Bottomline | The Lost Plot

Diplomacy Without Tangible Military Muscle is nothing more than appeasement

Pravin SawhneyPravin Sawhney

India’s national security appears most vulnerable at present since 1998, when New Delhi conducted nuclear tests and declared itself a nuclear weapon state, and simultaneously issued the warning to Pakistan to re-consider its aggression in Jammu and Kashmir. If anything, Pakistan has successfully fanned terrorism like hydra-tentacles across India.

While the wounds of 26/11 Mumbai attacks are fresh sans redressal, Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists have done the Poona blasts, and if intelligence reports are credible, more attacks across Indian metropolitan cities are waiting to happen. (Pakistan, since the 26 November 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control has systematically developed and nurtured local terrorists’ sleeper cells throughout India.) Major Powers including the US have already issued advisories to its citizens to avoid visiting India close to the Commonwealth Games later this year. The situation in J&K is equally grim. Violence levels have gone up; hardened terrorists are once again fighting the Indian Army in pitched tactical battles in rural and semi-urban areas, while stone-throwing is the new strategy to keep the police and paramilitary forces on the back-foot in towns and cities.

Defence minister, A.K. Antony has confirmed that terrorists’ infrastructure (42 camps run by the Pakistan Army) remains intact across the Line of Control; every opportunity to push terrorists across the LC is being availed by the Pakistan Army-ISI combine. This is not all. The LeT chief, Hafiz Saeed, in a policy statement, has warned of a war with India if it does not have meaningful talks with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir (and water) disputes. To demonstrate his seriousness, he has hit Indians in Kabul, and is fast spreading his network to target Indian assets in Afghanistan. Given that the Karzai government is itself on life support system, the nearly 3,500 Indians in Afghanistan are sitting ducks, hardly capable of protecting assets worth over USD1.3billon built by them in Afghanistan. The Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan is a matter of time; that would be time for India and Hamid Karzai to pack bags and leave.

Given the devastation across India by Pakistan-backed terrorists’ including in J&K and Afghanistan, India’s diplomacy seems to have lost the plot completely. Just when India’s National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon was in Kabul to assess the situation after the recent blasts that killed nine Indians, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Riyadh telling his interlocutors that India has little choice but to talk with Pakistan. After having failed to convince the US that Pakistan was the perpetrator of terrorism, New Delhi has now turned to Saudi Arabia for help; it was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 23 years to the Kingdom. If indeed New Delhi believes that Saudi can help rein in Pakistani terror against India, it would be wishful thinking reflective of India’s own (mis)understanding of its national security.

We need to ask ourselves how things have come to this pass; Pakistan, which at the time of Musharraf’s ouster was down in dumps has risen once again in just 14 months to spread its wings in Afghanistan and force India to bilateral talks.

Notwithstanding its numerous flaws, Pakistan scores over India in national security because it has a nodal agency, General Headquarters, for appreciation, development, dissemination and periodic reviews of its security strategy which holistically covers the entire spectrum of war including nuclear, conventional and irregular warfare. India, in comparison, comes a cropper. India’s mainland security comes under the home ministry; the J&K theatre is clumsily divided between three shareholders, army, paramilitary and the state police forces; the nuclear war issues are supposedly tossed between five entities; NSA, BARC, DRDO, Chairman, chiefs of staff committee, and the Strategic Forces Commander. This, of course, is part of the problem.
The crux of the matter is that the buck that should stop at the Prime Minister Office gets bounced to nowhere; it is not enough for the Prime Minister to vigorously push the nation’s economic agenda and meet his party’s needs, he must take national security seriously if the country is to stand tall. Pakistan is not the only threat, there is China as well that needs to be handled head-on. There is the need to reflect on the universally tested truisms: diplomacy without tangible military muscle is nothing more than appeasement; and a conventional war without credible nuclear deterrence cannot meet desired objectives against a nuclear-armed adversary. Once this is grasped, it becomes evident that a formal military advisor to the Prime Minister is no longer an option; it has becomes a necessity.


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