Military & Aerospace

'Is war around the corner?'
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Issue Vol 24.4 Oct-Dec2009 | Date : 04 Nov , 2011

A few month’s back, Bharat Verma, Editor of the Indian Defence Review, in an article, had predicted that China may attack India by 2012. Frankly, at that time, I did not agree with this prophecy, because in my opinion China would not want a war till it becomes a true super power by 2050,and in any case the Chinese, in my opinion, would only go to war, if they had a 100 percent chance of success.

Also China has now become India’s leading trade partner, and common sense dictates that good economic relations are a logical antidote against war. Finally, in the event of war in the next five years, the Indian Navy would be in a position to wreck havoc with China’s oil tankers, ferrying homewards, the Middle East oil, through the straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombak straits. The IAF, too would be utilised, and the Chinese”cake walk” of 1962, would not be possible.

As a nuclear specialist, it is my opinion that lots of luck would be needed to get a complex thermonuclear prototype device to function properly the first time, and even if it did, it would need atleast two more successful, confirmatory tests in a rugged militarised form.

However, two recent events have caused me to rethink, though I still feel that an Indo–China war is not likely, specially if India urgently reverses the current decline in its defence capability. The first event was the recent early September 2009 Chinese firing across the LAC (the first since 1986, and the first since the 1996 “no firing agreement”), in Kerang (northern Sikkim) where two ITBF jawans were reportedly injured (this report has been denied by the Indian Foreign Ministry).

The second event was the firing on 12 September 2009, of five 107 mm rockets, by the Pakistan based Lashkar e Toiba (LeT), across the international border at Indian villages near Amritsar. Are these two firing incidents linked, coming as they do on the background of very disturbing reports of border incursions by our two hostile nuclear armed neighbours?

While the Pakistani terrorist based actions are not new, the Chinese activities, sound similar to the ominous activities prior to the disastrous 1962 war.

Another serious mistake we are making is assumimg that the United States will pull our chestnuts out of the fire, by deterring China and pressurising Pakistan. While our broad national interests do generally appear to coincide with Washington, we must remember that no country will go to war against nuclear armed foes, unless directly threatened. Given Pakistan’s undeniable geostrategic location, we should not expect the Americans to “take out” or “neutralise” Pakistani nuclear weapons, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the terrorists. Neither should we assume that America has joint control over Pakistani nuclear weapons. It is good to have close ties with the USA, but it’s prudent not to outsource our national security to any external power.

Musharraf’s latest admission on 14 September, about Pakistan diverting American aid to beef up its defences against India, and how he ensured Pakistan’s strategic weapons programme was “speeded up”, and China’s latest border incursions, should finally clear the cobwebs from the minds of India’s leadership. Why do we continue to suffer nasty surprises at the hands of Pakistan and China. Some 47 years after 1962, India has again been repeatedly surprised by China in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and in Uttarakhand . About nine years after Kargill, and 15 years after the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, India was surprised by Pakistani terrorists taking the searoute to cause a bloodbath in Mumbai on 26/11 in 2008.

Indias foreign ministry should stop justifying Chinas daily incursions by talking about “the differing perceptions on the Line of Actual Control”. China will stop its incursions only when its deterred by Indias conventional and strategic defence capability.

The fact remains that India’s lack of strategic culture has been repeatedly exposed, and its military has been required to fight under very disadvantageous conditions because our politico–bureaucratic leadership, has allowed defence preparations to fall below critical levels, while following a policy of “passive , low reactive defence” which relies more on diplomacy than military strength. Hopefully the restrictions imposed on the Indian Army not being allowed to patrol some “sensitive areas” on the Indo–China border will now be lifted before the Chinese grab more of our territory. Also hopefully, the Government will think about inducting the long delayed 155 mm artillery, and raising more mountain divisions before it’s too late.

Their should be no doubt as to why Pakistan and its terrorists will always aim to cause mayhem in two places in India, viz Mumbai and Vadinar. Mumbai (its stock market turnover is four times Pakistan’s GDP) and Vadinar port in the Gulf of Kutch (it has three refineries with 99 million tons capacity and over two million tons of fuel storage). Yes, attacking foreign tourists in Goa will gain a lot of international publicity, but Mumbai and Vadinar are India’s economic jugular, and attacking these will keep India economically hyphenated to Pakistan. Fortunately the Coast Guard’s new North West Command, for Gujarat, headquartered at Gandhinagar has become functional, and is expected to be formally inaugerated by the Defence Minister in October. Hopefully, this new Command will urgently receive additional vessels and aircraft to ensure the safety of Gujarat, including Vadinar, because nothing can be more dangerous than creating a “paper force”.

What is the second best method to attack Mumbai and Vadinar,after terrorism? The answer is cruise missiles with land attack capability, launched from ships, submarines and Maritime Patrol aircraft like the P-3C Orion. Theoretically, the 120 km range, Harpoon anti-ship missile with a 250 kg warhead fits the bill perfectly for Pakistan as an interim system, while its ratcheting up the production of its larger Chinese gifted, 500 km range Babur cruise missiles to build an estimated stockpile of 450.

The long term aim of the Pakistani Babur cruise missiles (these can be delivered by fighter or Maritime Patrol aircraft to extend their range) is to counter India’s over publicised Ballastic Missile Defence System (BMDS) and give Pakistan a “cheap”, massive first strike capabilty which may overwhelm India’s nuclear retaliation capabilty. Right now, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is designed to counter India’s superior conventional military power, but the Babur cruise missile along with new miniaturized plutonium warheads, will put Pakistan in a different league altogether.

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