Home » News

India must learn to deal with new threats

[Express Buzz, Monday, 20 September 2010 07:58 No Comment]

He political relations between India and China have soured again. Will this lead to a war either by intent or miscalculation? Chinese non-governmental blogs have suggested a possibility in 2010-11. One Indian think tank’s prognosis is war in 2012. No one in either nation’s government however thinks so. But who can be sure? After all, who has forgotten — on both sides — 1962?

For us, 1962 was a military and political debacle although we Indians happily discovered how united our nation becomes when we are attacked — when other nations in a similar debacle unravel. Chanakya had in our hoary past described this Indian phenomenon of uniting in war when he propounded the concept of “Chakravartin” and guided his king, Chandragupta, to war far west and 2,000 kilometres from Pataliputra, in Sind against the Greeks.

The border war in 1962 was Nehru’s fiasco arising from his irrational and personalised conduct of foreign policy. Irrational because Nehru did not distinguish between defence and foreign policy. In fact, he made the fatal error of making defence depend on foreign policy, and blamed the Chinese “perfidy” for it. Now that debacle haunts us. This is the 1962 Syndrome.

We now need, irrespective of our blow hot, blow cold foreign policy, to rationally look at possible and potential threats to India from China and then decide how to prepare credibly against these threats. Let us remember that the two nations by history, civilisation, population size, territorial area, economic growth rate, and global power potential, even though they have different political systems, are recognised the world over as peers.

Hence some competitive animosity, or peer jealousy, is to be expected between the two nations in peace times, even if it is held by some that there is no fundamental conflict of strategic interests. For more than two-and-a-half thousand years, India and China had good and peaceful relations based on mutual respect and exchange, and never had gone to war till 1962.

Today both India and China compete, for example, for US attention. Peer jealousy makes Chinese intellectuals and PLA personnel feign contempt for India, especially when talking to the US counterparts, which is also apparent in the carping and cutting comments in its  publications, even though they realise that 1962 cannot be repeated.

Three decades later, thanks to prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, liberalisation and the Y2K problem launched India on a high growth rate path, and as a quality leader on the electronic software map globally. In an era of globalisation in which economics dominates, the India-China hyphenation has re-appeared again with gusto, especially in the US, re-kindling the peer competitiveness in China and unfortunately the return of smugness in India.

This hyphenation has taken root from Japan and Australia to Africa and Latin America where India and China are equally represented as suppliers and buyers of goods and services, with industrial corporates of global reach and advanced technology.  But the smugness that this hyphenation is a settled question can be rudely exploded if our military capability continues for long to remain inadequate to sustain the hyphenation.  Due to our smugness about our recent economic performance of nearly 9 per cent GDP growth, our defence expenditure has fallen to a dangerously low of 2.3 per cent of GDP whereas China has maintained a steady expenditure of 6 per cent of GDP for the last five decades.

To rephrase a Chinese saying: “We must sweat in peace so that we do not bleed in war”.  Today we fluctuate between being panicky when threatened, and complacent when there is bonhomie,  remaining unprepared for war.Media coverage reflects this dysfunctional dissonance.

To sustain the peer status, India must graduate from oscillating between smugness to neurotically reacting to China on a daily basis, feeding the media with our 1962 psychosis, and instead get down to dealing with China rationally on the various dimensions of threats, and soberly examine how to structure our national security architecture and enhance our military capability. To do that we should clearly differentiate between the two facets of national security: First, in defence preparedness, we should never discount any potential threat from any country, and the threat could be multi-dimensional as it is in the case of China.

The second facet of national security is our foreign policy which has to be structured on the stated intentions of other nations, and which we through quiet unpublicised discussions and negotiations seek to modify,  moderate, and even to make it favourable if possible. This is also called diplomacy.

China’s intention today may not be to go to war with India but merely to needle us to commit foolish acts or behave stupidly by trivial provocative acts to either do something rash as Nehru did in 1962 to declare “I have asked the troops to throw the Chinese out” without any preparations, or worse like a headless chicken run hither and thither seeking help from other countries, notably the USA.

We cannot rely on any country’s stated intentions since it could be a deception to fool us. We should never be complacent about China’s capacity to inflict damage to us nor should we, as a large mature and civilised population, exhibit a fevered imagination about China’s assumed evil intentions to harm us, at least not to vocalise it as we are doing today. If we do so it will encourage and raise the morale of all our potential adversaries, and thus in a self-fulfilling prophesy could knee jerk our nation into bad decisions. Let us begin to sweat in peace by first enumerating the dimensions of China’s threat.

Design a strategy based on massive defence build-up

The First threat dimension encompasses a possible Chinese attack in Arunachal over some provocation such as Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang. Some Indians tremble at the thought of that happening. This neurosis is the cause of our 1962 syndrome. The reality today is that even if we go to war, it will not be a repeat of 1962 because as China and the rest of the world have learnt by the events of 1962, and by subsequent unconnected events, that war unites the Indian people as nothing else does.

The Chinese will not be able to cross our borders and the contiguous areas. Moreover, the Indian air force is superior in the border arena, and the terrain on our side of the border provides a much shorter and friendlier supply chain for our troops.

Those in India who think today otherwise, that Chinese will walk into Assam and Kashmir not to mention Bahraich in UP, have been brought up on the British imperialist version of our history, which is that India is always a sitting duck for anyone who wants to invade it.

What should be of concern today is the implication of India’s current military and psychological preparedness.

If China decides to wage war over Arunachal especially Tawang, then India should take it as an opportunity to wipe out Nehru’s legacy of 1962. The Chinese claim over Tawang and Arunachal is based on the claim that it was a part of Tibet. This is utterly false since it was only for brief periods in history when an aggressive independent Tibet occupied the Monpa tribal town of Tawang and then reduced the Monpas to serfs and slaves. The Monpas have not forgotten that brutality even today.

I do not think that China will go to war over Tawang. It is needling us to win points with the Tibetans in Lhasa, who claim Arunachal and Tawang are part of Tibet. But that does not mean we should let our guard down. China should know it is the resolve of the Indian people that for Tawang, without which town the rest of Arunachal cannot be accessed by the Chinese, India will go for an all-out war, even abrogate the Nehru-Vajpayee treaty to regard Tibet as a part of China. It will be moral and just for us to go to war to defend Tawang and Arunachal.

Second, the threat from China to India arises from the UPA government’s abdication of vital national interests for its domestic political survival in power, which sacrifice is in favour of China.

India rebuffed pro-Indian elements in Nepal and instead helped Maoists, who lean to China, to usurp power in that country because of what the then coalition partner, the CPM, of the UPA had wanted. Again China was the beneficiary in Sri Lanka and invited to build a naval base in Hamantota, just 35 miles east of the Tamil Nadu coast, because another coalition partner, the DMK, had wanted to help the LTTE.

Today not one of India’s eight neighbours with common land and/or sea borders with us, supports us against China which has common borders with six. Recognising this factor is crucial for our preparedness against China.

We should begin by openly supporting Sri Lanka, and not fall for the pro-LTTE propaganda that Tamils are suffering from brutalities. Tamils however need constitutional protection and India should influence the Sri Lanka Buddhists to encourage the MPs of Sri Lanka to vote for it when the amendment Bill is introduced. We should help the Nepal Army and the Madeshis whom we seem to be losing, to resist the Maoists and liberate Nepal since the Nepal Maoists are openly helping the Naxalites in India.

Third, China has ringed us in today with naval bases from Gwadar in Baluchistan, to Hamantota in Sri Lanka, to Coco Islands in Burma.  For the first time China is positioned to attack us from the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. We have to take steps to develop our navy and air  force to face this new situation.

We should forge a strategic cooperation with Indonesia to monitor the Malacca Straits; Sumatra is very close to Indira Point in Nicobar islands, and through the Malacca straits pass 90 per cent of China’s energy supply. The appropriate policy for India is to match Chinese military capacity. That is by spending not 2.3  but 7 per cent of GDP on defence, for which we have to tighten our belts. The problem is not what China is planning to do to attack us but what India is not planning to do to prepare to defend itself.

We should also not be defensive while arguing the border dispute with China. Chinese officials must explain to us why when they have accepted the McMohan Line for the border with Burma, they are rejecting it with India.

Also their argument for demanding Tawang is religion-based;  Tawang was a part of Drepung Monastery which is in Tibet and which is a part of China. By that argument, Kailash-Manasarovar area should be a part of India since our Mahadev Lord Shiva resides there.

Under no circumstances we should initiate a war merely to recover the relatively small area of lost territory. When war is inevitable or imposed, then of course we have to meet the challenge.

Fourth, China has been consistently arming Pakistan even with nuclear weapons technology according to well-known and well-placed whistleblowers in Pakistan. This may be in Chinese national interest to keep a flank against India opened. Chinese officials told me in a discussion which I had in Beijing that they have assisted Pakistan with the knowledge of the IAEA and within international law.

Pakistan is the base and crucible for Islamic terrorists who periodically carry out horrendous terrorist acts on Indian soil. I think to counter this threat the time has arrived for us to draw up plans for doing something with Baluchistan and Sind, while re-populating Kashmir with at least 10 lakh ex-servicemen and families to compensate for the five lakh Kashmiri Hindus driven out.

Fifth, China is not at all happy with the growing Indian economic globalisation and intellectual influence in academia in East Asia and Australia. As for East Asia let us remember that the value-added switch trade of China with East Asia is the reason for China’s huge accumulation of foreign exchange reserves. This switch trade can easily shift to India’s favour. China is fundamentally geared to making things difficult for India .

We can counter this by more economic reforms and heavy infrastructure improvement if we could only control the shameless corruption in society by setting examples.

First we must talk with China especially in the context of the rising threat of a Taliban take-over of Pakistan which will adversely affect both India and China. The recent Islamic violence in Xinjiang is a case in point. But we must pursue every opening with China to reduce its support to Pakistan. According to me, a deal is possible.

These are the five threats that China poses to India.We have, at least for the present, to deal with these threats on our own capability. And we can.  For India, the best course is to design a national security strategy based on a massive defence build-up with a conciliatory foreign policy whereby we do not react on a daily basis to every media report emanating from either side. But I feel the MEA needs to be more forthcoming in briefing the Indian media about the nuances of Sino-Indian relations on a regular basis.

[Full Coverage]

(For updates you can share with your friends, follow TNN on Facebook, Twitter and Google+)

Comments are closed.