Monday, March 14, 2022

Can Modi's India Be Trusted With Nukes?

India's March 9 "accidental firing" of Brahmos nuclear-capable supersonic cruise missile into Pakistan has raised serious questions about the safety of the Indian nuclear arsenal. Do the people in charge of India's nukes have basic competence to handle such weapons? Was this really an "unauthorized" or "accidental" firing? Why was there a long delay by New Delhi in acknowledging the incident?  Could Pakistan be blamed if it assumed that extremist right-wing Hindu elements had taken control of the missile system in India and fired it deliberately into Pakistani territory? Has the Indian government risked the lives of 1.6 billion people of South Asia?

Top Indian defense analysts Sushant Singh and Bharat Karnad have strongly criticized the Indian government for the incident and its response. Singh has accused the Indian government of risking the lives of 1.6 billion people.  Karnad has called the incident "quite shocking and simply cannot be credibly explained away by referring to a 'technical glitch'". Both have praised Pakistan's "mature" response to the incident. 

In an OpEd in the Deccan Herald, Mr. Singh says "we (India) have come out looking like either bumbling idiots or out of control, while the Pakistanis have come out as being both capable and mature".  In an interview with Rediff, Professor Karnad said, "This is quite shocking and simply cannot be credibly explained away by referring to a ‘technical glitch’".  Here are more detailed excerpts of remarks by Singh and Karnad:  

Excerpts From "A Broken Arrow" by Sushant Singh published in the Deccan Herald: 

"India and Pakistan are nuclear weapon states that came close to climbing the escalation ladder in the aftermath of the Balakot airstrikes just three years ago. My column in this paper on February 27 (“Three years ago, we were on the brink of war”) had warned of the risks highlighted in February-March 2019, which have been overlooked since. The accidental firing of an Indian missile has brought the spotlight on those risks again. It would be irresponsible to ignore them now".

"The lives of 1.6 billion people of India and Pakistan cannot be dependent on such lucky breaks. It is for these reasons – the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, the minimal time available to take a decision, and Pakistan’s strategic mindset – accidents are unacceptable. Questions raised in western capitals about the safety and security of our nuclear weapon systems and processes were regularly dismissed by New Delhi by citing its impeccable track-record and supposedly fool-proof systems. It allowed India, despite the concerted efforts of certain American experts, to de-hyphenate itself from Pakistan’s poor track record of proliferation, its weak security systems always seen to be at risk of being infiltrated by religious religious extremists in uniform. On issues of nuclear safety, Pakistan has always attempted to bracket India with itself, but has often failed. But now, we have come out looking like either bumbling idiots or out of control, while the Pakistanis have come out as being both capable and mature. India can dismiss all Pakistani allegations but there will be renewed questions from the US non-proliferation lobby that are going to be tougher for New Delhi to respond to".

"India, as the bigger country, has the cushion of geography, while Pakistan, driven by the insecurity of a small territory, has a nuclear security doctrine of ‘first use’. To avoid the destruction of its arsenal and delivery systems by a pre-emptive Indian strike, it deems it necessary to strike India first in the event of hostilities threatening to break out. This makes the situation more dangerous in the subcontinent"

"An environment of relative calm between India and Pakistan, with a ceasefire on the LoC in Kashmir, definitely helped the Pakistani military keep its cool in the face of an Indian missile. Would it have reacted so maturely in the midst of military or political tensions? Or can Pakistan be blamed if they assume that certain rogue elements had taken control of the missile system in India and fired on it? Crucially, if the missile had a self-destruct feature, why wasn’t it activated? Should we expect every junior Pakistani military officer to display the same sagacity and courage as the Soviet naval officer Vasili Arkhipov, the Brigade Chief of Staff on submarine B-59, who refused to fire a nuclear missile and prevented a nuclear disaster in 1962? Or of the Soviet military duty officer Stanislav Petrov who, on seeing an early-warning system showing an incoming US strike, with about half-a-dozen missiles, in the early hours of September 26, 1983, made the call – in the face of incomplete information and doubt -- that it was a system malfunction, instead of reporting it to his superiors as enemy missile launches?"

Excerpts From Bharat Karnad's Interview with Rashme Sehgal:

RS: What does this say about their safety mechanisms and the technical prowess in the way these dangerous weapons are being maintained in India?

BK: That’s precisely the worry attending on this misfiring.

Indeed, the Pakistani government was quick to capitalise on this incident of the Brahmos missile going astray.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s National Secrity Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf publicly expressed concern and asked the international community to note the fairly casual manner in which missiles are the Indian armed forces.

He went on, understandably, to extend that concern to India’s handling of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

Such criticism is bound to have an effect on international opinion and hurt India’s self-confessed status as a ‘responsible State’.

RS: The defence ministry seems to have landed with egg on its face.

BK: A whole barnyard full of eggs, in fact. This is quite shocking and simply cannot be credibly explained away by referring to a ‘technical glitch’.

The triggering mechanism is a hardy piece of work including a firing sequence and a final authorisation.

How this process was obviated is a mystery.

RS: Pakistan’s foreign office summoned India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge a warning that this unprovoked violation of its airspace could have endangered passenger flights and civilian lives.

BK: Well, yeah, anything could have happened, including the missile, even with a dummy warhead, kinetically taking out a passenger aircraft.

In your view, could this have been a BrahMos cruise missile possessing nuclear capability?

The Brahmos missile has interchangeable warheads and can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.

But most forward-deployed Indian cruise missiles are conventionally armed.

RS: If it was a nuclear missile — albeit unarmed — is there a possibility in the future that the command and control system could fail again in the future which could have dangerous consequences for both nations?

BK: Unless the government clarifies the nature of the ‘technical glitch’ everything is in the realm of speculation. That could include a faulty command and control system.

RS: According to reports, Pakistani officials claim it was fired from Sirsa. How far is that assessment correct?

BK: No reason to doubt the Pakistani claim because the Pakistani air defence complex at Sargodha, District Miani, is very advanced and capable of detecting cruise and ballistic missile firings and minutely tracking their trajectory.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

The West Must Accept Pakistan as a Legitimate Nuclear State

Balakot and Kashmir: Fact Checkers Expose Indian Lies

Is Pakistan Ready for War with India?

Pakistan-Made Airplanes Lead Nation's Defense Exports

Modi's Blunders and Delusions 

India's Israel Envy: What If Modi Attacks Pakistan?

Project Azm: Pakistan to Develop 5th Generation Fighter Jet

Pakistan Navy Modernization

Pakistan's Sea-Based Second Strike Capability

Who Won the 1965 War? India or Pakistan?

Pakistani Military's Performance in 1971 War


Riazuddin said...

Shame on India who wants to be member Neuclare club.
I suggest the incident should be elevated to international level.
Security council should investigate the accidental fire of India's Neuclare capable missile.

Eagle said...

Indian's attempt to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group seems like a joke now.
It's good they kept India out.


This is NOT new !

What is the worth of the Indian Weapons or Missile systems ?

The LACM Nirbhay missile of the Indians ALSO failed for the 5th time ! dindooohindoo

5th time ! The Indians never learn ! The missile does not EVEN cross the Boost phase ! It was forced to self destruct as it tilted.In other words even the booster engines failed.

What will happen at the Turbo stage when the missile inclines to a horizontal trajectory – as it is a Cruise missile – low Alt ! The Indians are only good at cheating – and so, it is better to ask the Pentagon, for the Tomahawk blueprints ! In any case the Indians are using US Military satellite data, and in future,will use the US Milit satellites also.


This Brahmos doom has happened 1 day after Chaiwala scraped through in 2 states.Chaiwala will launch a strike on Pakistan,in view of Kiev distraction - and the PAYBACK,EXPECTED FROM PUTIN -for Chaiwala support for Putin !

OMEN FOR 2022 !





Anonymous said...

I think accident is just a ploy. It was used to determine the penetration in to Pakistani airspace without immediate radar detection, and it succeeded.

Riaz Haq said...

Errant Indian
Pakistan held back after realizing something was amiss: people
India missile launch occurred due to human, technical errors

An accidental missile fired by India last week prompted Pakistan to prepare a retaliatory strike, people familiar with the matter said, showing how close the nuclear-armed neighbors came to blows over a potentially disastrous mistake.

Pakistan had prepared to launch a similar missile to strike India but held back because an initial assessment indicated something was amiss, people familiar with the matter said. The Indian missile ended up damaging some residential property but caused no casualties.

samir sardana said...

2022 is the year of doom for the Indians and the Pied Piper of the PMO

CDS - Killed
Chaiwala Polls - Uttarakhand CM loses and Goa - 2 Dy CMs lose and the CM wins by 666 votes

The Polls have shown the impact of the vote split by AAP and Congress

Basically Indians are incapable of making and using missiles !


This is a story from the Ramayana – when Rama could not stop a crow from lacerating the breasts of his wife Sita,when he was sleeping on her lap !

Book V : Sundara Kanda – Book Of Beauty
Chapter [Sarga] 67

सुख सुप्ता त्वया सार्धम् जानकी पूर्वम् उत्थिता |
वायसः सहसा उत्पत्य विरराद स्तन अन्तरे || ५-६७-३

“Seetha, who slept happily by your side (at one instance) got up before you. A crow coming down quickly, tore her flesh at an area in the midst of her breasts (with its beak).”

Context 2


स दर्भम् संस्तरात् गृह्य ब्रह्म अस्त्रेण न्ययोजयः |
प्रदीप्त इव काल अग्निः जज्वाल अभिमुखः खगम् || ५-६७-१२

“Taking a blade of grass from your bed of the sacred grass, you charged it with the potency of Brahma missile. That flaming blade blazed forth like the fire of universal dissolution, with its end facing the bird.”

Context 3


एवम् अस्त्रविदाम् श्रेष्ठः सत्त्ववान् शीलवान् अपि || ५-६७-१८
किम् अर्थम् अस्त्रम् रक्षह्सु न योजयसि राघव |

“O Rama! Why are you not employing the same type of a missile on the demons, though you are the foremost among the wielders of missiles, though courageous and possessed of good disposition?”

THAT IS THE KEY ! dindooohindoo


Riaz Haq said...

#India reviewing procedures after missile "accidentally" fired into #Pakistan. Pak NSA Yusuf called for an investigation into the "real circumstances surrounding" the incident "to ascertain if this was an inadvertent launch or something more intentional"

India is conducting a review of its standing operating procedures for operations, maintenance and inspection of weapons systems after accidentally launching a missile into Pakistan last week, its defence minister said on Tuesday.

"We attach the highest priority to the safety and security of our weapon systems. If any shortcoming is found, it would be immediately rectified," Rajnath Singh told parliament.

India accidentally released a missile, which landed in Pakistan, around 7pm last Wednesday during routine maintenance and inspection, he said.

"While this incident is regretted, we are relieved that nobody was hurt due to the accident," Singh said.

An Indian media report said that an unarmed, practice-version of the BrahMos supersonic missile was accidentally fired into Pakistan during an inspection at a secret satellite base of the Indian Air Force.

Quoting sources in the Indian defence ministry, the report claimed that the missile followed the trajectory that it would have in case of a conflict, but “certain factors” played a role in ensuring that any pre-fed target was out of danger.

The report said that since it was “a practice missile”, it had no warheads. The report also claimed that India informed Pakistan about this “accidental firing” soon after it happened. Pakistan, however, said that India failed to immediately inform Islamabad about the accidental launch, and waited until after the Inter-Services Public Relations announced the incident and sought clarification from New Delhi.

India subsequently acknowledged the incident on Friday, chalking it up to a "technical malfunction", and said that a "high-level court of enquiry" was ordered on the event.

The Foreign Office rejected the "simplistic explanation" offered by India and proposed a joint probe into the incident to establish the facts.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also took the issue up on Monday with his German counterpart and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had also questioned Delhi's ability to handle sensitive technology in the wake of the incident and urged the world to consider whether India was able to ensure the safety and security of its nuclear weapon systems.

Yusuf called for an investigation into the "real circumstances surrounding" the March 9 incident "to ascertain if this was an inadvertent launch or something more intentional", saying that "it is hard to believe anything this Indian government says."

Nisar Maher said...

An accidentally fired missle doesn't change its trajectory enroute. There is no doubt it was a deliberate act.

Riaz Haq said...

#China is poised to militarily dominate the #Indian Ocean w/in a decade, the #US bet on #India is faltering. #China acquiring #military facilities in Horn of #Africa, on #Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast, in #Myanmar & #UAE with access to Persian Gulf. #QUAD

By Sameer Lalwani

Why haven’t China’s increasing Indian Ocean capabilities raised more alarm bells in Washington, given the laser focus on China these days? One reason is that the U.S. has concentrated its efforts on East Asia, particularly the possibility of conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Another problem, however, is that the U.S. has long assumed India would be a counterweight to China in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, a deeper partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy, on an upward economic trajectory, seemingly perfectly positioned to counter China on land and at sea — has been something of a holy grail for at least four U.S. administrations.

Yet what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a decade ago called a “strategic bet” on India does not seem to be paying off. Indian naval and political power in the Indian Ocean region is faltering, giving way to influence by Beijing. Many of these problems are of India’s own making. But part of the problem is the way the U.S. has managed its relationship with New Delhi. The India relationship has become a case study of a partnership between two nations with naturally aligned geostrategic interests that is nonetheless faltering because of a lack of clear priorities, misaligned incentives, and a frequent inability to understand what the other side really wants.

Ultimately, it’s New Delhi that will need to make the most significant course corrections. But the U.S. can also help ensure this bet pays off, with clearer prioritization, incentives and expectations for what could be one of the most important security partnerships of the 21st century. To check China’s rising influence in the Indian Ocean, Washington needs a comprehensive strategy for the region and a revitalized approach to its partnership with India that prioritizes maritime security, bolsters India’s defense technologies and sets bold expectations for a country whose potential against the China challenge has yet to be realized.

Part of the reason the Indian Ocean hasn’t received as much attention as it should is that many U.S. defense experts assume or hope they can rely on India to automatically be a “counterweight” to China in this region. For over two decades, Washington has been enamored with the idea that India, at one point exceeding 8 percent economic growth annually, would become a military powerhouse that could “frustrate China’s hegemonic ambitions.” The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy released in February counts on India to be “a net security provider,” just as previous administrations officially banked on the Indian Navy taking a “leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security.” Some former Trump administration officials even want to formalize a Japan-style alliance.

But India’s ability to play this role is in serious doubt. Indian officials had targeted a 200-ship navy by 2023, but today, the Indian Navy acknowledges it will be fortunate to reach 170 total ships sometime in the 2030s. Even if it does, analysts worry India may still be held back by a fleet that’s continuously underfunded and 60 percent obsolescent with serious deficiencies in equipment and manpower. As India’s navy slides in the opposite direction of China’s, it doesn’t help that India’s political influence in its neighborhood has also wobbled. Within a decade, India may not even be able to protect its own backyard against Chinese military coercion at sea just as on land.

Riaz Haq said...


That earlier crisis had begun following a suicide-bomb attack on Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir, which had led to tit-for-tat standoff air attacks between the Indian and Pakistani air forces. In the course of those skirmishes, an Indian pilot was shot down and captured by Pakistan. According to subsequent accounts, India threatened to escalate violence further if its pilot was not returned unharmed, including reportedly explicit threats to launch a missile attack on Pakistani targets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi later told campaign crowds he had threatened a “qatal ki raat” (a night of bloodshed) if the Indian pilot was not released. As Vipin Narang and I commented at the time, “South Asia was a couple of wrong turns away from serious escalation.” It does not take a particularly creative imagination to conclude that an inadvertent missile launch in that atmosphere might have led to something different than a somewhat staid Pakistani press conference.


....Perhaps India hoped Pakistan would simply not notice, or that it wouldn’t find the debris. Alternatively, perhaps India was uncertain as to the missile’s trajectory and assumed that it had not strayed into Pakistan. The Indian defense minister told parliament that after the accident, “it was later learnt that the missile had landed inside the territory of Pakistan.” How much later? He didn’t say. What seems to have been a two-day delay in notification appears to contradict India’s obligations under a 1991 agreement with Pakistan on preventing air space violations which obligates both sides “if any inadvertent [airspace] violation does take place, the incident ....


Whether India’s opacity contributed to this episode is uncertain. The changing nature of India’s explanation in these early days has not been reassuring. Was the accident a result of “routine maintenance,” as India said in its official press release of March 11? Was it the result of “routine maintenance and inspection,” as India’s defense minister told parliament on March 15? Was it the result of a “simulation exercise” gone awry, as one of India’s largest newspapers reported on March 16? Transparency seems needed here, if for no other reason than to convince the Indian public that they are safe from accident. A majority of the missile’s flight trajectory, after all, was over Indian territory — Indian cities, towns, and villages that might have suffered from this accident that mercifully caused no harm to either country.


It is impossible to wring all the risk out of dangerous weapons. Brinksmanship works, to some extent, because the processes that unfold during a crisis are only partly controllable. They produce “threats that leave something to chance.” Yet the missile episode reinforces that policymakers should be under no illusions that they can fully control these weapons. Military organizations make mistakes, those mistakes cause accidents in peacetime, crisis, and war, and those accidents can be dangerous and deadly. While a full accounting of the causes of the March 9 launch remains to be done, and may never become publicly known, it is consistent with numerous odd and bizarre accidents that have occurred before in nuclear-armed militaries. “Things that have never happened before happen all the time in history,” Sagan observed three decades ago. Inadvertent cruise-missile launches on nuclear opponents are now definitively no longer on that “never happened before” list. We will be lucky if the next surprise is similarly inconsequential.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's Size Illusion by Arvind Subramanian. #Indian policymakers should avoid succumbing to the illusion of size, and reconcile themselves with their country's current status as a middling power. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva #Russia #Ukraine #China @ProSyn

True, India’s economy is undeniably large. According to the International Monetary Fund, India is the world’s third-largest economy in purchasing-power-parity terms, with a GDP of $10 trillion, behind China ($27 trillion) and the United States ($23 trillion). At market exchange rates, its GDP of $3 trillion makes it the sixth-largest economy, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

But India’s economic size has not translated into commensurate military strength. Part of the problem is simple geography. Bismarck supposedly said that the US is bordered on two sides by weak neighbors and on two sides by fish. India, however, does not enjoy such splendid isolation. Ever since independence, it has been confronted on its Western frontier by Pakistan, a highly armed, chronically hostile, and often military-ruled neighbor.

More recently, India’s northern neighbor, China, also has become aggressive, repudiating the territorial status quo, occupying contested land in the Himalayas, reclaiming territory in the east, and building up a large military presence along India’s borders. So, India may have fish for neighbors along its long peninsular coast, but on land it faces major security challenges on two fronts.

Despite these challenges and its sizable economy, India has struggled to generate adequate military resources. Defense expenditure is notoriously difficult to estimate, especially for China and Pakistan, which have opaque political systems. But annual combined defense spending by India’s two adversaries is likely to be three times the $70-75 billion that India spends. And the effective gap is probably even larger, because India’s politically driven emphasis on military manpower has crowded out spending on military technology. In short, India may have a large economy, but dangerous geography and domestic politics have left it militarily vulnerable.

Then there is the question of market size. As Pennsylvania State University’s Shoumitro Chatterjee and one of us (Subramanian) have shown, India’s middle-class market for consumption is much smaller than the $3 trillion headline GDP number suggests, because many people have limited purchasing power while a smaller number of well-off people tend to save a lot. In fact, the effective size of India’s consumer market is less than $1 trillion, far smaller than China’s and even smaller relative to the potential world export market of nearly $30 trillion.

India needs to accept, and act in line with, its current status as a middling power. Over time, rapid and sustained economic growth could make India the major power it aspires to be. Until then, it must look past the illusion of size and reconcile itself with strategic realities.

Riaz Haq said...

the (Brahmos) incident raises questions about the safety of India’s cruise missile systems, especially given the real risk of accidental escalation between nuclear-armed adversaries.

The missile at the center of the accident was reportedly a surface-launched supersonic BrahMos cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia with a range of 290 kilometers. India is also developing an extended air-launched variant with a range of 800 kilometers. The BrahMos is not a part of India’s nuclear forces, though it has been reported to be nuclear-capable. India may realize its nuclear potential if it moves toward a counterforce nuclear doctrine, according to some scholars.

The incident was dangerous for several reasons. First, the missile, cruising at 40,000 feet, “endangered many international and domestic flights in both Pakistani and Indian airspace,” according to a spokesperson for Pakistan’s armed forces. It could have hit civilian aircraft in its path.

Second, the missile could have landed in a heavily populated area. The Indian government acknowledged the potential for disaster in a statement: “While the incident is deeply regrettable, it is also a matter of relief that there has been no loss of life due to the accident.” Additionally, Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh later clarified that it only “later learnt” that the missile had landed in Pakistan, raising the possibility that India had not tracked the missile’s trajectory. The misfired missile might have landed in a densely populated part of India as well.

Finally, the incident risked a military escalation between two nuclear-armed countries. In recent years, the threshold for military engagement between India and Pakistan has been reduced. In 2016, Indian troops conducted “surgical strikes” against militants on the Pakistani side of the “line of control” in the Kashmir area, in response to a terrorist attack on an Indian army base. In 2019, the Indian Air Force crossed the international border and bombed Balakot in Pakistan in response to a terror attack against Indian paramilitary troops in Pulwama, Kashmir. Pakistan’s response to this attack led to an air-battle over Kashmir that ended when a Mig-21—a supersonic fighter jet—was shot down. The potential for military escalation between both states is high. The accidental launch of the BrahMos missile could have sparked a military crisis.


India’s accidental missile launch joins a growing list of missile accidents, some of which were nuclear. In 1983, the Soviet Union’s early-warning systems mistakenly detected a US missile attack. At the time, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet military, reported a system malfunction and saved the world from a nuclear exchange. In 1995, Russia detected a Norwegian research rocket launch (to study the aurora borealis) and mistook it for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) heading to Moscow. President Boris Yeltsin was prepared to retaliate but ultimately decided that that Washington had not launched a nuclear first strike on Russia. However, the incident highlighted the risk of accidental escalation during peacetime and the role of luck in averting disaster.

The recent exchange between India and Pakistan was more of a diplomatic incident than a military one. But unless the two countries establish measures to mitigate such dangers, the world may not be so lucky the next time.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian Army Says Misfired Army Rockets Led To Blast In Crop Fields. The three rockets that were fired during an army exercise had lost track and landed in #Mohangarh in #Rajasthan, weeks after “accidental firing” of a #Brahmos missile into #Pakistan

Jaisalmer: Inquiry into the bomb explosion near Jaisalmer on Thursday revealed that three rockets that were fired during an army exercise had lost track and landed in Mohangarh area.
The bombs had exploded after getting misfired from Pokhran field firing range.
Fortunately, there was not much ammunition in the warhead of the rocket due to which a big accident was averted. Nearby fields caught fire but it was controlled. These rockets fell 2km away from Navodaya Vidyalaya.
Senior army official sources said army is regularly conducting exercises at the Pokhran field firing range these days and firing activities are underway. Trial of rocket firing was being done on Thursday and three rockets were accidentally misfired which fell in Nanod miner area in Mohangarh without hitting the target.

There was a loud noise and cloud of smoke and sand in the air along with three pits. Army is conducting a high level investigation and efforts are being made to prevent such incidents in future.

Jaisalmer district collector Pratibha Singh said that there was no loss to life and property except for minimum damage to the crops. The tehsildar has been asked for the report of the damage.

samir sardana said...

Like I said on March 15,2022

"2022 is the year of doom for the Indians and the Pied Piper of the PMO


Basically Indians are incapable of making and using missiles !"






Riaz Haq said...

India’s Inadvertent Missile Launch Underscores the Risk of Accidental Nuclear Warfare
Complex weapon systems are inherently prone to accidents, and this latest launch is one of a long history of military accidents in India

By Zia Mian, M. V. Ramana on April 8, 2022

Last month, while most of the world focused on the war in Ukraine and worried that a beleaguered Russian leadership might resort to nuclear weapons, thus escalating the conflict into a direct war with the U.S.-led NATO nuclear-armed alliance, a nearly tragic accident involving India and Pakistan pointed to another path to nuclear war. The accident highlighted how complex technological systems, including those involving nuclear weapons, can generate unexpected routes to potential disaster—especially when managed by overconfident organizations.

India and Pakistan possess more than 300 nuclear weapons between them, and have fought multiple wars and faced many military crises. On March 9, three years after their dispute over Kashmir escalated into attacks by jet fighters, the Pakistan Air Force detected “a high speed flying object” inside Indian territory change course and veer suddenly toward Pakistan.* It flew deep into Pakistan and crashed. The object was a BrahMos cruise missile, a weapon system developed jointly by India and Russia. India soon stated the launch was an accident.

The firing of the BrahMos missile falls within a long history of accidents involving military systems in India. Military aircraft have strayed across the borders during peacetime. India’s first nuclear submarine was reportedly “crippled” by an accident in 2018, but the government refused to divulge any details. Secrecy has prevented the investigation of an apparent failure of India's ballistic missile defence system in 2016. Engagements between India and Pakistan can arise from such accidents, as in 1999 when a Pakistani military plane was shot down along the border by India, killing 16 people. Pakistan has had its share of accidents, including a Pakistani fighter jet crashing into the capital city in 2020.


South Asia’s geography is pitiless. It would only take five to 10 minutes for a missile launched from India to attack Pakistan’s national capital, nuclear weapon command posts or bases. For comparison, the flight times between missile launch sites and targets in the United States and Russia are about 30 minutes. Even this extra time may be insufficient. In the event of a military crisis, no leader can make a judicious decision during this period, when faced with impossible choices. But shorter flight timesincrease the likelihood of mistakes.

The mistake that is of greatest concern is a false alarm of an incoming nuclear attack, possibly directed against nuclear forces. Indian or Pakistani—or Russian or NATO—policy makers may find themselves under immense pressure to launch a preemptive attack, thereby compounding the crisis. The terrible dilemma confronting them would be whether to use their nuclear weapons first or wait for the bombs from the other side to land. Nuclear war, even of a limited nature, between India and Pakistan could lead to millions of deaths in the short term and even graver consequences in the longer term for the region and beyond.

Compounding these dangers is the overconfidence of India’s officials, who displayed no recognition of the gravity of the Brahmos accident. A “technical malfunction” had “led to the accidental firing of a missile,” the official statement declared, noting glibly “it is learnt that the missile landed in an area of Pakistan.” India’s defense minister assured parliament members that the system is “very reliable and safe.”

Riaz Haq said...

Riaz A. Khokhar
We (.
and I) argued in our .
piece that a group of IAF officers launched the missile deliberately to create a crisis. We also argued that India's BrahMos missile system apparently lacks stringent safety protocols.

Recent news reports in India have found that a group captain of the IAF and his colleagues were allegedly involved in the missile launch. An Indian congress leader also asked the IAF to share details of why and how one of its personnel had fired the missile.

The group captain had charge of a Mobile Command Post, which controls four Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MALs)—a complex, land-based BrahMos missile system. Depending on the input of the commander-in-charge, the MAL can fire the missiles towards designated targets within four minutes. To clarify, the BrahMos flies on a “Fire-and-Forget” principle and cannot self-destruct once launched.

What makes it highly likely that the missile launch was unauthorized and not accidental? For one, nuclear scientists consider only those launches as accidental that occur because of a technical error. If it is fired by people in the chain of command with access to the codes but lacking political authorization, it would constitute an unauthorized launch.

Moreover, in the past, when India kept its warheads and their delivery vehicles separate (known as “de-mated”), it incorporated “super permissive action links (PALs),” which are mechanical and electronic codes to avoid unauthorized and accidental launches. With increasingly higher readiness levels of India’s conventional and strategic forces, one can expect far more stringent safety and security protocols.

Some technical experts also mentioned to us that an accidental fire is not usually expected to travel an optimum distance and fall into a foreign territory–let alone one that happens to be the most likely target anyway, given India and Pakistan’s tense historical relations. A defense expert quoted an example of past missile accidents where clamps remained fixed to a missile after the accidental launch, causing the missile to eventually fall at a shorter distance away.

With far greater safety protocols than previously installed “super PALs,” one can only assume that the commander in charge must have removed the mechanical and electronic locks and used the launch codes to fire the missile. There appears to be no other possible explanation unless India’s sophisticated missile system lacks rigorous safety and security protocols. In other words, India’s lower chain of command apparently knows the launch codes, and it would be extremely dangerous in the case of missiles mated with warheads and other cannisterized (permanently armed) missiles. Additionally, it reflects poorly on the training and psychological assessment of the Indian armed forces personnel and raises questions about their intent.

But why would IAF personnel deliberately launch an unarmed missile that aimed for a site of least possible damage? What could they have hoped to achieve? This is where our second argument comes into play.

India attempted to lure Pakistan into a rushed recourse to strategic forces

We argue that IAF personnel might have tried to ensnare Pakistan into mobilizing military forces or simply check the BrahMos missile’s capability to dodge Islamabad’s air defense system. Since IAF personnel arguably operated with a bad motive, they did not activate the military hotline of communication to inform Pakistan. In case of an escalation of the crisis, they likely expected the political leadership in New Delhi to manage and respond.

Riaz Haq said...

India sacks 3 air force (#IAF) officers for firing #missile into #Pakistan. Earlier, #India blamed a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance. Military experts have warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by #nuclear-armed neighbors.

The Indian air force has said it has sacked three officers for accidentally firing a missile into Pakistan in March.

“A court of inquiry, set up to establish the facts of the case, including fixing responsibility for the incident, found that deviation from the standard operating procedures by three officers led to the accidental firing of the missile,” the air force said.

At the time of the accidental firing, India blamed a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance.

Military experts have warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller armed clashes, usually over the disputed territory of Kashmir. The incident raised questions about safety mechanisms.

Pakistani officials said the missile was unarmed and crashed near the city of Mian Channu, about 310 miles (500km) from the capital, Islamabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Is There a Persistent Threat of Nuclear Crises Among China, India and Pakistan?

Southern Asia — India, Pakistan and China — is the only place on earth where three nuclear-armed states have recently engaged in violent confrontations along their contested borders. As a USIP senior study group report concluded last year, the problem of nuclear stability in Southern Asia is getting harder to manage because of geopolitical changes, such as rising India-China border tensions, as well as evolving military technologies, including growing nuclear arsenals and more capable delivery systems. Unfortunately, in the time since that senior study group completed its work, little has happened to revise its worrisome conclusion or to prevent the most likely triggering causes of a nuclearised crisis in Southern Asia. To the contrary, there are some good reasons to fear that the situation in Southern Asia has even deteriorated over the past year.

No one wants nuclear escalation — but it can still happen
To be clear, just because states invest in nuclear weapons and delivery systems does not mean that a crisis or war is imminent. Leaders in China, India and Pakistan have always viewed their nuclear arsenals primarily as tools of deterrence, less for practical warfighting than to convince adversaries of the extraordinary costs that a war would risk. Nor do any of the region’s leaders take their nuclear programs lightly; all feel tremendous incentives to keep their arsenals safe and secure and to build systems of command, control and communications intended to prevent accidents, unauthorised use or theft.

Nevertheless, because even a single nuclear detonation could be massively destructive, US policymakers have an obligation not to accept these sorts of logical assurances passively or uncritically. Accidents do happen. India’s misfire of a Brahmos missile test into Pakistan last year proved that point perfectly. No matter how well designed, nuclear systems are complicated and involve the potential for human or technical error. When something does go wrong, overreaction by opposing forces is less likely when they have a greater degree of confidence in, and knowledge of, the other side. Reliable and secure communications — in the form of hotlines — can help, but only to the point that they are actually used in a timely manner. Apparently, India failed to do so during the Brahmos incident.

Fear, hatred and other emotions can cloud human judgment, especially in the heat of a crisis when information is imperfect and communication difficult. Reflecting on his own experience of crisis management in Southern Asia, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo recently wrote that he does “not think the world properly knows just how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling over into a nuclear conflagration in February 2019.” The question — for Pompeo and current US policymakers — is what more they are doing now to prepare for the next crisis.

Riaz Haq said...

Is There a Persistent Threat of Nuclear Crises Among China, India and Pakistan?

The terrorism tinderboxA return to serious India-Pakistan crisis could be just one terrorist attack away. Not even when Pakistan suffered devastating floods last summer could leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi create sufficient political space to open basic commodity trade. Hostile rhetoric is high, and there is reason to anticipate it could get far worse over the coming year as national leaders on both sides prepare for elections. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has learned he can whip up domestic political support from tough talk and cross-border retaliation. In Pakistan, neither civilian nor army leaders can afford to look weak in the face of Indian attacks, especially when they face jingoistic (if transparently opportunistic) criticism from ousted prime minister Imran Khan.The prospect of anti-Indian terrorism is also growing. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan shows no greater commitment to eliminating terrorist safe havens than it did in the 1990s, and Pakistan’s will (and capacity) for keeping a lid on cross-border terrorism will be tested as it faces heightened security and economic pressures at home. In addition, India’s repression of its Muslim minority community, especially in Kashmir, is simultaneously a reaction to past anti-state militancy and nearly guaranteed to inspire new acts of violence.
No matter the specific cause or circumstances of anti-Indian militancy, Modi’s government is likely to attribute culpability to Pakistan. That, in turn, raises the potential for an emotionally charged crisis that could, under the wrong circumstances, spiral into another India-Pakistan war.
Nor can Pakistan afford only to worry about its border with India. Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have deteriorated drastically ever since the Taliban swept back into power. Rather than controlling Afghanistan through its favoured militant proxies, Pakistan is suffering a surge in violence on its own soil, most recently the devastating bombing of a police mosque in Peshawar claimed by the anti-state Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Such violence, along with national political turmoil, environmental calamity and economic crisis, will raise concerns among some in the United States about threats to the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear enterprise. Sadly, that will probably lead Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division — the guardians of its nuclear arsenal — and other Pakistani military leaders to fear a phantom threat of American military intervention rather than to address actual causes of the Pakistani state’s fragility.
Events along the contested border between India and China hardly inspire confidence that New Delhi and Beijing have found a path back to normal relations after their bloody border skirmishes of 2020. To the contrary, the prospects of rapid military escalation have grown, principally because both sides have positioned greater numbers of more lethal forces close to the border. Before 2020, relatively small, unarmed Chinese and Indian patrols routinely risked coming into contact as they pressed territorial claims on the un-demarcated border. This was dangerous, but extremely unlikely to escalate rapidly into a serious military encounter. In early December 2022 hundreds of Chinese troops attacked an Indian camp in what could not possibly have been an unplanned operation. With tens of thousands of troops stationed not far away, conventional military escalation is far more plausible than it was just a few years ago.

Riaz Haq said...

Is There a Persistent Threat of Nuclear Crises Among China, India and Pakistan?

Against this backdrop of tensions, China’s growing nuclear, missile and surveillance capabilities will look more threatening to Indian nuclear defence planners. New Delhi may even come to fear that China is developing a first strike so devastating that it would effectively eliminate India’s retaliatory response and, as a consequence, diminish the threat of its nuclear deterrent. In response, India could seek to demonstrate that it has thermonuclear weapons capable of destroying Chinese cities in one blow as well as more nuclear submarines capable of evading China’s first strike

Not only would those Indian moves raise serious policy questions for the United States, but they would demonstrate the region’s “cascading security dilemma,” by which military capabilities intended to deter one adversary tend to inspire dangerous insecurities in another. When India arms itself to deter China, Pakistan perceives new threats from India and will likely pursue enhanced capabilities of its own. In a worst-case scenario, Southern Asia could be entering an accelerated nuclear arms race in which uneven waves of new investments in capabilities and delivery systems will alter perceptions of deterrence and stability in dangerously unpredictable ways.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian #Brahmos firing into Pak could have started #India-#Pakistan war, #Modi gov't tells #Delhi High Court. IAF cannot ignore it. It put India in an embarrassing situation in front of the international community, said Solicitor General Sharma.

India's supersonic missile BrahMos was fired and landed in Pakistan on March 9, 2022, leading to the dismissal of three Air Force officers who were found guilty in a Court of Inquiry. One of the officers challenged the decision and the Central government presented its stance in the Delhi High Court.

The Additional Solicitor General, Chetan Sharma, appeared for the government and expressed that the incident could have sparked a war with Pakistan due to negligence in the line of duty. The Air Force cannot ignore such incidents as they put India in an embarrassing situation even in front of the international community, he stated.

The officer who approached the court argued that the accident occurred during a simulation exercise and he was only responsible for maintenance, not firing the missile. He claimed that only the CO and training officer were accountable for the operation of the missile and the action taken against him was wrong.

He further added that he was not aware of the allegations against him during the inquiry and that he had no experience in operating the missile or dealing with its emergencies. Therefore, he requested the court to order his reinstatement to the job.

The US Director of National Intelligence, in its annual threat assessment report, earlier warned of a potential conflict between India and Pakistan. The report highlighted concerns over the possibility of India retaliating against Pakistan in the event of a terrorist attack on India or orchestrated "violent unrest in Kashmir" by extremist groups based in Pakistan. The report cited the risk of an "escalatory cycle between two nuclear-armed states" as a particular concern.

The report acknowledges that Pakistan has a history of supporting extremist groups, which increases the probability of India responding with military force under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to what they perceive as provocations by Pakistan. The report warned that heightened tensions on either side could increase the risk of conflict, with Kashmir or a militant attack in India as potential flashpoints.

Riaz Haq said...

Three missiles misfired during Indian army exercise in Rajasthan

“India Today quoted defence spokesperson Lt Col Amitabh Sharma as saying an investigation had been initiated and further action will be taken accordingly…the debris from two of the misfired missiles has been recovered, but the third missile has not…”

The Indian Army misfired three missiles during an exercise in the Pokharan ranges in the western Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan, causing alarm in the surrounding areas, according to the Indian media.

India Today reported that the firing exercise was being held at the Pokhran field when the three surface-to-air missiles were misfired.

The missiles struck fields in different villages, causing loud explosions, however, there were no reports of any loss of life or property damage.

The misfire was attributed to a technical glitch that occurred during the exercise.

India Today quoted defence spokesperson Lt Col Amitabh Sharma as saying an investigation had been initiated and further action will be taken accordingly.

According to the report, the debris from two of the misfired missiles has been recovered, but the third missile has not yet been located. Police and Army teams are currently conducting a search for the missing missile.

It added that the Indian Army was conducting a firing exercise when three missiles with a range of 10 to 25 kilometres deviated from their path due to a technical fault.

The misfired missile caused significant damage to the field, creating large crater in its impact zone.

Last year in August, the Indian government sacked three officers for accidentally firing a missile into Pakistan, an incident that the two nuclear-armed rivals handled calmly as there were no casualties.

“A Court of Inquiry, set up to establish the facts of the case, including fixing responsibility for the incident, found that deviation from the Standard Operating Procedures by three officers led to the accidental firing of the missile,” the Indian Air Force had said in a statement.

The BrahMos missile — a nuclear-capable, land-attack cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India — was fired on March 9, prompting Pakistan to seek answers from New Delhi on the safety mechanisms in place to prevent accidental launches.

After the incident was reported, the Pakistan Foreign Office had summoned the Indian envoy to register a protest over the unprovoked violation of its airspace, saying such “irresponsible incidents” reflected the neighbouring country’s “disregard for air safety and callousness towards regional peace and stability”.

Riaz Haq said...

Nuclear Doctrine?

By Sitara Noor

A comment from a senior figure about “zero-range” weapons could signal a dramatic—and dangerous—shift in Islamabad’s nuclear strategy.

As Pakistan celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first nuclear tests last month, it also appeared to share more details than usual about its current nuclear posture.

Speaking at a seminar hosted by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad on May 24, retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai provided new details of Pakistan’s otherwise ambiguous nuclear doctrine. What Kidwai says matters because he is currently an advisor to the country’s National Command Authority (NCA), which controls research and development and all other policy matters concerning nuclear weapons. He’s also the former director-general of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which is responsible for formulating nuclear policy and strategy as well as the security of nuclear assets.

During his address, he reiterated some of the long-standing positions of Pakistan’s nuclear policy, such as the strength of its nuclear triad based on land, air, and sea-based capabilities to deter India—especially the Indian military’s so-called Cold Start doctrine, which envisages a limited war through quick mobilization of unified battle groups to conduct operations inside Pakistani territory without crossing Islamabad’s nuclear threshold. He also discussed what’s known as full-spectrum deterrence—a policy aimed at responding to a range of threats from India. But he went further.

Kidwai expanded the scope of this doctrine by explaining what he called vertical and horizontal dimensions. In his words, full-spectrum deterrence “comprises horizontally of a robust tri-services inventory of a variety of nuclear weapons … [that] is held on land with the Army Strategic Force Command, the ASFC; at sea with the Naval Strategic Force Command, the NSFC; and in the air with the Air Force Strategic Command, the AFSC.”

Most striking was his statement that “vertically the spectrum encapsulates adequate range coverage from 0 meters to 2,750 kilometers [about 1,700 miles] as well as nuclear weapons destructive yields at three tiers—strategic, operational, and tactical.”

Reducing the minimum range to 0 meters is unprecedented and, if implemented, points to a major shift in Islamabad’s nuclear policy thinking.

Talk of zero-range weapons suggests that Pakistan is either going to develop artillery shells as the United States, Soviet Union, and United Kingdom did during the Cold War—raising questions of whether it is going to be an M28/M29 Davy Crockett-style recoilless rifle system, the smallest weapon in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, developed during the 1950s as a front-line weapon with yields as low as a fraction of a kiloton—or it could be a hint that Pakistan could possibly lay nuclear land mines across the India-Pakistan border to deter Indian advances. Observers, especially in India, are left wondering whether this statement is based on some existing scientific research and design testing and necessary doctrinal thought process. Kidwai’s statement does not provide any such details, and in the spirit of ambiguity that Pakistan seems to have benefited from, there is unlikely to be a follow-up soon to clear the air.

Indeed, Pakistan has always kept its nuclear policy vague and deliberately ambiguous; nonetheless, its missile ranges are the only aspect that has always been announced publicly through an official press release after every missile test.

Riaz Haq said...

Nuclear Doctrine?

By Sitara Noor

Prior to Kidwai’s statement, the officially announced lowest range in Pakistan’s nuclear inventory was the Nasr, or Hatf-9 ballistic missile, with a range of 60 kilometers (about 37 miles). The solid-fueled tactical ballistic missile was projected to be a response to India’s Cold Start doctrine. When it first test-fired the Nasr missile in 2011, Pakistan received huge flak from both Indian and Western scholars for its potential security risks and command and control challenges. The purported risks of employing Nasr ranged from the lowering of nuclear threshold to the possibility of an accidental or unauthorized launch if command and control of this short-range missile was delegated to local commanders in the battlefield.

The upper limit of 2,750 kilometers refers to the land-based surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missile Shaheen-3, which was first test-fired in 2015 with the stated aim to reach the Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar, thereby denying New Delhi the strategic bases for a potential second-strike capability. The upper limit was carefully restricted to 2,750 kilometers to signal that Pakistan’s nuclear missile program is only India-specific and does not pose a threat to any other country in the region and beyond.

Apart from Kidwai’s latest statement, there is no other information available to determine whether the zero-range announcement refers to a technical milestone in Pakistan’s nuclear development or serves as a rhetorical escalation. As an advisor, Kidwai has an important yet limited role in official policymaking, and there is a possibility that this assertion is a reflection of his personal opinion and not a statement of an official position. However, in the absence of any official statement, his declaration will largely be viewed as a new element of Pakistan’s nuclear policy.

The bigger question is what strategic objective Pakistan wishes to achieve by going below the already controversial 60-kilometer range to zero-range weapons. As full-spectrum deterrence is aimed at plugging the perceived gaps in Pakistan’s deterrence posture, the apparent announcement of a zero-range policy within the scope of full-spectrum deterrence seems to have developed partly in response to a growing perception in New Delhi that India’s 2019 airstrikes on Balakot in mainland Pakistan—instigated by an alleged Pakistan-sponsored suicide attack on Indian forces in Pulwama, a small town in Indian-held Kashmir—have called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.

It is important to recall that in order to defend Nasr’s development and its role in nuclear planning, Pakistani officials have often contended that use of any nuclear weapons on the battlefield would have strategic consequences. While this position might have allayed Western concerns regarding Pakistan’s attempt to lower the nuclear threshold, it may also have inadvertently made the use of Nasr less than credible in the eyes of Indian policymakers.

Riaz Haq said...

Hindu extremists in control of India's nuclear arsenal: NCA adviser

Gen (retd) Kidwai says ‘toxic mix of poisonous ideology’ posing a serious threat to strategic stability in South Asia

Adviser to the National Command Authority (NCA), Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, has warned that threats to the region’s strategic stability have grown because of Hindu fundamentalists’ control of Indian nuclear arsenal.

He was speaking at the 8th Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) and The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) workshop on ‘Strategic Stability in South Asia’ on Monday.

“The custodial control of India’s large triad of the nuclear arsenal have now fallen firmly in the hands of an extremist fundamentalist leadership,” he said, adding that the “toxic mix of poisonous ideology and custody of nuclear weapons” was a new phenomenon that was posing a serious threat to strategic stability in South Asia.

Indian National Command Authority is responsible for command, control and operational decisions pertaining to the country’s nuclear arsenal. Its political council is currently led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while the executive council is headed by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Moreover, few ministers having RSS background are also members of NCA – these include Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

PM Modi, it may be recalled, has maintained an aggressive nuclear stance. In his public rallies he talked about usability of nukes. Under Modi’s watch, his ministers and retired senior officials have signalled changes in the nuclear doctrine, which they later denied. His ministers have also made provocative and irresponsible statements on various occasions.

General Kidwai warned that the threat posed by extremists’ control of Indian nuclear weapons had “assumed a real life character and momentum of its own”. The situation, he noted affects not only the region, but also beyond.

He said the February 2019 air strike in Balakot and the March 2022 missile incidents were examples of extremists committing aggression against the nuclear-armed neighbour, while being oblivious of the consequences.

Rejecting Indian assertion that the BrahMos Missile that crashed in Pakistan on March 9 had been accidentally fired, General Kidwai, who has overseen several tests, said it was not an accident as the launch could not have taken place without political clearance at the highest level and detailed operational and technical planning spanning over weeks.

Pakistan on both occasions displayed restraint and maturity in diffusing the tensions, thereby preventing South Asia from spiralling into potential catastrophes, he maintained.

Referring to the so-called AUKUS submarine deal under which US and UK would proliferate nuclear technology to Australia to build nuclear attack submarines, he warned against making a similar arrangement with India.

Also read: India admits to ‘accidentally’ firing missile into Pakistan

“I have no hesitation in stating that minimum Pakistani counter measures would be put in place if a reckless imbalance is induced in South Asia, it is not a warning, it's a contingency foreseen,” General Kidwai said while recalling that exceptionalism had been repeatedly employed in South Asia in the past in disregard of Pakistani concerns.

History, he asserted, also tells that Pakistan did not let the international exceptionalism stand in its way to address the imbalances created in the past.

Other experts, who spoke at the workshop, discussed the political and technological drivers of strategic stability in the context of South Asia.

They also deliberated upon the impact of Indian and Pakistani strategic cultures, Hindu Rashtra, big-power competition, emerging technologies, trends in export control arrangements, and the military developments under the growing framework of the Quad Axis.

Riaz Haq said...

Why the US is selling India so many weapons
Prime Minister Modi visits the White House, and arms deals follow.

By Jonathan Guyer

Both countries are eyeing China’s growing military and technological prowess, and the US is particularly concerned about the perceived threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

But Grossman, who previously spent a decade working on China policy at the Pentagon, says that the US goal of bolstering India’s defense is less about creating a partner who would actively participate in any US-China confrontation and actually more about India providing safe harbor on the continent. “What the United States is really looking for is access to India, in the case of a conflict against China,” he told me. “But the hope is that over time, as we continue our security cooperation, India will kind of bend a little bit, to be more flexible and maybe allow us access at certain times to certain places that can help us conduct operations.”

The US Navy established ship repair agreements with India that would enable the US to service its boats in Indian shipyards, with more agreements forthcoming, according to the White House. Grossman also emphasized that, in 2020, US Navy aircraft refueled on India’s base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “They’re letting us do that in peacetime; why wouldn’t they let us do that when the stakes are much higher?” he said.

But even beyond the democratic issues, there are limits to how close this partnership could get in the near term. India remains non-aligned: It hasn’t taken a side in the Ukraine war, nor signed on to the sanctions against Russia. While India is a member of the “Quad,” an informal partnership with the US, Japan, and Australia, it is not a treaty ally of the United States. Grossman said that many in the Defense Department would like to see the US move toward a formal alliance with India.

That would be messy, notably because Pakistan is India’s prime rival and Pakistan is a close partner of the United States. Both countries have nuclear weapons, so if the US were to establish a treaty with India, the dynamics of a potential India-Pakistan conflict would be staggeringly complex for the US and dangerous for the world.

Nevertheless, the US military partnership with India has become a pillar of the Biden administration’s policy toward Asia. Interestingly, the US goes out of its way to not say it has anything to do with China, although analysts uniformly agree that it’s all about China. “The strategic environment that we’re facing in the Indo-Pacific challenges to peace and stability, I think those have animated a sense of Indian purpose more generally,” a senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters.

The defense sector, unsurprisingly, is thrilled. Just ask the Asia Group, a consulting firm that advises clients like General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon and was founded by Kurt Campbell, who’s now the Biden White House’s point person on Asia policy.

Campbell’s former firm says the time is now to invest in India. “Companies that postpone entry or expansion in India might miss opportunities to maximize their long-term returns,” Gopal Nadadur, an Asia Group executive based in India, wrote recently. “Defense and aerospace companies like Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, General Electric, General Atomics, Raytheon Technologies and Pratt & Whitney have boosted their engineering and manufacturing operations in India.”