In 2021, India’s Military Faces the Pakistani Horn

In 2021, India’s Military Faces Myriad Challenges

Rahul Bedi

Army soldiers stand guard at snow-bound Zojila Pass, situated at a height of 11,516 feet, on its way to frontier region in Ladakh. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The operational prognosis for India’s military in the New Year is, to put it mildly, perilous.

It faces enhanced and relentless deployment along its unresolved and restive frontiers against belligerent nuclear and military allies, China and Pakistan and will continue to be hobbled by enduring critical equipment, ammunition and ordnance shortages. It also has to battle a declining defence budget and reorient its outdated doctrinal and warfighting strategies to meet 21st century challenges.

Indisputably, the continuing military standoff with China along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, will dominate the gruelling operational agenda for all three services in 2021, especially that of the Indian Army (IA).

Presently, over 40,000 IA personnel and varied platforms including main battle tanks, howitzers, missile batteries, amongst other force multipliers, are deployed in a heightened state of alert along the LAC’s freezing desert frontage over a 350-400 km frontage, at heights above 14,000 feet. Their burdensome task in the rarefied environment is to thwart further ingress by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into territory claimed by India as its own, in temperatures that currently average minus 40 degrees Celsius.

To make matters worse, indicators denote that this formidable and skulking threat is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. Senior military planners concede that hereafter, the IA’s heightened LAC deployment will duplicate its perennial, enervating and financially draining employment along the Line of Control (LoC) against Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir and across the 76 km long 17,700 feet high Siachen Glacier.

And though the LAC deployment is likely to exclude the frequent artillery, mortar and small arms firefights that define the LoC engagement, it is challengingly offset by its vast expanse, comparative lack of infrastructure for troops and above all, unfamiliarity with the lesser-known and better-accoutred enemy.

“The IA will have to remain in a state of constant operational readiness on the LAC in Ladakh for an extended period to counter the PLA’s unrelenting aggressive posture,” said military analyst Major General A.P. Singh (retired). Under the circumstances, the IA’s deployment here is almost certain to become permanent in order to prevent a duplicitous China from seizing additional territory, added the two-star officer who was earlier posted in Ladakh.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh hinted as much in a recent interview to ANI in which he declared that no “meaningful solution” had emerged from diplomatic and military level talks with China to resolve the LAC impasse. He stated that a “status quo” of mutual army deployments had emerged at the LAC May onwards, a euphemism for the ‘new normal’ along the inhospitable frontier in 2021 and beyond.

Army trucks move towards the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Photo: PTI

Senior IA officers too remain sceptical over anything positive emerging from talks with the PLA, through which India is futilely seeking to restore the ‘status quo ante’ that prevailed along the LAC before its siege commenced in April 2020. “The eight previous rounds of military talks between India and China have merely been talks about talks with little or nothing emerging from them,” said a one-star IA officer, declining to be identified.

India, he cautioned, cannot harbour illusions regarding an unconditional PLA pullback from the LAC, as that would be a major loss of face for Beijing, and one which it simply cannot countenance because of its own internal dynamics. Hence, the overstretched, inadequately-equipped and underfunded IA faces formidable resource and manpower challenges, ensuring a demanding year ahead. Other veterans said that the PLAs incursions will also enduringly ‘tie down’ the IA on the LAC, leaving it inadequate reserves to counter challenges elsewhere. The IA’s force levels, they warned, will need to be seriously re-evaluated and revamped over the coming months.

At present, the IA is re-orienting its Mathura-based 1 strike corps – one of three such ‘sword arm’ formations, with the other two headquartered at Ambala (2 Corps) and Bhopal (21 Corps) – to convert it into a mountain strike corps to counter the PLA along the 800 km long LAC in Ladakh. According to newly formulated plans, two of its infantry divisions are to be trained in mountain warfare before being gradually deployed to Ladakh in summer.

For several decades, a resource-strapped and diffident India has pursued the path of least resistance against China, sheltering behind multiple bilateral border treaties and confidence building measures to somehow secure peace with its more powerful neighbour. China, for its part, already embarked by the early 1990s on its path to global economic dominance, patronised India by lulling it into a false sense of security through these pacts which, in hindsight were little better than delaying tactical stratagems by Beijing.

Successive governments in Delhi remained in denial over possible military adventurism by China, driven in fact by the reality that India simply could not afford significant force deployment along the LAC other than the Leh-based 14 Corps. This situation persisted despite repeated PLA infiltrations of varying periods across the LAC in Chumar, Depsang in 2013 and 2014, and thereafter in Doklam in 2017. And though this lacuna is now being redressed after the PLA presented its fait accompli over nine months ago in Ladakh, analysts said that the IA continues to concentrate the bulk of its forces against Pakistan. Twenty two of its 38 divisions are earmarked for Pakistan, whilst 14 divisions are ranged against China, the obviously more formidable of India’s two adversaries. The remaining two divisions are, for now, earmarked as Army Headquarter reserves.

Conversely, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) capacities too, like those of the IA, continue to be stretched as its transport and heavy-lift helicopter fleets endeavour to keeps the army’s logistics chain in Ladakh operational by ferrying personnel, equipment and assorted supplies to the LAC and its environs. Simultaneously, its depleted fighter squadrons, marginally boosted by the induction of eight French Rafale multi-role combat platforms, will also need to continue conducting combat patrols over Ladakh in 2021 to counter the PLA Air Force’s (PLAAF’s) threatening drills over the Tibetan plateau.

a Rafale combat aircraft at the Air Force Station in Ambala on July 29, 2020. Photo: IAF via PTI

Likewise, the Indian Navy (IN) will need to sustain its state of perpetual alert that it has maintained in the Indian Ocean Region and surrounding waters over the past few months, in an effort to ‘coerce’  Beijing into vacating occupied territory and pulling back from the LAC. It recently concluded the  Malabar exercises with the Australian, Japanese and US navies amongst assorted manoeuvres with other countries to try and forge an incipient anti-China coalition and leverage its maritime muscle against the PLA Navy. But like the IAF and the IA, the IN will need to reinvigorate its efforts in the New Year to sustain its operational momentum, despite the twin handicaps of equipment and resource shortages.

Meanwhile, the military impasse with the PLA has rendered palpable the advent of the terrifying collusive two-front threat from strategic allies China and Pakistan. Such an alarming scenario that successive Indian service chiefs have periodically, but perfunctorily enunciated, appears to be emerging. In recent months, senior retired military personnel and analysts warned the services and the federal government to abandon its earlier casual theorising regarding such a possibility and to begin seriously planning for a two-front conflict with its nuclear-armed neighbours.

And though the contours of such an engagement are unknown and speculatory, in all probability even to India’s antagonists, it presents Delhi an ominous Hobson’s choice; treating lightly such a forbidding possibility would be foolhardy, but preparing for it would be equally overwhelming, entailing, at the very least, colossal expenditures which India can ill afford.

Senior military analysts have called upon India’s Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat to oversee the development of operational capabilities to deal with such an apocalyptic challenge by revamping outdated strategies and doctrines. They have stressed the long overdue requirement for all three services-particularly the IA-to abandon WW II concepts of attrition and manoeuvre warfare, familiar to generations of commanders and ones they feel ‘comfortable’ planning for and executing like in the 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars with Pakistan.

Instead, they recommend that India concentrate on 21st century ‘informationalised’ instrumentalities that China has been pursuing over nearly three decades for conflict execution and which are on display in Ladakh. In short, Beijing has presented India with a complex and lethal Chinese Puzzle which is going to be tough to resolve in 2021 and for years afterwards.

Military analyst Lieutenant General D.S. Hooda (retired) and strategic affairs expert Happymon Jacob from Jawaharlal Nehru University criticised the country’s military for focusing unduly on major platforms like aircraft, ships and tanks and not enough on future technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber and electronic warfare. In their jointly authored analysis in The Hindu in late December, the two bluntly stated that it would indeed be ‘prudent’ for India to prepare for a two-front threat.

“In preparing for this, the Indian military needs to analyse how this threat could manifest itself and the type of capabilities that should be built up to counter it,” they suggested. They also warned that a two-front conflict presented India’s military with two dilemmas – of resources and strategy and of deploying both shrewdly and judiciously along putative primary and secondary fronts.

Representative image. A BSF soldier patrols the fenced border with Pakistan in Suchetgarh, Jammu and Kashmir. Photo: Reuters

Budget woes

However, the biggest challenge India’s military faces is monetary in times of acute indigence and a shrunken economy, hammered further by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Even in fiscal year 2020-21, when the economy faced none of the prevailing daunting challenges, the Centre was unable to meet the military’s monetary demands, leaving a gap of Rs 1,03,535 crore between their requirements and the eventual budgetary allocation.

Already the services have made purchases worth around $2 billion after the Chinese threat emerged under the emergency financial powers accorded to the services. This, in turn, had adversely impacted the perennial shortage of funds for modernisation and other operational expenditure which had soared to keep the LAC manned by over 40,000 troops in extreme climatic conditions.

Without doubt, the military’s monetary requirements will be substantially higher in the coming fiscal, adding to the government’s woes in the forthcoming financial year.

Emergence of the Beast with Four Horns: Daniel 8

Emergence of a new bloc

Jai Kumar DhiraniJanuary 11, 2021

The world is transforming at a very fast pace. New alliances and partnerships are being established to serve respective national interests. The era of an interdependent world, joint development, common prosperity and win-win cooperation is on the rise.

In this scenario, a new alliance could be built between three powerful Muslim nations, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, along with two Eastern giants namely China and Russia. The evidence of this bloc is trilateral cooperation in the form of the Istanbul, Tehran and Islamabad (ITI) Train project which is going to be multilateral soon, with the inclusion of China and Russia.

The said project was launched in 2009 under the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO)—a 10-member Asian trade bloc. However, the rail route has so far only been used for test journeys. But in the 10th meeting of ECO Transport and Communications Ministers Meeting which was held in Istanbul, it was confirmed by the Turkish Transport Minister, Adil Karaismailoğlu that the decision has been taken mutually to resume regular operations soon.

The railway line intends to greatly reduce the transit route of the goods from Istanbul to Islamabad. A journey of 6500-km (Pakistan: 1990 km, Iran: 2600 km & Turkey: 1950 km) on the tracks takes eleven and a half days to complete and a train can have 20 containers—of 40 feet each—attached to it. In comparison to the traditional seaway, transporting goods from European countries to Pakistan took almost 45 days. The route has also caught the attention of the United Nations and has been recognised as an international corridor between the three countries.

It will boost the trade volume of these countries. As the contemporary bilateral trade between Pakistan and Iran stood at USD293.18 million; the volume of Pakistan’s export to Iran is USD32.29 and Pakistan’s import from Iran is USD260.89 million. Whereas, the ongoing trade between Turkey and Pakistan is approximately USD804 million; with the volume of Pakistan exports to Turkey, USD295.73 Million. The completion of this project would give Pakistan a leverage to curb its trade deficit with these countries and boost its exports by encouraging small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In addition to it, the project would not only tremendously benefit these three countries but other countries like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as well.

It is expected that these three countries would expand their ITI train service by enhancing cooperation with China’s grand project, namely the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As Nikkei Asia quoted, according to a Pakistani government official, the ITI railroad will connect to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region through Pakistan’s ML-1 railway line. It is believed that China would not lose an opportunity to benefit from this project by only relying on the revival of its ancient silk route. It is not wrong to say that Russia could join it too in the nearby future to get the opportunity to access warm water to boost its trade to the Middle-Eastern and African market.

After the global financial crisis of 2008, China emerged as a rising power. It paved the way for the strengthening of China and Russia cooperation. In 2016, the bilateral partnership transformed to trilateral partnership between China, Pakistan and Russia. In the years later, the trilateral partnership included several other states—Turkey and Iran. Organisations such as Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) are becoming crucial as they are playing a pivotal role in promoting multilateralism and increased engagement in terms of economic and security in the region.

The alliance would be a great disaster for the US policy in the Middle East and Asia, as the countries of the emerging bloc have their own uniqueness. For instance, Iran has strategic and security influence in the Middle East, with natural resources, ancient civilisation and cultures that are a glorious part of world civilisation. Central Asian countries have religious and cultural ties with Iran—and Iran has emerged as a regional power. Despite various economic blockades and attacks by COVID, Iran not only has strong military power but it is selling a large quantity of oil to several countries, including Japan and China.

China’s economic progress, its veto power in the United Nations and global influence has almost achieved parity with the United States. The process of integrating economic development with the rest of the world has made the country one of the world’s superpowers.

Pakistan is a Muslim country with nuclear power but a strong enough military as well. Therefore, Pakistan has a special value in the Muslim world. Pakistan is a regional hub for the economy and defence due to its significant geographical location. China is the centre of Iran and Pakistan is the centre of this tri-power.

Turkey, in recent years, has emerged with a powerful military, economy and a regional economic hub due to its connectivity of Eurasia through the Bosphorus as well as gaining strong hold in the Muslim world, as it looks to be confronting Saudi Arabia for the title of the leadership of Muslim world.

Russia, with veto power in the UNSC and a strong military, along with the label of a nuclear weapon state, is gaining utmost influence in almost all corners of the world. Its strength is undeniable.

This alliance would help Pakistan to gain the utmost economic benefits from the emerging eastern giants as well as energy-rich Muslim countries to quench the thirst of its energy and economic needs. This is the time to move its bishops and knights perfectly.

Jai Kumar Dhirani

The out of control line leading to the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

The out-of-control line between India and Pakistan

TANGHDAR, India: Shells and bullets are hurtling thicker and faster than ever between Indian and Pakistani forces across Kashmir´s ceasefire line, killing and maiming at a rate not seen in the entrenched conflict for two decades.

Zameer Ahmad was building a community bunker on the Indian side of the Himalayan region´s disputed frontier — officially known as the Line of Control (LoC) — when a sniper round fired from Pakistani struck the ground nearby.

Ahmad and co-worker Sadakat Hussain took cover behind a wall in the village of Simari. “We finally decided to try to run but we both got hit,” the 26-year-old told AFP. Ahmad took a bullet in the stomach and now has to wear a colostomy bag. Hussain, 23, walks with a limp because of his wounded foot. “It is scary, we just don´t know why the firing starts,” said Hussain, speaking during a visit to the frontier zone organised by the Indian military.

Similar stories are told on both sides of the 344-kilometre partition amid ever-tougher talk between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought two wars over the region in the past seven decades. Scores of civilians have been killed this year, and a UN observer mission car was struck by a bullet in December. India says at least 10 of its forces have been killed by artillery shells or sniper fire from Pakistani Kashmir since the start of November.

It claims Pakistan violated a 2003 ceasefire accord more than 5,000 times last year — the highest since it started. About 20 civilians were killed over the year, and incidents included drones dropping grenades into Indian territory.

Pakistan, in turn, accuses India of more than 3,000 violations in 12 months, leaving 29 dead, 250 civilians wounded, and hundreds of buildings destroyed or damaged.

Jura, just four kilometres from the LoC in the Neelum Valley, has been worst hit on the Pakistani side, authorities say.

The shelling can last for hours or days, the town´s residents told AFP. Half the homes have blast damage and the farmland is pock-marked with craters. “Most of the time we are shut up in our house. It is a war on us,” Amna Bibi, 40, said while washing clothes outside her home.

In the nearby village of Chilyana, the 500 inhabitants also rarely stray outside. “When we leave in the morning to open our shop, we don´t know if we will return home,” Khawaja Zubair Ahmad said.

With each side blaming the other, the firing is at dangerous levels, according to observers.

Residents say tensions have risen since February 2019 when India staged an air attack on Pakistani territory after a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian troops in Kashmir.

India says Pakistan uses shelling to cover increased attempts to infiltrate militants across the line to fuel an insurgency.

Pakistan has been incensed by India´s revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir´s semi-autonomous status in 2019 — “a move that Islamabad regarded as a particularly serious provocation”, said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.

Residents on the Indian side say Pakistan deliberately cut off their water supply for farms. Pakistan bemoans the closure of a bridge that until last year was used to bring divided families together.

Khaleel ul Rahman, village head in Sudhpura on the Indian side, rushes to his cow shed and stays with the animals when a midnight barrage starts. Sudhpura suffers badly even by Kashmir´s violent standards. It is surrounded on three sides by Pakistan-Kashmir and a third of the village is on the Pakistan side. Shells also fall when markets are open and children are in school. “People just panic. It is like a stampede,” said local school principal Mansoor Ahmad.

Observers say though that neither India nor Pakistan is in a rush to find a solution. The Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi and Muslim administration in Islamabad are too entrenched. “The history of India-Pakistan relations has had many more lows than highs, and right now we´re experiencing a particularly ugly, prolonged low,” said Kugelman.

There is little incentive on either side to dial down tensions.”

Rival prime ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan both offered better relations on taking office — Modi even visited Pakistan — but their gestures were rejected by the other.

Modi boasted last year that Pakistan would “bite the dust” in seven to 10 days if it started a new war. Khan replied last month that India would get a “befitting” response if it tried anything.

Battered economy, brewing uprising in Pakistan means the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

Battered economy, brewing uprising in Pakistan means India can’t rule out adventurism in 2021

CPEC is slowing down and China is hesitant to finance Pakistan Railways. That doesn’t mean Beijing will back off.

Tara Kartha4 January, 2021 9:32 am IST

Pakistan Army officers at Corps Headquarters in Peshawar | @OfficialDGISPR

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In a year that saw the world suddenly being brought to its knees, it might be academic suicide to try a little forecasting. But Covid or not, it is something that should be done within governments rather than the usual year-end ‘review’ that essentially ends up as a cut-and-paste exercise to hide bad assessments.

The task is not easy, but a forward look is vital to prevent nasty surprises from popping up, especially in a country that is located next to the powder keg that is Pakistan. This is going to be an exercise in gray with streaks of black, but it has to be done.

The power remains but trouble ahead 

The first level of forecasting is somewhat easy – the army will continue to be the dominant force in Pakistan. But there’s a twist. A combined opposition while ranting against Prime Minister Imran Khan carefully stated that while it was against the ‘puppet’, and its controllers, it fully ‘respected’ the army. Even former PM Nawaz Sharif’s rant was directed against (extended) Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, together with the assurance that he had great regard for the army and its soldiers.

This is a tirade against the army chief in particular, which is curious since Sharif’s party actually supported Bajwa’s extension last year. As any army officer from a democracy will assert, extending an army chief’s tenure is bad news for everyone else down the line. As many as seven Generals were reported to have joined hands to block Bajwa’s extension when the Supreme Court decided to take it up. Expert opinion holds that 17 senior generals will retire if Bajwa completes his term, presumably in November 2022. That’s a lot of unhappiness.

It seems, therefore, that it is not entirely coincidental that the opposition in Pakistan is targeting Bajwa and his circle only. Add to that, the fact that he essentially ‘lost’ Kashmir to Article 370, and the circle is complete. The new year will not find an easy head at the top, either in the army, or by extension, in the Prime Minister’s Office. That, in turn, means that some adventurous action by Pakistan cannot be ruled out; not martial law, which is entirely unnecessary when the army is already in full control, but some populist action against enemy number one – India. Remember that General Pervez Musharraf came to power on the winds of Kargil. A group of generals could do the same.

The political maelstrom

Political forecasting is more difficult. The combined opposition in the form of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), unusually combining Left, Right and centrist parties, is being unified by the glue provided by the Pakistani ‘establishment’. There are few political leaders left who don’t have ‘accountability’ cases lodged against them, or have not been harassed in other ways. Fazlur Rehman has found his more than three-decade-old party split, with a breakaway faction under Maulana Sherani. Worse, Ali Wazir, the charismatic leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) found himself under arrest. Nawaz Sharif will have his passport withdrawn, while his strongman Khwaja Mohammed Asif was detained on accountability charges.

This onslaught may have created an ‘all for one and one for all’ spirit, but unity did come under strain when the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) decided to contest Senate elections and by-elections, despite the PDM’s common agenda of mass resignations. But the 31 December deadline for this move has passed, and no party has done much about it. Neither is there any possibility that Imran Khan will resign by the demanded 31 January deadline.

Yet, each party has proved its strength to gather massive crowds at each venue, indicating that Pakistanis are ripe for change. The PDM cannot, however, sustain its jalsas at fever pitch indefinitely. It has to force a decision, and do it soon, probably through ‘Plan B’ – the threatened march to Islamabad or Rawalpindi. Sufficient numbers could spook the establishment into using force to disperse crowds. Which is probably why an offer of dialogue has been extended by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), even while it pooh pooh’s PDM unity. That offer has been rejected. Plan A or B, a crisis is possible by mid-2021 at least.

The economy suffers and so does CPEC

The boiling up of that crisis is directly linked to Pakistan’s dire economic situation where forecasts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), showing a yawning divide between GDP and inflation, are available, as does the World Bank’s, all of which are quite at variance with the rosy picture presented by the Pakistani State. To be fair, Pakistan was hardly alone in suffering the economic shock of the Covid pandemic and climate disasters. What is likely to hit is the slowdown of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), most apparent as the  State Bank of Pakistan indicated a complete slump in imports of machinery, among other things, from China.

Reports also note Beijing’s hesitation to finance projects of the cash-strapped Pakistan Railways, while Pakistan is attempting to re-negotiate loans on the back of ‘malpractices’ by Chinese companies. If or when President Xi does visit Pakistan in 2021, what can be expected is large declarations and small investments, with the sum total not reaching anywhere near the much-acclaimed $60-billion mark. It’s the classic ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Pakistan needs more investment for growth, but it won’t come in till the economy does a little better. That doesn’t mean China is going to back off. But it does mean that there is no ‘game-changer’ available in 2021.

…And relations with India

In relations with India, forecasting is shaded with grays rather than an outright black. Faced with charges of having ‘sold out’ on Kashmir, the Pakistani government has reacted with full-blown invective, taking the Kashmir issue to every forum; produced a map claiming not just Kashmir but also Junagadh and Sir Creek; and is now providing a dossier on alleged Indian terrorism to anyone and everyone. Recently, Foreign Minister Qureshi, during his visit to the UAE, charged India with planning another surgical strike, and in a possible swipe at reinvigorated Indian diplomacy in West Asia, warned of attempts to garner approval from partners.

All of this is a decided black. Yet, Pakistan did not significantly up the ante during the recent District Development Council elections in Kashmir, nor (so far) open up a ‘third front’ when India is decidedly occupied with China.

The year 2021 will also see Pakistan adding Gilgit-Baltistan to its constitutionally mandated territory, in a significant ‘tit for tat’ move that should give it satisfaction. Meanwhile, both countries have carried on with the annual exchange of lists of nuclear installations and prisoners in each other’s territory, indicating they would carry on with standard activities despite neither having a High Commissioner in residence.

Overall, 2021 will see a significantly weaker Pakistan, across the parameters discussed here. It must be remembered, however, that Kargil occurred when Pakistan was reeling under severe financial stress after its nuclear tests of 1998, resulting in yet another ambitious general coming to power. Another adventure could serve to sideline the PDM, unify the army, and provide proof of Islamabad’s fidelity to Beijing. The trouble is it would have to be a successful adventure. That’s not so easy.

Yet, 1999 is not the same as 2021. Nawaz Sharif no longer has his thick mop of hair, and the future seems to be in the hands of youthful politicians like Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and the not-so-young Maryam Nawaz. Neither will move away from the army orbit. But there is little appetite internationally for Pakistan’s endless wars either against India or in Afghanistan. And that’s the crux of it all. In 2021, Pakistan will really have less reason to hold up its head and stare down its opponents. And everyone knows it. It’s just that someone has to tell that to the generals.

The author is former director, National Security Council Secretariat. Views are personal.

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More Killing in Kashmir Before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Indian army soldiers walk near the site of a gun battle on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. A gun battle between rebels and government forces overnight killed three rebels on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday, officials said. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)

Indian troops kill 3 in Kashmir; families deny militant ties

Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir said Wednesday that government forces killed three suspected militants in a gunfight in the disputed region’s main city, but families of the slain men alleged they were killed in a staged gunbattle.

The families contested that the three were anti-India militants, saying they were “innocent.” The killings come days after police in the Himalayan region charged an Indian army officer and two others with killing three laborers in a faked gunfight in July.

Kashmir is split between India and Pakistan and both claim the mountain region in its entirety, fighting two wars over it.

In the latest violence, police said in a statement that three militants were killed in an overnight operation in the outskirts of Srinagar. Their families protested in front of police headquarters in the city and identified the slain as Aijaz Maqbool, Athar Mushtaq and Zubair Ahmed, all from southern Kashmir’s Pulwama and Shopian districts.

Police said they are investigating and that government forces recovered a rifle and two pistols. Police also said the three killed “were not mentioned in our list of terrorists, yet two of them are hardcore associates of terrorists.”

The deaths come months after a rare admission of wrongdoing by the Indian military, which said its soldiers in Kashmir exceeded their legal powers in the killings of three local men it had described as Pakistani terrorists in July.

Police said Sunday that an Indian army officer and two civilian “army sources” killed three laborers “after stripping them of their identities and tagging them as hardcore terrorists.” The officer has been charged with murder, conspiracy and other offenses, according to police documents filed in a local court.

Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of sponsoring Kashmiri militants, a charge Pakistan denies. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces.

Kashmiri civilians and activists for years have accused Indian troops of abusing their powers and repeatedly targeting civilians.

India has rejected every request since 1990 to prosecute Indian soldiers in civilian courts in Kashmir over allegations of abuses, including murder and rape, according to official documents.

The Consequences of the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Billions Dead: A Nuclear Standoff Between India and Pakistan Is Still Possible

by Kyle Mizokami

Here’s What You Need to Know: An arms-control agreement for the subcontinent is desperately needed.

Sandwiched between Iran, China, India and Afghanistan, Pakistan lives in a complicated neighborhood with a variety of security issues. One of the nine known states known to have nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and doctrine are continually evolving to match perceived threats. A nuclear power for decades, Pakistan is now attempting to construct a nuclear triad of its own, making its nuclear arsenal resilient and capable of devastating retaliatory strikes.

Pakistan’s nuclear program goes back to the 1950s, during the early days of its rivalry with India. President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said in 1965, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

The program became a higher priority after the country’s 1971 defeat at the hands of India, which caused East Pakistan to break away and become Bangladesh. Experts believe the humiliating loss of territory, much more than reports that India was pursuing nuclear weapons, accelerated the Pakistani nuclear program. India tested its first bomb, codenamed “Smiling Buddha,” in May 1974, putting the subcontinent on the road to nuclearization.

Pakistan began the process of accumulating the necessary fuel for nuclear weapons, enriched uranium and plutonium. The country was particularly helped by one A. Q. Khan, a metallurgist working in the West who returned to his home country in 1975 with centrifuge designs and business contacts necessary to begin the enrichment process. Pakistan’s program was assisted by European countries and a clandestine equipment-acquisition program designed to do an end run on nonproliferation efforts. Outside countries eventually dropped out as the true purpose of the program became clear, but the clandestine effort continued.

Exactly when Pakistan had completed its first nuclear device is murky. Former president Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar Bhutto’s daughter, claimed that her father told her the first device was ready by 1977. A member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission said design of the bomb was completed in 1978 and the bomb was “cold tested”—stopping short of an actual explosion—in 1983.

Benazir Bhutto later claimed that Pakistan’s bombs were stored disassembled until 1998, when India tested six bombs in a span of three days. Nearly three weeks later, Pakistan conducted a similar rapid-fire testing schedule, setting off five bombs in a single day and a sixth bomb three days later. The first device, estimated at twenty-five to thirty kilotons, may have been a boosted uranium device. The second was estimated at twelve kilotons, and the next three as sub-kiloton devices.

The sixth and final device appears to have also been a twelve-kiloton bomb that was detonated at a different testing range; a U.S. Air Force “Constant Phoenix” nuclear-detection aircraft reportedly detected plutonium afterward. Since Pakistan had been working on a uranium bomb and North Korea—which shared or purchased research with Pakistan through the A. Q. Khan network—had been working on a uranium bomb, some outside observers concluded the sixth test was actually a North Korean test, detonated elsewhere to conceal North Korea’s involvement although. There is no consensus on this conclusion.

Experts believe Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is steadily growing. In 1998, the stockpile was estimated at five to twenty-five devices, depending on how much enriched uranium each bomb required. Today Pakistan is estimated to have an arsenal of 110 to 130 nuclear bombs. In 2015 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center estimated Pakistan’s bomb-making capability at twenty devices annually, which on top of the existing stockpile meant Pakistan could quickly become the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Other observers, however, believe Pakistan can only develop another forty to fifty warheads in the near future.

Pakistani nuclear weapons are under control of the military’s Strategic Plans Division, and are primarily stored in Punjab Province, far from the northwest frontier and the Taliban. Ten thousand Pakistani troops and intelligence personnel from the SPD guard the weapons. Pakistan claims that the weapons are only armed by the appropriate code at the last moment, preventing a “rogue nuke” scenario.

Pakistani nuclear doctrine appears to be to deter what it considers an economically, politically and militarily stronger India. The nuclear standoff is exacerbated by the traditional animosity between the two countries, the several wars the two countries have fought, and events such as the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, which were directed by Pakistan. Unlike neighboring India and China, Pakistan does not have a “no first use” doctrine, and reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, particularly low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, to offset India’s advantage in conventional forces.

Pakistan currently has a nuclear “triad” of nuclear delivery systems based on land, in the air and at sea. Islamabad is believed to have modified American-built F-16A fighters and possibly French-made Mirage fighters to deliver nuclear bombs by 1995. Since the fighters would have to penetrate India’s air defense network to deliver their payloads against cities and other targets, Pakistani aircraft would likely be deliver tactical nuclear weapons against battlefield targets.

Land-based delivery systems are in the form of missiles, with many designs based on or influenced by Chinese and North Korean designs. The Hatf series of mobile missiles includes the solid-fueled Hatf-III (180 miles), solid-fueled Hatf-IV (466 miles) and liquid-fueled Hatf V, (766 miles). The CSIS Missile Threat Initiative believes that as of 2014, Hatf VI (1242 miles) is likely in service. Pakistan is also developing a Shaheen III intermediate-range missile capable of striking targets out to 1708 miles, in order to strike the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.

The sea component of Pakistan’s nuclear force consists of the Babur class of cruise missiles. The latest version, Babur-2, looks like most modern cruise missiles, with a bullet-like shape, a cluster of four tiny tail wings and two stubby main wings, all powered by a turbofan or turbojet engine. The cruise missile has a range of 434 miles. Instead of GPS guidance, which could be disabled regionally by the U.S. government, Babur-2 uses older Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) navigation technology. Babur-2 is deployed on both land and at sea on ships, where they would be more difficult to neutralize. A submarine-launched version, Babur-3, was tested in January and would be the most survivable of all Pakistani nuclear delivery systems.

Pakistan is clearly developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war. It is also dealing with internal security issues that could threaten the integrity of its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan and India are clearly in the midst of a nuclear arms race that could, in relative terms, lead to absurdly high nuclear stockpiles reminiscent of the Cold War. It is clear that an arms-control agreement for the subcontinent is desperately needed.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the DiplomatForeign PolicyWar is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This article first appeared several years ago and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

The rising Asian nuclear horns: Revelation 7

America’s Asian Allies Need Their Own Nukes

Want to cut costs and contain China? Allow friendly nuclear proliferation.

Doug Bandow

December 30, 2020, 6:00 AM

People watch a television showing footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, on Jan. 1, 2020. Jong Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

Nobody envies U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at the moment. The problems he faces seem insurmountable.

China likely will be the administration’s most serious foreign challenge. The United States is wealthier and more powerful, but remains committed—overcommitted, in fact—around the globe. The world’s finest—and most expensive—military goes only so far.

Moreover, domestic needs and international wants will increasingly clash. As America entered 2020, the federal budget deficit was expected to run to $1.1 trillion. Combating the coronavirus pandemic and providing economic relief pushed that number to $3.1 trillion. It will be more than $2 trillion this year, and could go much higher, if Congress and the president agree on a new stimulus package. The Congressional Budget Office had predicted another $10 trillion in red ink over the coming decade, but the additional COVID-19 deficit, reflecting a combination of increased outlays and decreased revenues, could be as much as $16 trillion.

China is a challenge—but it’s not a direct military threat to the United States itself. Without such a threat, it will be difficult if not impossible to rouse public sentiment sufficiently to fund the sort of military expansion necessary to overawe and defeat a rising China in its own neighborhood. It costs much more to project power than deter its use, especially across an ocean several thousand miles wide. But there’s a cheaper and more effective solution to keeping the peace: Let America’s allies have nukes.

Can the United States defend Taiwan, destroy Chinese naval outposts on artificial islands, keep sea lanes open, protect territories claimed by Japan and the Philippines, and so on? Beijing is focused on developing Anti Access/Area Denial capabilities: It costs much less for China to build missiles and submarines capable of sinking aircraft carriers than for the United States to construct, staff, and maintain the latter. The Pentagon is concocting countervailing strategies, but they will be neither cheap nor risk-free. How much can Americans, facing manifold, expensive challenges at home and elsewhere abroad, afford to devote to containing the PRC essentially within its own borders?

And should the United States even attempt to do so? It will be difficult to generate sustained public support for sacrificial military spending to, say, ensure that the Senkaku Islands remain under Japanese control. Japan analysts at Washington think tanks might wax eloquent in their latest webinar about the vital American interests at stake, but the public will be more skeptical. And, in fact, many of the Washington policy community’s greatest fears understandably don’t matter much to the American people.

For instance, it isn’t terribly important that Beijing has grabbed control of Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Ownership of such specks of land yield control over fish and hydrocarbons, but that does not make them worth Americans’ blood. Nor are the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Indeed, American involvement is not the best response, and certainly shouldn’t be the first response in such contingencies. It is self-evident that such activities matter more to allied and friendly nations than to America. The best constraint on the PRC comes from its neighbors. It is surrounded by nations it’s fought with in the last century, both as victim and invader: Russia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and India. New middling powers include Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Just as Beijing is concentrating on deterring U.S. military intervention in the region, other countries can create forces capable of deterring China. They surely have an interest to do so —and not just to hold outlying territories. The independence of these and other nations matters more than their control over disputed lands.

Of course, these nations, which vary widely in size, wealth, and government, typically contend that they can ill afford to mount a defense, and that historical or political differences prevent them organizing together. Despite some truth to their objections, such claims should not become excuses for cheap riding. If these states are under threat, one much greater than that facing the United States, with pacific neighbors south and north, and vast oceans east and west, they have a powerful incentive to act. Yet America’s friends and allies have taken a shockingly lackadaisical attitude toward their own security. Even if the United States backstops their independence, American involvement should be a last resort.

If these states are under threat, one much greater than that facing the United States, with pacific neighbors south and north, and vast oceans east and west, they have a powerful incentive to act.

The Europeans have pioneered freeloading on Washington’s vast military spending, but the Asians are not far behind. If Tokyo is truly worried about losing a few barren pieces of rock—or, more seriously, fears an invasion of its main islands—why doesn’t it devote more than 1 percent of spending on defense? The tribulations of history are well-known, but they are no justification for expecting badly cash-strapped Americans to step into the breach.

What Does the Future of America’s Nuclear Briefcase Look Like?

The Philippines barely makes an effort, devoting less than a 1 percent of its GDP to its armed forces. A few years back its defense minister complained that the navy could barely sail and the air force could barely fly. The navy’s flagship is a half-century old U.S. Coast Guard cast-off. Manila hopes to borrow the U.S. Pacific fleet in case of trouble.

Worse, Taiwan, by far China’s most endangered neighbor, spends less than 2 percent of GDP to protect itself—although a recently proposed budget envisages raising this considerably. Military outlays have gotten caught in the political crossfire between the two major parties. Grant Newsham of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies cited “successive Democratic Progressive Party and Kuomintang administrations’ mystifying but steadfast refusal to properly fund defense—even though Taiwan is a wealthy nation and facing a serious threat from mainland China.”

Why are countries so unwilling to do more on their own behalf? Perhaps they do not believe Beijing poses a threat—or they are convinced that America will step in if necessary. Growing concern over the PRC and its perceived ambitions appears to have loosened the military purse strings of some Chinese neighbors—but not nearly enough. U.S. officials have tried complaining, whining, and demanding, with only indifferent success. Better for the incoming administration to tell allies and friends that while America “is back,” as the president-elect has proclaimed, that doesn’t mean Americans should carry a burden that rightly belongs to others. Nor should other governments want to put their nations’ futures into someone else’s hands, even those belonging to the United States.

This applies with greatest force to the principle of extended deterrence, which friendly governments seem to assume is their due. Washington’s threat to go nuclear on its allies’ behalf—an implicit promise of undetermined reach in unstated circumstances—is an extraordinary commitment, since it treats other nations’ interests of varying importance as existential for America. This strategy is most likely to work if the opponent does not possess nuclear weapons or Washington’s interest in its ally’s security is at least as great as that of the nuclear-armed adversary. That is not the case in today’s potential East Asia-Pacific conflicts.

This applies with greatest force to the principle of extended deterrence, which friendly governments seem to assume is their due.

Put bluntly, none of the contested interests are worth the resulting risks to America’s homeland. Certainly not the various islands, reefs, shoals, islets, rocks, and other detritus strewn about the South China Sea, East China Sea, and other waters nearby. Nor the Philippines, a semi-failed state, almost uniquely badly governed. Taiwan is a better, or certainly a more valuable, friend, but is little more important to America’s defense than Cuba is to Chinese security, which isn’t much.

It is difficult to make a credible case for extended deterrence even for Japan. Would any American president really trade Los Angeles for Tokyo? The promise is made on the assumption that the bluff will never be called: Advocates simply assume perfect deterrence. However, history is littered with similar military and political presumptions, later shattered with catastrophic consequences.

The danger surrounding South Korea is most acute, and not because of Beijing. Rather, the threat is North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang has no interest in attacking the United States but can be expected to defend itself. It would have a strong incentive to use nukes if Washington threatened the North’s defeat. Yet nothing in the Korean peninsula is worth the sacrifice of American cities.

What to do? There is one way to square the circle. The Biden administration should reconsider reflexive U.S. opposition to “friendly proliferation.” Ironically, current policy ensures that nuclear weapons are held by only the worst Asian states—authoritarian and revisionist China and Russia, Islamist and unstable Pakistan, illiberal and Hindu nationalist India, and totalitarian and threatening North Korea. Against all these, Washington is supposed to defend Japan and South Korea, certainly, the Philippines and Australia, possibly, and Taiwan, conceivably. That is dangerous for everyone, especially the United States.

Ironically, current policy ensures that nuclear weapons are held by only the worst Asian states—authoritarian and revisionist China and Russia, Islamist and unstable Pakistan, illiberal and Hindu nationalist India, and totalitarian and threatening North Korea.

Reversing a policy supported by neoconservative nation-builders, unilateral nationalists, and liberal internationalists would not be easy. The change would be dramatic, and not without risk, whether from potential terrorism, nuclear accidents, or geopolitical provocations. Although the nuclear age has been surprisingly stable, proliferation necessarily creates additional risks for conflict and leakage. Nevertheless, the existence of nuclear weapons probably helped contain conventional conflict, especially between the United States and the Soviet Union. Even more, nations are convinced that modest arsenals keep rival states at bay, which is why countries as disparate as Israel, North Korea, and India have developed arsenals at great cost.

All of these countries, except the Philippines, are easily capable of developing their own nuclear weapons. Of course, they might decide not to do so, as is their right. However, there is significant popular support in South Korea for amassing a countervailing arsenal. The issue is understandably far more fraught for Japan. However, Japanese enthusiasm for pacifism always has reflected a belief that Washington would come to that country’s defense. If that was no longer certain, the Japanese people might react differently.

Australia is another potential nuclear state. Until recently, Canberra might have been hesitant to risk its commercially advantageous relationship with the PRC. However, under sharp economic assault from Beijing today, Australians may be more inclined to add the ultimate weapon to their military repertoire.

Taiwan is in greatest need of such a weapon, but developing one would be highly destabilizing, since Beijing would be tempted to preempt the process. The alternative would be for Washington to fill Taiwan’s need, with a profound impact on Sino-American relations. Proliferation would not be a good solution—but it might be the least bad one.

No doubt, a nuclear-armed China would react badly to better-armed neighbors, but it is no happier with a more involved United States. Moreover, the prospect of American friends and allies developing nukes might prompt the PRC to change course, backing away from confrontation, seeking diplomatic answers for territorial disputes, and pushing North Korea harder to limit if not roll back its nuclear program. Two or three additional nations choosing nukes would permanently transform the regional balance of power, to China’s great disadvantage.

The PRC, not Russia or the Middle East, will pose the defining challenge to the Biden administration. Grappling with such a rising power will be very different to confronting the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It is easier to know what not to do with China than what to do. Don’t go to war. Don’t stage a new cold war. Don’t sacrifice core values and basic interests. Don’t make the issue all about Washington. Don’t waste money and credibility on overambitious, unsustainable attempts at containment. Don’t attempt to dictate to the PRC.

But what to do? The United States should think creatively about new approaches to old problems. One way to do so is to stop hectoring partners and preventing them from doing what they want to do. Including, perhaps, developing nuclear weapons.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World.

The rising nuclear horns: Revelation 8

The return of great power competition is on and Washington wants to ensure its weapons are modern and able to deter any enemy.

by Kris Osborn

It would appear clear that the Pentagon has no plans to abandon its nuclear weapons arsenal but rather likely expand it considerably along with its massive ongoing modernization campaign to deliver new intercontinental ballistic missiles, stealth bombers, low-yield weapons, nuclear hypersonic missiles and new air-dropped nuclear-bomb variants. 

A vigorous nuclear weapons program has been underway in recent years, including rapid progress with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent new ICBM program and continued upgrades to the old Minuteman III missiles. In addition, the military is engineering new low-yield nuclear warheads for the submarine-launched Trident II D5 nuclear missile, constructing a Long-Range Stand-Off weapon nuclear-armed cruise missiles and a new integrated B-61 air-dropped bomb. 

All of these programs have reached milestones and gained considerable traction in the last several years, a dynamic setting the stage for a more resilient, reliable and capable weapons arsenal as the Pentagon moves into future years. Many lawmakers from both parties, as well as senior Pentagon leaders and other weapons developers, have long maintained that the U.S. nuclear arsenal needed to be massively overhauled and expanded. 

These factors may be one reason why DoD and the Department of Energy plan to sustain and even expand production of nuclear materials such as plutonium. 

“Provide the enduring capability to produce 80 plutonium pits per year during 2030 by expanding plutonium pit production capabilities,” The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration The Fiscal Year 2021 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan—Biennial Plan Summary, states. 

This is significant in a number of respects as it offers an indication of current long-range thinking, which seems to at least in part be grounded in the concept that modern, lethal nuclear weapons will likely figure prominently in any deterrence posture for years into the future. This may indicate that, regardless of the extent of potentially successful nuclear arms reductions or limitations negotiations in coming years, the need for substantial, modern and highly effective nuclear deterrence is expected to continue. There are many potential reasons for this, perhaps several of which may seem overly obvious.

Both Russia and China are well known to be making huge amounts of rapid progress with nuclear modernization to include new weapons, weapons upgrades and large-scale expansions in the number of nuclear weapons maintained. What this means, among other things, is that regardless of any potential progress between great powers at the negotiating table, the need for a major U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal will continue. Another interesting variable associated with this is likely the simple recognition that nuclear weapons capability is likely to keep expanding around the world with smaller, potentially even more dangerous countries such as Iran, North Korea or others. 

“Assure a continuous and reliable supply of strategic nuclear weapon components and the key materials that make up the components, to include plutonium, uranium, lithium, tritium, and high explosives In FY 2019, five additional developmental plutonium pits, a key component of nuclear weapons, were completed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in support of DOE/NNSA’s strategic effort to revitalize U.S. pit production capability,” the DOE report explains.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.

The fallacy of a limited nuclear war: Revelation 8

Lessons from pandemic-nuclear weapons nexus for survival in 2021

As Earth hurtled around the Sun at over 100,000km per hour, humans were rudely reminded in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic that no-one is in charge ― or rather, nature is in charge.

Humanity faces many intertwined global problems in 2021. The short list includes climate change, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, biochemical pollution, overpopulation, demographic aging, food insecurity, water scarcity, disease and pandemics. These problems are both cause and effect of extreme poverty, inequality, forced migration, and social conflict that leads to war.

Hovering above all these inter-twined global problems is the truly existential threat of nuclear war. Nuclear war is the most immediate and direct extinction trap into which the species could fall.

Even a “small” nuclear war ― for example, between India and Pakistan, or the United States and the DPRK ― could induce a long winter, global famine, and would put pay to any possibility of the global cooperation needed to solve all the other global problems afflicting humanity.

Yet unlike other global problems, nuclear weapons are uniquely and 100 percent human-made. The RECNA Nuclear Warhead Data Monitoring Team at Nagasaki University estimates that as of June 2020, nine nuclear armed states maintain 13,410 nuclear warheads ― enough for about one ton of TNT-equivalent explosive power for every human alive today.

By the same token, the threat of nuclear war is one global problem that can be solved, relatively quickly, and ultimately, forever. Northeast Asia, where the pandemic likely increases the risk of nuclear war, is a case in point. COVID-19 may destabilize nuclear commands and ravage nuclear and conventional forces and, destabilize nuclear-prone conflicts at a time when tension should be reduced, not increased.

To reduce this risk, the Nagasaki 75th Anniversary Pandemic-Nuclear Nexus Scenarios project concluded that leaders in this region must, among many other urgent measures,

― Slow and reverse nuclear force developments and operations in the Northeast Asian region, including through nuclear-weapon-free zones and nonproliferation treaties

― Develop a secure, reliable nuclear hotline network for communicating in a nuclear crisis

― Launch public health security initiatives in the Northeast Asian region to respond to pandemics

― Engage younger generations in the nuclear disarmament movement and mobilize a broader base of potential stakeholders in nuclear issues

― Enlarge existing city networks such as Mayors for Peace and establish new city/regional cooperation networks to play a more direct role in reducing nuclear risk and pushing for nuclear disarmament

There is another more radical view, albeit not one shared widely by national leaders, which holds that the pandemic is forcing the “re-spatialization” of human affairs in all sectors and at every level, from the individual to nation-states.

Rather than merely increasing the velocity of existing change and bringing underlying conflicts to the surface, the pandemic heralds an epochal, global, and systemic transformation that will lead to a new distribution of power capacities in geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geoecological dimensions.

In this permanent pandemic world, the effective governance of global problems in an era of permanent pandemics may rise bottom-up from “first responder” cities, provinces, corporations, and civil society organizations, driven by sheer necessity to create a global mosaic of networked responses and shared solutions.

This is a world that might adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the foundation of nuclear governance, not the old legal order that approves of the existence and even the use of nuclear weapons.

Cutting across this hopeful image is a darker portrayal of how humans may respond to multiple existential threats in an epoch defined by pandemics. In this 21st century feudalism, great powers are weakened relative to each other, and small and medium powers acquire symmetric and ultra-modern means of military power projection designed to maintain control and keep the other outside borders during protracted pandemics.

Thus, today’s Cold Peace struggling to manage COVID-19 may degenerate into a new Cold War with more states and even non-state actors armed with nuclear weapons.

Although humans can make nuclear weapons to destroy life on a massive scale, they can’t make even a simple life form, let alone a single ant or an ecosystem. Arguably, humanity’s best bet for survival is to reduce its global footprint, anticipate the impacts of global change, and adapt rapidly while nature restores itself.

That task begins with making all humans safe from pandemic infections because no human can be safe while other humans are infected. This is the equivalent of delivering one ton of TNT-equivalent of destructive power in the form of a vial of vaccine ― surely achievable even if revolutionary in principle. From this simple proposition flows a revolution in global governance in all affairs, without which humans will likely face a dire, dark, and bleak future.

As we enter 2021, therefore, states and people must ask themselves whether there are better ways to prepare for the uncertain futures created by the COVID-19 pandemic than to rely on primitive nuclear weapons, and which of these is most robust.

India’s hostility towards Pakistan before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

India’s hostility towards Pakistan

December 29, 2020

A few days ago Euro Disinfo Lab revealed that India has been trying to malign and portray Pakistan in dismal colours before the international community by generating and propagating false and fake news through a network of 750 fake media outlets and 550 website domain names in 162 countries. Reportedly Indian RAW set up a fake front entity Srivastava Group (SG) with headquarters in New Delhi in 2005 which over the last fifteen years developed this network.

The revelations by the Disinfo Lab have been corroborated by a report that Ofcom, the media regulatory in the UK, has imposed a financial penalty of twenty thousand pounds on Republic Bharat TV for serious broadcasting breaches after the channel aired hate speech against Pakistan and its people. The regulatory authority in its findings said “We considered the statements of the guests in the programme to be expressions of hatred based on intolerance of Pakistani people and that the broadcast of these statements spread, incited, promoted and justified such intolerance towards Pakistani people among viewers. The statement made by a retired Major General of the Indian Army, which clearly threatened that the Indian military would attack Pakistani civilians in their homes, were an expression of hatred and desire to kill by a figure of authority. In our view the broadcast of these statements also promoted hatred and intolerance towards Pakistani people. The overall tone of the discussion was provocative, comparing Pakistanis to donkeys and monkeys”

The programme apart from spreading hate against Pakistan and its people was also a calculated attempt to hurl threats at Pakistan. Coming from the mouth of a Major General it actually indicates the mindset of the Indian Army and political leadership of India. Former Chief of Indian Army and now Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat has also been hurling threats of teaching Pakistan a lesson. Indian Defence Minister recently boasted that India was ready for both Pakistan and China.

The foregoing realities are a ranting testimony of unabated Indian hostility towards Pakistan. India all along has been a threat to the security of Pakistan but that hostility has gained unprecedented intensity since the advent of Narendra Modi as Indian Prime Minister. The BJP regime inebriated by the RSS ideology of Hindutva has promulgated anti-Muslim laws within the country and also scrapped Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to end special status of the India-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) showing disdainful defiance of the UN resolutions. With a view to diverting world attention from the blatant violations of human rights in IOJ&K and the killing spree, India has been continuously violating the Ceasefire Agreement along the LoC and the Working Boundary.

It reportedly has committed more than 3000 violations of the ceasefire and killed 278 civilians during this year. Not only that, it also has been running a sustained campaign to isolate Pakistan accusing her of supporting alleged acts of terrorism in IOJ&K. It dared to launch naked aggression against Pakistan in February 20189 when it sent planes to attack an imaginary terrorist camp at Balakot. In the light of the foregoing facts one can hardly contest the claims by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that India, as per intelligence reports, was planning to launch yet another false flag operation against Pakistan. Pakistan faces real security threat from India and there can be no two opinions about it. Pakistan has been sensitizing the global community about it since India ended special status of IOJ&K and urging it to intervene before it was too late. The likely clash between the two nuclear powers can lead to cataclysmic consequences for the entire region. But the dilemma is that the world community and the UN in spite of being informed about the Indian designs and threat to peace by the Government of Pakistan as well as the international media, remain criminally indifferent to the plight of the people of Kashmir and the prospects of war between two nuclear powers.

The reason is that the world politics and the policies pursued by the big powers which have the strongest clout in the management of global affairs are not amenable to the UN Charter, the principles enunciated in for promoting peace and regulating inter-state relations. Their actions and policies are premised on their self-perceived strategic and commercial interests and in pursuing their objectives, they even do not hesitate to flout the UN Charter and the rules and principles set by themselves in regards to inter-state relations. Legitimacy of any cause is viewed by them through the prism of their own interests. That is exactly what we are witnessing in regards to Indian actions in IO&JK and its aggressive designs against Pakistan. India is a strategic partner of the US and its Western allies and a pivotal player in this region to further the objectives of their ‘contain China policy’.

The sufferings of the people of Kashmir and UN resolutions regarding the dispute have no meaning for them. India is taking advantage of their criminal indifference. In the permeating international environment, frankly speaking, instead of looking upon others to dissuade India from her aggressive designs against Pakistan, our focus should be on enhancing our military prowess to deter India from any indiscretion, strengthening economic edifice of the country and forging impregnable national unity. If we can achieve that it would also strengthen our position for supporting the cause of Kashmiri people.

— The Islamabad-based writer is former Director Administration, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.