‘Ballistic missile defence reduces utility of N-threats’
Sunday, December 21, 2008
by Rasheed Khalid



The ballistic missile defence reduces the utility of nuclear threats for political or coercive purposes, said Prof. Dean Wilkening Director (Science And Security Programme, Centre for International Security and Arms Control), Stanford University, California.

Prof Wilkening said this in a seminar on ‘Ballistic missile defences: implications for South Asia” organised by Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, here Saturday. Dr Rifaat Hussain, chairperson DSS Department, conducted the proceedings.

The speaker said that the defence system might trigger a competition in this field also. He said India would attack only if it believed it could locate and destroy a fraction of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in a pre-emptive attack and if Indian deployed an area defence and if Pakistan believed it could cripple or destroy the Indian BMD system in a pre-emptive attack.

Prof Wilkening said that tracking warheads separately reduces BMD coverage area and X-band radars are needed for decoys discrimination. He said that India needed 3 to 4 billion dollars to defend from Ghauri-2. He said that it would be very difficult for defence to hold out in case of depressed trajectory attack from Pakistan.

He said that if you do not trust defence, then pre-emptive attack is an answer. He said that point defence is adopted if attack is aimed at key political or military targets and area defence if ballistic missiles are to be rendered ‘impotent and obsolete.’ He said that India would be first to develop BMD. He also gave details of Pakistani and Chinese missile programmes and the threats India feels from them.

He said that India is considering Israeli and Russian systems for BMD, as their modest indigenous system of Akash and AAD/Pad first tested in 2006 cannot defend large areas. Currently, it upgraded its air defence for BMD application and Green Pine Radar may be used in the long run which if placed near Delhi can cover most of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He sad that THAAD radar may be considered by New Delhi for future and its tracking range of 3,000 kilometres from Delhi almost covers whole of Pakistan but is not sufficient to detect Chinese missiles. He said that US Pave Paws radar from Gwaliar can take care of both Chinese and Pakistani attacks.

He said that a missile can use minimum energy by flying low or the vice-versa. He said that attacking missile covers more area in loftier trajectory. He said that it is difficult to intercept depressed trajectories.

In the question hour, Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy said that India is planning to develop space-based infra-red radars which were ignored by the speaker. )

The speaker admitted that some stealth technology could be incorporated in the missiles.

Answering a question, the American professor said that radioactive debris is an issue especially for Europeans but one has to choose between the debris and the attack.

A participant said that one should also refer to dangerous affects of ABM, which weakens the deterrence and increase chances of war. He said that in countries where people sell their kids and commit suicide out of poverty and starvation and are in the midst of multiple crises, it is highly humiliating to talk of first missiles and then their defences thereby giving added dimensions to arms race.

Prof. Wilkening observed it is a sad fact that all nuclear countries thought to choose the option of spending money on weapons of mass destruction. He said that he would like to spend money on HIV or global warming instead of missiles and their defence but still found solace in the ‘fact’ that nuclear war ‘saved’ the world from conventional war.

He said that cruise missile problems are more difficult than those associated with BMD but defence is possible against these also though very challenging.