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A sane article by a sane Indian

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    A sane article by a sane Indian

    Worth reading, please spare few minutes.

    'Why are our defence experts always, but always, wrong?'

    The December 13 attack on Parliament has been used by both India and Pakistan to justify nuclearisation amid frightening rhetoric about annihilating the other. Achin Vanaik breaks the myths, and analyses the miscalculations, propagated by the very cream of Indian defence analysts (as told to Shamya Dasgupta)

    New Delhi, December 25

    The atmosphere on both sides of the Indo-Pak border at the moment is very disturbing. What we see right now is a strange rationalisation and justification of India's nuclearisation by the likes of Brahma Chellaney. Both sides are talking about annihilating each other - India is saying that if it comes to war, we will be able to annihilate Pakistan. Is that some sort of consolation?

    In 1998, when India went nuclear, defence experts across the board called it a harbinger of security for both countries. They said that it would be good for Indo-Pak relations. Two years down, we see all those claims refuted, and how! The question that I want to ask is: why were all these great defence experts unanimous in their view, and why were they unanimously wrong? At that time, India named China as the reason for its nuclearisation - ever since, it's been amply proved that Pakistan was the main cause.

    The problem with the idea of peace through nuclear deterrence is that it actually mixes up the natal relationship between military instruments and politics. The central reasons for the hostility between India and Pakistan are political. Just enhancing your military power, which is what acquisition of nuclear weapons does, does not address those political causes. All it does, in fact, is exacerbate existing tension. So, that being the case, it is ridiculous to assume that nuclear weapons will bring about peace.

    Has there been any rethinking on Indo-Pak relations since 1998? If anything, nuclearisation has added another, completely unnecessary, dimension to the situation. This will now bedevil Indo-Pak relations for as long as both sides possess nuclear weapons.

    The dangerous thing is that there is no recognition of the fact that the situation has been progressively getting worse since 1998. In fact, since then, the Indian government, for example, has been talking about building a Nuclear Command and Control System. General Padmanabhan, chief of army staff, has been speaking of Operation Poornima, which was the first test. He says he will ensure his troops can fight in a nuclear environment.

    All this is indicative of the fact that no matter how low you rate the possibility of a nuclear conflict - and one, of course, hopes that it will remain low - it is higher than it was before 1998. What justification is there for this?

    If in fact, before 1998, Pakistan, in its self-interest, had advocated the removal of nuclear weapons, the Indian response has been, "No, no, there is China." But if both the countries had denuclearised, this shadow wouldn't have been hanging over us. It has cast a cloud over both countries, and this cloud is becoming darker by the day.

    There are other, equally disturbing, aspects. Both countries are speaking of "no first use". I don't think India should pretend it is a particularly responsible state. Pakistan has no such pretensions. The Chinese committed to "no first use" in 1964. And for the 37 years since, it is the one nuclear weapons state that has not threatened any country with nuclear weapons. They have behaved impeccably. India has no such record. And in spite of China's commitment, India has continued to cite China as the main factor for going nuclear.

    However, the most disturbing dimension that emerges is the demonisation of Pakistan. I cannot, even during the 1971 war, remember anything so extreme. There is, in equal measure, demonisation of India by Pakistan as well. Part of the reason, of course, is the rise of rightwing religious forces on both sides - Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan and of Hindutva forces here.

    There is a growing belief in many circles that the security of Pakistan lies in the break-up of India. Similarly, the belief in India is that the security of India lies in the break-up of Pakistan.

    This particular sentiment has also now taken a qualitative leap forward among what is misrepresented as public opinion. What is called public opinion in India is actually the opinion of the powerful middleclass elite. A vast majority of the middleclass, though, go on leading their lives without being preoccupied with this question. But this Indian middleclass of 15-20 per cent, which the media connects to largely, constitutes public opinion as we see it. The idea that Indian security cannot be achieved, short of the destruction of Pakistan, that "we will teach them a lesson they will never forget", after December 13, has taken a qualitative leap. And that is very, very disturbing.

    It is one thing to recognise that the Pakistan government does sponsor and support terrorist groups, another altogether to accuse a country of carrying out terrorist activities on Indian soil. Sponsoring terrorist groups and directing specific terrorist actions are two different things. Any balanced and logical assessment of the situation in which the Pakistan government is in today, especially after September 11 and its aftermath, would clearly indicate that no government in its right mind would think of doing something like this.

    The reality is that although sections within the Pakistan establishment - the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the army - clearly do sponsor and provide support to terrorist groups, these groups have the autonomy to carry on all sorts of strategic operations themselves. And they do it regardless of what the Pakistan government feels, or wants to do. This is the context that the attack of December 13 should be looked at.

    I do not say we ought not recognise what is happening, condemn it and demand that it stops. But we should adopt a balanced perspective, and not assume immediately that the Pakistan government is directly behind this particular attack. However, that kind of sobriety in moments of crises has greatly diminished.

    The prevailing mindset is, in large measure, influenced by the United States' (US') precedent in attacking Afghanistan after September 11. On that, basically, there are two points of view - one justifying it, and one trying to tell people that it was not a just war.

    The vast majority of the Indian elite, including sections of the media, has looked at it as just retribution. I believe that the US' attack is fundamentally wrong. Incidentally, the US does not claim that its war on Afghanistan is just. What the US government claims is that its war against global terrorism is just. And since the war against Afghanistan is merely a part of this larger global war, it is automatically just.

    I think the distinction is important in this context. Within 24 hours of September 11, the US government had cited Article 51, and said, "we are acting in self defence"; "we are waging a war against global terrorism"; and "this is something we have a right to do".

    When you say it's a war, you can indulge in all sorts of pre-emptive surprise attacks. When you say it's a war against global terrorism, and you are saying that you have a right to define what global terrorism is, you can then leave out States like the US, which carries out its own brand of terrorism. It doesn't include allies of the US like Israel and the rest of them. It just includes States that are not US allies.

    Let's understand the stakes of what the US government has done - it is extraordinary that a government, which is responsible for the worst acts of terrorism in the last 50 years, can actually claim and get away with the idea of this ridiculous "just war". How many people have criticised this? Far from criticise, the Indian elite has chosen to say that the US government is being hypocritical. Hypocritical not because they themselves are terrorists, or because Israel is a terrorist state backed by the US, but hypocritical because they are not focussing or pointing fingers at Pakistan.

    All this, of course, ignores the fact that India is also a terrorist State. The US' retaliatory attack on Afghanistan has bolstered the hawkish attitude that exists today. The Israelis, for example, immediately launched attacks on Palestine, mimicking what the US was doing on Afghanistan. It was all, of course, in self-defence.

    Let us now make a distinction between individual or group terrorists, and acts of war carried out by official agencies like armies of States. Acts of terrorism, whether carried out by individuals or groups, do not justify acts of war in retaliation. They are two completely different levels of operations.

    Now, one of the things you must recognise here is that when you actually carry out an act of war through official agencies, you automatically up the stakes. You are automatically reinforcing nationalism on both sides, and pitting nations and their peoples against each other in a way altogether different from that against an individual or a group. When you announce that Pakistan is responsible and Pakistan must be taught a lesson, you are automatically moving in an altogether different direction.

    The most striking thing about the discourse that is taking place today - on television, in Brahma Chellaney's articles, in Jasjit Singh's articles - is that they can so casually say that Pakistan should not do it because we are militarily stronger than them. Today, you have their ilk saying, "Oh, they can knock off two Indian cities, and in retaliation, we can knock off five Pakistani cities. But then, we won't use our weapons first."

    They forget one thing. If Pakistan uses its nuclear weapons first, and you use it after that, you haven't got the security you are trying to achieve. All you have is revenge - pure and simple. And senseless revenge at that. Because if you react, then they also react, and this goes on, it will be the end of everything. If one country uses nukes against you, unlike say in Kargil, where there was no use of nuclear weapons, your security is gone. You cannot retrieve your security through the use of nuclear weapons.

    The moral callousness of this argument is also equally unbelievable. People are trying to reassure us on television and newspaper articles "Don't worry, we will teach Pakistan a lesson. They may actually kill a 1,00,000 people; but we will then kill millions. Maybe they will kill tens of millions; but then we will kill hundreds of millions." This is the level of the discourse that is used by our opinion shapers.

    There is a complete and deliberate lack of sensitivity and willingness to recognise the mistake that was committed in 1998. This is the most dangerous part of the world. It is not Western propaganda, which says that this is the nuclear flashpoint of the world.

    If you remember in 1998, K Subramanian said, "Oh, what kind of racist attitude is this? Are they saying that brown people can't be responsible nuclear powers, and only whites and the Chinese can be?" But that's not the point.

    The point is a very basic, and utterly removed from these spurious arguments. In wartime conditions or near-wartime conditions, mutual hatred, suspicion, tension and rivalries are at the highest. It's in wartime or near-wartime conditions that nuclear weapons are most likely to be used. We can't say for certain, so we use the word "likely".

    Once you recognise this simple and fundamental point, then we move ahead. What part of the world have you had a continuous war, hot or cold, between two rivals, a war that has never stopped? Even the Middle East is not like that. This is the only region of the world where you have a continuous hot and cold war between the same two rivals; and both are now nuclear-equipped. It is elementary commonsense that these are not conditions you should talk casually, carelessly or confidently about.

    And I have not even started on the logical fallacies in the rhetoric on the impact of nuclearisation. The reality was that India wanted nuclear weapons because it wanted to enter the "big club". But Pakistan didn't have such g*****ose ambitions, and had a much narrower focus. "If you Indians have it, we must have it. If you are prepared to get rid of it, even we are prepared to get rid of it." They are quite aware that India is their main enemy, and their strategies are all targeted in only one direction.

    Coming back to the situation at hand, look at the language being used. While I do admit that neither side is going to use nuclear weapons, my problem is with India's pretentiousness. Also, in spite of the pretentiousness with which India talked about how nuclear weapons are going to give India strategic autonomy, the reality is that both of them - India and Pakistan - are chamchaas. They are chamchaas of the US, and will not do anything the US doesn't want them to do.

    The US does not want a conflict between the two countries, and will not support one against the other. The US wants both on its side, and undoubtedly intends to lay down the law in this part of the world. The problem is that we are dealing in an area of intangibles, and in an area of uncertainties. But even with all this, there are always the possibilities of things getting out of hand.

    Additionally, in the long run, the hostility and hatred that exists between these two countries, and between the elites of these two countries, exacerbated by the kind of things that are taking place, is going to cause bigger problems. What could easily be forgotten in all this, of course, is the Kashmir problem. Kashmir has been reduced to a problem of terrorism. The fact that the people of the area are now alienated from both sides finds no mention in discourse on the Kashmir problem. The actual assessment of Kashmir is that it is not a problem caused by Pakistan. The troubled waters of Kashmir were the brainchild of Indian politicians. Pakistani politicians are merely fishing in those waters.

    Now this is a different picture from the pretentious nonsense I heard Arun Jaitely speaking the other day. He said, "Since 1989, the only reason we have had this problem in Kashmir is because of Pakistani terrorism."

    I'll just give you some figures about Kashmir:

    How many Indian soldiers, armed forces, personnel of various kind, paramilitary troops, etc are there in Kashmir? Do you have any idea? About half a million. That includes auxiliary troops and everything.

    What is the population of Kashmir? Roundabout six million.

    This is among the heaviest, if not the heaviest, concentration of armed personnel to civilians anywhere in the world.

    What is the combined strength of the main militant groups in Kashmir? According to official figures, it is between four and six thousand.

    You have 5,00,000 troops to try and cope with 6,000 militants?

    How many people have died in Kashmir? The official figure in 1996 was 45,000. It has been six years since, and the figure has surely doubled. And, the official figures underestimate the actual number by a long way. It must have been around 60,000 in 1996 itself.

    Let us say a sixth of this is security personnel of India. That takes out 10,000 from 60,000, and you have 50,000 left. Let us assume that of this 50,000, Pakistani terrorists were responsible for most killings, though without official figures it would be wrong to assume that. Let's say they killed 70 per cent of this 50,000. That still leaves you with some 10,000 that were killed by Indian forces. The facts speak for themselves. No one is speaking for the freedom of the people of Kashmir here, are they?

    Let me finish this with a small discussion. There were seven predictions that were made in 1998, by each and everyone of the members of what you can call the Nuclear Strategic Community of India. Everyone from Subramanian to Brahma Chellaney to Raja Mohan to Bharat Karnad to J N Dixit to everyone actually made one or more of the seven predictions.

    The first one was: both India and Pakistan having nuclear weapons is a good thing because through the wondrous workings of nuclear deterrence, the security of both countries will be enhanced.

    The second prediction: both India and Pakistan will achieve some amount of regional stability. And since there will be harmony between India and Pakistan, the chances of conventional warfare will also be greatly reduced. Incidentally, if you think that Lahore was one great gesture, India is the country that brought nuclear weapons into the region. Having done this, it wanted to justify doing that by pushing the Lahore process. It was only to justify and legitimise the nuclearisation of both the countries.

    Third: since the chances of conventional warfare will be reduced, we can actually reduce our expenditure on conventional arms.

    The fourth: we are going to have only a minimum nuclear deterrent.

    Five: there is going to be no competitive nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. The funny thing is that defence experts continue to say this.

    Sixth: India's strategic autonomy is going to be enhanced as a result of nuclear weapons, particularly from the US.

    Lastly: with nuclearisation, India will have greater bargaining power in nudging the whole world towards nuclear disarmament.

    So we have seven predictions, made by the who's who among India's defence experts. What actually happened subsequently? During Kargil in 1999, the same K Subramanian wrote an article saying, "Don't worry, Pakistan will not use its nuclear weapons against India." Why? "It is because the US will not allow them to use it."

    What happened to Subramanian's belief in mutual deterrents, as he had so g*****osely predicted in 1998? What happened to that? Gone by the wayside.

    Look at the other predictions - what actually happened? We had Kargil. Behind the nuclear shield, they felt emboldened enough to attack. Today, what is the message that George Fernandes and others are giving to the Indian public? "We must consider doing a Kargil in reverse."

    Go back two years, and see what the truth was. Pakistan was not beaten militarily. It was a political and diplomatic loss for Pakistan, and that also, chiefly because the US stepped in and asked them to back off. But what was George Fernandes saying then? "Pakistan should not think that just because they have got nuclear weapons, we will not be prepared to fight them on the conventional front and push them to the wall if necessary. They should not think that they have something they can b*****sh over us."

    The point is that we are playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship here.

    Coming back to the predictions, no country has ever cut down on their budget for conventional weapons after going nuclear. Nuclear weapons are always and everywhere a supplement to conventional weapons. Nuclear weapons cannot address the problems that conventional weapons address. Do we plan to let loose a nuclear missile on infiltrators on the borders? That can only be done with conventional arms. It's not the same thing. Every country that has ever had nuclear weapons, have always had an increase in its budget.

    In fact, in the last five years, the Indian government has had the biggest consecutive hikes in percentage of defence budget since independence. This is almost entirely because of the rise of a particularly belligerent and aggressive government, backed by an insecure but equally belligerent and aggressive elite segment, which now talks in terms of "we must show the world how strong India is". The budget before the last one saw a hike of 28 per cent in the defence budget. The last one saw a 13 per cent increase again. So that prediction is also wrong.

    What about the minimum nuclear deterrent prediction? To this date, none of these experts can spell out what this minimum deterrent is. Why? It's because minimum is not a fixed position, it is an upward moving position. It is dependent on the quality and quantity of the opposition you are talking about.

    You will have any number of people telling you that there is no competitive arms race between India and Pakistan. Again, I am astonished at the nature of the media. Why don't these so-called experts have the honesty to tell the Indian public that of course there is a competitive arms race going on between India and Pakistan? We have tested our missiles, and they have tested their missiles. We are trying to develop a longer range for our missile, and our target is China. They are trying to develop a longer range for their missiles, which have targets spread across India. We are trying to get more material to build more nuclear weapons, and they are doing the same.

    Obviously there is a clearly spelt-out nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. Why deny it? "Don't worry, we will control it." They just expect you to swallow everything, and the funniest thing is that it is all swallowed without a murmur, even when it's all in front of your eyes.

    Strategic autonomy. What is there to say about strategic autonomy? Our entire foreign policy is now directed towards only one thing - how best to become the US' favourite. The other thing is how to get the US to shift its alliance with Pakistan, and support us as far as the subcontinent is concerned. That is the extent of our basic strategic autonomy.

    What is India's equation with the US now? The reality is that the asymmetry of power between the US and India is so huge, in spite of those piddly nuclear weapons of ours, that we cannot set any terms. The US is going to set the terms. The US will say, "You are nobody to tell us whether we should support Pakistan or not. That is something we will decide. Like it or lump it! At the end of the day, whatever the issue, as far as the US is concerned, the rest of the world is either "with them or against them". And they want both India and Pakistan with them, because that serves their purpose best. That's the reality, and that's what will be done.

    Disarmament? Is arming yourself the best way to disarm? The very argument is illogical and ridiculous.

    The argument is that India, with its tiny pile of nuclear weapons is going to terrify, coerce or persuade other nuclear countries, and force them to disarm? Do any of us really feel that China and the US are trembling in their shoes because of these pathetic little things we call nuclear weapons? Where countries like the US are going for world domination, India basically has its hands folded, and is going around begging for "something against Pakistan".

    What has India gained from all these ridiculous arguments?

    The deterioration in relations between India and Pakistan is now complete. The good thing is that neither country has openly deployed nuclear weapons yet. The Pakistan government's line is that they will not be the first country to deploy nuclear weapons. If either country does, it will become an altogether different situation. But even the situation at hand right now is deeply disturbing and saddening.

    One last thing: that both countries have nuclear weapons is not the big worry. It is the mindset of the politicians and the elite that is cause for maximum worry. Today, the sentiment in India is that Pakistan should be broken up. The sentiments on the other side are also similar, but that is not the concern here. The people who have these sentiments are the ones who desire war and destruction.

    Finally, I would say that although this is a growing sentiment, it is still a minority sentiment, and that is the only cause for hope in this part of the world. That there is no alternative for peaceful coexistence is the opinion we hear. If we can have more voices asking for denuclearisation, maybe we can still hope for peaceful coexistence.

    And let's just raise one more question: why are our defence experts always, but always wrong? Let's just ask that question, and the public at least will get a better deal.

    [This message has been edited by Abdali (edited December 28, 2001).]

    Abdali good work

    Monk what r you saying that India can just march into Pakistan like Afghanistan.??

    Afghanistani were not all in favour of Alqeida & omer & Osama .

    I am happy to see cool musharaf like a diplomat with Commando trainjiong under his waiste

    AND the Advani Vajpayee Fernandez panicky breaking out in hives with "NERVES" totally undiplomatic ,unprofessional & unstatesman like .More like a hen with cut head running beserk aimlessly through oput the field finding no respite.RESTLESS UNCONTROLLED INVOLUNTARY MOTIONS.

    "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice."