The former Prime Minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Sardar
Muhammad Abdul Qayyum Khan, who is chairman of Pakistan's National Kashmir
Committee (NKC), is ready for an unconditional dialogue with India to find
an amicable settlement to the Kashmir problem.
The newly appointed Information Minister Nisar Memon has stoutly
defended the Pakistani electronic media, owned and controlled by the
Government, and has said that they are doing their duty --- of
countering Indian propaganda. Anyone who cares to watch the PTV or
listen to Radio Pakistan can easily certify what the Minister has said.
They do a fair job of countering Indian propaganda and go on the counter
offensive --- according to their light. But the Minister will be well
advised not to go on with this supposed national duty.
It is unnecessary, indeed wrong. The purpose of the media is, and should be, to inform --- and to entertain. But inform what? It is necessary to ask this basic question and answer it honestly. The information should comprise facts, seen as objectively as humanly possible. That is the best policy that gives credibility to the media --- and indirectly to their controllers and beneficiaries. In this country where dictatorship has been the norm, the government and people around them have been volubly and ubiquitously concerned about two things: the first is countering the Indian propaganda by louder and even cruder propaganda of our own. Secondly a great deal of expertise is deployed to underscore the need for improving the 'image' of the Great Helmsman (of the day) and the country. Somehow this image thing is thought to be very important and has always entailed a huge and growing expenditure under the budgetary head of the Information Ministry.
To begin with this whole concern with Indian propaganda and the question of the image is based on wrong premises. Why can't Pakistan let the Indians shout themselves hoarse and make whatever propaganda they want to make? If it is not based on facts it will fall flat on its face. If it is true, it will have its impact on the rest of the world and indeed Pakistan. Pakistan and its rulers cannot prevent that effect. The way to counter Indian propaganda is to speak the truth and acknowledge facts spoken by others even if it hurts for the moment. Anything then said would have a great impact. Pakistan governments have usually overdone this propaganda thing. Why cant we rely on doing simple things like doing the right thing and speaking the truth.
It is true that major western governments from whom we try to learn everything do resort to propaganda. But they use sophisticated techniques. They do so because they have imperialistic interests in far flung areas that have intrinsically inimical interests to those of the socalled metropolitan powers. We in Pakistan have no such interests. We can afford to speak the truth. There is one particular kind of Indian propaganda that generally hits its target: Pakistan has not been able to make democracy work and all too frequently it has to make do with a military dictatorship. It is such a big reality that no man of propaganda, no matter how slick or crude he is, can hide. We should recognise the fact for what it is: any attempt to put any gloss on it or to find fault with democracy would only invite derision. The country ought to be more concerned with its own affairs, particularly managing the economy so well that the people's opportunities of getting gainful employment and a chance to live a decent life increases. Should this be the case --- which is not --- no amount of adverse propaganda by a more efficient spin doctor would achieve anything.
Coming to the actual situation today, Pakistan's policies urgently require de-escalation of tensions with India and a resumption of dialogue. The aim has to be, or should be, to recreate more peaceful and friendly ties with India. Pakistan also has to support the aims of SAARC, which necessitate region-wide normalisation of relations, more trade and more cultural exchanges. This would presuppose a certain kind of media approach that does not needlessly rub the Indians on the wrong side. Indian conduct, whether in the domestic sphere or in international dealings, particularly about SAARC, can be faulted. Given the track record of Pakistani electronic media, their counter attacks tend to be often savage. This is a hoary tradition. But would it achieve what the country needs above all else. The Minister's reassurance that his underlings will counter Indian propaganda needs uncommonly like a call to arms in the propaganda war. The Indians are already at it. That can only vitiate the inter-state relations and defeat Pakistan's own purposes, if one is not misjudging the situation.
Pakistan recently hosted a SAARC conference of Information Ministers that, quite properly, decided that journalists should be able to travel within the region without visas, semi visas or easily obtained visas. Although the PTV's decision to interview the Indian Information Minister Sushma Swaraj was a fine and constructive idea, though in the event it reeked of one upmanship as the interview frequently degenerated into a debate. But this was the first such occasion and the atmosphere between the two counties is surcharged and the questions and answers could understandably not be free of rancour. With a trifle more dignity and constructive spirit, such moves in the needed direction will make the larger objectives easier of achievement. As it happens, these are the days when ban on Indian channels continues, though it was an occasion when it should have been lifted. Pakistan should have dared India by lifting various other restrictions on the import of Indian books, magazines and other newspapers along with various other recently imposed restrictions.
It is necessary to remember that Pakistani newspapers could be sold in India on a daily basis until August 1965 and Indian newspapers were available in Pakistan everyday. Were Pakistanis' loyalties subverted? Why can't it be done again? Are the two states so weak and hollow that access of their people to the media of the other would bring them down? Much the same needs to be said for an easier visa regime. Those who share the aims of SAARC can clearly see that the kind of restrictions that India and Pakistan have imposed on each other the very spirit in which all regional states should move --- unless, of course the two seriously want a showdown. But then the people on both sides do not want any showdown; it will be too dangerous for all. The fact of the matter is that the option of war must clearly be given up because it has actually become impractical. Other non-war like options for resolving unsettled problems will have to be resorted to. In which case, the sundering of communication links and imposing an iron curtain on each other media would seem to be foolish.
There is one context that is not covered here. It is the political needs of the Regime. The President is facing an election --- a thing inherently unpredictable. He wants 'positive results' as do all dictators in his situation. He has to win legitimacy and an endorsement of his remaining President in the future from the elected Assemblies, get them to give indemnity to all Army officers who have acted outside the law and amend the Constitution somehow the way he wants. Now, he is not a politician with a party behind him. He has to fall back on --- what? On spin doctors and intelligence goons, who else?
But this is a game that has been played before. Intelligence services do bring short-term gains, though what happens to such a regime's longevity is subject to other ineluctable factors. Spin doctors' ability to win respectability --- the 'image' --- and votes is totally untested and questionable. Ayub Khan and Zia lasted long. But that was due to two main factors: the US support and its readiness to arrange adequate --- by Pakistani standards --- aid. If the US liked him, the dictator's image was rated good. No ruler came to power with the media's support or stayed a day longer in power because of unstinted media projection. Has anyone any time to look at this country's actual history.
Anyway the pursuit of amicable settlements requires a congenial atmosphere for talks --- from which there is no escape. Pakistan will do itself good by having a media policy that is informed with the country's actual priorities, though pressures on it for political projection of the Regime may be considerable. If the Ruler is wise, he would allow the media the option of truth telling, fair dealing and facing facts. That will make the government that Nisar Memon represents more effective despite being non-democratic. Its 'image' will take care of itself. In any case, so much concern with the 'image' and the media is unhealthy. After all, there has to be some linkage between substance of the image; and if the image contradicts the substance beneath, it cannot stick or serve any useful purpose. Let us be concerned with substance and achievements.
The people of the Subcontinent ought to be thankful to Los Angeles Times
that has unearthed a secret Pentagon report that is now with the US
Congress for action. It discloses a horrifying series of contingency
plans of the US attacking with nuclear weapons China, Russia, North
Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Such a contingency is supposed to
arise in one of three conditions: first, "in retaliation for attack with
nuclear, biological or chemical weapons". The second set of
circumstances in which the US would use its nuclear weapons would be
"against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack". The third
category is "in the event of surprising military developments", the
significance of which is likely to stump many.
Mr. George W. Bush certainly seems to be creating a New World Order --- or may be a Great Disorder. The report also indicates that the use of small-sized nuclear weapons is being considered. It is not difficult to read between the lines to the effect that this Bush thinking is likely to breach the old policy of disfavouring the actual use of nuclear weapons and regarding them merely as deterrents. There seems to be emerging a greater willingness to actually use these weapons and, if so, the US military is bound to clamour for more weapons and warheads of the miniaturised nuclear weapons and warheads in larger quantities, may be also making them somehow smarter.
In a general sort of way, a fresh nuclear arms race should ensue which will cover virtually the entire globe through myriad linkages of inter-state suspicions and rivalries. For instance, if China is the possible target, it is sure to note the intent and the capability that the US already has, and which is likely to be augmented by more production. The Chinese will go, insofar as can be seen, flat out for a nuclear build up. Once this Chinese reaction is known, the US will have to redouble its effort and would later, in its turn, force China to speed up the arms race further.
Just consider what would happen. A Chinese nuclear build up would pose a painful dilemma for Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and, more to the point, India. Should India start on an arms race with China, what would Pakistan, on present assumptions, do? Whether or not Pakistan economy can stand up to these strains, the national security considerations will force Islamabad rulers to start their own proliferation. India would be forced to speed up. The repeated public pronouncements that Pakistan will not engage in a nuclear arms race with India and that its nuclear weapons are only a deterrent beg the question. For, the deterrent to be deterrent, in military speak, it has to be kept updated.
But, what about the rest of Asia? The biggest questionmark would be on Japan's reaction to the Chinese build up and in response to the general trend of action by other Asian states. Japan is sure to be affected by all the major states adding to their nuclear stockpiles. Would Japan's pacifism survive? Already there are disturbing trends with the nationalistic wave beginning to lap its politics, with the rightwing becoming even more assertive. Then, both Russia and China are likely to be greatly alarmed by any signs of Japan beginning to make its national security more informed with self-reliance which will have unpredictable consequences. The US feels directly concerned with a possible China-Taiwan conflict; it certainly envisages using its nuclear weapons against China in such an eventuality. Much the same can be said with even greater certainty about a possible Sino-Indian war. Whether the American nuclear bombs would rain on China or any of Chinese allies (Pakistan) or not, populous India can expect to receive a fair number of Chinese warheads, maybe some of their soldiers also in certain areas. The turbulence that will result in South Asia can be imagined.
One consequence for South Asia is certain: As noted, India-Pakistan arms race in both nuclear and conventional armaments will intensify. Looked at closely, primary consequence will of course be economic: social sectors in both countries will get fewer funds and attention, with multiple effects. Their economies are manifesting stagnation, with lower growth rates. It is a trend thanks to the arms race, among other extraneous factors. Its result is restiveness due to unemployment and poverty. India already has over a dozen insurgencies. All have to be wary of social consequences of arms races. The growth in crime and lawlessness in Pakistan, including the ease with which the Jihadis and sectarian terrorists find recruits and a Jihadi culture has grown up, are all due to mass unemployment and the rapid growth of poverty. These are directly related to arms race which has mightily contributed to economic stagnation and low growth rates among other emergent factors.
The point is that experience so far has shown that from the days in May '98 when both India and Pakistan overtly became nuclear powers, there has been no moment of normal peace and quiet between them, except for the Lahore Process in early 1999. Conclusion to emerge is that mere presence of nuclear mass destruction weapons radically destroys trust in the leadership on either side and the leaders acquire an arrogance of power that says: 'we can do anything we like and the other can do little' because of the deterrence. Nuclear arms race can squarely be blamed for (a) intensification of Jihad in Kashmir, (b) total mistrust of the other's intentions, (c) worsening of economic indicators of lower income groups' conditions, (d) strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan and Hindu chauvinism in India and (e) communal flare ups in India and sectarian violence in Pakistan. Moreover SAARC's future has come under a thicker cloud as the Kathmandu Summit showed last January.
Impact on Middle East has been noted. The effect on the Arab-Israeli conflict is not likely to remain confined to Israel and the socalled Palestinian Authority that is supposed to govern the Israeli occupied areas of West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel's nuclear arsenals are known to be bigger than of either Pakistan or India, if also semi-secret. Israel works in close mesh with the US and shares American thinking. Ariel Sharon's conduct toward Yasser Arafat and PA speaks for itself. Israel's urge for lebensraum that has long been manifest in the shape of its itch to acquire ever more territory in wars and setting up Jewish settlements in purely Arab areas --- as new facts on the ground --- with a view to the eventual control over most of the Arab areas. The point to consider is what impact will the American war plans on Iraq, Syria and Iran have on Israel and PA, if it survives? The US is bound to plump even more for an obviously aggressive Israel, its need to take other Arab states on board or saving the life of Yasser Arafat notwithstanding. And the behaviour of Bush and Sharon during the last one year is there for all to see, though few Arab kings and dictators could have seen it clearly.
It is needless to focus separately on every possible scenario. True, some American publicists are likely to argue that it is only a series of contingency plans. They do not represent a definite or decided programme of action. But that is only a number of puerile words. Why? because other states will not wait for their reactive action for a definite US programme of action or its actual decision of waging the nuclear war in specific situations. The mantra for all national security wallahs is 'that intentions of a government can change but capability is what we look at'. Which means that the mere contingency plans of the US are sure to cause a general reaction unless it is stopped in its tracks right now. The other states are, on the general assumptions of powerpolitics, likely to start acting as if the Americans are going to do it --- in their own backyard if not on doorsteps. The Great Disorder may already have started building up and its evil effects may start manifesting themselves as days go by.
In point of hard fact there is not much that the people of the Subcontinent can do about it. Indeed their governments, all of them put together, are unlikely to be able to stop the process in the rest of Asia --- which is where the action is going to be in the next 20 years. There were saner times earlier when a Jawaharlal Nehru could lead an international nuclear disarmament movement, even though he was not too averse to acquiring a nuclear capability of his own. He certainly could keep South Asia more or less out of the cold war, despite Pakistan's alignment with the west in the cold war. It so happens that the Subcontinent was the first area of détente between the two superpowers; they agreed not to make it an arena of their hot or cold war. But such times are no more and there is no second superpower nor even a recognisable single cold war, only a series of confused regional conflict situations.
The people of the Subcontinent rightly feel endangered. They can with some sorry certainty expect nuclear bombs falling in their areas with the given horrible consequences. The internal divisions of South Asia are getting worse. Internal disunities make the states of South Asia unable to speak unitedly, much less to act unitedly. These internal differences in the region make its each state weaker than it otherwise might have been. The need to prevent the area from becoming the arena of a nuclear arms race and cold war is of utmost urgency. What can the non-governmental people do is the question. It is a far cry to prevent a cold war, though that is the need of the hour. As it happens the two governments of India and Pakistan have, by competitively wooing the US, sharply cut down their own stature and indeed effectiveness. It is useless to expect these South Asian governments to cooperate or speak with one voice. But can't the people start a really great popular anti-nuclear movement for the sake of our dear lives and those of our children and grandchildren?
Three weeks ago, I resigned as editor of Pakistan's largest and most
influential English language daily, the News. My newspaper's proprietor
had directed me to apologize to the chiefs of the country's notorious
Inter-Services Intelligence for my decision to publish details of the
confessional statement of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the prime suspect in
the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. I
was the first local journalist Danny and his wife Mariane contacted last
year when they arrived in Karachi to cover Pakistan and America's war
Never lacking for audacity, the ISI first broke into our newsroom on Feb. 17 over our story on Mr. Saeed, in which he linked ISI operatives directly to his involvement in financing, planning and executing last December's terrorist attack on India's Parliament. With such obviously embarrassing information coming from one of their own kind -- Mr. Saeed had, after all, turned himself in for interrogation to his former ISI handler on Feb. 5, a week before Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, arrived in Washington for an official visit -- the principal information officer of the regime called me at 1 a.m. and demanded I pull the piece. When his coercion failed, my proprietor in London was called. He too tried to stop publication, but failed, and the government pulled all its advertising -- accounting for over half our income the next day -- in an effort to silence my paper completely. Then they asked the owner to sack me, as well as three other senior journalists.
I resigned rather than become part of the conspiracy to mislead the people of Pakistan. Fearing physical attacks, as experienced in the past -- and with the Pearl example fresh in my mind -- I chose to join my family in the U.S. and live to fight another day.
And fight we must. These media management games are the first sign of where Gen. Musharraf's newly purged, more outwardly tactful ISI is headed. "Managing" politics and obviously rigging the elections in October are next on the agenda. There are growing signs that a "King's Party" for Gen. Musharraf is being put together to legitimize his stay in office, as an all-powerful president, well beyond any reasonable timeframe.
Games we have seen so many times are underway in Pakistan again. I'm not talking about renewed cricket matches with India, I'm talking about a well-orchestrated effort to manipulate the press, to usurp the people's right to free and fair elections, to perpetuate individuals rather than institutions, and to hide Pakistan's Islamists under a presentable wrap giving them a sizeable say in national affairs.
The primary instrument of change in achieving this devil's pact is Gen. Musharraf's recasting of the ISI as a more docile and introspective institution, ostensibly purged of Islamist hardliners and Taliban sympathizers. But buyers beware.
Over 20 years ago, another military dictator, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, created the first monstrous reign of the ISI when he empowered the agency to run a different war in Afghanistan -- the one against the Soviets. Billions of American taxpayer dollars and weapons of every imaginable type flowed through the ISI into Mujahideen hands -- while the U.S. government looked the other way as Zia built Pakistan's nuclear capacity, trained Islamic militants and inculcated radical Islam into the barracks, the schools and the streets. Rogue terrorist armies were born and no one paid attention.
Then in 1985, under an absolutist formula for controlling press dissension, Zia tried to patch together political legitimacy at home under farcical non-party elections by handpicking his parliament and nominating a nonentity as prime minister. An August 1988 plane crash left a gaping power vacuum filled by out-of-control intelligence outfits. The births of America's present-day nemeses, the Taliban and al Qaeda, were -- at least in the eyes of the all-powerful Islamist generals -- the ISI's most important contributions to Pakistani national security after the bomb.
Another intelligence disaster now looms. Its similarities to the Zia days are remarkable. Gen. Musharraf, the military dictator of the day, is the new darling of the West fighting the new enemy in Afghanistan. Billions of American taxpayer dollars are again set to flow. A beautiful facade has been crafted for external consumption, on everything from press freedoms to promised elections to a corruption-free economy to an Islamist-free reformed state. The reality is harshly different.
The ISI has been assigned the task of identifying, recruiting and organizing representatives for this effort. They are to entice, cajole and coerce the press and politicians. Key leaders from the political parties of both former prime ministers -- Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif -- are being lined up for pre-approval. The Islamist role will be enshrined by fundamentalist generals in the National Security Council. Power, after all, is still the ultimate aphrodisiac in Pakistani politics.
A full dress rehearsal of this methodology was carried out during the recently concluded countrywide polls for mayors and deputy mayors. Every city, big or small, had a pre-selected mayor. In Pakistan's military stronghold, Rawalpindi, for example, ISI interference in seating a pre-approved candidate was so blatant that the non-political but highly compliant Chamber of Commerce president was "elected" mayor against well-known political stalwarts.
Pakistan has played crucial roles in two of the most important struggles of our time -- the defeats of communism and terrorism. The first time, the West looked away while evil forces were born in our midst, destroying whatever was left of our culture and society. The moderate majority was silenced into submission until the world woke up on Sept. 11.
The warning signs are there again. America must invest its political and financial capital in institutions and not individuals. It is imperative that the American people, their elected representatives and the international press watching events in Pakistan not look the other way again. Freedom of the press is under siege. The promised return of democracy is being systematically compromised. American aid is being used to achieve dubious objectives. And the poor people of Pakistan, in defense of whom the ISI and Gen. Musharraf have made their last stand, may once again lose whatever is left of a country that can still be great.
ON February 16, 1994, Indian, Pakistani and American soldiers and
diplomats who had been involved in the Indo-Pakistan crisis in 1990
met in Washington under the auspices of the Henry L. Stimson Centre.
Towards the end of the meeting, former Chief of the Army Staff Gen.
K. Sundarji remarked that it was rather strange that nobody had
commented on a possible cause of the relative stability - a "de
facto, perceived, non-deployed nuclear deterrence in operation." If
it had existed since 1947, he added, the Indo-Pakistan "shooting
matches" might not have occurred.
To an extent, Kargil proved the General wrong. It will be some time before the lessons are learnt from the deployment of nearly two-thirds of India's Army on the Indo-Pakistan border, the largest such deployment by any country since the Second World War. Was it the bomb which preserved the peace? Or, was it a gamble in coercive diplomacy? Lt. Gen. (retd.) V. R. Raghavan wrote: "War was never an option for India despite the political leadership's war rhetoric. It is now more than ever unlikely that the loud talking leadership will attempt a military venture. There is, therefore, a sense of deja vu and of regret, that the political leadership had apparently not thought through the strategic implications of placing the nation's defence forces on battle readiness against Pakistan" (The Telegraph; February 26; emphasis added throughout). Nor reckoned with the risks of a nuclear clash.
Neither India nor the region is any the more secure after the tests at Pokhran in May 1998 which Pakistan aped in Chagai. What is clear beyond doubt is that, both, Pokhran-I in 1974 and Pokhran-II in 1998 were enacted for political reasons. India was comfortable with a "recessed deterrence". Pokhran-II launched it on a course fraught with grave consequences. Only a brave and statesmanlike leadership can arrest the trend and accomplish a modus vivendi with Pakistan and China. The Bharatiya Janata Party regime is innocent of any such thought. M. V. Ramana has described the steps being taken towards deployment of nuclear weapons (''A nuclear wedge''; Frontline; December 21, 2001).
The Washington Post reported the new mood in New Delhi that the bomb is no deterrent to conventional war. (International Herald Tribune; January 18). The firing of the nuclear-capable Agni-2 on January 25 with a range of 800 to 900 km was designed to send a message across.
Ironically, the acclaim which Ashley J. Tellis' formidable work has justly received does scant justice to the richness of its nuances and acknowledges barely the service he has rendered in describing, in a wealth of detail, the hurdles that lie ahead as we move from a recessed deterrent to a nuclear arsenal. If the enormous jug of ice cold water he pours on the heads of nuclear drunks will not abate their inebriation, nothing else can.
Most Indians and Pakistanis readily lapped up the claims made by their governments after the tests. "India is now a nuclear weapons state," Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee said. Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif made an identical claim for Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto fervently pleaded with the West for a military strike on India (Los Angeles Times; May 17, 1998).
Ashley Tellis' work suggests that the claim may be somewhat dubious - and the truth of the matter is much more complex than most Indian analysts believe. "This volume will suggest that despite having demonstrated an ability to undertake nuclear explosions successfully - including nuclear weapon test explosions - India still has some way to go before it can acquire the capabilities that would make it a significant nuclear power. The analysis will further demonstrate that in many ways India remains at a cross-roads with respect to its nuclear weapon programme. In contrast to much of the superficial commentary that appeared in the wake of the May 1998 tests, however, it will argue that the challenges facing India are not as onerous as they are often assumed to be, although they will compel New Delhi to move - at least initially - in a direction quite different from that which most previous nuclear weapon states have taken. It will be posited that this nuclearisation process will in all probability involve a large but finite number of steps that will occur covertly rather than overtly. In short, it will be argued that India's emergence as a true nuclear weapon power will more likely be a slow, gradual, and distinctive process, thanks to a number of factors..." (pp. 4-5).
He proceeds to say: "India possesses nuclear weapons, even if only in disassembled form, but it still does not possess the panoply of delivery capabilities it desires or the supporting infrastructure and procedural and ideational systems necessary for the effective conduct of a wide range of nuclear operations. This implies in turn that India's claim to have become a significant nuclear power as a result of its tests is at best premature and at worst preposterous. Indeed, it is not even clear whether these tests changed anything as far as India's raw strategic capabilities are concerned, since the development of both nuclear weapons and assorted delivery systems, together with their potentially slow production, would have continued even if the 1998 nuclear tests had not taken place. And while these tests will no doubt enhance both India's and Pakistan's ability to pursue some of these objectives, it is too early to argue that they have engendered a qualitative change in the regional environment at least as far as both states' technical proficiency is concerned; if anything, they have merely confirmed capabilities that most observers had long suspected existed in the region" (pp. 246-7).
This is not written to belittle India's accomplishments in this sphere. Born in Mumbai and educated there, Ashley Tellis went to the United States less than two decades ago and rose to become the foremost specialist on South Asia's security issues. He is currently Senior Adviser to U.S. Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill. The book is addressed to American as well as Indian readers. It is based on published literature and interviews with key policy-makers in India. The principal aim is to make U.S. policy-makers in particular and the American strategic community in general understand the motivations behind India's decisions as well as the nature of Indian thinking about nuclear weaponry and the character of the evolving Indian deterrent - especially insofar as these issues affect U.S. diplomatic initiatives, non-proliferation policy, and regional strategy.
It reflects the author's understanding of India's concerns. He analyses the choices India faces from its perspective to discern which courses of action appear most appealing to its civilian security managers - the political leadership and senior bureaucrats in the PMO, the Cabinet Secretariat, and key Ministries. It assesses how such choices would affect the U.S.' strategic interests.
Every bit of Indian writing of any significance on the subject has been consulted. The details into which the author plunges are amazing. For instance, the Prime Minister's consultative duties towards the President on security issues are described with a precision that no constitutional lawyer can fault. Even the warrant of precedence is set out to show what can happen if calamity hits us. There is not a single work on the subject which discusses the daunting array of complex issues as thoroughly as this encyclopaedic work does. In the result it shows up the simplistic character of most Indian thinking on the nuclear question.
"Indian policy-makers, being overwhelmed by the political significance attributed to the possession of nuclear weapons, often tend to err in exactly the opposite direction: refusing to think seriously about the contingencies involving nuclear use rather than jumping at the prospect of designing clever nuclear-use strategies. In any event, it is important to recognise that New Delhi simply does not and will not possess the resources to engage in satisfactory damage limitation vis-a-vis China (and Pakistan, for that matter) through either pre-emptive action or premeditated first strikes, although some marginal attrition strategies pursued through conventional means are possible if the nuclear-use contingency is preceded by a lengthy conventional war. Beijing's nuclear superiority over New Delhi and the geographic location of China's nuclear assets vis-a-vis India's force-structure weaknesses prevent damage limitation strategems from even being contemplated in the Sino-Indian case, while Pakistan's emphasis on producing a wide variety of mobile delivery systems in significant numbers - all tightly integrated into its strategic planning and conventional war-fighting capabilities and ready for rapid, efficient, and covert dispersal - actually ensures that even if Indian damage-limiting strikes are contemplated, successful interdiction of these reserves is unlikely unless it is presumed that New Delhi would actually unleash a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack without any provocation" (p. 618).
A careful reader will find much which explains some of the Indian government's recent responses; for example on the U.S. proposals for a national missile defence system. "India's security managers have already signalled their concern about these developments. In private conversations, they have revealed great interest in understanding the intent, scope, and time lines surrounding ongoing U.S. efforts to develop a thin national missile defence (NMD) system and a localised theatre missile defence (TMD) system that may be deployed first in East Asia and then elsewhere. Their concern about these systems is driven not by an interest in U.S. strategic planning per se but rather by a desire to anticipate China's strategic response to such developments... This private concern is now being articulated at a public level, albeit elliptically" (p. 38).
The Government of India's avowed objective is to establish a credible minimum deterrent; not "a robust and ready arsenal" but "a force in being". The Draft Report of the National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, released on August 17, 1999 by Brajesh Mishra, the Prime Minister's National Security Adviser, was soon repudiated in all but name by Jaswant Singh, Minister for External Affairs. "Besides causing panic in Pakistan and exacerbating prevailing suspicions in China, it riled many Indian security specialists and commentators, who lambasted it for a variety of reasons ranging from poor grammar and syntax to internal inconsistency to unrealistic albeit ambitious posturing" (p. 253).
Of the Board itself, Tellis writes: "Many of the members selected during the last two iterations of the board's existence are not specialists in the truest sense of the term but merely diverse opinion makers of different stripes in national politics" (p. 656). The National Security Council has proved to be a joke.
Defence Minister George Fernandes disapproves of public debate on nuclear issues. He said on October 11, 1998: "When people keep commenting that the nation is divided on the nuclear tests and that it has become a contentious issue, then we are only providing our opponents an assurance... that we are not even united on our own survival... A nation can be at war on issues like what should be our priorities, on issues relating to social justice, etc. But on our very survival, never."
India's nuclear policy rests on two related fundamental - the doctrine of "No First Use" and emphasis on the deterrent character of the bomb rather than on its use as a weapon of war. The Draft made dents in both. It is unnecessary to consider it in view of its rejection.
The author holds: "The fact that India will probably settle for a relatively small nuclear arsenal consisting of 150-odd weapons, together with a number of delivery vehicles to carry such an inventory to target - all oriented toward holding between 8 and 15 target sets in China and Pakistan at risk - provides a more concrete image of the Indian version of minimum deterrence. To be sure, such a force does not yet exist and probably will not exist in full form for at least another decade or two. In the interim, there is little evidence that New Delhi is pursuing these capabilities at an accelerated pace across the board, because India believes, despite occasional claims to the contrary, that it is already ahead of Pakistan where nuclear weapons are concerned and does not expect serious strategic competition with China for another 15 to 20 years" (p. 401).
This is where we enter the realm of dangerous uncertainty where miscalculation and error can wreak sheer ruin. Deterrence, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. It rests on perceived rational responses. It can breakdown if there is miscalculation or if a bluff is called. "Even stronger nuclear powers can be dissuaded from embarking on a course of strategic action that threatens the core interests of a relatively weaker state. It is precisely this kind of calculus that under writes New Delhi's belief that even relatively weak nuclear forces are sufficient to deter China - because so long as India's nuclear capabilities present more than just token opposition, and so long as Beijing cannot be certain that it can interdict India's nuclear reserves successfully... China will in all likelihood be deterrable even in dyadic encounters characterised by a substantial asymmetry in relative nuclear capabilities" (p. 703).
But, the same calculus applies also to the Indo-Pakistan equation. "The advantages India currently enjoys in relative vulnerability over Pakistan will slowly decay over time as Islamabad develops a larger nuclear arsenal and progressively longer-range delivery systems - and at some stage, there will come a point where Pakistan, despite its relative disadvantage in size, will be able to comprehensively target the Indian land mass and inflict such horrific levels of damage as to make any distinction in relative vulnerability more or less academic."
All the three actors in the nuclear play in the region - China, India and Pakistan - are busy perfecting their nuclear arsenal; Pakistan, with China's support which Tellis carefully documents (pp. 46-47).
The U.S. will, doubtless, "monitor" the interaction among the three. Chinese press comment on India's troops deployment has been overlooked. The apparent even-handedness did not conceal disapproval of India's action (vide Beijing Review, January 10, 2002).
India has yet a long way to go to acquire even a respectable nuclear force. "If an arsenal of around 150 weapons is treated as desirable from New Delhi's point of view, then irrespective of which estimate of India's fissile-material inventory one accepts, India still has some way to go before it can be satisfied that its fissile-material stockpile is sufficient for its future deterrent... At the moment New Delhi possesses at best a monadic delivery force consisting of relatively short-range tactical strike aircraft like the Jaguar, Mirage 2000, MiG-27, and Su-30MK. None of these platforms has been designed for the conduct of all-weather strike operations, and consequently attack missions carried out in other than daylight conditions would require high pilot skill, ingenious mission planning, and favourable environmental factors for their success. Moreover, if Indian press reports are to be believed, these delivery systems are still more notional than real" (pp. 491 & 529-30). India is determined to overcome these handicaps. Pakistan is unlikely to sit still. Nor, beyond a point, will China. The region is set inexorably on a suicidal arms race. The U.S. will perform the same role that it has been performing in recent weeks - acting in the light of its own national interests. Ashley Tellis has a word of advice for it. "The United States should concentrate on shaping the character of the evolving Indian (and Pakistani) nuclear arsenals so that they comport with the following injunctions: Keep 'em small... Keep 'em stealthy... Keep 'em slow" (p. 760).
India, thus, faces a clear choice between sustained American umpireship in the region and conciliation with both its neighbours - Pakistan and China. The nuclear question cannot be divorced from strained political equations. Few in India seem willing to improve those equations significantly and move towards a regime of nuclear restraint that accords with the interests of all three.
LT. GEN. KAMAL MATINUDDIN, a distinguished soldier and writer on strategic affairs, presents the Pakistani view. The 15 Appendices, texts of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Pressler, Glenn, Symington and Brown Amendments, the Draft National Security Advisory Board Report and useful chronologies of developments in India and Pakistan - alone suffice to make the book a useful work of reference. He is, however, sparse on analysis and long on rhetoric. The relevance of Congress-Muslim League differences in 1937 to the nuclear issue is not evident to lesser mortals. The data he cites from his perspective is useful.
He mentions efforts by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute and the Delhi Policy Group to initiate a sustained dialogue on nuclear matters. "Several proposals and suggestions have been floated at these unofficial meetings. Some of the more significant ones are: regular meetings of core groups of experts; the need for transparency; clarity of each other's nuclear doctrines; knowledge of each other's force structures, nuclear alert concepts, renunciation of producing tactical nuclear weapons, establishment of joint crisis centres, military to military contacts, safety of nuclear sites, and prevention of nuclear terrorism.
"Given the ground reality of suspicion, mistrust and animosity between India and Pakistan, some of the proposals are utopian in character. Some of them are not in the realm of possibility as it is very doubtful if India would give up its aim of claiming a regional superpower status based on an array of nuclear weapons and their delivery means. Some of the suggestions can mature only if there is a major shift in the strategic environment." Proposals by both sides, set out in appendices, reveal little common ground.
HILARY SYNNOTT, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, tackled aspects of the problem in an Adelphi Paper for the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He analyses crisply the motivations behind, and the consequences of, the tests. In his view, "Both India and Pakistan appear to have neglected issues of doctrine. Since nuclear policy will always contain elements that governments will wish to keep secret, it is unclear what either government has done, or intends to do. The main elements needing attention would include: refraining from military procurement and deployment which increases rather than diminishes the risk of nuclear conflict; steps to make nuclear weapons safe from accidental detonation and unauthorised interference; measures to ensure adequate central or political control of nuclear policy and related activities; and procedures to manage the consequences of a nuclear-related political or military incident."
He counsels India and Pakistan to consider the following specific steps: "Explicitly ruling out launch-on-warning" policies; engaging in operational arms control, including keeping nuclear forces off alert; not attaching warheads and other vital components to delivery systems and extending the time required to make nuclear forces ready for launch; and refraining from deploying nuclear-delivery systems."
Even if a dialogue is held between the two countries on the nuclear issue, it will be long before negotiations are seriously held on proposals such as the ones Synnott helpfully outlines. Meanwhile, the menace of a nuclear clash looms large over the region.
India's Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Ready Arsenal by Ashley J. Tellis; Oxford University Press; pages 885, Rs. 895.
The Nuclearization of South Asia by Kamal Matinuddin; Oxford University Press; pages 355, Rs. 495.
The Causes and Consequences of South Asia's Nuclear Tests: Adelphi Paper 332 of the International Institute for Strategic Studies; Oxford University Press; pages 85, Rs.195.
Over the years, I have written many articles condemning the sectarian
violence and the institutionalized discrimination practised against
minorities in Pakistan.
While the response of Pakistani readers has been mixed, most Indian readers, whether Muslim or Hindu, have argued that their secular constitution is a guarantee of minority rights, and many of Pakistan's problems stem from making religion the be-all and end-all of its existence. Given the rabid nature of our zealots and their leaders, as well as the sad plight of non-Muslims in Pakistan, I have had to hang my head in shame and agree with this criticism. But in the wake of the horror we have just witnessed in Gujarat, I must say it is not enough to have a secular constitution: there has to be a consensus among politicians and citizens to make it work. In every society, there will always be individuals who break the law; in civilized nations, these criminals are usually caught, tried and punished. But when a sizable section of a society, led by its leaders and supported by organs of the state, transgresses and commits the most terrifying acts of violence, then clearly the code of conduct laid down by law and the constitution breaks down. The problem is compounded when no action is taken or contemplated against these people.
In a sense, the mosque/mandir crisis in Ayodhya is entirely of the BJP's making. When it was in the opposition, it saw an advantage in egging on its extremist supporters into destroying the historic 16th century mosque. Now that it is in power, it is having to oppose the construction of a mandir on the disputed spot. But putting the jinni back into the bottle is proving to be a difficult task, specially as a viciously Hindu-nationalist party is ruling Gujarat, and is more than willing to take on New Delhi and the Supreme Court in its determination to gain favour with extremist elements.
If the religious right succeeds in its designs to construct a mandir on the disputed land in Ayodhya - and elements of the temple have been pre-fabricated nearby - then it will be a permanent blot on India's claim to secularism. Muslims, already traumatized by the violence they have recently been subjected to, will be further embittered. More than the scale and organization of the attacks by Hindu groups, what was perhaps more shocking was the participation of the police in these acts. Instead of investigating the attack on the train in Godhra that left 60 Hindu activists dead, the police pointed out Muslim houses to frenzied mobs and joined in when the butchery began.
It would be sad if this ghastly chain of events were to seriously erode the secular edifice modern India's founders worked so hard to erect. Many Indians are justly proud of this achievement, and are deeply embarrassed by the crude words and actions of people like L.K. Advani, the Indian home minister who, on arriving recently in Gujarat, announced that action would be taken against the (Muslim) perpetrators of the train attack without saying a word about those Hindus who have massacred hundreds of Muslims. But despite the BJP's recent electoral setbacks, it does not appear that the tide of religious extremism is subsiding.
In much of the world where religion exercises a strong influence, unscrupulous politicians use it to further their narrow ambitions, thereby letting loose passions that become difficult to control. The killing frenzy that accompanied the partition of the Indian subcontinent is a grim reminder of the destructive power the exploitation of blind faith can unleash. And once Pakistan was created in the name of religion, there was no way politicians and religious leaders would not use Islam to achieve and retain power. India, taking a different route, has found that having a secular constitution is not necessarily enough to achieve the separation of religion from politics.
But the current crisis should not detract from the genuine integration of Muslims into the fabric of Indian society over the last half-century. It is true that the post-Partition generation was confused and demoralized: it felt abandoned and vulnerable, and much of its loyalty was with Pakistan. Refusing to learn Hindi and adapt to the changed circumstances, it remained aloof from the mainstream, and became largely marginalized.
Partly as a result of their own attitude, and partly due to prejudice, Muslims were often discriminated against. This has changed over the years as the younger generation now identifies with India, and has little time or sympathy for a Pakistan that is perceived as increasingly dysfunctional. They may cheer a Pakistani victory on the sports field, but no longer consider migration to Pakistan an option. In Pakistan, the small religious minorities pose no political threat and apart from being largely marginalized, are seldom subjected to the kind of brutal pogrom the Muslims of Gujarat have undergone recently. Instead, militant Sunni groups have sought to cow down the Shia minority through a series of murderous attacks. The recent slaughter of ten Shias praying in a mosque in Rawalpindi underlines the danger posed to society by sectarian politics. Over the last few years, literally hundreds of Shias have been killed; doctors have been specially targeted.
Ironically, the spread of education in the subcontinent has done nothing to reduce religious and sectarian hatred. Indeed, most of those killing the innocent in the name of their respective faiths are literate, if not educated in the proper sense of the word. Contrast this with the relative tolerance that has marked inter-faith relations in South Asia in much of the last millennium.
Despite the wars of succession, conquest and plunder that took place, there were no religious wars at a time when Europe was being devastated by the great doctrinaire conflicts of the era. Both Muslim and Hindu rulers and the ruled displayed a remarkable sense of pragmatism and tolerance that are missing today.
How are these religious fires to be extinguished? Surely it should be possible to make it a criminal offence to preach hatred against another community, and disqualify politicians who seek to curry support in the name of religion. It is true that we are better at making laws than implementing them, but unless both India and Pakistan can control the rise of extremism, they risk being distracted from the main task of nation-building that requires the urgent attention of their rulers. Obviously, the task is more pressing for Pakistan, but as we have just seen in Gujarat, it cannot be ignored by India.
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