India has the potential to be to Asia what America is to the world - a symbol of hope, liberty and freedom.
Closed societies like China or Pakistan do not fit the bill. Due to authoritarian regimes in Beijing and Islamabad, in times to come they will remain preoccupied with growing internal societal turmoil.
Therefore, they will naturally tend to threaten democratic India, militarily and with the help of their irregular forces to divert attention from the brewing internal storm. Also because on one hand, the Indian democracy negates their authoritarian philosophy, and on the other, the Union is perceived as a soft target to be conquered or ruptured.
But technology driven 21st century cannot be China’s century in Asia as is being touted by its proxy Pakistan or the Chinese themselves. Simply because these are very brittle, regressive and perpetually paranoid societies. Societies that cannot sustain such enlarged influence and get into an over reach. While the People’s Liberation Army, the largest in the world, consists of 3.5 million soldiers to project power, Beijing employs whopping 21 million to police internal dissent.
Military threat from such dictatorial regimes to free societies like India will increase as the western democracies retreat from Asia. There already exists a severe trust deficit between China and the small countries in the region.
India is the perhaps the only country in Asia that can boast of the potential to occupy the strategic high ground gradually being vacated by the retreating western forces, provided it develops offensive orientation at the political level.
Unlike China, its soft power increasingly impacts on Asia. The young demographic profile will continue to propel Indian economy to greater heights at least till end of 2050. China’s ageing profile shows trends that it will, first grow old then rich, unlike Japan, which grew rich then old. India if governed fairly well, will grow rich and then old like Japan.
India’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society is the melting pot in Asia that benefits from rich diversity and open society. However, it is not as fortunate to be situated geographically in a safe haven like America, which is surrounded by nations with similar values.
THE HISTORICAL THREAT
Historically, the direction of demographic flow for centuries saw invasions from Central Asia to capture Delhi. Every fifty to hundred years, the subcontinent due to the genius of natives tends to generate wealth. From time immemorial this attracted hordes of invaders from Central Asia. Delhi Durbar was unable to defend itself as it neglected its military. Time and again, the rulers in Delhi were subjugated, as their incompetence in wielding the military was pathological.
Once again India is generating vast wealth. Once again it refuses to defend it!
Despite historical lessons of defeat at the hands of marauding armies, Delhi Durbar’s incompetence and ignorance in equipping the excellent military machine inherited from the British is again on display.
Today the danger of disruption to the Union is much higher than in the previous centuries. Worse, the lack of offensive orientation in political thinking degrades the ability of the military to defend the Union from the extraordinary threat developing on its borders.
The level of danger continues to creep north from “orange” to “red” on our land borders primarily on two counts. First, as a deception plan Pakistan on its birth professed to be secular, while in reality the leaders wanted a purely Islamic state. As a result the minority Hindu population of more than thirteen percent in a population of 76 million in 1947 got reduced to barely two percent even as the population of Pakistan increased in 2004 to 156 million.
After refusing to share power with the Bengalis in the East and breaking up their country, the Pakistani Sunnis, not satisfied with this calibrated purge, now want to eliminate the Shias and expel the Ahmadiyas from Islam.
In its devious journey towards fundamentalist Islam, it also wants to lock the women folk inside their homes under Taliban diktat, thus negating fifty percent of its population. This dangerous religious philosophy based on extreme form of imported Wahabi Islam is intolerant of worldview of others, wields nuclear weapons, nurtures a Talibanised army that runs a large irregular guerrilla force solely motivated by Islamic fundamentalism, and partners with China.
The ideology of Pakistan is in direct confrontation with the values cherished by India.
Worse, Pakistan’s financial bankruptcy exacerbates the internal instability. This in turn provides cheap human resource, to be used as cannon fodder, by the Jihad Factory run by the ISI. One feeds on the other. Islamic fundamentalism occupies Pakistan’s political space that in turn negates Indian influence, which wisely extended up to Afghanistan during British rule. It was the British Indian Army that kept a check on the repeat of a history of invasions from Central Asia.
Ironically, instead of consolidating and integrating Kashmir, pacifist New Delhi is permitting the birth of a similar pocket of influence with extreme philosophy in the valley that will come back to haunt India in the near future.
THE THREAT FROM NORTH
Second, to add to the woes of New Delhi, a bigger threat in addition to the existing one is posed by communist China.
While too much ‘god’ motivates Pakistan, China pretends to be a ‘godless’ state.
Unlike nations that boast of an army, in Pakistan the army owns the state.
On the other hand, in China the People’s Liberation Army is loyal to the Chinese Communist Party and not the state. Dissent in both is a ‘no-no’ in varying degrees. Both, Pakistan and China, unlike India are paranoid about open societies.
Thus, Beijing and Islamabad share commonality of purpose and together direct their energies to upstage India in international forums, on the borders and by fomenting internal dissent. In a unique ‘jointmanship,’ Islamabad clandestinely transfers sensitive defence technology it receives from the west to Beijing on ‘barter basis’ as there is ban on transfer to China!
The concurrent rise of China and India pits them against each other, as they compete for the same resources, but one with an authoritarian regime that is scared of the Dalai Lama and Google, and the other with a free society that revels in religion, Dalai Lama and Google.
The threat from China was evident from its maps in 1946. Mao with the help of these maps described Tibet as the palm of a hand with its five fingers - Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and NEFA as Chinese territories that needed to be liberated. Tibet was liberated by force while New Delhi slept. Nepal found India’s refusal to defend Tibet as a sign of an unreliable ally and thought it prudent to open communications with Beijing.
Today India stands encircled by China.
THE THREAT PERCEPTION
To be supreme in Asia, and impelled by the necessity to divert the attention from the growing internal turmoil, Beijing is likely to design a limited but visible military victory in a joint strategy with Islamabad. Pakistan under severe threat of fragmentation would be more than a willing ally.
With Afghanistan being abandoned by the West, beginning July 2011, Islamabad will craft a strategy to take over Kabul with the help of Islamic fundamentalist groups.
The irony is that in the aftermath of the exit of the West, the Taliban will occupy the Parliament being built by India in Kabul and connive disruption from there of the Indian Union.
These groups will not target the West immediately since the latter retains the ability to re-intervene once inaction is deemed as ‘suicidal’.
The Taliban will initially concentrate on unraveling a soft target like India in concert with Beijing -Islamabad -Kabul or Chinese Communists- Pakistan Army- Irregular Forces axis.
The physical threat to India will materialize in 2012, after the exit of the American forces from Afghanistan. Earlier India had to contend with a single threat from its West/Central Asia. Now another threat posed from the North under a joint strategy between China and Pakistan has emerged.
The developing scenario suggests that henceforth GHQ Rawalpindi will further orchestrate provocation against India to regain lost ground in J&K by way of rallies in PoK or Lahore and through military machinations on our borders. It will provide fillip to terrorist attacks, export of fake currency, inserting terrorists in India through Nepal, activation of sleeper cells, and raising controversy on non-issues like water.
Beijing, while talking ambiguously up to the 2012 buildup, will continue to support the Maoists in Nepal and step up training and funding to Maoists in India. The intensity of Cyber War will meanwhile increase.
In nutshell, the objective will be to keep India off balance.
By 2012, to unravel India, Beijing is likely to para-drop a division of its Special Forces inside the Siliguri Corridor to sever the Northeast.
There will be simultaneous attacks in other parts of the border and linkup with the Special Forces holding the Siliguri Corridor will be effected. All these will take place under the nuclear overhang.
In concert, Islamabad will activate the second front to unhook Kashmir by making offensive moves across the IB in the plains and the desert to divide Indian reaction capability. Meanwhile the fifth columnists supporting these external forces will unleash mayhem inside.
Two key question for New Delhi:
1. Will India go nuclear if its territorial integrity is threatened? France’s stated policy is that it will use the nuclear option, if Germany is attacked. Germany is not likely to face a nuclear adversary, yet France will use nuclear option if it is attacked. India faces threat from two nuclear powers in its vicinity. Will India shift its stated position of second strike to first strike, if the territorial integrity of the Union is under threat?
2. Will New Delhi have the gumption to order the Navy to retaliate and stop the flow of cargo in the Indian Ocean being freighted to China? Or will it order the Air Force to conduct offensive and decisive strategic strikes inside Tibet?
New Delhi requires to develop offensive orientation in its thinking for the answers to be in affirmative. India has produced more than its share of great thinkers in civil affairs.
However, being a pacifist society, it does not boast of a single military thinker of repute.
Therefore, we should not hesitate to import knowledge from the best military thinkers to create an assertive society, just as we need to import the best defence technologies to set up the most modern defence industry hub that ensures expansion of democratic space in Asia.
The ideal opportunity for China to dismember India is between 2011 and 2014 on multiple counts.
First, to divert attention from the growing dissent within.
Second, beyond this period, Pakistan as a fragmented nation may not exist to support the Chinese.
Third, the change of generation by 2015 will witness an assertive India.
Fourth, the new Indian assertiveness will ensure rapid modernization of the Armed Forces with robust military capabilities.
And last but not the least, given the fact it does not pose threat to any country, India will create strong international alliances. It is in a unique position, and gets along well with the West, as well as countries like Russia and others. In fact, the international opinion will decisively tilt in favour of India if it shrewdly deals with the powerful geo-economic card held in the arsenal. The answer to the outlined nightmare stares India on its face.
India simply needs to take out the cost-benefit ratio from the game plan of the opponent by rapidly acquiring the requisite military muscle that outguns and outclasses the adversary.
War is akin to business. If there is no cost-benefit ratio, it cannot be imposed!
Such assertive actions will also naturally propel India in Asia as the most influential player and arrest the slide of retreating democracies.
Bharat Verma is the editor of Indian Defence Review
Map Courtesy Indian Defence Review. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.