India and Pakistan - Nuclear rookies under a Y2K cloudgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Just when you thought that at least everyone had a contingency plan...
-- Linkmeister (email@example.com), November 26, 1999
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FEATURE-Nuclear rookies under a Y2K cloud
08:32 p.m Nov 25, 1999 Eastern
By Narayanan Madhavan
NEW DELHI, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The clock is ticking and the world's newest nuclear powers have yet to totally dispel fears that the Y2K computer bug may accidentally set their war machines in motion.
Barely a month before the turn of the year, it is still unclear whether old enemies India and Pakistan, which came close to their fourth war this year, have unambiguously eliminated the possibility.
The two South Asian nations have in the past taken limited confidence- building measures such as installing a telephone hotline between their army headquarters aimed at preventing accidental wars or triggers.
But there is no official confirmation they have taken extra steps to ensure the Y2K bug does not pose such problems in their nuclear age, which dawned in 1998 after tit-for-tat underground tests.
Security analysts are worried.
Unlike the United States and Russia, India and Pakistan have not publicised or confirmed -- and probably have not had -- coordinated efforts to ensure that a Y2K fault does not act as a trigger for misunderstandings and retaliations.
Tim McDonald of the British American Security Information Council notes that the United States and Russia agreed to swap personnel to avoid misunderstandings over the Y2K period.
``I'm worried about people which haven't committed so much close assessment and analysis like India and Pakistan,'' he told Reuters in London. ``Their systems are much more fragile.''
The Y2K, or Year 2000, problem can occur in computers that denote years only by their last two digits. Unless rectified, this could cause malfunctions when the next year dawns.
McDonald said he was receiving mixed messages about Russia, but thought it was not as vulnerable to Y2K as Western systems. He said he was not sure about China or Israel.
``The real problem with Y2K is the uncertainty it creates which could lead to increased chances of accidental launch,'' McDonald said. ``India and Pakistan have very unsophisticated radar systems, and they are such close neighbours they have much less time to respond to potential attacks.''
It is not easy for Pakistan and India to talk.
The two stood on the verge of war between May and July, when Indian troops fought off intruders from the Pakistani side of disputed Kashmir. Relations have soured even further after a military coup in Islamabad in October.
More significant, they have no publicised stock of nuclear warheads.
A key Indian official involved in Y2K compliance said there were no doubts that Indian missiles -- which can carry all types of warheads -- were Y2K compliant.
But he said he could not comment on nuclear warheads.
``There are three aspects of Y2K compliance: preparedness, when a missile does not fire because of the problem; defence response, when somebody else is not prepared; and accidental missile mishaps,'' said the official, who sought anonymity.
``In all three sectors they (defence authorities) have confirmed there is compliance,'' he said.
Other Indian officials were unavailable for comment on Y2K-related measures and nuclear warheads.
Pakistani officials could not be reached in Islamabad.
Kanti Bajpai, professor of international relations at New Delhi's Jawharlal Nehru University, said nuclear weapons in India were not in a ready state to create possible Y2K problems.
``I don't think nuclear warheads have been mated with delivery systems. There are a number of Prithvis (medium-range missiles) with the military but these at best may have been loaded with conventional ordnance,'' he said.
He said the absence of a nuclear risk regime involving scientific contacts to prevent unauthorised launches was a matter of concern, and confidence-building measures were necessary.
``But given the current no-business approach to Pakistan, all this seems way off,'' he added.
((With additional reporting by Neil Winton in London and Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
-- Linkmeister (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 26, 1999.
Link, it's components of the Y2K situation such as this that make the pablum being churned out by the gov't so incredible.
-- Sara Nealy (email@example.com), November 26, 1999.