Archive for August, 2013

RPI Authors Westmyer and Joshi: South Korea Should Look to South Asian Nuclear Experience Before Building Bomb

southasia-flagsTimothy Westmyer, research and program assistant on the RPI Nuclear Debates in Asia project, and Yogesh Joshi, Ph.D candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University and recent visiting scholar at the Sigur Center, wrote a recent article in The Diplomat recommending that nuclear weapon advocates in South Korea take a look at the uneasy experience of new nuclear weapon states in South Asia before committing to building a nuclear arsenal:

India and Pakistan are again at loggerheads, with five Indian soldiers and two Pakistani soldiers were killed on the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed Kashmir region earlier this month. Since then, the LOC has seen a rapid escalation in cross border exchanges of fire, bringing the sustainability of the 2003 cease fire agreement between the two neighbors into doubt. Earlier, in January, India had accused Pakistani Special Forces of killing two Indian soldiers, claiming one of them was beheaded. These provocations come as progress is stalled in the prosecution of the alleged Pakistan-based masterminds of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. New Delhi remains unable to influence Islamabad’s policy on state-sponsored terrorism, despite the presence of nuclear arsenals in South Asia since the 1990s.

Something similar is visible on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean provocations have persisted since its first nuclear weapon test in 2006. Seoul, like New Delhi, has vacillated between diplomacy and military threats to no avail. South Korea’s current state of strategic frustration has convinced some leaders in Seoul that their country needs an indigenous nuclear capability. In the lead-up to President Park Geun-Hye’s inauguration, members of her own Saenuri Party encouraged a nuclear build-up. Rep. Shim Jae-Cheol argued the “only way to defend our survival would be to maintain a balance of terror that confronts nuclear with nuclear.” In June 2012, former Saenuri Party chairman and presidential candidate Chung Mong-Joon called for a “comprehensive re-examination of our security policy” that should give Seoul “the capability to possess” a nuclear arsenal. At a conference earlier this year in Washington, DC Chung leaned heavily on the U.S.-Soviet model: “The only thing that kept the Cold War cold was the mutual deterrence afforded by nuclear weapons…The lesson of the Cold War is that against nuclear weapons, only nuclear weapons can hold the peace.”

These proliferation optimists cite the U.S.-Soviet Cold War model of nuclear deterrence to claim that a South Korean nuclear arsenal would prevent future aggression. The experience of new nuclear weapon states in South Asia, however, suggests that South Korean nuclear weapons will not prove tremendously helpful to this end. (more…)

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Launch of Indigenous Indian Aircraft Carrier Prompts Reactions from Asian Powers

vikrantOn August 12, India launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, joining the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia in the elite club of nations capable of building similar ships. The INS Vikrant, along with progress on India’s indigenous nuclear submarine fleet, supports India’s broader naval strategy toward a blue-water navy. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from India, China, and Japan on the implications of these developments for international security across the seas in Asia.

INDIA

In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh applauded “the Navy on its successes.” While the Vikrant is not expected to be battle-ready before 2020, some commentators praised the launch as a major step forward for India’s naval strategy:

  • In a Business Standard column, Premvir Das, a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, wrote that these “watershed events in the life of a Navy” were a “matter of great pride for our countrymen” as these new “capabilities at sea” will be necessary in India’s future security.
  • Writing for the Nationalist leaning The Indian Express, Manu Pubby called Vikrant a “37,500-ton defense statement” that can carry 36 aircraft as India demonstrates its “self-reliance in this field.”

Others threw cold water on this optimism, citing gaps in India’s naval capabilities and the rising capabilities of its neighbors. Besides, India’s submarine fleet ended up experiencing both a success and a tragedy in August. On August 10, the INS Arihant’s nuclear reactor reached criticality – a significant step to becoming battle-ready – helping to replace India’s aging fleet of conventional diesel-electric submarines. But on August 14, kilo-class submarine INS Sindurakshak suffered a series of explosions that killed 18 sailors in India’s worst peacetime naval accident.

  • Business Standard editorialized that the “Navy’s plan to field three aircraft carriers remains a pipe dream.” The paper continued that “when INS Vikramaditya gets here from Russia, it will be more than five years late. The vintage INS Viraat is to be decommissioned by 2018-19” and the “Navy continues to dither over the specifications of the Vikrant’s successor.”
  • Great-Power Realist C. Raja Mohan in his Indian Express column looked beyond INS Vikrant and warned about the end of India’s monopoly over naval airpower in the region. As Australia, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea expand their airpower capabilities, Raja Mohan expected “much jockeying for positions of advantage in the waters of Asia.”
  • T.S. Subramanian, Associate Editor for the left-leaning/Nationalist Frontline, opined that the INS Arihant means New Delhi “can assert that it has mastered the technology of developing and manufacturing nuclear propulsion for driving submarines” and will soon acquire “the status of a blue-water navy.”

Several outlets commented on how the Sindurakshak submarine tragedy could impact India’s naval ambitions:

  • Quoted in the Liberal-Globalist leaning The Times of India, India’s Defense Minister, A K Antony, pronounced the accident as the “greatest tragedy in recent times.” Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi said “a dent” was left in “Indian Navy’s submarine capabilities for the time being.”
  • In the Liberal Globalist Economic Times, Akrun Prakash, former chief of the Indian Navy, argued that “chronic deficiencies in our defense planning and management” are responsible for the accident, including the Indian military’s dependence on imported weapons and lack of expertise on defense matters in government.
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RPI Author Sudha Mahalingam on Liquefied Natural Gas in India

LNG carrier Taitar No.2 at sea (Source: Mercator Media 2013)

LNG carrier Taitar No.2 at sea (Source: Mercator Media 2013)

Sudha Mahalingam, a participant in the RPI Worldviews of Aspiring Powers project, an independent energy analyst, and former member of India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, wrote an op-ed  in The Hindu on policy recommendations for India to meet its rising energy demands through liquefied natural gas:

A decade ago, three Indian companies — Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) — independently announced substantial gas discoveries in the Krishna-Godavari Basin in the Bay of Bengal. For a fuel-starved country, these discoveries were harbingers of hope and optimism. While crude imports would continue, we believed we could finally turn our back on polluting coal and transit to natural gas-based electricity generation. In fact, in Andhra Pradesh, four CCGT-based (combined cycle gas turbine) thermal generation plants came up in the wake of the announcement. Abundant domestic gas supplies also meant enhanced food security, since gas is the main feedstock for manufacturing fertilizers.

All those claims turned out to be a lot of hot air, rather than methane. Neither ONGC nor GSPC is anywhere near monetizing their respective natural gas discoveries although that does not stop them from claiming further discoveries in the same basin from time to time. RIL had then dramatically announced that it could produce 80 million metric standard cubic meters of natural gas every day (mmscmd), a claim that sent its stock prices soaring then. Yet, it failed to produce even half that volume, and now production has plummeted to a sixth of that quantity. Whether the drop in gas production is due to technological challenges, geological problems or pricing battles with the government is immaterial as far as consumers are concerned. All the industries that came up on the promise of abundant gas availability were faced with huge shortages of gas. They had to either remain stranded or operate at a fraction of their name-plate capacities, that too using naphtha, a costly substitute for natural gas. (more…)

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RPI Author Sudha Mahalingam on India’s Energy Policies

2009 fire at Indian Oil Corp. oil depot in Jaipur (Source: AP/Mustafa Quraishi)

2009 fire at Indian Oil Corp. oil depot in Jaipur (Source: AP/Mustafa Quraishi)

Sudha Mahalingam, a participant in the RPI Worldviews of Aspiring Powers project, an independent energy analyst, and former member of India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, wrote a pair of recent op-eds  in The Hindu on India’s energy policies.

In these articles, she discusses the Indian government’s efforts to meet its rising energy security goals through the acquisition of global fossil fuel supplies and pricing schemes on natural gas to incentivise domestic gas production.

Earlier this month, she wrote that India’s overseas oil assets would require better legal and managerial support if these efforts hope to contribute to energy security:

“Many necessary and sufficient conditions must be satisfied before equity oil of our national oil companies translates into energy security. Firstly, not all assets in which OVL has invested are producing assets. Exploratory acreages can contribute to India’s energy security only if and when there is an exploitable, viable discovery of hydrocarbons.

Secondly, even in the case of producing fields, equity participation is subject to certain contractual terms with the host government. Additionally, if you share your equity with other partners as in a consortium or joint venture, you would also be subject to the terms of the consortium or joint venture agreement or the operating agreement between parties. Both these must contain provisions that allow you to take your share of production in kind.” (more…)

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RPI Author Rajesh Rajagopalan: Nuclear Risks Shouldn’t Constrain India

Rajesh Rajagopalan, a participant in RPI’s Nuclear Debates in Asia and Worldviews of Aspiring Powers projects and professor in International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, recently wrote an op-ed for The Economic Times where he argues that the risk of nuclear escalation shouldn’t constrain India from threatening small-scale military retaliation to what he views as provocations from Pakistan:

In the aftermath of yet another Pakistani transgression, we are back to the tired old arguments about whether or not India should be talking to Pakistan. Proponents argue that nothing has been gained whenever India stopped talking to Pakistan, as it did after every major provocation. Their opponents argue that dialogue has not stopped Pakistan’s provocations.

Both sides are right and therein lies the simple truth that New Delhi refuses to acknowledge: dialogue or the lack of it has little impact on Pakistan. The reason Pakistan continues to provoke is that India has eschewed any retaliation for fear of nuclear escalation. Because Pakistan does not fear Indian retaliation, India’s deterrence is dead. To prevent Pakistani provocations, India needs to resurrect its deterrence and that requires considering using military force. (more…)

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RPI Visiting Scholar Sudha Mahalingam at 2013 Kolkata-Kunming BCIM Rally

BCIM_rally

GWU Rising Powers Initiative visiting Scholar Sudha Mahalingam recently participated in the 2013 Kolkata-Kunming BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) Car Rally. About 80 participants from four partner nations embarked on an epic 12-day-long, 3,000-km journey. This rally was organized to boost trade and encourage people-to-people contact in the BCIM region.

Full coverage of the event can be found on pages 30-37 of India Perspectives May/June 2013 edition.

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