Thursday, September 3, 2009

INDIA'S SECURITY CHALLENGES: WHO CARES!

In the chain of adverse developments which must cause serious concern to India, the latest is that Pakistan already has 70 to 90 nuclear weapons and is pushing ahead with a superior plutonium-based nuclear program. A new nuclear-capable ballistic missile and two similar cruise missiles are also under development. This news is serious enough to make India's Army Chief Deepak Kapoor say that Pakistan is going well beyond the "so-called requirement of deterrence".

Consider the following related developments:
  • The Obama administration has notified the US Congress that Pakistan has modified US supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles to hit land targets
  • The US has also accused Pakistan of modifying US made P-3C Orion aircraft for land attack missions
  • Chinese intrusions into India territory have shown an alarming increase
  • Chinese military journals are getting increasingly hostile, reminding India of the 1962 debacle and warning India that the next time China "will not pull back 30 km" as it had then.
  • A recent article in a quasi-official Chinese website says that it is in China's interest to break India into 20-30 pieces and that it must recover the 90,000 square km territory of Southern Tibet, or Arunachal Pradesh.
  • China is aggressively trying to encircle India from all sides. It latest gas pipeline agreement with Myanmar to supply 100 billion cubic metres of gas annually is a huge step in that direction.
One can go on adding to this list which should make it clear to anyone with even ordinary intelligence that India is surrounded by at least two neighbours who are furiously developing offensive military capability. If you view this in the light of the fact that both China and Pakistan do not have unresolved disputes with any country other than India and also face no real security threat from any other nation, then you cannot escape the logical deduction that India needs not only to reactively take measures to protect itself, but it also needs to do something proactively to put it past Pakistan to compete with India militarily, quite like China has done to India.

Unfortunately, in India, national security is often viewed as an unpleasant and unnecessary intrusion into and against national development. The natural, and uninformed, if I may add, Indian impulse is to unilaterally "give in" while negotiating with neighbours, in the fond hope that as a result, peace will prevail and money "wasted" on defence better used "productively". Despite the many nasty experiences of the past, we simply refuse to understand that any concessions given out of a weakness that is visible to all can buy only illusory peace, with serious long term repercussions.

This defeatist mindset tries to cover up its weakness by seeking moral sustenance from Buddha and Gandhi, conveniently forgetting that in their lexicon, the word "cowardice" does not exist.

A perfect example of this debilitating disease that has already cost the nation heavy, is a column by author Chetan Bhagat in the Hindustan Times of August 24, 2009. The arguments put forth by Bhagat are, in fact, so juvenile and out of touch with reality that it is a given that had his name not been appended to them, the essay would have found place only in a trash bin.

That is India's difficulty. Bhagat is not alone. There are many like him out there who, when it comes to national security, effectively say the same thing: "Who cares!".

Sample some of the unbelievable statements made by Bhagat in the column in question:
  • How badly do we want Kashmir? At the cost of making colleges for the young generation in the country? At the cost of not doing irrigation projects for our farmers? At the cost of not building roads and power plants? At the cost of living in high inflation forever?
  • We can have an alliance with another nation if the aim of defence is to protect our borders. For instance, America has a big need to ensure safety of its own borders and cut global terrorism. We can work with them — yes, by giving them some access to our country. For us, it can save costs of protecting ourselves...We may shudder at the presence of American involvement in our defence, but frankly what advantage could they gain against us if they help us protect our borders?...They have much to gain from our potential market for American products and cheap outsourcing... let’s outsource some of our defence to them, make them feel secure and save money for us. Having a rich, strong friend rarely hurt anyone.
  • We need to have peace not only because it is a good thing — but also because we can’t afford to fight or stay prepared to fight for the next 20 years. We are hiring more security guards outside the house when there isn’t money to put the kids in school...Money spent on bullets doesn’t give returns, money spent on better infrastructure does.
Is this guy talking about the security of huge nation of 1.3 billion people or about making peace in some "mohalla" with a small change give-don't-take accommodation?

In the forties, Pandit Nehru effectively said "who cares" about the rest of Kashmir when Indian forces were poised to march to Muzaffarabad. In the fifties, he said the same thing about the 38,000 square kms of territory that the Chinese occupied in Aksai Chin. In 1962, it was "who cares" about the people of the entire North East when Nehru bid them goodbye from India after he came to know that Chinese troops had reached the outskirts of Tezpur.

Today, it is "How badly do we need Kashmir?". Tomorrow the likes of Bhagat will ask the same question about Arunachal Pradesh, what to talk of the 5,180 sq kms of Kashmir ceded to the Chinese by Pakistan in 1963, which has all but been written off. After that, it might be Bengal, Andaman Islands, Punjab and perhaps even the place where Bhagat comes from. How can one forget that Pakistani leaders are already justifying terrorism not just to wrest Kashmir but due to the "condition of Muslims in the rest of India"? No prizes for guessing where that road is headed. But, who cares! As long as some money can be "saved" to build roads, colleges etc.

Even worse is Bhagat's not-smarter-than-a-fifth-grader suggestion to outsource the protection of our borders to the US! I mean how can anyone with even a pretense of intelligence think like that? Why outsource just defence? Why not outsource governance too? And become their de facto colony?(That will automatically happen when you outsource defence). They will then be able to recruit Indians as soldiers to fight and die for them all over the world in return for the kind of "protection" that the British provided to us when they ruled India! Then both Pakistan and China will also not be able to cast an evil eye on this "country". And our kids will be able to go to great colleges, drive on smooth highways, shop in swanky malls, and say "who cares" with gay abandon! Great deal! Wonder why a much smaller Pakistan has never thought of it. It will get Kashmir in a jiffy if it resorts to such terrific outsourcing.

No wonder Bhagat does not have the capacity to question America's "big need to ensure the safety of its own borders and cut global terrorism", even as he dismisses India's security needs. No wonder it has not even struck him that China spends many times more than India on its defence despite not having even a fraction of the threats that India faces, or the fact that it has been doing so since decades and not after it has become economically strong. No wonder he sees in Pakistan a harmless dove - despite a much higher GDP spend on offensive defence and terrorism - that a hawkish India does not want to reconcile with and to whom it wants to teach a lesson, for no reason whatsoever!

Bhagat's closing argument that India needs to have peace because "we can't afford to fight or stay prepared to fight for the next 20 years" sums up not only his abysmal ignorance about the fact that real peace between nations comes at a price, but also lays bare the same fatal misconception that led Nehru to say before 1962 that India does not need an Army and that its borders could be manned by the police.

Unfortunately for India, variants of this view continue to dominate India's security structure. Babus who have the NSA and the MOD in a vice-like grip, have no expertise in matters related to strategy and are also not accountable to anyone. Perhaps some of them are planning to get the government to agree to a surrender on Kashmir. Perhaps Bhagat's column has been sponsored as part of a plan to prepare the nation to meekly accept the impending unlocking of the main gate of the fortress called India.

So what if the fortress falls speedily after that, as it undoubtedly will. At worst India will be back to where it was a little over half a century ago, isn't it? Who cares!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Facing the challenge of China's military modernisation
2. China and India:winning wars vs defending the country
3. India's 'Power': weakness=virtue, strength=immorality
4. China and India: bully and forever bullied
5. Democracy, morality and national interest
6. Myanmar lost to China: India's encirclement complete
7. Diplomacy cannot counter China's challenge
8. China gets dangerous, but nothing can move India
9. Musharraf's shockers on terror, Kashmir and Indian Muslims
10. India, learn how to get Pakistan to walk