BY MALOY KRISHNA DHAR
Political history and destiny of a nation is determined by its geophysical borders as well geopolitical and geostrategic borders. India’s political and cultural borders, from ancient times, waxed and waned with the might of arms and foresight of its dynastic rulers. Later traditions had put Hindukush (massacre of the Hindus) as the western border that ran down to present Balochistan and to the Arabian Sea. This border was violated by various invaders till the British Empire succeeded in drawing the temporary Durand Line demarcating British India and Afghanistan. That part of the border between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran has become fluid by the impact of Taliban movement, Pakhtunkhwa and independent Balochistan movements. Pakistan’s political geography had changed once in 1971. Future borders of Pakistan are in the anvil of history in making. In case Pakistan collapses under homegrown and global Islamist jihadist thrust both Balochistan and Pakhtun areas may declare independence or incline towards Afghanistan and Iran respectively. Sind has the propensity to incline towards India. Therefore, in this sector of India’s western borders future developments may bring in more changes. History may prove that boundaries drawn in 1947 were not destined to be permanent.
India’s present political boundary is not its natural geophysical boundary and its geostrategic boundary may be redefined with India accruing strength to emerge as a global power. Indian’s are attuned to the idea of a country having borders with China, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Very few are aware that our borders are demarcated and mutually accepted with Bangladesh (touching Mizoram, Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal), Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. For geophysical purpose these borders are internationally honored but in practice, these are melting borders. Illegal border crossing from Bangladesh and Nepal are rampant and India has no reliable statistics of Bangladeshi and Nepalese nationals staying in the country, almost all over the length and breadth of the nation with concentrations in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Unofficial estimate indicate that at any given point of time there are nearly 7 to 8 million Bangladeshi nationals illegally staying in India in connivance with political parties and local influential Muslims. In Delhi NCR region there are about 7 lakh Bangladeshi nationals. Out of ten household helping hands 5 depend on Bangladeshi nationals who adopt false Hindu names. These people assume Hindu name and work in middle class homes for pittance and in the general service sector say rickshaw puller, fish and vegetable vendors etc out of ten minimum 3 are Bangladeshi males. Even in a prosperous state like Punjab out of 100 agricultural labour 30 are Bangladeshi nationals.
Most Indians are unaware that the tiny state of Mizoram (in the finger like projection into Myanmar) out of a million people nearly 80,000 is migrants of Chin origin from the Sagaing Division of Myanmar. They flee Myanmar due to economic distress and uncertain law and order situation. Such ethnic migration in Manipur and Mizoram are common. Though tension often breaks out between the Mizos and the Chins the two have started living together separately. This is a very fluid border of India. The gradual growth of a still non-violent movement for a homeland for Chin origin people, ZORAM, with territories from India and Myanmar may cause serious concern in near future.
Nepali nationals are not even treated as foreigners. Most of them try to pass on as West Bengal Nepali, Uttarakhand dwellers and having drifted in from Manipur and Assam. In the general service sector Indian average is about 10 “Gorkhas” out of 40 in security duties, 3 out of 10 in domestic sectors and 3 out of 10 in miscellaneous sectors. It is difficult to assess the floating Nepalese population in India. A rough estimate is that about 1 million Nepalese nationals live in India at any given point of time. There is an advantage with this population. Some of them return to Nepal after amassing some wealth, but the incoming flow is incessant and unstoppable. The danger with Bangladeshi population is that they stay put permanently and more and more are added. Therefore, political borders with Bangladesh and Nepal are melting in nature. The “Line” is there only to be violated. Indian system has not developed to check the real number of Indians in India and “fake Indians” staying on and new flows being added. This silent demographic change adds to security implications and gives rise to newer political realities that pose threat to national unity. We would comment on security implication of this in later paragraphs.
Indian minds are periodically stirred by media reports about frequent border violation by China from land and air. As is the won’t of Indian people, “TV patriotism” is the only symptom of patriotic fervor left outside the organised forces; they do not emotionally feel about the national borders and its sanctity. The vast majority, outside the informed section, try to realize that India’s Northern and Northwestern borders are volcanic in nature. A few media reports followed by governmental sop agitate and opiate public minds, which are marginally alert. The vast majority are not even bothered. Televisions can titillate patriotic feeling. But patriotic perception and realistic understanding basically come through early school education and upbringing as adolescents and youths. Our system has failed in this vital sector.
India’s China border with the entire Arunachal Pradesh (McMahon Line) is not accepted by China. It opposes even when the Indian President visits the state, Dalai Lama is allowed to visit Tawang and when the Asian Development Bank offers loans to Arunachal. Even friendly countries like Japan and South Korea supported China’s objection in the last ADB meeting. In average every year this sector of the border is violated by China nearly 85 times. Chinese troops enter into the Arunachal borders and camp for a few days before returning. Indian authorities mostly come to know from local villagers. Rarely Indian troops visit the LAC and patrol the disputed areas. The IB and RAW border posts often detect such violations.
The entire northern border between Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh (Northern Area of Pakistan and Kashmir area ceded by Pakistan to China excluded) with China are shown in “red” meaning “disputed”. In this sector average yearly border violation by China is around 75. Since India is not in a position to bring up with Pakistan the question of restoration of entire territory of Jammu & Kashmir as demarcated in the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, we would exclude that part from our present discussions.
Therefore, these borders are volcanic in nature. In international geostrategic game plan these borders may become live issues for war between India, Pakistan and China. In such a war China would obviously side with Pakistan and vice versa. Mere diplomacy cannot cool a volcano but may temporarily spread a dust cover to pass time and hope for the best. In international relationship hope is the wiliest dame. She ditches every time one hopes and prays for the best. Conscious Indians have to bear the Think Tank’s meaningless word-spinning and government’s helpless trust that diplomacy alone can bury the history. Diplomacy has never solved, anywhere in the world, alive and burring border problems. Mostly these are settled and unsettled by wars. The border disputes have been discussed with China several times, every meeting ending with bitterness. Pity India would be ready for wars in near future to force China to accept India’s perception of its geopolitical borders.
If this disturbing picture of India’s international boundary does not disturb the readers let us have a look at an international map, where so-called disputed areas are marked red as disputed borders between India, China and Pakistan. Except China’s border with Bhutan, Indian state of Sikkim and Nepal the rest of the border is claimed to be disputed by China.
Amidst media reports about frequent Chinese incursions into Indian claimed territory, the government played it cool by reiterating that present instances of border violation had not exceeded figures of earlier incursions. They have not denied the facts of incursions.
Pakistan has taken moves for legislating new administrative provisions for the Northern Area (Gilgit-Skardu) possibly allowing a puppet assembly and some fringe civil powers which were being controlled by Islamabad. India has lodged another protest as officially the entire Jammu & Kashmir had acceded to India. Pakistan, on the other hand, has resumed ceasefire violation along the LoC and even in demarcated borders with Jammu region. Despite Ceasefire Agreement the LoC itself has become volatile. If some Pakistani reports are correct the jihadi tanzeems like LeT and Taliban have started aiming rockets at Indian villages in Punjab.
Strategic thinkers, who do not subscribe to Chinese lobby, have started drawing a picture that depicts China’s strategic efforts to “encircle” India from all possible sides. Besides building modern roads along Indo-Tibet borders, new Chinese Air Force formations have been stationed at such locations from where India can be easily targeted. Nuclear capable missile bases have been set up in Tibet region for the first time. We propose to touch upon the probable and feasible strategic gridlocks between India-China-Pakistan in later paragraphs. I put China and Pakistan together whenever India’s strategic concerns are involved. Pakistan issue cannot be solved minus China issue and vice versa. China and Pakistan are umbilical strategic allies-proved better by recent revelation by A Q Khan’s damning letter to his wife disclosing the nexus between Pakistan and China.
However, the media and the people need not panic. Indian policy makers are alive of the situation and they are using all possible measures to contain China on the unresolved border issue.
China had always maintained a large military presence in Tibet. Reports say it moved in 20,000 troops from the 3rd Army Corps in Chengdu and the 13th Army in Lanzhou by early 1987, along with heavy artillery and helicopters. Around April 1987 it had moved 8 divisions to eastern Tibet as a threatening posture. India reciprocated with Operation Falcon in late 1986, and continued through early 1987 under Exercise Chequerboard. This massive air-land exercise involved 10 Divisions of the Indian Army and several squadrons of the IAF. The Indian Army moved 3 divisions to positions around Wangdung, where they were supplied solely by air. These reinforcements were over and above the 50,000 troops already present across Arunachal Pradesh. The backup troop positioning has taken place in 2008-2009 and existing airbases have been upgraded to accommodate most advanced Sukhoi and other aircraft. Missile batteries capable of hitting southern China and eastern Tibet are also in position. Since 1986 India China border has not witnessed any major exchange of firing.
An Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas was signed on 7 September 1993. New Delhi and Beijing initiated in February 1994 to foster “confidence-building measures” between the defense forces. During President Jiang Zemin’s visit to India in November 1996, the Governments of China and India signed the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the China-India Border Areas, which is an important step for the building of mutual trust between the two countries. These agreements are not inviolable. But in international relations such agreements have some kind of legal values. India would continue to use diplomatic tools to defer armed conflict, even of limited duration.
Though lot had been done during the Sino-Indian official border talks, with number of border related CBMs put in place, the border issue remains mired in various bilateral and domestic compulsions and contradictions on both sides. Border ‘bickering’ between India and China are not rare, and arise from the very real disagreements that exist between the two sides in demarcating the LAC on the ground. Such incidents have usually been handled, not in full media glare, but by the two sides discreetly withdrawing to their earlier positions.
During the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China in June 2003 the two countries signed a Memorandum on Expanding Border Trade, which adds Nathula as another pass on the India-China border for conducting border trade. During Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in April 2005, the two sides signed an agreement on political settlement of the boundary issue, setting guidelines and principles. In the agreement, China and India affirmed their readiness to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary issue through equal and friendly negotiations. Since then several rounds of border talks have taken place. Reports of a few violations, intentional or accidental, therefore, require deep attention of the government; there is no need for media outcry.
Indians are required to take cognizance of the live border issue with China and live with reports of occasional transgression as the entire border is not demarcated and both China and India have different perceptions on the issue. Perceptions can be fought over the battleground, provided a nation is ready to go to war on such vexed and chronic issues. In terms of near-future history diplomacy and geostrategic moves and international power-play are the best weapons. As long as the government of India and custodians of the Establishment are aware of the threats and the degree of own and enemy’s progress in military preparedness there is no need for hysteric war cry. But the media has a role to play as conscience keeper of the people. In my view neither India nor China is ready to fight any war in near future. No such war can be conclusive. China, according to international observers, may create diversionary strategic moves on Indian borders to divert world attention from its increased military activities in Uyghur Autonomous Region, Tibet and Golmund and Quinghai regions. In recent months massive military movements have taken place to these areas and China suspects that India, in collaboration with the USA, may generate more unrest in the troubled regions of its western territories. India has taken cognizance of such strategic moves and has started beefing up army and air defences in the regions.
However, India has to remain prepared for facing the ultimate truth of history. No unresolved issue should be kept hanging for centuries. Vagueness in history often leads to national belligerence and devastating wars. Is India getting ready for that eventuality? We would examine while discussing the comparative combat resources of China and India as well as that of Pakistan. As commented earlier, China and Pakistan are required to be studied as a possible Joint Command against India.
According to Department of Defense reports of the USA for 2006, China’s military expenditure was estimated to be 80 billion US dollars. The actual Chinese military capabilities and budget are hedged under camouflaged heads of expenditure and the world is kept on the tenterhooks guessing China’s real annual military expenditure. According to some estimates in 2008-09 China officially spent $ 58 billion for modernization and adding more flab to different wings of the armed forces. In fact, this could be in the region of $ 120-140 billion. India’s official military expenditure for 2008-2009 was Rs. 1056 bn, $ 26.6 bn, a mere 10 % increase from the last financial year. Being a democratic country India has no way to hedge its defence budget under any other head of expenditure.
In terms of military manpower China has actual Military manpower of 667, 657, 509, Actual Personnel fit for Military service: 550, 265, 789 and Average Yearly Available Manpower are 25, 848, 582. As against this India’s position under these heads are: 556, 075, 946; 429, 389, 552 and 22, 112, 329 respectively. It must be added that India is encumbered by several insurgency and terrorist action groups, some inspired by Maoist ideology and some inspired and engineered by Pakistan. Except some problem in Xinjiang, Tibet and Golmund areas China has no major internal turmoil and is not threaded by a nuclear capable unstable and failed nation like Pakistan.
China’s total engagement worthy aircraft are 2,643 with 400,000 personnel. Most of these are of old vintage and cannot stand up to India’s modern fleet. India’s total fleet is 849 with 1, 61,000 manpower. China’s main air horses are Xian=1800; Shijiazhuong=300, Nanchag=1919; Sukhoi=162 etc (data from PLA AF official figures). India’s ageing air horses are MIG-39=74; Sukhoi 30=50; Mirage 2000=48. The MIG class aircraft are unreliable and in any event of air engagement would prove to be inferior to Chinese aircrafts. It is reported that the MIG fleet is being upgraded. China has capability to build aircrafts at faster rate and India is still struggling at the drawing boards. India requires speedy augmentation and modernization of its Air force fleet.
Indian Navy is the world’s eighth largest navy with a with a fleet of 145 vessels consisting of missile-capable warships, advanced submarines, the latest naval aircrafts and an aircraft carrier in its inventory. That India is experienced both in combat and rescue operations during wartime and peace has been proved beyond doubt. In comparison, China’s PLA Navy with its fleet of 284 vessels is quantitatively larger but lacks actual war experience. However, China is on way to have its first Aircraft Carrier. If stationed in the Indian Ocean India has to go for speedy addition to its Aircraft Carrier fleet. In case India can acquire 3 aircraft carriers and augment naval power at faster rate it can dominate the Indian Ocean region along with the dominant US Navy. Both in Naval and Air power India are yet to close ranks with China. Taking into consideration China’s policy of encircling India and India’s commitment in the Indian Ocean region the country is required to get rid of bureaucratic stranglehold and the issue should be decided between the political decision makers and the professionals of the Armed Forces. All that the corrupt Baboos can do is to facilitate the procurement procedure.
India is basically an Indian Ocean nation. Its geography is vulnerable from land borders as well as sea borders. The recent sea-borne attack by a Pakistani group on Mumbai on 26/11 has proved beyond doubt that despite considerable blue water capability India’s coastal security is very vulnerable. Besides this India has greater stakes in the Indian Ocean region:
The map itself clarifies that Countries in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea are affected by Islamic Jihadi movements. Pakistan is the breeding ground of jihadi terrorism. Besides the homegrown tanzeems like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jais-e-Mohammad, Hijbul Mujahideen, HUJI, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah Sahaba and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the al Qaeda high command is located in Pakistan on remote Afghan-Pakistan borders. Internal security of Pakistan is under threat from the jihadi tanzeems. Pakistan’s ally in fight against terror, the USA, is aware of these global terrorist breeding factories in Pakistan. Washington also knows that the Afghan Talibans are in cahoots with the top leaders of Taliban movement and Pakistan is a steady source of supply of weapons to Mullah Omar and gangs. The US Congressmen have repeatedly opined that without ISI support Afghan Taliban cannot survive for long. They are also supported by Iran with whom the US has very little diplomatic leverage. The US knows that Pakistan diverts part of the dole against India; it also divers a considerable fraction to Afghan Talibanis. The policy makers in USA and the CIA are aware of these dirty games of Pakistan. However, Washington is saddled with an adulterous bed partner.
With recent revelation of A Q Khan that Pakistan, China, Iran and North Korea worked in tandem to proliferate nuclear technology, it becomes apparent that Islamabad enjoys special relationship with Tehran. India and Iran signed a multi-billion dollar agreement in 2005 for supply of 7.5 million tons of LNG annually for 25 years. Though the proposed Iran, Pakistan and India pipeline is yet to take shape because of India’s troubled relations with Pakistan, India is helping Iran in developing a deep sea port at Chah Bahar, on the Gulf of Oman which would help Iran in establishing a forward Naval base. This is an ambitious project as compared to Chinese help to Pakistan in building naval bases at Gwadar and Pasni. The existing submarine base at Omara is also being upgraded with Chinese help.
The Red Sea countries Sudan and Eritrea have been affected by al Qaeda terrorists. In Yemen the al Qaeda has stable bases. Somalia has become a pirate’s paradise. Major oil supplies from Indonesia, Malaysia, Gulf and Arab countries pass through to European and US destinations through the Gulf of Aden. Indian navy recently intervened on Somalia coast striking against the pirates. The EU US naval forces under UK command have also joined the endeavor to minimize threats of piracy. Recent US agreement with Kenya for judicial action in Kenyan territory against the Somali pirates has brightened up some prospect of justice as there is hardly any government in the trouble torn Horn of Africa.
The US Naval and airbase at Diego Garcia is not enough for global protection in the troubled region of the western flank of the India Ocean and Arabian Sea. India has added responsibility to dominate the blue waters in this region against Somali pirates, al Qaeda adventurists in Eritrea, Yemen and Sudan. Pakistan, the almost-non-state is tottering despite US and Chinese support. Any upheaval in Pakistan can tilt the balance of power in favour of the hawkish army coterie and their jihadi supporters. In that event naval threat from Pakistan may increase considerably. In addition, India has responsibilities to ensure stability in the Maldives and should dominate the region with the help of the Navy. The Laccadive Sea and the group of islands are in Indian Territory. India has binding responsibility to protect the Laccadive Seas and the group of islands. It may be recalled China has established a naval refueling facility in southern Sir Lanka. This route is used by about 50% of naval vessels and tankers plying between east and West Indian Ocean regions.
In South Asia Islamic rim the Islamicists are active in the Bay of Bengal country of Bangladesh. Jihadi thrust from Bangladesh and ISI and DGFI operations against India have been dealt in other essays in this portal. Hence we would skip this and move on to the Andaman Seas. The three Muslim dominated districts of Thailand -Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala are highly affected by Islamic terrorist groups. The unrest is on the increase and the Muslim rebels receive support from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Libya, UAE etc countries and the al Qaeda.
Numerous suspected terrorists with links to al Qaeda have been filtering in and out of Malaysia. Yazid Sufaat was recently detained by the government for al Qaeda connections. Sufaat, a Malaysian chemist and a member of Jemaah Islamiah, is a close associate of Hambali, one of the Bali bombers. He was the linchpin of al Qaeda in South East Asia and had spun the concept of Nausetara Raya, a compact Muslim Islamic republic comprising South Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines. Suffat was close to Zacarias Moussaoui, another figure implicated in the 9/11 attacks in USA. Malaysian authorities are currently on the lookout for the four tons of ammonium nitrate used to make truck bombs that Sufaat ordered in late 2000, and which has since gone missing. Along with Sufaat, Malaysian authorities have arrested dozens of suspected Jemaah Islamiah members in recent months.
Indonesia continues to be a live playfield of Islamist jihadis. Abu Bakr Basay’ir had created Jemma Islamiyah modeling it after al Qaeda. His followers were Imam Samudra, Nurjaman Isamuddin aka Hanbali etc who had carried out several bombing operations in Jakarta, Bali, Java and other places. Only recently Nurdin Top another important Jemma Islamiah and al Qaeda operative was eliminated after he carried out devastating bombings in Jakarta.
In the Philippines the Islamic and assorted terrorists have set up deep rooted bases. I have described these in details in my book Fulcrum of Evil. In short, the Philippines is home to a number of militant groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the Pentagon Gang, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). These groups have conducted over three hundred attacks within the Philippines since 2004, the largest of which was a ferry bombing that killed 130 people. Manila was made the headquarter by al Qaeda for its Operation Bojinka (big bang) that had planned dowing of 11 US flights over the Pacific as a prelude to 9/11 attack. Fortunately Operation Bojinka of al Qaeda and Pakistani jihadis was aborted in time.
India has to take these developments seriously as its homegrown Islamicist extremism and jihad export by Pakistan has emerged as a great challenge to national security. Islamist jihad, like the Ummah, has no national boundary, fortunately the Thai government is acting tough and the Malaysian authorities are on the constant watch. Indonesia is also pursuing the Islamicists vigorously and al Qaeda is yet to set firm footing after its forward group was detected and eliminated. However, southern Philippines are still in ferment.
Besides centrality of the Islamic countries in the western and eastern rims of the Indian Ocean, on which most of the western and eastern countries including China and Japan depend it may be remembered that Indian Ocean is used by the energy consumers to carry at least 65% of oil and gas requirements. Stable naval peace in the Indian Ocean region is absolutely necessary. This cannot alone be ensured by the USA. The British Navy is leading the EU fleet in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Big US naval presence in the Red Sea region and in the Gulf of Oman counterbalances threats from inimical forces. But it must be remembered that Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia are more or less collapsed states. Global naval powers have greater responsibility to ensure that this part of the India Ocean do not turn into virtual minefields. In the event of Pakistan collapsing in near future the India Navy would have to undertake greater responsibilities in respect of Sind and Balochistan.
Similarly India and China are great emerging powers; both the nations are energy hungry. Both India and China are competing to woo Myanmar for its abundant gas supplies. India and Myanmar are engaged in developing Mizoram>Kaladan>Sittwe route for providing a sea opening to the north eastern states. If Sittwe agreement takes shape in next 5 years India has a plan to develop a pipeline for connecting Myanmar’s gas fields to India’s production centres. Sensing this China is also wooing Myanmar with military hardware for opening up a gas pipeline.
The Strait of Malacca is another area of concern. Eighty percent of China’s energy needs pass through the Malacca Straits. The Chinese are weary of India’s naval presence in the Andamans and visualize that in near future India might be in a position to place an aircraft carrier in this vital area of the India Ocean dominating the Straits of Malacca. The US also maintains a large presence in Singapore regions and tries to ensure that nearly 70% of oil and gas traversing the Pacific routes are not disturbed by China. Japan is equally anxious to maintain naval equilibrium in this region.
Like India has a “Gulf of Hormuz dilemma” for energy transportation from Iran, China has the “Malacca dilemma” for its own reasons. According to some scholars (Robert D. Kaplan etc), China desperately wants to integrate Taiwan to enable it to withdraw some of the vast Eastern China Sea fleet for dominating the Straits of Malacca. At present the US and Indian navy dominate the area. Keeping this in view China is engaging Thailand to open a Panama Canal like water way in the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand connecting the Andaman Seas with the Gulf of Thailand, from where oil and gas can be transported to China bypassing the “metal chain” Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar. In case this materialize in next 30 years the energy map of the world would change vastly and the naval map of the Indian Ocean region would require further review.
Increased Chinese presence in Bangladesh, development deep ports in Chittagong areas and Myanmar and Chinese presence in Myanmar’s Coco Island has been causing concern to India. Beijing are pumping in billions of dollars in arms and economic aids to a besieged Myanmar, where the junta is more inclined to lean on the eastern giant than begging from Washington. India has a great task ahead to neutralize Chinese influence on Myanmar. In this regard India is required to work with Myanmar and Malaysia which is planning to connect the ports in Bay of Bengal with those in South China by connecting to the existing pipelines and building new ones.
India alone cannot take up the challenge of dominating the entire Indian Ocean region. Though India is progressing towards building a viable naval force it would require faster growth along with deadlier and stealthier striking capability. For this purpose India, Australia, Japan and USA may think about forming an Indian Ocean Axis to ensure that China does not emerge as the unchallenged naval power in the region and threat imbalance. Just to dominate the west and eastern flanks of the Indian Ocean, keeping hawk eye on the Islamicists in the instable regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya etc on the one hand and the South East Asian Islamicists India require a vast naval force. In addition, the emerging naval power of China, its growing capability to strike deep into India and its strategic grip on Pakistan give rise to higher levels of strategic considerations for India.
While India is required to galvanize its melting borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the task of solving the fermenting border issues with Pakistan and China is paramount. Scholars feel that India-China-Pakistan border issues cannot be bilaterally solved. This is an ambiguous argument. In International relations bilateralism is one of the best approaches. Strategic priorities demand that India should first address its border issues with China and demarcate the borders scientifically by overcoming the legacy of the tribulations of the British Raj. How best this can be done should be left to the policy makers and war strategists who understand better the strategic vulnerability of the country. This job should not be left to wild think tanks and the media. Nowhere in the world border were issues ever solved by media propaganda.
The wild theories of China trying to balkanize India and India trying to aid the Tibetans and the Uyghurs should be abandoned. What China is doing is diplomatic and strategic encirclement of India with a view to put pressure on India to slow down on economic growth and divert more on military expenditures. There is a lesson to learn. If China can both economically and militarily progress at a faster rate why India cannot! India cannot get away by asserting that in democracy gradual growth is built in: in autocratic nations growth can be imposed. This redundant theory need reexamination and India may now decide to embark upon the course of developing military growth as faster as the country plans to go for economic growth. The country of baniyas also require stronger military infrastructure to secure the ambience of growth. When would the government rationalize its defence procurement machineries bypassing corruption and deals and dalals? How long India would depend only on DRDO and not opt for newer dynamic organisations and mechanisms that can deliver faster results and not get bogged down for over two decades in developing a tank and a fighter system? There are many such vital issues that require immediate national attention and overhauling of the existing system beset with inefficiency and corruption. Indians have to remain sensitive towards the country’s land borders as well as its expanding ocean boundaries with international responsibility.
(Maloy Krishna Dhar retired as a Joint Director of India’s internal intelligence agency, Intelligence Bureau. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)