Securing India’s rise

At the threshold of the second decade of this millennium, the defining security paradigm for India remains to successfully confront various security challenges to its economic growth and a peaceful rise to global pre-eminence. The unprecedented military rise and strategic assertiveness of China, the continual Pakistan-sponsored

terrorism and its consistent adversarial policies towards India and Afghanistan and the growing Naxal/Maoist menace are some of the formidable security challenges that confront India. As a steady nine per cent economic growth propels India to take its rightful place on the world stage, the path of peace and progress for India is strewn with roadblocks. Are we sufficiently gearing up to overcome these challenges and be deserving of a “seat at the high table” vexes the mind of most both within India and abroad. Would we shed an inexplicable timidity in macro decision-making and bureaucratic sluggishness to be what we deserve will be seen in this decade.
Notwithstanding many genuine peace overtures by India to China, the latter, unmindful of Indian sensitivities on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Arunachal Pradesh, has not only diluted its earlier stand on Indian sovereignty but mischievously altered it on both counts. Alarmingly, the Chinese perfidy has been witnessed in the dimensions of the International Border and the Line of Actual Control. India shares a 4,057-km border with China whereas it has come out with a startling statement that it shares only a 2,000-km border with India. India’s ambassador to China has inexplicably stated that we share a border of 3,488 km. The issue of the mystery of the “missing” thousands of kilometres in J&K and Arunachal Pradesh needs to be strongly addressed with the Chinese after our ministry of external affairs and ministry of defence reconcile their figures. The presence of a nearly 10,000 Chinese workforce, as reported by noted US journalist Selig Harrison, ostensibly for infrastructure projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), is indeed ominous from our security point of view. The Chinese undertake all policy steps with a long-term view of their interests and, as such, their stand now has to be most carefully analysed and corrective counter-measures put in place expeditiously by India. We need not be overly delighted by the growing Sino-Indian trade relationships as even the projected $100-billion trade with them is loaded in their favour. It is indeed reassuring that our government politely but firmly has stated its position in the joint statement issued at the end of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent visit. It was also in keeping with our democratic credentials for an Indian diplomat to attend the Chinese-boycotted Oslo Nobel Prize ceremony for Liu Xiaobo now in jail in China.
Pakistan, though displaying all the attributes of a failing state and being myopically anti-India in its stance, appears to have made its strategic future imperatives unmistakably clear. Firstly, with a weakening US-Nato footprint in Afghanistan, it would strongly play into US fears and its operational and logistical discomfiture in Afghanistan and thus extract the maximum in financial largesse and military equipment from the US. Secondly, for the price of the latest military equipment from the Chinese arsenal, like the JF-17 jets, F22P frigates, nuclear and missile technologies, besides billions in trade, Pakistan has reportedly allowed thousands of Chinese to be stationed in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Not surprisingly, the Pakistanis have stated that Gilgit-Baltistan will not be a part of any future negotiations on J&K. Patriotic Pakistanis may take heed of these sinister developments by the Pakistan Army for short-term military gains as the Chinese may become the neo-colonialists in this disputed region. On the other hand, the Indian security establishment must be mindful of the land threat dimension now to the already existing naval dimension of the Chinese encirclement of India via their “string of pearls” strategy.
The progress achieved in combating the Naxal/Maoist threat to our hinterland that affected about 220 districts, has to be stepped up. Central police organisations and state police set-ups have to improve their professional standards and grassroots intelligence-gathering capabilities to counter this home-grown scourge. However, political leaders, of all hues, must not politicise this threat for electoral gains and hamper the onerous task of the security forces. Our intelligence organisations must also keep a watch on any linkages being developed with these insurgents by either Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the Nepal-based Maoists or any Northeast-based insurgent groups.
With growing multi-dimensional threats to India’s security, it is critical for the Government of India and the three services to craft out a long-term coherent strategy. The Indian armed forces must be expeditiously given the latest wherewithal, especially in all four-dimension strategic weaponry, including space. The reach of the Indian Navy with an assortment of “blue water” assets, the Indian Air Force (IAF) with strategic trans-continental capabilities and the Army with an adequate offensive and defensive lethal punch has to ensure at the earliest. With the IAF punch already depleting, the induction of the long-awaited 126 multi-role combat aircraft must be expedited besides ensuring timely induction of the fifth-generation fighters being developed jointly with Russia. The Indian Navy and the Integrated Andaman and Nicobar Command will have to be suitably strengthened given the ever-increasing forays by the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean. Our armed forces must be fully geared to operate in a nuclear scenario and be able to field an effective nuclear triad, if required, besides meeting the challenges of information warfare which the Chinese have already mastered and with its cyber capabilities “hacked” many sensitive networks of the US.
Meanwhile, India must encourage indigenous private-public partnerships in the research and manufacturing of state-of-the-art weaponry. As it furthers a defence partnership with its “strategic ally”, the US, it will be prudent to expand military linkages with Russia, Israel and France. We need to continue enlarging our developmental footprint in Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics besides endeavouring to re-establish close ties with Iran. Overall, this decade will surely be of much reckoning for an emerging India.

Kamal Davar was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency

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