May 29, 1998The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
For the past two weeks, India and Pakistan have been engaged in a dangerous contest of atomic diplomacy. Now that the nuclear genie has been let out of the bottle, what's next for the region? After an update from ITN, Margaret Warner leads a discussion. Also, view a timeline of the India-Pakistan conflict.
ANDREW VIETCH, ITN: Never before have two hostile nuclear nations been so close. It's a mere 430 miles from Islamabad to New Delhi, as the missile flies. The streets of Islamabad are well within the range of India's Agni missile. It has a range of 1200 miles. Pakistan's answer, the Gauhri, was test-fired last month.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
A timeline of the India-Pakistan conflict.
May 28, 1998
The Pakistani ambassador defends his country's actions.
May 28, 1998
The Indian ambassador discusses Pakistan's tests.
May 28, 1998
Samuel Berger presents the American view.
May 26, 1998
Pakistan gears up nuclear tests of its own.
May 14, 1998
Jim Lehrer asks a Pakistani government official if a nuclear arms race is on the way between his country and India.
May 13, 1998
India conducts a second round of nuclear tests.
May 12, 1998
A discussion on India's decision to test nuclear weapons.
Read what some experts had to say about the recent elections in India.
March 19, 1998:
A discussion on how to reduce nuclear proliferation.
March 4, 1998
The BJP wins elections in India.
January 6, 1998
President Clinton announces a new strategy to deter nuclear war.
December 4, 1997
Two retired generals call for an immediate reduction of nuclear arms.
August 17, 1997
Pakistan turns 50.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the military and Asia.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization .
Matching weapon for weapon.Officials claim it's already been armed with nuclear warheads. It can easily reach New Delhi. Pakistan's weapons are made from highly enriched uranium. The technology was smuggled from the West. The warhead design may have come from China. It's thought they have enough uranium to make at least 20 nuclear warheads. Assuming five were detonated, they have fifteen in stock. It's thought the detonator and electronics are in place. If so, the missiles could be armed in a matter of hours. Western analysts measured a single shock wave, 4.6 on the Richter Scale, so if the Pakistanis did detonate five bombs, they must have been simultaneous. And they must have been less powerful than India's bombs. India has developed much more powerful plutonium weapons. It's thought they have enough to make a hundred warheads, each with the power to destroy a city. Observers say their missiles too could be armed in a matter of hours. India has offered Pakistan a "no first use" agreement. They could afford to, because its conventional strength is overwhelming. That's why Pakistan turned it down. There is no room for either side to detonate a nuclear weapon without poisoning its own. When the wind blows, both Islamabad and New Delhi will be vulnerable to the fallout from their own warheads.
JIM LEHRER: And to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: Four perspectives now on the new nuclear dangers on the subcontinent. Michael Krepon is president of the Henry Stimson Center, a non-profit group focusing on arms control and security issues. He's been going to India and Pakistan regularly since 1991. John Mearsheimer is professor of political science at the University of Chicago, specializing in military and nuclear strategy. Sumit Ganguly is professor of political science at Hunter College in New York, teaching regional security in South Asia. He was born in India but is a U.S. citizen now. And Hasan Askari Rizvi is a visiting professor of Pakistani studies at Columbia University, specializing in South Asian and security issues. He's a Pakistani citizen. Welcome all. Professor Ganguly, how much more dangerous is the Indian subcontinent now?
A dangerous situation becomes more dangerous.
SUMIT GANGULY, Hunter College: It'll become substantially more dangerous if India or Pakistan chooses to marry warheads with nuclear missiles. Then, of course, we're in an entirely different ballgame.
MARGARET WARNER: And how close do you think that is?
SUMIT GANGULY: The Pakistanis' statements have not exactly inspired a great deal of confidence. On the other hand, shortly after the Indian tests, there were a series of intemperate statements, particularly from the India Home Minister, Mr. El Kayed Vani. And that was acutely distressing to those of us who study this region of the world.
MARGARET WARNER: Professor Rizvi, do you agree the subcontinent is much more dangerous now?
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI, Columbia University : Yes. I think South Asia has moved closer to nuclear arms race. In fact, that arms race has already started. But this is not a situation where you could describe this as unmanageable, although some leaders from the two sides have issued some statements, which could be described as irresponsible.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree, Mr. Krepon?
MICHAEL KREPON, The Henry Stimson Center: This is a dangerous situation, and it can get a lot worse. But there's time for wise and prudent decisions by the government leaders.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Professor Mearsheimer, what's your view of how much more dangerous the situation has become?
JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: Well, I think in the short term there is real potential for danger, because you're talking about a situation where both sides have very small nuclear deterrents and possibly very vulnerable nuclear deterrents. And there may be incentives for either side to strike at the other before the other side force is fully developed. Furthermore, I think in the early stages of developing a nuclear arsenal there's always the danger that you don't have your command and control system properly developed. And the end result is that you may have an accidental launch. So I think in the short term there's a lot of potential for danger. But I think once the two sides develop rather robust and large nuclear deterrence that you'll have a relatively stable situation, much like you had between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Professor Rizvi, I'm going to get to possible ways to manage it in a minute, but, first of all, tell us what would be your scenario for potentially the situation spinning out of control into the use of nuclear weapons. What could happen? What could trigger it?
Nuclear war scenarios.
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Well, the greatest risk would be that if there are some military exchanges on the border and especially in Kashmir, that kind of dispute can escalate into a more dangerous exchange between the two countries involving nuclear weapons.
MARGARET WARNER: You're talking about the first-
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: You know, what's the scenario?
MARGARET WARNER: You're talking about first the conventional clash, which then-go ahead-
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Yes, because nuclear weapons are weapons of last resort. First, it starts with conventional weapons and then slowly and gradually you escalate into a nuclear exchange.
MARGARET WARNER: Professor Ganguly, is that your worst case scenario?
SUMIT GANGULY: That's exactly my worst case scenario. I would only spin it out a little bit further. I would suggest something like suppose there are infiltrators coming across the border from Pakistani Kashmir into Indian Kashmir. The Indian forces return fire, and then they decide to engage in hot pursuit. Well, a Pakistani sitting on the other side of the border may construe that hot pursuit as not hot pursuit but as a third step towards a full-scale invasion and then decides to raise the ante and before long you get into a protracted and escalatory conflict that neither side actually had intended to embark upon.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Professor Rizvi, you agree with Professor Mearsheimer, who said also that it's a question of how good is your command and control?
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Well, I think this is true with the passage of time and with the international diplomatic and political intervention, I think a system can be evolved, which will manage the situation that has arisen in South Asia.
MARGARET WARNER: But that right now that does not exist, that kind of-
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: At the moment, no.
MICHAEL KREPON: Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Krepon. Yes.
Mr. Krepon: "They've (India and Pakistan) tested them for domestic politics and for reasons of status."
MICHAEL KREPON: John Mearsheimer has said that we'll have a stable situation on the subcontinent because these countries can use the bomb for security, deterrence, and stability. But India and Pakistan haven't tested these weapons for security or deterrence or stability. They've tested them for domestic politics and for reasons of status. You saw the street demonstrations after these bombs were fired. In the West, we think of street demonstrations against nuclear weapons. It's a different scene in the subcontinent. If you look at this situation from the inside out, you see a situation where the drivers are domestic and status -- not stability and deterrence.
MARGARET WARNER: Professor Mearsheimer, what about that point?
JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that Michael is dead wrong. I think that there's no question that domestic politics did figure into the decisions of both the Indians and the Pakistanis. But, nevertheless, I think that was of secondary, if not tertiary, consideration. I think the main consideration was security. The fact of the matter is that nuclear weapons are an excellent deterrent. And for a country that feels threatened, especially by a neighbor that has nuclear weapons, it's not very likely that that country is going to shoot nuclear weapons. The Indians made it very clear that the Chinese nuclear program was driving their development and the Pakistanis have made it very clear that the Indian situation is driving their program. This is hardly surprising.
MICHAEL KREPON: Look at Pakistan. Nazwar Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, had a weapon designed courtesy of China. He knew it would work. Everybody knew it would work. He didn't have to test that weapon to tell the world that he had a deterrent that would work. He tested it, because if he didn't test it, he would be seen as sacrificing national security to Uncle Sam and the International Monetary Fund.
JOHN MEARSHEIMER: But, Michael, that begs the central question of why they were developing nuclear weapons to begin with. Even if everything you say is true, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan had a nuclear weapons program, and the reason it did was it feared India's nuclear weapons program. Security was the driver.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Let me get-Mr. Rizvi, weigh in on this point, whether you think that the domestic pressures is another risk factor.
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Well, I think in case of Pakistan it was the external factor because with Indian explosion the Pakistan security environment had changed drastically, and Pakistan was responding to the situation that has arisen. I think Pakistan's nuclear program is very much focused against India, that is, security against India. So primary factors were external. Internal factors were only to the extent that there was a demand for going ahead for a matching response.
MARGARET WARNER: Excuse me. What I'm asking you is--do you think that same kind of internal pressure, though, could make the risk of actually nuclear conflict more likely? Do you think there would be public pressure? As Mr. Krepon said, there were people in the streets demonstrating in favor of all of this. Is there a different environment there that could actually push political leadership to use it--for instance, if there was a conflict in Kashmir and the Pakistanis seemed to be losing a conventional struggle?
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Well, you don't make high policy decisions on the basis of what is happening in the streets, or what people are saying. It will depend how the regional situation moves what kind of relations are there between India and Pakistan. If India and Pakistan can manage their relations at a level that they don't have to go that stage I think the domestic factor will not influence Pakistan's decisions to go ahead to the next stage.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Rizvi, do you think India and Pakistan can manage this relationship?
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Well, I think-
MARGARET WARNER: Oh, I'm sorry. Excuse me. I meant Mr. Ganguly. Forgive me. Yes. Mr. Ganguly.
The need for careful diplomacy.
SUMIT GANGULY: Yes, I do believe that India and Pakistan can manage this relationship. Contrary to popular belief, all the three India-Pakistani wars have been extremely limited in scope. They did not involve enormous loss of life. Both India and Pakistan avoided city-busting strategies. That means they did not target civilian populations. This is not accidental. The Indians and Pakistanis have a great deal in common, and they understand each other's mentalities exceedingly well. So while this is a serious rupture in their relations, I don't believe that this is not irreparable by any means. What one needs at this point is careful, skillful diplomacy on the part of both states and to avoid finger pointing. I really do believe that this situation is manageable. We have not reached the point of no return, particularly if one does not proceed with overt weaponization.
MICHAEL KREPON: If the reason was security, if that's why India and Pakistan tested these devices, what have they gotten?
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you -- excuse me for interrupting-but let me just-because we went through that point --but let me ask you a related question here. The U.S. and Soviet Union managed a nuclear-- a conflict in a nuclear age without going to nuclear war. Does that model apply here?
MICHAEL KREPON: We have a new model here. It's a different part of the world. It's a part of the world where two countries have a contiguous border, and they have a disputed border. Every summer one of the borders -- the disputed one-heats up. If you visit that line of control separating Kashmir, you hear gunfire on a good day. On a bad day you hear artillery and mortar rounds. You have a region in which the flight times of the missiles are less than 10 minutes. You have a region where there are no effective early warning systems, there are no effective, robust, redundant command, control, and intelligence systems. And you have a situation where the two governments do not now have a formal structure to sit down with one another and talk through problems and resolve differences. So these nuclear devices have not led to greater security. They've led to a lot of insecurity.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Mearsheimer.
Mr. Mearsheimer: "We should not ... wreck the Pakistani and Indian economies and cause domestic political turmoil...."
JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that the key variable here is whether or not the United States helps manage the proliferation process. If you buy that there are all those problems out there that Michael described, then what the United States should do is step in and help manage the process. For example, we should go to great lengths to make sure that both the Indians and the Pakistanis have secure command and control systems so that there are no accidental launches. We should make sure that they have no accidental launches. We should make sure that they have robust and survivable retaliatory forces so neither side has an incentive to strike first. We ought to go to great lengths to open up a hotline between the two sides, and we should not do what we're promising to do, which is wreck the Pakistani and Indian economies and cause domestic political turmoil in a pair of countries that are armed with nuclear weapons and are at the early stages of developing a deterrent.
MICHAEL KREPON: Margaret, why don't we go the whole way and just give them nuclear weapons?
JOHN MEARSHEIMER: We don't have to. They acquired their own nuclear weapons.
MICHAEL KREPON: John talks about a hotline. I have interviewed the military officers that have the hotline in their offices. And one of these officers told me that he complained A, B, C, D, and E. We were having airspace incursions, we were taking casualties, etc., etc. I said, did you pick up the phone? He said, no. I said, why? He said, because it would give him, his opposite number, more satisfaction than it would give me.
MARGARET WARNER: And what kind of an officer was this?
MICHAEL KREPON: He's a three star general.
MARGARET WARNER: In which-
MICHAEL KREPON: I'd rather not say, but he's the director general of military operations. This-
MARGARET WARNER: One of these two countries?
MICHAEL KREPON: In one of these two countries. This is a cultural context in which to complain is to give satisfaction to the other side but not to get satisfaction.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me-Mr. Rizvi, do you want to comment on that?
HASAN ASKARI RIZVI: Well, I think diplomacy has to come in at two stages: one between India and Pakistan. The negotiation process has to be resumed. Then the international community has to use its diplomatic power to bring these two nations into a new kind of global non-proliferation regime. With diplomacy I think the situation in South Asia can be dealt effectively and things can be made manageable. You need diplomacy. You need political intervention and interaction between these two states and the international system.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ganguly.
SUMIT GANGULY: Well, I actually have to disagree with Michael because despite the story he just related to us, I do believe that it is possible for Indians and Pakistanis to talk. There are formal structures. I happen to disagree with him on that. There were the foreign secretary level talks, which had been going on for some time, admittedly not making significant progress, but at least there is a formal structure for discussion, and, furthermore, Indians and Pakistanis may not talk explicitly about nuclear doctrines and use sort of the language of the American deterrence theory. But I think they do understand what nuclear weapons entail; that nuclear weapons constitute a qualitatively different form of weaponry. And I think that point is not lost on the Indians and Pakistanis, and I think we are trying to close the proverbial barn door after both the horses have bolted.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Listen, thank you. I'm sorry, we have to leave it there. Thank you all four very much.