Monday, September 21, 2009

Defence Spending of Major Asian Powers

How much Asian powers are spending on their militaries and the trends in that spending is important to look at because military spending is the basis of military capabilities and strategies.

Broadly, though US defence spending is still far greater than any other power by far, Chinese defence spending has been expanding rapidly, both because of greater commitment to the Chinese military but also because of the expansion of the Chinese economy.

The world military spending for 2007 stood at $ 1,214 bn of which the US accounted for 45 percent, with the next big spending powers – the UK, China, France and Japan – way down at 4 to 5 percent each. Therefore, in absolute terms, the US military budget still remains the largest. Its military spending is “more than the next 14 countries combined,” about 50 percent of world’s total military spending. The US military budget has gone up significantly since 2001. Although the 2007 budget was the highest since the end of World War II, the growth in US economy and total budget meant that military expenditure as a share of GDP and the total Government expenditure remained lower than previous peak periods (FY 1953, Korean War, FY1968 Vietnam War, FY 1989 Cold War spending).

The effect of US military spending is reflected in the US continuing to maintain a lead in military and technological areas. It is unlikely that any other power including Russia can catch up with the US in the near future. The US lead is across all the spheres of the military – land, sea, air and space. The US has also maintained nuclear primacy by enhancing its strategic weapons programmes, corresponding with decline and decay of the Russian strategic weapons programme and the slow development of Chinese programmes. This situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Although the US has undertaken a reduction in the number of strategic nuclear weapons under arms control/reduction agreements, it has continued to maintain and in fact beefed up its counterforce capabilities as well as the lethality of some of these weapon systems, particularly the SLBM and ICBM programmes.

China, on the other hand, has the fastest growing military budget not only in Asia, but in global terms. In Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, it has overtaken Japan and has taken the second position in the world. Despite the discrepancy in the estimates of Chinese defence budget, it still remains an important indicator of its national defence priorities, strategies and capabilities. The discrepancies have varied from the current Chinese official estimates of $ 45 bn to the DIA estimate of $115 bn. Chinese military expenditure grew at the rate of 12 per cent in 2006. China is world’s fourth largest military spending power after the US, UK, and France, but in PPP terms (which is more relevant), China stands second at $188.2 bn after the US at $528.7 bn. As the country reaches higher stages of economic growth, the military spending power is only bound to increase, hence one can visualise higher per capita military spending as well.

The increased spending is reflected in its accelerated procurement/ development of newer and updated weapon systems. Chinese advancement in submarine warfare and air defence systems are a proof of their increased focused defence spending.

Other powers like Russia are lagging not too far behind in their military expenditure. According to SIPRI, Russia’s defence expenditure, since 1998 when it began to increase, has gone up by 160 percent, although the increase from 2005 over the previous years has been 19 percent in 2005, 12 percent in 2006 and 13 percent in 2007. In terms of the biggest military spending powers, Russia stands at 7th position after US, UK, China, France, Japan, Germany, and Russia and third in PPP terms, after US and China. However, due to the growth in the overall economy of Russia, military expenditure as a share of GDP has come down from 4.3 percent in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2006. In recognition of the regional developments, including China factor and the US missile defence in Europe, Russia intends to spend a large amount of money on military modernisation -- prioritizing areas like air superiority, precision strikes at land and sea targets, large-scale production of warships, primarily nuclear submarines with cruise missiles and capability for rapid deployment of forces. However, given the lacunae in Russian conventional military strength, there will be added emphasis on strategic weapons and their delivery mechanisms.

Japan, on the other hand, having pursued a pacifist military posture, has the smallest budget of the four major powers discussed here. Japan in fact has exercised an unofficial cap on defence spending, limiting its budget to less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product (about $42 bn). Nevertheless, Japan still remains one of the largest military spenders, ranking fifth in the world after the US, UK, China and Russia and eighth in PPP terms. However, given the changing regional scenario with increasing threats from North Korea, Japan has been contemplating an increase in its defence spending focusing on missile defence issues.

Defence budget trends therefore show that though the US is nowhere near being replaced as the most powerful nation on earth, but Chinese defence spending does show large and continuing growth.

Role of Nuclear Weapons in Asian Security Landscape

In the nuclear arena, the US remains the only country that is capable enough to “disarm the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a nuclear first strike.”

Scholars like Lieber and Press believe that a pre-emptive strike by the US on Russia during a “peacetime alert” and on China even during a “crisis time alert” can be reasonably successful. These scholars argue that China and Russia cannot claim to have a “survivable nuclear deterrent.” It should, however, be noted despite major technological gap, Russia and China in the last few years have been forced to improve their capabilities for two reasons. One, Russia and China want to eliminate their existing vulnerabilities; and second, because the US has continued with a policy of maintaining nuclear primacy.

Of course, China’s nuclear capabilities have been expanding also because it is not limited by any international arms control agreements, unlike the US and Russia. This could lead to a nuclear arms race, potentially reducing US security and increasing regional insecurities, particularly that of Japan. China and Russia could improve their nuclear capabilities by expanding their nuclear arsenals, dispersing their nuclear forces, pre-delegating the launch authority to local commanders, thus avoiding delay in decision-making, and possibly also adopting hair-trigger nuclear retaliatory doctrines. Japan also believes that China could move away from its current nuclear posture of minimum deterrence to developing a “robust second-strike capability, perhaps with Japan as a primary target.”

However, the more worrying aspect for Japan is that US nuclear primacy could be eroding with projected reduction in US nuclear capability and an increase in the Chinese capabilities. In such a scenario, the US might enter into a bilateral arms control agreement with China that “endorses protection of a Chinese limited nuclear strike capability against the United States, with a decoupling effect that would be devastating for Japan.” Also, if a nuclear arms race recurs, the chances for an accidental nuclear war cannot be ruled out. For instance, an accident involving the US and China during a Taiwan crisis cannot be overlooked. The impact on Japan in any of these situations can be nightmarish.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Go Russia -- President Medvedev on Russia's Problems and Possible Solutions

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently wrote an article titled, Go Russia, identifying the problems facing Russia and its possible future direction. He clearly indentifies that Russia has "a primitive economy based on raw materials and endemic corruption" which is not going to help Russia find a better future. He summed up the problems that Russia is faced with -- "an inefficient economy, semi-Soviet social sphere, fragile democracy, negative demographic trends, and unstable Caucasus represent very big problems." To read his article, click here. Later on September 20, on CNN's Fareed Zakaria's GPS show, he explained in detail some of the problems that he had identified in the article.

The article went into greater detail outlining the areas that need to focused on a priority basis. For instance, it identified five key vectors for the economic modernisation of Russia. "First, we will become a leading country measured by the efficiency of production, transportation and use of energy. We will develop new fuels for use on domestic and international markets. Secondly, we need to maintain and raise our nuclear technology to a qualitatively new level. Third, Russia's experts will improve information technology and strongly influence the development of global public data networks, using supercomputers and other necessary equipment. Fourth, we will develop our own ground and space infrastructure for transferring all types of information; our satellites will thus be able to observe the whole world, help our citizens and people of all countries to communicate, travel, engage in research, agricultural and industrial production. Fifth, Russia will take a leading position in the production of certain types of medical equipment, sophisticated diagnostic tools, medicines for the treatment of viral, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases and cancer." While emphasising on economic issues, Medvedev noted that the country will be well-armed that no one dare threaten Russia or its allies.

Talking about political reforms and democracy, the article read: "Russian democracy will not merely copy foreign models. Civil society cannot be bought by foreign grants. Political culture will not be reconfigured as a simple imitation of the political traditions of advanced societies. An effective judicial system cannot be imported. Freedom is impossible to simply copy out of a book, even a very clever one. Of course we'll learn from other nations – from their experiences, their successes and failures in developing democratic institutions. But no one will live our lives for us. Nobody is going to make us free, successful and responsible. Only our own experience of democratic endeavour will give us the right to say: we are free, we are responsible, we are successful."

On issues such as the emerging world order, Medvedev said, Russia will work towards establishing "a more equitable world order." In this regard, he said, "Russia has often sought to protect small nations, those confronted with the threat of enslavement or even destruction. This was the case only recently, when Saakashvili's regime launched its criminal attack on South Ossetia. Russia has often put an end to the plans of those bent on world domination. Russia has twice appeared in the vanguard of the great coalitions: in the 19th century to stop Napoleon and in the 20th by defeating the Nazis. In war and peace, when a just cause has demanded decisive action, our people have been there to help. Russia has always been a staunch ally in war and an honest partner in economic and diplomatic affairs."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shelving of US Missile Defence in Europe: How Does it Impact on US-Russia Relations?

On September 17, 2009, President Barack Obama decided to do an overhaul of the US missile defence in Europe. The missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic is going to be replaced with a revamped project, after a careful reconsideration of the threat from Iran. Obama, making a statement on the subject, said, "This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile defense program."

While the two East European allies are not entirely happy with the development, Russia has appreciated what the US has done, with the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, saying "We value the US president's responsible approach towards implementing our agreements ... I am ready to continue the dialogue." He went further to say that there are "good conditions" on the ground to start joint anti-missile projects. Konstantin Kosachev, a prominent MP and Chairman of the International Affairs Committee, State Duma of the Russian Federation, said: "The Obama administration is starting to understand us. Now we can talk about restoration of the strategic partnership between Russia and the United States."

How does Obama's temporarily shelving of the missile defence programme affect US-Russia relations? Will Russia come on board on Iran sanctions? Will Russia become far more cooperative on the Afghan front?

The decision was taken after a careful reading of the situation, noting that the threat from Iran's long-range missiles was not so immediate. The decision was also based on advances in US missile defense technology, particularly with land and sea based interceptors. Elaborating on the revamped programme, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that interceptor missiles would be initially deployed on ships in order to enable easy transportation from one region to the other. He added, "The second phase, about 2015, will involve fielding upgraded land-based SM-3s. Consultations have begun with allies, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic, about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system."

While the programme has been been put on hold for sometime, it is not being scrapped entirely. As Gates pointed out, the first stage does not include fielding of those interceptors in Europe, but a second stage, may be in 2015 will deploy the upgraded land-based SM-3s in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is quite apparent that the Russians are aware of this. For instance, one of the scholars on NATO at the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy, Vladimir Shtol pointed out, "I don't believe the US would ever fully back out of the missile shield, because it is in their long-term interests and closely connected with their strategy in Europe." Similarly, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, says that the issue if never off the table. It may be off the agenda temporarily. He said, "Nothing has been canceled, missile defense has just been postponed. For a while this topic is off the agenda, but later it will return. So, for now the political situation may improve, but the underlying pattern of relations is unlikely to change in any basic way." However, there are Russian specialists in India like Nandan Unnikrishnan who believe that missile defence in Europe is a closed issue and that Obama's current posture is not temporary, but a permanent move. However, he added on to say that the missile defence issue will be a closed one, at least for the next couple of years.

While the US looks the change in posture as a major concession to Moscow, what does Washington expect in return? Tougher actions on Iran by Moscow may be one, better cooperation in the war on terror in Afghanistan may be another one. Renewal of START talks with lesser number of conditionalities (from Russian side) could be another expectation. Will Russia be able to deliver on all these major issues?

While tough action on Iran by Moscow is conceivable, it is not certain. If one has to go by what the Russian Foreign Minister Sregei Lavrov said last week, Iran issue is not going to be an easy one. He said, "I do not think these sanctions will be approved by the United Nations Security Council ... They [Iran] need an equal place in this regional dialogue. Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way." He went on to addd that the US cannot expect to have a timetable as far as the Iran issue is concerned. In fact, Lavrov went a step ahead to say that the changed US posture is not necessarily a concession, but merely a correction of the past mistake. A Christian Science Monitor report on the subject says that while the changed US posture on missile defence issue may contribute to a warmer dialogue between the US and Russia, Washington should not expect major concessions on some of the issues of key concern to the US like Iran. If Moscow has to extend some reciprocal concessions to Washington, the US will have to be more accomodative to Russian concerns on NATO expansion into the Russian backyard. In fact, as the US National Intelligence Strategy 2009 noted, Russia "may continue to seek avenues for reasserting power and influence in ways that complicate US interests." For instance, on September 15, 2009, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has signed agreements on cooperation in the military sphere with heads of the military departments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia Merab Kishmaria and Yuri Tanayev. As per the agreements, the headquarters of the Russian military base in Abkhazia will be in the Black Sea port of Gudauty, and in South Ossetia -- in Tskhinvali. The strength of the personnel of each of the military bases will be around 1,700. The agreements are signed for a period of 49 years, with an automatic prolongation for five years. These moves may come to compete with the US interests in the Russian backyard. Again, there are Russian experts in India who argue that the US is going to slow on the NATO expansion and that it will not pursue inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO in the near future.

Howevers, what appears certain is progress on arms control measures such as the START. The 1991 START that is expiring in December 2009 is likely to be replaced by a new arms reduction treaty. In fact, Lukyanov says, "Now we can be sure the new START agreement will be completed on time, because the vexing issue of missile defense and how it affects the strategic balance has been removed for the time being. “That’s quite an important matter."

Lastly, how does the changed posture affect Russian position on the war on terror in Afghanistan. Russia may possibly come around assisting the US significantly in the war in Afghanistan. However, what Obama has to do for long term stability in Afghanistan should include not just Russia, but also other regional powers such as Iran, India, China, Japan and some of the Central Asian states. The US has to become proactive to establish a larger colaition of states on Afghanistan if there has to be peace and stability in the Af-Pak region.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Russia, China, Iran and North Korea challenge US interests, US National Intelligence Strategy

The US National Intelligence Strategy 2009 released on September 15, 2009, has identified Russia and China along with Iran, North Korea and non-state and sub-state actors posing major challenges to US interests at home and abroad. While analysing the prevailing and emerging strategic environment, the report also identified other challenges such as environment, emerging technologies, pandemics, failed states and ungoverned spaces and economic crisis.

Detailing on the challenges, the NIS 2009 said that adversaries are likely to use asymmetric means and technology to compete with and challenge the US interests. Talking about China, the report noted that while US and China cooperate on several issues, "its increasing natural resource-focused diplomacy and military modernisation
are among the factors making it a complex global challenge." Speaking on similar lines, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that China's advanced weapon systems could possibly undermine US military power in the Asia-Pacific. Gates was speaking to the Air Force Association in Maryland noted, "In fact, when considering the military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the US symmetrically -- fighter to fighter or ship to ship -- and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options." Similarly, China's "investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, and ballistic missiles could threaten America's primary way to project power and help allies in the Pacific -- in particular our forward air bases and carrier strike groups."

Similalrly on Russia, the report said that the two countries are cooperating a great deal on issues like securitng fissile material, nuclear terrorism and so on, but the fact that Russia "may continue to seek avenues for reasserting power and influence in ways that complicate US interests" is worrying to the US. The report considers Iran as a challenge essentially due to its nuclear- and missile-related activities, but also for its involvement in terrorism, providing lethal aid to US and other Coalition adversaries. On North Korea, the report noted that it continues "to threaten peace and security in East Asia because of its sustained pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, its transfer of these capabilities to third parties, its erratic behavior, and its large conventional military capability.

The report additionally identified six major mission objectives: Combat Violent Extremism; Counter WMD Proliferation; Provide Strategic Intelligence and Warning; Integrate Counterintelligence capabilities; Enhance Cybersecurity; and Support Current Operations (ongoing US diplomatic, military, and law enforcement operations). The report has also categorised seven "enterprise objectives" including, 1) Enhance Community Mission Management; 2) Strengthen Partnerships; 3) Streamline Business Processes; 4) Improve Information Integration & Sharing; 5) Advance S&T/R&D; 6) Develop the Workforce; and 7) Improve Acquisition.

China has reacted sharply to the NIS 2009, with the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu stating that "As a staunch force safeguarding and promoting world peace and stability, China will not pose a threat to any country in its development. We urge the US to abandon Cold War mentality and prejudices, correct mistakes in the report, and stop making remarks that mislead the US public and undermine mutual trust between China and the US."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Xi Jinping the Successor to Hu?

It is widely believed that Xi Jinping, the 8th Vice President of the People's Republic of China could possibly be the next President, when Hu Jintao finishes his term in 2012. The 204-member Central Committee that opened up its annual meeting on September 15 in Beijing, will decide whether to induct Jinping into the Central Military Commission. If he is selected to this mighty powerful body, it will be a clear indication of his succession to Hu. However, if he is not selected, then that move will reflect upon the possible discord among the top leadership as to who should take the mantle from Hu.

There is a general consensus among China watchers that Jinping will be taking over from Hu, given that he was already shown the door two years ago, when he was appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. However, internal political discord cannot be ruled out. For instance, within the Standing Committee, Xi outranks Li Keqiang, a long-time protégé of Hu. Li Keqiang is believed to be taking over from Wen Jiabao as premier in 2013. There is a general estimation that Hu might be delaying the induction of of Jinping, in order to allow Li, a former party boss of the Youth League, time to build up a power base at the top.

By way of background, Xi Jinping is an ethnic Han, native of Fuping, Shaanxi Province, northwestern part of China, born in June 1953. He is currently member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee. He is someone who has risen from the rank over the years, having joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1974. However, he comes with his own baggage, to say. His father, Xi Zhongxun was a Long March hero who was banished during the Cultural Revolution. He was one of the leaders who was purged three times by Mao Zedong and later became a pro-market reformer. Later, he became one of the few leaders to defend Hu Yaobang, a progressive party chief sacked in 1986, as also to condemn the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, after which he was rarely seen in public. However, it is reported that Jinping has strong credentials, from being an effective provincial leader to excellent administrator. Accordingly, he is believed to have been given high-profile assignments; overseeing the final preparations of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, being one among them. Besides, he is very popular within the party and he is essentially seen as a man of the masses. For a detailed profile, click here.

While Xinhua, the official news agency annunced the opening of the annual conclave, it made no mention of the leadership issues. It simply noted taht a draft document on "party building" -- issues ranging from recruitment for the 75 million-member CPC to fighting the corruption that has fuelled many protests -- will be discussed. Another report in the Wen Wei Po, a party-backed newspaper in Hong Kong, said that the meeting will also discuss on new measures that would require officials to declare their assets.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

China’s military advantage over India vanishing, says analyst

Last month, India's Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee and Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, speaking on National Security Challenges at the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi admitted that India neither has the “capability nor the intention” to match China’s military strength. He added, “Common sense dictates that cooperation with China would be preferable to competition or conflict, as it would be foolhardy to compare India and China as equals... Whether in terms of GDP, defence spending or any other economic, social or development parameter, the gap between the two is just too wide to bridge and getting wider by the day.

An analyst, however, claims that China's military advantage over is vanishing.

Such OpEd pieces may be soothening to the ears of many, but this is not the reality. The reality of the situation may be hardhitting. What is needed at this hour is a realistic assessment of the kind of capabilities that exist on both sides of the border and beyond. Such a reality check may help India prepare better for the future.

The infrastructure on the Indian side is quite deplorable. Indian military and political establishment appears to have believed for a long time that if it undertakes major infrastructure development, it would actually enhance the Chinese ability to move into Indian territory. However, the Indian government has recognised, of late, the need to upgrade the general infrastructure in the region. In June 2006, the Indian Cabinet sanctioned a series of infrastructure projects along the border. These projects include the building of 72 roads, three airstrips and several bridges in the border areas along the undefined LAC that would enable the Indian military to move troops quickly into the region.

In terms of forces, India has about twelve mountain divisions capable of swift offensive operations in the mountainous areas. Two of these were reportedly created in February 2008, specifically for combat in Arunachal Pradesh. Two additional such divisions are estimated to become operational by 2015-16, at a cost of around INR 14 billion (USD 358 million). These will be reinforced by air power, including possibly, AWACS, and fighter jets. There have also been reports of India’s plans to procure 140 ultra-light 155mm artillery pieces, as also a large number of heavy lift and combat ready helicopters, all of which would have special utility in mountain warfare. Although India has tested a number of intermediate-range missiles, including the Agni-3 capable of hitting both Beijing and Shanghai, these missiles are still not operational. Additionally, India has recently deployed two army divisions and two air force squadrons in Assam. With this new deployment in Assam, India’s troop strength in the region will cross more than one hundred thousand. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) announced (June 2009) that it will deploy two squadrons of advanced Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft in Tezpur, Assam. Though only four fighters are deployed now, there are plans to increase it to its full complement in a gradual manner. Additionally, India has acquired three Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), which also potentially has uses on the Eastern border. In addition, India is also undertaking upgradation of airstrips and advanced landing stations along the Northeast, including at Tezpur (Assam), Chabua (Assam), Jorhat (Assam), Panagarh (West Bengal), and Purnea (Bihar). If the AWACS are deployed to the northeast, it could be significant as it is a potent force multiplier capable of monitoring the movement and activities of troops and aircraft on the Chinese side. The state of Arunachal Pradesh is also planning to raise a 5,000-strong force, comprising of local populace, to supplement Indian Army efforts during a crisis. This is being modeled on Ladakh Scouts that proved useful during the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan.

On the other hand, the infrastructural developments that China has undertaken in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as well as on the India-China border is remarkable. It provides the potential to the PLA Army to mobilise forces and equipment in a much shorter span of time. It would enable China to quickly mobilise large forces by train and by road onto Indian borders. Earlier this exercise not only took a long time but also was impossible during periods of snow. The new rail line into Tibet, and expressways, have changed the scenario totally. Besides, it is believed that China has about 160,000 troops in Tibet, and with improved infrastructure, it will be able to amass another 100,000 troops from the central reserve in a span of six weeks. Indian military planners have also noted that China has vastly improved its air force capability in the region, with multiple air bases and forward airstrips near the border. The PLA Air Force is also believed to have improved its command and control structures. China can also deploy heavy-lift planes in Tibet, though they may not be able to land and take-off fully loaded because of altitude restrictions. Besides the positioning of intermediate range ballistic missiles such as DF-4 and DF-21 in Tibet, it is reported that they could also deploy DF-31 ICBMs in bases such as at Delingha, near Tibet.

This is in essence India's defence as far as China is concerned. How is the military balance favoring India?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

CTBT to Come Back in a Big Way

Here's a link to ArmsControlWonk link on Obama's latest initiative on CTBT. The Obama Administration has tasked the National Academies Committee on International Security and Arms Control (NAS-CISAC) to prepare a study on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

While the Obama Administration is gearing to get the CTBT ratified in the US Senate, it might be useful for India to start the debate and analyse what are the issues involved, pluses and minuses of signing the CTBT. FMCT too will be up on our face if we don't start the debate right away within the country.

Some debate has got kickstarted with the recent statement of Mr. K Santhanam, who stated that the 1998 tests were not sufficient and that we will have to do more tests. However, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) chief R Chidambaram is on record as saying that the bombs yield was 45 kilotons (45,000 tonnes of conventional explosive.

Mr. Brajesh Mishra commenting on Santhanam's statements noted (in India Tonight, CNBC with Mr. Karan Thapar ) that India was originally planning to conduct six tests. However, at the end of five tests, Mr. R. Chidambaram, then chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission called to say that the tests were successful and whether they should go for a sixth test or not. Mr. Brajesh Mishra is reported to have noted that if the five tests were successful, there was no need for a sixth one. Later in 2003, Chidambaram, in an essay for the Wisconsin Project on Arms Control had written that Indian scientists can make nuclear weapons of "any type of size," including a neutron bomb, based on information obtained from the 1998 tests.

CD Proceedings on FMCT Comes to A Standstill

Efforts by Conference on Disarmament (CD) to start negotiations on Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty reached a standstill as Pakistan raised objections saying that its security interests have not been taken into account.

Now that the talks are stalled, CD can restart negotiations only in January 2010.

After a 12-year gap, the CD was beginning to focus on issues such as nuclear disarmament with a renewed push from US President Barack Obama himself. The CD was also to take up two other issues -- prevention of an arms race in outer space and “negative security assurances,” in which countries promise not to use nuclear weapons on non-nuclear-weapon states. However, the next step of agreeing to implementation of the work plan in order that different working groups could start examining the various issues is proving to be difficult.

Pakistan, for instance, has said that implementation of these proposals will hurt its national security. Islamabad fears that all the focus will be on FMCT and in the process, other three issues will be neglected. Pakistani Ambassador Zamir Akram told Reuters, “We wanted to see a programme of work being implemented in a way that would set the stage for a balanced outcome on all the four issues.” Pakistan tried to demonstrate that it had the support of several Non Alignment Movement (NAM) countries as also the Russian and Chinese support for the ban of weapons in outer space. The ambassador further noted that the manner in which the US, Russia, France and Britain were navigating the entire FMCT negotiations also raised concerns in Pakistan. Pakistan’s fear is that these four countries’ approach to FMCT was through a non-proliferation lens that would essentially look at banning future production of fissile material.