Center for Strategic Decision Research


Deterrence for the New Threats

General Ashok K. Mehta
Consulting Editor, Indian Defense Review

When the Cold War ended, I met the British Chief of Defense Staff, Field Marshal Lord Edwin Bramall, who is an old friend from the Indian Army days. When I met him in Delhi, I asked him: "Why do you look so forlorn? The Cold War is ended." He replied: "That's the reason, because we no longer have an enemy." We had not heard of Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden at that time. But this is to show how enemies are made and unmade. 

I have to thank CSDR for expanding the Indian participation from one to two for this Workshop. This has made it possible for me to be here and, even more fortuitously, to discuss "New concepts of deterrence against non-state actors." I believe it is quite appropriate to pick an Indian for this role because my country has been the oldest victim of the scourge by non-state actors. Of course, Israel, Russia, the United States and others are also victims. 

Unfortunately, the Indian voice in this matter was not heard until 9/11, and when 12/13 happened-12/13 or December 13, 2001 is a landmark date in India because it is the day when the assault on Indian democracy was perpetrated-we knew that the epicenter of terrorism had in fact shifted from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least two Workshop speakers have referred to Kashmir and India and Pakistan earlier and it is certainly not my intention to make that the subject of any debate. But I would inform you that nearly 32, 000 people have been killed by so-called Islamic Jihadis since 1990 in Jammu and Kashmir, ironically 1/3 of them Muslims. 

As a soldier who was introduced to peacekeeping in 1960 in the Congo (Zaire) and 38 years later commanded the Indian peacekeeping forces in Sri Lanka, I have spent half my professional life combating insurgency and terrorism. I should know the pain of killing and the pain of restraint. In fact, India has lost more security personnel at the hand of non-state actors than it has during the wars it has fought. This is a fact that is not well known and yet India has shown remarkable and sometimes bewildering restraint. Do you know that a non-state actor, namely the Taliban, became a state actor, perhaps for the first time in history, in Afghanistan with the help of a neighboring state? It is therefore possible to conceive of a situation where assistance to a non-state actor might even involve the transfer of nuclear material. This should worry us. 

We have already looked at the challenges and the threats to global security. I just want to very quickly summarize them. The first is of course weapons of mass destruction; the second, which has not been talked about very much, is suicide bombers-in fact, the attack on the Twin Towers was a case of using a human bomber as a weapon of mass destruction; third, there is the existential threat which hurts the way of pluralistic life and abbreviates democracy; and last, there is organized crime. I want to bring to your attention the fact that, prior to coming to Moscow, I picked up several interesting reports. The first one was about semi-processed uranium of explosive grade, 225 g packets with a twenty-three page manual, tracked somewhere in Bangladesh; the country of origin was Kazakhstan. The second report concerned a case of 130 lbs of cesium, which was for sale and traced to Laos and Thailand; the country of origin was Latvia. There is also an IAEA report which indicates that since 1993, there have been 175 cases of nuclear material trafficking and 201 cases of radioactive material trafficking. I am providing these statistics to highlight the challenges that are ahead of us. My personal discussions with Indian nuclear scientists tell me that non-state actors are still some distance from acquiring a nuclear device or a nuclear weapon unless a state provides them with active assistance. On the other hand, a dirty bomb, radioactive, is very well within their grasp. This is a rather unhappy state of affairs. The proliferation of radioactive/atomic material between states has been recognized. Some states are known conduits of transfer of such material and allegedly for non-state actors too. 


What should an effective concept of deterrence against these new security threats be like? For deterrence to work, we must send the message across to non-state actors that we will get them whatever it takes and that their costs for committing acts of terrorism will be far greater than the perceived rewards. This concept should be implemented at three different levels:  

(a) Operational - with proactive and defensive measures. The proactive measures would include preemptive intelligence relying largely on human intelligence and squeezing of funding. The defensive measures would have two main areas of activity: consequence prevention and preemption on the one hand, and consequence management, which we talked about during the session. 
(b) Economic - by finding alternatives for Islamists and Jihadis. 
(c) Sociological and political - by targeting the breeding ground of terrorists and non-state actors such as seminaries and madrassas. 

Finally, what conclusions can we draw from our discussions? (1) It is important for state actors to be earnest. (2) States and superstates must persuade erring states to fall in line. (3) States must be made to sever links with non-state actors. (4) All direct or indirect forms of assistance including transfers and even ideological support must be stopped. An example would be the vicious cycle of transfers between China, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran, Pakistan being the principal culprit. (5) Accords and treaties must be implemented both in letter and in spirit. For example the U.S. still has not signed the verification protocol on the biological weapons convention. We need to keep an inventory of institutions that store and use chemical and biological agents. (6) And last, to deal with international terrorism, national interests must find space to accommodate international interests. 











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