January 26, 2009

Is India ready for Sino-Pak threat?

DECCAN CHRONICLE, Hyderabad , India
January 26th, 2009

By Arun Kumar Singh On the eve of India’s 59th Republic Day, while reports of terror threats come in, few have read the Chinese media articles of “teaching India a lesson” on Arunachal Pradesh. In India doubts remain about control of India’s “nuclear button,” while the PM recuperates post-surgery at a time when the future of Pakistan and the safety of its nuclear weapons is under global debate. Terrorism, “nukes” and the Chinese threat make a deadly cocktail.
The Western world has kept a close watch on events in South Asia after 26/11. A fortnight ago I was on a television panel discussing the latest Rand Corporation Report on the theoretical “one bomb each” nuclear exchange scenario between India and Pakistan. In this six-stage scenario, India finally reacts militarily to Pakistani terror strikes. And in the final stage, responding to an advancing Indian conventional military thrust, Pakistan uses one of its 20-kiloton uranium bombs on Jodhpur, and India retaliates with a single 200-kiloton thermonuclear plutonium device on Pakistan’s Hyderabad before a ceasefire comes into force.
If the Rand Corporation Report is correct then India does possess the “optimum bomb,” albeit untested.
It is my opinion that, in an unlikely doomsday scenario, a dozen such 200-kiloton devices would suffice to knock Pakistan back to the pre-stone age era.
Pakistan, which has been doing daily diplomatic flip-flops since 26/11, sees the change in guard at Washington as a golden opportunity to use brinkmanship to get another $15 billion worth of gifted arms and a $60 billion grant from the new Obama administration.
On January 10, 2009, India TV telecast a brief interview of former ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul (Retd), where he said (in Urdu), “Look what 10 boys did in Mumbai. If 10,000 to 12,000 are sent, then Bharat ko naani yaad aayegi (India will remember its granny)”. Such statements indicate that Pakistan’s Army has not given up its goal of dismembering India.
In India much needs to be done urgently. My comments and questions — which should be addressed as soon as possible, ideally before the nation swings into election mode — are:
l What are the preventive measures — organisational, accountability, manpower, hardware — that have been approved and budgeted for time-bound implementation?
l When will the government undo the demoralising impact the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission have had on the military?
l Are we prepared for a simultaneous, conventional China-Pak threat?
l Is there a need to review India’s nuclear “no first strike” policy? Does it cater to a simultaneous China-Pak threat?
l How will we respond if terrorists use WMDs?
l Given its failure during the Bihar and Assam floods of 2008, is the newly set up disaster management authority ready and equipped to deal with the effects of WMDs? (In Hiroshima, 90 per cent of the doctors and medical staff were killed in the first few seconds of the blast.)
l An audit of our port security needs to be done, specially for “actual” ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) code compliance. Some coastal states do not even have a state maritime board.
l The IEA (International Energy Agency) stipulates that nations should keep 90 days’ “strategic oil reserves”. India’s strategic oil reserves, being increased from 15 to 45 days, should finally reach 90 days. Pakistan has oil reserves of 21 days, China 30 days (increasing to 90 days) and the US 180 days.
The 7,000-strong Indian Coast Guard (ICG) would be marking its 31st Raising Day on February 1. Presently, this professional but tiny and ill-equipped force cannot meet the ground reality of “no war-no peace”. The long-ignored ICG needs to double its strength by 2015, and again by 2020. In the interim, most of its coastal security tasks would need to be augmented by the Navy.
Legally, the peacetime role of the Navy does not cover maritime terror or coastal and port security. However, common sense dictates that the Navy play a major interim role in combating coastal and blue water terror from the sea, while simultaneously combating piracy in the distant Gulf of Aden. Hence, in addition to doubling the size of the Navy by 2020, new legislation needs to be urgently put in place to enable the following:
l The government needs to emulate the American system which permits any US Navy ship to carry out US Coast Guard (USCG) tasks, simply by having one USCG officer on board and hoisting the USCG flag (in addition to the Navy Ensign) at the time of action.
l Permit Indian naval ships to stop and search any suspected ship in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ, i.e. 200nm from the coast), well before it enters Indian port.
India could also emulate the website of the US homeland security department which, in addition to “do’s & don’ts,” gives citizens an updated terrorist attack threat warning, separately on the nation and domestic and international flights in the following simple five-colour code: Red (severe threat of terrorist attacks); Orange (high threat); Yellow (elevated threat); Blue (guarded threat); Green (low threat).
The Indian leadership needs to focus on combating asymmetric terror strikes by all available means. Remember this quote from Leon Trotsky:“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you”. War is indeed terrible, but defeat is worse. India desperately needs leaders of the calibre of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Indira Gandhi if it wants to win its war on terror.

n Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

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