Currency of Power

16th July, 1945 changed the world. The first nuclear device produced by Project Manhattan, ‘THE GADGET’ mounted atop a 100 feet tower exploded in a remote New Mexico desert. World has never been, never will be same again. Devastating power of the atom promises to wipe out the life on earth. No meteorite strikes needed. We can do it ourselves.

Invention of ‘THE GADGET’ not only ushered the era of nuclear blackmail but also created a wide and unbridgeable chasm amongst the world nations. An irreversible process of producing the weapon of mass destruction had begun. While the economists were busy classifying the nations on the basis of their GDP etc, Sociologists were keenly burning the proverbial mid night oil and rating the nations on ‘social index’ viz freedom of speech, health, education and so on, ‘THE GADGET CLASS’ nations divided the world as Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), the ‘HAVS” and Non Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS), the ‘HAVE NOTS’ on 1st January, 1967.

USA, then USSR, France, United kingdom and China were declared by ‘themselves’ as the only legal members of the NWS club. After Ist Indian nuclear test in May 1974 these nations led a campaign and enlisted 41 more nations to form what is now known as Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It is a quirk of fate that we Indians are now approaching the world body to allow us to join India. The rest of the world nations automatically became involuntary members of NNWS club.

On 12th August, 1945 emperor Hirohito of Japan while agreeing to surrender to allied forces said:-

“The enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in  an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to total extinction of human civilization”.

At the end of 2nd WW, USA was the only NWS (although this term was not coined then). USSR followed suit to maintain parity. USA intervention in Korean war and direct threat to PRC (China) of a nuke strike (ironically the US threat was conveyed through Indian Embassy) forced China to go nuclear in 1964. France and UK had also joined the club. The NWS status gave these five nations the authority to sit at the ‘head’ of the table and they are the FIVE PERMANENT MEMBERS OF SECURITY COUNCIL at the United Nations.

What an outstanding accomplishment by USA towards maintaining and promoting world peace!

Devastating power of  even a low yield nuclear weapon ( the likes of which were used in Japan) resulted in smaller nations aspiring to develop a nuke, the currency of ultimate power for two reasons. Firstly, the potency of the nukes rendered the weapon ‘impotent’ because even the mightiest nation would not dare to resort to a nuke strike on a tiny nation possessing nukes and Secondly, no nation irrespective of their might had the capability to destroy all the nukes of a tiny adversary few thousand kilometer away in the first strike. Retaliatory strike by the affected nation was a logical conclusion. The drama, in real time, is being played out by USA and North Korea as on date.

That brings me to the issue of our pseudo-intellectuals, particularly Indians, discussing about NWS and NNWS. No nation needs a certificate of authorization by the P-5 nations on whether it should go nuclear or not in the first instance and secondly the classification as NNWS is of little or no consequence. 1st January, 1967 is just another date on which  five nations, the self proclaimed angels of peace and prosperity decided to treat the rest of the world as NNWS.

In hindsight, if this categorization was not done, perhaps fewer nations than the dozen odd (India included) would  have gone nuclear.

Having read thousands of pages on production and/or containment of nuclear weapon over the past 50 odd years, one thing always caught my attention:  inadequate/sometimes total lack of attention/discussion about delivery system for these WMDs.  Introduction of Missile Technology Control regime (MTCR) is a case in point. NPT in 1968 and MTCR in 1987 is self explanatory. It took nearly 20 years for the strategic dim wits to realize that non-proliferation of delivery system technology was as, possibly more important than controlling/containing/denying the enrichment technology. A weapon without a delivery system is useless for it cannot be unleashed on the enemy. The wise men/women of P-5 and many other nations even now discuss the capability attainment of producing a nuclear weapon. Surprisingly and rarely our intellectuals delve on the issue of delivery system.

As of now only the P-5 nations have a genuine TRIAD. Notwithstanding what is claimed by many in India, we do not have a TRIAD as on date. I could be wrong. We have a nuclear submarine on loan from Russia but I have serious doubts on whether we have an operational SLBM capable of carrying a nuke.

Most common means of nuke delivery is a SSM. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) failed to contain the nations from developing indigenous missile capability. A classic case is North Korea. Since 1995 the focus has been to control and contain the uranium enrichment capability of North Korea. Hardly any attention was paid to deny the missile development technology. Without going into technicalities, a missile essentially requires guidance system and fuel. Both these require highly advanced knowledge or supply from a ‘friendly’ country. North Korea could never have accomplished development of both components viz the warhead as well as delivery system on her own.

All the treaties/sanctions starting with NPT, SALT, START I and II, MTCR etc have been eminently unsuitable to contain the proliferation. Therefore to even talk about NWS and NNWS in prevailing international scenario is not only irrational but irrelevant.

In the age of IT revolution, the military strategists and intellectuals need to shift focus elsewhere. All nuclear reactors in the world are computer controlled. Any computer controlled system can be hacked. An extremely significant news item appeared sometime back;

“A series of sophisticated computer intrusions at electric companies and nuclear-plant operators this year has been traced back to a hacking group called “Dragonfly” and “Energetic Bear” that’s been previously linked to Russia, according to a new report from the computer-security company Symantec, which has seen about 100 such breaches since the start of the year, half of them in the U.S. The finding is potentially worrisome, because Dragonfly is one of very few hacking groups to evince expertise in power-grid control networks—the computerized systems that turn off and on circuit breakers. A separate Russia-linked hacking operation has twice demonstrated the Kremlin’s ability and willingness to use that kind of expertise to cause electrical blackouts—once in December 2015, and a second time a year later, both in Ukraine. Symantec believes the U.S. breaches may be moving into similar terrain. The original Dragonfly campaigns now appear to have been a more exploratory phase where the attackers were simply trying to gain access to the networks of targeted organizations,” the Symantec report concludes. Now, the attackers may be entering into a new phase, with recent campaigns potentially providing them with access to operational systems, access that could be used for more disruptive purposes in future.(info obtained from internet)

As an individual of mediocre intellect, I am frightened to imagine the consequences of such hacking of nuclear reactors. The hacker merely needs to stop the cooling system and we will have yet another ‘Chernobyl’. That is the issue which needs focus and not waste our time on deliberating differences in the status of NWS and NNWS. Every state having competent and dedicated hackers are/can be termed as potential threat to all nations operating nuclear reactors for producing power. In fact classifying nations as NWS and NNWS has no validity in the prevailing technological advances made in computer hacking capability. It is an irony that a non nuclear nation can, and possibly would, blackmail a nuclear nation by the threat of hacking its nuclear reactors.

Of course the ‘nay-sayers’, pseudo intellectuals, post event specialists and self proclaimed military strategists of our nation suffering from jaundiced vision would dismiss such scenario as a figment of imagination. If this motley group had exhorted our leaders during past five decades, we would have developed Thorium Based nuclear reactors producing the cleanest energy.  Like an ostrich we are still stuck with our beak in the sand and eyes closed discussing NWS and NNWS. Shouldn’t our intellectuals in ‘Think Tanks’ look beyond the obvious?

Possession of nukes, therefore, is no longer the ‘CURRENCY OF POWER’. In fact it just might become an unwanted burden.  Discussion of NWS and NNWS has lost its meaning and relevance.  Time is not far when a non-nuclear adversary with advanced hackers will leave a message on the ‘home page’ of the nuclear facility to ‘Behave or Else’. Funny isn’t it? No it is not funny but a reality staring at our faces. Power of Hacking’ is the new ‘Currency of Power’.


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