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'India, Pak must act together to counter terror'

Last updated on: April 12, 2011 01:39 IST

Michael Krepon, longtime arms control guru and the godfather of promoting confidence building measures in South Asia, believes the only panacea for nuclear risk reduction in South Asia after Mumbai is cooperation in counter-terrorism between New Delhi and Islamabad, but acknowledges it may be utterly quixotic.

Krepon, co-founder of the Henry Stimson Center, a Washington, a DC-based think tank, who was the discussant on the panel titled Nuclear Risk Reduction in South Asia after Mumbai at the 2011 Carnegie International Policy Conference, also threw out the news that Pakistan on Monday had accumulated a nuclear weapons arsenal that went way beyond simply city-targeting in India, and said it kept increasing exponentially each time there is an up-tick in India's conventional superiority.

Addressing the question of the day as to how the United States becomes a crisis preventer and not a crisis manager in South Asia, Krepon said, "The key for this probably is the hardest, and that is cooperation on counter-terrorism."

"If the two countries are not cooperating on counter-terrorism before an explosion happens, it's hard to see how they can cooperate usefully on counter-terrorism after an explosion happens."

Krepon said, "It's so hard for them to do this, because from Delhi's perspective— and it has some basis in fact — the folks they would need to cooperate with to prevent acts of mass casualty terrorism are the folks who are in cahoots."

He said the US is also now handicapped in terms of leveraging Pakistan because "the level of effort that we are committed to in Afghanistan, and the reliance necessarily that we have to reside in the government of Pakistan for logistical support for those forces in Afghanistan, make it kind of removed leverage that the US may have on Pakistan in other areas."

"So prevention is the key, and prevention is extremely hard," he reiterated.

Krepon said, "It now seems to be the case that nuclear requirements in Pakistan are partly defined by how badly the conventional balance is moving in India's favor."

"It's obvious at this point, at least to me, that Pakistan has accumulated sufficient weapons that go well-beyond a city-targeting counter-value strategy. And, if requirements are driven in part by every arms sale to India, conventionally, then I don't see an end to this."

What makes all this worse and to which the US is contributing, Krepon complained was selling massive amounts of weapons to India.

He said, "In past wars between India and Pakistan, whenever there was a breakdown in deterrence, we stopped selling stuff to both sides. We put a hold on everything in the past."

"(But) Now, we are selling more stuff — a lot more — to India than to Pakistan. It would be very interesting to see whether the United States government imposes an embargo on both sides in the event of a future breakdown in deterrence," he added.

Krepon said that after each India-Pakistan crisis, US-Pakistan relations "becomes more problematic and after each crisis, US crisis management becomes harder because the deliverables are so suspect. There have been promises that have been extracted from Pakistan's leaders in past crises, and Indian government has really not believed that these promises will be met but they were satisfactory because they did not want to hit back militarily."

"So, after you've been through this drill a couple of times, how many times can you go to this well when you know the bucket you pull up is kind of empty," he said. "And, each crisis, the US remains the only conceivable crisis manager but the US is less of an honest broker so this is hard."

Krepon said that if there's another major crisis between India and Pakistan, which he predicted is a no-brainer, it would "play out against the back-drop of growing asymmetry in the region — conventional and military — and that is going to be very tricky. So far, the stability-instability paradox has held, thanks to uncommon but not uncharacteristic Indian restraint."

Reiterating his theme of Pakistan's nuclear weapons superiority and India's conventional weapons superiority, he said, "The overall context within the next crisis will play out where you have greater disparity in conventional capability in India's favor and a greater disparity in nuclear capability in Pakistan's favor and that is not a good equation for deterrence stability in a crisis."

Krepon said, "The common elements of these crises has been that the perpetrators in the past have had links to Pakistan's military and intelligence services, training, equipment, basing in Pakistan."

"For some of these crises — the last two in fact — it's been hard to pin down how much involvement there has been, how much fore-knowledge there has been at the highest level of the Pakistani military establishment, " he said.

 "What is clear is that the authorities in Pakistan did not take serious preventative action before mass casualty attacks occurred on iconic targets on Indian soil," he said.

"It is also clear that the authorities in Pakistan have either been unable or unwilling to take significant actions against the perpetrators and planners after the mass casualty attacks on Indian soil," he added.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC