Michael KreponPrelims on the Subcontinent

[Note: This post has been corrected.]

Very bad news often follows when adversaries give up on improved relations. We’re at this juncture now on the Subcontinent. High-ranking Indian and Pakistani officials are lobbing over-heated public recriminations about abetting terrorism in each other’s sensitive spaces. Pakistan has elevated the Kashmir issue – never a good sign for Pakistan or for India — and firing across the Kashmir divide has increased in recent years. Absent top-down initiatives to mend fences – initiatives that New Delhi appears unwilling to take and that Pakistan’s civilian government is handcuffed from taking – the stage will be set for another nuclear-tinged crisis in the region.

Increased firing across the Line of Control dividing Kashmir accompanied the advent of another Pakistani government led by Nawaz Sharif, who makes no secret of his desire to improve relations with India. Firing intensified after the election of a new Indian government led by Narendra Modi, who has made no secret about responding in more than tit-for-tat fashion to cease-fire violations.

Indian officials see bad omens in Pakistan’s release from polite confinement of Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi – the Lashkar e-Toiba’s operational commander who was deeply involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Intercepts of communications confirming Lakhvi’s role are publicly available, and copious evidence against Lakhvi provided by New Delhi was initially deemed inadmissible in Pakistani courts; his release was accompanied by statements blaming India for insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

Pakistani officials read bad omens in statements by senior Indian officials regarding a willingness to engage in “sub-conventional” warfare, if warranted by Rawalpindi’s actions. Before becoming National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval gave a talk in February 2014 in which he conveyed the message that, “You can do one Mumbai and you may lose Baluchistan.” Last month, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, a neophyte in the art of public obfuscation, warned Pakistan against stepping up a proxy war in Kashmir: “There are certain things that I obviously cannot discuss here. But if there is any country, why only Pakistan, planning something against my country, we will definitely take some pro-active steps.” Parrikar used the the colloquial Hindi phrase for “removing a thorn using another thorn,” adding, “We have to neutralize terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?”

Hopes for improved relations generated by Modi’s invitation to Nawaz to attend his inauguration in May 2014 have now ebbed completely. Nawaz is in a bind. He has nothing to show for accepting Modi’s invitation. Civilian-led governments in Pakistan have been unable or unwilling to reciprocate India’s granting of Most Favored Nation trade status back in 1996. Pakistan understandably uses different terminology – non-discriminatory market access – which the previous government led by Asif Ali Zardari chose not to finalize, and which Nawaz is in no position to pursue. If he takes further initiatives and is left empty-handed, he will be in an untenable position back home. With Rawalpindi now signaling a hard line, this is out of the question.

Lakhvi’s release and Nawaz’s inability to push ahead on trade have reaffirmed New Delhi’s lack of interest in investing time and effort on improved relations. One of its key conditions for forward progress is tangible steps by Pakistan against the groups that target India. Statements by Doval and Parrikar have now allowed Pakistan to turn these tables, reverting to habitual themes about Indian subversion when bilateral relations take a turn for the worse.

A chorus of outrage has followed from the Foreign Ministry, government-inspired news accounts and opinion columns. The Chief of Army Staff has weighed in, decrying the actions of Indian intelligence services and clarifying that the fortunes of Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable.

Modi has now entered the fray with remarks in Dhaka that, “Every now and then Pakistan keeps disturbing India, creates nuisance, promotes terrorism and such incidents keep recurring.” Modi was there to sign a long-delayed border settlement. The contrast between New Delhi’s commitment to improve relations with Bangladesh and its lack of interest in improving ties with Pakistan could not be starker.

The blame games now underway may mask an important shift in the dynamics of deterrence on the Subcontinent. New Delhi’s hand has been strengthened and Rawalpindi’s efforts to shore up deterrence by means of a nuclear buildup are being circumvented. Back in October 2014, Doval reportedly said,  “We would like to resolve our problems through negotiations, through talks. I can’t think of any problem that cannot be resolved through negotiations. But on the other hand, India would like to have an effective deterrence to deal with terrorism.” One can read the statements by Doval and Parrikar to suggest that the Modi government has landed on a strategy of sending deterrent messages in the coinage Rawalpindi understands best.

As the stronger power, India only loses by making nuclear threats, while threatening to respond to severe provocations with conventional military thrusts into Pakistan offer headache without gain — which is why the Indian Army’s interest in “Cold Start” lost traction. Doval and Parrikar may be telegraphing a different Indian response if Rawalpindi turns up the heat in Kashmir or if the LeT carries out another spectacular act of terrorism within India. New Delhi can respond in Baluchistan or exploit other internal security problems in Pakistan, of which there are many. And as with the firing along the LoC, New Delhi can respond twofold to whatever cuts Rawalpindi inflicts.

Rawalpindi has been counting on a deterrence strategy that threatens first use if conventional capabilities are not up to the task. First use includes the detonation of short-range, or tactical, nuclear weapons against Indian troop concentrations and armor. New Delhi has studiously underplayed this threat; Rawalpindi can build as many tactical nuclear weapons as it likes and still not be able to use them if New Delhi adopts a strategy of fighting fire with fire — one that the previous Congress Party-led government was loathe to pursue.

New Delhi’s recent deterrent messages are far more convincing than beefing up conventional or nuclear forces, which is why Pakistan has reacted so vigorously against them. It knows that India’s leaders will seek to avoid using nuclear weapons and that New Delhi has backed away from threats to fight a limited ground war on Pakistani soil in the past. In contrast, India’s amped-up deterrent threats of proxy or sub-conventional warfare are credible because Pakistani leaders assume that India is already swimming in these waters.

Pakistan blames India for the widespread disaffection in Baluchistan, where its own military actions have sown disaffection, just as Indian military forces’ have in Kashmir. New Delhi has been able to handle everything Rawalpindi has thrown at it in Kashmir. Can Rawalpindi do the same in Baluchistan? China’s newly-announced, high-profile infrastructure corridor will pass through this province, where gas lines are periodically blown up and where Rawalpindi is raising a special security contingent for Chinese workers.

The hullaballoo in Pakistan over Doval and Parrikar’s statements is partly contrived, since the context and conditionality of these threats have been conveniently disregarded. But Pakistan’s concerns are very real, since hopes for the country’s economic future rest on Chinese investment through this corridor.

Deterrent messages can help avoid limited wars on the Subcontinent, but they cannot improve India-Pakistan relations. Diplomatic initiatives are required for this purpose. Once the sting of Lakhvi’s release subsides, New Delhi will be well-positioned to shift gears. No one’s interests are served by concurrent proxy campaigns in Kashmir and Baluchistan, so new deterrent threats could serve a useful purpose. But what then? It has been seven years since the Mumbai attacks. How much time needs to pass before resuming the composite dialogue?


  1. Asif Ezdi (History)

    You have got your dates wrong. Doval’s threat to foment subversion in Balochistan (“You can do one Mumbai and you may lose Baluchistan.”) was not delivered on 5 January this year but on 21 February 2014, three months before he became National Security Adviser. Also, Parrikar’s remarks that India has a policy to “neutralise terrorists with terrorists” was made on 21 May this year, not on 13 January. More important, neither Doval nor Parrikar started these policies. India’s policy of exporting subversion and terror to Pakistan, mostly from Afghan soil, is much older than the Modi government.

    • krepon (History)

      My error on the dates.

  2. Akash (History)

    “But what then? It has been seven years since the Mumbai attacks. How much time needs to pass before resuming the composite dialogue?”

    Like forever, oiseaule. When you janus faced morons start talking to Al Qaeda (after all its been a dozen years since 9/11), then come back and preach.

  3. Arun (History)

    ” How much time needs to pass before resuming the composite dialogue?” — it is not a matter of “time heals all wounds”.

    Action by Pakistan to bring to book the perpetrators of Mumbai 26/11 will bring about an immediate resumption of Indian overtures to Pakistan. So the real question is – how much time need pass before Pakistan cracks down on its jihadis?

  4. Jonah Speaks (History)

    There is a fine line between guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Presumably India would support existing rebels within Pakistan, not send in special forces to masquerade as “rebels” within Pakistan.

    What are India’s parameters for support of rebels within Pakistan? Blowing up gas lines or attacking Chinese workers sounds like terrorist activity. Does India intend to limit its support to non-terrorist types of rebel activity?

  5. Ali (History)

    lakhvi is still behind bars. The case hasn’t progress as many wanted but you mentioned the reasons yet the guy is not on the road again

  6. bennedose (History)

    The author asks” It has been seven years since the Mumbai attacks. How much time needs to pass before resuming the composite dialogue?”

    How about 800 years?

  7. RajS (History)

    Spare us your indignation. Modi is simple pursuing the Reagan Doctrine: Peace Through Strength. Peace through negotiations is no longer on the table. We will enforce peace by ensuring those who disrupt it, pay for it extremely heavily. It worked for the US. Don’t lecture us on why we shouldn’t be using it.

    Example: the pursuit just yesterday of Manipuri terrorists into Myanmar, and the destruction of the PLA run camps there. India has never before followed these terrorists across the border. Time to change the game.

  8. Archie (History)

    MK no need apologies dates are irrelevant.
    The whole article is error. You are nuclear expert with only high school physics. No big deal a year there or year here, it’s not atoms colliding. No?

    • krepon (History)

      High school chemistry. Physics was too hard.

    • Ricki (History)

      Mr. Archie, as a Ph. D (in NE), let me note that ad hominem arguments are, at best, “middle school”. I may not (often) agree with MK, but his points are value-added to the discussion.

  9. RaNa (History)

    I was reading this with interest until I reached the part where you so callously refer to 7 years having passed after the Mumbai attacks and that India should not restart the “composite dialogue” with Pakistan.
    What a laugh!
    Why don’t you ask the U.S Govt and others to forget the 3000+ people killed in 9/11, now that 15 years have passed and invite Al Qaeda and the rest of the groups to Washington for “composite talks”?
    The fact that you, like many others in the U.S, pontificate about the need for other countries to grin and bear it..while you go about bombing the rest of the world to smithereens based on a whim..is galling.
    First: Stop the U.S, U.K and the self-labelled “international community” of a few nations from interfering in every other country. Cry from the roof tops, write op-eds and blogs..when you have cured these countries of their ills…come and pontificate to us.
    Thank you.

  10. Ali (History)

    Arun: if you want to know if Pakistan has cracked down on militants or not then please start reading the newspapers. And please ! When you mention Lakhvi then don’t forget confessed masterminds and executors of train bombing on Indian Soil that killed over 50 Pakistanis. Those folks have links to RSS and any news about their prosecution and punishment ? That was two years before Mumbai

    Jonah : what is driving Indians wreckless ( their latest attack across Mayanmar) is their firm conviction that Americans will justify what ever Indua does. Please don’t help the Indian ministers by justifying what they actually meant. Leave it for Indians. At best defend the mess that your country has created in Libya, Iraq and Syria. People confessed to have received support from India have been killing civilians in Karachi and Bsluchistan.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      I do not know what the Indian ministers meant, nor what they have done or plan to do. That is why I asked the questions, what is India contemplating to do?

      If India genuinely plans to support terrorism in Pakistan, that could easily rankle relations with the U.S. So far as I am aware, U.S. policy since 2001 has been to oppose terrorism, not fight terrorism with terrorism.

      My guess, for the moment, is that isolated statements from Indian officials are just macho blather, best left unsaid and most definitely not acted upon. If India really were to support rebellion within Pakistan, a detailed moral and practical plan of action would need to be discussed and drawn up.

    • krepon (History)

      This is pretty binary.
      Either the Government of India has a plan or these folks are talking off the cuff.
      If the Government of India seeks to deter acts of terror by fighting fire with fire, this will either deter Rawalpindi or Rawalpindi will redouble its efforts.
      If the latter, buckle your seat belts.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      Or not binary. Indian officials may be contemplating a plan that they have not yet decided to implement. If there is serious contemplation, it is worth a discussion.

      One problem with fighting fire with fire is that you may burn down the forest. Terrorist fire is already burning Pakistan and much of the Middle East. Does India wish to be engulfed in the same fire? Even setting aside the moral aspects, is this a good strategic move for India? I think not.

    • sk (History)

      Krepon, Jonah :
      Minister Parrikar’s statement should be taken with the actual context he was addressing. Go back and check, that time there was an successful encounter of terrorist from across borders in J&K and the success was based on the intelligence gathered from the “ex-terrorist” who are now co-operating with the local democratically elected government and the local authority. His statement was in that context of use of thorns and ‘ex-thorns’.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      sk, I have not had time to do extensive research on this. This story supports your interpretation of Minister Parrikar’s remarks: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/kill-terrorist-with-terrorist-defence-minister-manohar-parrikars-idea-2/

      This article notes that Pakistan claims India is supporting terrorism inside Pakistan: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/pak-reacts-strongly-to-parrikar-remarks-alleges-india-involved-in-terror/article1-1350623.aspx

      It appears India does not subscribe to Pakistan’s interpretation of Parrikar’s remarks.

  11. Arun (History)

    Ali, I and a consortium of others read Pakistani newspapers every day. Lakhvi is not behind bars. There is not one named person who “confessed” to having received support from India. We have the MQM leader Altaf who said something that he apologized for, about wanting support from RAW.

    The Samjhauta Express bombing – curiously, the US declared Arif Qasmani of the Lashkar-e-Taiba as an international terrorist because of the attack on the train. Here is the UN notice on Arif Qasmani, dated June 29, 2009:


    “Arif Qasmani has also provided financial and other support to Al-Qaida (QDe.004). As of late 2006, Qasmani provided funding to Al-Qaida members and facilitated the return of foreign fighters to their respective countries. Between 2004 and 2005, Qasmani provided Al-Qaida with supplies and weapons and facilitated the movement of Al-Qaida leaders in and out of Afghanistan. In return for Qasmani’s support, Al-Qaida provided him with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjota Express bombing in Panipat, India.”

    This February 2007 Samjota Express bombing is the one you are referring to.

  12. Jack (History)

    Presumably you are referring to the Samjhauta Express bomb attack carried out by the LET.
    The UN and interpol have already issued red corner notices against the Pakistani nationals who were involved.

    Michael, what an utter waste of an article this is! It seems that your hatred for India simply clouds everything for you.

  13. Arun (History)

    In The Washington Post, May 11, 2010, Sebastian Rotella wrote:

    “In a previously unreported tip just seven months before the Mumbai attacks, one of Headley’s ex-wives told U.S. officials overseas that she suspected he was linked to a 2007 bombing in India that killed 68 people and has been blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. She also warned that Headley was on a “special mission,” according to a senior anti-terror official. ”

    “”She said Headley had been given a special mission and that he had both U.S. and Pakistani passports,” the senior anti-terror official said. “She said she felt she had been innocently used in an express train bombing” in India that had killed 68 people in 2007.”

    So the Indian NIA investigation is pretty much a sham, kept in play to be able to do the pseudo-secular equal-equal, which is exactly what you’re doing, Ali.

  14. Arun (History)

    This is for you, Mr. Krepon – back in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported:

    “The U.S. has announced a bounty of as much as $10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed for his alleged involvement in terrorist attacks, including the 2008 strike on Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.”

    Yet Hafiz Saeed walks free in Pakistan, appearing on TV, and with official sponsorship of his conventions and events.

    Is this something that you take lightly?

    • krepon (History)

      The plot gets thicker.

      This important development from a colleague in India:

      We on this subcontinent are indeed now beginning ‘to live in interesting times’, I think, as you have warned, even more so since yesterday’s ‘delayed hot pursuit’ operations by the Indian Army onto terrorist/insurgent bases in Burma (Myanmar). These were in response to an ambush last week by a conglomerate of North-East ‘Indian’ rebel groups and a Burma-based Naga group which has mostly Burmese Nagas and a Burmese Naga leadership. This was the first publicly-acknowledged cross-border retaliation anywhere, and thus significant.

      The message to Pakistan is clear, and there will be some reaction from there, I am sure, starting with verbal ones before anything physical. After that, things will probably be escalalatory, so let’s see how things develop.

      And this from the 6/10 edition of The News(Pakistan):

      ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said on Wednesday that India should not mistake Pakistan for Myanmar.

      The minister’s statement was in response to Indian Minister of State for Information Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who hours after his country had carried out an operation against militants in Myanmar had said India will strike at a place and at a time of their choosing against all countries, including Pakistan, and groups harbouring “terror intent”.

    • krepon (History)

      About as lightly as a bout with cancer.

  15. Arun (History)

    On this article – if we take it as a reflection of the views of the US foreign policy establishment, that is one thing; if it is the personal opinion of a scholar, then it is possible to have a meaningful conversation.

    So, Mr. Krepon, as far as India is concerned, the region to its west is in a mess. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran — India does want to do more with Iran, but is mostly toeing the American line. On India’s east however, there is a plethora of friendlies. Bangladesh is friendly, Vietnam is especially keen on defense relations with India, and we are told the Philippines is interested, too. Singapore, Myanmar and the rest of ASEAN are interested in expanding economic relations with India. Japan is interested in partnerships with India in Myanmar to counter Chinese influence. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan are all keen on increasing trade with India, and all can provide India much-needed technology. The US looks upon this kindly as helping create a balance with China. Likewise the Australians.

    So, should India spend its diplomatic efforts on a recalcitrant Pakistan (as e.g., Mani Shankar Aiyar has written, it should be India’s top foreign policy priority)? or should India expend effort where it is welcome, where success is much more likely and where there are very tangible benefits and simply remain in a “holding pattern” with respect to Pakistan?

    Do you really think the India-Pakistan relationship is the most important thing for India? If you say, it has the potential to be so, I can’t disagree; but realistically, in the current circumstances, why should India spend any effort on relations with Pakistan when there is so much other “low-hanging fruit” ?

    • krepon (History)

      I would, indeed, place a high priority on trying to improve ties with Pakistan.
      The countries to India’s east can’t wreck India’s future. Pakistan can.
      I understand the structural difficulties and the pathologies involved in the relationship. But in my view, you are moving into very dangerous waters, and nobody’s steering toward safe passage.

    • Aru (History)

      The only way Pakistan can wreck India’s future is by attacking it with nuclear weapons. Mumbai 26/11 or NYC 9/11 type attacks or 1965- or 1971- type wars cannot wreck India’s future. So, plainly speaking, you think Pakistan is on a nuclear-war collision course with India based on the current trends?

  16. CRamS (History)

    Mr. Krepon, thanks for your sermon. And may I advise you and your condescending ilk, that instead of preaching to Indians about grinning and bearing your ally Pakistan’s terror, how about US linking its massive military/economic aid to Pakistan cracking down on all terror groups including those targeting India like the LeT, and not just the mighty “Al Queda”? And US policy must be visible, i.e., that it is completely and unequivocally on the side of India, just as US is on the side of UK/Israel etc, on the issue of terror sponsored by the Pak army and ISI. This policy of US, instead of useless sermons advising India to be a “good boy” will go a long way. Is US prepared to do that? Finally, and I am getting greedy now, how about US spending a fraction of the energy it does in rolling back Pak’s nukes, as it does in rolling back Iran’s? What crime has Iran committed that Pak has not?

    Best Regards,

  17. Jim (History)

    “It has been seven years since the Mumbai attacks. How much time needs to pass before resuming the composite dialogue?” Wow. That is utterly cynical. How much time? How about till the day Pakistan demonstrates its good faith in unequivocally stamping out terrorism. That means rolling up Dawood, Hafiz Saeed, Lakhvi, not just a bunch of vague al Qaeda # 3 to appease you dumb folks in Washington. I lost a friend and family member in the 26/11 attack. So no, seven years is not enough to forget nor is this lifetime. But I’ll accept talks when there is justice. When your children, family, friends die in a terrorist attack, I’ll be happy to ask you “how much time before you forget and move on?” Your entire article provides a rationale for Pakistan’s use of terrorism as state policy…it essentially advocates succumbing to nuclear blackmail. The day the governments of United States and China, primed by analysts like you, call Pakistan’s bluff and stop supporting it, you’ll see how quickly peace will come to the region as all the hot air goes out of Islamabad. I hope you think through this line. The argument against it: “US does not have leverage against Pakistan” is totally bogus. Pakistan is no North Korea or Iran to stand up to sanctions. U.S can bring Pakistan to its knees in three days. Even a signal that U.S will not back Pakistan in its nuclear brinkmanship with India is sufficient to take the wind of our the fattened generals in Rawalpindi, many of whose sons and daughters are in the U.S.

  18. Ali (History)

    So here is an interesting article in Economic Times by Mr. Aymen Sharma, “Swami Aseemanand is our Lakhvi”.


  19. Andy Matchbook (History)

    There are some decent policy experts in NNSA who understand reality. Amateurs at this website make the entire effort look silly. All the folks upset at Krepon, please ignore him. He doesn’t make policy.

    • krepon (History)

      Pray tell, what is US policy toward the subcontinent?

    • George William Herbert (History)

      I was told by someone in the know that US policy towards the subcontinent roughly approximates the sage words of the Bartender in the Cantina Scene in Star Wars (original) as the two wanted men start the fight with Obi-Wan and lose.

      “No blasters, no blasters!,” and he dives to the floor.

    • krepon (History)

      Can we hire the bartender?

  20. krepon (History)

    Well… It seems I’ve touched a nerve. Or several.
    I have spared ACW readers of more venom.

  21. Ali (History)

    Andy: God alone knows the level and depth of NNSA folks.Atleast MK allows for a conversation.

    • Uban (History)

      I often ask myself – What good is a secret analysis if it doesn’t get properly reviewed?

      Transparency has its benefits.

  22. BoredRat (History)

    One way to ensure peace is for the U.S. to stay on in Af-Pak innit?
    The sabre rattling is mostly due to U.S. withdrawal and Chinese arrival.

  23. GPR FIX (History)

    And how does the Indian nukes figure into all these discussion? Does it have any impact on Pakistani’s behavior at all? I mean does Pakistan consider that India can use its nukes against Pakistan too in case Pakistan uses it against India ?

    • Uban (History)

      Pakistani experts generally acknowledge that Pakistan faces an existential threat from India but refrain from emphasizing details like what you have mentioned.

      Looking too directly at the “but India can nuke us many times over…” information is seen as defeatist or mentally disabling in Pakistan. Instead people tend to focus on ways of negating the threat.

  24. Uban (History)

    Dear Mike,

    I think I get what you are saying – please correct me if I am wrong/missing something.

    The stability of the India-Pakistan nuclear deterrence regime is not a static quantity. It evolves with time and it is connected in detail to all other security matters.

    Indians are tired of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism. If the Modi government is seriously considering a policy of reciprocity on terrorism issues, then it may cause the Pakistani intelligence community to stop its sponsorship, but as you point out the entire region will become massively unstable, i.e. the slightest disturbance or error or misperception will breed a nuclear escalation.

    This kind of instability may actually suit India’s needs on the nuclear front. As things stand India and Pakistan keep weapons and delivery systems de-mated. If India wants to be one of the big boys, India will need to mate weapons and warheads and put them on the new Arihant submarines.

    Pushing things to wire with Pakistan can give India the excuse it needs to proceed with mating weapons and delivery systems. The lack of mating has been a major complaint by India’s military. By addressing that complaint, the Modi government can distinguish itself from all its predecessors on national security issues.

    The risks associated with such an approach cannot be understated. One can only hope that experts in India know what they are doing. If deterrence fails between India and Pakistan even once – it will have failed everywhere at once. That will cause problems for nuclear deterrence regimes on a global scale.

    • Uban (History)

      There is another aspect to this issue that may be worth considering.

      Traditional Indian thinking on national security issues has been constrained by “Gandhian” thoughts (i.e. don’t kill millions), the economic situation (i.e. grinding poverty in most parts of the country) and the geopolitical realities (Pakistani hostility, P-5 attitudes, Han big-brotherliness etc…).

      Over the last two decades, a new strain of criticism has emerged which has sought to link this kind of constrained thinking to India’s persistent resource scarcity. It is well known that this scarcity feeds corruption and other social ills. As civil wars have raged across India (Khalistan, Kashmir, NE, Maoist etc…) this kind of criticism has collected a large group of adherents especially among younger people.

      The election of Narendra Modi with an overwhelming majority is an expression of this critical review. The Modi regime will find itself under great pressure to deliver on its promises to the voters.

      One avenue suggested by some to break out of the constraints is to “think big” i.e. use all available economic strength to pursue an open-ended agenda of rapid weaponization. Pakistan will not be able to keep up with such a massive effort, and it will simply cease to be a real constraint. Also by demonstrating (beyond reasonable doubt) India’s ability to produce and stockpile advanced weapons designs and physics packages, the P-5 will be left with no choice but to admit their irrelevance or at the very least invite India to the table.

      As the weaponization will be a completely internal affair to the Indian economy, investing aggressively in it will cause a massive increase in internal cash flows. The resulting prosperity will allow the economy as a whole to grow.

      It is unclear if the Modi Govt. subscribes to this vision of things. By making weaponization – the core of everything – one is betting big on technology. This would be akin to investing everything in tech stocks, – a very high risk affair. But many Indians subconsciously look to the US for a sense of what works in other democracies, and since the US successfully pulled something like this off – chances are Indians will be tempted to try it.

      Given that this vision resonates with a lot of Indians and their desire for immediate prosperity, it is likely that the Modi regime will find itself pushed by unseen political forces to achieve what the vision lays out.

      In order to advance the vision forward, they will need an excuse – a “Reichstag Fire” of sorts. I feel that some Pakistanis could easily end up providing that excuse. Once the Modi regime has that excuse, debate over the core issue will end, and while people in pressed shirts won’t immediately march around saying “My Honour Is Loyalty” – the level of opposition to the vision will decline precipitously.

    • krepon (History)


      Thanks for weighing in.
      The analogy of the Reichstag fire is a powerful one. Do the attacks on the Parliament and Mumbai qualify?
      I have witnessed elephants running at amazing speed with light flicks of the switch. India’s defense procurement system seems impervious to prompting.
      This from today’s Hindu:


    • Uban (History)

      Dear MK,

      Yes – it is a powerful analogy – and that is why I reserve it for serious proliferation issues only.

      If an event or series of events is used to justify the kind of open ended nuclear proliferation I have described in the above post – IMHO – that is a “Reichstag Fire”.

      In my opinion, only the Parliament Attack serves as a possible candidate for this label. I say this for two reasons, firstly because it shift in military posture that occurred in its aftermath was significant and secondly because the investigation of the attack by the police left a lot to be desired. It seemed to most observers that the police were keen to hide something.

      In the case of the 2008 attacks in Bombay, I feel these did not result in a significant posture shift in India, and the investigation was quite thorough. One or two small changes occurred on the nuclear side but these were related to natural shifts in physical security of installations. After Addl. CP Karkare was killed and then Addl. CP Date badly injured – security of flag officers became a hot topic for a while.

      Some questions remain unanswered after CP Maria’s teams went through the issue, but for the most part they had more than enough to secure a clear conviction. The evidence was strong enough to make the Pakistanis actually arrest people. The conspiracy aspects were left unexplored due to a clear lack of investigative resources. I am pragmatic, there are some things the police simply can’t investigate yet.

      It seems to me that this attack on Bombay was probably the byproduct of a completely unrelated event cycle possibly even linked to some other underworld economic shift. I am almost inclined to bag it with the 2006 train bombings, which were curiously correlated to the seizure of a truly ungodly amount of white-powder cocaine by the Indian police. Not surprisingly – this crime remains unsolved to this day.

      It is a very messy world we live in.

    • Uban (History)

      Dear MK,

      Regarding the speed of procurement.

      Yes – it is slow, but it can become surprisingly fast in the event of a crisis.

      When I see the number of tenders that the MOD puts out I am breathless and exhausted – it is a miracle they get anything purchased at all. The paperwork alone must be higher than Bana Top in Siachen!

  25. Arun (History)

    This just in:

    “President Ashraf Ghani said Pakistan is in undeclared war with Afghanistan for the past 36 years. President Ghani, while talking at a gathering of government officials in Kandahar, said Pakistan has been given notice of the concerns.”

  26. maybach57 (History)

    I couldn’t agree more with the comment “Very bad news often follows when adversaries give up on improved relations.”.

    It is clear that with respect to relations with Pakistan, India has simply moved on. It has little economic interests in dealing with Pakistan. So, India will just ignore it and be content with the status quo in Kashmir.

    However, it is Pakistan’s army which needs to keep the Kashmir flame alive to keep its funding and political relevance. Aiding terrorist actions in India and Afghanistan has been its solution.

    Thus far, India has turned the other cheek despite a long list of terrorist actions (including Mumbai, Parliament, 2008 Kabul embassy). However, should another major attack occur, it is unlikely that India will continue to not retaliate.

    Given uncertainty with escalations in a war, it is much simpler for India to retaliate through a proxy war. With Pakistan’s civil unrest that should be relatively straightforward, especially in places like Baluchistan. This is also far cheaper than, say, mobilizing ground troops as was done after the Parliament attack.

    So, for any meaningful talks/progress, Pakistan should be forced to stop aid to terrorists. There is little point trying to improve relations with anyone who has shown no interest is changing their violent behavior.

  27. Arun (History)

    The joke is Pakistan need not trust India any more than West Germany or Japan trusted the Soviet Union (not that India is anything like the Soviet Union). The point is, live under an American or Chinese security umbrella, don’t sponsor terrorism in your neighbor, any more than West Germany or Japan did, and don’t spend a lot on defense, and instead try to become an industrial power – which a determined nation can do even if it is not blessed with abundant natural resources. But yes, this is simply no longer plausible for Pakistan any more (if it was ever plausible), a nation whose literacy actually shrank by 2% even per its own cooked up data in its Economic Survey – i.e., things are so bad that they cannot whitewash this reality, even while they make the absurd claim about per capita income which is equivalent to the claim that their economy grew by 11+% in dollar terms over the past year. Such jokers could have easily said that literacy remained constant, or grew by 0.1% or some such thing – but they dared not.

    The reality is that in terms of improvement in Human Development, Bangladesh, which has not exactly been bosom buddies with India, has done better in the last 44 years than Pakistan, simply by taking care of more important matters than resisting “India’s hegemony”.

    PS: “In dollar terms, the per capita income has grown by an impressive rate of 9.5% to $1,513 –up by $129 per person in the outgoing fiscal year 2014-15, according to estimates. The appreciation of rupee against the US dollar remained one of the main factors behind the significant increase in per capita income.”


    If per-capita income in dollar terms rose 9.5%, if population grew by only 1.5%, then GDP in dollar terms rose by more than 11%, and Pakistan had to have been the by far the fastest growing economy in the world. This is the snake oil they sell their population – but they dared not claim literacy improved. e.g., http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/06/08/national/pakistan-is-two-per-cent-more-illiterate-now-survey/

    “The new Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-15 while quoting the latest figures pertaining to Pakistan’s Social and Living Standards Measurement 2013-14 says that the literacy rate of the population (10 years and above) is 58 per cent as compared to 60 percent in 2012-13, showing a 2.0 per cent decline.”

  28. Jim (History)