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Paper No. 60

With the ongoing operations in Kargil, the focus of analysts in India has not yet  turned to the Cox report of USA.  But sooner or later, the report is likely to be analysed in the context of India's quest for a credible minimum deterrent against China.  Already some opinions are being expressed that in view of the changed situation where China has improved its nuclear capabilities and military technologies in a stunning manner by stealth, India's earlier position with regard to its promised adherence to the CTBT and willingness to enter into negotiations on FMCT should be re examined.  There is also a suggestion  that India should go for MIRVs and other advanced delivery systems. It is necessary therefore to make an objective review to see what the Cox report would actually mean to Indian security  and what steps should be taken to offset the advantage China has secured. 

Cox Report

The bipartisan congressional Cox committee of USA issued its long 872 page report on May 25, 1999, detailing the efforts made by China to acquire, through both legal and illegal means a wide range of U.S. commercial and military technology secrets.  The report points out that the "stolen information includes details of seven thermo nuclear war heads, including every currently deployed thermo nuclear warhead in the US ballistic arsenal." 

Some important points mentioned in the voluminous report are- 

 1.  China obtained classified design information on the most advance thermonuclear weapons of USA.  These "thefts" enabled China to design, develop and successfully test modern strategic nuclear weapons.  These include information on war heads W-88, W-87, W-78, W-76, W-70, W-62 and W-56.  Of these only W-70 and W-56 are not currently deployed.  The information thus obtained also relates to the "neutron bomb" which is yet to be deployed by any country.  Thus the report concludes, that China has leaped, in a handful of years, from the 1950s-era strategic nuclear capabilities to the more modern thermo nuclear weapons designs. 

 Of these, the most important one is the W-88- a miniaturized, tapered war head coupled to the D-5 submarine launched ballistic missiles carried by Trident submarine.  The new smaller, lighter warheads with an increased yield -to-weight ratio couldl be used in future for its mobile nuclear forces and also make it possible for China to deploy missiles with multiple reentry vehicles -MRVs or independently targetable MIRVs.   

 China by obtaining nuclear test codes, computer models and data from the sensitive national laboratories could further accelerate its nuclear development.  Multiple reentry vehicles could also help in countering missile defences.  (This is significant as China while developing its own missile defences in addition to the S -300 PMU/V series purchased from Russia has accused Japan of acquiring anti missile defences- THAAD systems, causing instability in the region!) 

 2. China has stolen ballistic related technology which besides being of help in ICBMs could be directly applicable to M-9 (CSS-6), M-11 (CSS-X-7 ) and the CSS-8.  (China has provided entire production facility for the manufacture of M-11s besides transferring over 30 missiles with launchers to Pakistan).  

 3.  China  illegally obtained electro magnetic weapons technology which if developed could be used for space-based weapons to attack satellites and missiles. 

 4.  US satellite manufacturers transferred missile design information and know how to China which could help China in improving reliability of future ballistic missiles. This has provided China with improved capability for modern command and control and sophisticated intelligence collection. (This again is of significance to India as  in the Talbott- Jaswant Singh talks, the US side viewed with concern that development of civilian missile programme could have a bearing on the missile programme of DRDO in India.  US itself was unable to prevent transfer of military related technology to another country whereas in India the transfer, if at all to take place is within Indian establishments!) 

 In 1996, US companies Loral and Hughes provided know how to China to improve the design and reliability of the guidance system used in the PRC's Long March rocket without proper licence and thus violated export control laws. 

 5. High Performance computers (HPCs) meant for other uses have been diverted by China for nuclear weapon applications.  With the relaxation of export of HPCs, China has acquired from nothing in 1996 to over 600 US origin HPCs.  These HPCs will be useful in two ways. First it would help in three dimensional modeling in assessing the effects of a new war head without testing and second in incorporating the design information received illegally into the delivery systems. 

The most interesting part of the report is the assessment that   

 * PRC vigorously pursued over the last two decades the acquisition of foreign military technologies. 
 * China seeks foreign military technology as part of its effort to place itself at the forefront of  nations and be able to fulfill its international agenda which includes incorporating Taiwan and becoming the primary power in Asia. 
 * China has also asserted territorial claims against other Southeast Asian nations and Japan and has used its military forces as leverage in asserting these claims. 
 * China's pervasive efforts to obtain US technologies by any means poses a significant threat to US export control and counter intelligence efforts. 
 * China has proliferated nuclear, missile, and space-related technologies to a number of countries. 

Some Observations on Cox Report: 
 *   Every nation has a right to develop its arsenal by fair or foul means in the interest of its national security.  But China's past behavior does not assure confidence to its neighbours.   
 *  The US has unwittingly provided modern technology and the means to design sophisticated nuclear weapons and delivery systems to China which pose a potential threat to the United States itself.  It may be recalled that in mid March 1996, lower level Chinese officials told visiting American officials that U.S.A. would not dare to defend Taiwan because China would rain nuclear bombs on Los Angeles.  This information given out by Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary of State of East Asia and Pacific was taken up with the Chinese authorities as U.S. officials did take such threats seriously.  It should be of concern to Taiwan where over 100 missiles are said to be positioned within striking range.  Recent press reports of China targeting its missiles towards India after Agni II test should be of concern to India too. 
We may point out in this connection our paper in this web site of a review "Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese history."   Some conclusions made by the author need to be reiterated.  
1. A study of 12 foreign policy issues in which People's Republic of China was involved, it resorted to violence in 9 cases.  

 2.  China was far more likely to use violence in a dispute over military security questions such as territory.   

 3.  The Chinese tended to establish a very low threshold to determine what constitutes a clear threat to the security of the state. 

 * While U.S.A. has been advising India, a country which has a clean track record to tighten its export controls of sensitive nuclear and missile related technology, it has itself allowed its far superior and sophisticated technology to be exported to a country which has been described by many analysts as the "biggest proliferator."  Similarly the U.S. has been telling India to create a "fire wall" between the civilian and military space programmes, while it has allowed both Hughes and Loral companies to freely transfer technology without licence and by exploiting the loopholes in the existing laws relating to such transfers. 
 * Of more concern to India, is the acquisition of sophisticated technology by China to improve its CSS-6 and CSS-X- 7 missiles-  M- 9 and M-11 respectively. That China has transferred  M-11 missiles and equipment for regular production of the M11s  to Pakistan is well known and well documented.  It is also suspected that the Shaheen of Pakistan is nothing but the M-9s.  The guidance system for Ghauri I and II ( North Korean Nodong I) is also said to be from China. 

China, India and Pakistan- A triangular relationship: 

The people of India have lived since independence in a dangerous neighbourhood and have had to fight hot and cold wars against Pakistan and China.  After Pokhran II tests, a serious review is being made of India's current nuclear capabilities and the scientific, logistic and administrative structures that go with this capability.  The strategic threat from both China and Pakistan will have to be factored in to formulate a strategic nuclear policy.  It is in this context that the revelations made in the Cox report make disturbing reading. 

China's lead in both conventional and nuclear weapons over India are well known.  This asymmetry in conventional forces and in nuclear weapon technology between China and India will remain in China's favour for a long time even if the recent acquisition by stealth of advance designs and technology both in nuclear devices and delivery system is not taken into account. As in the case of China and India, a similar situation of asymmetry exists between India and Pakistan.  In this case, asymmetry exists in favour of India.  Despite the desperate efforts of Pakistan to reach conventional parity or nuclear parity, the asymmetry between the two countries will continue.  Pakistan's economy is already over-stretched by the increasing demands of its military and dwindling revenues.  ( latest budget rise for the army is said to be by 11 percent).  After the Kargil experience, India will have to maintain at least a division in the Kargil heights and costs for maintaining troops at such great heights are going to be high.  It is another matter that Pakistan will have to maintain matching troops on their side of LOC and incur additional expenditure. But it is neither necessary nor economically feasible for India to seek parity with China. 

Some analysts believe that the present asymmetry amongst the three countries has resulted in a fragile equilibrium.  Whether it has resulted in a fragile equilibrium or not, acquisition of sophisticated technology by one of its constituents is bound to affect this equation now or later. What  would make it worse is , if China decides to continue to collaborate in a big way to provide Pakistan the know how, equipment  and materials for nuclear weaponization and nuclear technology.  What therefore should worry Indian policy makers is not so much the acquisition of technology from U.S.A. but continuing nexus between China and Pakistan in nuclear weapons and missile development. 

It is not denied that in view of two of its neighbours being nuclear, India must have a nuclear capability.  It is understood that the National Security Advisory Group is busy preparing a nuclear doctrine.  It is going to be difficult with a large body of analysts to come to a consensus as to what constitutes a credible deterrent force.  Terms like recessed deterrence, minimum deterrence and second strike capability are being freely used by analysts in the analytic and policy community without proper definition or specification.  Externally, a deterrent capability must to some extent be visible to potential adversaries if it is to have any credibility.  Internally there has to be a formal integrated command and control structures, delivery and fail safe systems with responsibility for the stock piling of bomb components and overall stewardship and management.  India is on its way to configure a credible deterrent force eventually with Agni III, three tested nuclear designs of latest vintage and other components of delivery systems.. 


1.  The Cox report is disturbing in more than one sense. It shows that USA with its awesome capability to introduce the "latest state of art weapons" has shown its incapacity to plug the leaks.  One is reminded of the way the Russians obtained samples of enriched Uranium and even detailed drawings of bomb designs in the 40's.  If China has obtained such technology, it is certain that other countries may also have obtained these secrets.      

2.  For India, there is no cause for alarm.  Its basic approach towards the CTBT and FMCT has been well thought out and there is no need for any change. 

3.  Strategic planning should cover a long stretch of time.  The present agreement with China on the border for "peace and tranquility" should not lull us into a sense of complacency.  Some day or other India will have to enter into a strategic dialogue with China .  An agreement on "no first use" will be a good beginning.  The present visit of Indian Foreign minister to China for a "security dialogue" is no substitute for a strategic dialogue necessary for peace in this region. 

4.  A credible deterrent force that is being thought of by India will have to be expedited, without entering into an arms race neither with China nor with Pakistan. 

5.  For India, foreign policy or even a strategic security policy can only be an extension of internal stability and prosperity.  This has to be kept in mind by the policy planners while assessing threat perceptions. 

Dr.S.Chandrasekharan.                                            16.6.99