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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Policy in India Must 'Come of Age' in the 21st Century (United Service Institution of India)

Abstract
 
To fully absorb the benefits of being a great power, India must act as a great power. The country must locate and seize the opportunities offered by circumstances rather than be guided by the needs of other powers that they camouflage as ours. India, China and the US are destined to increasingly interact with each other. This dynamic has to be channelled in ways that speed up growth and stability in what will be the world's third superpower, after the US and China. 

Introduction 

India is a patchwork of multiple centuries, and comprises of human and territorial segments. A few of which are still existing and reacting as they would have in the 15th century, while others in their mind space, range from that period to the present. Too few of the 1.26 billion citizens of the Union of India as yet, are being fully acculturated to the needs and capabilities of the 21st century. In contrast, those from the same ethnic mix who are living and working in countries such as the UK, Singapore, the US and even South Africa have much higher per cent that are current with the 21st century, with the rest being almost entirely in the 20th, with only a negligible number still anchored to the 19th century in their mores and beliefs. As a consequence of the inadequate attention paid by post-1947 policymakers to empowering the country's human capital through an adequate education, there is leakage in India in the case of food grains, capital expenditure and in items as important for the future, as the nurturing of talent in the fields of science, technology, culture and the social sciences. The state organisation that has best nurtured human capital is the military, and this has been achieved despite shortages in equipment and in other essentials.

Empowering Military 

The men and women of the three services ensure through both, "jugaad", as well as extraordinary human efforts that the overall war machine of the country remains in a state of preparedness to deal with threats. This, despite India being perhaps the only major power to have (since the 1950s) excluded those in uniform from direct participation in the processes and platforms, which collectively comprise the Ministry of Defence. Not to mention the sole major power that is dependent on external sources for more than 80 per cent of its higher-end stock of weaponry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to integrate the military into the defence policy matrix, as is already the case in the two largest global powers, the United States and China. Integration is called for not only into the presently exclusively civilian Defence Ministry bureaucracy, but among the three services as well. An integrated Chiefs of Defence Staff Command needs to be formed, while officers in the higher echelons of each of the three services must be acculturated to viewing the conduct of operations in a holistic rather than three services - segmented manner. As for India, it is testimony to the professionalism and dedication to democratic values of the Army, Navy and Air Force, that there was never any move to replicate in India the sorry history of military coups in Pakistan and Bangladesh, not to mention nearby countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. This flawless record of loyalty (like fealty) to democratic values and professionalism merits a swift end to the post-1947 practice of the uniformed services remaining outside the personnel matrix of the Union Ministry of Defence.
 
Empowering the Youth 

Why is empowering each citizen through proper education important? Why is integrating the uniformed services into the formal echelons of the Defence Ministry crucial for the future? It is because, the superstructure that the military relies for its substance and salience in a nationwide foundation of productive citizens, and the economic growth that such human power would generate. Just as China grew substantially above double digits from the 1980s, to grow to a size second only to the US (and soon to overtake it), so too must India he provided with the policy matrix needed for sustaining such growth. As for the 7% annual rate that politicians are complimenting themselves on, even 9% is insufficient to ensure that demography work to our advantage rather than otherwise. Lack of genuine employment is affecting tens of millions of youths, thereby making it relatively easy to collect large groups together for creating mayhem. Large-scale confidence in PM Narendra Moth as a 21"century change agent, by the close of 2012, led to a steady decline in the civil unrest that was being witnessed in the country from the close of 2010 to end-2012. The period when it became obvious that Modi would emerge as the leader of choice for the rising number of Indians. Today, because of the particular growth path that the Prime Minister has chosen and its short-term travails, once again a sullen mood seems to be settling within large sections of the youth, sending them into the streets agitating for a variety of issues that are either irrelevant or peripheral to the nation's future. Now is the time to substantially expand programmes such as the National Cadet Corps (NCC), that instil in the young, some of the discipline and values that have remained the tradition of the armed forces of the Republic of India for a considerable period of time, as also to create a National Service Corps (NSC) that could be trained and motivated to improve standards in literacy, health and habitation. Both the NCC as well as the proposed NSC would have as its "steel frame" men and women who have served (or still continue in the service of) the armed forces as well as civilians' active in the chosen fields of endeavour. Diverting millions of youth (who are each awaiting but not securing regular employment) from agitation to nationally productive channels needs to have priority within the national security plan. At present, millions of youth are permitted to drift on their own, with the result that many are fuelling the caste, communal, regional and other agitations launched by politicians inside as well as (in some cases) external actors. Both the NCC as well as the proposed NSC needs to reach a level of enrolment such that these millions will imbibe values and habits that promote national regeneration rather than degeneration. 

Just as China grew substantially above double digits from the 1980s to grow to a size second only to the US (and soon to overtake it), so too must India be provided with the policy matrix needed for sustaining such growth. 

Pakistan-China Factor 

India is on course to be the third largest economy in the world in 20 years provided governments continue to design and implement suboptimal policies and within 10 years if these policies designed for growth are framed and implemented effectively. Geopolitically, therefore, countries across the world are seeing and reacting to India in this light, with two exceptions, Pakistan and China. In both, it is their respective militaries that have the decisive (and in the case of Pakistan, the sole) influence over policies relating to India, and the PLA has bought into the Pakistan army narrative that India's ascent to the global Top Three is not pre-ordained but can be blocked and even reversed by asymmetric methods. India is the only country that has the potential to leap ahead of China in the overall growth stakes within the next thirty years, and for this reason, the PLA has ensured that their card against the growth and significance of India, the Pakistan military, be pampered at the cost of the Chinese exchequer. Rather than deal with India as an inevitable great power, both China and Pakistan look at the world's most populous democracy through lens that constantly search for ways designed to slow down economic growth and multiply strains within society and the polity. 

In the case of China, the Chinese Communist Party has especially since the advent of Deng Xiaoping, followed a policy of using opportunities available, to ensure the steady rise of the Peoples Republic of China into the First Power, within the international order, displacing the US, which has had that rank since 1945. While the Peoples Liberation Army has substantially outsourced its policy on India to Rawalpindi General Head Quarters (GHQ), State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China see India, as an opportunity too big, to continue to remain secondary to Pakistan's interests. This segment of the PRC power structure has begun to look at India not as an inevitable threat to a Sinic (Chinese) version of the unipolar world, but as an opportunity for Chinese industries to expand into, a phenomenon already taking place in infrastructure, telecom and energy. Trade in the three could grow substantially, were the obstacles to such cooperation created by the Rawalpindi GHQ-centered policy of Beijing towards Delhi, were diluted and subsequently reversed. The Chinese Communist Party under General Secretary Xi Jinping should move away from a PLA-sourced policy towards the more respectful and conciliatory line sought by the SOEs. During the 73-day Doklam standoff, what kept the PLA from ramping up the confrontation, the way the Pakistan army wanted was the realisation that doing so would end any hopes of India becoming one of the top markets for Chinese products, even while Pakistan is becoming a growing drain on PRC resources. Given the fact that Rawalpindi GHQ has failed to contain and constrict India, the remaining value of the Pakistan armed forces as a primary source for information about US weapons and tactics, is also decreasing. Now that Washington is becoming warier of the duplicity of the Pakistan military towards itself, military to military cooperation between the two sides is getting reduced to a level that will soon make Pakistan of negligible value, as far as source of secret input into the US military is concerned. In contrast, economic and commercial cooperation between China and India has the potential of reaching $300 billion annually in 2-way business, but only provided there is a change in the Chinese Communist Party policy towards India, from containment to cooperation. Significant Rawalpindi GHQ-inspired "bad behaviour" towards India should be promptly punished through immediate curbs on Chinese business entities. As a start, any company from any part of the world operating in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir should be blocked from the Indian market. Such a move would reduce considerably the attraction of investments in PoK, even for Chinese entities.

Significant Rawalpindi GHQ-inspired "bad behaviour" towards India should be promptly punished through immediate curbs on Chinese business entities. As a start, any company from any part of the world operating in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir should be blocked from the Indian market. Such a move would reduce considerably the attraction of investments in PoK, even for Chinese entities. 

Coming now to Pakistan, the interests and rights of the people of that artificially constructed country would be best served by a further breakup of the country, following on from the 1971 secession of what was then East Pakistan. It was unfortunate that the Government of India failed to take advantage of the desire of the Baloch and Pashtun territories to attach themselves with India. Even a task as geopolitically essential as liberating the whole of Jammu & Kashmir was shunned by the leadership which took charge on 15 August 1947. India is a great power whose governance mechanism still seems to suffer from an inferiority complex, and has often balked from full scope measures to protect vital national interests. However, its roots in a tradition and history going back five and more millennia have made (even the truncated version of) India, a distinct and cohesive geographic and cultural entity In 1965, the statesmanlike decision of Prime Minister LB Shastri to decline to impose Hindi on states that were not welcoming of the primary role being given to that language, helped preserve the Union of India. On the other hand, the Sinhala fanaticism of the ruling elite of Sri Lanka in the 1950s ignited a civil war that had grievous effects on the country. Although, the largest language group, the Hindi-speaking people of the country have never sought to impose their will on the rest of India, the way the Punjabi population of Pakistan has done through their control over the Pakistan military. Pakistan has pulled away from the traditions of the Indian subcontinent, thereby rendering it fragile society kept together only by force. Even religion is not a unifying factor, given the manner in which Wahabbism (with its supremacist and exclusivist doctrine) has sought to monopolise the religious space in a country, whose people are overall still moderate. It may be recalled that it was the Central Provinces and Bihar from where most of the supporters of Partition came from, and not West Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan or the Pashtun territories. Devoid of a uniting factor, the provinces of Pakistan have little in common with each other, and those who argue that India must expend effort in keeping Pakistan, united the way first the US and China have sought to do, are in effect arguing that India must help the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan army to continue to oppress Christians, Hindus, Sindhis, Balochand Pashtuns in the name of a "united" Pakistan. 

India must instead give moral and diplomatic support to the oppressed in Pakistan, including the many who are Muslims. The people resident in that territory will do the rest within 10-12 years, or around the time India emerges as the globe's third biggest economy. China is welcome to spend tens of billions of dollars each year trying to preserve the control of the Pakistan army over that unfortunate state and its people. India ought not to waste even a paisa in such an exercise, which in its own way, would be as futile in inducing a change in behaviour by Rawalpindi GHQ as the periodic candlelit vigils held at Wagah. Nourishing the Pakistan military through heavy expenditure of treasure may be a priority of Beijing, but any form of assistance to a state that is the endemic focus of terror in India ought not to be a priority for India, which for too long has accepted what ought to be the burdens of other powers as its own, when limited resources and multiple needs necessitate an exclusive focus on solutions that are of direct benefit to India. Care should be taken to ensure, however, that moral and diplomatic support for self-determination be extended only to the Pashtun and Baloch areas within Pakistan, and not to those regions forming part of Iran and Afghanistan, both of which countries need to be brought by Delhi into a regional alliance system that would focus on rolling back extremism and promoting modernity and growth, including in Central Asia. 

China is the second most important priority of Indian strategic policy, with the US the top. Because of policy imperfections that were allowed to be continued since 1947, India's economy is as yet only $2 trillion, or less than half what is needed to ensure self-sufficiency in defence capabilities. A new security paradigm has to be implemented that reflects 21st century needs, rather than 20th/19th century approaches to practical geopolitics. India is not the polity or society that it was in the 1950s nor the US. The 1950s were the period when Washington and Delhi began to separate from each other geopolitically, even as Pakistan and the US grew close. It was clear from the start that the only target of the Pakistan military was India and not China, yet the fiction was maintained in Washington that the former had joined the US-led anti-communist affiance. It most be admitted that India's record in identifying and making use of alliance opportunities has been dismal, an example being turning away from the informal offer of ASEAN to include India as a member, a situation that appears to be on the way towards rectification, as shown by the Heads of Government of the 10 ASEAN states, joining hands with the Prime Minister of India, during the 2018 Republic Day celebrations. For most of the 21st century, China will be the largest economy within the international order, followed by the US, India and ultimately Brazil, the country which is on course to overtake an ageing Japan. 

China has begun muscle flexing in a manner that brings back memories of the Middle Kingdom era, when the Imperial Court at Beijing, saw every other country as vassals needing to give it tribute. Given such a propensity, what is needed is for the US and India to work seamlessly together to ensure stability within the Indo-Pacific rim. 

Engagement with the US 

Whenever the world's primary power changes, instability gets created around its periphery, as a consequence of the natural assertiveness such a situation engenders in the new primary power. Even before climbing to the top position, China has begun muscle flexing in a manner that brings back memories of the Middle Kingdom era, when the Imperial Court at Beijing saw every other country as vassals needing to give it tribute. Given such a propensity, what is needed is for the US and India to work seamlessly together to ensure stability within the Indo-Pacific rim. This calls for them to concert their actions in the military sphere, and this is possible once both countries sign appropriate protocols that would facilitate the seamless collaboration that is needed by the imperatives of national interest of both the US as well as India. Ensuring freedom of navigation and ensuring the absence of the appearance of hegemony within the Indian Ocean segment of the Indo-Pacific has to be the primary responsibility of the Indian armed forces, especially the Navy. The Indian contingent would of course join with others in this task, but as the lead component. Similarly, ensuring a similar equilibrium in the Pacific Ocean is a task that the US armed forces need to undertake, of course with other militaries including that of India participating. In such a context, there is need to expand the India-japan-Australia-US Quadrilateral Affiance to include Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines as well. 

Ensuring freedom of navigation and ensuring the absence of the appearance of hegemony within the Indian Ocean segment of the Indo-Pacific has to be the primary responsibility of the Indian armed forces, especially the Navy. The Indian contingent would of course join with others in this task, but as the lead component. 

Prepare for Out of Area Missions

In ensuring that militaries retain their superiority over potential foes, there is no substitute for experience on the actual field of different types of war. In such a context, this writer had in end-2014 suggested that two squadrons of top-quality military aircraft and around 4000 Special Forces be deployed in extremist-infested locations in Iraq and Syria so as to bring kinetic force to bear on the Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIS)threat. Although the advice was not taken, this line of action is precisely what Russia subsequently did in 2015, despite the many forecasts of doom from the same sources that worked to discourage Delhi from adopting such an "adventurist" line. In the way Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa did in 2009 when he brushed aside calls and commands from several countries to save the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from annihilation by ordering a cease-fire the way every one of his predecessors had, Vladimir Putin showed that he had enough faith in the capabilities of the Russian armed forces to go ahead with such involvement. The consequence has been the defeat of both ISIS as well as NATO-backed groups that are often indistinguishable in their ideology and objectives from the first. The two squadrons of aircraft and around 4000 Special Forces in Syria ensured the centrality of Moscow as a global Great Power. This was established for the first time since the 1980s, that too despite having a much weaker economy than was the case at that time. Had India moved in the same way, Delhi's indispensability as a participant in global negotiations on matters of security would have been ensured, as also the re-emergence of Delhi as a key voice in matters dealing with West Asia, as indeed was the case until the close of the 1940s, during which period the Indian rupee was the dominant currency in much of that region. Prime Minister Modi has called for the world to unite against terror, and indeed such unity is essential. As of now, however, the Indian contribution to the war against ISIS has largely been restricted to statements of official intent. These needs to be supplemented with military force, and in such a way that India's strategic independence is visible, which would be by allying with Russia in Syria and with the US in Iraq, as well as of course the governments in both Damascus and Baghdad. Certainly, there needs to be close defence cooperation with the US, but this must rest on the fact that the methods pursued by each may differ even while the objectives may be similar. In the past, France under Charles de Gaulle was an ally of the US with a mind of its own in certain matters, and this would be the case with India as well, even after entering into a much closer military and defence relationship with the US, including by ensuring that key items of military hardware get sourced from locations within the country. Another means of cooperation would be to set up joint surveillance facilities in the Indian Ocean that would assist in securing real time information to both Delhi as well as Washington of the moves (on land, air, space and sea) of countries that are of security concern to both. Broadening the geographical ambit of military intervention against global threats such as ISIS is essential in a context where the boundaries of asymmetric conflict have moved far beyond the SAARC zone. Both interests as well as deployment must reflect such a change in circumstances.

Conclusion 

To fully absorb the benefits of being a great power, India must act as a great power. The country must locate and seize the opportunities offered by circumstances rather than be guided by the needs of other powers that they camouflage as ours. India, China and the US are destined to increasingly interact with each other. This dynamic has to be channelized in ways that speed up growth and stability in what will be the world's third superpower, after the US and China. 

To fully absorb the benefits of being a great power, India must act as a great power. The country must locate and seize the opportunities offered by circumstances rather than be guided by the needs of other powers that they camouflage as ours. India, China and the US are destined to increasingly interact with each other. This dynamic has to be channelized in ways that speed up growth and stability in what will be the world's third superpower, after the US and China.
 
Image result for strategic year book 2018 nalapat 

Strategic Yearbook 2018 (edited by Lt Gen P K Singh, Maj Gen B K Sharma and Dr Roshan Khanijo)




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