Home Contact Us  
   

Peace Audit and Ceasefire Monitor - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4962, 18 January 2016
 

Strategic Space

Forecast 2016: Nuclear Issues That Will Dominate the Year
Manpreet Sethi
ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)
 

Ever since the power and potential of nuclear energy first entered human consciousness and inter-state relations, nuclear issues have always remained at the centre stage. Expansion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and risks of nuclear weapons and their proliferation are twin dimensions that engage national and international strategists year after year. None of this is likely to change in 2016. In fact, one can safely predict some of the issues that will certainly hit headlines in the coming  12 months.

North Korea and its periodic demonstration of nuclear machismo was the first to grab eyeballs in 2016 when Pyongyang rather cockily claimed the detonation of a ‘miniaturised hydrogen bomb’ on 06 January, 2016. Conducting its fourth nuclear test over the last decade, the DPRK has been steadily ‘improving’ its nuclear deterrent capability, including via regular testing of its delivery systems.

Every nuclear act of North Korea brings immediate attention to China, its protector. Many strategic analysts have urged Beijing to rein in its 'dear friend', and despite all Chinese voices of condemnation and exasperation, the reality is that North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship serves to keep China's rivals such as Japan, South Korea and the US unnerved even as its own stature as an important, influential international actor rises. The danger, however, is that a proxy that it has long built and sustained might already be beyond its control, much like what has happened in Pakistan and its relationship with terrorist organisations.  Sale of nuclear technology, material or even a ready made weapon to terrorist organisations by a cash-strapped DPRK is not unthinkable , and is indeed a matter of international concern.

The most recent North Korean action sought to draw attention to itself, perhaps in the hope that if 2015 was the year of the nuclear deal with Iran, 2016 will bring some bargaining benefits for Pyongyang. Washington will be working overtime to crack this issue. But the US election process will not allow any serious action on the matter. Kim Jong-un may have to continue to make nuclear noises this year for it to be heard by the new US president soon after he/she takes office.

While lack of transparency hampers a clear assessment of North Korea's exact nuclear weapons capability, the fact that South Korea and Japan, and the US by extension, are concerned is evident. Their focus immediately shifts to protecting themselves through deployment of ballistic missile defences. Tokyo has also debated a reconsideration of its ‘no nuclear’ policy even as Seoul has hinted that the US should bring back tactical nuclear weapons to buttress deterrence. Whether or not such measures enhance national defence, they do add new value to nuclear weapons and take away from the possibility of their elimination. In fact, if anything, the current trends in all nuclear armed states indicate an increase in reliance on these weapons in their security strategies.

The latest development in this context is the news that the US has tested small, smart nuclear weapons to address a new class of threats. Previously, micro-nukes were considered during former US President George Bush's tenure, but the idea was abandoned for the adverse impact it could have on international security. Indeed, no nuclear weapon, however micro in yield, could avert a disaster with huge repercussions in space and time.

However, on 11 January 2016, the New York Times reported the test of the "nation's first precision guided atom bomb" by the US Energy Department and Pentagon. Russia and China are bound to move in the same direction. 2016 may then well prove to be the year to herald a cascade towards the so called low yield nuclear weapons with 'low' collateral damage. But this could also increase temptation for their use, thereby blurring the lines between conventional and nuclear, and adversely impacting the taboo against nuclear use.

The implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran will be another issue that will dominate 2016. The conclusion of the agreement has initiated a long journey that will be closely monitored in many capitals. Iran-Saudi tensions that broke out early in the year will pose a challenge to the smooth implementation process, since there will be a tendency to politicise everything in Tehran and in Washington. As it is, critics of the agreement abound, and it will be a struggle to stay the course. Nuclear concerns around Iran, and by extension, around the West Asian region, are unlikely to fade in 2016 despite a ground breaking deal in 2015.

Nuclear security will be the flavor of the Spring season this year given the scheduled Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. Over the last six years, these meetings of over 50 heads of governments and over 100 organisations have travelled across two nations before returning to the US capital for the last of such Summits. The initiative was kick-started by incumbent US President Barack Obama, whose 2010 Nuclear Posture Review had identified nuclear terrorism as the most potent threat to the US. He also realised that this was not a problem that he could tackle just by securing national borders. Weak links had to be removed worldwide, by getting every nation possessing nuclear and radiological material to do the needful on its own territory.

Since the first Summit, there has been a tremendous increase in the awareness of nuclear security concerns. Enactment of national legislations that criminalise unauthorised possession of such materials and memberships of international conventions that provide best practices on nuclear security has evidently grown. At every Summit, country heads have presented national or regional gift baskets comprising actions taken to secure nuclear materials. The April 2016 Summit, one hopes, will not mark the end of focus and attention to a matter that must remain a topmost national and international priority in order to minimise chances of nuclear terrorism.

It is likely that participants will put their weight behind the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry this process forward. However it remains to be seen as to how much human and material resources will be additionally proffered to the IAEA to be able to fulfill a new task.

Nuclear energy programmes that had suffered from a public perception issue in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima in 2011 are likely to gain lost ground in 2016.

Over the past five years, nuclear establishments across the globe have proactively engaged with the public to address concerns, reinforce safety and security at nuclear reactors, and invest in research and development to devise new designs and technologies to make risk free nuclear energy a viable option. Meanwhile, growing concerns about the adverse environmental impact of fossil fuels on climate change has also drawn attention to nuclear energy as a sustainable source of base-load electricity. While huge energy deficient countries such as India and China never gave up the nuclear option despite Fukushima, and are today witnessing the largest amount of nuclear construction, others that had suspended their programmes for a while seem to be returning to the option. Vietnam, the UAE, and Bangladesh are likely to be some of the new nuclear kids on the block whose programmes will see greater activity in this year.

From the Indian perspective,  2016 will be an important year for at least two reasons – the first relates to the implementation of the many peaceful nuclear energy agreements that the country has signed with a number of countries after its exceptionalisation in 2008. Australia, Japan and Canada are three of the newer nations that have agreed to support India’s nuclear energy ambitions and some of the pending wrinkles might get sorted out during this year. On the indigenous front, it is expected that the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor would go critical later this year. Long delayed, the operationalisation of this reactor at Kalpakkam will mark a step into the second phase of India’s three stage nuclear programme.

Secondly, India’s full accommodation into the nuclear non-proliferation regime with its membership into the four export control groups is also likely to dominate the work and discourse of Indian nuclear diplomacy. High level inter-state politics prevented the Missile Technology Control Regime from granting India membership to the body that controls transfer of missiles and related technologies in 2015.

Since all the groupings work on the principle of consensus, the process will not be easy. And despite India fulfilling basic criteria for membership of the groups, it will be the political lay of the land that will determine whether the task is completed this year. However, India will have to maintain a high octane nuclear diplomacy to continue to make its case and undercut any attempts to hyphenate it with a similar deal for Pakistan.

Alongside its efforts towards building a credible nuclear deterrent, while regular testing of missiles shall continue to achieve operational readiness for Agni V and the conduct of user trials for other missiles, the major development that can be expected in 2016 is the formal induction of INS Arihant into the Indian Navy after a series of successful sea trials through 2015. Though this first nuclear submarine does not provide an operational sea-based deterrent for India yet, it nevertheless marks a huge step in technology demonstration that the country should well be proud of.

In a nutshell, 2016 promises to be another busy year for nuclear watchers. Happy new year!!

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Indian Nuclear Policy and Diplomacy

New NPR: Can It Break New Ground?

US-North Korea Military Swashbuckling and China's Role

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Forecast 2017: Unclear Nuclear Pathways

Limits of Practising Nuclear Brinksmanship

Presidential Elections and US Nuclear Policy: Clinton Vs Trump

Preparing for Radiological Emergencies and Terrorism

Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross–Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends

JCPOA’s First Anniversary: Significance and Future Challenges

Entry into the NSG: Getting Past the Doorman

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan

Nuclear Security Summit Process: Progress and Prognosis

Pak's Nuclear 'Normality' through External Deals: Chasing a Chimera

India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers

Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route

Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

A Strategic Review for India

Indian Ratification of the Additional Protocol: Mischievous Reports Miss its Significance

Time for India-China Nuclear-speak

India and No First Use: Preventing Deterrence Breakdown

Nuclear Security Summit 2014: Shared Risk, Shared Responsibility

US, China and the South Asian Nuclear Construct

Responding to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Strategy for India

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.