Release of IPCS Task Force Reports
India's Nuclear Doctrine: An Alternative Blueprint
Amb Salman Haidar, Former Indian Foreign Secretary
• Amb Sheelkant Sharma, Former Secretary General, SAARC, Former Ambassador to Vienna
• Dr Bharat Karnad
, Professor, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), Member of the (First) National Security Advisory Board of the National Security Council, Government of India
P R Chari
Chairman, Indian Nuclear Doctrine: An Alternative Blueprint
The Late K Subramanhyam lamented the absence of any attempt to review and revise the nuclear doctrine framed in 1999 despite his advice to the government that this should be done every 5 years. Nor reviewing the nuclear doctrine is part of India’s institutional culture that wants to avoid controversies. The 1999 document like all doctrines is contextual at one point of time – and time does not stay still. Since 1999 the world has seen epochal events like 9/11 and the emergence of sub/non-state actors, heightening of the threat of CBRN terrorism and shifting global equations and alliances. This provides the framework for reviewing the nuclear doctrine the draft of which was drawn up by a group of young IPCS researchers and commented on by eminent members of the strategic community including academics, military, bureaucrats and diplomats. The doctrine is not embedded in concrete and can and should be reviewed at periodic intervals. There is more thinking required on several issues, like on the question of a line of succession especially in matters relating to the launch authority.
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
This exercise is essentially a follow up of the 1999 draft Indian nuclear doctrine and the 2003 Cabinet Committee on Security’s (CCS) press release, and is compelling in the perspective of India’s contemporary strategic environment. It combines core elements of both the previous documents. Unlike the 2003 document that was a short running note, the new draft has structure with 7 subtitles; evolved from the 8 subtitles of the original draft. The economy of words which informed the 2003 press release is maintained and expounding of the points in the new draft is also laconic.
The capacity to accept unacceptable damage and the credibility thereafter to inflict unacceptable damage are the two essential elements of the Indian NFU doctrine. These operational elements are expanded to reveal a surer and more transparent profile although its essential core as visualised in the 2003 press note endures. The broader setting of nuclear forces as envisaged in the 1999 document including its survivability features are not spelt out in the new draft. There is more substance in the section on command and control but this only identifies the supreme constitutional/release authority and the SFC. Some greater clarity is needed. The new draft doctrine attempts to alter the concept of credibility, but only subtly, which reflects the inherent problems of the Indian condition. Some issues like chain of command and release authority have been streamlined. The strong pitch for a nuclear weapons free world, which actively figures in the 2003 doctrine, is somewhat weak in the new draft and should be made stronger.
Dr Bharat Karnad
The new draft is regressive as compared to the original. The events in the past that have resulted in this re-think are unknown. A doctrine is a guideline for which elasticity is essential.
The most significant regressive aspect of this new document is its conceptualisation of the credible minimal deterrent. ‘Minimum’ has been changed to ‘minimal’ – consequently, the next time it would probably be credible zero deterrent. The change in norms if any is insufficient to justify ‘minimum’ as excessive and ‘minimal’ as adequate. The umbrella adjective of credibility that posits ‘minimal’ as the only metric to judge the deterrent is also obtuse. The original construction emphasised the deterrent in terms of survivability and effectiveness unlike the current one that speaks just of force, leadership and technology.
Effectiveness was the key variable in the original document. Nuclear weapons are weapons and not a political plaything. A deterrent is not a rhetorical device but is real, physical and manifest. The concept of credibility in this new draft that has subsumed various other aspects of the deterrent projects an extraordinary opacity in the language. The doctrine sanctifies a lack of gumption and this is counterproductive and certainly not in the national interest. The new draft has clarified the release authority issue but it has not been clarified sufficiently by way of explanation.
• Any doctrine should preserve the freedom of action and latitude for policy changes, but there is concern regarding the need for a more fleshed out doctrine. ‘Less is better’ should not be the bedrock in developing a doctrine.
• A nuclear doctrine despite its high political content would require the building up of capacity, procedures and strategy in the context of armed forces.
• Elasticity and clarity are contrasting in nature and cannot co-exist in a doctrine. However, since a doctrine cannot be a binding one, the changing strategic environment should be kept in mind.
• The decision to launch a nuclear weapon is a political decision and its transparency may hinder this process.
• ‘Minimal’ vs ‘minimum’ can have subjective interpretations with respect to credible deterrence.
• A naval deterrent has been seen as the most credible deterrent but inter-service rivalry will never allow the pursuit of this goal. As a result, credibility might suffer.
• A paradox emerges when more clarity is needed to deter non-nuclear weapon states. On the other hand, such clarity compromises the credibility of the deterrent.
• Greater clarity is required on how to fix responsibility upon a state in regard to the actions of its non-state and sub-state actors.
• India faces a dilemma over its commitment to universal nuclear disarmament while, at the same time, protecting the national interest. Therefore, recognising non-proliferation regimes in the doctrine is problematic.
Report drafted by Shubhra Chaturvedi, Research Intern, IPCS
Trans-Himalayan Trade and Development 2020: Looking Beyond Nathu La
Released by: Shri VK Chandra Deo & Prof Saugata Roy
Shri VK Chandra Deo, Honourable Union Minister, Tribal Affairs & Panchayati Raj
“We’re pleased to be here today, especially on an occasion like this, when some kind of work has been done on areas on which we should have probably been paying more attention to. It has been long overdue that some kind of exchange of views and interactions takes place on these issues. These are very sensitive issues and I think the Task Force Report addresses certain critical and topical issues regarding expansion of economic trade and interaction between the two countries along the India-China border. I am also glad to understand that an in-depth study has been made on this issue. The recommendations made by the task force report seem to be quite pragmatic. These are certain issues which we have to take up seriously, and this report must be utilized to implement policy recommendations. The report speaks of the need to build infrastructure and the improvement of backward integration. There are several lacunae in the formulation of policy in this regard, and this report goes a long way in bridging the gaps therein. Especially important is the mention of the potential of development of educational institutions and the promotion of medical tourism. The latter – i.e., medical tourism – must be emphasized. On the whole, the IPCS task force has done a good job and I would like to congratulate those involved in the making of the report. As representatives of the government, we would like to take up these issues within the government and related ministries and will see in what ways we could help you in these efforts, which must be taken forward.”
Prof Saugata Roy, Honourable Minister of State for Urban Development
“The IPCS has had two discussions today – on an alternative blueprint for an Indian nuclear doctrine, and the task force report (Looking Beyond Nathu La: Trans-Himalayan Trade & Development 2020) on Nathu La cross-border trade. The route we speak of is the old silk route which used to bring Chinese silk to India. India has a border with China in 3 states – Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Bhutan, which is an Indian protectorate, also has a border with China. But as of now, the route through Nathu La is the only route open for border trade. On my visit to Nathu La a few years ago, I found that while it is a tourist delight, the infrastructure was very minimal. In fact, I did not see much trade activity along the way. This is linked to the lack of infrastructure. Trade needs warehouses and go-downs, not just customs checkpoints. Indeed, six years after Nathu La has been opened, we have not made much progress. This report has brought out the need for border trade. Further, we must look beyond Nathu La to see how the systems and scope of border trade can be improved. Once this is done, the lives of the people living in these areas will naturally be improved. I hope this report will be brought to the notice of the government.”
Discussants: Mr BG Verghese & Mr Pema Wangchuk
Mr BG Verghese, Veteran Journalist and Visiting Professor at Center for Policy Research (CPR India)
What one is looking at through the lens of this project are basically the old Silk Routes, which linked India culturally, economically and diplomatically with Central Asia. The region (once Eurasia) is also a natural spin-off of such a connection and its salience is once again being realized, especially given its wealth in terms of resources, trade corridors and geostrategic importance. In terms of geostrategic policy, India followed a policy of keeping aloof, especially in the light of the boundary problems and sensitive regional issues – Tibet being a case in point – with the Chinese. Developing the borders as security buffers was, therefore, not looked at seriously. This was a hopelessly flawed policy, simply because borders are more important than boundaries. In the context of Nathu La and the reopening of border trade, it is important to note the difference in terminology. ‘Borders’ are far more concretely defined than are ‘boundaries’. A boundary is a line. But it is not the fact of a boundary; it is the nature of the boundary that is important. The nature of a boundary lies in friendship and cooperation. They are bridges, not barriers. Borders are transient belts where bands of people, ecology and natural resources shade from one region to the other. These are regions where people have traditional ties in terms of marriage, trade and language going back across the centuries. In this context, it is important that they be developed.
In 2006, the Nathu La pass was opened for the purpose of border trade. Border trade is certainly useful for local communities. However, the term ‘border trade’ is in itself a restrictive one, with little scope for expansion. Resistance to cross-boundary trade with China has been impeded by two factors. One is the lingering fear psychosis left over from 1962, a fear of being vulnerable to the descent of mythical Chinese hordes into the motherland. The other is the widespread fear that India will be transformed into a dumping ground for cheap Chinese goods.
These are fears that can be dispelled and are more imaginary than real. Competition would stimulate the growth of border trade and allow it to expand fruitfully. Border trade would, for example, provide access to the heartlands of Tibet and allow India to build a foundation of trust, which would go a long way in ironing out the creases in diplomatic relations. Also, supplements such as the building of infrastructure would legitimize trade as a goal, rather than allowing smuggling cartels to flourish. The important question here is the facilitation of trade, especially over sensitive boundaries. The bottom line is that opportunities must be recognized.
Mr Pema Wangchuk, Editor and Publisher of Sikkim Now
The most important part of this report is that it does not only include the academics and policymakers present in Sikkim, but also includes people from grassroots level trading community in Sikkim and the northeastern states. There are certainly a few loopholes that exist in the present border trade policy, even six years after the reopening of Nathu La. For instance, improving infrastructure should be a natural progression to improve the states, rather than being considered as a means to an end, i.e., trade. The report recommends engaging at three tiers and on three levels, but in this context, it is important to remember that Nathu La has always functioned at various levels. Given its historical importance, it has been a cultural melting-pot of sorts, open to the movement of traders from Nepal, Tibet and China.
To maintain its historical and cultural significance, improving intrastate and interstate infrastructure is vital. Maintaining proper roads is a good example of how much infrastructure is needed; especially post the earthquake in 2011. Sikkim has three international borders – with Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. However, its only international road connects it with Tibet. Since there are no roads connecting it to either Nepal or Bhutan, improving road connectivity is a must. When it comes to intra and interstate connectivity, corridors facilitating the movement of people and goods are obviously a must. However, currently, there is only one road dealing with army movements, trade and tourism. Without opening more roads, the load of traffic along the length of this road would be too heavy to handle. Physical infrastructure such as warehousing is also essential.
Speaking of connectivity, the report suggests using Nathu La to improve connectivity with China. In terms of the items on the trade basket list, there are certainly limitations to how wide the list can be, because while its own domestic trade basket does not amount to much, it is an essential provider of skills and services, such as transport. In this context, the need for building fresh roads and infrastructure such as warehousing – especially for quarantined goods – cannot be overemphasized. Checkpoints need to be bolstered, and the chain of necessary paperwork with regard to trade facilitation must be streamlined. Border trade, by definition, is duty free. This being said, items in the trade basket should be considered and scanned carefully. Those items which are charged high rates of customs duties in official import lists, like silk, should be kept off the list of goods going and coming over the border.
•There is a difference between border trade and trade between countries. The trade through the Nathu La pass is still border trade and does not contribute much to the economy as such. There are major institutional differences between India and China and these hinder trading activities. On the Indian side, there is a lack of political will to develop cross-border trade and to improve it from the present condition, whereas China is better prepared with regard to its infrastructure development.
•Trade must increase in volume, even within the narrow confines of the current trade basket. If the items in the trade basket were to be scanned and optimized, there would be no conversion of legitimate traders into smuggling cartels. Items such as borax and yak tails are now redundant as far as trading purposes are concerned, and therefore the basket must be expanded to include items that are still of relevance on the market.
•Government regulations are not only hampering trade but also giving space for smuggling and black marketing. The majority of the trading items in the Nathu La border trade are unlisted items and therefore there is a need to regularize the trade. The trade at Nathu La, which takes place in local currencies, is illegal.
•Niche areas of the tourism industry, such as casinos and legal gambling, should be encouraged in order to promote the domestic and international potential of tourism in the area. Further, the removal of the Inner Line Permit System will open up the potential of both domestic and international tourism.
•With regard to medical tourism, there is a trend towards using natural ingredients for medicinal purposes. As a biodiversity hotspot, Sikkim’s potential in this regard must be developed, with a focus on Chinese and Tibetan markets.
•Border trade emphasizes regional linkages and connectivity. Developing the Nathu La pass would mean that the economies of Nepal, Eastern and Northeastern India, Bangladesh and Bhutan would all be interconnected. Of special mention in this regard would be Tibet, which is landlocked and would naturally be looking for access to the sea, which could be arranged with proper connectivity via borders with India and Bangladesh. India has the chance to take the lead in this initiative.
•Trade must not be seen in isolation to other sensitive issues. The Nathu La border pass is not a disputed route, but there are certain routes that are sensitive to security challenges, especially with a country like China. These issues must be set aside, but they can never be set aside unilaterally – but via mutual consent. Therefore, perhaps, border trade should first be pursued with countries with which India has no issues – such as Nepal or Bhutan, before turning to China. In other words, countries must absolve sensitive issues before embarking on trade or further economic interactions.
•Practicality, viability and feasibility are three aspects that should be taken in to consideration before calculating adequate investments required for infrastructural development. Geography and political boundaries should be considered to avoid any future territorial dispute as the question of territoriality is very crucial in Sino-Indian relationship.
•In all regions mentioned, from Jammu and Kashmir to the northeastern borders of India, local trade is as important as international trade. However, in many states, such as Kashmir, this is undermined by ructions in the political processes which often throw a spanner in the works of economic and trading interactions.
•Due to the high political and economic risks involved, traders show reluctance in investing into resources and capital in the Northeastern region, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Inner Line Permit in the Northeastern region makes mobility very difficult in the region. There are many restrictions with regard to trade and tourism in the region owing to the unstable political situation and security issues.
•What needs to change is an attitudinal shift in New Delhi. At the end of the day, what has always stymied the movement of policy into concrete action has been the attitude of New Delhi. In this context, a Special Cell to look exclusively into border trade should be set up by the Government.
Report drafted by Narayani Basu, Research Intern, IPCS