India has a sizeable military but the pace of modernisation has been slow. Most of the weapon platforms, some dating back to the Soviet era, need replacements but a torturous decision process keeps injecting delays into acquisition programmes. India military budget is $ 19 billion or slightly less than 2.5 per cent of GDP(OER). An increase to about 3.5 per cent is warranted but difficult to achieve as there are many other competing demands.
As far as China is concerned, India appears to have accepted their “˜Middle Kingdom status and the relations between the two countries, perhaps because of the 1962 humiliation heaped on India, is that of a superior and a supplicant.
But not doing so would further widen the military capability gap vis-a-vis China. India has yet to articulate its strategic national interests. Its strategic military victory over Pakistan in 1971, the Maldives operation in 1985 and the decision to go nuclear in 1998 are India’s few strategic high points. The Indian polity has rarely risen above personal or party objectives to achieve a national unity of purpose. The planned Indo-US nuclear deal is mired in controversies arising from rigid ideological positions camouflaged as strategic security concerns.
India’s perceived power, very low for a long time, has improved in the past 15 years. India has to develop the quality of its population while simultaneously modernising its armed forces. There is a wide gap between the perceived power status between China and India and India will have to take tough strategic decisions with maturity and pragmatism to reduce the gap.
According to Wikipedia, a country’s foreign policy is a set of goals that seek to outline how that particular country will interact on an official basis with other countries of the world and to a lesser extent, with non-state actors. Besides, an entire range of factors relating to those other nations–including economic, political, social, military, etc.–is evaluated and monitored in attempts to maximise benefits of multilateral international co-operation. Foreign policies are designed to protect a country’s national interests, national security, ideological goals and economic prosperity. This can occur as a result of peaceful co-operation with other nations or through exploitation.
As far as China is concerned, India appears to have accepted their ‘Middle Kingdom’ status and the relations between the two countries, perhaps because of the 1962 humiliation heaped on India, is that of a superior and a supplicant. The relations between the two countries has been examined in great detail in an article carried by the Jan-Mar 2008 issue of this magazine. Some of the concluding sentences of the article by Mr Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary GOI, merit repetition: “The satisfaction we seem to derive from semantic play by the Chinese on the two issues (India’s permanent membership of the Security Council and the international co-operation in India’s nuclear sector) reflect our mental acceptance of an inferior status vis-a-vis China and our readiness to be patronized by that country. We should not demand equality from China, we should behave as equals. We should protect our interests more forcefully. Our border infrastructure should be developed rapidly. Our strategic programme must be accelerated…..”
Chinas territorial claims are non-negotiable and at an opportune moment would seek to reclaim what it considers as its own land. If by then India realises her true potential then a fair settlement is likely. But if not, then India will have to pay the price.
India’s policies are reactive. We have not prepared action plans to meet contingencies. Our decision makers are reluctant to consult groups/individuals outside the government to obtain inputs and views that would definitely improve the quality of our actions and responses. All democracies and even the Chinese goverment obtains inputs from ‘think tanks’, universities and other organisations specialising in international relations. We have the IDSA and the National Security Advisory Board, but both firmly under the governments thumb. The requirement is for independent and unbiased opinion from people/organisations which are completely free from governmental control.
Perhaps we should learn from the Chinese the subtleties of international behaviour partly based on deception. Sun Tzu, in his book Art of War states that “All warfare is based on deception.” Subsequent Chinese strategists have elaborated on this by laying down ‘stratagems for winning’. Stratagem means–to reach a goal unorthodoxically by masquerading the intent and doing the unexpected. A sampling of ‘six winning stratagems’ would be educative.
- ‘Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean’– mask your goals.
- ‘Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao’–when the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, then attack something he holds dear, knowing that he cannot be superior in all things, there is some weakness that can be attacked.
- ‘kill with a borrowed knife’–attack using the strength of another; trick an ally into attacking or use the enemy’s own strength against him.
- ‘substitute leisure for labour’–choose the time and place for battle. Encourage the enemy to expend his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength. When he is exhausted and confused you attack with energy and purpose.
- ‘loot a burning house’–when a country is beset by internal conflicts, when corruption and crime are rampant, it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack.
- ‘make a sound in the east, then strike in the west’– feint.
From the events that are happening in the sub-continent, it can be seen that China, in collusion with Pakistan and Bangladesh and now Nepal, is employing these stratagems as part of its policy toward India, with some help from certain political groupings within the country.
By adopting the right strategies and given its current momentum and trajectory of development, India can become a formidable economic and military power capable of bringing about changes in the environment advantageous to itself. China has always attempted (and often succeeded) in keeping India in an ‘unsettled’ state and unless the power asymmetry is significantly reduced, if not eliminated, that situation will continue to exist. China is a rising power, but a dissatisfied one with a long memory. China’s territorial claims are non-negotiable and at an opportune moment would seek to reclaim what it considers as its own land. If by then India realises her true potential then a fair settlement is likely. But if not, then India will have to pay the price. As the late General Sundarji put it so succintly: “To be weak is not virtuous, to be prepared is not provocative.”