It is generally held that if terrorists got hold of some nukes, they will intentionally annihilate the bulk of human population within a short span of time. However, the experts question the experience and ability of terrorists to develop nukes orto assemble nuclear warheads, if they get access of some to thosein future. Nuclear Terrorism is a new subject for nuke speakers to spread panic among the peace-loving people across the globe who do not have enough knowledge about the dichotomy between the authorized and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
Many experts have argued that the emerging from the chances of a nuclear exchange is more likely to involve the nuclear states rather than from terrorists using nukes to eliminate their enemies. There are no confirm reports or evidence regarding theft of an intact nuclear weapon by non-state actors or terrorists. Despite theorists knowing about the lethality of nukes, irrationality from head of states and military officers, nuclear mafia, and poor governance of nuclear weapons in some nuclear states altogether have largely supported the nuclear weapons for deterrence.
Severaltheorists have championed the deterrence theory with the support of realists and neo-realists.Hans Morgenthau, Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, Kenneth Waltz, Sumit Ganguly, and John Mearsheimer have largely supported nuclear weapons for deterrence or for avoiding major wars between the belligerent states. However, Vipin Narang is of the view that these theorists have undermined the nuclear postures of respective states. For instance, India and Pakistan’s nuclear doctrines are challenged by numerous experts on the grounds that both nuclear states have unclear and provocative nuclear postures that can easily culminate into a nuclear winter between the two enemy states.
The states of India and Pakistan have crossed the nuclear threshold in May 1998 by denoting 11 nuclear devices. Subsequently, both states have provided clarifications about their nuclear tests and claimed loudly to be responsible nuclear weapon states. After the nuclear explosions, optimists argued that nukes will stabilize the tensions between the two states, however, Timothy Hoyt writes that South Asia still remains a dangerous place contrary to the arguments put forward by certainanalysts that nuclear weapons would induce stability. He further arguesthat the divide between India and Pakistan hascreated a distrust owing to non-resolution of Kashmir dispute.
The studies on India-Pakistan nuclear doctrines have presented a negative message for world peace because of the several loopholes highlighted by the experts in the nuclear policies of the two countries.Scott Sagan presents a worrisome picture of about the organizational biases in the context of Indo-Pak nuclear relationship. He argues that both the states have exchanged nuclear threats during the crisisand Kargil War of 1999, and cannot be trusted to behave rationally in future. Sagan explicitly states that there are “imperfect humans inside imperfect organizations” in India-Pakistan nuclear relationship and in the nuclear deterrence might fail in the future.Similarly, Vipin Narang portrays the interest of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s nuclear superiority over Pakistan the role it plays to accelerate India’s nuclear arsenal in order to dominate Pakistan and counter China. The nuclear arms race might result into the mismanagement of nuclear warheads due to organizational biases in the context of India and Pakistan as well. From Narang’s statement it is quite apparent that minimum deterrence pledge taken by both states will not be implemented because of the intense rivalry and trust deficit between the two states.
There is no official nuclear doctrine of Pakistan. However, Lt. General Khalid Kidwai identifies four thresholds for Pakistan’s use of nukes: First, Space Threshold: If India occupies a large portion of Pakistani territory. Second, Military Threshold: If India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land or air forces. Third, Economic Threshold: If India tries to strangle Pakistan’s economy. And fourth, Political Threshold: If India destabilizes Pakistan’s domestic political system. As nuclear warheads of Pakistan are Indo-centric, it declares that it will use its nuclear weapons on its first strike against conventional attack from India.
India disclosed its nuclear doctrine with no-first use pledge and minimum deterrence posture in 1999. However, the 2003 revision of India’s nuclear doctrine diluted the no-first useclause by countenancing nuclear first use against a ‘major attack’ using the other two weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons. The other changes in 2003 revision included the shift from minimum deterrent to credible minimum deterrent posture and posture of no-first use of nukes, nukes will be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. The word ‘anywhere’ was added to the 2003 doctrine, that underscores the possibility that Indian soldiers could be fighting a conventional war inside Pakistan.
One can easily understand why India have added the word ‘anywhere’ to the 2003 doctrine andhas disclosed the Cold Start Doctrine as a limited war option under the nuclear umbrella after the 2001-2002 stalemate between India and Pakistan. India’s nukes have failed to deter Pakistan in 1999 Kargil war and other sub-conventional conflicts. That is why a limited war doctrine was disclosed by India to warn Pakistan to halt cross-border terrorism. However, Pakistan explicitly stated it will use its Nasr Missile, a tactical nuclear weapon on its own soil against Indian troops.
Indian leaders warned Pakistan several times to destroy it completely by massive retaliation (unacceptable damage) after Pakistan threatened to nuke India. However, Sumit Ganguly and Devin Hagerty argue that India’s no-first use pledge is nothing but a ‘rhetorical device’. Raja Menon argues that there is inter-service rivalry in India as Indian Air Force (IAF) might not wait for Pakistan’s first strike. As per IAF planning study, Vision 2020, IAF is planning for first strike capability in future. Sagan also states that no-first strike does not mean that India doesnot have a first strike capability. He also points outthat the Indian Nuclear Air Command is working towards having a first strike capability. Similarly, Vipin Narang argues that India will not allow Pakistan to nuke it first. The pre-emptive strike option was always in the minds of Indian decision makers during the crisis situations.
The most alarming source in South Asian region is never ending nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. The minimum deterrent posture is no longer a valid option for both states. According to the 2017 worldwide nuclear report by Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris,there are nearly fifteen thousand (15000) nuclear weapons in the world. The source of alarm is that amongst the 15, 000 nuclear weapons, 1800 are on high alert and ready for use at a short notice.The report also mentions that both India and Pakistan are qualitatively and quantitatively increasing their nuclear arsenal. The nukes have been increased to provide a boost to nuclear deterrence.
John Mearsheimer sounds confident about the success of nuclear deterrence due to mighty ocean barrier between the US and Russia. However, he is of the view that nuclear deterrence might not succeed in those belligerent states which share close borders. For instance, India and Pakistan do not have enough time to decide whether an attack is deliberate or accidental, the response will be catastrophic as a retaliation. Due to an advantage of missile defence systems, the belligerent states might opt for a nuclear war. Harmen Kahn has explicitly stated that nuclear war can be won because of missile defence systems, evacuations, shelters, and shells.
Similarly, the missile defence system might not function well in the context of India and Pakistan because massive first strike of missiles will break down the defence system easily. The missiles will travel in few minutes, there are also chances of failure of alarming system to judge the incoming missile. Rajesh Rajagopalan interestingly argues that Pakistan possesses missiles which are superior to that of India due to an assistance to Pakistan from China and North Korea in making missiles. According to experts the Nodong missiles and Ghauri missiles are same. Similarly, Narang argues that some missiles were directly received by Pakistan from North Korea.
The other source of concern is the poor accountability of nuclear weapons and nuclear mafia that is operating in both states as Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are under the strict control of military. During the Kargil Warthe then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was told by Bill Clinton about the deployment of nukes by Pakistan military of which Sharif was totally unaware of. The head of the Strategic Plans Division is responsible for nuclear planning,command and control system in Pakistan. Itis true that political leaders had been making provocative public statements about using nukes against India. Samina Ahmed, however, clears these provocative statements that the issue of prestige is also evident in Pakistan’s equal desire to stand with India. The nuclear threats sometimes were exchanged for domestic determinism and prestige which Sagan calls a normative factor. However, Pakistan military perceives India as a potential enemy that is why nuclear weapons were seen as an object rather than a means for national security argued by Sagan.
India too has alerted its nuclear capable missiles during the Kargil War. The Chief of Indian Army Staff, General V.P. Malik has confirmed that missiles were positioned at high trigger alert during the Kargil War to annihilate Pakistan. Raj Chengappa claims that, “India [then] activated all its three types of nuclear delivery vehicles and kept at what is known as Readiness state 3-meaning that some nuclear bombs would be ready to be mated with the delivery vehicles at short notice.” He further states that, “at least four of them (Prithvi ballistic missiles) were readied for a possible strike. Even an Agni missile capable of launching a nuclear warhead was moved to the Western Indian States and kept in a state of readiness.”
It is clearly understood that both the states cannot be trusted for behaving sensibly in future. We are alarmed about the unauthorized use of nukes, however, several reports from the experts upset us with the fuzzy nuclear postures and irrationality of India and Pakistan that might trigger an authorized use of nukes. India rejects the Pakistan’s offer to explore a nuclear free-zone area in South Asia, Vajpayee clearly responded to Pakistan that “we have to keep in mind developments in other neighbouring countries as well”. Vajpayee further stated that “though we believe in a minimum credible deterrent, the size of the deterrent must be deterred from time to time on the basis of our own threat perception. This is a judgement which cannot be surrendered to anyone else.”
Pakistan is also not in a mood to roll back its nuclear programme. Pervez Musharrafargues that “only a traitor would think of rolling back.” Similarly, Abdul Satar argues “…in order to ensure the survivability and credibility of the deterrent, Pakistan will have to maintain, preserve and upgrade its capability”.
Due to the poor management of nuclear weapons, the international community is concerned about the Jihadi networks in Pakistan who might steal the nukes for their own purposes. Stephen Cohen is worried about the zeal of Jihad against Unbelievers that Pakistani military always encourages the Jihadi’s to target India. Cohen argues that the nuclear attack on non-combatants in urban areas in India is one of the aim of Jihadi organizations in Pakistan. Similarly, India’s nuclear doctrine also talks about the ‘unacceptable damage’ that means a nuclear attack on civilian areas.
Surprisingly, anIndian army officer suggested George Fernandes, Defence Minister of India, to denote a nuclear device in Siachen to drown Pakistan completely to settle the Kashmir dispute once for all. The Indian Chief of Army Staff, General S. Padmanabhan’s statement on January 11, 2002 to nuke Pakistan was a surprising statement that uproar the Indian Prime Minister Office.Nobody can deny the fact that there is possibility of irrational behaviour (nuclear exchange) between the two belligerent states.
Thus, it is clear with the help of several studies on India-Pakistan nuclear brinkmanship that there is possibility of nuclear omnicide in South Asia. The organizational biases, blurry nuclear doctrines of no-first use and first-use of nukes, poor accountability of nukes, advantage of missile defence systems, intense rivalry, unresolved Kashmir dispute, and close borders might become the reasons for the failure of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
Saudi-Chinese Friendship: Should India be Concerned?
Saudi Arabia hosted the grand China-Arab summit in December last year and leaders of the two nations deliberated on future trade ties and regional security. The summit happened at a time when USA and Saudi ties are at an all time low. There lies massive uncertainty on global energy markets after the West forced a price cap on Russian oil and Washington is looking guardedly at China’s rising influence in the Middle East.
In Oil trade, China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade more than $87 billion in 2021. Saudi Arabia is China’s top oil supplier, making up 18% of China’s total crude oil purchases. The two countries have deals in refineries, power and military & security.
Africa’s natural resources have long been a Chinese favourite. Every year, China doles out billions in grants and loans to African governments as an inducement to secure raw material deals or to finance the infrastructure projects which are ultimately going to benefit its own companies.
What is India’s position on the China- Arab summit that intends to boost development and cooperation among the two? India would be in a bit of a quandary one may assume as Arabs are their good friends, as they claim; while the Chinese are not. The trio of the China, Arabs and Pakistan (being used as a mere proxy), uniting is bound to be a slight source of worry for India. What is India’s take on this friendship?
From a diplomatic perspective, if their friendship and goodwill is promoted, it’s a good thing but one hopes that this does not undermine Indian interest, as any bilateral relation must not destabilize a third relation. In general when one talks of the Arab world, one thinks of its gargantuan energy power and energy crisis and its management is a global issue right now. With the Ukraine Russia war hanging around the energy crisis, it could be an ‘Energy Security’ thing they are trying to do bilaterally. If a big country like China enters the domain of energy, food etc it could turn out into a fairly big movement in the markets, in terms of prices and availability. India has to reckon by the fact that China is large and when you take out a large chunk of something that is available, that can create a pressure situation for others.
Also the union of China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan may have certain repercussions on India, as China and India already have problems and those are huge problems, there’s no denying that. Sachin Sawant, Senior leader of the Indian National Congress leader, the country’s main opposition party states that they are already over-exerting their power on India. The Chinese are going on building roads, tunnels and bridges nonstop along the border. India needs to develop stronger guiding principles, when dealing with China and its global intentions are concerned. It is a huge point of worry for India.
India definitely cannot do or say much if two good friends decide to meet, but it does have its set of concerns. If China forges more business alliances with the Arabs in the energy and other sectors, India foresees instability in the markets which may be against its economic interest. It also is wary of the Chinese and Arabs getting together as this is a powerful alliance and its outcome may have a negative impact on Indian interest.
What could be the intentions of China to promote this friendship further and strengthen their relations with the Arabs. How does India look at this union of two economic superpowers? Every country wants to have good friends. They both have global ambitions and one goes about a decade back or lesser, they had invested heavily in Africa. They went there and tried to get hold of all the mines that were of strategic importance to them. They need nickel, gallium etc which are crucial for smart phone manufacturing. So, yes! They would be eyeing many such opportunities in their bilateral ventures.
China is known for its expansionism and they use their financial strength to arm-twist many countries, especially the economically weaker ones. “They are the Shylock kind of money lenders; they keep on lending money at exorbitant rates and then the poorer countries like Pakistan get into that vicious cycle where China takes hold of all their resources at very cheap rates. India is not at all bothered about their befriending the Arabs, because Chinese intentions are well known to the world,” says a concerned Sawant.
India says it is well aware that the Chinese mean business when they talk of befriending the Arabs. Together the two may explore many more avenues of business which strengthen their respective economies. Would their friendship affect India’s foreign policy in anyway? How affected or concerned is the Indian Government with this strategic partnership of China and the Arab nations?
Both Saudi Arabia and China are also part of G-20, and they must work in some areas of convergence that emerge from this global exercise. India closely follows whatever they are doing in terms of multilateral regional matters which impact the well being of all people, and also other matters that are taken up in G20, like climate change, green development and digital economy. India has sufficiently strong relations with the Arabs and its foreign policy will only be affected if China does something that is out of line of its interest.
Sawant reiterates that it is a matter of concern for India. The leader says that the alliance of China with the Arabs is definitely rooted in more trade and greater geo-political ambition. It can harm India. He says that China has this habit of deliberately targeting India’s neighbours, antagonizing them like it has been doing with Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all in a bid to weaken India. It has been their strategy and India should be worried about that. “India needs to revamp its foreign policy in dealing with China. On one hand we ban their apps but then our imports from them are also growing multi-fold, this has to stop. Even on the Bhutan front India needs to be more proactive in protecting the interests of people in that region,” argues Sawant.
If India looks at the China-Arab partnership through the prism of G20 then, it will jointly work on pressing global issues and is confident of a positive outcome. However, it would expect China to cooperate with it in its G20 endeavours. Does the Indian Government have any certain policy to enhance cooperation and influence in the Mid East Region? Yes, the Middle East is India’s immediate neighbourhood. India has an authentic historical and cultural relationship with them which is now nicely developing into a stronger and closer economic partnership. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is India’s major economic partner; most of its energy comes from there. Also, it has huge Diasporas in the Arab countries who are emerging as investors in India’s growth and infrastructural development.
“Any foreign policy is good until is serves the interest of the country. Just on the basis of how you are welcomed by foreign countries and how we welcome them cannot help determine foreign policy; this is a holistic issue. The Chinese President comes here and enjoys a resplendent welcome but that doesn’t stop their army from attacking us. What exactly we do in the interest of the country will help shape up strong foreign policy with any country. The Arabs, though our good friends will obviously be happy with the trade agreements with China, but we must be wary that it does not harm us or our economy inadvertently,” says Sawant.
In the end, India must be confident of its faith and friendship with the Middle East. Being a long time economic partner of theirs, they also benefit from the fact that Indians living in the Arab nations are a huge plus point for them. While there seems to be a bit of skepticism about the China- Arab ties, India should be confident that this will not come in the way of their strong relations with the other 7 GCC countries.
Taliban and the crisis in Afghanistan
In 2021, the Afghan Taliban took back control of Afghanistan after fighting a rebellion for twenty years. The Taliban reformed and began regaining territory less than 10 years after the American-led invasion that overthrew the previous regime in 2001. In line with a 2020 peace agreement with the Taliban, they staged a swift assault as the US started to evacuate its last forces from Afghanistan.
Even though they promised to preserve the rights of women and communities of religious and racial minorities, the Taliban have enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The Taliban have failed to provide Afghans with sufficient food supplies and economic possibilities as they have evolved from an insurgent organization to a functioning administration.
Numerous instances of human rights violations have been documented by the UN mission in Afghanistan. Because the Taliban scared off journalists and put limits on press freedom, more than 200 news outlets had to close. Activists and protesters have been tracked and forcefully disappeared, and their government has ruthlessly suppressed protests. They also reinstated the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which was previously in place, and enforced laws against actions judged to be contrary to Islam. They instructed judges to apply their version of sharia in November 2022; in the following weeks, authorities resumed public hangings and floggings.
Women’s rights have been undermined. Due to restrictions put in place by the Taliban, girls are not allowed to go to high school, and women are not allowed to go to college or teach there. The group banned women from working for local and international voluntary groups in December 2022. According to estimates from the UN Development Program (UNDP), limiting women’s employment might cost Afghanistan’s GDP up to 5%. Amnesty International reports a substantial increase in the number of women jailed for defying discriminatory rules, such as those requiring women to cover their whole bodies while in public and to only appear with male chaperones. In addition, there are now more child marriages.
The UNDP says that the Taliban’s rule has also taken away the gains that Afghans made in their living conditions in the 20 years after the US invasion. In a study from October 2022, the organization claimed that practically all Afghans were living in poverty. Since the takeover, the economy has contracted by up to 30%, and there have been an estimated 700,000 job losses. More than 90% of individuals are impacted by food insecurity. The problem is getting worse because several countries and international groups have stopped giving aid, which is vital to the economy and public health.
International observers are nonetheless worried that the Taliban pose a danger to national and international security through their funding of terrorist groups, especially Al-Qaeda. Taliban leadership might convert Afghanistan into a haven for terrorists who could launch attacks against the US and its allies, despite Taliban pledges that the country’s territory wouldn’t be used against the security of any other country. The violence has also increased along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, which has always supported the Taliban. Tehrik-e-Taliban, a terrorist organization commonly referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, has gained strength due to the Taliban’s ascent to power. The organization broke off a cease-fire with the Pakistani government in 2022 and began carrying out assaults throughout the nation. Officials from Pakistan have charged the Afghan Taliban with giving the extremists a safe harbor in their country.
For many years, the Afghan government relied on help from a number of countries; according to 2019 World Bank research, contributions from foreign partners funded 75% of the government’s public expenditures. Many of these countries stopped off aid when the Taliban took control, fueling concerns about potential future economic turmoil. Nevertheless, aid rose in 2022 as donors sent more than $2.6 billion. The US has donated more than $1.1 billion in help since the coup. However, according to UN authorities, the pledges fell short of the nation’s humanitarian requirements.
Many Western countries, most notably the US, shut down their diplomatic posts in Afghanistan when the Taliban took power. Diplomatic relations and recognition have been withheld from the Taliban regime, which refers to Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The UN General Assembly has also postponed a decision on who would indefinitely represent Afghanistan at the UN. The Taliban are now being investigated by the International Criminal Court for suspected atrocities, including crimes against humanity, committed against Afghans.
Decoding Donald Lu’s Visit: A Positive Upward in US-Bangladesh Relations?
The U.S Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Donald Lu paid a visit from January 12 to 15. During his brief but swarming itinerary the two parties discussed various issues ranging from diplomatic to political. Interestingly, this is the 11th visit of any U.S high-official in the past two years. The frequent swapping of delegations from the both sides pose a critical juncture between the U.S-Bangladesh relationship. Experts believe that recurrent visits from US high-ups are definitely an auspicious sign between the relationship of the two nations. Therefore, the visit of Donald Lu is an offshoot of the “growing reciprocity and renewed engagement” between Dhaka and Washington.
Needless to say, Bangladesh has a long standing and steady relationship with the US since the latter recognized the former shortly after independence on April 04, 1972. Recently the US-Bangladesh celebrated the completion of 50 years of bilateral relationship and US President Joe Biden termed this as “robust partnership”. Amid such backdrop, it goes without saying that the recent visits signal to a significant positive tie-up between the two parties and the visit can be interpreted in the context of international and domestic backdrop of international politics.
The US is the largest market for Bangladesh’s RMG export. Naturally, the issue of GSP reinstatement plays a key role in bilateral camaraderie. Under such circumstances, Lu’s visit is important to hold talks of economic in the context of Bangladesh’s growing needs, especially after the LDC graduation. Moreover, in the annual Global Firepower 2023 Military Strength Ranking, Bangladesh is placed 40th out of 145 nations. On the other hand, Bangladesh came in 12th place on the GFP review’s list of ‘Strengths on the Rise,’ which emphasizes national military powers based on strong growth patterns until 2023. In this context, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Acquisition and Cross-servicing Agreement (ACSA) agreement indicates to a deeper and strategic engagement from the US rationale.
Bangladesh’s stands at the heart of a strategic position of the US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which aims to counter the increasing footprint of China in the Indo-Pacific region. However, Bangladesh maintains a neutral position in terms of its foreign relations and has been carefully helming without taking any side of any major powers. Washington’s focus on free and fair election is important to maintain a stability in the greater Bay of Bengal neighborhood- an important feat in it’s IPS. Conversely, Bangladesh values economic partnership to sustain her ongoing upward trend. However, at the same time Bangladesh should be careful not to succumb to any pressure, a case in point when the Foreign Minister announced that the US proposed strategy is being vetted under the lens of economic opportunity.
On the domestic fore, arguably, the U.S has been advocating for a free and fair election, upholding democratic values, and condemning extra judicial excesses. However, continuous engagement between the two parties resulted helping to mitigate tensions and create a more positive atmosphere. The crux of Donald Lu’s visit is to reaffirm democratic ideals in state mechanism, rule based international system and Bangladesh to be part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Accordingly, Bangladesh has committed to hold a fair election and the recent decline of the controversial RAB’s extrajudicial excesses reported by Human Rights Watch as well as peaceful demonstrations of the opposition have been markedly praised by Donald Lu. From Bangladesh’s perspective rescinding of sanctions, reinstatement of GSP, and more support for Rohingya Refugees were reiterated. More importantly, Dhaka’s impartial foreign policy goals align with Washington’s interest in the South Asian region and it will be of American interest to consider Bangladesh as an important ally in the geopolitical chessboard of the Indo-Pacific region.
However, the visit is also crucial for Donald Lu who is accused of meddling with the internal affairs of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. But, Donald Lu manifested his diplomatic acumen to “manage the fissures of the diplomatic ties’ and “highlight on the areas of convergence” in the recent visit. Evidently, the past year has been tumultuous for South Asian nations, following the collapse of Colombo, the Pakistani Economic Crisis and the revolving debt crisis around the region. Amongst her neighbors, Bangladesh has endured relatively steady political and economic pursuit. Therefore, US needs to formulate a comprehensive South Asian policy to accommodate the interests of the respective nations on its own merit.
Bangladesh’s relationship with the U.S is vital in both economic and political stance. Continued engagement and partnership between the two states is critical for the security of South Asia as well as Bangladesh’s ongoing economic prosperity. On a pragmatic tone, it would take more than just this one visit for Bangladesh to solve these complex geopolitical issues. For now, the visit has symbolized strengthening of U.S-Bangladesh relationship going forward by exonerating the mutual interests to diplomatically resolve pressing bilateral issues and elevation of continuous engagement.
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