India — going ‘ballistic’?

Published: May 21, 2016
Reports coming from India suggest that on May 15 it successfully tested a locally-designed supersonic anti-ballistic missile. PHOTO: INDIAN EXPRESS

Reports coming from India suggest that on May 15 it successfully tested a locally-designed supersonic anti-ballistic missile. PHOTO: INDIAN EXPRESS

Reports coming from India suggest that on May 15 it successfully tested a locally-designed supersonic anti-ballistic missile. PHOTO: INDIAN EXPRESS The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel of the Pakistan Army and is currently pursuing PhD in civil-military relations from the University of Karachi

Reports coming from India suggest that on May 15 it successfully tested a locally-designed supersonic anti-ballistic missile. Considering the no-first use nuclear doctrine that India follows and Pakistan does not, the lack of an anti-ballistic missile technology was a gap in Indian security. But has that gap been filled now by the test-firing of the missile? If not, how long will it take for India to build up an anti-missile defence shield? What are the implications and strategic effects of this renewed Indian interest in the development, induction and expansion of missile systems in its armed forces? And how is Pakistan likely to respond to this Indian development?

All indicators suggest that India is in the process of developing a nuclear missile shield. This won’t be a defensive arrangement as the name might suggest but an offensive deployment of radars and ballistic missiles designed and deployed to take down incoming missiles at a far-off distance. Reportedly, India has already placed two long-range missile tracking radars (supplied by Israel) in New Delhi. This is the beginning of an accelerated process that will see India deploying radars and missiles to provide a nuclear missile shield to its major cities and join the list of countries that already have such shields for their cities, including Paris, London, Tel Aviv, Moscow, Beijing and Washington. Building this nuclear missile shield will require the deployment of hundreds of ballistic missiles. For this, India is simultaneously working on both indigenous development as well as imports. The current five-year import figures of heavy weapons by India, according to a report, are 140 per cent higher than the spending in this regard in the previous five years.

Islamabad to raise alarm on Delhi’s ballistic arsenal

Forecast to spend $250 billion to upgrade its military in the next decade, the Modi government approved the setting up of a $1 billion facility to manufacture seeker systems — used to direct missiles in the final phase of targeting — by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation at Hyderabad with Israel’s help. This cutting-edge technology will enable India to manufacture smart weapons indigenously in the long run. India’s Reliance Defence, owned by Anil Ambani, has also signed a manufacturing and maintenance deal worth $6 billion with Russia’s Almaz-Antey, a manufacturer of radars and air defence missile systems. India is also in the process of purchasing S-300 and S-400 long range surface-to-air missiles (LRSAM) from Russia. According to the Indian defence minister, a deal worth $4.5 billion has already been finalised between the two countries and Russia may supply five units of the S-400 LRSAM for induction into the Indian Air Force by 2017.

The induction of the S-300 and S-400 can prove to be a big game changer. These missiles are renowned for making entire regions inaccessible to non-stealth combat aircraft and their deployment will definitely create a strategic imbalance and shift the existing balance of power in India’s favour. It is said that only the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 and Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers can operate inside areas protected by these weapon systems. The Pakistan Air Force currently does not possess these flying machines and thus it will become difficult for it to penetrate an area where these weapons are employed as part of an integrated defence network — something India is planning to create. This layer would certainly include the indigenously produced Prithvi line of short, medium and long range SAMs.

Seen in this context, where India seems to be ‘going ballistic’ literally, the serious concern shown in a statement on May 19 by a senior foreign ministry official and by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, during his speech in the Senate is not uncalled for. However, showing serious concern is one thing; doing something to counter this likely strategic imbalance is another. What then are the options for Pakistan?

Analysis: Will India’s S-400 missiles checkmate Pakistan?

We could rely on our own indigenously built SAMs such as the Shaheens or acquire more long-range SAMs such as the Chinese HQ-9. But the main worry of the security establishment at this stage would not be to look for ways to increase the deployment of SAMs in Pakistan to match those on the other side of the border, but in fact, to look for counter-measures that could help stress, defeat and deter Indian air defence capabilities, which in the next few years will pose a real challenge to Pakistan. Whether this can be done by buying stealth aircraft, long-range anti-radiation ships or by acquiring submarine-launched cruise missiles or air-to-surface missiles — all will cost money and considering that in the previous year we have spent $16 billion on debt servicing, $ 1.8 billion on Operation Zarb-e-Azb and with Americans now creating hurdles to extending military aid to Pakistan, it is going to be a tough task to cough up enough money to counter Indian conventional capabilities. The real question remains: should we take steps to create a balance vis-a-vis growing Indian military capabilities, and if so, how?

We must always be prepared to defend ourselves. We cannot afford to lower our shield in a disturbed balance of power environment. We must always be prepared to defend our independence and sovereignty. Today, India is aligned with American foreign policy — specifically the ‘pivot Asia policy’ — and is seemingly working with the Americans in implementing a part of that strategy by checking the growing Chinese influence in the region. This anti-China tilt, as a US-sponsored Indian policy, will over the years definitely become offensive, provocative as well as exploitative. Under such a regional environment, our growing ties with China will continue to send a strong message to not only the Indians but also the security establishment in Washington with whom we have currently fallen out of favour.

We must seek Chinese help in enhancing our nuclear deterrence by diversifying our nuclear strike capabilities and means of delivery by developing or acquiring the submarine-launched ballistic missile capability. India is likely to continue to enhance its military power to seek strategic military parity with China but this will only elevate the rivalry between the two nuclear-armed archrivals — India and Pakistan. I am sure our security establishment is well aware of the necessity of retaining a matching hard power capability against India and it must be doing everything to guarantee this, but it’s the poor state of our soft power, which is the other dimension of power politics, in which we lag behind. For this, our politicians will have to improve their performance and deliver in the areas of economy, diplomacy and peace-building.

P.S. One burning question the political leaderships of both India and Pakistan need to ask: with such high scales of poverty and corresponding military expenditures, aren’t the two countries not being exploited? And if so, by whom?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2016.

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Reader Comments (61)

  • Observer
    May 22, 2016 - 12:43AM

    It’s game over Pakistan!!! Pakistan is a dysfunctional country that is incapable of surmounting such undoutmountable challenges. Good luck to ordinary people of Pakistan who will be the biggest losers in this struggle. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    May 22, 2016 - 12:54AM

    And of course Pakistan has THE MONEY required to match India in “Hard Power”! NOT!
    Curious that the author neglected to mention Pakistan’s constant “saber rattling” as one of the driving forces in India’s pursuit of advanced weapons!Recommend

  • May 22, 2016 - 1:13AM

    Chinese want money which you guys don’t have. Good bye.Recommend

  • Anon
    May 22, 2016 - 1:26AM

    India has big economy and huge resources to spend big on defend budget, while pak economy is not in condition to afford this, so Pak must give priority to economyRecommend

  • Rahul
    May 22, 2016 - 2:27AM

    India’s main strategy is to goad Pakistan into an arms race it cannot afford. Remember, the Soviet Union met its demise without a single missile being fired.Recommend

  • GKA
    May 22, 2016 - 2:39AM

    Is anyone missing the irony of it all

    India is investing to protect its population from nuclear attack, not to inflict one

    The author wants additional measures to deliver a nuclear attack, not to protect its population. Recommend

  • Indian
    May 22, 2016 - 2:56AM

    Wow … when every thing else fails to justify the senseless arms race, the only Pakistani argument remains is poverty … ??!! … this article seem to be full of wisdom … why not use the wisdom to rethink Pakistan’s age old policies on Kashmir, and use of terrorism as a coercive tool of diplomacy … ??!!Recommend

  • IndianDude
    May 22, 2016 - 5:59AM

    P.S. One burning question the political leaderships of both India and Pakistan need to ask: with such high scales of poverty and corresponding military expenditures, aren’t the two countries not being exploited?

    P.S. Why doesn’t Pakistan take lead in being a wise neighbor and not get involved in arms race with India on borrowed money? Funny, when you are the weaker party you want India to step back voluntarily but as soon as you have some undeserved self confidence you want to start trouble.Recommend

  • Pacifica
    May 22, 2016 - 5:59AM

    Well, firstly both the Prithvi and Shaheen are surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and not surface-to-air missiles as the author seems to believe.

    Secondly, the Indian ABM programme is not meant to provide 100% defence against a massive pre-emotive strike. At best it may defend against a rogue launch or whittle down some fraction of incoming missiles, if it ever gets that far.

    Its real purpose is to force Pakistan into spending vast sums of money in unaffordable things like submarine launched missiles and other things, which in turn will break the back of the economy and finally force a political settlement with India. On that front, going by this and other articles and statements in the press, it has been a great success.Recommend

  • Buzzkill
    May 22, 2016 - 6:21AM

    Pakistan can end arms race with India by just declaring that it has adopted a “No first strike” nuclear policy but of course it won’t. Instead, Pakistan will try to match India in arms race & eventually bankrupt itself. Good chess moves by India. Recommend

  • Chanakya the Strategist, Australia
    May 22, 2016 - 6:25AM

    I kept reading thinking to get some new ideas or strategies, but saw a regurgitation of the old and stale words of using China with the presumption based on the thesis that India China relations will be strained. Well, mark my words India & Chinese are lead by matured leaders and within next few years China India relation will touch new heights.

    My Reasoning: With India increasing its well diversified Hard economic prowess with equally strong Soft power, India and China will not only increase trade ties but also try to soften on Achilles heels of each other namely “Pakistan” & “South China sea”…This is where Pakistan will face grave trouble if it has by then not taken actions for an unphony peace.
    Hence Pakistan has to think for non traditional out of box ideas for future. And Fast.Recommend

  • Mahakaalchakra
    May 22, 2016 - 6:31AM

    Sir, you got it wrong; India is going “Anti-Ballastic” not *Ballastic.*Recommend

  • Titan
    May 22, 2016 - 6:45AM

    India is spending $250 billion on defense over the next decade because it has the means to do so. Does Pakistan have the means to spend even $2.5 billion over the next decade? I think not. Recommend

  • American Desi
    May 22, 2016 - 7:12AM

    About your one burning question, here is a counter question: Do you think survival is secondary to alleviating poverty?! Here we are discussing a missile shield against a country which has not ruled out first strike.Recommend

  • Prada
    May 22, 2016 - 10:24AM

    Why would China want to arm Pakistan to the hilt? China’s disputes with India are nowhere near as intense as Pakistan’s disputes with India. India and China have had just ONE border skirmish in 70 years. China’s business interests in India is many times more than that of Pakistan’s. So, if Pakistan thinks China will openly support Pakistan in a war with India, you can keep hoping. Reality is something else.Recommend

  • Tyggar
    May 22, 2016 - 10:43AM

    Pakistani leaders keep threatening to nuke India and then whine when we develop means to defend ourselves. Recommend

  • Adnan Siddiqui
    May 22, 2016 - 11:02AM

    Pakistan should increase its defense budget by at least 25% each year.Recommend

  • May 22, 2016 - 11:41AM

    Well,its a thought provoking article, tells us the crux of details about India’s malicious designs,to create & show their hegemony and also stop Pakistan from advancing in its Armed forces development in gaining modern technological equipment & weapons.End of the article is superb,poverty,poor masses& bundle of problems exists in both the states but no one is perturbed.Recommend

  • Anand
    May 22, 2016 - 12:46PM

    By 2030 India will have a very powerful military that would be capable of defending its frontiers and its citizens with confidence.Recommend

  • mind control
    May 22, 2016 - 3:37PM

    A. Forecast to spend $250 billion to upgrade its military in the next decade, the Modi government approved the setting up of a $1 billion facility to manufacture seeker systems

    Sir Ji,
    Instead of Billions, Trillions, Gazillions, can we talk about the % of GDP or Budget to Defence? That is the true indicator of affordability.

    B. Today, India is aligned with American foreign policy

    And Pakistan was merely a member of ‘Mohalla Kabbadi’ and ‘Pajama Cricket’ clubs such as CENTO, SEATO and was training Athletes and Gymnasts for sports in Afghanistan.

    C. We must seek Chinese help in enhancing our nuclear deterrence by diversifying our nuclear strike capabilities and means of delivery by developing or acquiring the submarine-launched ballistic missile capability.

    One sure way of achieving this is to declare Pakistan as an Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is so easy.
    And don’t worry you would still be a ‘Republic’.

    Good Luck.Recommend

  • Halo
    May 22, 2016 - 4:02PM

    India is falling into the trap of the USA – it has endemic poverty and rather than engaging in detente it is spending like mad on military equipment. Also, be wary of why they are building up massively, never rule out Indian attempts to try and take or eliminate Pakistan. Our relationship with China will be critical – this is the only way we can counterbalance India in the region. Recommend

  • Feroz
    May 22, 2016 - 4:26PM

    The narrative of the author suggests that China was created to serve the interests of the ruling elites in Pakistan. Such expectations will be put to a reality check soon, bringing nothing but disappointment. The assets side of the Balance sheet seems to be shrinking, while the liabilities side seems to be expanding prodigiously. Wonder who needs to be congratulated for such terrific achievements. Recommend

  • American
    May 22, 2016 - 5:17PM

    Let’s get the Pakistani thinking correctly..

    If Pakistan does not fire a missile, the Indians do nothing.

    If Pakistan fires a missile, Indian ant-missile shield will fire a missile that goes and intercepts it.

    According to this author, this is not “defensive”…but actually offensive !

    Is this what they they teach young boys and girls in school ? Recommend

  • pakistani bloach
    May 22, 2016 - 5:24PM

    More than 8 millions pakistanis live abroad and they love their country more than people living in pakistan. In time of need 8 millions x 1000$. do the math indian trolls.Recommend

  • Menon
    May 22, 2016 - 6:09PM


    Same old poverty cry to justify rubbish argument. Poverty is there and everyone admits it and are working towards alleviating poverty but poverty inflicted by 200 years colonial rule cannot be allevited in 67 years. Read history.

    Besides, defending a country from enemies is not secondary to defense. If the country doesn’t and can’t defend itself from its enemies, poverty will only increase from wars and occupation.

    Suggest you going to school and gain some understanding about how things really work in today’s world which requires mulitfaceted approach to strategy.Recommend

  • Menon
    May 22, 2016 - 6:12PM

    @Adnan Siddiqui:

    Why not 50% to catch up and surpass?Recommend

  • ivehadit
    May 22, 2016 - 6:15PM

    Nuclear arms race a no-win situation for Pakistan. India can and will outspend to break Pakistans economy in this event. Pakistan needs to put its economic and internal security house in order and build strong international alliances with nuclear non-proliferation advocacy and build a peaceful coexistance relationship regimen towards its largest neighbour.Recommend

  • bahadurkhan
    May 22, 2016 - 6:50PM

    the article is factual and well researched. It conveys in a round about way that in coming ten years time, the BRICS members will rule the world. Putting one house on growth path is a must. China need not invest more billions in non performing/not ready economy, It is advisable for Kashmir citizens to watch the trends and align themselves with block who are close to developmental agenda.Recommend

  • PakiPowerq
    May 22, 2016 - 6:59PM

    A country whose 70% population doesn’t even use bathrooms so wow making such strides is definitely positive. This is all coming out of fear as Pakistan has always been a nightmare for India. They know they have lot more to lose. Our tactical nukes won’t even give time to intercept and the quantity of soldiers is no longer an issue as it would be easy to kill them with spray rather than a shoe. You know what I mean? India will eventually become a sandwich between Pakistan and China. Glad that US is putting up India against China as billion vs billion would be a real deal. No matter what India does, Pakistan has its own way of defending itself, so no worries at all.Recommend

  • Insaaf
    May 22, 2016 - 7:01PM

    I think we need to eat more grass (if there is any left)Recommend

  • Amar
    May 22, 2016 - 7:47PM

    Pakistani people need to wake up and ask the military and civilian leadership to prioritize national objectives. The ongoing obsession with India is a failed strategy. Recommend

  • zahid
    May 22, 2016 - 7:53PM

    One thing I have noticed in the last 20 years that India never seems to mature as it grows older. The people are the pits in their hate for their neighbor. Try as I might I have never come to think like that and so do a majority of Pakistanis I know. If Pakistan does not spend a rupee extra on defense and during war only one of the few hundred nuclear weapon hits India it is toast. Pakistan will also get hit and in the end we’ll go back to fighting with teer kaman. Stop wasting money on large arms suppliers and open the borders to all from Bangladesh to Afghanistan. Start worrying about global warming instead. That is what will bankrupt you eventually. Recommend

  • Chacha Jee
    May 22, 2016 - 8:29PM

    Pakistanis bring up poverty in India. Most of these poor are muslim as they shun regular education and choose madrassa. Many modern day political leaders have publicly asked that muslim move to pakistan or Bengaladesh or be sent there. BJP won Assam elections by promising to send muslim to Bengladesh. People in Assam were agitated that if their neighbor Burma could do it then why can’t India. BJP seeped the Assam elections only on one promise that they will deport muslim.Recommend

  • genesis
    May 22, 2016 - 8:45PM

    checking the growing Chinese influence in the region. This anti-China tilt, you have the answer of why India needs to develop its army and defence to neutralise our friends across the border.It is no just Pakistan that is worrying…Recommend

  • Iqbal
    May 22, 2016 - 8:56PM

    I don’t know if you were brainwashed at a madrassa or not. All the wars between India and Pakistan was intigated by Pakistan. They lost all of them.
    With the military might of India and its global support from the West, if there was another war Pakistan would be toast. Analysts say that Pakistan will disappear from the maps. I believe them – do you?Recommend

  • Tyggar
    May 22, 2016 - 9:20PM

    A country whose 70% population doesn’t even use bathrooms

    Atleast you have caught up with us on that aspect. Recommend

  • Tyggar
    May 22, 2016 - 9:23PM

    If Pakistan does not spend a rupee extra on defense and during war only one of the few hundred nuclear weapon hits India it is toast

    Nope, India is too big to be toast with one nuke, however Pakistan wont exist for the second nuke considering your size and the fact that you don’t even have defense systemRecommend

  • Ayub
    May 22, 2016 - 9:24PM

    @pakistani bloach why not ask the 8 million Pakistanis to send just $10 each so that you can buy the 8 F16 without begging! Recommend

  • Beg-istan
    May 22, 2016 - 9:43PM

    @PakiPowerQ And this coming form an expert beggar who lives in the biggest begging bowl.Recommend

  • naveen
    May 22, 2016 - 10:24PM

    Overconfidence of Pakistan bring miseries to them. India is 10 time bigger GDP than Pakistan. but their defense budget is just 5 time bigger. India can increase its defence budget.

    Pakistan has no money. they spent almost 40% of their budget on defense. while India spent under 20% .

    Pakistan has been becoming another state of China. what cpec will do when there is no business.Recommend

  • Avtar
    May 23, 2016 - 12:08AM

    The author assumes that India and Pakistan are equal in size, population, budgets and socio-economic factors. Author, like his former organization, still believe in parity with India in all aspects. And, Good Luck.Recommend

  • Jagat
    May 23, 2016 - 12:25AM

    The old saying in South Asia of Mullah ki Dorr Masjid Tukk now getting replaced with Pakistan ki Dorr China Tukk. But are Chinese stupid to link their own security with that of Pakistan which make them vulnerable to all sort of hostile actions detrimental for their economic well being as well very existence? The day Pakistani become rational and realistic, that day peace will ushers in for them. But chances are very slim for this happening soon. India will complete it’s plan for BMD ,TMD and damming of all the major rivers in next couple of years.Recommend

  • Hamza
    May 23, 2016 - 1:00AM

    If thats the case try us..but then again i forgot what cowards you areRecommend

  • Hamza
    May 23, 2016 - 1:00AM


    You have no money either lets be realRecommend

  • Hamz
    May 23, 2016 - 1:02AM

    If only weapons and money could buy bravery hahahah..youre a nation of cowardsRecommend

  • Hamz
    May 23, 2016 - 1:07AM

    You must be delusional hahahahaRecommend

  • Srinivasulu Mekala
    May 23, 2016 - 1:52AM

    ” India is likely to continue to enhance its military power to seek strategic military parity with China”. This is the first time any Pakistani analyst stated the real motive behind India’s upgradation of defence capabilities. Pakistan for an assured safety from Indian threat has to do just one thing, summed up in 3 words “STOP EXPORTING TERROR”Recommend

  • daanish k
    May 23, 2016 - 1:58AM

    @Chacha Jee:

    Hahahaa thats the first time ive heard such nonsense. The reality is the majority of illiterate are hindus who are averse to modern education and prefer their backwards scriptures to get their knowledge Recommend

  • zahid
    May 23, 2016 - 3:14AM

    Give it a rest dude. In your hurry to express negative comments you rushed through my article. The answers are all there. There are no winners in a nuclear game.Recommend

  • Naresh
    May 23, 2016 - 3:33AM

    Muhammad Ali Ehsan : In other words you want Pakistan to have all Weapons which can destroy India BUT India must not create a Defence to Defend itself! Wah! Wah!! and Wah!!!
    Sir with Friends like you India needs no Enemies!

  • Bharat
    May 23, 2016 - 4:30AM

    There are commentator here who seem unable to read.
    Let us get this right !!

    Pakistan has adapted a first use policy, and India has adapted a response only policy. A few times Pakistan has already announced a first use policy. The last time it did that was from Musharraf.

    And that first use policy is one of the reasons why Pakistan will not be able to join the Nuke suppliers club

    And it is the reason why India has developed this technologyRecommend

  • Mehran
    May 23, 2016 - 5:50AM

    I know it is sad but, I would also admit that it also made me laugh out loud :-)Recommend

  • bennedose (@bennedose)
    May 23, 2016 - 6:43AM

    Indian Hindus are stupid and want to spend despite the high levels of poverty. Pakistani Muslims could choose to be intelligent and spend less on defence and reduce their own levels of poverty. But if they want to choose to be stupid like Hindus that is their problem no? Pakistanis are a superior, fairer, healthier, richer, taller, meat eating race more related to Europeans rather than black weakling rice eating vegetarian Hindu Indians.

    We must come to grips with these realities.Recommend

  • sridhar
    May 23, 2016 - 7:04AM

    What is the percentage of GDP that India spends on defense?
    See the chart here:
    It is slightly less than 2.5% while for Pakistan, with its small economy, it is slightly above 3% (which is a large percentage of money spent on defense).
    India is also the fastest growing economy in the world today at 7 plus % GDP growth.
    So, can India afford this?
    Yes, of course.
    Can Pakistan afford to try and catch up with India?
    Pakistan is perpetually going around seeking loans. Any more spending on defense will be at the cost of other sectors.Recommend

  • sridhar
    May 23, 2016 - 7:07AM

    That is not India’s strategy.
    India’s strategy is to defend herself from a rising China in the neighborhood.
    In the process, she is spending more and more on defense.
    As I argued in my last post, India can afford to.
    Pakistan would be unwise to compete with India.
    Pakistan keeps saying it has a nuclear deterrence but seems like that does not deter it from competing foolishly with India.Recommend

  • IndianDude
    May 23, 2016 - 9:03AM

    @bennedose (@bennedose)
    .. Pakistani Muslims could choose to be intelligent..

    One can not ‘choose’ to be intelligent, specially dumb products of the first cousins.Recommend

  • FAZ
    May 23, 2016 - 9:33AM

    @all Indian chest thumpers

    Since when ever Pakistan was “ahead” of India in economy or military might? We have always, always been following up to India to keep a minimum deterrence. When you face an enemy 8 times as large you are left with less choices.Recommend

  • Raja
    May 23, 2016 - 5:49PM

    FAZ, Pakistan’s economy was ahead of India’s until it decided to turn more fundamentalist under ZiaRecommend

  • Iqbal
    May 24, 2016 - 1:45AM

    @bennedose (@bennedose):
    I suspect you were brainwashed at a madrassa by showing your bigotry. You are aware that your ancestors (and mine) were once most probably Hindus. In any case, explain to us why in the West where neither Muslims nor Hindus are in majority, Hindus are more successful than us in all fields except crime and terrorism. The ratio of Muslims inmates in prisons has been increasing since 2000.
    May I suggest you start respecting other people and do your research properly. You are a disgrace to humanity.Recommend

  • FAZ
    May 25, 2016 - 9:21AM

    I had already a very long unfruitful discussion with one of people like you.
    PS: Google some non Indian sites for correct info pleaseRecommend

  • True blue Indian
    May 25, 2016 - 9:38PM

    @ Author
    China has no Missile shield technology
    & hence Beijing isn’t covered by air defences
    It’s misleading that you have mentioned it. Recommend

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