Friday, May 24, 2013

Incentives and Limits, my second essay in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

My second essay for Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was published yesterday... In this piece, I look at ways to incentivize good behaviour and what the limits are....

Until leaders believe that societal verification serves the national interest, ordinary people will be in no position to become educated practitioners....

For the full essay, click here.





In his second Roundtable essay, Jamal Khaer Ibrahim argued that professionals in industries associated with the nuclear supply chain might embrace societal verification out of a desire to "protect their professional reputations and avoid criminal or civil penalties associated with wrongdoing." But that may tell only part of the story. In my own nation, India, security at firms involved with sensitive materials is often lax. In some cases these firms do not even comply with the law, much less display concern about their professional reputations.

I recently co-authored a study on security risks related to chemical, biological, and radiological materials PDF. The study, which entailed field visits to several of India's major industry clusters, revealed significant variations in companies' compliance with the law and their implementation of security standards. Firms that see themselves as part of a globalized world and whose commercial interests extend internationally -- for instance, large pharmaceutical and petrochemical firms -- tend to perform well. But at small and medium-sized firms that operate more locally, the short-term profit motive tends to outweigh safety and security concerns. It is difficult to imagine that firms such as these, which often fail to comply with existing laws and best practices, will demonstrate much interest in participating in societal verification initiatives. And if this is true in India, it is likely to be true across much of the developing world.

Ibrahim also writes that nations might support societal verification efforts out of a desire "to gain trust as economic partners." This strikes me as more valid, and it raises the larger question of how best to incentivize compliance with verification arrangements, including but not limited to societal verification. Incentives could include the prospect of earning economic trust, as Ibrahim suggests, and of gaining greater integration into the world's political and security architectures. Indeed, the best incentive may be to create a more dynamic global political order in which a broader range of nations have a realistic chance of playing an important role.

The principle point of Ibrahim Said Ibrahim's first Roundtable essay is that educated practitioners are key to societal verification's success, and I broadly agree. But I don't believe that many educated practitioners will soon emerge in the developing world. As Ibrahim suggests, only a limited number of people in developing countries understand and appreciate arms control arrangements themselves. Moreover, as I argued in my first essay and as Ibrahim acknowledges, citizens who participate in societal verification efforts might put themselves at personal risk because bureaucratic and political elites could perceive these activities as illegitimate. And particularly in countries where sovereignty, security, and the state's control of sensitive technologies are very closely tied together -- China and India, for example -- states will not embrace societal verification until they perceive substantial benefit in doing so. Until leaders believe that societal verification serves the national interest, ordinary people will be in no position to become educated practitioners.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Asia-Pacific Security: Challenges and Opportunities, one of the latest books on the subject and I have a chapter on it as well....

Here's a chapter of mine on the Asia-Pacific security, edited by Dr. Adam B. Lowther. I have contributed a chapter on the US role in the region, to this edited book, titled, Asia-Pacific Century: Challenges and Opportunities. The book has been published by the US Air Force Research Institute, Alabama.

The United States’ Pacific pivot has been much debated since the end of last year. This chapter addresses three specific questions: (1) how Asia-Pacific nations see the role of the United States in the region; (2) as China rises, how its neighbours in the region will react, whether they will they bandwagon or balance; and (3) how states in the region are hedging their bets on the future. The discussion delves into the new alliances and partnerships that are likely responses in view of the new challenges.

For the full book, click here.



Type rest of the post here

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sino-Indian border infrastructure: an update, paper written by Rahul and me....

Here's an occasional paper on Sino-Indian border infrastructure, written by Rahul and me. The paper has been published by Observer Research Foundation.

Improved infrastructure has a critical role in enabling a nation to apply military power. On the India-China border, there is a clear military imbalance—not just in terms of equipment and forces on the border but also in terms of the physical infrastructure. This paper compares the infrastructure as it exists today, while identifying the gaps.

For the full paper, click here.





Type rest of the post here

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Potential and pitfalls of societal verification in the area of arms control, my essay in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists....

Here's my short essay published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The essay looks at the potential and pitfalls of societal verification in arms control.

In the West, handheld devices are attracting considerable attention these days because of their potential to aid in the verification of multilateral arms control arrangements. With penetration of handheld devices nearly total in the West and continuing to increase in the developing world -- Asia, Africa, and Latin America are expected to account for a majority of the growth in mobile subscriptions over the coming years -- opportunities are indeed emerging for technologies such as mobile phones and tablet computers to play a role in verifying compliance with agreements on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

Societal verification measures are yet to take strong roots in the developing and non-western world, and there are reasons why they have not. This is not to suggest that it will not. But societal verification's success probably depends on arms control itself becoming much more politically palatable. Resistance to arms control measures across the developing world stems in part from developing countries' not having been fully involved in the development of treaties and regimes. Making arms control processes more transparent, and involving as many developing countries as possible in those processes, especially in the drafting stages of arms control agreements, would provide the developing world with a worthwhile sense of ownership about those initiatives. A more inclusive process would also encourage treaty compliance and, ultimately, result in greater effectiveness for arms control regimes. In my view, societal verification can contribute to nonproliferation efforts and treaty compliance, but only after arms control itself becomes more widely accepted.

For the full essay, click here.



In the West, handheld devices are attracting considerable attention these days because of their potential to aid in the verification of multilateral arms control arrangements. With penetration of handheld devices nearly total in the West and continuing to increase in the developing world -- Asia, Africa, and Latin America are expected to account for a majority of the growth in mobile subscriptions over the coming years -- opportunities are indeed emerging for technologies such as mobile phones and tablet computers to play a role in verifying compliance with agreements on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

Many of the key verification problems associated with arms control arrangements are centered in developing countries. Anything that can contribute to nonproliferation in these nations should be welcomed. But it is not clear that people in the developing world will regard handheld devices and their potential verification uses in the same way that many in the West do. Three reasons for skepticism in this regard stand out.

First, in India and many other developing countries, individuals who participate in societal verification efforts might put themselves at considerable personal risk. They might find themselves viewed in the way that human rights activists are sometimes viewed -- as less than patriotic, or as dangers to national security. And even if they do not violate any laws, they might nonetheless become targets of bureaucratic and political ire. In India, even a technology like Google Maps has faced significant opposition because it shows the locations of sensitive sites, and Google Earth has encountered official resistance in many countries. Taking all this into account, it may simply be irresponsible to encourage citizens of certain countries to participate in societal verification.

Second, the idea that ordinary people can contribute to treaty verification, whether by carrying out crowdsourcing projects or by gathering information with handheld devices, is based on the assumption that ordinary people will wish to become active partners in arms control arrangements. Even putting aside the negative repercussion that participants in societal verification might suffer, this assumption seems dubious in the developing world. Citizens of developing countries simply do not view arms control in the same way that it is viewed by arms control advocates in the West.

Many people in developing countries tend to be highly nationalistic, and their nationalism is often bound up with a certain amount of anti-Westernism -- which is unsurprising, considering that many developing countries are former colonies of Western nations or have otherwise been dominated by the West. Arms control in particular is often regarded as an instrument of Western domination, and significant opposition to arms control measures can exist at the popular level. This popular distrust of arms control efforts is exacerbated by the West's perceived lack of credibility -- often, the West is accused of treating arms control as a matter of convenience, something to be discarded when it conflicts with other, more pressing interests. These views are unfortunate, and perhaps not valid, but they are deeply held. Therefore, it is probably not safe to assume that ordinary people in developing countries will choose to participate in societal verification efforts.

Third, verification efforts of any kind can provoke discomfort in developing countries. As an example, though many developing nations have negotiated Additional Protocols with the International Atomic Energy Agency, sympathy still exists for a country like Iran, which has signed but not ratified an Additional Protocol. To many people in developing countries, the Additional Protocol seems to allow foreign inspectors to enter national territory at will and inspect any location they please. This recalls the colonial era, when developing countries lacked control over their own territory. And though some verification measures, such as those included in the Chemical Weapons Convention, have gained wide acceptance, this acceptance is rarely accompanied by any real sense of comfort.

Another example of developing nations' discomfort with verification procedures is provided by the confidence-building measures that countries like India, China, and Pakistan have put in place to reduce bilateral tensions. These measures build on a model established during the Cold War by the United States and the Soviet Union. But though the Cold War superpowers included arms control verification as a significant element of their confidence-building measures, nations like India, China, and Pakistan have not even considered doing so.

Given such sensitivities, seeking to involve ordinary citizens in verification arrangements might only heighten the discomfort that developing countries feel about multilateral arms control measures. Indeed, the bureaucratic and political elites in developing countries would likely regard as illegitimate any effort to involve citizens in monitoring the behavior of states on behalf of an extraterritorial agency. And any arms control initiative that contained arrangements for societal verification might likewise be seen as illegitimate.

Does all this mean that societal verification is a nonstarter in the developing world? Not necessarily. But societal verification's success probably depends on arms control itself becoming much more politically palatable. Resistance to arms control measures across the developing world stems in part from developing countries' not having been fully involved in the development of treaties and regimes. Making arms control processes more transparent, and involving as many developing countries as possible in those processes, especially in the drafting stages of arms control agreements, would provide the developing world with a worthwhile sense of ownership about those initiatives. A more inclusive process would also encourage treaty compliance and, ultimately, result in greater effectiveness for arms control regimes. In my view, societal verification can contribute to nonproliferation efforts and treaty compliance, but only after arms control itself becomes more widely accepted.