debate on the Shakti tests ends once and for all. A credible, regularly updated nuclear deterrent would free us from the need to try catch up with PRC across the conventional spectrum: a conventional play-catch-up with PRC is unaffordable given their economic edge over us.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Nanana said...

Agha Amin thinks that Pak Fauj has given green signal to restart infiltration, a broad based decision to fuck with India.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Pranay Kotasthane said...

Thanks for the clear analysis. Could you please explain in detail how weaponisation will lead to the fall in credibility of the Pak Army?

Also, we had done a similar exercise a few days back:

Will be great to know what you think of this conflict escalation framework.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Nanana said...

At 6:22 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear ACR,

Based on the public domain information, I think you are correct.

Dear Nanana,

Thank you for the link.

Dear Pranay Kotasthane,

I feel that the Pakistani Army extends this idea of being the first mover in any conflict with India to the nuclear space as well. By importing Chinese M-9 and M-11 variants, they have made it clear that they will keep well ahead of India in terms of reliability of delivery systems. On the nuclear weapons design front, the Pakistan Army has indicated that it has a tested device configuration based on CHIC-4 and they have poured money into Uranium refining, this is to send the message that here too they have a lead over India in terms of capabilities.

The place where things are lacking on the Pakistani side is demonstration of mated systems. All the constraints that ACR has discussed on testing i.e. PTBT limitations, and actual lack of test sites (although frankly any one could float a device into the IO region and conduct tests there without anyone having any real problems) are even more applicable to Pakistan. The world in general would have a deeper opposition to Pakistan making any more nuclear weapons development than India making the same. Given their international debt situation, they would not be able to make any real commitment towards developing a mated arsenal at a high level of readiness.

If India were to push ahead with weaponization (i.e. 1) mating devices with warheads and 2) warheads with weapons) Pakistan would be hard pressed to keep up. This would need a very big shift in Pakistani posture, one that their setup simply cannot keep up with.

The Pakistan Army has maintained a complete leadership position on nuclear issues, neither the Mullahs, nor the civilian politicians have been given a role in the process. Certain civilian scientists and area experts have some say in matters, but for all practical purposes it is a Pakistan Army show.

That is why I think India pursuing weaponization would cause the Pakistani Army to lose face inside Pakistan.

Can we speak offline? - I have plans to be in the DC area next month. Perhaps we can talk about this face-to-face. Please contact me via Nitin, he knows where I live. I will send Nitin a note as well.


At 7:33 AM, Blogger ACR said...

Dear Mav,

If India pursuing weaponization would undermine the Pakistani Army's power within Pakistan, we should go ahead with weaponization and present Pakistan with a fait accompli. It seems that we only have everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing this.

Undermining the Pak. Army within Pakistan would either cause Pakistan to slide into internal conflict and anarchy or would cause it tend towards becoming a more normal state with greater attention to civilian priorities. Either outcome is better for India's national interests than status quo where the Pak. army uses its cards freely and calibrates the level of terrorist violence in India as it pleases.

Strengthening our hand on this front acquires urgency given that Pak. and its backers seem to be keen on upping the ante: with all this talk of a Ghazwa-e-Hind doing the rounds, there is likely to be an attempt to unleash the ISIS or something similar on us. It is not likely to be anything new: when Pak's situation stabilized on its Afghan front after the Soviet withdrawal, it unleashed the Jihad on us. The same is likely to repeat given the current situation in Afghanistan, with the Pak. army (for now) appearing to be in the driver's seat.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Dear ACR,

Yes, it does appear that India moving ahead with weaponization will undermine the Pakistan Army's position inside the country.

The flip side of this however is that new escalation control measures and communication infrastructure will have to put into place if escalations are to be kept from a runaway process.

With increased power and potency comes greater responsibility and repercussion. Going down this road without the appropriate escalation control measures would be dangerous to regional security. One would be in a place where the slightest error or accident would lead to a major fight breaking out.

AFAIK neither the Pakistan Army nor the GoI want a real fight on their hands. Both want to avoid political embarrassments and both acknowledge a trust deficit. Modiji has indicated that he is not interested in divisive issues and wants to focus on development. This is same focus that Sri. MMS had indicated to the GoI and everyone inside had expressed alignment with that.

Should there be any slip up during the NSA level talks, the misalignment will grow and that will not lead to a positive place. Given the sensitivity of these talks, I feel it sensible that the twitteratis be silenced in the time frame of the talks. These people don't help even in the best of times, and they are a bottomless liability in the best of times.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

That will make Pakistan snuggle even closer to China an/or North Korea and may very well damage western cooperation with the Indian space program a far as launching joint missions, etc.Could also extend to various other scientific realms. Indian scientists already has problems getting visas to the US for seminars, etc. It's a minor nusuiance right but it could get way more serious. Especially for Indian born scientists currently working in the US.

Mind you I am not *advocating* this, I am merely saying what *could* happen. However, I bow to to those who have weighed the potential costs and have found it to be reasonable for the results intended.

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

case in point regarding potential costs both to the US and India should India resume testing.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Ralphy,

I completely agree that the costs would be high, but if Prime Minister Modi determines that the costs are acceptable, then there is no room for any discussion on the matter. That is a no go area as far as ordinary people are concerned.

Some people try to do some kind of "if-I-was-PM-I-would" kind of thinking but I find that a waste of time.

I presented what I see as the Pakistani point of view, as I don't know if people understand the dire nature of Pakistani compulsions on the nuclear front. I spent a great deal of time trying to understand why Pakistan does whatever it does. Some things I think I understand, I try to share with others in the hopes that it adds to the general body of knowledge.

Why just NRIs in America, even Indians themselves should dislike options that leave less room for communication and crisis stabilization. Any move towards weaponization by either India or Pakistan without adequate evolution in the crisis stabilization machinery is the path to WWIII!

At 12:29 PM, Blogger maverick said...

IIRC if you have blood relatives abroad, then you pretty much cannot get a clearance to work on anything in the US. The norms at NASA HQ Security might have been lax compared to other places.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger maverick said...

It takes something like 5 minutes for a missile launched from India to land on Pakistan or vice versa. If there is a misunderstanding or accident - there will be a few minutes to clear it up before the whole place lights up. This is why things have been kept in a demated condition so far. This is why everyone goes through the "opened the gates of the missile hanger" nonsense every single time around when there is talk of an open-ended escalation in the air.

If mating is done - then what is the communication mechanism going to be? is the Indian/Pakistani Army DGMO going to tweet to his Pakistani/Indian counterpart? is the tweet going to read "LOL! you extinct bro!!!" and what is the response going to be a tweet back - "LOL urself -rt bk at u"....

I don't know how many people understand this situation. Most of the Hindutvavadis are hanging their hope that even if Modi doesn't allow them to "ghar-wapsi" the Indian Muslims, he will at least put the Pakistanis in their place. Now if Modiji doesn't do that, then these people who voted for him will be very unhappy.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

the thing is, a lot of Hindutvas think the US would limit Pak nuke response. I don't see where this thinking comes from. while true the US has provided certain security devices and procedures to the Paks and we try to stay informed about any changes there of, by no stretch of the imagination do we control them. They do the minimum they need in order to receive aid. They still do not fully cooperate in the fight against the Taliban despite being victims themselves of their terrorist attacks. It was recently announced that Mullah Omar had died in a Pak hospital a couple of years ago. The Paks obviously knew where Omar was and never told the US. Same for Osama Bin Laden. They are playing a dirty game and are completely treacherous. So if and when the US washes it hands completely of Afghan and we have all our equipment transited through Pakistan and loaded on ships they we care to do, then I think Pakistan is going to do whatever they want concerning nukes regardless of US monitoring. And NOKO will be a big player. Forewarned is forearmed.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Ralphy,

I think the US cannot limit a Pakistani strike against India. It is foolish to base any strategy on that kind of hope.

The US might have certain measures in place, but those are measure that it will likely only activate if the US itself is threatened. It would not make sense to trigger responses just to protect India.

I wonder if it is worthwhile for me to lay out the US perspective as I understand it. I will try to put this into a separate post.

By and large US-Pakistani relations even in the last decade have been good. The US has enjoyed a lot of freedom inside Pakistan and wherever possible the Pakistanis have accommodated US requests for cooperation even if they carried grave domestic political risks.

The biggest source of US-Pakistan dissonance was the Pakistani interference in the US war in Afghanistan. This too can be rationally attributed to the Pakistani desire to keep their strategic footprint in Afghanistan. As long as the US was invested in Afghanistan, it needed to keep Pakistan in a cooperative framework. To that end, engagement with India was necessary. The threat of a growing US engagement with India could be used as a stick to keep Pakistan in line. As the Afghan War ends, the US doesn't need that stick any more.

For all the talk of a natural alliance, nothing major has emerged by way of US engagement with India. The major weapons orders that were to come from this never happened. The Indians felt that US arms would come with strings attached and never actually purchased anything. Indian aircraft corporations did purchase some 787s and 777s but the orders were nowhere near enough. US companies like Caterpillar made some sales during the construction boom in India but again the orders were much smaller than anticipated as infra development was much slower than developed. India simply didn't march fast enough to consume US goods and services. India still doesn't play along with the US on IP issues in the health care sector and 10 years after the Bush-Manmohan accord, there is only just talk of US made reactors at Mithivirdi and Kowada.

India doesn't buy enough US made products and services for the US. Indo-US trade is a tiny fraction of the GDP of both nations. There is limited interest in India's Pakistan problems in the US. The only thing India does is buy tons of carbon energy products with the dollars it earns from the IT trade. As long as India keeps paying out enough for the oil from suppliers the US likes, there is a general positive interest in the Indian economy.

To the extent that US needs to expand its share in any of India's foreign trade, there is a desire to expand ties, otherwise - the notion that the US is going to ease Pakistan's hands off the big red button just to save India doesn't fit with the kind of pragmatic rational policy-making the US is known for.

The only reason why the US might enter such a conflict is to deny the Chinese a bigger foothold inside Pakistan. And even in that case, it seems unlikely to me that the US role would necessarily make Pakistan more amenable to India's viewpoints on key issues.

Both the Modivadis and the Hindutvadis I feel do not estimate Pakistan's capabilities accurately or as completely as they should.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger maverick said...

"Though Pakistan's army-intelligence complex is not too exercised over concealing the palm prints of anti-India groups it sponsors, deniability is necessary to stonewall Indian and international pressure.

Capture of the Faisalabad man makes deniability hard to sustain, even if official statements have been on predictable lines.

If the intention of Pakistan's deep state was to scuttle the talks, India has managed, at least so far, to resist the sub-optimal option. If Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is indeed interested in normalizing relations, the exhibit 'A' currently in Indian hands can provide a legitimate - and unavoidable -- reason to discuss terrorism. "

That is the leverage that comes with getting at least one of these people arrested alive.


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