India's Missile Defense Threatens Peace in South Asia
India's Sabre Rattling:
After considerable saber rattling by Indian officials, including Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee who talked about "not ruling out military strikes in Pakistan", the Indian government backed off from its threats. The reason was captured well by New York Times' Somini Sengupta reporting in December, 2008 from New Delhi that "Indian officials have said privately in recent weeks that they are reluctant to strike Pakistan, and that even a limited attack on terrorist training camps would invite swift retaliation." Earlier, Pakistan's Army Chief had warned India of retaliation “within minutes” if India carried out any surgical strike inside the country.
Instead, Indian government is now pursuing the dual strategy of conducting covert operations inside Pakistan and developing a comprehensive missile shield to protect against future retaliatory strikes by Pakistan. Former Indian top spies B. Raman and Vikram Sood have argued for stepping up covert war inside Pakistan and using all available methods to discredit and destabilize Pakistani state and military.
Covert War Against Pakistan:
Former RAW chief B. Raman argues that India appoint a covert ops specialist as the new head of RAW. He says, “At this critical time in the nation’s history, RAW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization.”
Vikram Sood, another former top spy in India, has elaborated on India's covert warfare options to target Pakistan in the following words: "Covert action can be of various kinds. One is the paramilitary option, which is what the Pakistanis have been using against us. It is meant to hurt, destabilize or retaliate. The second is the psychological war option, which is a very potent and unseen force. It is an all weather option and constitutes essentially changing perceptions of friends and foes alike. The media is a favorite instrument, provided it is not left to the bureaucrats because then we will end up with some clumsy and implausible propaganda effort. More than the electronic and print media, it is now the internet and YouTube that can be the next-generation weapons of psychological war. Terrorists use these liberally and so should those required to counter terrorism."
Based on all the evidence of stepped up insurgencies and increasing bomb attacks in Pakistan, particularly Baluchistan, and the hostile, overactive, anti-Pakistan presence of Indians on various Internet sites, it appears that India is acting on the covert war proposals by Raman and Sood.
India's Missile Shield:
Indian defense officials said in December 2007 that the country will have a shield in place by 2010 to protect India from incoming missile that could be fired by Pakistan or China. One of India's top defense research scientists, V.K. Saraswat, revealed plans for a complete ballistic missile defense system to be deployed within three years.
Since this announcement, it has been learned that India's anti-missile missiles are to be based on Arrow technology from Israel, which is being funded by the United States. While there are many questions about the viability and effectiveness of such a missile shield, it is commonly accepted by experts that the missile shield can eventually be effective against an enemy with a small number of warheads. That's the basis for the US-Israeli joint effort, mostly funded by the US, to develop Arrow missiles as deterrent against "rogue states", currently defined as Iran and North Korea, with a small number of missiles. It appears that India's effort is primarily aimed at rendering Pakistan's small arsenal of about 100 ballistic missile useless against India, altering the current balance of terror between the two hostile neighbors.
Contrary to popular belief, the Obama administration has not abandoned the missile shield. Instead, it has essentially outsourced the project to Israel, but it is still funded by the Americans.
In the face of India's ambitious missile shield efforts, Pakistan's security concerns are genuine, given the several India-Pakistan wars and frequent threats by India. Since the potential success of India's missile shield represents a fundamental change in the current balance of terror that has prevented wars between the two nations in the recent history, it is important for Pakistan not to ignore it.
The downside for Pakistan of not doing anything in response to the Indian missile shield is to throw away its current nuclear or even conventional ballistic missile deterrent and invite Indian aggression after potential Mumbai-style terror attacks in the future by any group of terrorists with or without links in Pakistan.
Based on what is known today about Israel's ambitious Arrow program, there is a strong possibility that India's missile shield program will not meet any of its key objectives. However, it makes no sense to build Pakistan's national security strategy on hopes of India failing. The right Pakistani response, in my view, should be as follows:
1. Pakistan should gradually build up a larger arsenal of at least a thousand ballistic missiles with an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional warheads to make India's missile shield much less effective.
2. Pakistani defense scientists and engineers should study all available information and data on Israel's Arrow technology to develop appropriate counter measures to confuse, frustrate and effectively penetrate any missile shields developed and deployed by India.
3. Pakistani defense scientists and engineers need to look into effective and affordable missile defense development in partnership with their Chinese counterparts to deal with the common Indian threat faced by both.
The history tell us that Indians and others have always underestimated Pakistanis' extraordinary creativity and determination to achieve balance of terror with India at a small fraction of the costs incurred by Indians. I am quite confident that, given the appropriate political and military leadership, Pakistanis have the capacity to preserve the current balance of terror in the interest of peace in South Asia.
India's Israel Envy
India's Missile Shield Plans
India-Pakistan Military Balance
Arrow Missile Technology
Can India do a Lebanon in Pakistan?
India's Quest For Anti-Ballistic Missiles
Swift Retaliation by Pakistan
India's Covert War in Pakistan
Israel Tests Arrow 2