There is no room for idealism in the pursuit of national interests. More than 2,300 years ago, Chanakya, the chief strategist of the mighty Mauryan Empire, understood that only a strong nation could survive in a struggle with its rivals. Together, Chanakya and his protégé, Chandragupta, who became the first emperor of the Empire, dismantled every adversary and potential rival within India. They also defeated Alexander’s commanders, who had established a Greek kingdom in Afghanistan, and made them surrender these lands to the Mauryan Empire, thereby removing the external threat. These policies ensured almost 250 years of stability across the entire Indian subcontinent.
Mauryan statecraft was lost to India’s medieval rulers who not only did not destroy India’s enemies outside Bharatvarsha but also allowed them to invade and pillage the country. Afghanistan slipped out of India in the 11th century. The Islamic enclaves first established in Sindh in the 8th century and in Punjab and Bengal in the 13th century became the staging points for the Partition of India 700 years later. The period of British colonization that started in the middle of the 1700s extinguished all hopes of freedom for the next 250 years. By 1947, India had lost around 50 per cent of its landmass.
India is perhaps the only example of a large power that has tolerated the growth of rivals in its immediate neighbourhood. Rome never reconciled to the existence of Carthage and finally wiped its enemy off the map, ensuring Roman supremacy in the Atlantic for a thousand years. In the modern era, the United States reduced much larger Mexico to its current size through wars of conquest, becoming the pre-eminent power in North America. China has sought to dominate India, Japan and Taiwan. On the other hand, going against every principle of statecraft and national interest, India allowed dirt poor Pakistan to emerge as a nuclear rival. India’s policy towards an aggressive China was shameless appeasement – a policy that started with Jawaharlal Nehru and ended only 70 years later after Narendra Modi came to power.
It can be rightly said that we are our own greatest enemy. Rarely has India acted like a major power that unleashes the full might of its military against its adversaries. When we win wars (as in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999) our leaders are quick to return conquered land, allowing the enemy to survive. When we lose (as in 1962) the psychological damage to our collective consciousness takes decades to heal.
National security is not an abstract concept – it is as clear as daylight. If the past 70 years are a prologue, the coming decades are going to be incrementally more dangerous for India. We will be facing simultaneous external attacks and civil wars. India’s political and military leadership cannot afford to kick the can down the road for the next generation to handle. Ours is the generation that must eliminate the primary threats currently facing India. The country faces numerous security issues but these are the five most pressing ones, which if neglected could send India into the pages of history by the end of this century.
Rise of China
In 1998, when former defence minister George Fernandes said it was China which posed the primary threat to India, not many bought the argument. In fact, Congress Party spokesman and former foreign minister K. Natwar Singh commented: “The art of diplomacy lies in increasing the number of our friends and reducing the number of our adversaries. The Defence Minister is doing exactly the opposite.” It’s easy to dismiss Singh’s comment as politically motivated but in reality it shows how clueless our politicians are and how people without leadership qualities can come to occupy the highest posts in the government.
Fernandes’ point was that China is an expansionist bully. The Galwan attack, in which 20 Indian Army soldiers were lynched by the Chinese, was only the culmination of Chinese hostility. Over the decades, the Chinese have bankrolled Maoist terrorist outfits in India, provided Pakistan with both missile as well as nuclear know-how, installed nuclear armed missiles in Tibet, is encircling India with bases or treaties with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
China is in the process of creating formidable military capabilities with new ICBMs, long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons, long-range bombers and a 600-ship PLA Navy with up to six aircraft carriers as its flagships. Since Beijing’s primary adversary is the US, it is aiming to create an economic and military ecosystem that can take on the much larger American economy. Once the dragon achieves parity with the US, it will become even more assertive on its territorial claims, especially in its immediate neighbourhood. In this backdrop, it is clear that coping with China will certainly be our primary challenge in the years ahead.
What India can do: Some strategists argue it is pointless for India to compete with the Chinese because China is competing with the US, and therefore the dragon will leave India far behind. It is time to discard such defeatist thinking. The Hans may be competing with the US globally, but we only have to compete with them in Asia. Plus, we have a lot of aces and the time has come to utilize them.
- There are only a limited number of troops, aircraft, missiles and warships the PLA can bring into play against India; the rest is needed in the east where formidable American, Japanese and Taiwanese forces are arrayed. At any rate, India has demonstrated after the Galwan clashes that it has the ability to pour tens of thousands numbers of troops trained in mountain warfare plus vast quantities of modern weapons and aircraft into the Himalayas. India’s uncharacteristic force projection has disturbed and unhinged the Hans who are frustrated that India won’t quietly ignore their salami slicing like in the past decades. Strong and sustained force projection should be India’s default setting rather than a firefighting tool.
- Transfer nuclear weapons to Vietnam and Taiwan. This is not an apocalyptic scenario as it seems to your ears which are conditioned by decades of scaremongering about “loose nukes”. The fact is India will be perfectly within its right to do so because it would be payback for China’s reckless nuclear proliferation during the 1970s and 80s when it sold Pakistan nuclear weapons blueprints, technology and finally tested the Pakistani weapon in the Lop Nor desert. Vietnam and Taiwan will then become invasion proof and with two nuclear armed adversaries on its borders will multiply China’s security challenges. The PLA will have to divert men and resources to deal with this new threat.
- Steal China’s lunch: Liberalise the economy further to draw investment away from Beijing to New Delhi; take market share from Chinese companies; reduce dependence on Chinese companies; coordinate with the West to isolate China economically. China’s internal consumption being small, it relies on exports to fuel its economy. Slow economic strangulation can end the Chinese economic miracle.
- It is fact that some people will lick you only if you kick them. The communists in Beijing belong to that category. They will learn to respect India when we start paying them back in their own language – the language of aggression.
Pakistan is not a security threat, it is an irritant – like an annoying a cold that won’t go away. Pakistan can never win a war against India. At most it can hold out for a week – no more – against the Indian military. The disparity is so great that while India is on course to become a $5,000 billion economy, Pakistan is struggling to keep up with New Zealand’s $200 billion GDP. This mismatch is being replicated in the military sphere where India is able to outspend Pakistan 6-1. The Punjabi dominated Pakistan Army is corrupt to the core and has displayed shocking cowardice in almost every war with India. It is said about the Pakistan Army that it has never been defeated by civilians or in textbooks.
Still, as the epicentre of terror and because it is a nuclear armed country with jehadi leaders in charge, Pakistan presents challenges. Rogue Pakistan Army generals – frustrated at the growing imbalance with India and realizing they will never be able to defeat India in a war – may be tempted to leak nuclear weapons to anti-India terrorist outfits. Groups such as Lashkar e Tayyeba may then be ordered to unleash these weapons against Indian cities.
Secondly, one must never forget this simple truth – Pakistan is a country created by Indian Muslims in 1947 as a staging point to recreate the Mughal Empire. The game plan from the start was the long-term Islamisation of India, and every Pakistani politician, general and bureaucrat is dedicated to realize this dream. The greatest threat to India therefore is the long-term one of India’s own radicalized Muslims linking up with Pakistanis.
What India can do: A weak Pakistan is in India’s interests and therefore the Indian leadership must ensure its breakup into several new – and weaker – countries. The centrifugal forces of jehad, poverty and regional rivalry are already doing their job towards this end – India just needs to become the catalyst that quickens this process. This can be done by paying off terrorist groups and corrupt generals to act against their own country. However, individually Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakthunkhwa and FATA are not ideologically opposed to India as a secular entity.
Even if Pakistan breaks up, its rump state of Punjab will still be a – not insignificant – country of around 110 million people with nuclear weapons to boot. Other than war, there is no solution to making this threat disappear. So India will have to manage this threat through other means, including economic strangulation, diversion of Indus river waters to hasten the desertification of Pakistan, isolating the country via sports boycott and generally making it difficult for Pakistanis to lead an honourable life if they remain opposed to India.
The boundaries of warfare have widened – no longer does the enemy have to send its soldiers into your country when they can hack into your internet systems and shut down your electricity grid, hospitals and transport networks. A single day shutdown of any industry can easily translate into tens of billions of dollars of economic activity lost. This can also impact your export markets built over decades of painstaking effort by private companies. Therefore, China’s known propensity for cyber warfare should be a major planning considerations in our strategic and operational thinking.
What India can do: Besides defensive and evasive measures, India should also have the capability take the fight to its enemies. According to Arun Mohan Sukumar, who heads Cyber Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, India should not hesitate to build its offensive cyber capabilities. “This would involve the development of software designed to intrude, intercept and exploit digital networks,” he explains. “The deployment of cyber weapons is not a low-cost affair, as the digital trail allows adversaries to track and possibly predict the development of future technologies. Nevertheless, a cyber-arsenal serves the key function of strategic deterrence. India’s cyber command should be the primary agency responsible for the creation and deployment of such weapons.”
Covid-19 – or the virus from Wuhan – has demonstrated the apocalyptic nature of a global pandemic. While the leftist media is still living in denial and compromised medical journals such as The Lancet continue to toe the line of the Communist Party of China (CCP), the world is now beginning to find out that Covid-19 was genetically engineered in China and used by the CCP as a bio weapon. The fact that China alone in the world is Covid-free is a pointer to how a virus can be mutated to infect certain populations more than others.
What India can do: China will deploy any weapon it can in its quest for global supremacy, and India needs to be prepared to face future viruses that may be unleashed on the planet. There should be a robust testing system in every city – and ideally in every hospital – in India to trace the origin of virus in infected patients. Since India has one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical industries, it is in a unique space to create defensive measures against these threats.
A shocking and diabolic development took place during the recent Hamas rocket attacks against Israel. As hundreds or rockets rained down on Israeli cities and the several fell through the Iron Dome, and Israeli emergency crews rushed through the streets to attend to the injured, and the country was in a state of general mayhem, Israel’s Muslim citizens rushed out of their homes and attacked their Jewish neighbours. The unprecedented rioting by thousands of these Muslims added another major headache for the Israeli police, which had to divert forces to check the rioting. Israeli Muslims have the same rights as Jews and enjoy numerous welfare services provided free of cost by the Israeli government, and yet they betrayed their own country and compromised national security.
This act of violence against their own citizens in the middle of a war has implications for India too. In the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, there were attacks by radicalized youth on soldiers marching through Indian cities and headed towards the front. However, these were isolated incidents and patriotic citizens quickly rounded up these criminals and handed them over the police.
Flash forward to the present and you have the Shaheen Baghs plus anti-CAA and anti-NRC riots in which radicalized citizens launched widespread attacks on trains, railway stations and private property. In a future war with Pakistan, these same jehadis – with support from students at JNU and Aligarh Muslim University – could create mayhem in Indian cities. Maoists and urban naxals may launch similar attacks during a war with China.
The point is that while spending $70 billion annually to deal with external enemy, the political leadership cannot ignore the internal threat. Imagine the nightmarish scenario of a collusive two-front war against Pakistan and China, and the agents of these two countries launching 24/7 mayhem, disrupting the flow of arms, ammunition, food and other essential supplies to our soldiers fighting on various fronts.
What India can do: The threat posed by jehadis, Maoists, urban naxals, radicalized students and communists cannot be waved away. It is very real and there needs to be a plan in place to deal with these saboteurs. Since the police do not have the resources to cope with large-scale disturbances on a continual basis (plus they cannot be relied upon to act if there are leftist or secular state governments in power) India must have a plan in place to immediately take out and neutralize the ringleaders of rioters.
Enemies Must Not be Allowed to Rise
At the height of Rome’s power, the mighty empire often clashed with its powerful maritime rival Carthage. Here’s what the Roman general and censor Marcus Cato said about the need to destroy its prime rival: “The Carthaginians are already our enemies. For he who prepares everything against me – so that he can make war at whatever time he wishes – is already my enemy even though he is not yet using arms.”
So focussed was Cato on Rome’s security that he ended each of his speeches in the Roman Senate, on any matter whatsoever, from 153 BCE to his death aged 85 in 149 BCE, with the words: “Delenda est Carthago.” (Carthage must be destroyed!)
In 146 BCE Roman legions razed the city so completely that there remained absolutely no trace of it after the war. So thorough was the destruction and so determined were the Romans to finish the problem of a perennially troublesome maritime neighbour that they poured salt into the soil of Carthage so that nothing would ever grow there for decades.
The Carthaginian defeat was total and absolute, instilling fear and horror into Rome’s enemies and allies.
The world is never constant. There will be war again – and most likely it will be thrust upon India as on countless previous occasions. It could even be a civil war with foreign instigation and involvement. Keeping that existential threat in mind, Indians must internalise this reality – only the utter destruction of its enemies will ensure the survival of India as we know it.
As Fernandes said about nation building, Indians must be prepared to make sacrifices so that we have a country at all. “We have become a very soft people, and we must realize that nations are not built through soft options, nor are the country’s frontiers secured by a soft line,” he said. “One has to be willing to live a hard life.”
For, the bitter truth is that it is not the best civilization that succeeds but the most persistent one.
–The writer is a globally cited defence analyst. His work has been published by leading think tanks, and quoted extensively in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare and economic development. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda