A Seminar on “Nuclear CBMs and Risk Reduction Measures in South Asia” was organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) on 2 December 2010 at the Centre’s campus. The seminar was chaired by Amb Arundhati Ghose, India’s former Permanent Representative to the UN. The speakers included Amb KC Singh, former Secretary, MEA, Dr Manpreet Sethi, Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Director, CLAWS and Brig Feroz Hassan Khan (Retd), Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA whose paper was presented by Dr Monika Chansoria, Senior Fellow, CLAWS.
Amb Arundhati Ghose
The issue of nuclear CBMs and nuclear risk reduction measures has not been looked at for a very long time. Given the developments in Pakistan, even without the ‘WikiLeaks’ expose, which corroborates what many in the diplomatic and strategic community have been thinking for long, there is an increased need for nuclear CBMs. There is a pressing need to define a nuclear CBM and distinguish it from a nuclear risk reduction measure. There is growing apprehension in India that in the wake of another Mumbai-like incident, what should India’s response be? Thus, a beginning on a series of discussions on nuclear CBMs seems to be the need of the hour.
Amb KC Singh
As soon as a country has a nuclear device, it becomes its weapon and in turn becomes the instrument of its response. Pakistan is on a downslide as far as international confidence in its ability to secure its nuclear assets and rein in terrorism is concerned. Pakistan claims that it has plugged all holes in the system. However, the looming effect of AQ Khan’s proliferation activities can still be felt. India first needs to be convinced that the clandestine activities have stopped. Pakistan constantly focuses on stabilisation of conventional capabilities between the two countries. Probably the time has come to discuss nuclear risk reduction measures not just between India and Pakistan, but also include China in the process. Pakistan uses nuclear deterrence and terrorism as elements of blackmail for negotiations. Unless Pakistan stops using terrorism as a foreign policy tool, it will be very tough for India to begin discussing a subject as sensitive as nuclear confidence-building. So, in light of this complex dilemma, risk reduction measures can be discussed at the initial level, but nuclear CBMs seem very complex at the moment.
Dr Manpreet Sethi
The universal reality of nuclear weapons leads to both existential deterrence and existential risks. The risks include deliberate nuclear war, of inadvertent use (accident/miscalculation), of proliferation and nuclear terrorism. Nuclear weapons are here to stay with India and Pakistan keen to build ‘credible minimum deterrence’ and a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities. The need to establish nuclear stability rises when arsenals grow, capabilities increase and infrastructures expand. The nuclear risks in South Asia get doubled given the history of direct confrontation, the two nation theory, ideological divide, territorial disputes, frequent border skirmishes and the stability-instability paradox. There is also the danger of escalation, nuclear terrorism, existence of fundamentalist groups, questions over physical security of nuclear weapons and material.
Nuclear risk reduction measures in South Asia include various steps such as a nuclear arsenal not being deployed, warheads in a disassembled state, missiles in de-alerted, de-targeted, de-mated state with a time lag between deployment and launching. However, the factors that complicate Indo-Pak strategic stability include Pakistan’s use of non-state actors to wage terrorism, the lack of trust-inducing past experiences, China’s use of Pakistan, lack of nuclear transparency and numerous verification hurdles. Establishment of apt communication mechanisms like hotlines and prior notification of missile tests could act as significant nuclear CBMs in South Asia. Potential nuclear risk reduction measures (NRRMs) between India and Pakistan could include permanent communication channels on nuclear issues, clear articulation of nuclear doctrines, formalising low alert status of nuclear arsenal, exchange of information on nuclear safety and security practices and a joint study on effects of nuclear explosion on modern cities.
Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd)
Nuclear weapons primarily are political weapons and not weapons meant for ‘war fighting.’ Their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by adversaries. Short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) are inherently destabilising due to forward deployment and short time of flight: SRBMs are likely to lead to ‘launch under attack’ or even ‘launch on warning’ responses. SRBMs are usually dual-use. Retirement of a class of missiles from service is obviously first and foremost an operational issue—especially in case, when they are no longer operationally reliable. Removing the SRBMs missile from the Indian and Pakistani nuclear arsenals will eliminate disadvantages of SRBMs. India and Pakistan should informally agree to eliminate SRBMs (Prithvi I and II , in case of India and Hatf I and II, in case of Pakistan) from the nuclear arsenal under a bilateral treaty. Intrusive verification should be built into the agreement at a subsequent stage. Such an agreement will serve as an excellent CBM as well as NRRM.
Brig Feroz Hassan Khan (Retd)
(Dr Monika Chansoria, Senior Fellow, CLAWS, read out Brig Feroz Hassan Khan’s presentation)
Nuclear weapons pose tough command and control challenges which include the twin dangers of nuclear inadvertence and failure of the human element. Command and control systems must avoid both positive and negative failures, i.e. they must neither send a false alert nor fail to alert when called for. The effort in South Asia in the given context should be to establish a dedicated central communication centre which complements the existing bilateral arrangements and provides a source of reducing risks in times of tension.
Nuclear Risk Reduction Centres (NRRCs) will work best if both sides remain in a state of non-deployed/recessed deterrence. NRRCs do not eliminate the risks of inadvertence or misperception, but aim to provide sufficient information to minimise risk. The primary objective of the NRRC is that it acts as a central clearinghouse for CBMs and agreement notification to prevent unintended signals from leading to a crisis or prevent inadvertent escalation—nuclear or conventional. The steps can be initiated in a phased manner by creating a new agreement which expands upon the Lahore MoU and converts it into a binding agreement. Thereafter, a dedicated centre could be established to ensure compliance with the new agreement and to rationalise required notifications under existing and new CBMs. NRRCs can mitigate the ‘crisis dynamic’ by maintaining professional contact and providing an available communication channel.
The aim of CBMs in the nuclear field is primarily to reduce the risk of inadvertent/unauthorised use of nuclear weapons. Pakistan is increasingly focusing on expanding its nuclear arsenal. There is a need to focus on the destabilising elements of nuclear deterrence. Should India wait for confidence to rise in order to take up issues like nuclear CBMs, or go ahead and undertake such measures? Will it actually help in building up confidence between India and Pakistan? It is the nature of nuclear weapons which requires CBMs. But it is a very sensitive subject and the measures will only begin once the trust deficit fills up. Nuclear CBMs without any other such confidence building measures may not be of much prudence. In addition, the shadow of China always tends to limit the possibilities that India and Pakistan can explore bilaterally.
(Report prepared by Dr Monika Chansoria, Senior Fellow, CLAWS)