A pro-China policy is in India’s interest rather than a hostile stance towards its neighbour
 
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Strategic Moves

A pro-China policy is in India’s interest rather than a hostile stance towards its neighbour
 

Dr Vithal Rajan Dr Vithal Rajan

Former defence minister Manohar Parrikar had a penchant for elaborating on John Foster Dulles’ theory of brinkmanship. Perhaps, he found it amusing to keep his counterparts in neighbouring countries on their toes, but he did little to advance India’s foreign policy initiatives. Now, the finance minister is holding his portfolio as additional charge, beset as he is with the faltering of the economy after that needless experiment with demonetization; a severe drought in the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu; the prospect of an uncertain monsoon; and the taxation makeover under the new GST regime. Hence, his is a holding brief, a period when no new defence initiative is expected to be taken, when certainly the frisson caused by Parrikar’s rumination on not being tied down by the doctrine of ‘No First Use’ of nuclear weapons will be allowed to die down quietly.

In this period of hiatus, when the government is busy dealing with domestic issues, and foreign affairs are left to the vivid imagination of media houses, it might be worthwhile to list out, tentatively, what are India’s strategic options in the early part of the 21st century.

Tactical MovesA country’s defence strategies and foreign affairs initiatives are never based purely on national will. When the Emperor Napoleon and later Hitler tried to imprint their will on the map of Europe, the costly result after great loss of life was utter defeat. A country’s strategy is normally based on a cool assessment of regional and international developments under way, the forces beneficial and restrictive to the country’s interests, the fluid alignment of military, political, and economic forces. If Carl von Clausewitz said that war was a continuation of politics by other means, he clearly saw the use of force as limited and surgical, applied only to produce a desired political result. The ill-conceived brinkmanship of Dulles and the adolescent naiveté of John F. Kennedy during the Cuban crisis would have appalled that theorist.

Much has changed since the days of von Clausewitz. The American Civil War established the military fact that victory in future would go to the stronger economy, and not to brilliant tacticians. The World Wars were fought for economic dominance. The old empires of Europe, imprisoned within the jingoistic rhetoric of their chancelleries, were unable to finesse out of war and flew like moths into the flame of Armageddon. Many saw the needless war coming but could do little to avoid it. Not even the Kaiser. Not even Viscount Grey, one of Europe’s most experienced diplomatists, who portended: ‘The lights are going out all over Europe. We will not see them lit again in our time.’

After a hundred million had died, social values changed in Europe, and this led to a patient building up of European economic power. Two nations have stood out against this trend. Britain, a victim of its nostalgia over its lost empire. America, saddled with imperial longings which it can maintain only through its preponderant military power. Every attempt at maintaining its empire through military force has diminished American power, created economic hardship at home, and a public unwillingness to go to war for the sake of shoring up the interests of their leaders. Such decline has been seen before, from the days of the Roman Empire to the end of the British Empire.

 
 
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