April 29, 2011

Of royal weddings and missiles

Prince William and bride Kate Middleton walk down the aisle
Two things to talk about today. The British royal wedding and Pakistan's test of the nuclear capable, air to surface missile codenamed Hatf 8. But first, the happy stuff.

Prince William (Duke of Cambridge as he shall henceforth now be known as) wed Kate Middleton today. And what a ceremony it was. Despite the royalty associated with it and the opulence and grandeur that one would've expected, it was a relatively simple occasion. There was fanfare, but organized. There was no aerial firing, the police were not discourteous, the people were allowed to look on and hence feel a part of history in the making. What was even more impressive was the lack of show-offness that is an inherent culture that the Pakistani people have become famous for. The Queen was escorted to the Westminster Abbey by a single vehicle. There were no motorcades of 50 cars driving as if they were princes of the world; mind you, the people driving those vehicles were indeed princes and princesses of the British Crown. So all in all, a fantastic wedding which despite its huge importance still managed to be a simple affair. And it started and finished exactly on the dot! Congratulations to both His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and may they lead a happy and fulfilling life together.

But now onto things that are not so happy (at least for the some of us) and which are far closer to home. Pakistan has in the last few weeks managed to test two new missiles which were presumably developed in response to India's reported "Cold Start Doctrine". The first missile that was tested is a short range (60 km) nuclear capable precision strike boy toy called Hatf 6 or Nasr. The sad thing though, is that it is completely useless. The second missile tested is the Hatf 8 and it is an indigenously developed nuclear capable air to surface missile capable of travelling 350 km while carrying a nuclear warhead.

The problem with the first missile (Hatf 6 or Nasr) has been summarized in an excellent article by Cyril Almeida in an article which appeared in today's Dawn newspaper. Cyril Almeida does well in picking apart the Pakistani military establishment's psyche. So how will a missile with a range of only 60 km work? The idea is that when India inserts in integrated battle groups into Pakistan, the Pakistani military would use these missiles against them. Three problems here: 1) After India inserts its integrated battle groups into Pakistan, do we drop the Nasr on them (our own territory) or do we hit something of value in India? Dropping a nuclear bomb on our own territory would be foolish so let's assume we'll hit something in India which leads me to the second problem; 2) If you want to hit something of value in India with a missile that can only travel 60 km, you'll have to place it right next to the border under the command of mid-tier commanders of infantry or artillery units. Nuclear weapons, who's launch or otherwise will be determined by mid-tier commanders. Are freaking kidding me?! And 3) I thought (and I presume a lot of people also thought) that the point of having nuclear weapons was to maintain minimum deterrence. So if you develop short range missiles, then that means you're effectively telling the enemy you'll be using them?

The minimum deterrence in theory works like this: You tell the enemy that if you try to inflict war on us, we'll inflict so much devastation on you in return that you really shouldn't even think about attacking us in the first instant. But here, we've just developed nuclear weapons that instead of acting as deterrents, have been placed under the heading of instruments of war. And that is madness.

So here's the really interesting bit to end this blog post. While Pakistan doesn't have money to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, raise the minimum wage so people can actually survive on their wages, pay off the circular debt so that uninterrupted electricity can be secured, we do have enough money to build new missiles and increase the armed forces' pays. My only question is: What's the point?