Missile defences strengthen India’s strategic deterrence
Failure to understand how deterrence works is a common error. Wholesale application of the Cold War era nuclear arms race in today’s South-Asian geopolitical context is another. And analysts assuming every Indian strategic platform is exclusively targeted at Pakistan is yet another. Jawed Naqvi’s recent article in Dawn makes all three, when he criticises India’s progress towards development of a missile defence system.
Maverick explains—like only he can—why Naqvi’s arguments are wrong. Strategic deterrence is first and foremost a mind game: its objective to ensure that nuclear weapons are not used. Any system that increases the chances of non-use increases stability. In the case of the missile defence system, pointing out that 4 minutes is way too little for Indian anti-missile missiles to do their work misses the target. The system needs to be good enough make a potential adversary think “What if the first strike fails?”. In combination with India’s possession of a second-strike capability, a missile defence shield enhances nuclear stability.
More importantly, it’s ironic that Pakistanis, whose rulers (and their nuclear/missile benefactors) have done so much to put nuclear weapons within reach of any state that wants them, should think that India only thinks of them.
From the archives: Defence against the dark arts; and Kind Word Defence
The US government’s complicity is not without reason. Although the reasons wouldn’t be the ones it can put in front of Congressional auditors. That’s because the money that the US was paying the Musharraf regime was the only way—short of messy, and far more expensive, military methods—it could retain a hold over its actions.
American dollars were not “wasted”, even if they won’t please prissy auditors
So the New York Times reports that all that money that the United States is giving to the Pakistani military establishment is being “wasted”. Musharraf’s regime is not only overcharging the United States, siphoning off much of it and not spending the money on fighting terrorism, as it should. One European diplomat is quoted as saying that the Americans are being taken for a ride.
Yet none of this is the least bit surprising. The US government knew before and during the entire period that the Pakistani establishment would behave exactly as it is behaving. The lessons of the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s in Afghanistan point to that. Musharraf’s contemporary shopping list—F-16 fighter aircraft, P3-C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and anti-ship missiles—was not exactly secret either. The smart people in Washington won’t be unaware of the principle of fungibility of money, as also the fungibility (to a large extent) of military hardware and training. The European diplomat is either being charitable or being naive. The US government is not a victim of the Pakistani military establishment: it is a willing accomplice.
But its complicity is not without reason. Although the reasons wouldn’t be the ones it can put in front of Congressional auditors. That’s because the money that the US was paying the Musharraf regime was the only way—short of messy, and far more expensive, military methods—it could retain a hold over its actions. The US essentially bought the co-operation of the Pakistani military establishment. The itemised billing was for show. Indeed, this strategy required the US to allow its money to be used, abused, siphoned and spirited away by the Musharraf regime. The idea was not to insist on transparency and accountability on how the funds were spent. Rather, it was to hold Musharraf accountable for the results. The pertinent question that needs to be asked—and criticism leveled against the Bush administration—is how far it pursued the latter. It is also reasonable to ask, in the interests of good governance design, how far the former affected the latter.
Let’s not forget externalities. Supplementing Pakistan’s military budget allowed the Musharraf regime to purchase more weapons than it could otherwise have changing the military balance with respect to India. And the US stands to benefit (via Atanu Dey, who has a lucid explanation of dollar auctions and deadly games) from the inevitable Indian response. If there is a victim in this story, it is the poor Indian taxpayer.
Love him or hate him. But it’s not about him.
M K Narayanan, India’s National Security Adviser (no less!) has declared a ‘grudging admiration’ for Pervez Musharraf. Now, stating that India would do business with whoever is in power in Pakistan is the right thing to do at a time when Pakistan is acutely unstable. But to declare admiration—grudging or otherwise—is pushing it too much. But then, Narayanan was always more comfortable in backrooms of internal security. He never had a flair for the front room of international diplomacy. J N Dixit died too early.
Then Maverick, a voice this blog respects, writes that India’s perceptions of General Musharraf have changed over the years. And that he “howsoever grudgingly has earned that respect from India”.
If this admiration and respect is for the manner in which Musharraf managed to ensure his own political survival in the face of political tumult and rising unpopularity, that’s fine. But it would be dangerously naive to believe that the ‘sombre, determined’ Musharraf somehow is now the best thing for India. Stephen Cohen’s 1999 thesis—that a Pakistan under military rule will be in India’s interests—has been recalled. This theory is the mirror image of those, like Rohit Pradhan, argue that a democratic Pakistan will be better.
Both these views just leaps of faith. What really matters is the balance of power. As long as this prevents Pakistan from pursuing ambitious projects at India’s expense, the type of dispensation in Islamabad is not of primary consequence. So India’s policymakers can entertain whatever fancies they like regarding Musharraf, as long as they are paying attention to what really matters.
What would you do if A Q Khan wrote to you?
Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, told a German newspaper that he rebuffed a Pakistani offer to sell him nuclear technology in 2001. Like Saddam Hussein before him, he too suspected a ‘sting’ operation.
Q:Does Syria have contacts to atomic engineers of Pakistan?
Assad: Actual was it like that: At the beginning of of 2001 brought someone a letter of a certain Khan (the father of the atom bomb of Pakistan; Note). We did not know whether the letter was genuine or a falsification of the Israelis, who into a trap wanted to lure us. We rejected anyhow. We were not interested to have nuclear weapons or a nuclear reactor. We never met Khan.[Die Presse/Translation by Babelfish]
A Q Khan’s offer, then, lacked credibility. That begs the question: how credible, in turn, is Assad’s denial of an interest in nuclear weapons?
From the archives: If it’s Monday, it must be Tripoli. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Cairo.
1. The ISI—because Rauf was working for them, and, like Omar Saeed, just can’t be allowed to fall into the hands of British or American authorities. Like what Rauf’s lawyer alleges, he could have been “mysteriously disappeared”. If this is so, the good people at the Gulshan-e-Abad mosque might be the last ones to have seen him alive.
2. The ISI (Musharraf & Co)—because they wanted to hand him over to British authorities in an off-the-books transaction. The British authorities might, after a decent interval and due process, extradite two Baloch nationalist leaders that Pakistan wants in return. Since there would be no formal quid pro quo, the British government will avoid criticism for engaging in this ugly trade.
3. Jaish-e-Mohammed/Al-Qaeda/The ISI (Gul & Co)—because he was working for them and there was a risk that he would be extradited to the UK.
4. The British/Americans—because they suspected that the Pakistanis will never let Rauf fall into their hands, ever.
5. Rashid Rauf’s family—because he was family. The Rauf family does not lack resources or connections. The story of his escape suggests that the family did play a role in facilitating his escape. Whether they did so on their own accord, or were merely acting on behalf of someone else is the question.
6. The Baloch insurgents—because they wanted to prevent him being exchanged for Faiz Baluch and Hyrbyair Marri, Baloch nationalist leaders currently in British custody. The fact that there was official collusion in Rauf’s escape makes this explanation extremely unlikely.
7. Rashid Rauf himself—because the story of his escape, incredible as it seems, could actually be true. He seized the moment and fled.
Peshawar and Mansehra in the spotlight again
People looking out for bird flu cases are sitting up, for it has emerged that the feared human-to-human transmission of the flu virus might have occured. Scott McPherson writes:
In one of the numerous Pakistani H5N1-related bird culls of the past few months, a veterinarian appears to have been exposed to the H5N1 avian flu virus last October. Remember that date. He then, by all appearances, transmitted the virus to one or more of his brothers. They died ten days apart, strongly suggesting a chain human-to-human transmission, precisely because of the lag times. If the two sons were infected by, say, eating a diseased chicken at the same dinner table, or even as leftovers, the infection incubation period — and therefore the deaths — would have occurred much more closely together.
But they didn’t, and the timetable gets really scary here. If the vet brother (A) gets infected in October during the cull, and one brother (B) dies on November 19 and the other brother (C) on November 29, there is reason to strongly suspect the infections were passed down like a daisy-chain. Human to human. Chain transmission. [Scott McPherson’s Web Presence]
The WHO and a US Navy team have been dispatched to probe the two or three clusters of the outbreak in Pakistan. Reports are unclear where exactly the outbreaks have occured, variously locating Abbotabad, Peshawar and Mansehra as the sites. (Related posts from Michael Coston’s Avian Flu Diary).
Please make it more believable!
When it was time to take Rashid Rauf back to Adiala jail after his court appearance, one of his uncles convinced the policemen on duty to use his comfortable Mitsubishi station wagon for the journey, instead of the usual police van. They stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant at Jinnah Park along the way. And then allowed Rauf and his uncle to pray at a mosque at Gulshan-e-Abad while they waited in the car outside. They even unlocked his handcuffs. After twenty minutes had passed, the policemen went in to see what was taking Rauf so long. And found that uncle and nephew had slipped out through the back door.
Quite a lot to swallow. Especially when Rauf’s lawyer says the uncle could not have been in the mosque because he was away in the Kashmir region.
They’ve formed a team to investigate how all this happened. They have started arresting uncles. But they are also saying that “at this time it is impossible to tell if Rashid Rauf is in Pakistan” and dropping hints that “it would be such a terrible thing” if he were to head for the North West Frontier Province and then on to Afghanistan.
One can understand that why the ISI should want to spirit him away. But taking the plot from Bollywood comedies is just too much.
The screenplay takes a surprising turn
Rashid Rauf freed himself from his handcuffs and melted away into the crowd. That he could unlock handcuffs is not the most surprising about his escape. For Rauf, one of Britain’s most wanted terrorists was being escorted to court by a grand total of two constables of the Pakistani police force. And Pakistan—where he pulled the Houdini act—is still a FATWAT. [Related Posts: Rauf and court]
But even that is not the most surprising thing about his escape. For he was treated as ordinary criminal because an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan dismissed charges of terrorism against him for the lack of evidence, and referred him ordinary courts to be tried for ordinary crimes, like forgery.
The Pakistani authorities just sprung the the prime suspect in a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners from their own custody, to prevent his extradition to Britain. So here’s the most surprising thing of all: there are still some people in this world who believe they’ll help catch Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Update: Before he escaped, Rauf was allowed to stop by for lunch at a fast food restaurant and pray at a mosque.