Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

South Asian Nuclear Triangle

Toby Dalton at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace's Nuclear Policy Program recently wrote a piece that was reprinted in the Proliferation News email newsletter put out by the Endowment's Global Think Tank.  The gist of the article was that whereas most analysts and policy makers dealing with South Asia though in terms of an Indian-Pakistani dyad and an Indian-Chinese dyad it make much more sense to think in terms of an Indian-Pakistani-Chinese triad in which each country had a relationship with the other two that affected both of them. He wrote that China had a much closer connection to Pakistan's nuclear development than many people realized.

By chance I just finished reading a 2000 report from the RAND Corp. on India's nuclear options. This 700 plus page report by analyst Ashley Tellis, India's Emerging Nuclear Posture, in very clear readable English spelled out the likely doctrine, size, and policy options for India in the decades ahead regarding her nuclear options.

Here are the main policy findings of the report:

  • India faces two very distinct and different nuclear threats: China and Pakistan.
  • India had a much smaller nuclear force than most estimates gave it credit for both due to inefficiencies in processing plutonium and as a matter of choice.
  • India had a no first use nuclear policy with a force whose sole aim was to deter nuclear attack.
  • India could effectively target China only with a missile force of either IRBMs or ICBMs or submarine-launched ballistic and cruise missiles.
  • Pakistan would be targeted mainly with nuclear-carrying aircraft of British (Jaguar) and French (Mirage 2000) design. 
  • Indian nuclear policy consisted mainly of having a nuclear force-in-being that would not be maintained at constant readiness but which would be ready to respond during a crisis.
  • India had several deployment options for its missile force: rail mounted, road mobile, surface ship mounted, and submarine launched. 
  • Economic limitations would probably prevent a real arms race from developing between India and Pakistan, but an arms crawl or slow rivalry would likely develop.
  • China was unlikely to be very concerned with or perturbed by Indian nuclear deployment decisions as the Chinese force was mainly aimed at the United States, Japan, and Korea. 
  • India's main nuclear threat came from Pakistan's ballistic missile force. 
  • The Indian-Pakistani nuclear relationship was much more stable than most analysts or policy makers gave it credit for.

Dutch-Israel military analyst  Martin Van Creveld wrote several decades ago that nuclear deterrence had actually worked to eliminate the danger of war in the Indian subcontinent. The Kargil war broke out in 1999, sometime after he made this prediction, but it remained quite limited and did not either go nuclear or develop into a major conventional war like those in 1965 or 1971.

Israel could learn quite a bit from India's strategic situation. They have several things in common:
  • both are democracies;
  • both face multiple conventional threats; 
  • both have advanced technological sectors;
  • both have very well-trained and equipped militaries;
  • both face(d) a threat from a nuclear great power.
But there are major differences in their situation:
  • India occupies most of a subcontinent; Israel is a tiny Mediterranean country lacking strategic depth.
  • Israel is definitely part of the periphery in the Middle East; India is part of the core in South Asia.
  • India has multiple potential allies; Israel has only the United States as a major ally. 
  • India has no expansionist tendencies; Israel wants to absorb the West Bank as a buffer territory.
Thus, while Israel can learn from India's situation and adaptations and vice versa, both will have to come up with very different solutions to the various challenges that they face.

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