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|November 11, 1998||
India has a well-deserved reputation as a 'soft state'; in today's world of cut-throat competition, this is a recipe for disaster. As examples of India's habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, consider: in 1948, instead of wiping out the Pathan tribals who had swept into Jammu and Kashmir, India foolishly went to the UN; in 1971, instead of capitalising on a prostrate Pakistan, India gave away the store at Shimla; and so on, ad nauseam.
India cannot afford to fail in the latest round of negotiations with the US over the CTBT. I love that word, 'interlocutors', that seems to get thrown around all over the place regarding the Americans who are in a dialogue with India. A better word would be 'arm-twisters', or even 'inquisitors', because as far as I can tell, the Yanks are applying the third degree to the Indians.
My favourite American, Madeleine Albright, continues to maintain that India must sign the CTBT immediately and without any pre-conditions whatsoever. She means it, too. After all, Yanks have very little regard for India, considering her essentially an uppity Third World nation that is getting a little too big for her britches.
There is an opportunity here that is crying to be taken advantage of: the Yanks underestimate India; therefore the Indian strategy should use this fact. The Chinese know how to use Yanks' beliefs against them. As Chris Patten, formerly the governor of Hong Kong, says in his recent biography, East and West, the Chinese expect the West to jump through hoops for fear of losing those (imaginary) large profits in China, and "largely we do", notes he ruefully. The West should stop its "Marco-Polo-like obsession with Chinese markets", he thinks.
India should also be cognisant that American negotiators are typically well-schooled both in diplomacy ("the continuation of war by other means") and in the art of bargaining. At the Stanford Business School and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, they teach Game Theory; and negotiation strategy is one of the most popular courses.
In my opinion, the best negotiating strategy that India has at hand is one that makes a lot of noise about the possibility of signing the CTBT. This will keep everybody engaged, in the hope that, as usual, India will cave in again. However, the goal behind this should be to not budge unless and until very substantive concessions have been extracted; in fact, the plan should be not to sign at all. The idea is only to get the other side to believe India will sign: for photo-ops and sound bites.
So far, the Indian government has certainly made a lot of noises about signing the CTBT; if this follows the direction I laid about above, I am delighted, assuming there is no real intent to sign. However, I am very concerned that India is slowly, in its anxiety, giving away all of its bargaining chips -- no-first-use, moratorium on tests, de facto CTBT, FMCT participation. There will be no bargaining power left in the end at this rate.
I think India should conduct a straightforward SWOT analysis of the situation, and prepare a standard negotiation roadmap. If India had Chanakyas at the helm, they might be able to carry the day through pure intellect, but sadly, this is not the case. It is easier and more convenient for mere mortals to use the tactics employed by a management consultant such as a McKinsey or a Booz-Allen.
Furthermore, this situation should be analysed in the light of a Prisoners' Dilemma. Consider a scenario where two alleged criminals have been detained and are held incommunicado in regards to a crime. If A betrays B, and B doesn't betray A, then A gets off free and B gets the book thrown at him. If both A and B maintain their innocence, they both get away with a small fine. If both betray each other, then both get a largish sentence.
Since they cannot communicate with each other, A and B have a dilemma. The best bet is for the two to co-operate and not betray each other, so they both get off with mild damage. The worst possibility is if I don't denounce the other, and he denounces me. So, if the two trust each other, they will co-operate. But if you don't trust the other, then you should denounce him.
There is also the related concept of a Nash Equilibrium, where everyone (I think -- it's been years since I dealt with this stuff) is as well off as they can be -- any disturbance to the system will mean someone will be worse off afterwards. So there is a tendency for systems to stabilise at their Nash Equilibria.
Now, if you are in a one-off Prisoners' Dilemma game, i.e. you will never have to negotiate with this same party again, then the obvious strategy would be to betray them. However, it is not quite so clear what the best strategy is in an extended Prisoners' Dilemma where you might have to work with the same opponent over and over again.
It turns out from computer simulations of running these games over and over again that, surprisingly, the best strategy is also one of the simplest -- 'Tit for Tat'. That is, co-operate to begin with, and thereafter respond in the subsequent round exactly as the opponent did in the previous round -- thus co-operate or betray as the other party did last time.
In the case of the US, or of China, India has been the aggrieved party, as the other side has betrayed India in the previous round -- China with 1962 and everything thereafter, and the US with tacit support of Pakistan. Therefore, India should take a resolute and hard stand: betray (and also expect to be betrayed). No point being foolishly sentimental about these things.
Looking at a very cursory SWOT analysis, what indeed is the situation?
Opportunities in the current situation:
Threats in the current situation:
Using a framework like this, it is possible to create a Negotiation Roadmap. The experts agree that in any negotiation, one must focus on interests, not specific positions. What are India's interests? They are, in my opinion, acceptance as a major power and a potential superpower, explicit acceptance as a nuclear power in the NPT sense, free transfer of technologies, economic co-operation, recognition and curtailment of state-sponsored terrorism aimed at India.
A Roadmap will consist of a hierarchy of outcomes: Desired, Acceptable, Walk-away. The negotiation is aimed at moving as close as possible to the Desired outcome; the Walk-away is the point where you break off negotiations. Again, the best experts suggest that such a roadmap should be firmly implanted in the minds of every one of the negotiators; and there will be no mid-course switches based on blandishments offered.
Here is my (again cursory) take on what the Roadmap should look like for India to accede to the CTBT:
Desired: parity with China, free export of technologies, technical co-operation, US support for UN Security Council seat, remove sanctions, US ratifies CTBT
I'm afraid that without a hard-headed and thought-through set of tactics, the Yanks will make mincemeat of the Indians. Based on my very long observation of the US and Americans, I can confidently suggest that a) they respect strength of purpose, b) they speak loudly and carry a small stick (except if the opponent is easily bullied). A united and strong Indian negotiation team (supported by public opinion) is the need of the hour.
Incidentally, in the midst of all this sanctimonious posturing, the US has quietly been taking steps to make their stockpile shipshape, up-to-date and ready for war -- but this is the subject for a future column on the innocently-named US Stockpile Stewardship Program, wherein they are investing the enormous sum of $4 billion a year to remain on the cutting edge of nuclear capability.
This article was written before the US decision to partly lift sanctions.
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