16 June 2013

India: Living with ghosts in the Himalayas

India: Living with ghosts in the Himalayas

Scene from the village of Bemni The spirits of ancestors are believed to possess people during religious ceremonies
In a rural corner of of India, belief in spirits or ghosts is widespread - and modern anxieties may make people more likely to report being possessed.
I am crouching in the doorway of a tiny but crowded shop 9,000ft up in the Indian Himalayas. I am in the village of Bemni with my husband and two children, where I am doing anthropological research on social change.

Out of nowhere, the shopkeeper's dog bounds up and begins barking ferociously at my four-year-old son Finn. It is a huge Tibetan mastiff, whose night-time job is to protect the village goats from leopards. Finn, who is barely taller than the dog, is terrified, and begins to scream.
While I try to console Finn, the shopkeeper disappears inside and returns with a very old woman. She heads straight for Finn, cradling some ash in her hands.
Finn's eyes widen further as she begins to circle the ash over his head.
She chants in a low voice, and blows into his hair. It suddenly dawns on me what she is doing - she thinks he was screaming because he is possessed.
So now she is exorcising the evil spirit from my son's body. Finn is transfixed, and his crying gently subsides.
The Indian Himalayas

Eventually, the shopkeeper looks at me and silently tilts his head - all he needs to say that it is finished, now all is well.
There is a murmur of approval from the assembled crowd and we continue with our day.
Spirit possession is a big issue in Bemni.
There are times when villagers expect to be possessed, at weddings, or specially organised pujas, religious ceremonies.

Lhasa’s Disappearing Heritage


Built in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple is one of Lhasa’s most recognizable and sacred structures. The temple and its surrounding street, Barkhor Street are of historical and symbolic importance to the culture and identity of millions of Tibetan people in the Tibet Autonomous Region and now scattered around the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “historical ensemble of the Potala Palace”.
Yet, the Chinese government has now revealed plans to build a shopping mall on the site, and fears that this may seriously endanger the site are escalating among the Tibetan and international community.

This is not the first time Chinese development policies have caused such concerns and outrage. The ancient city of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region has become unrecognizable with the destruction of many of its historical sites. The government’s narrative then was that most of the city’s structures were faulty and vulnerable to earthquakes. This had some credibility and was especially relevant in the backdrop of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which claimed the lives of around 70,000 people. Yet today more than half of the city’s old town has been destroyed and replaced with high rise apartments and shopping malls.
The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for “culture-sensitive methods of renovation” and condemning Beijing’s past demolition of “historical buildings without considering the loss of priceless historical and cultural heritage” and “without giving priority to their preservation”.

Barkhor and Jokhang’s symbolic importance have made it the site of protests by Tibetans against the policies and actions of the Chinese government. In 2008, unrest in the region led to a crackdown by the authorities that left 12 people dead. According to reports, a self immolation may have taken place in front of the temple. Since 2009, more than 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire protesting Chinese “repression” and calling for the return of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, currently in exile in India to Tibet.

Government for the People in China?

June 14, 2013

By Wenfang Tang, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, and Nicholas F. Martini 

Surveys belie claims that Chinese are becoming fed up with their government.

An apparent contradiction exists at the heart of political commentary on China. On the one hand, some foreign China watchers frequently discuss how ordinary Chinese citizens are growing increasingly dissatisfied with their government and communist party rule. On the other hand, public opinion polls have shown a high level of popular support for the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Indeed, in a major national face-to-face survey we participated in, the results of which we published recently in an article in Political Research Quarterly, we uncovered an extremely high level of public satisfaction with the national government. Based on responses from a national random sample of 3,763 Chinese, we found the average person’s support for the government in Beijing was about 8.0 on a 10-point scale.
This result is consistent with calculations from other recent surveys.  For example, according to the 6th Wave World Values Survey, conducted at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the average level of support among Chinese respondents was 7.5 on a 0-10 scale. This level of support compares favorably with many democratically elected governments across the world.  From these numbers, then, the Chinese government hardly appears on the verge of collapse, as some commentators would have it.  
Instead, our research shows that, with respect to the political psychology of the Chinese people, political trust – a belief in the legitimacy of the government – appears as the dominant reason for their broad support of the political system.

A number of theories have been advanced to explain the Chinese people’s high level of public trust in government.  One often stated argument is that public opinion polls in China are simply not accurate. According to this view, in a repressive society like China, people are too afraid to tell researchers what they really believe, and instead feign support for the government.
But this argument is belied by the lively online political discussion in China, the frequent protests and petitions, and even everyday conversations with ordinary people on the street, all of which make clear that individual citizens are not bashful about expressing their dissatisfaction with the state, even if they may be more cautious about participating in organized political activities.

Transition in Afghanistan: Lessons from the Past

As the United States is preparing its gradual disengagement from its longest foreign armed conflict ever, myriad issues remain unresolved. If not recognized and dealt with prior to the final downsizing of U.S. and other NATO troops in 2014, these could, and most likely will, result in Afghanistan’s returning to a state of civil war or a highly dysfunctional state, deepening political instability in region and potentially beyond.  

Threat Mitigation
The core status of Afghanistan as a political entity to the United States’ national interests after 9/11 has been threat mitigation. Yet this reality is somewhat lost not only in the political parlance and understanding in Washington, but also more importantly in the actions taken inside Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime. These thoughts and actions have inflated the Afghan political players’ sense of their country’s importance, both regionally and internationally, leading to an exaggerated perception of political viability and willingness to take risks.
Had Afghanistan not become the hub for terrorists with international reach in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 and the ensuing civil war, the country would have remained at the same level of importance to the U.S. as Tajikistan—a land-locked, mountainous state with mineral resources which are too costly to extract by anyone except for regional powers such as China, Russia or India. Currently, Afghanistan’s importance to the U.S. has little to do with Afghanistan itself but rather the important political ramifications for U.S. power and prestige.

Mission Creep
The United States and its allies began Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in October 2001 to destroy al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Taliban military installations and to bring the terrorists to justice. By December, the Taliban regime had fallen, and al-Qaeda leadership had scattered, been killed, or fled across the border to Pakistan.

At this time, the mission of OEF crept outside the terrorism mandate for the first but not last time. State-building, democratization and human rights—albeit selectively and haphazardly in all cases—were adopted as the marching orders of the international community in the untested laboratory called Afghanistan. In retrospect, a broader mission beyond the destruction of al-Qaeda was necessary for the international community to cultivate the ground for a viable Afghan state and civil society to germinate. This necessity is stipulated in the preamble to the Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government Institutions (Bonn Agreement) which opens with a determination to “end the tragic conflict in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights in the country.”  However, in reality, the various international actors—states and organizations alike—involved in Afghanistan since 2001 did not connect the need for state reorganization in some aspects and formation in others with their fundamental reason for involvement in that country. In some cases, threat mitigation was altogether forgotten and aspects of state-building became the primary objectives. While in others, fighting terrorism actually undermined efforts such as institutional building. A blending of these actions under a more cohesive strategy would have facilitated the emergence of an Afghanistan on the road to becoming a peaceful member of international community.
Eleven years later, the vision of the Bonn Agreement has only been partially realized. Parts of each of the five sections have been achieved or at least tackled, but none has been completed. As the United States and its allies look towards a new horizon in Afghanistan, the next decade and beyond will be shaped, by design or not, by the intended and unintended programs of state- and nation-building that have crept into the original mission of OEF. Securing U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the region requires both long-term strategic vision with short-term realistic and achievable goals and the ability to understand the more immediate Afghan political landscape and how to influence it in the short-term while a greater degree of coercive power is still available on the ground.

River Wars II

Saturday, June 15, 2013

River Wars II

While I was about two years premature with Part I, it appears that predictions about Ethiopia's hydro-electric developments on the Blue Nile have panned out with increased rhetoric and the potential for war in the region.  Egypt's President has recently stated plainly that he is prepared to defend its water rights, keeping military conflict open as an option.

These threats shouldn't be taken too lightly.  Reduced down-stream water levels would have severe negative impacts on Egypt's electrical and agriculture production.  For years, while Egypt should have been focused inward in developing  infrastructure to assist their people, the previous Mubarak regime - with our help through billions in defense support and a series of Bright Star exercises - instead developed the military force structure and tactics to fight a Desert Storm-like scenario.  Throw in continued dissatisfaction with the Mursi government, ethnic proxy fighting upstream between the Sudans, and some possible religious undertones, and the potential for a wider conflict is readily apparent.  

The Nile River supports the lives
of more than 100 million Africans.
The U.S. has interests in both countries.  Egypt, as the most populous country in North Africa, is geo-strategically important to the U.S. and Europe because it controls the vital Suez chokepoint.  Ethiopia, while land-locked, has proven to be a strong ally in the fight against al Qaeda in East Africa. The Ethiopian National Defense Force currently holds ground in southwest Somalia, preventing al Shabaab from regaining a foothold there until the nascent Somalia National Army can take its place. So while discussion of intervention in Syria, continued threats by al Qaeda in other parts of Africa, and a multitude of other issues currently absorb limited national security band-width, this water conflict should not go ignored by diplomats and military planners.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.


A Tentative Peace in Myanmar’s Kachin Conflict

Asia Briefing N°140 12 Jun 2013


On 30 May 2013, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) signed a tentative peace agreement with the Myanmar government – the last of the eleven major ethnic armed groups to do so since 2011. This represents a major opportunity to secure lasting peace in Kachin State, and in the country as a whole. Yet, there will be significant challenges in doing so. Key issues still need to be discussed and agreed, including the repositioning of troops from both sides to reduce the chance of clashes, a monitoring mechanism, and a meaningful political dialogue. Major steps need to be taken to develop an equitable peace economy, and the exploitation of Kachin’s significant natural resources, if not appropriately regulated, could compound inequalities and trigger renewed conflict. Much remains to be done to avoid a repeat of the failures of the previous ceasefire process.

The Kachin conflict is one of the longest-running ethnic insurgencies in Myanmar and in the world. A rugged and independent hill people, the Kachin had played a key role in the allied victory over Japanese forces in northern Myanmar during the Second World War, and were a central part of the post-independence military. After these troops rebelled, the KIO quickly became among the largest and most formidable of the ethnic armed groups.

In 1994, the KIO reached a ceasefire agreement with the then-military government and participated in the deeply flawed National Convention process that ended with the drafting of the 2008 constitution. The KIO was allowed no substantive input, however, and no real discussion of ethnic grievances was possible. In the lead-up to the 2010 elections, the regime reneged on earlier promises to the KIO, demanding that they transform into border guard units under the partial control of the Myanmar army. When the KIO refused to do so, the ceasefire was declared void, and the electoral commission prevented registration of the main Kachin political parties and independent candidates.

In mid-2011, shortly after power was transferred to the new government, armed conflict in Kachin reignited. Numerous rounds of peace talks failed to achieve a breakthrough, and in late 2012 the conflict escalated once more. The prospects for peace looked grim.

It was a firm intervention from China, worried about border stability and security and its major investment projects in the area that brought the two sides back to the negotiating table in February 2013. After two rounds of talks in China, there was once again deadlock, this time because Beijing objected to the presence of other international observers – the U.S., UK and UN – who had been invited by the KIO. The deadlock lasted more than two months, and a compromise was only reached after increasing resentment in Myanmar over what was perceived to be an unhelpful Chinese position.

America Needs to Move Decisively in Syria

By Anthony Cordesman

The time has come for the United States to take decisive action in Syria. It cannot do so without running all of the risks that have existed since the crisis began. It cannot control all the arms it sends and some may fall into the hands terrorist and extremists. It cannot control the government that emerges if Bashar al-Assad falls. It cannot be sure that an extreme Sunni Islamist regime will not emerge that will be more of a threat to friendly Arab states and Israel than Assad and make the prospect of a war between Sunnis and Shi'ites/Alewites in the Islamic world even worse. The United States cannot count on winning UN support or Russian tolerance or having the same nations and voices that call for U.S. action today not being critics tomorrow.

But, there are times when the risks of inaction outweigh the very real risks of action. For all the talk of sarin and "redlines," the United States has far greater reasons for action than the scattered use of small amounts of chemical weapons that may have killed 140 people. In fact, the "discovery" that Syria used chemical weapons may well be a political ploy. It seems very like that the administration has had virtually all the same evidence for weeks if not months. The real reasons are the broader humanitarian issues involved and far more urgent U.S. strategic interests.

Ironically, on the same day the White House made its announcement that chemical weapons might have killed 140 Syrians, the United Nations announced that the total death toll had risen to at least 92,901 killings, with more than 5,000 killings documented every month since July 2012 and a total of just under 27,000 new killings since December 1, 2012. These totals were only a fraction of the 263,055 killings reported to the United Nations. Moreover, there are virtually no cases where the number of seriously wounded and disabled does not at least match the number of dead, and the ratio is often two or three to one.

These numbers make the limited use of chemical weapons seem like an almost meaningless redline. Moreover, the most serious impact of the Syrian civil war is not its casualties, but the fact that it has disrupted the entire educational, medical, and economic structure of a weak and horribly misgoverned state, created millions of refugees, and steadily polarized the nation along Sunni and Alewite lines while threatening every other minority.

There are no accurate counts, but there are at least 120,000 refugees in one camp in Jordan near the border. There are roughly 500,000 total refugees in Jordan, a country in an economic crisis that already had massive numbers of refugees from Iraq. There are at least 200,000 more registered refugees in Turkey, and the number may well be much higher. Turkish officials report that some 290,000 more may exist outside the refugee camps and that their relief infrastructure can only support around 100,000 refugees, even though Turkey has built 14 tent cities.

If one includes Lebanon and other external refugees, Reuters estimates put the total number of Syrians who are refugees outside their country at around 1.4 million, with 200,000 more unregistered or waiting to register. There are often families, families with no jobs or token jobs, lost homes and businesses, and children with no or minimal education.

It is almost certain that well over a million other refugees or internally displaced persons (IDP) have had to leave their homes, jobs or business, and schools inside Syria, and millions more now live in fear of their Sunni or Alewite neighbors, the Assad regime and militias, and the extremist factions among the rebels. This brings the total to at least 2.4 million out of a population of 22.5 million, and the total whose lives have been shattered may well be over 5 million. The dead are dead, the wounded heal, but the legacy of massive refugees and sectarian division and hatred has effects that go on for decades. And the more the conflict drags out, the more Syria's people become divided and become refugees, and the worse the humanitarian disaster will get.

From a more selfish viewpoint, the Syrian civil war has also escalated in ways that pose a steadily growing strategic threat to the United States and its allies. It has already caused serious instability in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. It has pushed Israel into moving troops and reinforcing its security barriers on the Golan Heights, as well as increasing preparations for a possible war with Hezbollah.
Most significantly, it has strengthened Iran's role in Syria, where Iran has become a critical source of arms and money. A credible Alewite source has reported that Iran now has three training camps for Assad's Alewite militias, evidently run by the Iranian al Quds force with Hezbollah support. If Assad either defeats the rebels or controls most of a divided Syria, he will be far more dependent on Iran than ever before.

Egypt’s Perilous Drift

MARSA ALAM, Egypt — ON Tuesday, I visited a bakery in Cairo’s dirt-poor Imbaba neighborhood, where I watched a scrum of men, women and children jostling to get bread. You have to get there early, because the baker makes only so many subsidized pita loaves; he sells the rest of his government-subsidized flour on the black market to private bakers who charge five times the official price. He has no choice, he says, because his fuel costs are spiking. You can watch the subsidized-flour bags being carried on shoulders out the side door. “This is the hardest job in Egypt,” the bakery owner told me. Everyone is always mad at him, especially those who line up early and still leave with no bread.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman


These are difficult days in Egypt. It is running out of hard currency and can’t buy enough gasoline and diesel for power stations. Long lines are forming at gas stations, worsening Cairo’s titanic traffic jams, and electricity cuts are commonplace. Around the corner from the bakery, on an unpaved street, a small knot of men have two manhole covers lifted, exposing a sickening black sludge that has backed up almost to street level; they’re fishing down the hole for the blockage with a long, thin rod. There is much arguing about how best to solve this problem. In the background, through an open window, you hear children in a Koranic school cheerfully repeating verses for their teacher.

This is Egypt in miniature — so many problems built up over so many years that are all about to spill onto the street. No one can agree on what to do about them — and the only tool they have looks like a 30-foot-long, jury-rigged, straightened coat hanger.

As if things weren’t bad enough, who should show up to add to Egypt’s stresses but Mother Nature herself. Climate, water, food and population pressures are now interweaving with the political and economic ones in ways that would challenge even the best of leaders, and Egypt today has far from the best. In the last month, Cairo has seen temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees above the daily average high.
And the headline news in Cairo last week was Ethiopia’s construction of the biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa, on the Blue Nile. As the reservoir behind the dam is filled up, the water supply to Egypt is likely to be reduced, and since Egypt’s 85 million people get 97 percent of their fresh water from the Nile, this has become a huge issue. Some senior Egyptian officials speak of possible military action to prevent the dam from being completed. President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, on Monday declared publicly of Ethiopia: “We are not calling for war, but we will never permit our water security ... to be threatened.” Egypt, he said, will keep “all options open.” Ethiopia has responded with defiance, with its prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, saying “nothing and no one” would stop construction.

Strategic Choices Exercise Outbrief

May 29, 2013 •
 By Todd HarrisonJim ThomasMark GunzingerAndrew F. KrepinevichEric LindseyEvan B. Montgomery, and Zack Cooper •

As the Pentagon nears completion of its ongoing Strategic Choices and Management Review, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments conducted an external Strategic Choices Exercise with teams of experts from three other prominent think-tanks—CSISAEI and CNAS–to inform public debate.
Each team was asked to develop a defense strategy and rebalance DoD’s portfolio of capabilities in a reduced budget environment.  Using CSBA’s rebalancing tool and methodology, the teams chose from several hundred pre-costed options to add or cut from the projected defense program over the next ten years, including major units of force structure, end strength, bases, readiness, civilian personnel, weapon systems, and modernization programs.  Each team had to weigh its decisions within the context of both Budget Control Act (BCA)-level cuts in defense spending and a lower reduction of half the BCA cut. Each team’s cuts and adds had to be consistent with the budget-level options considered by the Strategic Choices and Management Review that the Pentagon is wrapping up this week. The exercise was timed to inform the thinking on the way defense resources are allocated in light of declining budgets.
On May 29, 2013, CSBA hosted an outbrief, where all four teams presented their strategies, outlined how they approached their strategic choices, and where they chose to take risk.  Following the team presentations, Todd Harrison presented his comparison of choices across all teams.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: AEI’s Thomas Donnelly

16 Cases of Mission Command

16 Cases of Mission Command

Click here to view the publication

As the Army moves forward with Mission Command as its command philosophy, Combat Studies Institute offers a new work titled “16 Cases of Mission Command.” This collection of historical cases seeks to sharpen Soldiers' understanding of the command doctrine by providing examples from the past in which MisSixteen Cases of Mission Command
Sixteen Cases of Mission Command
Donald P. Wright, Ph. D.
Cases of Mission Command
Donald P. Wright, Ph. D.
sion Command principles played a decisive role. Some cases show junior officers following their commander’s intent and exercising disciplined initiative in very chaotic combat operations. Others recount how field grade officers built cohesive teams that relied on mutual trust to achieve key operational objectives. Each case includes a brief account of a military action followed by an explanatory section that demonstrates how the case illustrates Mission Command principles. This structure makes the collection optimal for use in Army schools, unit professional development training, and self-study

Understanding the Arms "Race" in South Asia

Understanding the Arms "Race" in South Asia

Toby DaltonJaclyn TandlerPAPER SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
The apparently rapid pace of nuclear developments in India and Pakistan has led many analysts to warn of an impending arms race between the two countries. India and Pakistan are indeed entangled in a long-standing security competition. However, they are not two closely matched opponents engaged in a competitive tit-for-tat cycle of nuclear weapons development in which one state makes advancements to its nuclear capability and the other reacts in kind.
An analysis of aggregated missile test data since 1998 reveals that the armament dynamic is far more complex. The Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs are largely decoupled. The data show little correlation between the adversaries’ testing behavior contrary to what would be expected in a classic arms race. In fact, the types and ranges of missiles under development provide concrete evidence of the divergence in their nuclear objectives and security strategies.
India and Pakistan are racing toward their respective national security objectives, but they are running on different tracks and chasing vastly different goals.
India and Pakistan are indeed racing toward their respective national security objectives, but they are running on different tracks and chasing vastly different goals. Pakistan is building weapons systems to deter India from conventional military operations below the nuclear threshold. India is developing systems primarily to strengthen its strategic deterrent against China, meaning this dynamic is not confined to the subcontinent. Government policies that aim to change the trajectory of the South Asian security competition need to take these complexities into account.


In its third missile test of the year, India conducted the first test launch of its new Agni V ballistic missile on April 19. Six days later, Pakistan tested the Shaheen IA, also a ballistic missile, one of six missile tests undertaken by Islamabad in 2012. This recent spate of nuclear-capable missile tests in South Asia has revived long-standing concerns that India and Pakistan are entangled in a nuclear arms race.
These concerns might be passed off as Western media hype, if not for the serious scholars and practitioners voicing them. Recently, for instance, retired Indian Navy Admiral Arun Prakash argued that “India and Pakistan are edging dangerously close to a spiral in the growth of their nuclear weapons arsenals. This could become a mindless race, driven by mutual suspicion, rather than the actual needs of deterrence and stability.”1  Similarly, Hudson Institute defense analyst Richard Weitz argued that the most dangerous aspect of security in South Asia “is almost certainly the nuclear arms racing between [India and Pakistan].”
In recent years, both states have indeed tested a broad spectrum of ballistic and cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, including short-range, tactical systems. But is this frequent testing and development of similar types and ranges of missiles really indicative of an arms race or is there another dynamic at play?
The variable most frequently used by academics and strategists to answer that question is military expenditure because it is reasonably easy to track and measure in consistent terms over time. But the strategic context in South Asia has changed since 1998, the year both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests and announced possession of nuclear weapons. The recent missile testing, for instance, takes place against the backdrop of significant economic growth and an associated quadrupling of military spending in India, but serious economic troubles and comparatively slow growth in military spending in Pakistan. Expenditures alone therefore cannot describe a potential arms race.
The Indo-Pakistani relationship is explained less by classic conventional or nuclear arms race models than by the asymmetries in their security strategies as reflected in the types of nuclear delivery capabilities they are developing.
Missile testing provides an interesting alternative window into the current security dynamic between India and Pakistan. Through analyzing aggregated missile test data since 1998, it becomes apparent that the Indo-Pakistani relationship is explained less by classic conventional or nuclear arms race models than by the asymmetries in their security strategies as reflected in the types of nuclear delivery capabilities they are developing. These asymmetries are widely recognized, but the missile data add concrete evidence of the extent to which Indian and Pakistani nuclear capabilities are disjunctive. Pakistan is building systems to deter India from conventional military operations below the nuclear threshold, while India is developing systems primarily to strengthen its strategic deterrent against China. Both states may be racing, but they are running on different tracks and chasing vastly different goals.


Since before World War II, scholars have sought to define, model, and hypothesize the causes and effects of arms races, from the famed Dreadnought race between Great Britain and Germany in the early twentieth century, to the Cold War nuclear contest between the United States and Soviet Union. In the academic literature, an “arms race” is defined as a competitive, reciprocal, peacetime increase or improvement in armaments by two states perceiving themselves to be in an adversarial relationship. Early scholars of arms race theory hypothesized that an arms race is animated by a security dilemma in which a state’s pursuit of security decreases the real or perceived security of its adversary, producing an “action-reaction cycle” in which one state reacts to the other’s current or anticipated military and political behavior, and vice versa.
The interactive competition may result in a rivalry that can be quite destabilizing and dangerous, not to mention expensive. U.S. and Soviet deployments of thousands of nuclear warheads during the Cold War—in total, sufficient to obliterate life on earth several times over—demonstrated the absurd heights to which adversaries might carry an arms race.
Academics and strategists have modeled arms races extensively, relying for the most part on statistical analysis of rates of military expenditures or, less frequently, stockpiling of particular categories of armaments. In particular, scholars look for the existence of a linear relationship between the change in military stocks or expenditure of one country and that of its rival’s rate of change in the same areas. Looking at relationship-based rates of change seems to provide the best evidence of the action-reaction dynamic at the heart of the arms race. Several scholars have applied this model to South Asia directly to test for empirical evidence of an arms race. However, studies on military expenditures by India and Pakistan have produced no unanimity of view on whether an arms race existed historically, let alone today.5
Military expenditure data may be relatively easy to collect and track, but it comes with a high degree of uncertainty. Publicly available budget data presumably omit secret programs, including some nuclear and missile development efforts. The data also tend to capture just one aspect of a security dynamic and are relatively insensitive to other trends or external factors, as well as to the military capabilities still under development.
For instance, during several periods of its history, including in the last decade, the United States provided sizable assistance to Pakistan’s military, which inflated military spending. During the same period, India began to increase its own military spending in gross terms consistent with its economic growth, but its expenditure did not increase as a percentage of GDP. Figure 1 demonstrates this real and concurrent growth in the military expenditures of both countries. On aggregate, then, change in military expenditures in the last decade might suggest a linear relationship characteristic of an arms race, but the reality is much more complex. Focusing just on expenditure misses the defining feature of the evolving security paradigm in South Asia—the introduction of nuclear weapons in 1998.
India and Pakistan are entangled in a long-standing security competition, but they are chasing vastly different goals—and certainly aren't locked in an arms race.


Drowning Stability: The Perils of Naval Nuclearization and Brinkmanship in the Indian Ocean

Drowning Stability: The Perils of Naval Nuclearization and Brinkmanship in the Indian Ocean

In May 1998, the sun-scorched deserts of the Indian state of Rajasthan shook with a succession of nuclear explosions. Barely two weeks later, in a seemingly tit-for-tat response, Pakistan conducted its own series of detonations, in the remote western hills of Baluchistan. Both nations’ previously concealed nuclear capabilities had suddenly burst out into the open, giving a new and terrifying form to the enduring rivalry that had convulsed the subcontinent for decades. Caught off guard, the international community reacted with indignation and dismay. Concerns over nuclear escalation in the event of another Indo-Pakistani conflict refocused Washington’s attention on South Asia and triggered the longest sustained level of bilateral Indo-American engagement in history. This had the unexpected benefit of enabling both democracies finally to find common ground, after many years of acrimony, chronic mistrust, and squandered opportunities. Fears of mass terrorism in the wake of 9/11 and subsequent revelations of extensive proliferation emanating from Pakistan added urgency to Western desires to preserve a modicum of crisis stability in South Asia, as well as to prevent any form of escalatory behavior that could spiral into nuclear conflict or further the spread of radioactive material.
More than ten years later, however, the international community’s sense of urgency seems to have waned, and the evolution of the nuclear postures and arsenals of both New Delhi and Islamabad no longer appear to evoke the same degree of concern, or even interest.
Symptomatic of this ebbing attention is the detached, disinvested manner in which much of the world has witnessed the ongoing shift of South Asian nuclear capabilities from land to sea.
When in July 2009 India launched its first nuclear submarine, S-2 (also known as the Advanced Technology Vessel, or ATV, and ultimately named Arihant), in a dry dock in the eastern port of Visakhapatnam, the reaction of much of the world to the event was remarkably subdued. The event was perfunctorily acknowledged abroad, and in India as well, as a technological and symbolic milestone in the nation’s rise to great-power status. Barring Pakistan, which reacted immediately and sharply to the news, scant commentary—scholarly or journalistic—was made about the impact that the introduction of sea-based delivery systems would have on the South Asian nuclear equation.
This article seeks to address this issue directly, asserting that it is only a matter of time before Pakistan formally brings nuclear weapons into its own fleet. The study first examines the key causes and motivations behind both nations’ lurches toward naval nuclearization. For both nations, a variety of factors explain the pursuit of sea-based deterrence. In particular, China’s nuclear role in the Indian Ocean is examined, both as a key enabler of Pakistani naval nuclearization and as a potential future military actor in the Arabian Sea. The second section charts the dangerous path that Indian and Pakistani navies appear to be taking, a path that combines dual-use systems (most notably nuclear-tipped cruise missiles), cultivated doctrinal ambiguity, and brinkmanship to render the future of nuclear stability in South Asia exceptionally bleak. It is argued that if this haphazard naval nuclearization remains unchecked, its destabilizing effect will spill over into the Persian Gulf and beyond. Without a concerted effort to integrate sea-based nuclear assets more effectively into both nations’ strategic thinking and into a bilateral dialogue, New Delhi and Islamabad may be unable to avoid escalation in a crisis and, ultimately, skirt nuclear disaster.

Arc of Crisis 2.0?

Arc of Crisis 2.0?

The infuriating charm of history, the writer Aldous Huxley once quipped, is that nothing ever changes—and yet somehow everything is completely different. One of the defining geopolitical narratives of this past half-decade has been the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as the maritime epicenter of global activity. Influential thinkers such as Robert D. Kaplan have drawn attention to the growing importance of the Indian Ocean, both as a hub of world trade and as a potential breeding pool for great-power rivalry. In reality, however, the sudden recognition of the Indian Ocean’s centrality is anything but a new phenomenon.


During the second half of the Cold War, a series of crises and tectonic shocks—the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan—sent out ripples of unease across the entire Indian Ocean basin. These shocks led to a deluge of articles in various academic and policy journals that invariably called for an end to the U.S. tradition of benign neglect of the region. In 1978, Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke in vivid and foreboding terms of an “arc of crisis,” which stretched “along the shores of the Indian Ocean, with fragile and social and political structures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to our adversaries.”
Rehman is an associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment and a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow. His research focuses on security and crisis stability in Asia, specifically the geopolitical ramifications of naval nuclearization in the Indian Ocean.
Iskander Rehman
The adversaries to which Brzezinski referred, of course, were the Soviets, who were then in the process of expanding their navy’s reach into the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean. Fearful that U.S. submarines could lash out at the Soviet Union’s southern continental landmass through its soft maritime underbelly, Moscow’s naval planners also fretted that NATO forces could interdict Soviet energy shipments meandering their way through the congested channels of the Persian Gulf. The United States no longer faces such a formidable peer competitor in the region. Nevertheless, close to three decades later, many other aspects of Brzezinski’s speech appear astonishingly enduring.
The Indian Ocean remains a tumultuous zone, where a lack of governance along its shores has spawned a series of security chasms offshore. This spillover effect has been most apparent off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, where rampant piracy has prompted a continuous rotation of multinational naval taskforces. Meanwhile, an upsurge in Islamic extremism in countries such as Pakistan and Somalia has heightened regional anxiety over maritime terrorism and seaborne infiltration. These concerns have been exacerbated by the chronic deficiencies of many of the smaller, more impoverished nations in areas such as maritime-domain awareness and coastal surveillance. In 2008, a French Ministry of Defense white paper spoke in language strongly reminiscent of the Carter era: an “arc of instability” stretches from “Dakar (in Senegal) all the way to Peshawar (in Pakistan).”
Other changes are transforming the wider maritime environment. The first, more insidious in nature, is the rapid diffusion of what military analysts refer to as “anti-access and area denial” (A2/AD) technologies. The second, more sudden and dramatic, is the gradual displacement of nuclear interactions from land to sea.


The Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review describes A2/AD as seeking “to deny outside countries the ability to project power into a region, thereby allowing aggression or other destabilizing actions to be conducted by the anti-access power.”In reality, A2/AD is little more than a savvy repackaging of a time-old feature of naval warfare: the struggle between offense and defense, or between gunboats and coastal defenses.
At the same time, technological advances in the field of precision-guided weaponry have made the pursuit of naval strategies focused on denial increasingly attractive to states with a limited capacity or appetite for power projection. China, which has invested heavily in a broad array of anti-access systems, is a prime example. Iran and Pakistan, poised on either side of the world’s main trade jugular, the Strait of Hormuz, provide two additional case studies, both of which have yet to receive as much scrutiny.
An exception can be found in a particularly insightful 2011 report published by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The study notes that while A2/AD may come to form the universal strategy of the weak, the application of such an approach to naval warfare will vary based on each state’s geographical location, strategic tradition and resources. The authors conclude that, in the case of Iran, this has led to what can best be described as a “hybrid” A2/AD strategy, one that fuses the use of advanced weaponry such as submarines, mines and shore-based missiles with less conventional methods: maritime guerrilla tactics (through the use of swarms of fast-attack craft) and the activation of proxy terrorist networks overseas.
The similarities from one side of the Persian Gulf to another—between Iran’s strategy vis-à-vis the United States and Pakistan’s naval posture towards India—are striking. Indeed, Pakistan’s chronically underfunded navy has also been laboring to offset India’s increasingly overbearing naval advantage by investing in a wide gamut of A2/AD systems: these range from shore-based cruise missiles and small Chinese-made fast-attack craft, to a large number of additional submarines, which have long constituted the backbone of the Pakistani fleet. Pakistan, like its Iranian neighbor, remains stubbornly wedded to the use of unsavory proxies, through which it continues to wage its “wars of a thousand cuts” in places such as Kashmir and Afghanistan.
Both Iran and Pakistan have opted for an asymmetric strategy: they have heavily invested in missile and subsurface warfare, while continuing to surreptitiously support malignant non-state actors. Both states have also threatened to disrupt the seaborne energy supplies of their stronger antagonists in the event of a confrontation, and are, strand by strand, casting a thick A2/AD web over the world’s most congested shipping lanes. The destabilizing effects of such an evolution are compounded by the injection of naval nuclear weapons.


In May of last year, the Pakistani military issued a press release announcing the establishment of a Naval Strategic Forces Command. Pakistani naval planners have been arguing for years for a nuclear triad, partly in response to India’s imminent induction of its first indigenous nuclear submarine, but also as a means of dispersing Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal and diluting India’s conventional naval superiority. When queried, Pakistani commanders mention the precedent set by Israel’s alleged decision to place nuclear-tipped cruise missiles aboard conventional submarines and suggest, somewhat provocatively, that Pakistan should follow suit. Another option, some have argued, would be stationing nuclear weaponry aboard surface ships and maritime-patrol aircraft.
Needless to say, these proposed moves would be highly destabilizing. In the event of an Indo-Pakistani conflict at sea, the Indian Navy would have no way of determining whether an enemy vessel or aircraft is carrying nuclear weapons or not. Meanwhile, Iran has articulated similar ambitions to eventually add a nuclear dimension to its fleet. While some of Tehran’s statements appear characteristically outlandish, it is not impossible that in the next decade or so Iran might decide to place sensitive nuclear material or weaponry aboard conventional ships or submarines. A nuclear-armed Iran could also feel emboldened to engage in proxy warfare or support acts of maritime terrorism.


In the Indian Ocean, the United States and India face a remarkably similar array of challenges. Both need creative ways to effectively neutralize the strategies of prospective antagonists. A2/AD needs to be placed at the very top of the agenda for Indo-U.S. naval cooperation. Not only do both partners face similar threats; they can also provide each other with crucial operational experience. For instance, institutionalized joint Navy and Air Force exercises in-between both countries could assist India in the development of its maritime strike capabilities. The Indian Navy has frequently had to confront challenging operational environments with limited means, and as a result has become adept at rapidly concocting creative solutions to seemingly intractable predicaments. At a time when the projected fleet size for the U.S. Navy has reached a low ebb, India’s experience in juggling limited resources and capabilities could prove instructive. Indian naval officers also have extensive experience in dealing with “swarm attacks” and irregular littoral warfare, most notably during India’s ill-fated intervention in Sri Lanka in the 1980s.
This level of operational experience in the region could be of value to American naval commanders, especially if Tehran opts to employ similar tactics in the claustrophobic confines of the Persian Gulf. Finally, both India and the United States need to conduct antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations in littoral waters with challenging conditions. This is a field where the U.S. Navy is without peer and could assist its Indian counterpart.
This may not be the first time that the United States has found itself compelled to swivel its attention towards a previously neglected theater of operations. The sheer complexity of the challenges that the U.S. Navy faces within this oceanic crescent, however, is unprecedented. While it is unfortunate that these transformations are occurring at a time of American naval stagnation, India’s rise provides both democracies with a crucial window of opportunity to shape one of the world’s most dynamic maritime arenas. In this field, as in so many others, the perils of inertia far outweigh the potential political discomfitures that come with closer cooperation.

India's Aspirational Naval Doctrine

India's Aspirational Naval Doctrine

A ‘springboard’,1 ‘a central triangle’,2 ‘a never-sinking aircraft carrier’3 – or, for the more dramatic, a ‘dagger’4 plunged deep into the surrounding waters – there has been no dearth of vivid metaphors describing India’s enviable position at the heart of the Indian Ocean. A simple glance at a map should provide ample evidence of India’s maritime destiny.
An array of land-driven concerns has, however, since Independence, had a way of dragging India back to shore, thwarting its sporadic thalassocratic ambitions. Blessed by its geography, India is cursed by its neighbourhood. The pan-oceanic vision nurtured under the Raj and shared by great post-Independence figures such as Nehru and K.M. Pannikar5 has been buried under the ‘sacred soil’ of the numerous territorial disputes and festering insurgencies that have convulsed the subcontinent and consumed much of its leadership’s strategic attention for the past six decades. The Indian Navy, arguably the most strategic-minded of the three services, has had to grapple for years with its ‘Cinderella service’6 status, which has left it with but a meagre portion of the defence budget. Having played a mostly peripheral part in most of India’s past conflicts7 the Navy has also been hard pressed to define and justify its role. In such a context, the latest edition of theIndian Maritime Doctrine8 issued by the Naval Headquarters, which builds upon both an earlier version released in 2004 and India’s Maritime Strategy (2007)9provides a vital insight into how the Navy draws its inspiration and conceives of its present and future mandate in a strategically dynamic era.
This chapter aims to provide a better understanding not only of the Indian Maritime Doctrine but also of the larger context surrounding it. Doctrinal developments do not emerge from a vacuum, and are best understood from both a cultural and organizational perspective. It will be argued that in the Indian context, the nation’s complex civil-military and inter-service relations are key to better gauging some of the motivations underlying the Maritime Doctrine.
The study proceeds in three parts. Section one focuses on the essence of the maritime doctrine itself, as well as on the complex institutional setting which provides its backdrop. The document’s lofty ambitions, when juxtaposed with the study of current realities, suggest that it may be more advocatory and aspirational than genuinely reflective of reality. The second section ventures that India’s naval thought can best be understood as syncretic, with a variety of traditions shaping the service’s vision and evolution.
Four different traditions or schools of thought are identified:
  • The Indian Continentalist School, more inward than outward-looking, and which has seldom let maritime issues seep through the mental barrier of the Himalayas.
  • The Raj Pan-Oceanic School, developed at the height of the British Empire when the Indian Ocean was unified for the first time as a common strategic space.
  • The Soviet school, which is more defensive in orientation, and which focuses largely on the control of chokepoints and area defence.
  • The Monrovian School, through which India, in the tradition of most regional powers with enviable maritime positions, seeks to extend sea control over what it perceives to be its maritime backyard.                          
The third and final section draws on these four models in order to chart out different potential trajectories for the Indian Navy in terms of its organization. Depending on changing geopolitical circumstances and shifts in the institutional makeup of India’s Armed Forces, one, or several of these schools will take pride of place. This will have a sizeable impact on the Indian Navy’s deployment patterns, force structure, and planned future acquisitions.10

1. Ashley Tellis, ‘Securing the Barrack: The Logic, Structure and Objectives of India’s Naval Expansion’, Naval War College Review (Summer 1990): 80.
2. K.M. Panikkar, ‘The Defence of India and Indo-British Obligations’, International Affairs, 22(1) (January1946): 85–90.
3. Zhang Ming, ‘The Malacca Dilemma and the Chinese Navy’s Strategic Choices’, Modern Ships, 274, (October 2006):  p. 23.
4. Cheng Ruisheng, ‘Interview: Reflections from China’, Journal of International Affairs, 64(2) (Spring/Summer 2011): 213.
5. Kavalam Madhava Pannikar was an influential Indian diplomat and historian who wrote Mahanesque texts on the role of sea power in Indian history and the need for the country to look seaward. Although he was prolific, his most famous and oft cited work remains India and the Indian Ocean: An Essay on the Influence of Sea Power on Indian History (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1945), p. 9.
6. Admiral Arun Prakash, ‘Is the Future Beneath the Waves?’, Livefist Blog Post, Sunday 21 December 2008, retrievable at:http://livefist.blogspot.com/2008/12/admiral-arun-prakash-is-future-beneath.html.
7. The 1971 conflict, during which the Indian Navy’s Osa class missile boats launched a daring attack on the Karachi harbour constitutes a notable exception.
8. Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy), INBR-8, Indian Maritime Doctrine, 2009.
9. Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy), Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy, 2007.
10. The author would like to thank Professor Sumit Ganguly, Walter C. Ladwig, and an anonymous referee for their helpful comments on an earlier draft, as well as Professor Daniel Deudney for his invaluable assistance in helping him achieve a more profound understanding of military doctrine.
Reprinted by permission of the Publishers from India's Aspirational Naval Doctrine in The Rise of the Indian Navy ed. Ashgate 2012, pp. 55-79 Copyright © 2012.