India now has a bona fide second strike capability, but Pakistan does not. This shifts the balance of power in the region towards a stronger MAD equilibrium between China and India, but it also shifts it decidedly in favor of India in Indo-Pakistani relations.

Back in November, I wrote that without these, they had no second strike capability. Though there were rumors then of this submarine.

When you game this out, it actually stabilizes the situation quite a bit. The previous recipe: poor early warning, short decision times due to proximity, and no second strike capability, launching a nuclear attack could become a dominant strategy as tensions rise. Now, Pakistan does not have a dominant strategy to launch because a second strike would destroy them. Knowing that to be the case, India doesn’t get locked in to their first strike dominant strategy either. So, we don’t have a recipe for an accidental nuclear war anymore.

This doesn’t, however, change the fact that an otherwise non-nuclear conflict could go nuclear under the wrong circumstances. Having said that, this is actually a big improvement in strategic stability for the subcontinent assuming we have a generally non-belligerent India.

Given the United States’ military interests in Afghanistan and its economic ties to India, I think this is preferable to a Pakistani boomer sub.

India Update

More on the strategic nuclear balance from the Navy:

The asymmetries of strategic depth and offensive military capability give India an operational advantage, and may create a situation in which India’s conventional ground or air forces come into contact with Pakistan’s strategic nuclear forces. Pakistan’s shorter-range Hatf 3/M-11 ballistic missiles must be stationed fairly far forward to reach strategic targets in India, perhaps leaving them vulnerable to both air and ground attack. The same is true of Pakistan’s forward airbases, which are within easy striking distance of the border. This is a very troubling scenario because Pakistan places great emphasis on its strategic nuclear forces to deter a large-scale conventional attack by India.


Pakistan’s presumed inability to identify and attack India’s C4I probably precludes any appreciable loss of command and control over India’s strategic force during a conventional war. This is reinforced by a several factors, including India’s reliance on negative control features, and its greater strategic depth. A conventional attack on India’s command and control structures probably would cause only a delay in retaliatory nuclear strikes, and not lead to the inadvertent use of nuclear weapons.


[India and Pakistan’s] asymmetrical conventional force capabilities and doctrines could create pressures for one side to launch nuclear weapons, even if they would prefer not to. The three scenarios of inadvertent war outlined above show how India’s superior conventional military power might so seriously degrade the Pakistan national command authority’s confidence in its nuclear deterrent that a nuclear war begins that nobody wants.


I haven’t pointed out that India and Pakistan had a standoff in 2002 after the Indian Parliament attacks in December 2001, massing troops on the border. Later that year, a U.S. General testified to Congress that “neither India nor Pakistan have the sophisticated sensors that can determine the difference between a natural near-Earth object impact and a nuclear detonation.” 

What does that mean in practical terms? Well, first of all, an asteroid crash could be determined to be a high altitude nuclear explosion, which is the exact kind used to knock out command and control because its primary effect is a huge EMP. 

Pop quiz, hot shot. You’re an Indian Air Force office and tomorrow you detect a gigantic atmospheric detonation over your head. What do you do?

You better hope the US or Russia is on the goddamn phone with someone in charge. Same thing goes for Pakistan. 

The second thing it means is that their early detection systems suck. But even if they were state of the art, what’s the response time? Five minutes? Think about it. The Cuban missile crisis was largely due to the fact that much of the US could be hit before a response could come about, dangerously upsetting the strategic balance.

Today’s Baltimore Sun:

There’s no suggestion that the two nuclear-armed antagonists are close to brandishing any of their weapons (India, an estimated 100 warheads; Pakistan, roughly 60).

But it’s a dicey situation. Unlike the Cold-War U.S. and Soviet Union, India and Pakistan live side by side, reducing missile flight times — and crisis decision-making time — to under 10 minutes. That’s less than 600 seconds.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union emerged from the Cold War’s nuclear confrontation unscathed. But there were more than a handful of moments, including false alarms and cross signals, when things might have gone otherwise.  

In one case, a 1983 NATO “Able Archer” exercise was perceived by the Kremlin as active preparation for a nuclear attack and it began raising the alert status of Soviet nuclear forces. “Very dangerous,” was the subsequent assessment of Robert M. Gates, then a senior intelligence official, now Secretary of Defense.

That near-miss happened despite several decades of American and Russian experience  and tacit cooperation on nuclear crisis management — experience India and Pakistan do not have.

“India and Pakistan’s lack of sophisticated early warning and detection capabilities and command and control systems are some of the other factors that create strategic volatility and raise the risks of a nuclear exchange,” says an assessment by the Monterey Institute for Strategic Studies.

Oh, and the death toll? Some estimates are as low as 20m, but others are as high as one billion.

Welcome to the NFL, Obama.

Polemic 4 Days Ahead On India (;

On November 27, 2008, just after midnight, I wrote:

To say this is fnord al Qaeda fnord is accurate but imprecise. It may be connected to the larger Qaeda movement, but the point of destablizing India is a different, though related, front in their jihad. Pakistan is now on the verge of becoming a failed state, much like Afghanistan, and they are working hard on pushing India into a corner where they might have to militarize their border, or make limited incursion

Let’s nor [sic] forget that this comes right after Obama’s election, who promised to escalate in Afghanistan to go after bin Laden, who is most likely in Waziristan, Pakistan. While I agree with that policy, I also believe that Obama’s policy, his election, and this attack are NOT a coincidence. 

December 1, 2008’s Times of London:

Other Indian analysts said the attack appeared to be an attempt to undermine US policy towards India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“There’s a lot of clamour for action against Pakistan from India,” Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the head of the Centre for Policy Research. “This attack was not just an attempt to scuttle India’s peace process with Pakistan. It was in many ways a pre-emptive strike against [Barack] Obama’s strategy for the region.”

The U.S. President elect has proposed increasing troop levels in Afghanistan and stepping up the pressure on Pakistan to attack militants on its territory. In exchange, he has suggested appointing an special envoy to help resolve Pakistan’s territorial dispute with India over Kashmir.

A crisis in India-Pakistan relations would scupper both plans.

Doctor Antonio Giustozzi, an expert on Afghanistan at the London School of Economics, said Washington could weather such a crisis, but concurred on the militants’ aims.

“I think that the terrorists have made a calculation that aims to worsen relations between India and Pakistan and embarrass the Pakistan government, in the hope that the Indians make an uncontrolled response,” he said.

That, he said, would “strengthen the militants’ hand and compromise the campaign by Islamabad against extremists by diverting troops back to the Indian border.”

The Subcontinent is a hobby of mine. It’s the most dangerous place in the world, and it has been for a long time. More dangerous than Israel/Palestine, more dangerous than Iraq or Iran, more dangerous than any of the former Soviet Republics. This is simply because there are over a billion people living under the threat of a nuclear conflict, with a billion more next door in China ready to throw in.



India’s second strike ability is indeed non-existent. They are currently developing submarines, but claim that their land and air based weapons are only for retaliation. But because their stockpile is so small, it is not a very creidble retaliation. India claims also not to have weapons on hair-trigger alert, but does not rule out having a first-strike capability.

India claims that only the civlian government, i.e. the prime minister and his Nuclear Command Authority, and their chain of command successors have control.

So, in sum, either they are extremely vulnerable to a first strike, or this is bullshit and there is field control and ready alert for some of their forces. Their estimated stockpile is a mere 50-60 nukes. Pakistan possibly has twice that many.

Pakistan doesn’t have a well-defined policy and only has shitty missiles and some olf F-16s to deliver them, but it’s more than enough to hit Delhi. Their maximum range missile goes about 1,200 miles. India probably has one that can reach twice that far.

I doubt Pakistan could effectively retaliate if India’s intelligence is any good. The scary part is their command and control.