Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poke Me: Indians lack military strategy. Do you agree?

By: T.R. Ramaswami

The recent death of the first NSA begs the question - what strategic / security thinking or paradigm have any of these worthies brought about? And has there ever been strategic thinking in this country

This week's " Poke Me", invites your comments on whether there ever been strategic thinking in this country. The feature will be reproduced on the edit page of the Saturday edition of the newspaper with a pick of readers' best comments. 

So be poked and fire in your comments to us right away. Comments reproduced in the paper will be the ones that support or oppose the views expressed here intelligently. Feel free to add reference links etc. in support of your comments.

'Strategy' - used in media, sports, corporate presentations and bunking classes! What does it mean? In Greek, "stratos" means 'army' and "ageine" means "to lead". Strategy is the art of leading an army or generalship. The object of an army is to vanquish its enemies. War does not have gold, silver and bronze medals - only winners and losers - and winners write not only the history of the event but also re-interpret prior related history to suit them.

The Eisenhower Strategy (formulated/named after the Supreme Allied Forces Commander during World War II and US President 1952-60), was implemented during the Cold War. We all know how knocking out the air force of the enemy is half the battle won. The US, envisaging this, decided that in all their inter-state highways, one kilometre in every five will be absolutely straight and level. Thus these highways could become surrogate runways. Likewise the nuclear policy enunciated by the Russian military think tank headed by General Vassily Danilovich Sokolovsky, another World War II hero - they decided that if there was a nuclear attack the Russian response would be an all out counter attack - including civilian targets. The logic was that only such a severe threat could deter a first attack.

What about India's strategy - or rather lack of it - since 326 BCE, when Alexander came - partly up the Indus and partly through the Khyber Pass? Then came the Kalinga War and the conversion of Ashokainto a non-violent Buddhist. The seeds of non-violence soon became genetic and within 250 years came the first invaders - the Kushans. India or Indians had lost the will to fight - and we became a door mat with "aa bail mujhe maar" written in big bold red. While between the birth of Christianity and Islam, all was fairly ok, the Ghazni era changed everything. Between 1000 - 1030 CE, he ransacked India 17 times. But not one king or even a confederation of kings thought of sealing or taking effective control of the Khyber Pass. Then, the pass, in some places, was so narrow that even three men could not walk abreast. If India (was there such an entity then?) had controlled Khyber, history could have been different - no Delhi Sultanate, no partition and no pseudo-secularism. Also no need to sit on top of Siachen!

From 1000 CE descend to 1947. Genetic non-violence became mahatmatically political. By 1948 we lost access to the Wakhan Corridor by unnecessarily going to the UN before throwing Pakistan out of what is now PoK. No strategy had been learnt in 1000 years. The only friendly northern land border connecting us to the present Central Asian republics, through which all gas, other fuel lines, etc. could have come, disappeared. By 1960 with immature bravado not matched with on the ground capability we painted ourselves into a corner and ensured that our entire land borders are almost only with two nations, who, if not enemies, are definitely not friends.

India today is virtually an island. The land border, as the sun lights it up from Diphu Pass near the India-China-Myanmar tri-junction to Sir Creek in the Rann of Kutch, undefined / disputed for long stretches, is in a perpetual state of conflict. Have we shaped our strategy to also suit an island nation? Look at our former colonial masters. Realising that ports were the 'internet' of the 16th.- 20th. centuries, they ensured control of key strategic ports. On a map, draw a line connecting London, Gibraltar, Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Rangoon, Port Blair, Calcutta, Chennai, Colombo, Mumbai, Karachi, Aden, Port Suez, Malta, Gibraltar and back to London. Amazing, isn't it? This was one of the key reasons why the Allies won World War II. They controlled 70% of the globe - the water-web. They could easily move men and material from an un-bomb-able factory (the USA) to a gigantic unsinkable aircraft carrier (England) or anywhere else.

War and history are a function of geography and meteorology. Complicated dynamics prevent us from accurately predicting the latter, but surely we can appreciate and understand the former, which is more static, better than we have done? Shouldn't we by now possess at least four carrier fleets, with requisite escorts / amphibious army - two at home and two on our island bases? The Indian Ocean, the only one named after a country, should be entirely within our control to warrant that name. Instead a power that has no port on this ocean is being allowed to befriend other nations to set up potential bases. The land-noose and the water-noose can connect and strangle us.

It is said that the Government listens to the Army Chief, humours the Air-Force Chief and ignores the Navy Chief. This could cost us dearly. Will we wake up soon enough? Waiting for INS Vikramadityacould soon become just another drama like Waiting for Godot. Do we need a separate army, navy and air-force and is keeping them separate due to a fear that they will take over this nation? How much more immature can we get? The defence strategy /security of this nation should be with professionals - with overarching sovereign government control - but we seem to think that babus and darogas are best suited - and that begs the question asked right upfront - what new or great strategic/security paradigm have these 'worthies' brought about? Can someone name even one? Yes - only on writing reports after some snafu to bail themselves out and finding scapegoats who have no say in matters strategic. Nothing has changed - even almost exactly 50 years to the date since 1962.

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