Archive for September, 2010

WHO IS AFRAID OF THE CHINESE DRAGON

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

WHO IS AFRAID OF THE CHINESE DRAGON?

The reported presence of about 11000 Chinese soldiers being in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir has recently made headlines in the print and electronic media. China is the second largest economy in the world and has the largest ground forces. Its foreign exchange reserve is about seven times that of India. Its defense budget is about five times that of India. It has formidable nuclear weapons and missile capabilities which are far superior to that of India. It is a provider of large scale economic and military aid to Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It also provides military training to the armed forces of these countries. It has three major disputes with India, Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh and presence of Dalai Lama in India which simply cannot be solved. It has humiliated India in a war in 1962. It may be getting ready to repeat history.

However, I am not really afraid of the Chinese Dragon. I acknowledge that China is a much bigger economic and military power than India. I acknowledge that China has successfully used India “big brother” bogey and economic and military aid to wean away India’s neighbors into its sphere of influence. I recognize the possibility of our neighbors siding with China in a future conflict. I acknowledge that Eastern Command and Arunachal Pradesh are inadequately defended. But China has its own problems of unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang Provinces and the possibility of class war between the urban rich and the rural poor, millions of whom have been rendered jobless as China’s exports fell and factories closed. It is also inconceivable that the world would continue to allow cheap imports from China ruin their economies. Chinese soldiers are not supermen. They have seen far less action than Indian Army has. I have full faith in the fighting abilities of the Indian jawans and young officers. They have fought numerically superior, better equipped armies to the last man, last round at the citadel of Skardu, the snowbound slopes of Rezang La, at the untenable defenses at the bridges on Namka Chu and the isolated defenses of Walong. They have captured Haji Pir, Tiger Hill, Tololing to name a few.

I am afraid of the Indian political system where the mission of the party in power is not to make India a strong, vibrant country, but to engage in compulsive populism to ensure victory in the next elections, spending billions of Rupees on schemes like NEREGA which is destroying rural work culture, ruining agriculture and taking corruption to unprecedented levels. The parties in power are providing free electricity to villages, slums and making electricity production and distribution economically unviable, providing subsidized petroleum products at the cost of the nationalized oil production and distributing companies and taking them to the verge of collapse or foreign takeover. Thus we do not have money to fill vacancies in the police, paramilitary forces, of teachers, health workers and even judges. We do not have money to increase power generation, to provide drinking water or improve infrastructure. We do not have the political will to establish the rule of law, to carry out police reforms, to stop misuse of VIP privileges, get MP s and MLA s, government departments and bureaucrats from not paying their electricity and telephone bills and vacating government accommodation when they are no longer authorized to occupy them. We do not have the will to make government servants and ministers accountable for their acts of omissions and commissions such as rotting of thousands of tons of wheat. Can such a political system ever produce a strong India? I pine for a benevolent dictator who will sweep out the ills which plague our political system and reintroduce constitutional propriety, rule of law, accountability in government departments and provide safety and security to the man on the street.

I am afraid of the timidity of our political leadership. Small countries like Iran, North Korea, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Venezuela, Hezbolla and even Hamas can defy American dictates. But our leaders, leaders of a country of over one billion people which has the fourth largest armed forces in the world and the fifth largest economy, seem to shiver at the thought of invoking American displeasure. Pakistan can say that there can be no permanent peace with India unless Kashmir is granted independence but India cannot say that there will not be any bilateral relations between India and Pakistan unless Pakistan stops its soil from being used for terrorist attacks on India. If Vajpayee had the courage of Lal Bahadur Shastri, he would have ordered the Indian Army not only to recapture all heights captured by Pakistanis at Kargil including Pt.3535 but also Skardu, the base through which all the military actions in the sector take place. It would have helped the souls of the soldiers who defended Skardu and were lined up and shot after surrendering when their ammunition ran out and their wives and daughters who were raped, rest in peace. If he had an iota of feeling for the Indian jawans, he would have filed war crimes charges against Pakistan for the brutal torture, dismembering and killing of Lieutanat Kalia and the five jawans who were captured by the enemy on the first day of the Kargil war. I am ashamed to hear our prime minister say that “war is not an option”. War is very much an option of state policy. It has been so for centuries and will continue to be so. India must always be ready for it. It is the duty of our political leaders to defend our country and our economic sovereignty and interest, to uphold the constitution and rule of law. If they are incapable of doing so, let them resign. I pine for a strong leader who is a nationalist like Subhash Chandra Bose (Netaji), Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mrs Indira Gandhi or President Rajapakshe of Srilanka who can ignore external and internal pressures from vested interests and do what is best for the country.

I am afraid of our senior military leadership. For years, military planning has been based on the assumption, “There will be no war and if there is war, I will not be there to fight it.” Every senior commander, who has ever disagreed with the threat perception of his senior or has stated that the resources allotted to him are inadequate for the task allotted, has been passed over for promotion. Promotions are not made in a transparent manner. Extreme data which do not conform to established trends are rejected in any statistical analysis. But rejections and promotions in the defense forces are usually based on the lowest marks in annual confidential reports (usually a result of a professional disagreement or an ego clash with a superior) or sudden unexplained jump in marks (usually a result of favoritism or nepotism). The situation is so bad that almost every senior officer who is passed over for promotion files a statutory complaint or goes to court claiming injustice. With almost the entire senior hierarchy of the armed forces focused on promoting their careers, where is the time for monitoring operational preparedness, training, morale of troops (over a 150 soldiers commit suicide every year) and other frivolous issues. Who cares if there is a shortage of snow mobiles in Siachin, bulletproof vests in insurgency areas or shortage of young officers? (The problem of shortage of young officers is not new. It was there in 1990, it is still there twenty years later in 2009 and it will continue. If the Army was keen to solve it, it would have. But they are not. If any one wants the solution, I have it.) Who cares if a MiG 21 or 27 goes down and kills the pilot? I pine for military leaders like General Jayant Chowdhury, Air Marshall Engineer, General L P Sen, General Harbaksh Singh, General Sam Manekshaw, General P S Bhagat and General Sardeshpande whose impeccable professional abilities, integrity, leadership qualities and values inspired thousands of their followers to give their best.

I am afraid of India’s pacifist intellectuals like Praful Bidwai who give more importance to creating goodwill than military power as an instrument of state policy. I do not know if their articles are sponsored by countries and lobbies who do not want to see a strong and sovereign India. Nehru tried to cultivate goodwill with China. Short of handing over Dalai Lama and conceding Arunachal, he did everything. We know the results. Vajpayee tried to create good will with Pakistan. He started people to people contacts, introduced bus and train services and encouraged trade. The result was easier inflow of ISI agents, easier inflow of drugs, fake currency and weapons, more terrorist attacks on India and Pakistani occupation of Kargil. He even invited Musharraf only to be rebuffed at the Agra summit. These pacifists are always confusing the people and lulling them into complacency. India can survive a hundred years of hostility with Pakistan more comfortably than Pakistan can. So there is no need to submit to Pakistani threats and give away Kashmir or accept terrorism. Terrorist bases in POK must be destroyed. Let Pakistan go to war if it chooses to. It has done that four times and achieved nothing. It can never defeat India.

I am afraid that India’s luck in armed conflicts with its neighbors may not last. Pakistan failed to grab Kashmir in 1947, not because India anticipated the attack and was ready to defend Kashmir. They failed because they stopped to loot and rape Baramula and because of the sacrifices of a few companies of Jammu and Kashmir State Army who held out long enough for Indian Army reinforcements to arrive and stop the enemy. India did not survive the Chinese attacks in 1962 because of its ability to defend itself. It had, for all purposes, surrendered Arunachal Pradesh along with the part of Assam which lay on the north bank of the Bramhaputra River when China decided to declare cease fire and withdrew to the positions from where they had started. Pakistan failed to breakout of the bridgehead it had established at Khemkaran opposite Kasur (Pakistan) during the 1965 Indo-Pak War because an accidental flooding bogged down the Pakistani tanks and an isolated Indian section, the only one that had not fled in face of the Pakistani assault, killed the Pakistani armored brigade commander in a freak ambush and held up the breakout by a day. This allowed the Indian Army to plug the gaps in defenses and finally prevail at the battle of Assal Uttar. Pakistan failed to capture Jaisalmer during 1971 Indo Pak War with an armored thrust because the Pakistani thrust lost their way and were held up by the a valiant infantry company only to be picked up by the Indian Air Force in the morning and destroyed from the air. I pray that India will not have to depend on luck or the hand of God to save it from disaster during the next war.

Pacifists have not learned the lessons from history. The Mauryan Empire reached its peak during the rule of Ashoka the Great. Ashoka became a pacifist after the Battle of Kalinga in 263 BCE and neglected military matters. After Ashoka died in 232 BCE, the Mauryan Empire, which stretched from Afghanistan to the Godavari River, collapsed within fifty years. Kanishka was the greatest of the Kushana kings. He became a Buddhist and neglected military matters. The Kushana Empire collapsed within fifty years of his death. Nehru was a pacifist. He led India to its most humiliating military defeat since independence. War is very much an option for nations that value their sovereignty and independence, even if it is the option of last resort. From the time of Sun Tzu (500 BCE), it is recognized that the only pragmatic and prudent approach to threat perception and defense preparedness is to go by the capability and not the intention of our possible adversaries. Intentions can change with a change of government or a head of state. And in today’s violent and volatile world, governments and intentions can change overnight. But it takes tens of years and trillions of Rupees to build a credible military deterrence that will discourage our neighbors from military misadventures.

May God save India, not only from its enemies but also from its pacifists and political leaders.