IDC Analysis from USA


New Delhi, 19 November 2002

Late Gen K Sundarji once told K Subrahmanyam, (both of whom we consider to be the architects of India's nuclear advancement), that the best kept secret of India's Security Establishment was that there had never been a Security Strategy! Times of India carried the piece, but that state of affairs cannot continue in today's age of globalisation and unstable 24 party Governments, where stances are more personal than national.

We suggest that if and when we get a CDS with courage, he must get the three Chiefs on board and get the Government to pen a Security and Military Strategy, so that policy may be formulated. The last time one was penned was by Raksha Mantri Bansi Lal, but no one had the courage to sign it. 

Here in USA they openly talk of disconnect between the three services in India on Nuclear aspirations, with the Air Force pitching for the deterrent. The doctrine seems unclear and to maintain deterrence it must be announced. Pakistan has announced that it will use the Nuclear Bomb if its vital interests are threatened and specified these very threats.

A book just released by Mary Anne Weaver titled “’Pakistan in the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan’ explains this in a full chapter. No wonder India was careful throughout the Kargil war. The nuclear arsenal was sheathed but now we have Agni-I and the IAF has 250 km Prithvi missiles on the ready –– calling for a warhead.

Yet even today, India's nuclear doctrine is called a DRAFT and though ambiguity is a part of deterrence, lack of strategy can be suicidal and expensive. President Abdul Kalam recently stated that India would use nuclear bombs if any one used them, against us. This shows confidence by the nation’s Commander-in-Chief, that India can retaliate appropriately as our strategy. India should announce it and the Service Chief responsible for the retaliatory force should echo operational confidence so India's nuclear stance is in cadence. Dr Kalam is knowledgeable on India's Nuclear and Biological and Chemical arsenal and privy to the secrets and we take his words seriously and applaud him for a clear articulation at a time when Bush calls them dangerous weapons of mass destruction –– WMD. Happily we see that India is accepted as a responsible de facto nuclear state by the Western world, and this gives us a good place in the sun.

We have attempted to contribute to strategic thinking and we have been updating our viewers about whatever we learn from the media and the experts about the Nuclear Status of India and Pakistan in some detail. We have some five pieces in our What's Hot section and had predicted that Pakistan's nuclear bomb was a time bomb and could fall into wrong hands.

This is now being taken seriously with Times of India repeating the big story of Pakistan's bomb ticking away. In USA, we have now been able to discuss the subject briefly with experts like Stephen Cohen and George Perkovich, the two most knowledgeable Pundits on the sub continent, who have written seminal books on the region. Cohen this year released ‘Emerging India’ after spending some two months in India and Perkovich 's book  on ‘India's Nuclear History’ was the first comprehensive book on the subject, and widely quoted. Then followed Ashley Tellis, writing for Rand, an armed forces sponsored ‘think tank’, who showered praise on India's demated and recessed nuclear policy –– just what USA had in the late 50s. Chingappa wrote a kiss and tell story and Bharat Karnad had summed up nuclear issues in his book. Now comes the Bombshell.

USA via Bush has reportedly stated that it has no contingency plans on the Islamic nuke. The recent 'hoax', which appeared in Asia Times about the terrorists being in possession of 3 bombs from Russia and 2 from Pakistan was rapidly effaced from the internet.

We know every good Armed Force prepares a variety of contingency plans so surely the Pentagon, Israel and India must have approached the subject as a theoretical exercise at least? So we ask –– Is it true that Bush called Seymour Hersh, who says USA has contingency plans to hit Pakistan, a liar? But then, how does one explain this enigmatic quote from the report given below.

In the ‘analysts' community’, speculation is rife that the seeming abandon with which the Bush administration views Pakistan's shenanigans suggests it already has a handle on the country's nuclear assets. Where is this analysts' community? Does the US have a handle or not? If so, when, if at all, will the handle be pulled?



Chidanand Rajghatta

Times News Network,  Sunday, November 17, 2002

President Bush has denied reports that the United States has contingency plans to neutralise Pakistan's nuclear assets. The US president seemingly offered this assurance to Pakistan's General Musharraf when the two met on the sidelines of the UN summit this year, following the publication last December of an article in the New Yorker magazine by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, saying the US and Israel had contingency plans to take out Pakistan's nuclear warheads in the event of the country falling to fundamentalists.

"Seymour Hersh is a liar," Bush is quoted as telling Musharraf, in a Washington Post article that previewed a forthcoming book by its Managing Editor Bob Woodward about the war on terrorism in which the comment is made. It is not clear from the article in what context Bush made the remark and who raised the issue. But Bush evidently proffered the assurance before reports saying US intelligence has evidence that Pakistan provided nuclear know-how to North Korea till as recently as three months back. In the New Yorker article, Hersh, quoting unnamed intelligence officials, says the Pentagon has developed contingency plans to work with an Israeli special operations unit to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons if the country became unstable.

"In recent weeks, the administration has been reviewing and "refreshing" its contingency plans. Such operations depend on intelligence, however, and there is disagreement within the administration about the quality of the CIA's data," Hersh reported. "The American intelligence community cannot be sure, for example, that it knows the precise whereabouts of every Pakistani warhead –– or whether all the warheads that it has found are real."

He then quoted an official as saying Pakistan has some dummy locations, and if the US–Israeli combine mounted an operation and failed to clear all the nukes, then "the cat is out of the bag".

US officials had scoffed at Hersh's report even at the time it was published, but there was plenty of discussion –– in undertones –– in the Government, think tanks and media circles about the need to exfiltrate Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, especially after reports of its top nuclear scientists having connection with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

The issue has resurfaced in recent days following the episode involving North Korea and the impending war on Iraq. In a critique of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, New York Times editorialist Nicholas Kristof on 16 Nov wrote, "After all, if it's appropriate to carry out pre-emptive strikes on countries that sponsor terrorism and secretly develop nuclear weapons, then we could launch an invasion today –– on Pakistan."

But Bush and other senior administration officials have continued to insist that Pakistan has met the standards for being an ally in the war on terrorism despite skepticism in many circles. In the analysts' community, speculation is rife that the seeming abandon with which the Bush administration views Pakistan's shenanigans suggests it already has a handle on the country's nuclear assets. Soon after the Hersh report, when Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, he said he was confident that he (Musharraf) understands the importance of ensuring that all elements of his nuclear programme are safe and secure.

"And he knows that if he needs any technical assistance in how to improve that security level, we would be more than willing to help in any way that we can," Powell added meaningfully.

Seymour Hersh is a widely acclaimed investigative reporter who is the author of a book on Israel's nuclear programme. But he gained notoriety in India for calling former Prime Minister Morarji Desai a CIA agent, an allegation he did not retract despite a lawsuit. In his New Yorker piece, Hersh says some senior officials say they remain confident that the intelligence community can do its job (of taking out Pakistani nukes), despite the efforts of the Pakistani army to mask its nuclear arsenal.

"We'd be challenged to manage the problem, but there is contingency planning for that possibility," he quotes a military adviser as telling him. "We can't exclude the possibility that the Pakistanis could make it harder for us to act on what we know, but that's an operational detail. We're going to have to work harder to get to it quickly. We still have some good access."

Shortly before Hersh's article and soon after the 9/11 catastrophe, there were several commentaries on the think tank circuit –– usually a sign of the thinking within the administration –– calling for greater accountability of Pakistan's nuclear assets because of the danger of fundamentalists taking over.

Arguing for contingencies, non-proliferation scholar Jon Wolfstal had said that time that US plans "should include the ability to rapidly deploy forces to Pakistan to find and regain control of any lost nuclear materials and, only as a last option in a crisis, remove them from Pakistan to a secure location.  

"These steps might seem extreme. Yet when faced with the real possibility of losing control of nuclear weapons to the types of organisations capable of the destruction seen on September 11, they could be considered realistic and even prudent. The consequences of not being prepared to act are too great for us to imagine, even with our new ability to imagine the horrible," Wolfstal had maintained.

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