Nuclear Shocks and Trends in South Asia
Speaker: Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, Henry L Stimson Center, Washington D.C.
Global Nuclear Shocks and Negative Trends
Next Mushroom Cloud
The first visual experience with a mushroom cloud was in 1945; therefore another experience of this sort would give a huge shock to the international system. This system has been built around a nuclear taboo and if the taboo is broken it would have a significant bearing.
Iranian and North Korea Nuclear Programme
The North Korean nuclear program is moving in the right direction, the Iranian program is not. If Iran succeeds in maintaining its enrichment program then the international system will see several repercussions in the Middle East and elsewhere as nuclear hedges begin to spread.
Spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities
When some countries decide that they need a nuclear hedge, supposedly, for civil nuclear uses then the whole system built around nuclear treaties and its norms get really messed up.
Acts of nuclear terrorism
Such acts will probably generate copy cat actions, and this will have profound psychological affects even if the number of dead and wounded remains minimal. Dirty bombs will not produce nearly as many casualties, as for example, a bomb blast in the subway or at the stock exchange. Nuclear terrorism is a major problem for the entire international system.
Demise of inspection
During the Cold War the international system tried to control nuclear danger by developing a series of very intrusive inspection provisions. The two superpowers took the lead in this very difficult development. They negotiated for decades before they allowed outside inspection and other states did not do this until 1986. But once states started doing this they applied it to their nuclear holdings, not all of them, but forces in the field and production facilities. This system expanded to conventional force reductions in Europe, it expanded through the IAEA monitoring system as those safe guards and the protocols for those inspections got more intense. The system is now contracting. For their own reasons, albeit mistaken reasons, the US and Russian federation are abandoning these inspection procedures. The idea behind this is that the Cold War is over and they believe that they do not need these provisions anymore. There is only one bilateral treaty subsisting between the United States and Russia, which still contains intrusive monitoring inspections and provides for monitoring and that treaty is due to expire in December, 2009. So one of the first things the US administration has to decide upon next is whether or not the inspection system is worth keeping. However, if the inspection system collapses obviously it does not take a whole lot of analytical ability to see how that will affect the international system.
Resumption and cascade of nuclear testing
If there is a cascade of nuclear testing it will obviously have a significant affect on the international system because every test of a nuclear weapon is a declaration of utility and, since we are trying to make nuclear weapons less and less prominent and useful, testing further provokes its usage. And whether there will be a cascade depends on who tests first. No nation wanted to follow North Korea; if India tests then Pakistan will surely test. It is hard to be the first but depending on who goes first one can predict the domino effect that will follow.
Continued production of Pu and HEU
There is still production of plutonium and so obviously this is not going to shake the system to its core. The production of bomb making materials is not a good thing, because the more it is produced the more things could go wrong. Currently India, Pakistan and Israel are still producing Pu and HEU. Other major nuclear powers have a moratorium in place, but moratoriums can be broken. At present, it is believed that the Chinese are taking stock of their nuclear requirements and they may start producing this stuff again.
Regional Trends are Positive
The prominent trends are not easily irreversible and most of them are positive:
The primacy of economic growth
The importance of economic growth is understood in Pakistan, you cannot have domestic tranquility if you do not have economic growth, and this fact is understood by the Pakistani army; at least it is understood by its leadership. It is hard to achieve economic growth when you are always in crisis with your neighbor.
Both countries seek to avoid major crises and warfare
Internal security concern paramount
The relevance of internal security situations is not a new occurrence in India but they are now the paramount issue in Pakistan, which is a new situation and one that is very troubling for them. Nevertheless, this situation can also be viewed as a good thing for Pakistan, in the sense that there is a growing realization that the Pakistani army is ill-equipped to deal with the paramount security concerns of the country and it would take time for them to move that ocean liner, but it is beginning.
US ties with India and Pakistan mostly positive
This is a relatively rare, nevertheless an extremely positive scenario, when the US has established good relations with both India and Pakistan. The US-Pakistan relationship has never been so good, and it was not a cause of great concern until now because a lot can go wrong at this juncture.
It is doubtful that influencing factors are likely to generate sharp turns in the general trend line discussed above. Nevertheless, domestic problems at this stage do influence national security policies in both India and Pakistan.
Domestic politics and leadership change
Military modernization programs
Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement
India's testing and pursuit of nuclear military defenses
Chinese ASAT test
Shocks, Wild Cards and Game Changers
These are actions that could significantly impact the regional security calculus and accentuate or shift dominant trends
Domestic unrest in Pakistan
US-China clash over Taiwan
What is your take on India/Pakistan nuclear CBMs?
Do you believe that the confidence your organization, Henry L. Stimon Center, has regarding controls over the nuclear danger is shared by the U.S. Government? The layers of protection in Pakistan are all 'uniformed layers', hence there seems to be no other interjection of views aside from the uniforms view, whereas in India's case the uniforms, civil, and political views are available before the final decision is taken. Does America have an integrated electronic system for controlling the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan or is it physically controlled?
Many believe that India has no reason to fear Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands and the reason apparently has been that Pakistan refused American help in acquiring permissive action links or electronic locks on their nuclear weapons. Pakistan claims to have placed its faith in the separation of its warheads from their delivery systems; now is this indeed the situation in Pakistan?
Is India safe in the light of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal?
Over the last few years there has been positive progress [in relations] between India and Pakistan, their dialogue has extended much further than expected between them and to regard this as a kind of aberration would be unwise. Regarding inspection procedures would it be correct to assume that the challenge of providing a credible inspection regime between India and Pakistan or between China and India suggests that there is a kind of process and states begin to nuzzle up till they reach a point when the logic of restraint starts influencing the building process?
When the Shah regime in Iran broke up many claimed that some suit case bombs went missing. Is this is true?
What would the US hope to achieve by attacking Iran's nuclear program?
Will the civilian nuclear agreement signed with the United States help India's power generating programme?
The Pakistan scenario resembles that of 1979 Iran; do you think there is a possibility of something like that happening now?
Nations start doing things that are unexceptional like providing a list of nuclear facilities and installations with geographical locations that the adversary country already knows about. But you do not stop there, you need to start working a process. The United States and Soviet Union worked overtime until they got to the point where they would provide the geographical coordinates of missiles in the field, because it was important for them to affirm things that the other side already knows. Moreover, misinformation was also very important information for both countries to know, and what is needed is a consultative mechanism to work this out. But you start from here and begin to generate broader habits of cooperation. But habits of cooperation that include intrusive inspections and protocols for doing it, and site inspections are difficult to reach, but you do not get there, until you start with elementary steps. India should not be dismissive of the front end of this process because it could establish stronger ties with Pakistan.
It is true that the security of nuclear facilities in Pakistan has various layers. The military system has a series of filters and the higher up in the chain of command you are the more filtering there is. There are different sets of filters associated with the protection of nuclear arsenals and there are a series of background checks of personnel and undercover people probing into the personal lives of people guarding these arsenals.
For the US to assist a country with permissive action links the U.S. needs to be provided technical information about the bomb and for that the U.S. needs to have their people in Pakistan to acquire this information. It is difficult for the United States to assist Pakistan with nuclear safety measures when Pakistan is suspicious about the intentions of the United States. Obviously, there is a lack of trust between the two states. There are other techniques that are not intrusive that one country could use to assist another , so, this is not an either or situation, separation or gadgets, ideally it should be both to provide greater safety.
There was a lot of pessimism during the Cold War about the Soviet Union's nuclear capabilities. Many believed that a detonation was highly probable, but this did not happen. Therefore we should not focus on the long-term, just work at the problem every single day, and you work the problem as best as you can now, then maybe you can get to the long-term solutions later. I believe that this is the philosophy that should be adopted towards Pakistan.
Nuclear risk reduction measures for India and Pakistan are difficult to achieve, it is cooperation in counter-terrorism that should take priority over nuclear risk reduction measures. This cannot be done at the staff level; it has to be done top-down. The challenge of inspections must come at the end of a process, we should start with a routine inspection process and transparency measures first. Top tier nuclear powers are okay with transparency measures, but countries in the second tier are allergic to them, India and Pakistan are two countries that are not transparent. But if we are going to progressively reduce nuclear dangers we need to make the second tier countries feel comfortable with transparency, and then we can proceed to developing nuclear risk reduction measures between these states.
It should be noted that if there were such bombs, and they were stolen or sold, some would have appeared, so many years after this occurred. I am very skeptical about these assertions.
The Bush administration would attack Iran to buy time because slowing down a nuclear program is a valuable effort. There are many reasons for attacking Iran, and there are also many reasons supporting this action. Because the Bush administration has invested so much in Iran, it would attack it just to affirm its initial calculations were correct.
It would take ten years to build a nuclear power plant in India and it would be more costly compared to other kinds of electricity. Furthermore, I do not believe that the U.S. will be too involved with this program unless the Indian government enacts liability waivers.
The fall of the Shah regime in Iran illustrated to us the moment when a tipping point is approaching and when that tipping point has passed, and what kind of policies are relevant to that understating. I would assert that U.S. intelligence is incapable of understanding when this tipping point occurs because U.S. access to understanding these levels in a society is minimal. So it would not be a surprise to me if Pakistan reaches that point.