Strategic outlook

first_imgIn a recent event, commemorating the first death anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Pokhran, the site of India’s five nuclear test explosions, Home Minister Rajnath Singh remarked that India has been firmly committed to the nuclear “no-first-use” (NFU) policy thus far, but “what happens in future depends on future circumstances”. Singh’s remarks have triggered intense speculation on whether India is renouncing the two-decade-old NFU policy and is adopting a more aggressive posture towards its regional strategic rivals, namely Pakistan and China. On a plane reading, Singh’s statement does not indicate any discernible shift in India’s stance on the NFU. However, his cautioning about the “future circumstances” arises from the country’s many immediate and long-term policy imperatives in a rapidly changing strategic environment. Also Read – A special kind of bondThe NFU has been one of the longstanding tenets of India’s nuclear doctrine and its prevalence in the Indian strategic thought can be found well-before New Delhi formally acquired nuclear weapons in 1998. Since nuclearisation, the NFU policy has served India’s strategic interests reasonably well, and despite the change in its strategic environment brought about by Pakistan’s acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) and China’s rapid military build-up along the eastern borders, New Delhi has remained firmly committed to the NFU. While reiterating this commitment, Singh, however, also subtly signalled India’s adversaries, especially Pakistan, that it cannot take the NFU policy as given under all times and under all circumstances. Also Read – Insider threat managementFor the past three decades, India has borne the brunt of Pak-sponsored terrorism that claimed thousands of Indian lives. By threatening a nuclear use, Pakistan has continued to sponsor sub-conventional war against India and disregarded New Delhi’s overtures for solving the Kashmir problem through diplomatic means. This, however, is beginning to change as India has shown that it will no longer be the passive recipient of Pak-sponsored terrorism and will call-out Pakistan Army’s nuclear bluff before the international community. The statement on NFU, in this regard, is a subtle signal to Pakistan – especially after the abrogation of J&K’s special status and the recent reports about Pak-army attempting to foment instability in Kashmir – to reckon with new political realities and not to pursue its regressive terror policies. The comment of NFU, however, cannot be seen in such a narrower context and signifies India’s wider strategic concerns in the changing global nuclear environment. Today, the most pressing challenges before the international nuclear order arise from the breakdown of strategic arms control between the US and Russia and the emergence of new technologies which are threatening to disrupt global peace and stability. Trump administration’s decision to abrogate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty early this year and its continuing indecisiveness over the extension of New-START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which is set to expire in 2021 has raised serious concerns over the future of nuclear arms control and disarmament. Besides the crumbling arms control paradigm, the world is also witnessing an increasingly weaker non-proliferation regime marked by North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and the unravelling of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after US’s withdrawal in 2018. North Korea’s continued missile tests and its demand for sanctions relief has stalled the progress on US-DPRK de-nuclearisation talks, while President Trump’s decision to walk out of the JCPOA has led the Tehran to breach the limits on Uranium enrichment. The increasing unwillingness among the great powers to steer the nuclear non-proliferation regime has serious consequences for India’s foreign and security policies. What is, however, more worrying for New Delhi is the ongoing nuclear modernisation programmes of the US, Russia and China which are disrupting the existing order and threatens to unleash a new nuclear arms race. Along with the development of new-generation nuclear warheads and missiles, the advances in the emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), space-based surveillance, cybernetics, hypersonic weapons, etc., are redefining the assumptions of nuclear deterrence and inducing changes in traditional nuclear policies and postures. The revolutionary advances in the areas of remote sensing, radio-detection, swarming drones are making it difficult to maintain a credible second-strike capability. As the nuclear forces are becoming more and more vulnerable to disruption from the impact of these technologies, the traditional notions of invulnerability associated with nuclear delivery systems are eroding rapidly. By making nuclear arsenals vulnerable to rapid detection, dysfunction, and destruction, the new technologies are challenging the assumptions of mutual invulnerability and thereby making the idea of decapitating first-strike, a reality. In this context, the technologically weaker countries are forced to adopt ‘hair-trigger alert’ and ‘launch-on-warning’ postures, as a consequence of an increasing “use ’em or lose ’em” dilemma. With US and China fiercely competing to secure competitive and strategic advantages in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), cyber weapons and hypersonic platforms, India cannot afford to lag behind. These technologies have potentially far-reaching consequences for global and regional strategic stability. The Indian policymakers are clearly aware of these developments trends, and Singh’s remarks also allude to these trends, albeit implicitly. Although India has not shown any urgency in rolling-back the NFU or changing its nuclear doctrine in the light of China’s rapid nuclear and conventional force modernisation, New Delhi is certainly mindful of these developments and is trading a cautious path. The Indian policymakers are aware of the gains that the country has accrued over the years by sticking to the NFU posture. Giving-up NFU and adopting the explicit ‘first use’ posture not only entails preparing nuclear weapons for the first-use but also requires concurrent changes in the nuclear command and control infrastructure. This involves committing additional resources, which may be totally unwarranted and do not serve India’s interests at this juncture. Nevertheless, the pressures on India’s nuclear policy are clearly far greater at this juncture than ever. Amidst the changing circumstances, Singh’s statement serves to clarify India’s strategic concerns and chart the future course of policies. More importantly, it also unequivocally signals New Delhi’s resolve to defend its interests and adjusts its policies as the situation demands. (The author is Associate Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

BMW wins skirmish in 175M claim against Autoport over stored cars

first_imgTORONTO — BMW Canada has won a skirmish in its quest for $175 million in compensation from storage company Autoport for alleged damage to thousands of imported vehicles.In a ruling, Ontario’s Divisional Court ordered Autoport to foot the $10,000-a-day bill BMW says it’s been paying to preserve the vehicles as litigation evidence.The case arose after a brutal winter in February of 2015 during which, the German automaker alleges, 2,966 imported BMW and MINI models stored by Autoport in Halifax were unduly exposed to ice, water and salt. BMW argues the exposure created potential safety risks and recalled all the vehicles.In a July 2015 recall notice, Transport Canada warned of a serious safety risk. Corrosion, the agency said, could lead to sudden engine shutdowns, steering problems or fires. The recall affected 10 different BMW models — including higher end X7 and i8s from three different model years — and seven 2015 MINI models.BMW says it’s impossible to determine the extent of any damage without destructive tests, and, as a result, none of the vehicles could be made roadworthy and sold. The automaker wants to destroy all of them.The unproven suit, which alleges Autoport was negligent and breached its contract, seeks $175 million — the full value of the vehicles.Autoport denies any liability. It argues BMW’s claim is grossly exaggerated and the recall unreasonable. The storage company says none of 12 vehicles it has inspected showed any sign of damage, according to court documents.BMW argues its claim does not turn on proving any particular vehicle was damaged and says it doesn’t need the vehicles for the lawsuit. For its part, Autoport says it needs to examine the automobiles to mount a proper defence.It also wants to see the results of inspections BMW has done, saying it doesn’t know what specific investigations are required or whether examinations can be performed on only a small sample of the cars.The automaker says it has been spending about $10,000 a day — roughly $3.5 million a year — to keep the vehicles at three sites in Canada. It wants Autoport to foot the bill.The courts initially sided with BMW, but an appeal judge overturned the decision on the basis that the automaker, as plaintiff, was financially responsible for storing and preserving the litigation evidence. BMW appealed to Ontario’s Divisional Court.In agreeing with BMW, the Divisional Court panel said making Autoport pay for the storage gives it an economic incentive to preserve and test only as many automobiles as it actually needs for its defence.“Placing the financial burden on the plaintiff would give the defendant an economic incentive to delay its testing and exaggerate the number of vehicles to be preserved,” the panel said in its decision.“Autoport’s own experts can determine how many vehicles they need to preserve and test. Logic and the principle of proportionality suggest that it will be substantially fewer than the 2,500 vehicles currently in storage.”The appellate court ordered Autoport to pay for the storage to date. The company can also keep paying for the storage or take possession of the vehicles to do whatever tests it feels are needed, the court said.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Presslast_img read more