Albright not alright (2)

If you are trying to break the deal, then hypotheses must be dressed up as convincing arguments

Perhaps the most bewildering sentence in David Albright’s latest report — that purports to prove that India’s record on nuclear non-proliferation is not impeccable as claimed — is this one:

When (IREL – Indian Rare Earths Limited – the unit that reportedly enriches uranium for the nuclear submarine project) procures internationally for the Indian centrifuge program, it does not reveal the true end-use of items. [ISIS]

It would be rather out of place for India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) or its units to place advertisements announcing the tender for the “Supply of 100 vacuum pumps for India’s secret naval reactor programme”. Albright and his team from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) have taken it upon themselves to prove that India’s ‘impeccable’ record on proliferation is not so impeccable after all. In their eagerness to achieve this objective, they end up diluting their raison d’être, which presumably, is to check the spread of nuclear weapons.

Albright’s latest report focusses on the Rattehalli Rare Materials Plant (RMP) that uses gas centrifuges to enrich uranium for India’s naval reactor project. Though supposedly ‘secret’, the existence and purpose of the Rattehalli plant are common knowledge, and have been so for a long time (See this post). The report raises two issues: first, that India procured components for this plant from local and foreign suppliers in a ‘deceptive or illicit’ manner; and second, that the manner in which it procured those components presents a possible proliferation risk. What is important to note is that Albright’s report does not produce a single instance of the latter actually happening.

Scanning through over 200 tender notifications published in the Times of India over a twenty year period, ISIS analysts found that since IREL didn’t state that the components were for use in an IAEA-unsafeguarded uranium enrichment plant, suppliers and their principals easily avoided the liability that arises from the knowledge that they were selling dual-use technology to India. ISIS then suggests that a side-effect of this procurement process is that suppliers could end up with access to sensitive technologies, which they could then pass on to other customers.

Company officials who possess this information could sell the item or underlying technology to other customers with the expectation that few legal consequences would result from Indian prosecutors.

In addition to public advertisements, (IREL) has also invited tenders directly from specific companies. Little is publicly known about these solicitations for tenders, but (IREL) may have developed long-term relationships with certain companies, may view a particular company as the only source for an item, or might depend on a certain company when it needs an item quickly. [ISIS emphasis added]

Too many probabilities there. One probability it does not mention however, is that of Indian authorities conducting background checks on suppliers before sharing sensitive information. In any case, from this ‘evidence’, Albright goes on to offer advice to the Indian government and the United States Congress. He calls upon India to stop illegal and ‘questionable’ purchases of direct-use (for nuclear weapons) or dual-use items, and also to tighten its procurement process to prevent those probable proliferation risks. India has no incentive to stop procuring components for its nuclear weapons programme, and Albright does not offer any new ideas on this front. But India does have an incentive to plug loopholes that could, even remotely, result in nuclear technologies getting into wrong hands. However, as long as the nuclear cartel denies India ‘legitimate’ access to high-tech components, it will have to continue with its existing buying strategy. Unless it is fully integrated into the international nuclear technology market, with terms that are similar to those of the five states that the NPT acknowledges as nuclear-weapon states, India will not find it in its interests to accept these recommendations, however much they may be desirable.

Albright also advises the US Congress to make the nuclear deal with India conditional on the president certifying, on an annual recurring basis, that Indian entities have not been found to be engaging in illicit procurement and that they have not contributed to proliferation to undesirable third countries. This is somewhat similar to the position taken by the Brookings Institution’s Ivo Daalder, who also argues that the US Congress can and should impose additional conditions, albeit after negotiations with India. But Daalder takes a more reasonable line — that Congress should rule out the transfer (by the United States) of uranium enrichment technology to India. This is different from Albright, whose recommendations are so designed to wreck the entire deal rather than genuinely address proliferation concerns.

Indeed, Albright’s diagnosis can be just as easily used as an argument in favour of completely integrating India into the international nuclear mainstream, as a result of which it will have every incentive to co-operate with the likes of ISIS on preventing proliferation. Not only does ISIS base its case on hypothetical possibilities, it ignores the reality that all observed cases of proliferation have been by states that wilfully transfer nuclear technology to others in a deliberate, sustained manner. Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and Libya didn’t acquire or come close to acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities by analysing newspaper advertisements. They acquired complete designs and critical components from their benefactors who happen to be ‘legitimate’ nuclear states. And there is nothing to prevent them from doing it again.

Related Links: The Arms Control Wonks have two related posts; Selig Harrison, Stephen Cohen, Karl Inderfurth, Dennis Kux, Frank Wisner, Teresita Schaffer and others have written an open letter to the US Congress in support of the deal.

20 thoughts on “Albright not alright (2)”

  1. Excellent take. First it was about Indian PSLV used as a base for building ICBMs (to hell with accuracy and atmospheric re-entry issues). The more ridiculous the NP Ayatollahs get by their op-eds the stronger the case gets for India.

    best,

  2. Nitin,

    Two additional points to your thorough debunking of Mr. Albright’s report.

    First, it is not clear to me that India does anything illegal–contra Mr. Albright–when importing dual-use equipment, even if such importation was on a far greater scale than is the case now. After all, those laws make it illegal for companies (and residents) based in the West to export such equipment but such laws don’t cover India.

    Even if such laws mandate sanctions for Indian companies purportedly engaging in such behavior, Indian companies and the GOI (like other governments) are under no legal obligation to follow/enforce those laws. This isn’t merely a lawyerly distinction but one that underlines the fact that while India doesn’t break agreements it signs, it is under no obligation to abide by treaties and laws to which it is not a party.

    Second, Mr. Albrights’s energetic attempts notwithstanding, how likely is it that a rogue nation or group could assemble a nuclear weapons capacity by targeting Indian tender offers? Clearly, it would be a laborious and long process. A ‘rogue’ actor relying on such espionage to any significant degree would have to wait a very, very long time for its nuclear weapons.

    Mr. Albright brandishes hypotheticals, but as you wrote actual rogue actors have relied on wholesale transfer of nuclear weapons tech. from ‘legitimate’, NPT-certified states. Groups that want to acquire nuclear weapons want to do so in as efficient a manner as possible; espionage targeting Indian tender offers is simply not efficient.

    Regards,
    Kumar

  3. Unrelated question out of curiosity, does India has ICBMs? Which other countries do? Do we have ‘sufficient’ of them? Thanks!

  4. Kumar,

    You would no doubt have noticed the use of the bundling of the terms ‘deceptive or illicit’ in the ISIS report. The lumping of ‘illicit’ to ‘deceptive’ is intentional, and is a useful device if the objective is to cast doubts and aspersions.

    Ashish,

    The longest range missile that India possesses is the Agni, the latest (untested) variant of which is expected to have a range of 5500 km. It has been described as an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

  5. Russia and the US both have ICBMs. China has some, although at present I believe they can only reach the West coast of the US. Thats about it — Britain, France etc, only have IRBMs.

    There have been rumors of the Surya development for quite a while. It would astonish me if India did not have an ICBM research program. However, I would be equally surprised if India was close to producing a genuine ICBM at this point.

  6. I don’t think Agni III with a range of 3000KM hasn’t been tested yet – I doubt it will be anytime soon until the nuclear deal with US is sealed (George Fernandes announced the making of it sometime in 2003, I think). Agni III still can’t reach all parts of China. A 5000KM variant would cover all China and probably would be the last stop for India for a long time.

    US would go ballistic 🙂 if India tests or produces an ICBM – with no potential enemy nations beyond 5000KM range.


  7. Here’s a fisking of an article that contends the PSLV can be converted into an ICBM called “Surya”.

    Not much of a fisking, if you ask me. All the article does is to say that the PSLV cannot be used an ICBM directly, which is plainly obvious. However, the possibility that PSLV technology can be used in an ICBM is equally obvious, just like previous SLV technology was used in the Agni.

    Agni-3’s launch seems to keep getting delayed. And even Agni-3 cannot reach Bejjing or Shanghai, which is a minimum for deterring China. I believe that India does need the ability to targe all of China.

    However, going beyond that range, to a range capable of reaching Europe or the US would like give Britan and the US conniptions. Were I in charge of India’s missile program, I would do exactly as suggested in the article and use a civilian space program to bolster a clandestine ICBM research program so that India could deploy one if needed in the future. The hardest part is
    MIRV technology, which is extremely hard to get right. China stole a lot of its missile technology from the US.

  8. I don’t know what a fisking is but all I am saying on my website is that no one is going to waste 200 Million dollars on developing a PSLV into a “first-strike” weapon. That is the crux of the Non-Proliferation community’s argument – that the PSLV itself is a first strike weapon and should be seen as a current threat.

    All this talk of the “PSLV could be used to make an ICBM” is hot air. There is no substantial progress towards that end and DRDO has not officially mentioned anything of that nature. This is all internet nonsense and flights of fancy by Indian military enthusiasts. The Non-Proliferatin people seem to be relying on internet downloads and gibberish spoken by non-specialists.

    Without a dispersal plan, a platform based on the PSLV or GSLV or some other unknown technology would have no meaningful deterrent value. There are no discussions on dispersal issues in all the information coming from Govt. of India sources.

    The manner in which this PSLV as an ICBM theme has surfaced is reminiscent of a time five or six years ago. At that time, Indian negotiators had arrived in Washington to discuss matters of mutual cooperation and the US side was not keen on proceeding and was looking to delay any progress. In order to facilitate this delaying tactic, the Non-Proliferation community conjured up a missile that no one on the Indian side had heard anything about – the Sagarika. Instead on negotiating on the issues at hand, US negotiators spent hours harassing the Indian delegation about this mythical Sagarika. It turns out the Sagarika was merely a figment of the Non-Proliferation community’s imagination and that they had deliberately spun all their so-called “secret intelligence” about planned Dhanush tests into a story about this submarine launched Sagarika missile.

    The PSLV is an ICBM song-and-dance routine is being paraded before the American people today because the Non-Proliferation community is worried about its funding being cut. So they are creating some racket about a non-issue and hoping to scare the American Congress into funding them.

    The fact is that these Non-Proliferation people are all spending millions of dollars analysing marginal or non-existant threats. If you simply look at the amount of money they are going to have to spend on targetting the PSLV program – you are looking at billions of dollars – money to buy more spies in India, money to retask satellites, money to pay so-called experts like “Albright” and if you add that to the money that American businesses are going to lose because of the restrictive laws .. its 10s of billions.

    Maverick
    http://www.indianmavericks.blogspot.com


  9. I am saying on my website is that no one is going to waste 200 Million dollars on developing a PSLV into a “first-strike” weapon. That is the crux of the Non-Proliferation community’s argument – that the PSLV itself is a first strike weapon and should be seen as a current threat

    That is NOT the crux of the argument (which argument I agree is very weak). The argument is that the PSLV’s fuel technology could be used to build an ICBM in a similar manner to the way that Agni used previous SLV technology.


    All this talk of the “PSLV could be used to make an ICBM” is hot air. There is no substantial progress towards that end and DRDO has not officially mentioned anything of that nature. This is all internet nonsense and flights of fancy by Indian military enthusiasts. The Non-Proliferatin people seem to be relying on internet downloads and gibberish spoken by non-specialists.

    Do you think that if India had an ICBM plan, DRDO would officially mention it, given the strong negative reaction from US and Europe that would be expected ? And incidentally, past Indian Defense Minister Rawat mentioned such a program a few years back, which was later denied by other officials. That may just be a layman who made a mistake, but it is a plain lie to say that the speculation about Surya is hot-air Internet speculation.


    There are no discussions on dispersal issues in all the information coming from Govt. of India sources.

    Just the way India announced in an official gazette in 1974 or 1998 that it was going to do a nuclear test ? All governments are secretive where top secret technology is concerned.

    There may be no such planned technology, there may be demonstration projects, there may be a research project, there may be an advanced project etc. In the highly classified world of military technology, few things are certain. But to rely on GoI official reports to say that there is no such project is to display a startling naivette.


    The PSLV is an ICBM song-and-dance routine is being paraded before the American people today because the Non-Proliferation community is worried about its funding being cut. So they are creating some racket about a non-issue and hoping to scare the American Congress into funding them.

    Nonsense. After 911, the so-called non proliferation community (whatever that means) has little to worry about in terms of funding being cut.

  10. Dear Ved,

    There is NO evidence to suggest that any program is underway to use PSLV technology to make an ICBM. This is a white lie, that is being perpetrated by special interest groups in the NP community and by well meaning but misinformed people in the enthusiast community.

    By comparison Project Devil at DRDO predated the SLV program. There is no such ICBM development program in the Indian R&D list. The development of an effective ICBM platform today (unlike the 50s and 60s) represents a quantum leap in technology development. This is an expensive and painful process that will cost billions of dollars in India. There is no desire to move towards this and this is the position taken by GoI negotiators with their American and Chinese counterparts. It is possible to take ill-informed comment from non-specialists or statements from GoI sources out of context and use them to misrepresent GoI’s view. The greater bulk of the GoI’s statements does not reflect any desire to develop a sizable and dispersed arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles on a ready to launch basis.

    All this stuff about the PSLV being used as an ICBM or being converted into an ICBM is pure fantasy. It is largely the result of speculation by Arun Sharma and Sanjay Badri Maharaj. I commend these writers for using their imagination and carrying out serious out of the box thinking, but this kind of talk cannot be seen as a reflection of Govt. policy. If the non-proliferation theologians are now reliant on the internet for GoI policy pointers then that highlight how poor their understanding of India is.

    I don’t think you understand what one is talking about when the term “dispersal” is used. “Dispersal” involves setting up of a large and expensive infrastructure to deploy and launch nuclear tipped missiles at the push of a button. The expenditure involved in this is several times the cost of maintaining an actual stockpile of fissile material.

    I also feel you don’t understand what the Non-Proliferation community is aiming for. They are attempting to stall ISROs entry into the commericial satellite launch market. A part of the so-called “Nuclear Deal” is that ISRO and American satellite launch companies will collaborate on satellite launches. This will entail the transfer of very high end payload related technologies to ISRO from places like the Hughes Corporation. Per the NP community’s logic this will enable India to improve its ability to mount warheads onto the PSLV, as satellite payloads are much more sensitive than warheads in terms of launch requirements. The NP community is attempting to block this sale citing that PSLV will become more effective as “first strike” weapon.

    If you read my website carefully you will see that I have very precisely cut into the NP community’s arguments by stating that a commericial cargo container does not suffer from any payload limitations or require complicated re-entry sheilds and shock absorbers. A commericial cargo container costing a few thousand dollars with a primitive shock absorber system that can be fashioned out of a car or truck can easily serve as a nuclear delivery vehicle. Given that even per contingency plans, the best case scenario involves checking a small fraction some 10% of these entering the US, a commericial cargo container would be the item of choice for those seeking to do the US grave harm.

    Against that backdrop it is impossible to imagine why any sensible country with malice against the US would want to waste time converting its satellite launch vehicles into a dispersed arsenal.

    India does not have malice towards the US, if I were to take a guess, I expect that Japan, the most loyal of the NPT crowd has more malice towards the US than anyone else. I think the probability of a crazy Japanese billionare bent on avenging Hiroshima and Nagasaki sticking a nuke into a cargo container leaving Yokohama, Tokyo, Nayoga or Kobe is far far far far more than some Indian PSLV launch dropping a nuke on the US.

    Given the highly advanced nature of Japanese technology development, it would not be too hard for them to design devices that defeat the CSI initiatives at Yokohama or elsewhere.

    My contention remains that the NP community is pursuing non-existant threats and their thinking is obsolete. This kind of thinking will sink us all.

    If you look at the biographies of the current crop of NP theologians – all of them cut their teeth on technology restriction regimes. From Albright to Sokolski, Kimball to Einhorn – they all spent the better part of their adult lives staring up a missile’s rear end. This variety of activity continues to dominate their thinking and skew policy formation. The genie is out of the bottle and 9-11 only makes that extremely obvious. The world now has to orient to face the new threats.

    The emphasis on things after 9-11 is “Counter-Proliferation” not “Technology Control”. The Khan network which very obviously circumvented all the “Technology Control” ideas that prevailed had to be curtailed and this meant that out-of-date ideas on proliferation had to be discarded. This is where the funding reappraisal will occur in the US and that is where most of the current NP types will lose their jobs and funding. By making up some cock-and-bull story about the PSLV and its ICBM application the NP community are looking to keep funding for “Technology Control” alive.

    Any Indian defence enthusiasts who continue to harp on this nonsense about the PSLV becoming an ICBM are doing their country a great disservice. The ill informed should seek the safety of silence – rather than repeat things they do not understand.

    Regards
    Maverick

    http://www.indianmavericks.blogspot.com


  11. There is no such ICBM development program in the Indian R&D list. The development of an effective ICBM platform today (unlike the 50s and 60s) represents a quantum leap in technology development. This is an expensive and painful process that will cost billions of dollars in India. There is no desire to move towards this and this is the position taken by GoI negotiators with their American and Chinese counterparts. It is possible to take ill-informed comment from non-specialists or statements from GoI sources out of context and use them to misrepresent GoI’s view

    I think you’re missing the point completely. Firstly, if there were such a program, it would most definitely be secret. Secondly, your statment that an effective ICBM platform today (as opposed to the 50s or 60s) represents a quantum leap in technology doesn’t make sense. Thirdly, it most definitely does not take billions of dollars to have a research lab, to do preliminary research, prototyping etc. Even if full deployment were to take billions, preliminary research does not.

    We have a past Indian defense minister claiming that such a program exists. So dismissing it as just the work of some fantasists is not correct.


    The greater bulk of the GoI’s statements does not reflect any desire to develop a sizable and dispersed arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles on a ready to launch basis.

    Say what ? You’re saying that none of India’s Agni missiles is capable of being fitted with a nuclear warhead.


    I don’t think you understand what one is talking about when the term “dispersal” is used. “Dispersal” involves setting up of a large and expensive infrastructure to deploy and launch nuclear tipped missiles at the push of a button. The expenditure involved in this is several times the cost of maintaining an actual stockpile of fissile material.

    I understand perfectly what this means and I know that the cost for building a full ICBM arsenal is huge, since it includes deployment, command and control, counter-measures etc. (although bear in mind that some of this should already exist for the Agni missiles). However, the basic point is that one doesn’t need to build a full ICBM infrastructure to do basic research or even build a demonstration version of a missile.


    a commericial cargo container would be the item of choice for those seeking to do the US grave harm. Against that backdrop it is impossible to imagine why any sensible country with malice against the US would want to waste time converting its satellite launch vehicles into a dispersed arsenal.

    You’re correct in that India has no desire to harm the US. But the idea of an ICBM is not to do grave harm to the US or Europe at all. TThe article you were critcizing suggests that, which is nonsense, and you are correct to point that out. But the idea of an ICBM for India is to achieve strategtic parity with China, which can already target all of India. The 2nd reason for having an ICBM is to cement your status as a global power (NOT for using, except in very dire circumstances, least of all against the US). India is not a global power now, but it most definitely has ambitions of becoming one in 20 years. It took decades for the Agni program to reach fruition. If India wants some sort of ICBM in 20 years, they should be researching NOW. We don’t know what the world will be like in 20 years. Certainly we could not have predicted the current world state in 1986. Maybe in 15 years time, India will feel the need for an ICBM. If much of the basic research is done, then India will find one easier to develop and deploy. If not, then the research would not be wasted in any cases, since it could be used in the space program or elsewhere.


    Any Indian defence enthusiasts who continue to harp on this nonsense about the PSLV becoming an ICBM are doing their country a great disservice. The ill informed should seek the safety of silence – rather than repeat things they do not understand.

    Let me repeat this once again — the PSLV cannot be used as an ICBM. However, its technology could most definitely be used in an ICBM program. Enthuasists have a full right to comment on whatever they want too, regardless of whether it meets your agenda, or that of anyone else.

  12. Dear Ved,

    Preliminary research and prototyping is NOT the same thing as developing a working ICBM system. The latter requires considerable testing, large scale manufacturing and a carefully worked out plan for dispersal. Without a plan for dispersal the ICBM of this sort cannot be regarded as a serious threat by any country, least of all the US.

    A dispersal plan cannot be implemented in total secrecy. The risks of accidental discovery are too high and the result of such a discovery would be to invite a Pakistani first strike. Dispersal plans in the context of the US and the USSR for example have always been accompanied by a flurry of publicity aimed at informing the other side that nuclear tipped missiles are being dispersed. This is the key to deterrence. The idea that dispersal can be conducted in secret is absurd, popular among those who do not understand the logic of deterrence.

    The defense minister’s utterances are being misquoted and misrepresented by vested interests. There is no plan for an ICBM as of now. I have no comments to offer on the warhead capabilities of the Indians. Whether they can mount a warhead on the Agni is not relevant to what I have have said. All I have said is that there is no intention in India where it matters – to turn the PSLV into a weapon.

    The Agni’s command and control system has been designed to survive against assault by the PRC as ostensibly the Agni is supposed to target them. A command and control system that is used to target the US will have completely different requirements – it certainly could not be built on technology imports from the US. The Government recognizes that a symbolic gesture like the one you talk about is unnecessary and expensive. This symbolism would only produce a really expensive toy that we could not possibly expect to test without rousing hatred in the West. India only does that sort of thing the NP community’s wet dreams.

    China’s deterrence vis-a-vis India does not rely on the range of their ICBMs. The Chinese do not target India with their ICBMs. The Chinese do not target India at all – as of now. All the deployed systems earmarked for use against India are IRBM and MRBM systems which cannot operate with any effectiveness unless they are based on the Tibetan plateau.

    Once these missiles are deployed on the Tibetan plateau, south of Amdo, the Chinese will be able to place upto a 100 nuclear bombs within striking range of the entire Gangetic Plain. Even though the CEP of the missiles is questionable, this situation is unacceptable from India’s pov. The Ganga is the river of life in India. It is the home and source of sustenance for 400 million people. The plain is home to the holiest of the holies of three of the world’s major religions. This is the cradle of the Indian civilization. India has moved wisely to deflect the possibility of this ever happening; as long as India makes no move to cut China’s access to Tibet, the Chinese will see no reason to deploy nuclear tipped IRBMs on the plateau. This is where the current equilibrium stands.

    There is some talk of the Agni missile being used to target Yangtze river valley and the Three Gorges Dam complex. The Agni is being touted as a vehicle to strategic parity with China – it is not. This talk is pointless as we simply do not have enough Agnis in our arsenal, and our dispersal capablities are relatively modest. Given that the Chinese are building up airports in Tibet and inducting high-end fighters like the Su-30MKK into their airforce faster than we can improve the survivability of the Agni, this is most likely not going to end well for us in India. The survivability of a deterrent based on the Agni platform is likely to remain quite low for the forseeable future. A more rational approach at this time is to develop SLBMs, given the limited reach of the PLAAN and the non-existant capabilities of the PLANAF, the survivability of these platforms is much much higher, and a credible guarenteed second strike policy can be articulated with these things. This appears to be the line of thinking that GoI is following as of now – in terms of reaching strategic parity with China.

    The idea of using ICBMs as a currency of global power is as vague as the term “global power” itself. Generally speaking the term “global power” implies the ability to achieve a local dominance at any point in the world. The term “dominance” can be used in any context. There is a limited context in which the ICBMs can be used as to achieve dominance over an adversary – we do not fit into that context. We simply do not have an enemy that sits across 10,000 miles and connives to strike against our lands. Our problems are of a local nature and our relations with the rest of the world are not problematic. The steps to global power status through the ICBM route are too wide and too high. An easier path to global power status lies through an active and robust participation in global trade.

    Research on the ICBM or anything else for that matter is fine as long as it does not impair the commercial reach of India’s businesses. There is a cost-benifit analysis that people have done and per that calculation nonsense like ICBMs have no role to play in India’s future. You do realize – you don’t need an ICBM to launch a nuclear strike on India? – the Cargo container argument works with India too.

    No technology from the PSLV can be profitably exploited to make an ICBM. The making of an ICBM itself is no longer a profitable enterprise.

    Enthusiasts can say whatever they want – it is a free country – it should be taken to represent the views of the Government. Enthusiasts that thrive on feeding NP fantasies to the detriment of India’s national commerical interests do so at their own peril. There is a difference between being Indian and pretending to be Indian… with apologies to Dr. Kalam.

  13. Dear Ved,

    Preliminary research and prototyping is NOT the same thing as developing a working ICBM system. The latter requires considerable testing, large scale manufacturing and a carefully worked out plan for dispersal. Without a plan for dispersal the ICBM of this sort cannot be regarded as a serious threat by any country, least of all the US.

    A dispersal plan cannot be implemented in total secrecy. The risks of accidental discovery are too high and the result of such a discovery would be to invite a Pakistani first strike. Dispersal plans in the context of the US and the USSR for example have always been accompanied by a flurry of publicity aimed at informing the other side that nuclear tipped missiles are being dispersed. This is the key to deterrence. The idea that dispersal can be conducted in secret is absurd, popular among those who do not understand the logic of deterrence.

    The defense minister’s utterances are being misquoted and misrepresented by vested interests. There is no plan for an ICBM as of now. I have no comments to offer on the warhead capabilities of the Indians. Whether they can mount a warhead on the Agni is not relevant to what I have have said. All I have said is that there is no intention in India where it matters – to turn the PSLV into a weapon.

    The Agni’s command and control system has been designed to survive against assault by the PRC as ostensibly the Agni is supposed to target them. A command and control system that is used to target the US will have completely different requirements – it certainly could not be built on technology imports from the US. The Government recognizes that a symbolic gesture like the one you talk about is unnecessary and expensive. This symbolism would only produce a really expensive toy that we could not possibly expect to test without rousing hatred in the West. India only does that sort of thing the NP community’s wet dreams.

    China’s deterrence vis-a-vis India does not rely on the range of their ICBMs. The Chinese do not target India with their ICBMs. The Chinese do not target India at all – as of now. All the deployed systems earmarked for use against India are IRBM and MRBM systems which cannot operate with any effectiveness unless they are based on the Tibetan plateau.

    Once these missiles are deployed on the Tibetan plateau, south of Amdo, the Chinese will be able to place upto a 100 nuclear bombs within striking range of the entire Gangetic Plain. Even though the CEP of the missiles is questionable, this situation is unacceptable from India’s pov. The Ganga is the river of life in India. It is the home and source of sustenance for 400 million people. The plain is home to the holiest of the holies of three of the world’s major religions. This is the cradle of the Indian civilization. India has moved wisely to deflect the possibility of this ever happening; as long as India makes no move to cut China’s access to Tibet, the Chinese will see no reason to deploy nuclear tipped IRBMs on the plateau. This is where the current equilibrium stands.

    There is some talk of the Agni missile being used to target Yangtze river valley and the Three Gorges Dam complex. The Agni is being touted as a vehicle to strategic parity with China – it is not. This talk is pointless as we simply do not have enough Agnis in our arsenal, and our dispersal capablities are relatively modest. Given that the Chinese are building up airports in Tibet and inducting high-end fighters like the Su-30MKK into their airforce faster than we can improve the survivability of the Agni, this is most likely not going to end well for us in India. The survivability of a deterrent based on the Agni platform is likely to remain quite low for the forseeable future. A more rational approach at this time is to develop SLBMs, given the limited reach of the PLAAN and the non-existant capabilities of the PLANAF, the survivability of these platforms is much much higher, and a credible guarenteed second strike policy can be articulated with these things. This appears to be the line of thinking that GoI is following as of now – in terms of reaching strategic parity with China.

    The idea of using ICBMs as a currency of global power is as vague as the term “global power” itself. Generally speaking the term “global power” implies the ability to achieve a local dominance at any point in the world. The term “dominance” can be used in any context. There is a limited context in which the ICBMs can be used as to achieve dominance over an adversary – we do not fit into that context. We simply do not have an enemy that sits across 10,000 miles and connives to strike against our lands. Our problems are of a local nature and our relations with the rest of the world are not problematic. The steps to global power status through the ICBM route are too wide and too high. An easier path to global power status lies through an active and robust participation in global trade.

    Research on the ICBM or anything else for that matter is fine as long as it does not impair the commercial reach of India’s businesses. There is a cost-benifit analysis that people have done and per that calculation nonsense like ICBMs have no role to play in India’s future. You do realize – you don’t need an ICBM to launch a nuclear strike on India? – the Cargo container argument works with India too.

    No technology from the PSLV can be profitably exploited to make an ICBM. The making of an ICBM itself is no longer a profitable enterprise.

    Enthusiasts can say whatever they want – it is a free country – it should be taken to represent the views of the Government. Enthusiasts that thrive on feeding NP fantasies to the detriment of India’s national commerical interests do so at their own peril. There is a difference between being Indian and pretending to be Indian… with apologies to Dr. Kalam.

    Maverick,

    http://www.indianmavericks.blogspot.com

Comments are closed.