Archive for the ‘existential threats’ Category

The new-old boogies of oil and gas industry

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

World Petroleum Congress was held in Houston, Texas on 06.12.2021. Where “executives from Saudi Aramco, Exxon Mobil, and Chevron, speaking at the World Petroleum Congress in Houston on Monday, blamed demand for renewables and lack of investment in fossil fuels for recent fuel shortages and price volatility.”

The things that need more attention according to the oil and gas giants are “”Energy security, economic development and affordability are clearly not receiving enough attention.” Energy security and economic development on a dead planet? The economic development of the last century – especially since the neoliberal period has been that of massive concentration of wealth and power and people losing access to essential energy needs. And the worry about affordability once again shows how the state and its subsidies and fundings are essentially what makes a technology, sector, or industry feasible under contemporary capitalism.

The industry is also raising the boogieman of inflation and social unrest. Which are not unlikely but not inevitable and both are guaranteed in a scenario where the world enters irreversible cascading climate collapse.

Some corporate-climate-green-washing myth busting.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

A new report by T&E shows that the new “green” hydrogen fuels – which are made by turning electricity into hydrogen which when combined with CO2 produces a liquid fuel similar to petrol or diesel – are as, or maybe more polluting than existing fossil fuels. But the oil and gas and the automobile industry is pushing hard for these fuels. India under Modi has initiated a National Hydrogen Mission which is supposed to be a major part of the net-zero effort. Although the sector is waiting for the policy document to come and “a strong regulatory framework to be created keeping the interest of investors in mind.”

The level of NOx pollutants is equal to conventional fuels while CO (carbon monoxide) toxic production was higher in e-fuel tests.

India will soon be responsible for 3rd of the world’s air conditioning demands given the rise in extreme heat events in the region. But the ability to purchase and make billing investments is within a very small section of the population – my educated guess would be that it is roughly equal to the population owning private cars, i.e. around 2% of the national population.

Once again the only hope out of this entangled situation is the state sector coming to help the market -agencies like Energy Efficiency Services Limited will have to produce cheaper and more efficient air conditioners for the masses.

Meanwhile, European Environmental Bureau released a report on the repairability and replaceability of batteries in consumer electronics. Most new electronic gadgets do not allow for repair or replaceability of batteries creating more pollution, waste, overproduction, and burden of costs.

Climate considerations in contemporary public work tenders

Sunday, September 12th, 2021



The current pre-tender public works procedure looks something like this: a primary investigation by the concerned department is undertaken to assess the financial and technical feasibility of the proposed project with approximate estimates, which when gets the consent of the department goes for a detailed investigation that if gets the technical approval comes out as the document for tender and work contract – including drawings, bill of quantities and specifications.

Nowhere in this two-stage investigation and approval process, ecological feasibility is examined as an independent factor in the work project. But this stage is quite crucial as the project once notified for tender almost never gets terminated and extensively revised for environmental reasons. Which is understandable because at this stage a lot of material resource, manpower, and political calculas has already been mobilized. Therefore, climate and environmental activists should focus on the policy framework determining the initial approval of public infrastructure projects.

Such a framework must become the law of the land – like the Climate Change Act 2008 in the UK. But given the fact that India is reluctant to even revise its climate goals that is a very difficult task. And even such a law with strict emission targets will not be sufficient to govern particular projects because the impact of a single work, especially small projects like single lane roads, is usually very low even over the infrastructure’s lifetime. But the cumulative effect of all projects in a region or of a megaproject with various sub-projects – like Sagar Mala do have a massive greenhouse impact.

Hence the need for planning. Planning will not only make the ecological assessment and hence the construction of a range of public infrastructure (and possibly private infrastructure) within the biophysical limits of the planet but also give the opportunity to make more just and equitable infrastructure – where the relationships of various projects and their relationship with society and classes within it is better scrutinized.

वायरस: कोरोना और पूंजी

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

कोरोना वायरस से भारत में अब तक 4 लोगों की जान जा चुकी है – उनमे से 2 लोगों की जान इसलिये गई क्यंकि उन्हें प्राइवेट अस्पतालों ने भर्ती करने से मना कर दिया और वो भटक भटक कर हार गए. 17 मार्च को सरकारी मंत्रालयों ने प्राइवेट अस्पतालों से मुफ्त में कोरोना के जाँच करने का अनुरोध करा और प्राइवेट अस्पतालों के मालिकों ने मना कर दिया. प्राइवेट हस्पतालों में Rs. 5000 में जाँच हो रही है. भारत में स्वास्थ्य प्रणाली के नाम पर जादातर लोगों के लिए प्राइवेट बीमा ही उपलब्ध है. प्राइवेट बीमा कम्पनियों ने कहा है की अगर बीमा के कॉन्ट्रैक्ट में “महामारी” का ज़िक्र नहीं है तो कोरोना जाँच और इलाज के लिए पैसा नहीं मिलेगा. लेकिन उनका कहना है कि अगर कोई जीवन बीमा लेने के बाद कोरोना से मर जाए तो उसे हम पैसे ज़रूर देंगे.

लोगों की जान का ज़िम्मेदार, और लोगों की लड़ाई आज सिर्फ एक वायरस से नहीं है बल्कि जानलेवा पूंजीवाद से है. और पूंजीवाद के सिर्फ उस पक्ष से नहीं जिसके कारण एक स्वस्थ जीवन हमारा संवैधानिक और एक मौलिक मानव अधिकार भी हमें नहीं मिलता बल्कि, पूंजीवाद की जड़ से है जिसके कारण कोरोना आपदा से बड़ी आपदा इस देश और दुनिया में हमेशा बनी रहती है. ये आपदा आज नहीं आई है. ये हमारी आँखों के सामने शुरू से रही है और आगे भी लोगों की जान लेती रहेगी अगर हम मानव इतिहास के इस पल में भी न्यूनतम मानवता जगाने में असफल होते है तो.

लगभग 2 महीनो में कोरोना वायरस से भारत में 4 लोगों की जान गई. 2018 में 2080 लोगों की भारत में जलवायु आपदा के असर से जान जाने की रिपोर्ट है – हर महीने 175 मौत. कोरोना के कारण दुनिया भर में 3 महीनो में लगभग 10,000 लोगों की मौत हुई है. 2040 तक जलवायु आपदा के कारण कम से कम 4,50,000 की जान जाना तय है अगर जल्द ही ग्लोबल वार्मिंग को थामा नहीं गया तो. लेकिन इसको कैसे और क्यों रोका जाए जब 70% ग्लोबल वार्मिंग के लिए 100 बड़ी कंपनिया ज़िमेदार है? बिसनेस को नुक्सान ना हो इसलिए जनता का कर्फ्यू तक तो रविवार को रखा गया है – – ये 100 कंपनियों को नुकसान कैसे होने दें? मरते है 4 लाख लोग तो मरें.

जलवायु परिवर्तन जैसे संकट को पैदा करने के अलावा और भी रोज़मर्रा की आपदा पैदा करता है पूंजीवाद. भारत में हर साल लगभग 48,000 लोग काम पे मारे जाते है. ज़ादातक फैक्टरियों में और बिल्डिंग वगेरा बनाते समय मारे जाते है क्योंकि मजदूरों की सुरक्षा पे खर्चा अगर बढ़ेगा तो विदेशी कम्पनियाँ यहाँ पैसा नहीं लगाएगी. तो मरते है हर घंटे 6 मजदूर तो मरने दो – ये आपदा कोरोना जैसे अमीरो को नहीं लग सकती तो इसका टीवी पे क्यों ज़िक्र करें?

और कोरोना से ज्यादा घातक तो भारत में भारत की पुलिस है. हर साल पुलिस कस्टडी में 2000 लोग मारे जाते है – हर दिन 5! कोरोना को कुछ टिप्स दे सकती है भारत की पुलिस. और हर साल 100 से ज़ादा लोग भारत की फ़ौज की पाकिस्तान के गावों में शेल्लिंग से मारे जाते है – पाकिस्तान की शेल्लिंग से भारत में भी मारे जाते है, बेशक. लेकिन वो बेकसूर गाँव वालों ने ना पाकिस्तान को बोला था ना हिंदुस्तान को कि उनके आंगन में अपनी सरहद लेके आओ.

कोरोना पर वापस लौटते है. सरकार और हमारे देश की प्रणाली की क्या तैयारी है और कोरोना आपदा को रोकने में अब तक ये कितनी सफल रहे हैं? इस का फैसला करने के लिए पहले यह देखना होगा की ये किस प्रकार की आपदा है और ऐसी आपदा के लिए “अच्छी तैयारी” किसे माना जा सकता है.

क्या ये सिर्फ एक चिकित्सा सेवा का सवाल है – यानि की सिर्फ अलग अलग लोगों को एक बीमारी से कैसे बचाया जाए, मलेरिया या सर्दी खांसी के समान या फिर ये एक सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य का सवाल है? सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य से मेरा मतलब है राजय द्वारा पूरी आबादी के लिए स्वास्थ्य संबंधित सभी चीज़ों पर निगरानी और ज़रूरी पाबंदियों की व्यवस्था. मेरे ख्याल से शायद ही कोई हो जो इस बात से इंकार करे की ये एक सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य का सवाल है. इस हिसाब से हमारे देश की कैसी तैयारी है?

अस्पतालों में हर 1000 लोगों के लिए 1 से भी कम बिस्तर – क्यूबा में 5 से ऊपर और दुनिया का औसत 3. हर 1000 लोगों के लिए भारत में 0.8 डॉक्टर्स, क्यूबा में 8.2. हर 1000 लोगों के लिए भारत में 2.1 नर्स, क्यूबा 7.7. किस तरीके की नियंत्रण प्रणाली है हमारे देश में? सरकार निजी अस्पतालों में आपदा के वक़्त कुछ दिनों के लिए मुफ्त में जाँच भी ना करा सकी जबकि स्पेन ने कोरोना के चलते अपने सभी निजी हस्पतालों का राष्ट्रीयकरण कर दिया ताकि सबको मुफ्त और आसानी से इलाज मिल सके.

18 तारिक को कोटक महिंद्रा बैंक के मालिक ने दूसरे अरबपतियो से मीटिंग में कहा की बाजार में पैसे की कमी होने से नुक्सान होगा और 19 तारिक को आरबीआई ने Rs 10,000 करोड़ बाजार में डाल दिए. कौन किसको नियंत्रित करता है इस देश में ये शयद साफ़ है.

2018-2019 बजट में इंडिया ने स्वास्थ्य और परिवार कल्याण मंत्रालय पर Rs 54,600 करोड़ खर्च करे और “सुरक्षा” – यानि सैन्यकरण पर Rs. 4,04,365 करोड़. शयद 3-4 नए लड़ाकू विमान से कोरोना को रोका जा सकता था?

सैन्यकरण को “सुरक्षा” बोला जाता है. जो 175 लोग जलवायु आपदा से हर महीने; हर घंटे काम पर 6 और पुलिस की बर्बरता से हर दिन 5 लोग मारे जाते हैं क्या ये उनकी सुरक्षा के लिए है? क्या इस देश के भूखे लोगों के लिए सुरक्षा परमाणु हतियार है या पेट में रोटी? जो राज्य देश में लोगों को डॉक्टर और बिस्तर ना मुहैया करा सके क्या उसको हतियारो पर करोड़ो रुपया बर्बाद करने का हक़ होना चाहिए?

परमाणु हत्यार से बड़ी सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य आपदा शायद ही मानव इतिहास में कभी पैदा हुई हो. कोरोना वायरस से जूझने के लिए एक कमज़ोर प्रणाली ही सही, कुछ तो है हमारे पास. लेकिन एक परमाणु विस्फोट का नतीजा होगा एक शहर के एक बार में 150 हस्पताल 2मिनट में धूल हो जाना. महीनो के लिए बिजली गायब हो जाना – जिसके बिना जो हस्पताल चल सकते है उनमें भी काम ठप हो जाना. खाना और पानी जहर हो जाना, सड़को पे बिल्डिंग के मलबे से यातायात ठप हो जाना. कोरोना के लक्षण तो खांसी और सर्दी के है – जो गिने चुने लोगों को परमाणु विस्फोट के बाद हस्पताल लाया जा सकेगा उनके लक्षण होंगे उनके शरीर का गलना, और आसपास की हर चीज़ को रेडिएशन से जहरीला बना देना.

और ये तो उस समय की बात है जब बड़ी जंग नहीं होगी और कुछ ही परमाणु हतियारो का इस्तेमाल होगा. अगर भारी मात्रा में यह इस्तेमाल हुए तो वो मानव सभ्यता का अंत होगा. और यह कोई काल्पनिक बात नहीं है. आज भारत के पास 140 परमाडू हतियार है और 120 पाकिस्तान के पास. और नए और आसानी से इस्तेमाल किये जाने वाले हतियार और लॉन्चेर्स दोनों देश बना चुके है और कई बार तैनात भी कर चुके हैं. एक और तनाव की इस्थिति और एक और हिसाब में गलती की कीमत करोड़ों जान होगी.

ये है आज के भारत की सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य का हिसाब. कंपनियों के मुनाफा खोरी के कारन मुफ़्त में ईलाज नहीं हो सकता और ऐसे कानून नहीं बनाए जा सकते जिससे मजदूर काम पे सुरक्षित काम कर सकें और सब खुली हवा में सांस ले सकें. राज्य अपनी हुकूमत बनाए रखने के लिए मानव सभ्यता को रोज़ दाव पर लगा रहा है. लेकिन गलती कुछ हद तक हमारी है. अकेले घर में बैठ कर कोरोना से बचने के लिए हम सब राज़ी है लेकिन एकजुट होके सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य के लिए लड़ने को नहीं. लेकिन इसको बदला जा सकता है. हम अपनी सुविधा और डर के चलते जीवन को विलुप्त होने देंगे या फिर कोरोना के अनुभव से सीख कर असली सुरक्षा की लड़ाई में शामिल होंगे. विकल्प हमारे पास है – पर ज़ादा समय के लिए नहीं.

“Kashmir crisis in sharp focus”: Crisis Group

Friday, December 27th, 2019

After years of being off radar of international conflict monitoring groups, Kashmir is ranked 8th in Crisis Group’s “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2020”; above Ukraine and just below US-North Korea conflict.

“After falling off the international radar for years, a flare-up between India and Pakistan in 2019 over the disputed region of Kashmir brought the crisis back into sharp focus. Both countries lay claim to the Himalayan territory, split by an informal boundary, known as the Line of Control, since the first Indian-Pakistani war of 1947-48.

First came a February suicide attack by Islamist militants against Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir. India retaliated by bombing an alleged militant camp in Pakistan, prompting a Pakistani strike in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Tensions spiked again in August when India revoked the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, which had served as the foundation for its joining India 72 years ago, and brought it under New Delhi’s direct rule.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, emboldened by its May re-election, made the change in India’s only Muslim-majority state without any local consultation. Not only that: before announcing its decision, it brought in tens of thousands of extra troops, imposed a communications blackout, and arrested thousands of Kashmiris, including the entire political class, many of whom were not hostile to India.

These moves have exacerbated an already profound sentiment of alienation among Kashmiris that will likely further fuel a long-running separatist insurgency. Separately, the Indian government’s new citizenship law, widely regarded as anti-Muslim, has sparked protests and violent police responses in many parts of India. Together with the actions in Kashmir, these developments appear to confirm Modi’s intention to implement a Hindu nationalist agenda.

New Delhi’s claims that the situation is back to normal are misleading. Internet access remains cut off, soldiers deployed in August are still there, and all Kashmiri leaders remain in detention. Modi’s government seems to have no roadmap for what comes next.

Pakistan has tried to rally international support against what it calls India’s illegal decision on Kashmir’s status. But its cause is hardly helped by its long record of backing anti-India jihadis. Moreover, most Western powers see New Delhi as an important partner. They are unlikely to rock the boat over Kashmir, unless violence spirals.

The gravest danger is the risk that a militant attack sets off an escalation. In Kashmir, insurgents are lying low but still active. Indeed, India’s heavy-handed military operations in Kashmir over the past few years have inspired a new homegrown generation, whose ranks are likely to swell further after the latest repression. A strike on Indian forces almost certainly would precipitate Indian retaliation against Pakistan, regardless of whether Islamabad is complicit in the plan. In a worst-case scenario, the two nuclear-armed neighbours could stumble into war.

External actors should push for rapprochement before it is too late. That won’t be easy. Both sides are playing to domestic constituencies in no mood for compromise. Resuming bilateral dialogue, on hold since 2016, is essential and will necessitate concerted pressure, particularly from Western capitals. Any progress requires Pakistan taking credible action against jihadis operating from its soil, a non-negotiable precondition for India to even consider engaging. For its part, India should lift the communication blackout, release political prisoners, and urgently re-engage with Kashmiri leaders. Both sides should resume cross-border trade and travel for Kashmiris.

If a new crisis emerges, foreign powers will have to throw their full weight behind preserving peace on the disputed border”.

TONS #3 – Who is a terrorist?

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

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Day 98 of the continued brutal crackdown and in its response mass civil-disobedience, strikes in Indian occupied Kashmir.  Graphic novelist Malik Sajad’s Op-Art has been published by the New York Times.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists last week published an article by nuclear experts, including Alan Robock and Hans Kristensen that presents one of the many possible nuclear exchange scenarios in the near future when “each country will possess about 250 nuclear weapons. In the end, Pakistan will use all its weapons, while India will reserve 100 of them to defend against future attacks from China.”

They predict close to 10 crore deaths within weeks and”a nuclear winter would halt agriculture around the world and produce famine for billions of people… Also, ozone would be destroyed as the rising smoke absorbs sunlight and heats the stratosphere, allowing more ultraviolet light to reach the ground and creating negative effects that we have yet to study.”

On the legitimacy of nuclear weapons and deterrence, they write that “the existence of enormous arsenals of nuclear weapons during this time has not prevented terrorism or countless regional, territorial, and politically motivated military actions, taking in aggregate a terrible human toll. It would be foolhardy, of course, to suggest that an effective way to stop warfare would be to arm all nations with nuclear weapons as local deterrents. Contrarily, we understand, in the 21st century, that establishing mechanisms for conflict negotiation and resolution on a global international basis is the only safe and practical way to end the carnage. We are not Pollyannas. But it should be the mission of every concerned citizen, particularly those in positions of influence, to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, within the context of global peace and security mechanisms”

The threat of nuclear weapons (besides, only, climate breakdown) poses the question of cosmic significance: will organized life survive? No terrorist organization or armed insurgency comes anywhere close to posing such a threat.

Nissim Mannathukkaren in The Hindu writes that, “an analysis done by political satirist Ramit Verma showed that of the 202 popular prime-time news debates across four major Hindi channels till October 19, at least 79 were about attacking Pakistan; 66 about attacking the Opposition; 36 about praising the Prime Minister and the ruling party; and 14 about Ram Mandir. There was not a single debate on the economy, unemployment, education, health, gender, farmers or the environment. This is simply staggering by any measure.” He could have added the menacing nuclear threat to the list.

Mannathukkaren also points out that “in 2018, terrorism/militancy killed 400 civilians and security personnel. Compare this to the fact that 1,02,677 children (under five) died from easily preventable diarrhoeal diseases in 2017, or that 8,75,659 children (under five) were killed by communicable, neonatal and nutritional diseases. Or consider that while the number of terrorism/militancy-related deaths have come down substantially to around 500 from 2011 onwards, the burden of deaths from diseases like cardiovascular ones has drastically increased from about 13 lakh in 1990 to 26.32 lakh in 2017.”

Yet in the 2018-2019 Union Budget of India, we spent Rs 1,14,915 crore on Rural Development, Rs 41,765 crore on Housing and Urban Affairs, Rs 54,600 crore on Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Rs 71,000 crore on Road Transport and Highways, Rs 22,357 crore on Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Rs 85,010 crore on Human Resource Development.

While we spent Rs 4,04,365 crore on “defense”.

The monster that is the Indian state is swallowing up its own population for the health of the war machine, with 10 crore life under its fingers, it is one of the biggest terrorist organization in world history. Kashmiris are bravely resisting and fighting this mammoth.

Threat of National Security #1

Monday, October 28th, 2019

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Day 85 of the lockdown of Indian colony, Kashmir. The Atlantic recently uploaded a documentary, Artists in Kashmir, the World’s Most Militarized Zone. New Delhi pressured London to curb the 10,000 storng Kashmiri protest on Black Day. The national security establishment is also likely to cancel a $2.3 billion tender with Turkey for its stand against Art. 370 revocation. The tender is to help build 5 support ships with HAL. In the local “elections”, BJP, the only party that participated, won 81 seats – village council members, and the general public did not participate.

Nagaland and Manipur put on High Alert before the final round of Nagaland “peace talks”. In New Delhi, even as the senior leaders of the “separatist” organization NSCN-(IN) left the organizations to take part in the “peace process” between NSCN Working Committee and Government of India the dialogues are not moving forward. The negotiations are marked by the absence of civil society organizations, many tribal groups, and armed groups. RN Ravi, the former IB chief, Deputy NSA and, current Governer of Nagaland has been the main interlocutor since the Modi government began the negotiations. The reasons for the stalemate are the question of “separate flag and constitution”. Missing from the negotiations and the 2015 Framework Agreement that initiated the process is the talk of militarism in the region and mechanisms like AFSPA.

A 2018 Standing Committee on Home Affairs’ report on Security Situation in the North Eastern States of India noted that at least in Assam the security situation has significantly improved but at the same time the “Disputed Areas” have been increased to cover the whole of the state. Even as the violence in Nagaland remains relatively high, completely rolling over the issue in the “peace process” doesn’t give a lot of hope for peace in the region anytime soon.

India might have tested it’s Arihant class nuclear-capable K4 missile from nuclear-powered submarine between 23rd to 25th Oct. A research paper published on 2nd October states that if India uses 100 strategic weapons to attack urban centers and Pakistan uses 150, fatalities could reach 12 crore people and massive food shortage for decades, water and air poising for much longer.

Climate Crisis: Some Relevant Graphs for India

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Part of my presentation on climate law at some university:

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

A question has been bothering me for quite some time now. The question is, whether it is better to do something – something that gives only an illusion of reaching a solution to a problem or, to do nothing about it? The paper was an attempt to clarify some issues around this problem.

What do I mean by actions “that only gives an illusion of reaching a solution” – by vacuous actions? I believe any solution that does not incorporate and take into account the core of the problem can never meaningfully solve the problem and hence are only empty posturing.

In case of climate change then, what are the core issues that any meaningful action must incorporate? There are several, but here I have only focused on four – three general and one India specific (but a derivative of a general issue).

The first one has to do with total global carbon budget. To keep global mean temperature below the catastrophic threshold of 2°C there is only a limited amount of greenhouse gases we can emitte. The global carbon budget for 2°C according to IPCC Working Group I is less than 700 GtCO2 and for 1.5°C is around 400 GtCO2.

But the divergence from this fact and core issue starts to appear in the IPCC itself when the Working Group III in it’s modeling assumes that we have a budget of around 1600 GtCO2 – almost three times the actual. All actions to mitigate climate catastrophe must take this fact into account.

The second part of the core of the climate problem has to do with carbon removal technologies. There are many variants of these technologies and the scientific community has been telling us again and again that none of them exist . Atleast they can not be deployed in the scale required in given time. But the IPCC Working Group I assumes these technologies in its modeling – this brings our global carbon budget significantly further down. This fact must also be taken into account in any set of meaningful actions.

Third, the recent IPCC special report on 1.5°C says that what is now required to avoid the worst possible catastrophe is a “rapid and far reaching transition in all aspects lf human activity” which is “unprecedented in human history”. It doesn’t recommend patching up older actions, policies and legislation.

And sadly, I haven’t came across any discussion of these issues in last two days in the conference. There is a limit to hiding behind the language of differentiated responsibility after which it morphs into irresponsibility.

The fourth point – about India. Using some older model I have tried to show in the paper that even in best case scenario, India has the carbon budget of around 40 GtCO2. Which means even if USA and the EU decarbonise rapidly and reach net-zero around 2040, to avoid climate cascade into an inhabitable planet India can only emit for 10 more years at current rate.

Any meaningful action in India must take this into account – otherwise it’s just a masquerade for business as usual.

What I have been trying to say is that we cannot negotiate with or fool laws of physics. And if we cannot do that, the only options we have are to either follow IPCCs recommendation of rapid and unprecedented transition in all aspects of human life or to embrace extinction.


Monday, July 22nd, 2019

(First published on Stoke.)

On 5th November 2018, India announced that its (partially) indigenously designed and built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant returned from its “deterrence patrol,” completing India’s nuclear triad of land, air and sea based nuclear delivery systems. Media responded with reporting about it as a “historic achievement” and an “accomplishment.”

I talked with Hans Kristensen of Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the director of Nuclear Information Project about this development, who recently published the details of Indian nuclear forces in the journal of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The interview can be found at the bottom of the article.

Dangers of thermo-nuclear weapons, from a single detonation to a full blown war are numerous and could be terminal for organized human life on the planet. Even a limited exchange of 4 or 5 warheads between India and Pakistan will lead to millions of deaths, total collapse of agriculture, radioactivity in whatever water resources will be left, countless sick and mimed with severely destroyed medical infrastructure and the collapsed political structures. Nuclear weapons modernization and even a conventional arms race is contrary to the logic of deterrence and increases security risks. Also, the research, production, maintenance and up-gradation of these weapons are projected to take up trillions of dollars in the coming decade. Most human would consider holding civilians of other nations and our own nation hostage for apparent security morally reprehensible and it could soon become illegal under international law.

Despite all these risks and costs involved, missing from the media landscape was any critical voice talking about these anomalies in international politics, at a time when most of the nation states are calling for its total ban and scientific community is sounding alarm about terminal nuclear disaster. All these risks were set aside by the simple act of omission and the weapons of mass destruction that “pose a grave threat to international, national and human security”, in words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, were normalized and in fact praised.

Here are some of the headlines:

“INS Arihant enhances India’s security needs” – Business Standard.

“Sea change: INS Arihant marks a high in India’s strategic independence. But it is just the beginning” – Indian Express.

“India completes nuclear triad with INS Arihant’s first patrol” – Hindustan Times.

“The significance of Arihant”, Indian Express. By Former Naval Chief Arun Prakash.

“India achieved a significant milestone in its strategic nuclear posture” (IE) was the dominant theme established in the national coverage.

In this article I will first look at INH Arihant within the context of Indian nuclear posture and review the relevant risk research around nuclear weapons and war.

Indian Nuclear Forces.

India is one of four nuclear weapon states (NWS) that are not a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a treaty that has support of 190 nation states. India has also not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the treaty has not yet gotten into force because India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed and China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have not ratified it. In September 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) opened for signatures and ratification. 69 states have signed the Treaty and 19 have ratified it – India has so far not taken part in any process. It will come into force after 31 more parties ratify – which is expected to be around 2020. India with handful of other NWSs stands in splendid isolation in a world opposing the bomb. And if the TPNW comes into force it will be deemed a criminal state under international law.

By latest estimates India has sufficient fissile material for 150-200 nuclear warheads and has produced 130-140 warheads.


The Arun Prakash column in Indian Express reminded us that the nuclear modernization project will take up trillions of rupees in coming years, which only a small part of conventional military modernization drive that is estimated to take over 6 Lakh Crore by 2025 alone. India’s budgetary allocation for health, education and other social expenditure is 1.3 Lakh Crore in 2018-19 while we spent over 4 Lakh Crore on Defense. INS Arihant alone costed around 1 Lakh Crore to the Indian citizens. More over the overall social and opportunity costs of military spending include manpower and infrastructures devoted to war related activities rather than towards social needs. Spending trillions on potentially criminal and unimaginably devastating weapons at cost of education, climate mitigation and adaptation technologies, health and public transportation should raise some concerns over the concept of “national pride.”

In January 2018, The Hindu revealed that INS Arihant was severely damaged by a human error that damaged the propulsion system. The authors of the article also made the revelation that “[t]he absence of Arihant from operations came to the political leadership’s attention during the India-China military standoff at Doklam. Whenever such faceoff takes place, countries carry out precautionary advance deployment of submarine assets”. (INS Arihant left crippled after ‘accident’ 10 months ago, The Hindu, January 08, 2018)

This suggests India might have deployed nuclear weapons against China during the Doklam stand-off. This non-war conflict could have lead to a situation of inadvertent escalation and a perception of nuclear threat or false alarm could have lead to a detonation and probably a substantial nuclear exchange.


It is already doubtful whether the national security state provides any meaningful security (even in the limited sense of the word) to its population from external threats – state and non-state, with its preparation of war and disregard for diplomatic and peaceful settlements and reconciliations and cooperation. It also puts into question whether the deterrence “theory” is even tangible within the processes of national security state. Deterrence presumes rational decision making, which includes diplomacy and peaceful settlements – threatening postures and rhetoric run contrary to the deterrence framework. Hans Kristensen in the interview said that, “[t]he Arihant in its current configurations does not enhance India’s deterrent posture in a meaningful way”.

Under the UPA regime, too, there were no breakthroughs in India-Pakistan diplomatic relations but under the NDA the relations have broken-down. The cross-border exchange of mortars and bullets has increased with more intensity between the Indian and Pakistani forces. India Pakistan border remains a major hotspot for potential nuclear war. Kristensen in the interview noted that, “Nuclear parity is not essential but significant asymmetry can deepen mistrust and trigger worst-case planning that speeds up the arms race and make a future crisis very unstable”.

In conclusion to this section, within the international nuclear political arena India is isolated but as all the other rogue states that are also disregarding international norms and consensus are most powerful nations the tension and risks continue to build-up with every new technological development, conflict and missed diplomatic opportunities.

Nuclear Risks.

Risks of nuclear weapons in Indian context can be divided into roughly two categories. First a significant nuclear exchange and second a single nuclear detonation. The first kind of scenario could arrive from a number of possible trajectories. A false alarm, a missing nuclear submarine (there are a number of cases where this has happened) in a war or peace time situation. Technical errors and human errors could also trigger a nuclear detonation. A single detonation could happen by accident during deployment of a warhead or a terrorist attack.

Karthika Sasikumar, in a paper described predictable consequences of a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.

“Exploding a 20-kiloton bomb (the equivalent of the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan) over Hyderabad, India, produces around 436,000 immediate fatalities. The fatality estimates depend on, among other things, the time of day that the detonation takes place. If the explosion was to be near the surface rather than in the air, the casualties would be halved, but the bomb would produce devastating radiation over 13 square kilometers.

With an airburst detonation, which would maximize damage to buildings, Hyderabad would lose nearly 150 medical facilities (based on Google Maps designations, which might not be completely accurate).

The famine that would result could affect more than a billion people, according to a 2012 briefing paper by physician Ira Helfand. Using a model of the global economy, the paper found that a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause malnutrition among 215 million people across the world over a decade and would also put at risk the 925 million people who are already chronically malnourished. Helfand’s estimate for the number of people who would be added to the rolls of the malnourished is on the lower side, since it assumes that markets continue to operate normally.

There is less than one hospital bed per 1,000 residents in India and Pakistan (The World Bank Undated). Even in India’s capital, only 1.4 beds are available per thousand residents. Interestingly, the major hospitals in New Delhi are located very near the administrative center of the city, a potential Ground Zero discussed above. Experts believe that civil defense will be extremely difficult to implement in India and Pakistan.

In the event of an attack by Pakistan, India’s sizable Muslim minority (approximately 170 million) could face retaliation from the Hindu majority, triggering communal riots.” (Karthika Sasikumar (2017) After nuclear midnight: The impact of a nuclear war on India and Pakistan, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 73:4)

The consequence of a substantial exchange would be termination of all organized human life and of many ecosystems. (2018 Doomsday Clock Statement Science and Security Board)

In conclusion, the consequences of nuclear weapons are beyond anything justifiable and are potentially terminal for our species. The costs of developing and maintaining these weapons are immense. Possession of nuclear weapons might soon become illegal, which will make India a criminal state. Disregarding NPT, CTBT and TPNW already gives weight to the argument that India and other NWSs are acting as rogue states. When Indian mainstream media chooses to omit all these important fact and praise the weapons, responsibility of nuclear disasters – including end of human life – also fall on their shoulders.

Interview with Hans Kristensen.

Sarthak: How do you see this development? Would you say it is “an achievement”?

Hans Kristensen: For sure, it is an achievement because India has spent decades and billions on developing this capability. We still don’t know much about the submarine actually did during the patrol and whether it actually carried nuclear warheads on the missiles at the time. If it did carry nuclear weapons, it would be a significant change in India’s nuclear warhead management, which has so far avoided deploying warheads on missiles under normal circumstances.

S: Does INS Arihant and conventional modernization generally enhance India’s “deterrence credibility”?

HK: The Arihant in its current configurations does not enhance India’s deterrent posture in a meaningful way. For it to play any role, it would have to sail deep up into the Arabian Sea for its missiles to be able to reach important targets in Pakistan, or sail all the way into the South China Sea to be able to hit targets in China. It is doubtful that Pakistan or China currently have the capability to preemptively decapitate India’s land-based deterrent. Once Indian SSBNs in the future are equipped with longer-range missiles, then the sea-based force will begin to play a really role in India’s posture. For now, I consider the Arihant a technology-development project intended to improve the capability and develop operational and command and control procedures and technologies to be able to operate an SSBN force effectively in the future.

S: What nuclear development do you predict in the coming years in the region?

HK: India and Pakistan both seem intent on continuing their bilateral arms race with development and deployment of more nuclear weapons. While Pakistan is focused on India, the Indian planning is spending more efforts on improving its posture via-a-vis China. In the immediate future, both India and Pakistan will deploy new and longer-range ballistic missiles and begin to field nuclear-capable cruise missiles. Pakistan has already begun to develop tactical nuclear weapons; India not so much although its Prithvi II could be counted as such. Pakistan does not have the capability of building an SSBN fleet but is developing nuclear cruise missiles for its attack submarines. Once Indian SSBNs begin to patrol the Indian Ocean, we will likely see Chinese and Pakistani navies trying to develop anti-submarine capabilities and strategies to find the submarines and be able to hold them at risk in a war. Likewise, India will now have to enhance its capabilities to protect its missile submarines. This will add a new expensive and potentially dangerous dynamic to the arms race and military competition in the region.

S: What are the risks associated with a nuclear submarine like Arihant?

HK: As mentioned above, once a country deploys SSBNs, its adversaries will try to find them so they can hunt them in a war. That raises risks for accidents and incidents in peacetime and for escalation or misunderstandings during a crisis or war. Imagine if a serious crisis or a war erupted with Pakistan and the Indian navy suddenly lost contact with a deployed SSBN. Would Indian authorities conclude that this was a technical glitch or that the submarine had been sunk by Pakistan? Likewise, since Pakistan does not have the capability to build an SSBN fleet, will it now conclude that India is trying to outpace it by building a nuclear force where the land-based weapons are intended to destroy much of Pakistan in a first strike, where India’s future missile defense system would scoop up the few remaining Pakistani warheads that have survived, and the Indian SSBNs would be intended to give India the ability to win a nuclear war? Nuclear parity is not essential but significant asymmetry can deepen mistrust and trigger worst-case planning that speeds up the arms race and make a future crisis very unstable.