50 years of Independence : Strategic Review

04 Aug, 1997    ·   4

Lt. Gen. V.K. Sood (Retd) gives a strategic review of 50 years since India's independence

The end of the Cold War has left India with a double strategic burden : the regional security matters have become more complex and international system is in a state of flux. There is a debate whether geo-economics rather than geo-politics will guide the world moving towards multi-polarity and made smaller by globalisation of trade, commerce and communications. States are moving towards " collective security" to minimise defence spending and devote resources for the betterment of their people. NATO has redefined itself, though it is unclear against whom. The United Nations is revitalising to don the new mantle of collective security. Regional groupings like the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the ASEAN Regional Forum have emerged.



The concept of collective security and collaboration in defence are anathema to India because the Soviet Union provided both in disguise. India believed that it was non-aligned during the cold war. It still extols the virtues of non-alignment despite its irrelevance in the changed world. In an age when even developed states are seeking partnership in defence research and procurements to make it cost-effective and state-of-the- art, India talks of total self-reliance by indigenisation. While it is necessary to become self-sufficient in certain critical areas like missiles and specialised ammunition, there is little reason to dilute scarce resources on ab-initio building of expensive weapon platforms like tanks, ships and aircraft. India?s regional security situation has worsened. China and Pakistan - both with nuclear weapons and territorial disputes with India - openly share conventional and unconventional weapons technology.



China has emerged as the only power in Asia capable of restraining the United States and posing credible threat to South and Southeast Asia . China?s ability to influence events in Iran , Central Asian republics, Pakistan and even Afghanistan is real. China has entered into a strategic partnership with Russia and Israel , and is seeking to expand its strategic borders much beyond its geographic borders. There is a proliferation of missiles in India?s neighbourhood. Pakistan sees an opportunity to dismember and wrest Jammu and Kashmir by the ongoing eight year old- proxy war which continues unabated. Over 20,000 people have died. The Central Asian Republics which straddle some of the world?s richest deposits of hydrocarbons and minerals have emerged as an arena of great power rivalry with the Unite States, Russia, China , Iran and Pakistan active in the fray. Considering Afghanistan holds the key to economic stability and thereby political stability in the region by providing the shortest land route from the Central Asian Republic to the sea, Pakistan?s strategic importance in the eyes of other players, especially the United States , has grown. Pakistan has emerged as a front-line state in United States? geo-strategic calculations.



India s role in its own backyard of Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics has been eclipsed by Pakistan . The "Gujral doctrine" for South Asia which proclaims that India does not seek reciprocity with smaller neighbours is flawed as it does not include Pakistan . As long as China?s lengthened shadow falls over Pakistan , relations between Pakistan and India will remain strained both within the SAARC and bilaterally. The ASEAN states collectively do not see much role for India because politically, their concerns are China which has been engaged through its Diaspora, and how to smoothen disparities between its poor and rich members. Economically, India is viewed as politically unstable where true liberalisation is distant. The incipient Indian Ocean Rim Initiative is seeking co-operation in trade and commerce amongst its members at India?s insistence. As its ultimate aim is to free the region from military rivalries, India?s weak navy will be an impediment for a strong diplomatic role in shaping the aspirations of littoral states of the Indian Ocean .



Regarding global nuclear disarmament, India?s stand on the NPT, the CTBT and the MTCR is both consistent and principled. While India has successfully resisted great power hegemony, its prevarication in clearly spelling out its nuclear weapon policy, especially against a hovering nuclear threat from China and Pakistan , is intriguing. By not signing the CTBT, India is keeping its weapon testing option open. A logical course for India is to formulate and pursue a nuclear weapon development programme. This would include development and operationalisation of miniaturised warheads, delivery means, target acquisition systems and satellite based communications.



A neglected area is an institutionalised forum like a National Security Council to holistically debate national security issues. This is necessary to assess actual threats, review security interests, and formulate a national security doctrine by a formal interaction between concerned ministries and intelligence agencies. Another urgent reform is to make the military a part of the Defence ministry so that military policy and strategy is realistic and attainable. This will lead to a re-think on force levels - for the Army, a manpower reduction is possible, and modernisation of the three services by timely and cost-effective procurements.



A definite outcome of having a National Security Council will be a diplomatic and military focus on China . A growing China threat and a need to effectively deal with Pakistan over Kashmir by maintaining a military edge should be a high priority with India?s planners.