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SABRE RATTLING SUCKING INDIA INTO A STRATEGIC TORNADO

It is a simmering summer in the Kashmir valley with a well orchestrated civil disobedience movement hampering counter insurgency operations. For Pakistan, who is supporting the proxy war to the hilt, it is a make or break year. Exchange of live firing across the line of control is causing fatal casualties to both sides and body bags are being received on daily bases. In Doklam Indian troops are in a stand off position with Chinese troops and neither side appears to be blinking. This is the biggest ever strategic black hole that India may be getting into after independence.

The government, bureaucracy and the armed forces are responsible for the logjam and need to get their act together in a synergetic manner without allowing the situation to slide further. To say that Indian Army is prepared for a two and a half front war is a gross over statement. General VK Singh the then COAS in 2010 had candidly made the UPA government aware of the hollowness in the inventory of weapons, equipment and ammunition through a detailed letter. Very little improvement in the holding state has taken place over the years. India Airforce has categorically stated that it is not prepared for a two and a half front war.

The Make in India initiative of the PM has yet to gain momentum. Very few contracts have gone to the private players as yet inspite of them being willing to take on assured demand for a specified period. The ordnance factories are working at sub optimal efficiency. I had suggested to the then Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar in a meeting, that there was no other way to step up production besides these factories going into a three shift mode from the existing one, by working round the clock if they wanted to make up the existing deficiencies by nearly tripling their output. He seemed to have been in agreement but nothing substantial came out of it.

The government has made a good beginning by allowing armed forces to buy weapons, equipment and ammunition by invoking the emergency clause. But it is still a time consuming procedure and may take months. Even then we will not be able to take on both our adversaries together.

Military history is replete with examples where nations who tried fighting on two fronts won some initial battles but lost the war in the end. Hitler made a blunder by attacking Russia while his forces were still fighting the British and French troops on the western front in the Second World War. Japan overstretch led to United States joining the war on the side of the allies, when it attacked Pearl Harbour. The results of the Second World War are well known where these mighty powers of Germany and Japan were the vanquished ones along with Italy.

As total conventional wars are almost ruled out due to the revolution in military affairs ; we are likely to fight limited wars which will be confined to a small geographical area and limited in terms of time and employment of forces. The strategic reserves and the strategic weapons are not likely to be employed in these localised wars and will largely remain as strategic deterrence. In our grand strategy we need to ensure that collusivity between Pakistan and China is avoided by winning international opinion and assurances in our favour.

Chances are that if we go to war with Pakistan, China may not interfere actively but may resort to posturing and helping its ally in terms of war material and operational logistics. In that case we would be on a dissuasive posture on the northern front with Chinese and pro-active on the western front with Pakistan.  The one road one belt and China Pakistan Economic corridor will be of great value to our adversary.  If we go to war with China, Pakistan is likely to join in to improve its defensive posture and try and  liberate Kashmir using the present sentiments in the Valley to its advantage. Therefore, India cannot afford a war with China at this juncture.

We need to go on a diplomatic overdrive and de-escalate the situation in Sikkim by ensuring both sides pull back simultaneously and status quo is retained. We are fast reaching the threshold and limit of tolerance of Chinese as President Xi is looking forward to the second term which has to be decided this September. He will not like to be seen to be on a weak wicket on this issue after he has created an image of being a strong leader in his relations with US, Russia, EU, UK and other world powers. As per reports China is already planning operations to dislodge Indian troops in a few days time.

Even if the last resort involves pulling out unilaterally, it should not be seen as a loss of face scenario as we have gone in on behest of Bhutan. We need to get assurance from the Chinese that they will not undertake any further construction of the road in the  area thus addressing our sensitivities and security concerns. We also need to relook at our no first use policy on nuclear weapons and make it more ambivalent. We should reserve the right of use of nuclear weapons if our sovereignty is threatened.

Having normalised our relations with China we need to deal firmly with Pakistan. While it has become fashionable to compare ourselves with Israel, a tiny nation; it should be remembered that Israel does not resort to rhetoric but is firm in its action. The government needs to reign in the sabre rattling news channels who have gone on an overdrive; and are quite deft in it, because they are capable of starting a war even if the establishments in two nations feel otherwise.

Kashmir is our internal matter. Isolation of Pakistan and separatist in this issue will serve us well. In case the weak government in the state has to be shown the door, so be it. During the ensuing governor’s rule, basic spadework and hands on efforts need to be gone into addressing the causes of alienation which are fundamentally economic in nature. Meaningful development plans in tandem with jobs creation must be launched. For better integration and inclusive growth, the energies of the youth from the Valley should be harnessed in productive manner by giving them enhanced opportunities outside the state.

( The author Lt Gen Singha was the Head of the Mission and Force Commander of United Nations peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights from 2012 to 2015

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2 Comments on "SABRE RATTLING SUCKING INDIA INTO A STRATEGIC TORNADO"

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BRIGADIER VED PAL SINGH (RETD)
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BRIGADIER VED PAL SINGH (RETD)
I largely agree with views of author. However, following is my reading:- 1. China will not fight any war till it has become an economic super power, say 2050. Despit Xi seeking another tenure, he will more Yeas by sticking to sanity, its not North Korea in tis context. 2. Since Doklam is not purely a bilateral confrontaion, Bhutan being relevant, China would stand to loose being seen as bigger bully, so more unlikely to military action. 3. China is engaged more heavily with USA-North Korea stand off, implement UN sanctions or not. Where sanity suggests that erstwhile SIX member… Read more »
Remo dsouza
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The argument is simplistic. If getting assurances of no more construction was possible, this would have been done. The Chinese position is unilateral withdrawal by India before any talks. Further, if the Indian action is deemed sabre rattling by the author, I would like to know what he thinks our reaction should have been when Chinese construction activities were first observed. If we are morally and legally in the right on this, we should see it through. While an ambiguous nuclear response policy is a much debated issue, we first need to have the wherewithal and confidence to fight a… Read more »
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