Policy Papers

Expanding Arsenal, Unsafe Nukes; “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons”; report — US Congressional Research Service

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, deploying additional nuclear weapons, and new types of delivery vehicles. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against Pakistan, but Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called “full spectrum deterrence” have led some observers to express concern about an increased risk of nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India, which also continues to expand its nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan has in recent years taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Pakistani and U.S. officials argue that, since the 2004 revelations about a procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official A. Q. Khan, Islamabad has taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials. A number of important initiatives, such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programs, have improved Pakistan’s nuclear security.
However, instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question. Some observers fear radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan’s nuclear complex. While U.S. and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards. Furthermore, continued Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons development could jeopardize strategic stability between the two countries. For a broader discussion, see CRS Report R41832, Pakistan-U.S. Relations, by K. Alan Kronstadt.


Kunming knife attacks: China is playing with fire

By Srikanth Kondapalli

Domestically, China’s ‘strike hard’ policy is alienating Uighurs further in Xinjiang. China’s quid pro quo with the Taliban is hardly any lasting solution to the Afghanistan crises or to regional security, says Srikanth Kondapalli.

As calm returns back to the beautiful city of Kunming in the southwestern region of China after knife attacks at the railway station that killed nearly 33 innocent citizens and wounded 143, people would be asking the government’s response in providing security to them. The police had shot four, while the rest of the attackers have escaped.

If we go by the spate of attacks recently across the country, these are many and indicate to the hollowness of the government’s claim to political stability. Queerly, if we go by the recent history, China’s myopic policies appeared to be responsible for these incidents. It is no coincidence that prior to China’s military intelligence training of the mujahedeen to counter the Soviets in the 1980s in Afghanistan, the country hardly witnessed any of such incidents.

Meng Jianzhu, the politburo member in charge of internal security, on a visit to Kunming stated that the attackers were ‘terrorists’ and suggested a ‘strike hard’ policy against them. The official news agency Xinhua suggested that the Kunming attackers had links to Xinjiang.

A day after the attacks, the 15-member United Nations Security Council issued a statement which read: “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of this terrorist attack to justice, and urged all states, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with all relevant governments in this regard.” China earlier had signed the UNSC Resolutions 1267, 1373 and 1540 related to counter-terror measures.

All the above suggest that the Kunming incident is connected to Xinjiang where 10 million Uighurs live. A million Uighurs have migrated to other parts of China including to Kunming. Uighurs resent the migration of 8 million Han nationals to Xinjiang, specifically their domination in all walks of life in the region.

While Uighur political aspirations in Xinjiang date back to the 1930s when they established an independent East Turkestan, since the 1990s there has been an increase in their political protests — reflected in attacks on key Chinese installations and government buildings, assassination attempts of Han officials, party members and others, etc. The then Chinese military’s deputy chief of staff Xiong Guangkai, who served in Xinjiang during the 1980s, had mentioned in his book that Uighurs have launched more than 260 attacks since 1990 in which about 170 were killed and 440 wounded. He estimated that over 1,000 Uighurs received training from Al-Qaeda.

The July 5, 2009 Urumgi riots in the capital of Xinjiang resulted in 189 dead, 816 injured, 261 vehicles burnt in a span of two hours. Subsequently, over 200 incidents were reported which were linked to Xinjiang issue. In 2013, four major incidents took place in Xinjiang. On April 24, 2013 about 21 (including 15 officials) were killed at Bachu county in Kashgar.

In June, 15 Uighurs were killed in police firing in Hotan prefecture’s Hanerik township when hundreds of Uighurs were protesting the arrest of a young religious leader and closure of a mosque. 50 people were injured in this incident. On June 26, the police base, government offices and construction site were targeted by locals of Lukqun.

At the same time a series of attacks in Turpan, Xinjiang resulted in 46 deaths which included 16 Uighurs. Police reportedly killed 11 even as 21 police officers and civilians were injured. Subsequently, on August 20, 15 Uighurs were killed by police in “anti-terror campaign” in Yilkiqi in Kashgar prefecture. One Han policeman was also killed.

In early August, it was reported that police opened fire at a crowd of Uighurs protesting prayer restrictions in Akyol town in Aksu prefecture ahead of Ramadan, killing at least three and injuring about 50 others. On October 28, 2013, a car crashed in the heart of the capital city — the Tiananmen Square — exposing China’s claims to providing round-the-clock security. China blamed Uighurs for this act.

Later, on November 6, 2013, a series of blasts occurred outside CCP buildings in Shanxi Province’s capital city of Taiyuan. In 2014, on February 14, eight Uighurs were shot by the police in Uqturpan of Aksu prefecture.

To counter these, China’s policies include “strike hard” on suspected Uighurs in Xinjiang and elsewhere including in central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan through coordination efforts with these neighbouring countries. In the last decade, China had participated in the annual ‘peace mission’ exercises with central Asia and Russia, while conducting counter-terrorism exercises with Pakistan.

Yet, China’s fundamental approach appears to be flawed both in Xinjiang as well as externally with its recent parleys with the Hekmatyar group in Afghanistan.

Domestically, China’s ‘strike hard’ policy is alienating Uighurs further in Xinjiang. The newly formed National Security Commission is yet to show results. Externally, as the United States troops wind down in Afghanistan, China had revived its Taliban card after its ambassador to Pakistan Lu Shulin met with Mullah Umar in 2000. China’s quid pro quo with the Taliban is hardly any lasting solution to the Afghanistan crises or to regional security.

When the Mumbai attacks took place in November 2008, China’s then vice foreign minister He Yafei planned to mediate between New Delhi and Islamabad. As China’s counter-terrorism approach is hollow, New Delhi did not pay heed, despite later launching three ‘hand-in-hand’ joint operations between the armies.

There appears to be no long-term fresh thinking in China today on such incidents. On the other hand, some in China have played with fire and still in a post ISAF Afghanistan want to cobble up coalitions with the Taliban. Herein lay the challenges to the safety of the people of China as with others.

Srikanth Kondapalli is professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Courtesy: Rediff.com


China tosses maritime silk route bait to India

China surprised India last week once again with a new initiative – this time in the maritime domain with the idea of working together in the “maritime silk route” in the Indian Ocean. China’s leaders, officials and media have been projecting this concept – initially during the maiden visit abroad by the new leader Xi Jinping to Indonesia last October and then in an interaction with the visiting Sri Lankan foreign minister at Beijing early this month. After the Ming Dynasty initiatives by Admiral Zheng He in the 14th century in the Indian Ocean region, the sea-faring faction in China is pushing this idea once again.

While details of such a route are still not clear nor are the modalities of interactions with India and other countries identified, the new “maritime silk route” is to coincide with the land silk route passing through Central Asia up to Europe. President Xi Jinping, visiting Kazakhstan last August, had called for such a route linking the Pacific with the Baltic region. These two routes then are to further contribute to China’s rise in the 21st century.

For China is today dependent on these routes to trade with nations and increase its gross domestic product from $200 billion in 1978 to about $10 trillion by 2013. China’s trade has increased from $620 billion in 2002 to $3.8 trillion in 2012. Significantly, a large section of the above trade figures are based on the maritime domain, with very less trade transiting through the land borders. This overwhelming dependence on the maritime time had added new demands on the maritime areas.

Continuing its maritime dependence is China’s increasing profile in the possession of world-class merchant fleet, production of containers and the expansion in port-handling capacity. China ranks number 9 out of the top 20 countries possessing merchant fleets. It ranks No. 4 among top 20 countries in total Gross Tonnage controlled by parent companies located in these countries and territories. Put together, China has over 5,000 ocean-going merchant ships. China also accounts for more than 90 percent of the production of containers in the world. Today, Shanghai ranks as number one container port in the world’s top fifty ports – given the Pudong Special Economic Zone’s ability to export enormous quantities of goods.

Energy Calculus

Another driving factor behind the maritime silk route is China’s energy consumption. In 2012 China became the largest energy consumer with nearly 22 percent of global total energy demand. According to the estimates of British Petroleum, China is to overtake the United States as the largest oil consumer by 2025 and Russia by 2027 as second largest gas consumer. Most of this today – over 80 percent – passes through the Indian Ocean region with West Asia contributing to about 56 percent of China’s oil imports while Africa accounts for the rest. Even though China, Russia and Central Asia have expanded land routes in the energy sector, for the foreseeable future, China’s “Malacca Dilemma” is not expected to be resolved without naval or diplomatic initiatives in the Indian Ocean. Naval and diplomatic efforts then are behind this idea of the silk route.

Global Ambitions

Apart from these existential concerns, one has to also reckon into account the global ambitions of China in the power transition with the United States. Indeed, in 2009 the US Admiral Keating reported his Chinese counterpart’s view of dividing the Pacific and Indian Oceans between these two countries. Now, China is suggesting that India and China need to work together in connecting these two oceans in the light of the US rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific.

Geopolitics of Indian Ocean

As an important transhipment corridor in the world, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is of considerable significance for China. The IOR links Asia with Africa and Oceania. Some Chinese reports indicated that nearly one-sixth of the global cargo and about one-tenth of global cargo turnover is through the IOR. More importantly, the two main routes of Persian Gulf to the west (to Europe and the Americas through the Cape of Good Hope/Suez Canal) and the east (through the Straits of Hormuz, Malacca and Lumbok) are considered to be the hub of these transfers. These geo-strategic routes are considered to be ‘very important’ from the Chinese point of view. Hence, several transportation corridors are being worked out by China to connect it to the IOR.

The leaders of China’s south-western Yunnan province have been pushing through these ideas in the recent past. Yunnan intends to connect to the Bay of Bengal and then to the IOR through a series of networks connecting with the Salween, Mekong and Irrawaddy Rivers. While China has been an active participant in the revival of the Asian Highway and Railway concepts and has made efforts to open up the country for expanding transportation corridors linking it with Southeast Asia, Central Asia and South Asia, China has been selective in expanding the sea routes. It is here that the enunciation of the maritime silk route becomes evident.

One of the major projects, apart from the Karakoram Highway, is the Gwadar Port. Indeed, the collaboration between China and Pakistan on the Gwadar port is termed as a landmark in the bilateral relations similar to the Karakoram Highway project officially opened in 1978. Gwadhar naval port in the western Makran coast of Pakistan was built with Chinese assistance by the China Harbour Engineering Company, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction. The first phase of the project, conceived in 1964 but started only in 2002, saw China spending $198 million as against the Pakistani share of about $50 million in a project estimated at over $1 billion and was completed by 2006. In 2002, the then Chinese vice Premier Wu Bangguo attended the ground-breaking ceremony of the project, although in 2005 Premier Wen Jiabao had to cancel the inaugural function following threats. China Harbour was given the contract for the first phase of Gwadar port construction and the same company is also involved in the construction of Quay Wall and Break Water (Marine Protection Works) to develop the Deep Water Container Terminal at Karachi. Gwadar overlooks the Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 47 percent of West Asian oil passes. China has agreed to increase the deep-sea port from 14 meters to 19 meters and the plan included construction of about 12 berths. In general, larger displacement vessels (such as aircraft carriers, etc) would require about 11 meters depth ports for berthing. Increasing the depth of this port further indicates to a long-term plan of China in the naval sphere. A signals outpost is reportedly to be in place at Gwadar to monitor maritime traffic in the region.

In 2011, the then Pakistan’s defence minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar suggested that China should build a naval base at Gwadar. Subsequently, in August 2012, Pakistan planned to transfer the operational control of the deep water port from Singapore’s PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) International (which was running the port on a contract for 40 years since five years) to that of a Chinese state owned company. This was finally realised in January 2013 when Pakistan transferred the port to Chinese Overseas Port Holdings Limited. These infrastructure projects, along with the proposed idea of a Chinese military base in Pakistan, point to Beijing’s three strategic objectives, viz., ‘putting military and political pressure on India, limiting Washington’s influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and directly monitoring the activity of ‘Uygur separatists’ in the North Western Frontier Province.

Another project undertaken with active Chinese assistance is the Hambantota project in Sri Lanka which includes a port as well as an airport. China Harbour Engineering Company and the Sino Hydro Corporation are involved in the Hambantota project. Originally offered to India, one phase of this port was opened – after cost escalation (with an estimated $40 million in additional costs out of a total $400 china-menonmillion for this phase) and time overruns (by one year) – for international shipping in June 2012. China also offered to construct another port at Colombo with reports of possible investments from China amounting to $50 billion. Besides, the Chinese have long expressed interest in the building of the Trincomali port – the 5th largest natural harbour in the world.

The involvement of China and its state-owned companies in the maritime connectivity in the Indian Ocean indicates a long-term interest in the region. These have both civilian and military purposes. Hence the idea of “maritime silk route” needs to be cautiously weighed by New Delhi. In the background of China’s efforts to shoo Indian oil companies in South China Sea, India needs to insist on reciprocity with China in the East and South China Seas and work with like-minded parties.

(srikanthSrikanth Kondapalli is Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is also an Honorary Fellow at Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi and Research Associate at Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. He received the K. Subrahmanyam Award in 2010 for Excellence in Research in Strategic and Security Studies.)

-The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

(Courtsey www.indiawrites.org)


Chinese Intrusion In Ladakh: Terrain Model Exposes Dragon’s War Preparedness – Analysis

By Brigadier Arun Sahgal, PhD (Retd)

In 2009, media was abuzz with a revelation that China had replicated the whole of Aksai Chin and a large part of disputed Indo-China border in a large sized sand model over area equivalent to the size of six cricket fields thousands of kilometres away in Huanyangton village near Yinchuan in Ningxia autonomous region (Northern China).

The fundamental question then and today is the motivation for China to spend money and resources to replicate whole mountains, valleys and water bodies of aa disputed area? This in a sense puts a question mark on China’s peaceful intentions towards India? The satellite images show that the China has replicated around 1, 57,500 Km area on a map scale of 900×700 meters. This is about 500:1 ratio.

What is more intriguing is the attachment of a military unit and an artillery firing range in the proximity of the terrain model. The satellite images obtained from free Google Earth suggests this to be a major training facility to train PLA troops for high altitude operations in the Ladakh Sector. Large scale model appears to indicate that it is not only for operational planning but to also familiarizes both combat and combat support arms like artillery, combat engineers and communication experts with terrain conditions. The associated firing range appears to indicate live firing facility, to for target engagement with various weapons systems in these high altitude conditions.

The training is not at a platoon or company level, but appears to be at regiment (brigade) level. In modern days the training could be given on computer simulation, but what provoked China to replicate such a vast area remains a question mark. Probably China wants its troops to have perception about the world’s most tough terrain so that in case of conflict situation with India, its troops can understand terrain constraints and plan in realistic manner.

It needs to be noted that in recent times China has enhanced the number of exercises in Tibet. Some of these exercises have been conducted at altitudes ranging from 4,500 – 5000 meters. One such exercise conducted in 2011 included joint troop drills by the air and ground troops under information-based conditions in frigid area with a high altitude. Troops involved included the Chinese Air Force, ground troops, mechanized units and a range of support entities.

Providing rare details while describing the exercise, PLA daily report stated, “At the very beginning… the new type warplanes of the PLA Air Force conducted accurate strikes at the targets… Shortly after seizing the commanding point, the long-range guns launched full-scale shooting at the command post and the artillery position of the enemy.” This was followed by the armoured vehicle group and infantry combat vehicles branching out into columns and launching a “sudden and violent attack on the mountain passes occupied by the enemy. The special operation detachment outflanked the enemy and raided the enemy’s command post”. The report also stated that army aviation troops and anti-aircraft missiles provided cover.1

In the backdrop of Chinese moves in Ladakh in the Depsang- Dualat Beg Oldi area indicates that China has been making preparations for a contingency based incursion into Indian Territory, as part of its “local wars under informationization model”.

The Chinese perspective of raising tensions in Ladakh is not shaped by any altruistic motives of improving its positions on the border or lay claims to new areas. It is a well planned strategic response aimed at coercion to prevent India from improving its overall strategic posture in the region.

The Chinese are aware of infrastructural developments being undertaken by India in Ladakh; upgrading of airfields, development of communications and upgrading of defences etc. These developments are backed by planned Indian capabilities in terms of troops (mountain strike corps), deployment of missiles and upgradation of intelligence and surveillance capabilities.

The Chinese are conscious that were India to mount an audacious offensive in Aksai Chin it easily could roll down to the Tibetan Plateau and cut off the famous western Highway; main artery linking Tibet Autonomous region with Xinjiang the route for induction of forces from Lanzhou Military Area Command. Such a scenario is depicted in an excellent fictional account in the book titled “Assassins Mace” written by Brigadier Bob Butalia, (Retd), wherein Special Forces backed by credible air power are depicted as cutting off the Western Highway.

The logic behind Chinese intransigence and intrusion in the Sector are two fold; one to get India to dismantle the infrastructure it has developed in the SE Ladakh, particularly in Chumar area, and to an extent in DBO sector as well; second coerce India to sign “Defence Cooperation Agreement” which among other things includes mutual pull back from the LAC and creation of demilitarized zones, dismantling the military infrastructure and to prevent patrol clashes, sharing of patrolling programmes. Clearly above is not acceptable to India particularly when even after 15 rounds of political negotiations India and china have not reached a stage to exchange maps of Western and Central Sector.

Nonetheless Chinese military leadership is aware that tipping point in border negotiations is coming with Indian military modernization and developments of strategic infrastructure particularly the ‘Rohtang Tunnel’ linking plains of Punjab with Ladakh in J&K, together with plans to keep Srinagar – Leh highway open the year round, not to mention opening of rail link to Kashmir valley. These developments when operational will provide India with enhanced strategic build up capability both in J&K and Ladakh sector.

The Chinese are sanguine that they cannot indefinitely use the ruse of “allowing future generations” to solve the dispute. Sooner or later it will need to exchange maps of both the Western and the Eastern Sectors. Seen in the above context this could be attempted to firm up their positions to ensure operational advantage in this critical area.

Seen in the above context, the Chinese are playing a game of brinkmanship by reinforcing its claim lines, forcing Indian political leadership to halt build up of defensive capability in Ladakh. Indian enhancement of its operational profile in Ladakh carries a price tag for china in terms of forcing it to upgrade its defensive posture in the region where it is militarily not that well poised. As per the recent White Paper on Defence, only four of its 18 combined corps are deployed in areas opposite India. In any offensive option china will need to redeploy large forces from hinterland into Tibet Autonomous Region, this will require time and preparation which will surely be picked up by India with its enhanced space and aerial surveillance capabilities. It is in this context the collusive support between Pakistan and China to keep the Indian armed forces engaged poses serious problem and a major strategic concern for India.

Lastly it needs to be appreciated that this is not a localized incident. Chinese troops would not have taken such a step without full-fledged, assessment of possible implications and a consensus at the level of central military commission or the politbureau. Surely the consequences of Indian reaction would have been analysed and factored. By intruding deep into Indian Territory and effectively challenged by India has created a scenario of stalemate. Big question now for the Chinese is how does it deal with the situation without serious loss of face? It is the answer to this question that both China and India would need to find through diplomacy. The forthcoming visit of Chinese premier to India can help in breaking the deadlock but if that fails the ugly standoff is will be there for a long haul.

In so far India is concerned its options are straight forward, maintain status quo without provoking the Chinese, prepare for overhaul and take all steps necessary to deal with escalation if it is thrust on India.

1. Liu Xing’an, Guo Fengkuan and Liu Yinghua, “PLA holds first air and ground forces joint drill on plateau,” Statement by the Chinese Ministry of National Defence cited in, PLA Daily, October 26, 2011.


Address by Ambassador Shyam Saran

Recent address by Amb Shyam Saran at subbu forum was a welcome development and helped to allay the concerns of strategic community on India’s nuclear developments and deterrence thinking. One of the important point made was about Pakistan’s attempt to leverage sub strategic weapons to lower thresholds and deny India space for limited war under nuclear threshold. Clarification that India will not fall prey to Pakistani blackmail is relevant and timely.

Pakistan’s doctrinal thinking is an “interface between conventional and nuclear strategy”. The overall aim is to deter war through combination of credible conventional and unconventional means as part of an overall strategy to deny India space for ‘limited war under nuclear overhang’. Lowering of nuclear threshold is aimed at providing requisite relief to the conventional strategy and to reduce the space for war. Thresholds are deliberately kept ambiguous to obviate space for conventional war while maintaining adequate readiness to accord credence to projected level of deterrence. It also helps in maintaining widespread speculation regarding lowering of thresholds that enable prosecution of war in more offensive manner. Lastly it is an attempt to exploit perceived notion of “Nuclear Irrationality” propounded by Pakistan.

Pakistani military establishment going by recent documents, pronunciations and discussions at Track II level is clearly attempting to link nuclear and conventional forces as part of an all encompassing ‘deterrence doctrine’. In its thinking the degree of nuclear deterrence depends upon the nature of the equilibrium produced by the nuclear forces (do we see a resonance with the posturing being attempted by North Korean leadership in the ongoing crisis in the Korean Peninsula). Therefore the influence of the nuclear weapons upon conventional forces is deemed to be total, partial or non-existent. It is in the above context, the capability and capacity of conventional forces are deemed as both important and necessary, their role being either to round off nuclear deterrence if it is not complete, or even to replace it if its influence at the conventional level is negligible.

Thus from Pakistani context, there is imperative need to balance India’s growing conventional superiority in terms of conventional capability enhancement backed by credible nuclear forces. In its belief weak conventional forces tend to lower nuclear threshold to a dangerously low level leading to pronounced instability. Therefore in Pakistani mindset conventional forces with the ability to thwart enemy incursions is absolutely essential. In its absence, the enemy can mount a swift offensive, capture major objectives, declare ceasefire and present a fait accompli, leaving Pakistan to be confronted with an excruciating choice of either accepting the loss or opting to commit mutual suicide. Conventional capability that has the ability to successfully thwart any conventional aggression by the adversary therefore is deemed to complement the nuclear deterrence and help in keeping thresholds low. Flowing from above the fundamental doctrinal objective is to convince India that there is a clear linkage between conventional and nuclear strategies, and that the nuclear threshold exists which are low and ambiguous and specifically aimed at contracting the space for conventional war. It also helps Pakistan exploit its option of proxy war with impunity using cross border infiltration and terrorism as preferred instruments.

In shaping Indian response it will be prudent for india to take Pakistani calculations into account. This does not mean there is no scope of limited war, but requires a greater interface between nuclear and conventional doctrines something which Amb Saran apperas to fight shy to spell.