Homeland Security

Security threats facing India
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Issue Vol 23.2 Apr-Jul 2008 | Date : 20 Nov , 2010

Threats are a matter of perception. Their assessments take into account capacities, not so much intentions, of a potential adversary. For an accurate reading, the short term and long term objectives of all leading players in the world have to be judged.

Applying this criterion will reveal that India is living in an environment of threat from many corners of the earth.

The dominant view in the Neocon circles in Washington DC favours aerial strikes against Iran to knock its nuclear facilities to eradicate a possible nuclear programme. How can one assume that the Indian programme, if it is resumed, will forever remain unthreatened?

Is there a threat from the United States? To answer the question one must first identify the basic interests of the US and then examine whether similar interests of India are supplementary or contradictory to those of the US. An objective study will lead to the conclusion whether the relationship between the two countries is essentially benevolent or malignant.

The broad national interests of the US can be summed as the following:

  • Geopolitical containment of Russia and China.
  • Non-proliferation.
  • Countering and eradicating Islamism or radical Islam.
  • Maintaining access to and dominating control of energy sources

In each of these areas the US is seeking to co-opt India as a junior partner. Since Indian interests do not necessarily dovetail into those of the US, a potential collision lurks in the background.

US possibly views China as the single most potent long term threat to its continued domination of the world. It is, therefore, presently engaged in building coalitions to hamstring it from all directions. The US wants to develop India as an ally in this effort. Although India has its own fundamental differences with China, these do not go to the extent that it should play any role in the US strategy. An implicit threat in the relationship thus emerges.

As of today, one may not be off the mark to state that China-India relationship will remain a hostage to Chinas crisis with Tibet.

Non-proliferation has been an article of faith with all recent US administrations that have been deeply unhappy with the Indian nuclear weapons programme. They want this programme to be capped, rolled back and eliminated. There have been some studies, commissioned by Neocons in the US, which have even suggested that it could be bombed out. A war was launched against Iraq, under the guise of dismantling its non-existent WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Today, the dominant view in the Neocon circles in Washington DC favours aerial strikes against Iran to knock its nuclear facilities to eradicate a possible nuclear programme. How can one assume that the Indian programme, if it is resumed, will forever remain unthreatened?

The US war on Islamism, fought in the name of terrorism, has brought NATO, one suspects, as a permanent presence in Afghanistan. For the US it also serves the collateral purpose of offering a checkmate to China. This war seems to be leading to a gradual polarization of the world into Islamic and non-Islamic, and could indeed set in a clash of civilizations. The impact of such a development on South Asia will be devastating. Afghanistan is already deeply radicalized. If anti American sentiment can be treated as an index to measure propensity towards radicalism, Pakistan is also affected. A radical fringe can now be identified in India also. The US policies on issues relating to Islam have, thus, a potential for destabilization of communal harmony in South Asia.

A resurgent Russia has put paid to US energy related ambitions in the Central Asian Republics, but in the energy  belt  in West Asia, the latter remains dominant. The American enterprise in Iraq was propelled actually by a desire to strengthen this domination.  There is an American effort now to block the growth of Iranian gas and oil markets. Indian oil energy needs to the extent of 70 percent are met from foreign sources. This requirement is expected to rise to 90 percent at not too distant a date. The US frowns at possibilities of expansion of India-Iran linkages in this sector. In today’s world energy security is needed to reach human developmental goals and economic prosperity. But US eyes it as a strategic weapon. A conflictual environment is, thus, already created.

From the Pakistani view point there is no solution to the Kashmir question other than its amalgamation into Pakistan

While all that stated above does not amount to a totality of adverse relations, it is necessary not to ignore these factors while determining policy in India. One should not forget the abiding security dictum: there are only permanent interests, no permanent friends.  Further, the ‘transformational diplomacy’ of the Neocons aims at converting nation states into American clones.

In the field of external relations two other countries stand out, meriting continuous scrutiny and caution, China and Pakistan. Unlike the US, there have been violent ups and downs in India’s relationship with them. One, therefore, must attempt to discover what the core problems are.

Looking at China first, its core concern is maintaining its integrity, territorial or otherwise, while it moves dynamically forward to build up its economic, political and military strengths. It seems to it that its strongest challenges will emanate from the US, seen to be encircling it from all directions with the help of its allies, and wanting to force a democratic wave within China, also targeting for loosening of its hold over Tibet and Xinjian.

Externally, their objectives will  be to redefine Nepals relations with neighbours and other powers. Inevitably it will mean loss of Indias pre-eminent position in Nepal.

In the game of diplomatic chess that has emerged, China wants to ensure that no lending hand is given to the US by India. It seeks to achieve this objective by keeping India off balance. It has developed Pakistan as its Israel against India, extending nuclear and missile technology, all directed 100 percent against India. More than collaboration with the US, China fears India over the possible roles it can play around Tibet.

As  long as fires of Tibetan nationalism burn in Tibet, and a diaspora of over 100,000 Tibetans, mostly well educated and politically aware, with Dalai Lama providing  a focus, shelter in India, China will view India with grave suspicions. There is no way by which India can succeed in removing such mistrust from the Chinese mind.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anand K Verma

Former Chief of R&AW and author of Reassessing Pakistan.

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