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Cybersecurity and NATO’s Nuclear Capability

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In July 2020, Chatham House released the “Ensuring Cyber Resilience in NATO’s Command, Control and Communication Systems” information and analytical report. It covers a series of aspects, including the mutual dependence between NATO’s command, control and communication systems (NC3) for its conventional and nuclear capabilities, and the legal consequences of an attack on dual-purpose command and control systems. The crucial issue under consideration is the cybersecurity of command, control, and communication systems of NATO’s nuclear capabilities: more than half of the report’s substantive part focuses on this. In addition to the prominent place and much attention given to this issue, its importance for the authors (the report has three co-authors: Yasmin Afina, Calum Inverarity and Beyza Unal) is underscored by their previous publications on this topic. In particular, Dr Beyza Unal, a Senior Research Fellow of Chatham House’s International Security Programme, has, over the last few years, co-authored such reports as “Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences ” (2018), “Cybersecurity of NATO’s Space-based Strategic Assets” (2019), “Perspectives on Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century” (2020).

It appears that an overall assessment of this report should be based on its co-authors’ effectiveness in achieving their declared objective. They state, “This paper will identify, raise awareness of, and help reduce risks to NATO’s nuclear weapon systems arising from cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It aims to respond to the need for more public information on cyber risks in NATO’s nuclear mission, and to provide policy-driven research to shape and inform nuclear policy at member-state level.” The report partly achieves these objectives to the extent possible under the current restrictions. In particular, as the co-authors themselves note, this is a classified topic, so only open sources can be used and, accordingly, the information at the authors’ disposal may be outdated and/or incomplete. The authors tried to offset this problem by involving experts and former officials with knowledge of the subject. Even so, this approach does not provide a complete solution.

On the whole, this report has been prepared at a quite high methodological level, as is attested by the well-structured narrative and the authors having used a large corpus of both official documents and research that also solidly substantiate the recommendations offered. The authors consider five aspects that affect cybersecurity of the command, control, and communication systems: network and software protection, protecting data integrity, hardware protection, access/security controls and cybersecurity awareness/security by design. The report contains several points that prompt readers’ agreement, such as that, as cutting-edge technologies are used increasingly in command and control systems, these systems grow more vulnerable and that there are no invulnerable systems. Additionally, the authors rightly point out that new technologies (such as quantum computing) may create novel risks. Additionally, special mention should be made of the detailed overview of NATO’s command and control structure covering all the principal operational grounds (air, ground, and water). Appendices to the report also contain overviews of potential special interest to experts of the command, control and communication systems of the USA, UK, and France’s nuclear forces.

At the same time, the manner in which the report considers NC3 problems as applied to nuclear capabilities is flawed in several respects. Let us detail the most important of these. First, the authors claim that the responsibility for ensuring the cybersecurity of command, control and communication systems lies with all NATO members, not only with nuclear powers. This point invites debate. The authors themselves note that “the US is the only NATO member to have earmarked nuclear weapons … for the purpose of nuclear sharing in the context of NATO. … So it is inevitable that the NC3 system in the place within NATO is inextricably linked to the USA’s own NC3 system.” Curiously, the authors cite a report by the United States Government Accountability Office, but they do not indicate that the report mentions “mission-critical cyber vulnerabilities” in virtually all major programmes for acquiring weapons and equipment tested in 2012–2017. The media reported that the systems under review included two elements of the nuclear triad: future Columbia-class submarines and Ground Based Strategic Deterrent missiles intended to replace Minuteman III ICBMs. In view of this, the authors could have recommended that nuclear powers assume the principal responsibility for the cybersecurity of relevant NC3 systems. Although the report emphasises the mutual connections between NC3 systems for conventional and nuclear weapons, the real scale of this phenomenon remains under-researched.

Second, the authors note that new technologies could help resolve the problem of data integrity (using, among other things, modelling and simulation techniques and big data analysis) and of decision-making within a very short time-frame. Indeed, the problem of cutting decision-making time is topical today, especially with respect to strategic stability, and states view artificial intelligence (AI) as a means for resolving it. For instance, “improving situational awareness and decision-making” is one AI task identified in the 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The authors of the Chatham House report point out that “at times, new technology (AI with machine learning techniques, for instance) may challenge NC3” and specify that data used in machine learning could be corrupted specifically to ensure subsequent system malfunction. The danger pointed out in the report appears to be part of a whole range of problems related to using AI for military purposes. It is quite obvious, among other things, that AI systems constitute a hardware-software complex vulnerable to cyberattacks. Additionally, the research showed that, to provoke AI mistakes, no interference in the learning process is required: specifically rigged data could result in malfunctioning of an already functioning system. Such attacks could be seen as attacks of a new, cognitive type intended to make use of flaws in the ways AI processes information. Current cybersecurity means do not appear up to the task of counteracting such threats.

Third, the authors note that attribution and response are measures for counteracting cyberattacks. The report also states that “NATO members’ NC3 architecture is secure and reliable is of particular importance for deterrence purposes. Even when the Alliance’s NC3 systems are under attack, all member states should be able to demonstrate their detection, forensics and response capabilities…” The report fails, however, to make any mention of the fact that, as of today, no international legal mechanisms have been created as a framework for considering and assessing dangerous ICT incidents; equally, there is no system in place for recording the facts related to those incidents. Many famous cases of establishing the culpability of a particular state in various ICT-related incidents resorted to so-called “public attribution”: in the absence of legally significant facts and due process, the guilty party was “appointed” on the basis of political considerations and subjected to various measures. A rapid and precise ICT attribution has been and is a rather labour-intensive procedure. The authors state that “offensive cyber capabilities are without doubt highly sophisticated at present, and such capabilities are in the hands of a small number of actors.” One can hardly agree with this statement since, in some estimates, over 60 countries have cyber weapons today. It is very difficult to assess how sophisticated a particular country’s capabilities are. The number of actors in possession of cyber weapons keeps growing, this making attribution even more difficult and entailing higher risks of misinterpretation and incorrect response. NATO is already known to view cyberspace as a fully-fledged operational ground and the Alliance is building up its military potential in cyberspace, while several of its member states have already formed specialised military units.

Finally, the report’s principal flaw is that it virtually ignores entirely the multilateral nature of controlling and reducing nuclear arms and reducing the danger of accidentally unleashing a nuclear war through, among other factors, cyber interference. According to current assessments, Russia and the US account for 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, so they appear to have a special role in maintaining global peace and security. Strategic stability essentially means strategic relations between the powers that remove incentives for a nuclear first strike. [1] bearing that in mind, one could draw parallels with protecting launchers: by default, their vulnerability creates an incentive for a first strike. Vulnerabilities in control and command of nuclear capabilities create similar incentives. Such vulnerabilities should not be removed unilaterally since, if one party to the confrontation has a high cyber defence level, this, too, creates an incentive for a first strike preceded by a cyberattack against the potential adversary’s command and control systems.

Finding a solution to the problem of ensuring the cybersecurity of nuclear capabilities and developing such mechanisms to rule out accidental escalation goes beyond NATO. Here, it would be apposite to recollect that, even at the peak of the Cold War, the communications channels between the two superpowers remained open and the urgent issues were discussed at all levels. The “Joint Statement by the Presidents of the United States of America and the Russian Federation on a New Field of Cooperation in Confidence Building” was signed less than ten years ago, in 2013. This statement touched upon certain aspects of cooperation in protecting critical information systems. It also laid the foundations for developing mechanisms for reducing cyberspace threats. Today, there is no such cooperation; moreover, since 2017, the US has imposed prohibitive restrictions on concluding any cybersecurity cooperation agreement with Russia.

It appears that, despite the report’s merits and its informational and analytical value, what essentially nullifies all of the recommendations it contains is the fact that it does not even hint that certain mutual steps for reducing cyber risks should be worked out jointly with other nuclear states, including those that have been openly labelled “unfriendly.” One of the few paragraphs dedicated to Russia (and China) states that “NATO should also address the cyber risk that comes with the procurement of military equipment from countries that are not friendly to NATO (e.g., Russia or China).” In order to reduce the risk of misinterpretation and rapid escalation, the report recommends conducting “an assessment of how adversaries think about command and control.” Since the report is positioned as a source of information for decision-makers, such an ideological slant toward creating an “enemy image” will hardly prove useful in developing long-term policies, especially given the current acute lack of international confidence.

[1] Soviet-United States Joint Statement on Future Negotiations on Nuclear and Space Arms and Further Enhancing Strategic Stability. State Visit of USSR Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev to the United States of America. May 30 – June 4, 1990 (in Russian) // Documents and Materials. (in Russian) Moscow: Politizdat, 1990, p. 335.

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Webinar: How will we minimize conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean?

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One of the biggest online events for this year with the theme: “How will we minimize conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean?was held by the Region of Western Greece and EuropeDirect Patra, on Thursday 25 February 25 2021, organized by the Deputy Governor of Entrepreneurship, Research and Innovation of Western Greece, Fokion Zaimis, with representatives at a very high level, from Greece and abroad. Specifically, the countries represented were Greece, Turkey, Sweden, the USA, Italy and Brussels through elected representatives, MEPs, MPs, lawyers, International Relations Specialists, political scientists, diplomats, senior officials, academics, journalists and representatives of European and international networks.

Opening the event the Deputy Governor of Entrepreneurship, Research and Innovation of Western GreeceFokion Zaimis said: “The Eastern Mediterranean, the cradle of ancient civilization and the crossroads of major economic and commercial routes has been and is the focus of many conflicts from antiquity to the present day. I warmly thank all the participants in today’s international event for conflict prevention in the Eastern Mediterranean in cooperation with Europe Direct and CPMR. Critical and serious issues emerged from completely different starting points and perspectives. Regional government has an important role to play in communication, trade and economic relations, tourism, environment and the consolidation of relations of mutual respect and trust between the communities of Mediterranean countries. The goal is the progress and prosperity of the citizens and what unites us is much more than what divides us”.

The Regional Governor of Western Greece Nektarios Farmakis highlighted: “It also proves in this way that regional government is able to organize and contribute to national or supranational issues and this is something very important, because it proves that it is not limited to the house and is not only trapped in its daily life but also looks at our world with a broader look. Knowing what is happening in the wider area ultimately concerns the regional government. I firmly believe in diplomacy and the possibility of international cooperation that can shape self-government strengthening the national diplomacy and strategy”.

The MEP (epp) Manolis Kefalogiannis, stated: “A very important initiative of the Region of Western Greece with many distinguished guests from Greece and abroad on an important issue concerning the conflict and the reduction of conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean. It really concerns a dominant issue at this time because we have a neighbor Turkey and President Erdogan who are behaving like riots in the wider region violating every concept of law, every good neighborly relationship and creating tensions in the wider region. We must respect, in accordance with international law, the decisions of the United Nations, the decisions of the European Union, always guided by good neighborly relations, always with respect to the international law of the sea, resolve any disputes in a spirit of peace, cooperation and relations as befits a country such as Turkey, a country that is part of the European family “.

Particularly honorable was the representation of NATO through the speech of a senior official, Dr. Nicola De Santis, Head of NATO Public Diplomacy, presented by Theodosios Georgiou, President of the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation, who highlighted, among other things, the role that Regions can play in security and cooperation. Dr. Nicola De Santis spoke about the important role that NATO plays in the challenges and what security prospects in the Eastern Mediterranean, explained the principles of the Alliance, pointed out the important role played by citizens through their demands, security as a necessary condition for development, as well the consultations and cooperation proposals promoted by NATO.

Speaking about the institutional-legal framework, the Ambassador (ad.hon.) and former Ambassador of Greece to Washington, Alexandros Mallias, pointed out: “It is exactly one year since the operation of violating the borders of Greece in Evros. The invasion and occupation of Cyprus, the aggressive moves against Greece and the constant official provocations, the strategic intervention of Turkey in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh are violations, incompatible with Article 1 of the NATO Statute. So this is an ally behavior that allows NATO rivals to question the consistency between declarations, principles and actions. The goal of Mr. Erdogan’s policy is not sound in the negotiations to ensure the terms of an honest peace that will ensure relations of cooperation and good neighborliness. On the contrary, its goal is the forced adaptation of Greece to the expectations and conditions of Turkey. Therefore, it does not have a short-term character. It is no coincidence that Mr Erdogan is systematically calling for a revision of the Lausanne Treaty. At the same time, Ankara aims to nullify the trust of Greek citizens in its political leadership”.

The business framework was set by former Minister of Culture & Tourism, Pavlos Geroulanos: “One can not ignore the provocation of Turkey and its willingness to create tension in the region. Obviously we can not discuss any cooperation as long as we have such a deployment of Turkish troops in the Aegean Sea. The basis of cooperation is with countries that have strong diplomacy, economy and army. Only when you can stand on yourfeet can you impose peace in an area.”

Dimitrios Kairidis,  Professor of International Relations and MP (North Sector of Athens, New Democracy), explained why Turkey, a country with special structural elements, is a particularly destabilizing factor for the wider Mediterranean region.

Suleyman Ozeren, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, George Mason University talked about forced Migration, Refugee Crisis and the Abyss of Securitization in Turkey, which consist really concerning issues. He referred that Turkey is not only a country of entry for many refugees, such as Syrian people who were considered guest in the beginning, but also a country of exit for many Turkish people due to law and democracy issues. In this context he made some policies recommendations.

The representation of ELIAMEP (Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy) was also particularly honourable by Thanos Veremis, Vice President of the Boardand Emeritus Professor (Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Athens, History, International Relations) who expressed strong concerns about Greek-Turkish relations.

An important parameter in international relations regarding the value code that each country has, every citizen, put the Ottoman, Turkologist, Associate of the Laboratory of Turkish & Eurasian Studies and Lawyer at the Supreme Court, Dr. Dimitris Stathakopoulos stating: “We have common interests with Eastern Mediterranean, but we also have different quality characteristics which our value codes and the historical memories we have prevent us from resolving the existing issues in a sense of” associations “. Because we start from a different historical basis and it is by no means self-evident that we perceive International Law or conventions in exactly the same way. The Turks believed and believe, for example, that Greece liberated not Greek territories, but conspiracy theoristically conquered new countries. He sees Greece as an ungrateful part of the Ottoman Empire which made a “stop”, not a Greek revolution “, and added that” we can get along with Turkey, but the logic of Turkey does not allow us to agree, since it does not want cooperation with equals”.

Matthew Crosston, Ph.D., Professor, Director of Academic Transformation Office of the Provost, Bowie State University, Executive Vice Chairman and Author at  Modern Diplomacy.eu talked about the Hydrocarbon Hybrid War asan untangling conflict in the Eastern Med. He pointed the problem of missing information in western and eastern media regarding the real  situation, as well as the vision of Turkey to be an energy hub.

Through this event besides presenting the current situation in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, the opportunity was given to identify those points that complicate the situation and views were expressed from different perspectives within a democratic, multicultural and pluralistic context that seeks to find cooperation solutions through dialogue, democracy, human rights and the peaceful coexistence of peoples.

The event was also attended by the honorable speakers:

  • Mitat ÇELİKPALA, Vice Rector, Professor, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University
  • Emmanouil Karagiannis, Associate Professor, Department of Defense Studies, King’s College London
  • Ioannis Mitsios, Political Scientist, International Relations Specialist, M.A. Northeastern University, Boston
  • Giorgos Alexakis, Vice Governor on European and International Affairs at Region of Crete, Vice-President of CPMR & EUROMONTANA
  • Theodoros Louloudis, Publisher of “Peloponnisos” Newspaper, Member of the Organizing Committee of the Regional Growth Conference,
  • Annika AnnerbyJansson, President of Region Skåne, Chair of the CPMR’s Task Force on Migration Mamangement
  • Dimitrios Triantafyllou, Professor, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University
  • Dimitrios Rizoulis, Journalist, Director of the newspaper “Dimokratia”.

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India – The US Promote National Defense – Security Cooperation

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US and Indian foreign ministers and defense ministers at a press conference after 2+2 Dialogue on 27/10 (Source: IANS)

In recent years, the India-US bilateral relationship has been more closely bonded, especially defense-security cooperation in various fields including nuclear technology, maritime defense and security, anti-terrorism in the region and in the world … has been continuously promoted, contributing to the development of an intensive bilateral relationship. This results from the demand for security strategy, economic, security and political interests of the two parties. The United States wants India to become its ally in the Indo-Pacific region, counterbalancing China’s growing influence, ensuring U.S. maritime security interests and a huge commercial arm market for the US. To India: a good relationship with the US will help India highten its position in the region; India also wants to rely on US power to increase its military strength, to watch out China and create pressure on Pakistan. In addition, India’s comprehensive diplomacy and the US’s regional strategy carried out simultaneously without overlapping, is conducive to strengthening the bilateral security cooperation for both countries.

It is evitable that in recent years, defense-security cooperation between India and the US has made remarkable progresses. After removing the Sanctions on India for nuclear testing in May 2018, the US and India announced the Joint Declaration on Civil Energy Cooperation between the two countries. Accordingly, the US will provide nuclear fuel and technology support for India to develop civil nuclear energy. This has opened the door for India to develop their nuclear weapons and improve military strength. The two countries also cooperate in many defense activities including ballistic missile defense, joint military training, expanding arms sales, strengthening military staff exchanges and intelligence, as well as loosening two-way technology exports.

To be specific: In January 1995, the two countries signed the “US-India Defense Relations Agreement”, stipulating that in addition to conducting cooperation on research and production of military weapons, the two countries also conduct exchanges between military and non-military personnel. In May 2001, the Indian government announced its support for the US to develop a ballistic missile defense system, and proposed to purchase the “Patriot 1 (PAC-3)” air defense missile system. In March 2005, during the Conference on Cooperation in Ballistic Missile Defense, the US, India and Japan agreed to set up a joint working group, to implement close cooperation on ballistic missile defense. In June 2005, the United States and India signed a 10-year military cooperation agreement, which not only required increased exchanges between the two countries’ armies, but also proposed to strengthen military cooperation regarding weapons production, and trading as well as ballistic missile defense. In July 2009, the two countries signed a “Comprehensive customer surveillance treaty” on defense, the US sold advanced defense technology to India. This treaty allowed India to obtain a “permission card” to buy the US’s advanced weaponry. In addition, the two countries also cooperate in counter-terrorism in the region and around the world, maritime security, and joint military exercises …

One of the activities promoting bilateral relations between India and the US was the “2 + 2 Dialogue” taking place on October 27, 2020 in New Delhi. Within the framework of this dialogue, India and the United States had shared exchanges of a free and open Indo-Pacific vision, embracing peace and prosperity, a rules-based order with  the central role of ASEAN, resolving disputes, ensuring the economic and security interests of all related parties with legitimate interests in this region … The focus on defense-security cooperation in this “2+2 Dialogue” is the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The agreement allowed India to access accurate data, topographic images, maps, maritime and aviation data and satellite data on a real-time basis from US military satellites. Thereby, this will assist the provision of better accuracy for such weapons as cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones of India, and support the rescue operations during natural disasters and security strategy. The BECA is one of the four basic agreements a country needs to sign to become a major defense partner of the US. The other three agreements that India had previously signed with the United States are the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA),  the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and theCommunications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) . These are “cornerstone” agreements allowing the armies of the two countries to fight together in the event of a conflict. Accelerating the signing of the BECA was just one of various ways India reacted to China threats, especially after the border clashes in Doklam (2017) and Ladakh (5/2020-now). India, the US, Japan and Australia were more active in the Quartet Meeting on October 6 in Tokyo. India also invited Australia to join the Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan in November.

The signing of BECA was a further institutionalization of the Indo-US strategic relationship to promote the two countries’ intensive cooperate on strategy and military, without pressure to become an official ally yet have benefits. Washington received interests in selling weapons to New Delhi, especially when conflict starts. New Delhi has attached more importance to US military equipment because of its transparent pricing, simple operation and maintenance, thereby reducing reliance on Russia for weapons. Currently, the total value of Indian weapons purchased from the US is more than 15 billion USD and is expected to double in the coming time. The US-India military cooperation, therefore, will be closer in the future.

Also at this dialogue, the two countries agreed to cooperate in dealing with the Covid pandemic, considering this a priority for bilateral cooperation in this period. Accordingly, the US and India will cooperate in RDto produce a series of vaccines, to expand access to vaccines, and ensure high-quality, safe, effective and affordable medical treatment between the two countries and on a global scale.

Currently, India-US defense-security cooperation is at its heyday in the history and is likely to develop further. This relationship has profound effects on the regional security environment, especially direct effects on China. As military forces grow, India will probably implement their military strategy “taking the Indian Ocean in the South, expanding power to the East Sea in the East, attacking Pakistan in the West, watching out for China in the North”, plus nuclear deterrence. This will worsen the fierce arms race in such regions as the South Asia and the Indian Ocean, leading to an imbalance of forces and add up a number of unstability factors in these regions.

In short, India-US defense-security cooperation is making remarkable progresses and has created impact on regional security, especially China and other countries with common interests in this region, including Vietnam. Therefore, the China-American-Indian triangle relationship is currently in an unstable state. In this scenario, it is suggested that countries actively identify issues relating to the this three military powers relationship and devise appropriate diplomatic strategies, balancing bilateral relations with major powers with disagreements to ensure national security and stability in the region.

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India-Pakistan LOC peace

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India and Pakistan have both announced to “strictly observe” the truce along the Line of Control and all other sectors “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders”. Such an announcement could not have emerged without Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s imprimatur.  A hunch is that the move is an upshot of a nudge from the US president. This impression is fortified by several events that are accentuated by India-Pakistan entente (so called surgical strikes, 5000 ceasefire violations, hype about 2008 Mumbai attack and the one at Pathankot  airbase, so on). From Pakistan’s angle, India believed in might is right. And while it was open to compromises with China, it displayed a fist to Pakistan.

Need for a dialogue

In the past, peace at the LOC proved ephemeral as it was not backed up by sufficient follow-up. A dialogue is needed for the hour. It is a good omen that Pakistan is open to talks despite chagrin at abolition of the occupied state’s statehood.

Misconception about the sanctity of the India-Pakistan LOC vis-a-vis the Sino-Indian LAC

A common misperception is that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is more sacrosanct than the LoC. For instance, India’s prestigious Indian Express explained: ‘The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the UN after the Kashmir war. It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Simla Agreement. It is delineated on a map signed by Director General Military Operations of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement. The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept –it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map nor demarcated on the ground’.

To understand Sino-Indian differences, one needs to peek into the Indian mind through books such as Shivshankar Menon’s Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, Shyam Saran’s How India Sees the World, and A G Noorani’s India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947.

The afore-quoted newspaper poses the question: “What was India’s response to China’s designation of the LAC?” It then explains India rejected the concept of LAC in both 1959 and 1962. Even during the war, Nehru was unequivocal: “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometres from what they call ‘line of actual control…” In July 1954, Nehru had issued a directive that “all our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. The new maps should also be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges, etc”. It is this map that was officially used that formed the basis of dealings with China, eventually leading to the 1962 War’ (Indian Express, June 6, 2020, Line of Actual Control: Where it is located and where India and China differ).

India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000km.

The LAC was discussed during Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where Indian PM P. V. Narasimha Rao and Premier Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquility at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993.

The reference to the LAC was unqualified to make it clear that it was not referring to the LAC of 1959 or 1962 but to the LAC at the time when the agreement was signed.

India’s disdain of the LOC

India’s mindset on the LOC should change. The problem is Nehru never cared a fig for the disputed state’s constituent assembly, Indian parliament or the UN. This truth is interspersed in Avtar Singh Bhasin’s 10-volume documentary study (2012) of India-Pakistan Relations 1947-2007. It contains 3,649 official documents which gave new perspectives to Nehru’s state of mind.

In his 2018 book (published after six years of his earlier work), India, Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2018), Bhasin discusses Nehru’s perfidy on Kashmir.

LoC peace should lead to Kashmir solution

The tentative solutions include (a) status quo (division of Kashmir along the present Line of Control with or without some local adjustments to facilitate the local population, (b) complete or partial independence (creation of independent Muslim-majority tehsils of Rajauri, Poonch and Uri, with Hindu-majority areas merged in India), (c) a plebiscite to be held in five to 10 years after putting Kashmir under UN trusteeship (Trieste-like solution), (d) joint control, (e) an Indus-basin-related solution, (f) an Andorra island (g) Aland island-like solution and (h) permutations and combinations of the aforementioned options.

Another option is for Pakistan and India to grant independence to disputed areas under their control and let Kashmir emerge as a neutral country. An independent Kashmir, as a neutral country, was the favourite choice of Sheikh Abdullah. From the early 1950s “Sheikh Abdullah supported ‘safeguarding of autonomy’ to the fullest possible extent” (Report of the State Autonomy Committee, Jammu, p. 41).

Abdullah irked Nehru so much that he had to put him behind the bars. Bhabani Sen Gupta and Prem Shankar Jha assert that “if New Delhi sincerely wishes to break the deadlock in Kashmir, it has no other alternative except to accept and implement what is being termed as an ‘Autonomy Plus, Independence Minus’ formula, or to grant autonomy to the state to the point where it is indistinguishable from independence”. (Shri Prakash and Ghulam Mohammad Shah (ed.), Towards understanding the Kashmir crisis, p.226).

Sans sincerity and the will to implement, the only Kashmir solution is divine intervention or the unthinkable, nuclear Armageddon.

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