Disconnect between appearance and reality, so powerfully dramatized by Shakespeare in Hamlet, remains the bane of politics in India. On the one hand, it explains why the country is sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire of indecision and apathy. On the other, vote banks, a legacy of the British game of divide and rule, which politicians exploit so cavalierly, have a direct bearing on the matter. Somehow these two factors feed off each other and keep the nation mired in strategic bungling, which characterizes much of our inept dealings with Islamabad and Beijing.
As Field Marshal Manekshaw caustically observed, they would be hard put to differentiate between mortar and motor, bore and calibre, yet make decisions critically impacting the Indian Army and the nation.
The problem is compounded by the fact that unlike their European or American counterparts, politicians in India have not the remotest exposure to military life. Neither do their near and dear ones. The same is true of the bureaucrats too, who preside over the defence and foreign ministries, without a basic grasp of strategic matters. In their eyes, military men are lesser mortals, beyond the pale of consideration, doomed to serve in the most remote, godforsaken sectors. The most conspicuous example is that of the callous apathy over the horrific mutilation of Capt Saurabh Kalia and his men, still unavenged almost two decades after Kargil. Conversely, politicians went out of their way to placate student mobs protesting Rohit Vermula’s suicide last year. In their skewed worldview, Capt Kalia’s life happens to be of lesser consequence than Vermula’s.
Politicians and babus love to play spoilsport when the question involves the supply of critical spares or allowances for the Army or a more equitable distribution of pension. But they don’t mind arrogating to themselves additional perks, privileges and free travel whenever it catches their fancy. As Field Marshal Manekshaw caustically observed, they would be hard put to differentiate between mortar and motor, bore and calibre, yet make decisions critically impacting the Indian Army and the nation. Such as giving back the 93,000 PoWs to Pakistan on a platter, returning the Haji Pir pass captured by Major Ranjit Singh Dayal against formidable odds, or allowing Islamabad to occupy a huge chunk of Kashmir by going to the United Nations, over the heads of military commanders.
This brings us to the fourth aspect of the matter, namely a policy of passivity and non violence, one which Gandhi had so painstakingly inculcated in his cadres. It may have worked during certain phases of the national movement. But offering the other cheek today out of the fear of antagonizing adversaries, under vastly altered geopolitical conditions, is not only counterproductive but also damaging to the nation’s self esteem. Ahimsa may have outlived its utility, but its deleterious effect on the Indian psyche has nearly crippled the national will to act in its own interests, or against the brazen muscle flexing of China and Pakistan, notwithstanding cosmetic changes in the security set-up, here and there.
The ISI bid to avenge the one off surgical strike by stepping up attacks on the rail infrastructure and ensuring greater loss of lives in the days to come, according to evidence gathered by the police, adds an ominous new dimension to the proxy war against India.
Even the Supreme Divine, Sri Krishna, exhorted Arjun to wage war against evil doers, who bore the faces of his cousins, when peaceful negotiations failed, because of his dharma as a warrior. Sri Aurobindo, the prophet of nationalism, who led the radical faction of the Congress with Lokmanya Tilak, cited Krishna’s call to arms when circumstances so demanded, not reliance on ahimsa. Wars may be destructive but they do help hasten human growth and evolution. The United Nations and the World Health Organization, both outcome of the Second World War, are prime examples.
In a disquieting development, the political leadership has placed Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti’s citizenship on hold, following the release of the Rashtriya Rifles sepoy, who had crossed the LoC, post surgical strike. New Delhi construes the act as a softening on Pakistan’s part. But going overboard in reciprocating routine gestures and ignoring ISI’s suspected involvement in a spate of rail accidents, the one close to Kanpur alone claiming 150 lives and injuring many more, is definitely not the answer. Why is India being so overly mindful of Pakistan’s sensibilities? The ISI bid to avenge the one off surgical strike by stepping up attacks on the rail infrastructure and ensuring greater loss of lives in the days to come, according to evidence gathered by the police, adds an ominous new dimension to the proxy war against India.
Have the political authorities ever questioned how is it possible for the ISI functionaries to outwit their Indian counterparts, namely the IPS officers heading all the spy and security agencies, time and again? What is their utility or relevance if after being at the receiving end of Pakistani deceit for decades they are still not able to fathom ISI moves on the chessboard of the shadowy game? Does it not become apparent that their mindset, steeped in law and order and crime control, is not oriented towards undercover work, strictly a military domain, which requires high levels of professionalism and utmost vigilance? Significantly, one of their own, with barely any experience at the tactical level, but hyped by the media, very nearly botched the Pathankot counter-terror operation.
If Pakistan is around, can China lag behind? Beijing masks its sinister intentions with stratagem and guile, lures the potential victim with a witchery of words and some wealth, before trapping it in its web.
The military remains integral to the spy agencies of some of the world’s most formidable powers. Why should India exempt itself from a sound universal practice, except on irrational grounds? Is the political dispensation aware of the fact that the National Security Agency and the CIA are headed by lieutenant generals or admirals? Or CIA’s notorious black operations are conducted by US Army Special Forces. Russia has its GRU which operates the dreaded Army Spetsnaz. In Israel, the military component imparts a cutting edge to its spy outfits. India’s very own Technical Services Division (TSD), an undercover Army outfit, proved its mettle in its all too brief existence, planting the fear of God in the hearts and minds of terror sponsors, until its demonization by left-liberals and Aman ki Asha brigade.
If Pakistan is around, can China lag behind? Beijing masks its sinister intentions with stratagem and guile, lures the potential victim with a witchery of words and some wealth, before trapping it in its web. Should the victim deviate from the demarcated line, dire threats follow, more of bluster than any real intent, which however makes him fall in line. The war is won without a shot being fired. Therein lies the beauty of the whole charade. The Dragon has already made serious inroads into India’s own backyard, with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal falling prey to its wiles. The strategic location of Sri Lanka has nearly made it an ideal axis of Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Notwithstanding Beijing’s homilies on harmonious relations, the Dragon resorts to hostile acts against India, whether it is in protecting terror mastermind like Masood Azhar or blocking India from the NSG membership, or on any other matter. Does it prick Beijing’s conscience when it merrily lifts tens of billions of dollars from Indian markets every year, besides driving the clandestine trade in tiger parts and elephant tusks on our soil? Taiwan offers superior technology and products at similar prices. Why are there no takers, is a question the political dispensation must answer?
India seem to be walking into the Dragon’s trap…
India seem to be walking into the Dragon’s trap with eyes wide open, if concerns voiced over the possibility of dangerous bugs and spyware being embedded in the Chinese made Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) equipment, is any indication. The equipment will be supplied to cities across Rajasthan, MP and TN as part of smart grids after contracts were inked.
The director general of the Indian Electrical Equipment Manufacturers Association, Sunil Misra, warned that these bugs “can be activated even by remote, have the potential to damage, cause failure or collapse of the grid.” The Association had also written to the NSA but nothing has come of it.