Saturday, September 28, 2002
M A I N   F E A T U R E

How secure is India?
Reeta Sharma

THE problems confronting India today vis-à-vis cross-border insurgency, terrorism and international politics have their roots in the past. Four conventional wars with Pakistan have not deterred it from remaining hostile towards us. In fact, Indo-Pak relations have gone from bad to worse.

Despite India possessing a large armed force and the nuclear capability, Pakistan has refused to adopt the policy of live and let live. Irrespective of endless theories, explanations, arguments and counter arguments, the common man feels that Pakistan has consistently succeeded in hitting out at India, whether in a direct war, in a proxy war or at any international platform. In fact, a look at our deteriorating ties with antagonistic Pakistan over the past five decades, belies all hopes and expectations of Pakistan taking conciliatory steps to resolve differences with India. Hence, India has to view the threat posed by Pakistan to its security in the context of the geo-strategic and geo-political developments in South-Asia as a whole. This also means keeping a watch over China’s uneasy silence. It is important to remember, as Maj-Gen. Rajendra Nath, PVSM, contends that China has not gone to war with India in the past 27 years. Its hidden agenda has been to become a Superpower by focusing on economic and technological development.


China is watching India through the window provided by Pakistan and Bangladesh with which it is developing an economic and a military equation. Also, China has made major in-roads into South Asia, which is inhabited by 250 million Muslims. India cannot ignore the reality that Islamic fundamentalism as well as Islamic insurgency exists in ASEAN countries. Brig Satish K Issar, VSM, contends that of the 10 member countries of the ASEAN Club, at least three are Muslim (Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei), six are Buddhist (Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia) and one is Christian (Philippines).

Brigadier Issar is of the view that India has to frame its foreign policy driven by its security (defence) needs. Unfortunately, none of the drafts of the national policy on security has ever been approved because it would have made powers that be (politicians as well as bureaucrats) accountable. But it has to be remembered that there is no political solution alone to certain aspects of security threats to the country. The Nagaland problem is one such example.

South Asia has been classified as an "unstable zone". This means, India cannot remain unaffected by demographic changes in the region, which can lead to serious consequences from the angle of security. India is hemmed in by China in the north, Bangladesh and Myanmar in the east, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the west and Sri Lanka in the south. Therefore, both land and sea have not only to be protected and secured against military attacks but also against trans-border crossings, influx of unwanted population and smuggling.

To tighten its security, India must introduce identity cards in the border states, develop a national security policy that should also shape the country’s foreign policy and make the defence planning more strategic than just tactical. Here, India should learn from China’s experience and encourage indigenisation as well as modernisation, while making the best use of ‘foreign’ technology and know-how. Similarly, a policy on Kashmir should also be formalised so that India gains a position of strength to deal with Pakistan and intrusions from across the borders. India’s security concerns are all the more worrisome because the internal threats are as pronounced as the external. India has a 744-km-long border with six countries and out of that one-third is "disputed". Looking towards the sea, India has nearly 600 islands to guard and protect. With international and national securities getting blurred, thanks to globalisation, each country now cannot help but feel insecure and unsafe. The task becomes all the more complex for India, which also has to fight against internal threats: communalism, insurgency, terrorism and corruption.

Gen. J F R JacobOn this aspect of India’s security, the Punjab Governor, Lt. Gen. J F R Jacob, PVSM (Retd), is very cogent and forthright. He identifies both terrorism and insurgency, as overriding priorities, to be tackled in today’s geo-strategic and geo-political environment. In the global context, these two have evolved into instruments that can achieve specific fundamentalist and political goals. To deal with these twin problems, which have communal overtones as well, special organisations and tactics are required. Military solution alone will not help, he says.

General Jacob is of the view that insurgencies and terrorism take deep roots in the socio-economic traditions; hence, their eradication becomes difficult. Though these may be suppressed, they have a tendency to resurrect.

"We must develop interest-based ties with USA & China

Gen. V. P. Malik (retd)"Till last year, terrorism was a common point of concern for both the USA and India. At that time it was quite clear that the USA would like to have diplomatic relations both with India and Pakistan. However, the situation changed after 9/11. The USA, per force, had to take assistance from Pakistan, purely because it was totally hand in glove with the Taliban in Afghanistan. I am sure, the USA was fully aware about Pakistan aiding and abetting terrorism and terrorists in Afghanistan. That is why the USA only had to twist Pakistan’s arm a little before General Musharaff became an ally. Keeping this background in mind, India should not expect much from the USA, as long as it has an interest in Afghanistan. In fact, we should be totally independent in handling our problems. We should try and work policies, which are not dependent on US support. Yet, we should not undermine the fact that the USA has an extremely important interest in India, too. Strategically, India plays an important role in establishing stability in the Indian Ocean, which is like a highway through which USA’s commercial and naval ships pass.

We also ought to acknowledge that the USA is not only a Super Power but also exercises "control" over institutions like the UN and financial organisations that can be of great significance to any country. Then India and the USA are the two largest democracies of the world: one is the richest, the other the biggest. Hence, they share similar democratic values. However, the USA considers its national interest supreme and to achieve that it can follow or defy anything. In the modern times, India has one more position of strength. There are a large number of Indians in the USA, and these NRIs have a better earning capacity, per person, as against an average American. Besides, they occupy very important positions in civil and political life of the USA and play a very constructive role there.

Historically, the USA has not supported our case on Kashmir. It has maintained views that have not fully been in line with our national interest. This is one of the reasons why India has been against intervention of a third party in its bilateral relations with Pakistan and others. The only occasion when the USA supported Indian point of view was during Kargil War, with reference to the sanctity of Line of Control (LoC).

India, China and the USA have several interests that are common to them like the jehadi terrorism. India needs to develop a interest-based relationship with the USA and China, which would require considerable tightrope walking."


"China aiding Pak in its proxy war against India"

Air Marshal R. S. Bedi (retd) "Contrary to the general perception, India is faced with a multi-dimensional threat than a military threat alone. The security of India is dependent on economic and technological growth too. In the past, the USSR was pivotal factor for our security but with its disintegration, India has been left to fend for itself.

Though almost each of our neighbours has some a problem with us, it is Pakistan that poses the major and immediate threat. Kashmir had happened within a month or so of Independence and Pakistan’s obsession with it is because it provides them a strategic depth vis-à-vis India. That is why in the absence of Kashmir, Pakistan went for Afghanistan in a big way. Pakistan’s sole aim is to dismember India, which includes annexation of Kashmir. It is now a very well established fact that Pakistan Army’s primacy before their own nation depends upon their confrontation with India. That is why they have always been excessively aggressive towards us. But it is important to note that Pakistan Army’s aggression has always been met with successfully by the Indian forces. However, our forces have been repeatedly let down by our political leadership for lack of strategic understanding on their part. For instance, in 1947-48, when the Indian forces were at the verge of vacating Pakistani aggression and were stopped from doing so because the British wanted Pakistan for their own strategic requirements in the Middle East. Whether it was Nehru or any of his successors, all of them have played a very passive role vis-à-vis Pakistan. They continued to give in to either international pressures or highly misplaced moralistic stand. Our political leadership has never involved the armed forces in across- the- table talks and hence the decisions have cost us heavily. We lost on the negotiating table what the soldiers had got with their blood.

I call it passivism. But the world has gone far ahead of us by not opting for passivism. Pakistan has been pushing us particularly after 1989, when it began indulging in cross-border terrorism. India has not rebuffed the same with any offensive to this proxy war. If at all, there has only been political rhetoric, with the result that the Indian forces have lost three corps in J & K alone.

We should have gone nuclear much earlier than 1974. However, even after 1974, we were silent for the next 25 years because of the western pressures on our various governments. Although, in 1998, India conducted the Pokhran atomic tests but we are now decades and decades behind China, which has acquired an enviable position by virtue of its nuclear capability. Even the USA has conceded that it can not ignore China any more. India is far behind and far too vulnerable.

The threat to India’s security will worsen as the Chinese come closer to achieving their objective of being a world power. They are aiding Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, besides keeping India engaged in a proxy war with Pakistan. In a way, it is China’s proxy war too against India."


"Internal threats far greater than those from outside"

Lt.Gen. Vijay Oberoi (retd) "We have more of internal threats to India’s security than immediate external threats, except from Pakistan. Besides, in modern times, any country’s security is threatened not only by military invasions but also stunted economic growth, international sanctions and the character of the nation. To my mind, India’s internal threats and challenges are far greater than the ones from outside. Our successive governments in the past 55 years have failed to make India an internally strong country. For instance, we have earned the tag of one of the most corrupt nations, which has resulted in ill-governance. Fundamentalism and communalism in the name of religion is our second biggest deterrent in paving the way for a secure country.

Over the years, India has failed to bring about the people of the border- states into the mainstream of the country. This relates to the whole of the North-East. In addition, there is a demographic invasion against India. It is literally a war-like situation where in minimum of 40 million illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have entered in India. It happened because of the vested interests of the petty politicians, who pursued their narrow interests by encouraging this immigration.

A similar situation is developing from the Nepal side. Under an agreement, both the countries were to have an open border. But the reality is that while the Nepalese can come, seek work and even settle in India, Indians in Nepal, are bound by work permits. In addition, there is influx of Bhupalis (Nepalese settled in Bhutan), who have been thrown out of Bhutan and have entered India through Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Dugri in the east. We would soon have a similar influx of the LTTE cadre, which has found shelter in Tamil Nadu. These are self -perpetuating threats that India is today faced with. But for Bhutan, there is no other country on our border that has good relations with India.

However, there are some aspects that generate hope. In the first place, India, with its large size and strategic location, is of immense importance to America. That is why America has stated its view on strategic relations with India and only tactical relations with Pakistan. Our geo-strategic position in the Indian Ocean makes us incomparable. India today is also the biggest market available to all developing nations. India has the biggest middle class with purchasing power. China lacks this. Also, let us not forget that India today is an overt nuclear power. Let us learn from America itself. It perceives China as the next emerging world power. It also feels threatened by China because of its nuclear capability. Yet, America is purposefully engaged with China in every possible way. We should learn this tactics and have every neighbour’s stake in India. For instance, by buying gas from Bangladesh, we can help it grow economically, which in turn would checkmate overwhelming immigration to India. Similarly, if we could engage Bangladesh into a dialogue over Brahamputra, which ravages areas like Assam, it would be in our interest. The key today vis-à-vis security is primarily economic growth and not the overwhelming military interventions."