By Dr Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

India today exists in a seriously embattled security environment, far more than ever in the last sixty three years, with external military threats having acquired menacing and dangerously devious contours, by virtue of having intruded into India’s internal security domains. India’s Armed Forces have determinedly and innovatively strategized to meet the expanded military threats to India with the resources given to them and the political constraints imposed on them by the Government of the day in the last sixty three years. Regrettably, India’s military threats management stands politically flawed by the strategic naivety, lack of strategic vision and vulnerability to external pressures of its political leaders and its policy establishment. India’s political leadership has yet to display its ‘will to use power and exercise power’ in the service of India’s security interests.

The Indian Republic is a parliamentary democracy and the Prime Minister exercises control and direction of India’s Armed Forces and India’s strategic responses to the hovering military threats. If that be so then the Indian Prime Minister is charged with effective political management of the multiple military threats that India faces today. The buck stops with the Prime Minister and he is accountable for India’s security.

India’s two pronounced and major military threats are Pakistan and China, singly and in joint political, military and strategic collusion. India’s’ political leadership and the policy establishment needs to factor this harsh reality into their political, diplomatic and strategic policy formulations. India’s political leadership cannot resort to political and strategic ambiguities on this count and de-emphasize or devalue threats as that not only confuses and confounds those battling these threats on a daily basis but also tends to dull the sensitivities of the Republic’s citizens to the dangers lurking around them.

This subject can be a complete thesis by itself but then that is not the aim of this Paper. The aim of this Paper is to shed light on the flawed political management of the military threats to India by India’s political leadership in the present decade of the 21st Century when considerable lessons should have been learnt as a result of the external and internal conflicts that India has faced.

This Paper is intended for easy comprehension by India’s average readers so that they get sensitized to the looming threats that threaten the Indian Republic and is not crafted to prove one’s strategic mastery of issues.

Briefly therefore, this Paper would like to dwell on the following issues:

The Pakistan Military Threat Must Not be Politically De-Emphasized
The China Military Threat Management Needs Accelerated Approach
Indian Armed Forces War Preparedness: A Vulnerability Perceived by its Military Adversaries.
India’s Foreign Policy Formulations: Deficit of Strategic Component and Loss of Strategic Autonomy
The Pakistan Military Threat Must Not be Politically De-Emphasized

Pakistan has in the last sixty three years displayed a propensity to wage wars against India in 1947-48, in 1965, in 1971 and in 1999without any provocation from India. Strewn in the intervening period and alongside these wars has been the unleashing of proxy wars, state-sponsored terrorism and suicide bombings in heartland India.

Strategically, Pakistan Army which represents the Pakistan nation-state has exploited Islam as a religious force for holding Pakistan together, as a motivation for conflict for its Armed Forces and Islamic Jihad as a policy instrument of state by embracing and financing Islamic Fundamentalist terrorist organizations against India.

India’s political management of the Pakistan military threat has to be viewed at multiple political and military levels. The Indian political leadership is charged with the “intentions reading” of the Pakistani nation-state and the Indian Armed Forces with the assessment of the Pakistani threat in terms of capabilities and maintaining themselves in a high state of readiness.

The Indian political leadership and the policy establishment approaches to Pakistan are seriously flawed and stand in a state of “severe disconnect” with Pakistan’s demonstrated military intentions towards India and also with the mood of the vast majority of India’s citizens.

Pakistan’s “trust deficit with India is irreconcilable” and which stands examined in detail in my last Paper. Pakistan’s trust deficit with India arises from Pakistan Army being an implacable foe of India, recently re-asserted by Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani.

Hence there is no scope for any reconciliatory approaches for peace with Pakistan as long as peace with India emerges on the Pakistan Army agenda. While war is not advocated, India’s political leadership would be well advised to ignore Pakistan until such time the Pakistani masses arise and overthrow the yoke of the Pakistan Army.

In terms of the Indian Armed Forces meeting the Pakistani military threat in all its manifestations, it is imperative for the political leadership to ensure that the Pakistan Army is not able to reduce the Indian military superiority differential by in-flow of United States advance military equipment and military hardware from China.

In passing and which does have bearing on India’s political leadership management of the Pakistani military threat is the imperative of political stability and security of Indian States bordering Pakistan. Jammu& Kashmir is in violent turbulence and Punjab is likely to witness fresh turbulence being generated from Pakistan. Rajasthan maybe deceptively quiet but its long desert borders are porous and open for exploitation by Pakistan. Gujarat is unnecessarily being provoked on political grounds and being made vulnerable.

Politically, India cannot b e seen where the Defence Minister is being publicly questioned on Pakistan related issues by the Home Minister. Why should the Prime Minister and the Home Minister question the Armed Forces Special Powers Act when the ground situation in Kashmir Valley is further diabolically stirred up in yet another shift in strategy by the Pakistan Amy to offset the gains made by the Indian Army and frittered away by politician?

The China Military Threat Management Needs Accelerated Approach

The China military threat continues to be real and continues to persist though for a year or two it seemed that China may have shifted from her adversarial mode against India. That optimism was short-lived. In the last two three years China escalated tensions along India’s borders with Tibet in terms of border inclusions and transgressions. Uncannily this was happening in a strange coincidence with Pakistan Army breaking the four year old ceasefire in Kashmir with General Kayani taking over as Pak Army Chief.

China continues with supply of military hardware to Pakistan over and above what Pakistan gets from USA. The end game of China being to offset India’s military superiority against Pakistan. Media reports also indicate that China continues to assist Pakistan in the nuclear weapons and missiles field. China’s present focus is to build up the military capabilities of the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy.

China continues with it dilatory stance on the border settlement issue as it provides China with a pressure point against India. China has vastly upgraded its military infrastructure in Tibet and in close proximity to India’s borders to improve its war-waging capabilities.

Reverting to the political management of the China military threat by India’s’ political leaders, once again it needs to be viewed in the context of China’s “intentions reading” and the impact of China’s military buildup on India’s borders with Tibet.

India went seriously wrong on China’s “intentions reading” under Nehru. It cannot afford to go wrong a second time. India figures high in China’s threat perceptions when India both in terms of intentions and capabilities has not set any record as such. Chinese strategic analysts have gone to the extent of asserting in their writings that India needs to be taught a lesson again like 1962 and Chinese strategies need to focus on the fragmentation of India.

India’s political leaders have followed flawed approaches once again in not drawing the ‘redlines’ for China and whose transgression would be read as unfriendly to India and reflective of China’s real intentions.

In terms of the Indian Government’s response to Chinese up- gradation of military infrastructure in Tibet and on the Indian border with Tibet, some plans have been put underway but they are mired in inter-ministerial bureaucratic wrangles. It is reported that the new strategic roads sanctioned in the last few years are behind schedule as clearances by the Ministry of Environment are holding up progress. Is national security less important than environmental protection?

Apex level political leadership has to provide impetus in India’s upgradation of its military capabilities if the Indian Armed Forces are expected to provide a credible defensive deterrent against China.

Indian Armed Forces War Preparedness: A Vulnerability Perceived by its Military Adversaries

Even after six years of being in continuous power the present Indian Government, like its previous political counterpart has been oblivious to some major glaring deficiencies in the war preparedness of the Indian Armed Forces. These are the deficiency of 126 multi-role combat fighter planes for the Indian Air Force and air-defence radars. The Indian Air Force transport fleet of both transport aircraft and utility helicopters is woefully outdated.

The Indian Army’s requirement of thousands of its artillery guns has been held up for nearly a decade because of bureaucratic red-tapism in the contractual system. Surveillance radars for the thousands of kilometers of the Indo-Tibet border are scarce.

These are some of the major deficiencies that stand pointed out in the media and even in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report. No access is available to details of major deficiencies in spare parts inventories of weapon systems, communication equipment, and more significantly in the strategic reserves of logistics and fuel supplies.

For India’s political leadership war- preparedness of the Indian Armed Forces may just be reduced to a matter of statistics but for India’s military adversaries it becomes a vital factor in their military strategies and military planning against India.

No wonder within a couple of days of Mumbai 28/11 one had seen reports in the Pakistan media that India was incapable of retaliatory military strikes against Pakistan because of shortages in its war preparedness. Nothing could be a more damning indictment on the political management of India’s military threats.

India’s Foreign Policy Formulations: Deficit of Strategic Component and Loss of Strategic Autonomy

India logically should not have come to such a pass where it stands completely embattled by its military adversaries, had India’s political management of India’s military threats had not been flawed. The two major flaws have been the lack of strategic component in its foreign policy formulations and India’s loss of strategic autonomy.

Both these factors are interlinked as with loss of strategic autonomy, India’s foreign policy also lost sight of the strategic component that should have been factored in every foreign policy formulation.

This can best be illustrated by India’ strategic shift at the turn of the millennium in its foreign policy orientation from moving away from Russia to evolve the US-India Strategic Partnership. India painfully has started realizing now that in terms of countervailing power against China and Pakistan that it expected from USA, has not been forthcoming.

In going overboard on the US-India Strategic Partnership, especially under the present Indian Government, India’s policy approaches towards its most immediate military threat, namely Pakistan became increasingly being dictated by the Washington strategic template on South Asia focused strongly on Pakistan. India’s own Pakistan policy formulations stood superseded by American pressures.

Similarly on China, India has now come to realize that United States policy formulations on China did not factor-in India’s strategic imperatives beyond rhetoric.

As things stand today in the international arena, India is being perceived as a satellite of the United States without any corresponding gains for India’s national security. India itself is to blame for its distorted foreign policy formulations where in the last couple of years it stands reduced to the status of a “strategic co-equal” of Pakistan. Forget any recognition of its being a potential counterweight to China in Asian security.

Concluding Observations

If Indian military history since 1947 is any guide in terms of India’s military threats political management, it inexorably points that on every occasion when India stood embattled by its military adversaries, India’s political management of its military threats was seriously flawed in the preceding period. So also was the political neglect of the war preparedness of Indian Armed Forces.

India can longer expect strategically that it can successfully overcome armed inflicts by last minute crisis-management and reliance on the traditional valor of the Indian Armed Forces.

In a security environment when China as India’s long range military threat has upgraded it war-waging capabilities against India and Pakistan Army as India’s implacable foe has in an adept manner positioned itself strategically where both the United States and China feel obliged to bestow military hardware on Pakistan for ‘Balance of Power’ purposes, India’s political leadership has to awaken from its slumber and effectively provide the political management of India’s military threats and so also India’s war preparedness in a manner that India’s Armed Forces are not militarily handicapped or disadvantaged in any future conflict imposed by India’s military adversaries.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email: [email protected])


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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