Category Archives: India

And Yet There Are Faster Ways To Die

Yesterday’s Twitter hissy fit over our use of a GBU-43/B MOAB in Afghanistan combined with the friction with North Korea, as reported in the amazingly well connected @KGSNightWatch, set me to thinking about quicker means for us to end ourselves than the slow roast we’ve already set in motion.

We had already detonated 2,053 nuclear weapons by 1998 but since the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty all tests have been underground, including the five North Korean tests that happened after this video ends.

We got plain scared by the results of the 1954 Castle Bravo test, a six megaton test that yielded fifteen, because we didn’t understand there was a fusion path for lithium 7, and only nine short years later the world decided air/space testing was a Really Bad Idea™.


Since then, we’ve shifted to constraining ourselves to developing stuff that inhibits others delivering weapons. Basically we have about three dozen Ground Based Interceptors on the west coast and the trend seems to be counting on Aegis Combat Systems and the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 to knock down uninvited ballistic missiles.

Missile Defense Systems

Missile Defense Systems

This missile defense stuff is all still really theoretical. Tests are few, expensive, and results have been mixed. We don’t really have a plan for submarine launched cruise missiles but the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty eliminated whole classes of weapons.

But North Korea is not a signatory to any of these treaties and they are slowly standing up a nuclear capability. This happened while we were naming them part of the Axis of Evil and blundering into Bush’s adventure in Iraq. Like a Cape buffalo surrounded by lions, we focused on one and the others got up to things we didn’t see coming.


North Korea can’t nuke San Francisco. They can’t nuke Honolulu. They can maybe hit 7th Fleet HQ at the mouth of Tokyo Bay. Their current best has a yield equal to the weapons the U.S. produced in 1945.

Yokosuka 20 Kiloton Strike

Yokosuka 20 Kiloton Strike (NUKEMAP)

I have zero confidence that Little Fingers has the right moves given that the DPRK is surely going to test another nuclear weapon tomorrow. China has moved six divisions of troops to its border with North Korea with the announced intent of ensuring that there are not a flood of refugees crossing their border. They also have a credible plan to put an end to North Korea’s test facilities, which is something the U.S. and South Korea lack.

Another grandstanding effort, like the theatrical strike against a forewarned Syrian airfield, or the drop of a MOAB in Afghanistan, seems likely. The most foolish step would be treating this as a chance to employ a B-61 Dial-A-Yield nuke, specifically the B-61 Mod 11 bunker buster.


The assessment of the premier geopolitical threat monitor is simple and clear:

NightWatch concurs with the judgment that the North Koreans are not bluffing about retaliating for any kind of attack against them.

The scariest part of all of this? America’s recto-cranial inversion, which predates Little Fingers, keeps us strutting like the only superpower, but ignoring stuff where we don’t have a direct interface. The relationship between India (110 nukes) and Pakistan (130 nukes) is always some flavor of tense, but in recent months there have been reports in Night Watch that indicate they went right up to the red line of a rapidly evolving ground war and strong potential for an exchange.

Now take a look at this China-centric population cartogram.They have four neighbors with nuclear weapons, two are at each other’s throats, the U.S. is showing strong signs of moving against North Korea, and doing so because we have a leader as isolated and strange as Kim thanks to meddling from nuclear armed neighbor number four.

China-centric Population Cartogram

China-centric Population Cartogram


There is no such thing as a limited nuclear exchange where India and Pakistan are concerned. If they each show some restraint and only use half of their arsenals we lose half of our ozone layer, a couple years of Canadian and Russia wheat production, and the initial ten million killed directly would be joined by another billion famine victims.

These projections stop where the effects of smoke in the atmosphere end. A billion dead of starvation are the unlucky one seventh when all of us are facing that possibility. We are already precariously balanced when it comes to food, we lose all of the Mideast and North Africa in this scenario, those places teeter on the edge of ungovernability now when there are relatively minor disturbances in wheat supplies.


The area south of Africa’s Great Green Wall would be the best place to ride out such a catastrophe, far away from fallout of all sorts, from economic to political to radioactive.

Sobering, isn’t it? We already have the means to create an extinction level event for our species and we are stumbling that direction, led by a man with a psychopath’s regard for cause and effect.

Afghanistan’s New Best Friends

The April 30th NightWatch contained some very interesting information about what will happen in Afghanistan once NATO withdrawal is complete.

India-Russia-Afghanistan: India, Russia and Afghanistan quietly have created a triangular arrangement for providing arms aid to Afghanistan after NATO withdraws. None of the countries have made an official announcement. Only a small number of news services, including The Moscow Times and Pakistani newspapers, have published articles about it.

The arrangement was finalized in February when an India team visited Moscow, but it had been under discussion during the past year. It was one of the discussion items when President Karzai visited India last December.

Under the agreement, smaller arms such as light artillery and mortars will be provided by Russia and moved to Afghanistan from the north, while India paid Russia for the equipment. An inventory of Russian-made equipment in Afghanistan has been completed. Afghanistan has presented India with a list of requirements and Russia reportedly has made one or more initial shipments.

An Indian Ministry of External Affairs officer said, “We can’t commit troops on the ground; we can’t give them the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks….Involving a third party is the next best option.”

Afghanistan India Russia

Afghanistan India Russia

This is a very touchy matter for Pakistan, their strategic opponent India providing weapons to a country on the opposite side, creating the potential for a two front war. KGS NightWatch reports this is actually pleasing to the other countries in the region, as it keeps Afghanistan from sliding into the Pakistani sphere, and then into play with their internal conflicts.

Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979 and this hopeless, endless conflict is named as one of the key components that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union twelve years later. When Romanian NATO troops showed up with Russian looking uniforms and AK-47s it caused consternation among the locals, who feared the Russians had returned. Russian weapons have never left – AK-47s, 12.7x108mm machine guns, and RPG7 rocket launchers are still the right small weapons for this geographic area.

Calculus in the region is complicated by the urge for independence in Balochistan, which would affect Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.



China has been investing heavily in the region, from the port of Gwadar on the Balochi Pakistan coast to internal rail improvements. Russia has been less active in terms of foreign investment but they have already made their weight felt with regards to Syria and are now participants in a regional stability scheme for Central Asia.

Neo-Conservatives will have a case of the vapors over this, but the blame for reduced U.S. influence on the region falls squarely on their shoulders for their role in engineering Bush’s disastrous adventure in Iraq. Afghanistan has always been an unruly empire killer and I am in favor of anything which can keep trouble there from radiating into Pakistan.

Drowning Indochina

Yesterday’s Visualizing 400ppm Carbon Dioxide showed before/after coastline maps of what we can expect given the carbon we have already put into the atmosphere. All of Delaware and Maryland’s eastern shore disappear, Florida south of Gainesville goes for a swim, and the San Francisco Bay reaches Sacramento.

The effects in Indochina and neighboring Bangladesh are even more profound. Yangon, Myanmar (4.4M), Bangkok, Thailand (8.3M), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (7.5M), and Phnom Penh, Cambodia (2.3M) will all be submerged if the increase is only 20M and historically we should expect more like 25M at that level of CO2.

Indochina Sea Level Today

Indochina Sea Level Today

Indochina With 20M Sea Level Increase

Indochina With 20M Sea Level Increase

Almost all of Bangladesh, population 150 million, will be under water.

Bangladesh Sea Level Today

Bangladesh Sea Level Today

Bangladesh With 20M Sea Level Increase

Bangladesh With 20M Sea Level Increase

I have written about the persecution of the Rohingya, 800,000 of whom live in Myanmar. Half of their land would disappear and almost all of the territory of the Kachin would be submerged.

Myanmar Ethnic Groups

Myanmar Ethnic Groups

This is going to happen, not in the 150 minutes of an epic disaster movie, not even in 150 years, but by about the year 3,000 this should be a good approximation of the coastline. While this is happening we’re going to be dealing with the effects of increasingly energetic cyclones, like Bhola in 1970, which contributed to the Indo-Pakistani war and the creation of Bangladesh the next year.

The United States has taken two massive hits in the last eight years – Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012. Storms are already bigger, they’re arriving earlier, staying later, and getting into places they’ve never gone in the past. We have to see things as they are and plan accordingly – relief, remediation, and relocation are the watchwords. This applies both here at home and abroad.

Many Notable Events This Week

This week was just chock full of notable international events.

January 6th NightWatch

Indian and Pakistani troops clashed near the Line of Control in the northwestern border region of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state on 6 January, leaving one Pakistani soldier dead and another wounded, according to a Pakistani military spokesman. According to the statement, Indian troops crossed into Pakistani territory and raided the Sawan Patra military post.

Syria: President Bashar al Assad in a speech in Damascus on 6 January was defiant of the international coalition arrayed against him. He vowed to fight on and presented an updated version of last year’s peace and political reform initiatives that called for a national reconciliation conference as well as a new government and constitution. He conditioned his reforms on actions by other countries to stop providing arms and financial support to the Syrian rebels.

Israel-Syria: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to build 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) of fortified fence along the Golan Heights in response to concerns over the Syrian regime’s instability and chemical weapons capabilities. Netanyahu added that as Syrian forces withdraw from the Israel-Syria border, jihadist forces have moved into the area.

January 7th NightWatch

Mali: Malian Army forces fired “artillery” at Islamists and conducted a patrol in the area that is under the control of the Touaregs or the Ansar Dine fighters, who are affiliated with al Qaida. The Islamists captured 12 government soldiers plus their vehicles and weapons.

January 8th NightWatch

India-Pakistan: Update. Indian press reported a second security incident occurred on 8 January in a central sector of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir State. The Indians claim that a Pakistan Army team killed two Indian soldiers while operating a half kilometer on the Indian side. According to the press, one of the Indian soldiers was decapitated and his head taken back to the Pakistan side of the Line of Control.

January 9th NightWatch

Jordan: For the record. Heavy rainfall, strong winds and snow hit Jordan for a second day on 9 January, along with other Middle East countries. The National published images of the road from Beirut to Damascus closed because of snow. A Jordanian meteorological department official said Jordan already has received 100% of its annual rainfall and the season is not half over. The possibility of snow is predicted for Jerusalem this week.

January 10th NightWatch

Afghanistan: US Defense Secretary Panetta had talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Pentagon on Thursday. Panetta told the media the two countries were “at the last chapter” in their effort to rebuild Afghanistan’s institutions and security. Panetta said, “We’ve come a long way towards a shared goal of establishing a nation that you and we can be proud of, one that never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism.”

Mali: Fighters loyal to the Islamists in northern Mali clashed with government forces for the first time in nearly a year, seizing the town of Konna, as part of a southward rebel push against government forces. For the first time, they have entered southern Mali.

These come courtesy of Foreign Policy magazine’s news feed, which I just began receiving.

Iranian Oil Minister Concedes Sanctions Have Hurt Exports

Iran Oil Revenues Drop 45% In Nine Months

Syrian Rebels Release 45 Iranians, Syria Releases 2,130 Prisoners In Exchange

Tired of energy crisis?: Generate your own electricity, Zardari advises industrialists(Pakistan)

Heavy Fighting Rages In Sudan’s Darfur Region

Hamas (Gaza) and Fatah (West Bank) Chiefs Agree To Push For Reconciliation

Kurdish Killings in Paris Cloud Peace Effort

U.S. could consider leaving no troops in Afghanistan post-2014

France Battling Islamists in Mali

I immersed myself in social media in the spring of 2009. I realized fairly quickly that my attention span was changing, but I felt the access to many other well informed people filtering information made the trade off worthwhile. It did in some sense, but overall I dislike the neurological changes that heavy use brought.

I removed Twitter from my phone last spring and in early December of 2012 some things got resolved in such a fashion that I no longer feel the need to watch that space much at all. Having finished a couple of weeks of map gathering, next I’ll get on top of the flow of news for the areas I am watching. The flood this week has a bit to do with the state of the world as well as the fact that I got on Foreign Policy‘s clip service. I can see I am going to spend as much time with this as I did with social media, but instead of 140 characters it will be 300 word dispatches and articles of 1,000 to 1,500 words. I look forward to settling down after four very hectic years.

Kashmir Conflict Flares

Kashmir Administration

The Kashmir Conflict is the term used to describe the ongoing tension and three wars that India and Pakistan have fought over this region. Originally the name Kashmir just meant the Vale of Kashmir, but the term has come to mean the entire disputed region plus the Aksai area administered by China.


This Kashmir region has been in KGS Nightwatch two days in a row and this quote in the January 8th, 2013 Nightwatch caught my eye.

The timing of the incidents relative to the promulgation of a new Pakistan Army doctrine last month is suspicious. The new doctrine establishes suppression of internal security threats as a top priority for the Pakistan Army.

The government of Pakistan decides its worst problems are internal, then someone promptly begins stirring the international pot? Nightwatch fingers Inter-Services Intelligence, commonly called ISI, citing their disdain for internal affairs, which is the bailiwick of the Intelligence Bureau. Americans can envision these two as being roughly equivalent to our CIA and FBI.

There are four fault lines where the Muslim world intersects other cultures – the middle of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Kashmir. This is the most perilous of the bunch – two regional powers with a history of conflict since their inception, and both armed with nuclear weapons.

The presence of nuclear armed states has tended to ‘freeze’ the action in strategic situations in the past, stalling changes that would otherwise be imminent. This idea of freezing is just a geopolitical theory based on empirical evidence – it’s never been tested against such a fundamental issue as water rights, and that is an underlying cause of the troubles that plague Kashmir.