Geopolitics

South Asia Nuclear War – Periodic kitty gossip
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Apr , 2017

Britain’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) has produced a comprehensive study titled ‘Global Strategic Trend 2040’, wherein the research team has systematically crystal grazed into the future. Conclusions drawn by the study include that the locus of global power will be moving to Asia, intense completion between global powers amidst global challenges of climate change,  resource scarcity, population growth, and the like.

The study goes on to say that while the US is likely to remain the pre-eminent military power, the rise of individual states, such as China, should not be considered a certainty given the nature and magnitude of the challenges they face, nor should their eventual influence be over-estimated. Also, triggers like distribution and access to energy, uneven food and freshwater resources increasing the likelihood of societal instability, besides disagreement between states, could ignite conflict.

…the possibility of increased use of nuclear weapons, as part of the study, is not forecast as state-on-state conflict, but part of CBRN terrorism that may be executed through non-state or state supported so called non-state actors.

Of the many issues related to global defence and security trends that the above study forecasts, they also include: increased incidences of armed conflict that will be unpredictable, violent, and strategically shocking with ‘people’ providing asymmetric edge if invested in and empowered; blurring differences between state, state-sponsored and non-state adversaries; military instrument alone will not be  decisive – all elements of power  wielded by broader spectrum of actors and agencies, including organized criminal, terrorist and insurgent groups; degree of combining hard and soft power; likelihood of nuclear weapon use as part of CBRN threat from state and non-state actors likely to increase;  when intervention becomes unavoidable by major powers, actors will use proxy forces, cyber attack, and covert and clandestine methods; increased range of political, legal, ethical and financial imperatives to build relationships with like-minded partners; radicalization, extremism and terrorism will continue to generate threats; conflicts over food and water resources are possible; and, success in future conflict will require shift away from kinetic to influence activity.

The forecast bit “about all elements of power wielded by broader spectrum of actors and agencies, including organized criminal, terrorist and insurgent groups” is actually no forecast, as this has already been in vogue, and practiced diligently by China. Witness China’s decade plus links with Taliban controlling the Golden Crescent and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) controlling the ‘Golden Triangle’. And these are only ‘part’ of the ‘broader spectrum of power’ knitted by China at multiple levels, with multiple aims – all part of the strategy to attain ‘Great Power’ status.

In fact, this is precisely what China’s concept of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ is about – more the dirtier, the better. However, it is  interesting to note the postulation in the above study that the rise of China should not be considered a certainty. This may cause the Communist Party of China (CPC) go ballistic and adopt an even more all around aggressive approach, albeit the results may not be what the CPC wants. At the same time, it important to note that the possibility of increased use of nuclear weapons, as part of the above study, is not forecast as state-on-state conflict, but part of CBRN terrorism that may be executed through non-state or state supported so called non-state actors.

…India giving 80 percent of water to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty, which is double than the global norms…

Booming populations and scarcity of resources could no doubt cause conflict in South Asia, particularly water scarcity, with water levels receding at alarming pace.  Musharraf, much before he became army chief, gave a presentation to the Pakistani Defence Ministry stating that at the time of Independence, per capita annual availability of water in Pakistan was  6000 cusecs which had already come down to 1000 cusecs per head. And so, he advocated that one strong reason for Pakistan to capture Kashmir was to ensure future availability of water to Pakistanis. It is the glaciated fresh water reserves of Shaksgam Valley because of which China illegally occupied it. It is water because of which Pakistan eyes the Siachen Glacier  - the largest fresh water reserve in the region. This is despite India giving 80 percent of water to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty, which is double than the global norms based on size of the river basin, even while India constitutes 17.5 percent of world population but has access to only four percent of global fresh water reserves.

There is no denying the penchant of the Pakistani army and administration to periodically wag their nuclear tail, particularly because the stamp on it says ‘Made in Beijing’. After all they have to divert the attention of the masses from having sold the country’s sovereignty to China in exchange for pocketing millions; something which Myanmar resolutely denied to the Chinese. So, yes Pakistan threatens nuclear war over water also, without elaborating if the water is short for drinking, toilets or whatever, the humorous part being a YouTube clip of a Pakistani village woman questioning her government what war with India are they threatening when they don’t even have enough water to wash their backsides?

Interestingly, Anjum Niaz in his article titled ‘Nuclear war over water?’ published in The Tribune of March 16 brings out how Pakistan is the culprit for its own water scarcity by allowing water to flow into the sea because it is unable to conserve the water by failing to build small dams. He concludes that while talks with India on water sharing are fine but for a long-term solution, Pakistan needs sustainable water conservation and flood control practices.

…the fact that China, India and Pakistan have enough nukes to deter each other, and that the Chinese hinterland is no more unreachable.

Of course the water shortage is compounded in Pakistan by the fastest population growth rate in the world, the dilemma of a Pakistani how to fit the names of his 38 children in the census form being just one example. But despite all this, is nuclear war in South Asia over water or state-on-state war possible, or for that matter for any other reason? Yet, the western Think Tanks cannot get over the habit of time and again bringing up the issue of nuclear war in South Asia, particularly with respect to India-Pakistan conflict.

It is akin to the same topics coming up in periodic kitty parties of women. These Think Tank kitties love to discuss Indo-Pak nuclear war, India’s nuclear policy – why it should or should not change, and whether India will strike to take out the nuclear capability of Pakistan. This last bit is not even funny because if one could take out the nuclear capability of another nuclear country, then why has America dithered to de-fang the nuclear teeth of North Korea especially when China’s official façade is that she is not behind the nuclear capability of that country?

The issues that are purposely glossed over in these kitty parties are:

•  how and why did the US permit China proliferate nuclear technology to Pakistan, what was the policy, who was responsible and what have been the ramifications for the world at large;

•  why was Pakistan permitted further nuclear proliferation, why was Musharraf permitted to divert all blame on AQ Khan, and why AQ Khan has not been questioned by CIA or any westerner to-date;

•  why is there no discussion analyzing nuclear terrorism as part of CBRN terrorism in South Asia and safeguards that can prevent such occurrence (s), and;

North Korea’s Pukkuksong-2 missiles, Scud ER missiles and future weaponry are aimed at the US, US allies and US assets in Asia Pacific specifically for assisting Beijing in event of a Sino-US conflict…

•  why is CBRN terrorism not discussed specifically with respect to Pakistan and China, given Pakistan’s terror record, China’s ‘unrestricted warfare, and the unholy nexus between the two?

As far as state-on-state nuclear conflict in South Asia is concerned, is this possible at all given the fact that China, India and Pakistan have enough nukes to deter each other, and that the Chinese hinterland is no more unreachable.

Deng Xiaoping’s policy sure created Pakistan and China as China’s nuclear proxies, but China can hardly expect to go unscathed in the event of nuclear conflict in the region. It needs no intelligence to conclude that North Korea’s Pukkuksong-2 missiles, Scud ER missiles and future weaponry are aimed at the US, US allies and US assets in Asia Pacific specifically for assisting Beijing in event of a Sino-US conflict, including deterring US reinforcements to the region.

China has obviously psyched Kim Jong-un who probably also remains high on narcotics’ given his insanity; not to realize consequences of such development. But such a scenario is possible given the irrationality of Kim Jong-un. This is the scenario that the western Think Tanks need to discuss.  No need to worry about India’s nuclear policy, which actually caters for all future contingencies.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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