Thursday, March 31, 2011

Non-Proliferation Challenges in Asia: An Indian Perspective


This was subject of my presentation at a recent bilateral dialogue between ORF and a Russian think-tank.

While nuclear non-proliferation has remained a major challenge for more than sixty years, the enormity of the challenge has grown manifold particularly since the end of the Cold War. In the past where there was one major nuclear threat – US-Soviet rivalry and the threat of nuclear war – today the world is faced with other challenges – WMD proliferation, terrorism, with a special emphasis on nuclear terrorism. Today, the number of countries pursuing nuclear weapons has gone up significantly. It is particularly in this context that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) along with their delivery systems has become a major issue of concern. The threat is particularly loud and clear in India’s neighbourhood. Issues of China-Pakistan nuclear and missile cooperation, nuclear and missile activities of North Korea and Iran are of specific concern from an Indian perspective. Chinese proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology, including delivery mechanisms to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran has altered military balance in South Asia and beyond.

The paper is divided into three broad aspects. The first section of the paper provided a contextualisation to the developments taking place in Asia, wherein there is a major emphasis on military power, conventional or otherwise. This in particular dealt with the changing security environment that is feeding into these developments. The second outlined three major non-proliferation challenges in Asia – China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation; North Korea; Iran. The last section examines the Indian approach to proliferation and to each of these particular cases.

Having listed out particular crises, it has to be acknowledged that the biggest challenge is the crisis of confidence among major powers. The lack of consensus among major powers on agreeing a particular course of action has stood in the way of taking any effective action against these individual challenges and more importantly it has contributed to the weakening of the regime itself.

If anyone is interested in reading the full paper, I will be happy to mail it.



First, unless the major powers are able to reach a consensus on the challenges, there are going to be many more countries and entities that will exploit the weakness of the regime.

Second, importance and insufficiency of non-proliferation efforts based largely on technological control; supply side of the issue needs to be addressed. Technological controls or export control regimes or sanctions only let the hard-core countries buy time and invest domestic, dedicated talent towards weaponisation. These measures do not and cannot halt the programmes of the hard-core countries.

Third, as long as the P-5 members are not able to agree on a timeframe for nuclear disarmament, countries around the world are going to pursue these weapons. Under such a scenario, global disarmament appears to remain a pipe dream for the near future.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libya NFZ: An Opportunity for India


Here's the link to an article of mine on the Libyan NFZ and analyzing whether there is an opportunity for India.

While India's abstention at the UN vote on Libya is debatable, is there an opportunity for India and the Indian Air Force in particular in the Libyan crisis?

Now that there is a UN resolution, India could really raise its political capital in the US, France, and UK if it participated in implementing the No Fly Zone (NFZ) over Libya. A legal UN way to showcase out of area ops and relevance seems like a perfect opportunity for the Indian Air Force (IAF). India may not be required to send fighters instead may get to 'practice compatible operations' on the new AWACS. India has been cooperating with several air forces from around the world on a bilateral basis but a multinational operation under the UN umbrella has far reaching consequences. IAF establishing connections with US Air Force, Royal Air Force, French Air Force, AFRICOM, EUCOM, TRANSCOM and TACC (Tanker Airlift Control Center), particularly important for future humanitarian ops, would widen India's number of points of influence and broadcast.



Even if the Air Force is looking for an opportunity to cooperate, the lead has to come from the political side. Indian forces have not traditionally got itself involved in conflict situations; it has been active only in situations such as disaster management like during the post-Tsunami humanitarian and recovery operations in 2005. India in fact has stretched itself to undertake Peace Keeping Operations (PKOs). Shouldn't India put on the gear to take on more responsibility as it assumes more clout and power in the international arena?

More specifically on the Libyan issue, the question is why not. It is to be noted that the NFZ was asked for by the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference. India could look responsive and attentive to the larger Muslim community and human rights. These are by no means risk-free options for India or even for other countries. If it were such easy, risk-free options, the world would not have pondered over and watched the Libyan regime threatening "rivers of blood." But India cannot afford to sit back and relax and expect to become a major power, without assuming any responsibility.

What can India offer to the coalition under the UN umbrella? At an operational tactical level, Indian tankers or airlift or CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) might be valuable. More importantly, it is a perfect chance to gain operational experience. Additionally, India could consider offering satellite imagery support. Getting an Indian planner into the CAOC (Combined Air and Space Operations Center) would be major and would go a long way; they would learn so much and form valuable connections for the future.

Meanwhile, it appears that Qadafi has already called a ceasefire, so nobody may need to actually do anything.

However, even the public and enthusiastic offer to provide support by India's political leadership would be transformational, and yet another way to increase perceptions that India belongs in the club of UN Security Council, and nations to be courted for global governance and action and to differentiate us from strategic competitors that 'would not be invited to the party.'

The abstention is not a problem, although the political message was loud and clear. France abstained in the UN from various operations it later sent aircraft to. Looks like the same is happening with Germany now. If the Indian leadership now actually decides to extend support for enforcing NFZ, India gets the benefit of not calling for action, but responding to the legitimacy of the passed resolution.

Finally, for India it is not about Libya. This is an opportunity to buy influence at a very low cost that makes it a major shareholder in any similar operation closer to home. Because of years of close operations people are talking about being comfortable with a non-US general in charge of the operation. There could be several spin-off indirect benefits to India. Shouldn't India be laying the groundwork now to have the option in a similar future situation? Opportunities like this do not happen every day. An Indian entry onto the world stage now might really cause people to 'wake up.' This is an opportunity not just for the Air Force but it will be an important posturing by the new assertive India – an unusual opportunity for India, the IAF and India-US partnership.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

North Korea Goes the Asymmetric Way -- Cyber Warfare Capabilities


One often hears about the Chinese cyber warfare capabilities but not so much the North Korean capabilities. Here's one report that talks about Pyongyang's growing capabilities in this arena. In 2007, Pyongyang was estimated to have 30,000 electronic warfare specialists, including some 1,200 personnel under two electronic warfare brigades. Each Army corps is reported to operate an automation unit, or an electronic warfare unit.

Some reports published by the North Korean Army in 2005 stated as to how Kim Jong-il himself had emphasised on the importance of cyber warfare in any future warfare, saying "Modern war is electronic warfare. Victory or defeat of a modern war depends on how to carry out electronic warfare."



Concerns about North Korea's cyber warfare squads are resurfacing after Friday's cyber and GPS jamming attacks, which are being blamed on the North. Pyongyang began developing electronic warfare capabilities in 1986 when it founded Mirim University, the present-day Automation University, to train specialists.

A defector who graduated from the university recalled that 25 Russian professors were invited from the Frunze Military Academy in the former Soviet Union to give lectures, and some 100 to 110 hackers were trained there every year.

Mirim is a five-year college. The Amrokgang College of Military Engineering, the National Defense University, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy are also reportedly training electronic warfare specialists.

Jang Se-yul of North Korean People's Liberation Front, an organization of former North Korean military officers and servicemen,
recalled that when he fled the North in 2007, "I heard that the North Korean military has about 30,000 electronic warfare
specialists, including some 1,200 personnel under two electronic warfare brigades."

"Each Army corps operates an automation unit, or an electronic warfare unit. " Jang used to be an officer of a North Korean electronic warfare command. Staff monitor traffic flow at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul on July 8, 2009.
Material published by the North Korean Army in 2005 quotes leader Kim Jong-il as saying, "Modern war is electronic warfare. Victory or defeat of a modern war depends on how to carry out electronic warfare."

In a 2006 report, the South Korean military warned North Korean hackers could paralyze the command post of the U.S. Pacific Command and damage computer systems on the U.S. mainland.

Experts believe that the North's 600 or so special hackers are as good as their CIA counterparts. They attempted in August 2008 to hack the computer of a colonel in South Korean Field Army headquarters. In 1999, the U.S. Defense Department said the most frequent visitor to its website was traced to North Korea.

Due to economic difficulties since the 1990s, the North Korean regime had a hard time boosting its conventional military
capabilities and instead focused on strengthening so-called asymmetric capabilities that would allow it to achieve relatively large effects with small expenses. That includes not only nuclear and biochemical weapons and missiles but also special forces and hackers.

Monday, March 14, 2011

China, the most significant threat to the United States, says DNI James Clapper


Director of US National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, making a testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services on worldwide threats (March 10, 2011) singled out China as the most significant threat, followed by Russia. He added saying that the Chinese nuclear weapons poses the most serious "mortal threat" to the United States among nation states. While Iran and North Korea have been highlighted by the Obama Administration as bigger threats, Clapper clarified by adding that Tehran and Pyongyang are not strategic threats like Beijing as they do not have forces or mechanisms yet to carry out a nuclear strike on the United States. In fact, to Senator Manchin's question as to ask which country was going to the US' greatest adversary, Clapper replied, "Probably China."

For the full testimony, click here.



Other important threats highlighted in his testimony included terrorism; WMD proliferation (Iran and North Korea), apart from regional challenges such as China and North Korea in East Asia; Pakistan and Afghanistan in South Asia; Iran and Iraq in the Middle East, among others. China again figured prominently as Clapper looked specifically at Intelligence Threats and Threats to US Technological and Economic Leadership.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Should India Conduct An ASAT Test?


This was the question that the panel in DC (including me) was trying to answer .... The meeting was organised by the Secure World Foundation, and very well attended by the Pentagon, State Department, US Military .... The meeting was chaired by Peter Garretson of the US Air Force.

You can read a media report here.

India’s space program, managed by the Indian Space Research Organization, has very strong civil roots and has done much to improve the everyday lives of its citizens. However, India’s space efforts have taken on a more military tone with help from their own missile defense system.

India may actually conduct an ASAT test .... It doesn't want to miss the boat again, as it did in the nuclear arena ....



The Secure World Foundation (SWF) hosted a special panel discussion on Tuesday to examine India's military space efforts and how their plans could influence overall Asian security.

The event, held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, was a follow-up from a SWF co-sponsored conference held in January in New Delhi intended to understand the primary forces behind India’s increasingly militarized space program.

India’s space program, managed by the Indian Space Research Organization, has very strong civil roots and has done much to improve the everyday lives of its citizens. However, India’s space efforts have taken on a more military tone with help from their own missile defense system.

India has been working on its own missile defense system and has held six test intercepts since November 2006; four were reported to be successful. The most recent test was performed on Sunday. Following that test, India’s Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, V.K. Saraswat, said India has “all the technologies and building blocks which can be used for anti-satellite (ASAT) missions” in the low-earth and polar orbits. ASAT weapons are launched into space to incapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes.

“A missile defense program can very easily be used as a technology demonstartor program for an ASAT capability,” said Victoria Samson, director of SWF’s Washington office.

The United States demonstrated this in 2008 when they fired a modified SM-3 missile from a Navy ship and destroyed a military satellite named USA 193 in orbit.

Space security is a growing interest in India.

“We know how important space has a role today, starting from your cell phones and other gadgets that you use,” Bharath Gopalaswamy told the audience at the event. Gopalaswamy is a researcher in the Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In order to take out a 50-foot by 50-foot wall during World War II it would require 12,000 bombs, Gopalaswamy said. With today’s precision-guided munitions, that use Global Positioning System satellites to navigate, you just need one bomb.

“Every country values its space assets extremely highly,” Gopalaswamy said, “you want to protect them and you want to defend them. If I were the military, I would be saying I want all options on the table.”

India’s scientific community is open to having an ASAT test, according to Gopalaswamy. “They said test it, but be careful, about where you test it and how you test it.”

“India might do an ASAT test in the next five to 10 years,” said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow at Observer Reseach Foundation, New Delhi.

But is ASAT development the biggest threat to satellites?

Increasing awareness of space debris and continued efforts to develop and implement international measures to tackle the problem is a major concern for all countries.

Significant on-orbit collisions, such as the collision of the French military satellite Cerise with a portion of an Ariane rocket in 1996, and Russia’s Cosmos 2251 crashing into Iridium 33 in 2009, have encouraged the recognition of space debris as a significant threat.

“As it stands today, in space, the probability of debris hitting a satellite is more than an adversary taking your satellite down,” Gopalaswamy said.