By Adnan Qaiser 1 September 2018
It is the ethos of a people that not only defines them as a nation, but also designs their destiny. However, by artificially altering the mindset and culture of a modern nation-state, a society tends to lose its tolerance and homogeneity. India has remained a secular state since its birth in August 1947, largely under the rule of Congress party. As India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru saw “the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance,” it was the collective voice of India that spoke about secular ideals and democratic norms. However, with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coming into power in May 2014, India has chosen to become an exclusive Hindu state – finding its glory in ancient Hindu civilization.
As India strives to join the global elite and demonstrate its regional supremacy, the international community needs to be aware of India’s transformation from a secular and vibrant democracy to a more stifling and puritanical religious thought.
Gauri Lankesh, a senior Indian journalist, remained a fierce critic of Hindu-nationalist militancy; her cold-blooded murder on 5 September 2017 – the fourth in a row allegedly at the hands of the ultra-religious right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the militant arm of the incumbent BJP – reminds us, yet again, about India forsaking its secular ideals for hardline religious fundamentalism. An editorial in The New York Times two days later correctly pointed out: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has let a climate of mob rule flourish in India, with his right-wing Hindu supporters vilifying ‘secularists.’”
While India has always espoused the extreme ideologies of radical Hinduism, the fanatical notions of “Hidutva” (Hindu nationalism) and “Akhand Bharat” (Greater Hindustan) have fired-up the Hindu majority to adopt a harsher stance towards minorities and those who advocate liberal and secular values. Worryingly, the same attitude has affected India’s strategic thought, turning its military to become dangerously jingoistic, war-mongering and belligerent.
From Secularism to India’s ‘Hinduization’
Samuel Huntington was almost prophetic when he observed in his epic work, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order: “The balance of power among civilizations is shifting: the West is declining in relative influence; … and non-Western civilizations generally are reaffirming the value of their own cultures. A civilization-based world order is emerging.”
Four years into his tenure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is riding high. From his ‘Shining India’ slogan to now ‘India first’ and ‘Make in India’ catchphrases, Mr. Modi has indeed worked up the whole Indian nation towards a promising destiny, where India sits at the global high-table. Having a population of some 1.28 billion, in which almost one-third remains below the poverty line, the government justifiably brags about its achievements: politically, the BJP and its allies control 18 out of the Union of India’s 29 states; on average, GDP growth has stayed over 7 percent; inflation is down from a high of 8.33 percent to 2.99 percent; and a ‘foreign investors’ darling’ has attracted US$149 billion worth of foreign direct investment (by December 2016).
Despite these economic feats, however, the BJP government has done one of the biggest disservices to Indian society in India’s history: dividing the population along communal lines and marginalizing minorities. The extremist Hindu mythological dogmas – promoted by BJP and its associated ultra-religious, right-wing Sangh Parivar (family of organizations) – have now begin to define Indian nationalism and patriotism. Driven by the beliefs of safeguarding and spreading Hindu faith, Sangh Parivar remains a proponent of Hindu nationalist movement and includes cult-like (militant) groups, such as RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and many others (These titles may be of little significance to a Western reader; however, these groups bring instant subjugation from an ordinary Indian, not out of any veneration, but from fear intimidation and death).
So, now, when Air India’s swank cabin-crew end their safety announcements with the slogan ‘Jai Hind’ (victory to Hindustan), when billboards advertise their products by openly celebrating their ‘Indianness,’and when RSS – three times banned in India – lynches hapless Muslims for eating beef (cow being sacred in the Hindu religion), a different picture of Indian nationalism emerges.
In my 2016 paper, A Shining India’s Twilight: The Yoke of Radical Hinduism, I tried to draw attention towards such a decline in Indian society. I noted, for instance:
“[W]ith BJP coming into power, Mr. Modi’s mother-organization – the RSS – took the centre-stage and started spreading a climate of intolerance. It began with lynching a man for allegedly eating beef and threatened Muslims against cow-slaughtering. RSS’s Hindu deification campaigns through ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (return to mother faith by inciting minority Christians and Muslims to convert to Hinduism) as well as ‘Love Jihad’ (discouraging Hindu girls from marrying Muslim boys), stigmatized the Indian society to such an extent that dozens of prominent artists, scientists and writers returned their national awards as a mark of protest. RSS carries notoriety in not only minorities’ persecution but also Hindu-cleansing. A Hindu mob had first demolished Babri Masjid – a sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya – on 6 December 1992, contesting that the site belonged to a temple of Rama. The ensuing violence resulted in the death of some 2,000 people, mostly Muslim. The Gujarat massacre of some 1,000 Muslims under Mr. Modi’s watch – as chief minister – remains another blot on a secular India. On 17 January 2016, a 26-year-old PhD student, Rohith Vermula – belonging to (lowest) Dalit caste – had to commit suicide by hanging himself at the University of Hyderabad after BJP stalwarts, including two sitting ministers, labeled him “anti-national” and “castiest.” Furthermore, a student leader at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kanhaiya Kumar, was arrested by police in February 2016 on fabricated sedition charges by another BJP minister.”
The Daily Mail’s special investigative report in December 2014 pointed out how BJP backed Hindu extremists groups terrorized hundreds of Muslims in Agra and forced them to become Hindus under “Dharma Yudh” (religious holy war).
In an excellent dissection of Mr. Modi and his supporters, Siddhartha Debb portrays the fanatical Hindu mindset:
They admire “a kind of unmoored nihilism that dresses itself in religious colors and acts through violence, that is ruthlessly authoritarian in the face of diversity and dissent, and that imprints the brute force of its majoritarianism wherever it is in power.” Debb continues, “They assail the ‘anti-nationals’ who stand in their way, beating and molesting people while shouting, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ [Long-live mother India].”
Amid, India’s frenzy seeking its glory and prominence in Hinduism, Mughal emperors – who have ruled the Indian subcontinent for over three centuries – have become a new target for Muslim bashing. Of late, Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pardesh, India’s largest state, has removed the Taj Mahal – one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO-designated world heritage site built by Mughal Emperor Shahjehan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal at Agra – from its state’s list of tourist attractions, denouncing the historical monument as not part of “Bharatiya Sanskriti” (Indian culture and traditions) by saying: “Shahjehan’s beautiful memento of love to his wife is a blot on Indian culture because it was built by traitors who killed many Hindus.”
Dissecting another Indian ultra-religious militant organization Shiv Sehna (Lord Shiv’s army), German scholar Julia Eckert records in her book, The Charisma of Direct Action: Power, Politics and the Shiv Sehna: “Direct action [communal riots/violence and mob mentality] replaces [Indian] parliamentary politics and is considered to be superior in efficiency and moral rectitude … Shiv Sehna has been stagnating at a certain percentage of votes for several years, these turning into victories or into defeat depending on its opponents’ strategies.” (Direct Action Riots Day – also known as the Great Calcutta Killings – was a day of widespread riots and manslaughter between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian city of Calcutta (during British rule) on 16 August 1946. Calcutta is now called as Kolkata. The day continues to be remembered as The Week of the Long Knives).
The blatant disregard of the rule of law by right-wing Hindu nationalists became international headlines when Suraj Pal Amu, a BJP’s leader from the northern state of Haryana offered a bounty of Indian Rupee 100 million (US$1.5 million) for decapitating a leading Indian film-actress and her director for an unreleased Bollywood film Padmavati rumoured to have depicted an amorous relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler, Alauddin Khilji, who ruled Delhi sultanate from 1296 to 1316.
Furthermore, RSS is all set to capture the young minds through an ambitious project that started with schools several decades ago. In an interview to The Telegraph of Kolkata the Hindutva scholar Shridhar D. Damle proclaimed: “What the media and others are ignoring is how skilfully and sublimely the RSS is working in the field of education. By 2024, it would have raised and readied a new generation of educated Indians who understand and believe in the philosophy of Hindutva. All the vice chancellors of major universities are partners in this project.” Damle is a co-author of The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism. Published in 1987, the book provides inside account and the outlook of RSS and its parent body, the BJP.
Despite the outcry in civil society about India shedding its secular credentials and attacks on Muslims, in addition to the Indian Supreme Court ordering the government to stop growing violence by ‘gau-rakshaks’ (cow-vigilantes), Mr. Modi remains smug – he has yet to condemn the brutal murder of Gauri Lankesh. Communal fault-lines in India have become so dangerously divergent that India’s outgoing (Muslim) vice-president, Hamid Ansari, felt constrained to publicly highlight Muslims’ anxieties by saying: “A sense of insecurity was creeping in among Muslims because of vigilantism and intolerance.” At another convocational address, Mr. Ansari found India becoming “a polity at war with itself in which the process of emotional integration has faltered and is in dire need of reinvigoration.” He underlined the need to assuage the heightened insecurity amongst segments of the citizenry, “particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians.”
The Times, in the above quoted editorial, concluded: “Ms. Lankesh had voiced concern about the climate of menace against journalists who didn’t toe the Hindu-nationalist line. If Mr. Modi doesn’t condemn her murder forcefully and denounce the harassment and threats that critics of Hindu militancy face daily, more critics will live in fear of deadly reprisal and Indian democracy will see dark days.”
Indian Army’s Alignment with the Hindu Nationalist Narrative
While India’s societal disparities – inequality and decay – remain a cause for concern, its military’s mindless bellicosity is getting increasingly worrisome. Mr. Modi rattled India when casting aside the decades-long tradition of passing on the baton of the Indian Army to the senior-most general as chief of army staff; rather, he appointed General Bipin Rawat by superseding two highly-respected generals in December 2016. Considering General Rawat’s hawkish stance on Kashmir and other ongoing insurgencies in India, and sharing BJP’s nationalist narrative, the move was seen as a politicisation of the armed forces.
General Rawat has, although, proved to be a BJP’s politico-military mouthpiece through many of his controversial pronouncements, his latest observation about All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) – a Muslim political party in Assam – is most disconcerting. Speaking at a conference entitled ‘Bridging Gaps and Securing Borders in the Northeast Region’ Rawat has raised alarms about the rapid rise of Muslims from five to nine districts. Inciting worries about AIDUF “grow[ing] in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years,” Rawat employed India’s fear mongering technique, alleging the “increas[ed] migration of Bangladeshis to Assam was part of a ‘planned proxy warfare’ by Pakistan, [which was] backed by China.”
A news analysis aptly observed: “What was shocking about Gen Rawat’s recent utterances in Assam was that his language matched the hateful rhetoric of Hindutva groups verbatim as they are targeting poor Muslims in the region and even espousing violence against them. Rawat’s message is a clear endorsement of the ongoing anti-Muslim campaign that often leads to violence from the Hindutva groups. This is a shocking turnaround for an army that was proud of being apolitical and secular.”
The controversial release on bail of a military intelligence officer and his reinstatement in the army after spending nine years in jail on extremism and terrorism charges further demonstrates the alignment of India’s military with India’s ultra-right-wing radical ethos. Lieutenant-Colonel Shrikant Purohit is said to be the founder of another extremist Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat, and was found to have been involved in a number of Hidutva or Saffron terrorist attacks on Muslims in India (Just like the green colour generally represents Muslims; saffron symbolises ultra-religious Hinduism):
1) The Samjhauta Express blasts in 2007 – the train that runs between Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India – that killed 68 people, mostly Pakistanis;
2) The bombing of Ajmer Dargah (the Muslim Sufi saint’s shrine), again in 2007, in which three people died and 15 were left injured; and,
3) The terrorist attack at Malegaon – a Muslim weavers’ town – in 2008 that killed seven people and injured 79 others.
The 73-day long Doklam standoff (June-August 2017) between the Chinese and Indian armies exhibited India’s newfound brinkmanship and intransigence – Indian troops crossed into Chinese territory to physically stop the construction of a road, which fell within the rights of China, on behalf of a third country, Bhutan, without any valid justification. India ultimately backed down due to three factors: One, China played masterly diplomacy that generated enough international pressure on India. Secondly in view of the forthcoming BRICS summit hosted by China on 4 September 2017, India could not afford a frosty reception accorded to Prime Minister Modi. Finally, India’s belligerence and foolishness in crossing over the border and physically stopping the Chinese from constructing a road in China’s sovereign territory could never be defended internationally, had China invoked the UN Security Council.
The problem is Indian origin, foreign-based, analysts and commentators like Sumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) who, through their writings, egg and incite India to “flex its military muscles” regionally and internationally without realizing Indian armed forces inherent weaknesses and challenges (discussed below).
Impelling India into a Thucydides Trap (which postulates a clash between a recognized and a rising power), the writers, for instance, have noted in their recent piece in the Foreign Policy, “It is tempting to dismiss Doklam as yet another inconsequential Sino-Indian spat in a long-disputed border region. But that would be a mistake. The standoff suggests that changes may be afoot in India — changes that could significantly alter India’s strategic character. Basing all their assumptions upon the “importance of U.S.-India relationship,” which according to the authors, the “Indian leaders have described as “indispensable,” a “general strategic momentum is pushing India in an increasingly competitive direction. India has become one of the world’s largest arms importers, while also emphasizing indigenous defense production through its “Make in India” campaign. Its projects include raising a mountain corps, modernizing its fleet of combat aircraft, expanding its navy, and improving its nuclear capabilities. In addition, India is working closely with partners such as Japan, Vietnam, and the United States to hedge against regional security challenges through efforts such as joint exercises, training, and military sales.”
Furthermore, dismissing the “myth that democracies or nuclear-armed” neighbours do not go to war, General Rawat has recently claimed that “differences with Pakistan [are] irreconcilable,” owing to which a two-front war against China and Pakistan cannot be ruled out. Although the Chinese government generally avoids snubbing others publically, its state media (Global Times), rebuked the Indian army chief by stating in an editorial:
“Admittedly, Rawat has such a big mouth that he could ignite the hostile atmosphere between Beijing and New Delhi. He not only turns a blind eye to international rules, but also made us see the arrogance probably prevailing in the Indian Army. He advocated a two-front war in such a high-profile manner, but where does the Indian Army’s confidence come from? Generals in India need to form some basic knowledge about the current situation. Can India bear the consequences when it has both China and Pakistan as its adversaries at the same time? Should the Indian Army simulate a military rivalry with its Chinese counterpart before letting Rawat speak?”
Moreover, the way in which the Indian air force chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, alerted his 12,000 officers (through a personal letter) to be prepared for operations at “very short notice,” and General Rawat’s claim of having better options than surgical strikes to teach Pakistan a lesson, lays bare India’s aggressive defence posturing and risk predilection – this at a time when the world is seeking solutions to many an ongoing wars, some of which resulted from similar brash thinking and foolhardiness. Recent examples are:
1) The Iraq War, which was based on faulty intelligence and misplace assumptions, resulting into massive Iraqi bloodshed, the creation of terror-group like Daesh (Islamic State) and continued Middle East’s unrest with powerful countries squabbling for regional dominance;
2) The Afghanistan War, the longest war in American history, which despite employing NATO’s full military might keeps dragging-on in its 16th year;
3) Civil war in Syria, against Daesh as well as a contest among states – and state-proxies – to overthrow/prop President Bashar-al-Assad’s government;
5) North Korea’s nuclear belligerence, defying the international community and threatening world peace and order, and;
Notwithstanding their border disputes, Chinese president, Xi Jinping, reminded Mr. Modi at the BRICS summit about China’s desire to continue having a “healthy, stable” relationship under the 1954 Panchsheel agreement (five principles of peaceful coexistence), to wit:
1) Respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty;
2) Mutual non-aggression;
3) Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs;
4) Equality and mutual benefit; and,
5) Peaceful coexistence.
Considering the four-models of nuclear proliferation, which induce a country to become a nuclear weapon state, India’s fast-paced militarization and its fast-paced and ambitious nuclear weapon program remain driven by:
a) Power-and prestige (to establish/demonstrate regional hegemony);
b) Domestic politics (political parties’ power politics), and;
c) Strategic culture (the grandeur and profundity of ancient Hindu civilization)
Worryingly, the changing profile of the army, which has largely remained apolitical and dormant in the society, defines India’s strategic trend. In order to arouse nationalist sentiments among students a number of universities and educational institutions have begun seeking the allotment of decommissioned Vijayanta or T-55 tanks from the army, as a mark of Indian patriotism and to instil pride and veneration among their students about the valour and great sacrifices of Bharati Sehna (Indian army).
In its mad rush from rags to riches, á-la Hollywood’s epic “Slumdog Millionaire, a so-called “Shining” and “Modified” India – an allusion to Mr. Modi and BJP’s landslide victory in May 2014 elections – disregards India’s innumerable domestic challenges and internal inconsistencies. For instance:
3) Multi-party political system (while cobbling together alliances to form governments, bribery, corruption, and foul-play remain widespread. Political-parties’ machinations often lead to a government’s fall, sometimes forcing fresh elections – demonstrating political volatility, causing a heavy toll on exchequer. In a ten-year period from 1989 to 1999, India saw no less than five elections with seven prime ministers), and;
4) Insurgencies and separatist movements (an estimated 30 armed insurgency movements sweep across India, reflecting an acute sense of alienation and marginalization among its people. They include, for example: (a) political right movements in Assam, Kashmir and Punjab (Khalistan-2020); (b) movements for socio-economic justice and civil rights by Maoists/Naxalites in India’s eastern Red Corridor and north-eastern (seven-sister) states, and; (c) religious movement in Ladakh.
India’s Troubled Relations with its Neighbours
However, it has been India’s hegemonic mindset – or its Greater Hindustan notion – that often brings frictions in India’s relations with neighbouring countries. India’s “geospatial information regulation bill” (2016) proposing heavy penalties for representing India’s geographical boundaries against its wishes not only reflected India’s obduracy, but also demonstrated new Delhi’s attitude towards forceful occupation of neighbouring countries’ territory.
Following the 1962 Sino-Indian War, India remains mired in territorial disputes over Aksai Chin and Ladakh regions in the west (claimed by India) as well as south of the McMahon Line at Arunachal Pradesh in the east (claimed by China). Nepal, on the other hand, claims Kalapani, which India had forcibly occupied in 1962. In fact, on allegations that India was trying to topple his government, Prime Minister K.P. Oli cancelled the Nepalese president’s visit to India and recalled his ambassador in May 2016. India’s dubious role in Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – where initially the Indian army (as peacekeepers) supported the LTTE only to change tack in the end – demonstrates the country’s expansionist proclivities. The assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the hands of LTTE in May 1991 reveals the group’s rancour about such about-face. Moreover, it took India 68 years to settle its dispute over 162 enclaves in the Bay of Bengal with Bangladesh; yet Bangladesh continues to lament reduction of water in the River Ganges – and floods during Monsoon – due to India’s Farakka Barrage on Ganges. Wary of India’s interference, Bangladesh denies India trans-country access to India’s northeastern seven-sister-states.
With regards to a nuclear-armed Pakistan, India remains confrontational. Both countries rivalry remains deep-rooted and intense; having fought three wars in 1948-49, 1965 and 1971 – plus five close-call/bloody conflicts:
- India’s Operation Brasstacks (military manoeuvres with live ammunition in 1986-87 (detailed below);
- Kashmir Intifada (sudden Kashmir uprising in December 1989 – and lasting the whole decade of 1990s – due to India’s brutal state repression)
- Kargil conflict (1999);
- The Twin-Peak Crisis (India’s Operation Parakram after an attack at the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 leading to a 10-month eyeball to eyeball standoff between two nuclear armies of the world in 2001-02), and;
- Mumbai attacks (alleged on Pakistani jihadists on 26 November 2008)
The major dispute over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to afflict India-Pakistan relations since subcontinent’s partition in August 1947. Another dispute over a 60-mile-long tidal estuary, called Sir-Creek, also remains unresolved – largely due to India’s political obduracy rather than any legal hindrance. Finally, India clandestinely occupied Siachen glacier in April 1984. Said to be the highest battlefield on earth, the harsh weather conditions have led to a steady number of fatalities for this otherwise nonsensical troop presence, causing unimaginable ecological loses.
Not only has India been found carrying out subversion in Pakistan – as was revealed through the arrest, and subsequent confession, of a serving naval commander who was spying for Indian intelligence in March 2016 – India has also kept the Line of Control (LoC) at the disputed Kashmir inflamed through incessant cross-border firing, which keeps killing innocent civilians on Pakistan side of the border (Pakistan Army does not target the Kashmiri civilians considering them their own brethren). India justifies targeting the civilians on Pakistani side of the LoC blaming them for spying on Indian Army’s posts and movements.
Since Mr. Modi’s ascendance to the prime ministership in 2014, the ceasefire agreement of November 2003 between the two countries has died its death, with India stepping up military pressure along the 740 kilometre-long LoC. According to a report, on an average India carried-out 336 ceasefire violations each year between 2013 and 2016. India has further increased its use of surveillance drones to monitor the LoC, making Pakistan shoot-down its third spy-drone on 27 October 2017 (having shot Indian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) on 19 November 2016 and 15 July 2015 respectively). Reasserting India’s hostile policy, the Indian defence minister has recently vowed to continue to “dominate” the LoC militarily. However, signifying the importance of Kashmir for Pakistan, its Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Zubair Hayat reiterated at an international seminar on 14 November 2017 that the path to relations between Islamabad and New Delhi passes through Kashmir, with “no bypass.”
The arrest of Naval Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev spying for Indian intelligence, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) – condemned to death after confessing to his subversive activities to sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan province – not only demonstrates India’s determination to derail the project, but also to keep Pakistan unstable and terror-stricken.
Acknowledging India’s involvement in a dirty covert war against Pakistan, a renowned Indian magazine, Frontline, published by the prestigious The Hindu, has asked New Delhi to review its policies. The famed author Praveen Sawami concludes: “[T]he story of the man on death row [Jadhav] illustrates that this secret war is not risk-free. Lapses in trade-craft and judgement, inevitable parts of any human enterprise, can inflict harm far greater than the good they seek to secure.”
Stephen Cohen, an authority on South-Asia, notes in his book Shooting for a Century: Finding Answers to the India-Pakistan Conundrum: “Normalization [in relations] is as much in India’s interest as in Pakistan’s. New Delhi will have difficulty ‘rising,’ ‘emerging,’ or becoming one of the major powers of Asia if it has to haul a wounded Pakistan around.”
Furthermore, growing Indian ties with the United States through a number of nuclear and defence agreements, and India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan, remain a cause for concern to Pakistan.
In their testimonies to the U.S. Senate Armed Service Committee, senior U.S. civilian and military officials highlighted this aspect: the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, noted that “Pakistan is concerned about international isolation and sees its position through the prism of India’s rising international status, including India’s expanded foreign outreach and deepening ties to the United States,” while the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant-General Vincent Stewart, pointed out, “[Viewing] all the challenges through the lens of an Indian threat to the state of Pakistan … Pakistan desires [an] Afghanistan … that does not have heavy Indian influence.”
Externally, however, India faces no existential threat to its security. The seven member states belonging to The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, are too-trifle to intimidate a much larger and powerful India. Subcontinent’s frequent border clashes and warmongering could peacefully end the next day if India settles its territorial disputes with China and Pakistan – just like it resolved its border disputes with Bangladesh in 2015.
Adopting a principle of constructive engagement with communities of common destinies through its ‘One Belt One Road’ project – a 2013 launched ambitious foreign policy initiative to revive the connectivity of ancient Silk Route linking 68 countries through land and maritime routes for trade purposes – China’s present outlook promotes a ‘new Asian security concept’ based on the equality of states, which nullifies any threat to India emerging out of China, unless provoked.
India’s Dangerous Flirtation with the Cold Start Doctrine
The unnerving thing for the international community is the Indian Army’s newfound fascination with the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD), essentially a limited war concept now called “proactive operations” after its global condemnation. Taking a cue from Kargil conflict between Pakistan and India in 1999 – when in a riposte to what India had done to Pakistan at the Siachen glacier in April 1984, Pakistani jihadists and regulars from Northern Light Infantry crossed into Indian territory at Ladakh region and occupied large tracts of area and posts left vacant by the Indian troops during severe winter months – and perhaps suffering from fallacies about its conventional prowess, India continues to (erroneously) believe in having a military altercation with Pakistan under a nuclear overhang and winning it too.
Driven by his misplaced chauvinism, Indian Army Chief General Rawat proclaimed in January 2018 that his forces were ready to call Pakistan’s “nuclear bluff” and cross the border to carry out any operation if asked by the government.
It was just such a delusional mindset that propelled India to carry out so-called “surgical-strikes” inside Pakistani-controlled Kashmir in September 2016 – a claim that was instantly rebuked by the Pakistani Army as never took place. It is widely believed that any sub-conventional or conventional confrontation between the two rivals could quickly lead to a nuclear conflagration. The Prussian Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) believed that “fighting preventive war is like committing suicide for the fear of death.” Pakistan’s former president, General Pervez Musharraf, is on record as admitting to have considered using the nuclear option against India during the standoff between the two armies in 2001-02.
The sluggishness of India’s war machine made it look for an alternate doctrine. While the Indian Army was trying to mobilize itself during Operation Parakram after an attack on the Indian parliament on 13 December 2001, the Pakistani Army was fully dug-in in forward trenches with minefields laid. It took the Indian Army almost one month to mobilize its resources, besides suffering 1,874 casualties without fighting the war.
Myra MacDonald, in her scholarship, Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War records: “Operation Parakram (valour) turned out to be a disaster for the Indian Army with high casualty-rate without engaging in war. India’s army chief, General V.K. Singh admitted: ‘We seemed to be at war with ourselves’”
That slow-paced, ‘crank-shaft-start’ made the Indian Army think about a quick mobilization plan in 2002-04 – nicknamed Cold Start – to punish Pakistan after a terrorist attack on Indian soil within 72 hours. The CSD aims to stay well below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold – by either striking from the air jihadist targets inside Pakistan or making shallow penetration and seizing territory for a limited period of time to exert pressure – before Pakistan can rally international diplomatic support.
Since harmonization – or interoperability – of this doctrine among the Indian military services remains deficient (elaborated in further detail below), CSD seems to be the exclusive brainchild of the Indian Army, with the air force, navy and strategic forces command seemingly not fully on-board. In their book, Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-border Terrorism, George Perkovich and Toby Dalton state: “[T]he IAF [Indian Air Force] was not fully involved in the development of Cold Start and, after the new doctrine was (unofficially) publicized, did not subscribe to its assumptions about the Air Force’s role in it.” Considering that the IAF wishes to maintain its own identity and mission orientation, its reluctance to become a part of any Indian Army’s (mis)adventure is understandable. Both forces clashed – and keep rubbishing each other’s perspective – at the time of the Kargil conflict too. IAF did not participate during the crucial 10 days of war (from 10 to 20 May 1999) with Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis reportedly dragging his feet – and even giving shut-up calls during joint chiefs’ meeting. The air chief, however, feared that the localized conflict may snowball into a total war between the two countries. Secondly, IAF remained hesitant in providing close air support to the military considering its primary role to take on the enemy’s air force (Air Forces from both countries did not cross into each other’s territory, barring an odd incident).
The authors further confirm that the IAF remains “sceptical of being cast in a secondary, close-air-support role,” and quote retired Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, who had served as deputy director at the IAF’s Centre for Air Power Studies in 2009, as stating: “There is no question of the air force fitting itself into a doctrine propounded by the army. That is a concept dead at inception.”
Nevertheless, the Indian Army’s fixation with surgical strikes is laid bare when, despite maintaining a conventional force superiority of three-to-one against Pakistan, the military stations its three ‘strike corps’ – armed with eight Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) comprising Reorganised Army Plains Infantry Divisions (RAPIDS) and airborne assets – within hailing distance of the Indo-Pakistan border. IBGs are based on the Cold War era’s concept of tactical blitzkrieg or lightening strikes by the Soviets through their Operational Maneuver Groups (OMG) and NATO’s Follow on Forces Attack (FOFA) to outmaneuver each other quickly.
India’s military posturing became more belligerent, when it saw how easily the US had carried out an operation inside Pakistan against Osama bin Laden in May 2011 without alerting Pakistan’s defence forces. Although rejected by the Myanmar government, India undertook a cross-border attack against rebels in Myanmar on 10 June 2015. This is another thing that the militants were said to have abandoned their hideouts long before the attack. The idea of surgical strikes against Pakistan was first introduced by Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor in 2009 without realizing “Who would clean the mess the next day” (to borrow words of former US vice-president India, Dick Cheney, on Israeli airstrikes on Iranian nuclear installations).
probably wargames the scenario that, in the event of a surgical strike inside Pakistan after a terrorist attack on Indian soil by Pakistani non-state-actors (jihadists), Pakistan would ‘recognize’ India’s limited objectives, thereby not escalating the conflict. India needs to be mindful, however, of starting a war – no matter how limited – without having any control over ending it; that leverage always rests with one’s adversary. This is why former U.S. Undersecretary of State, Fred Iklé, has cautioned in his book Every War Must End: “Inflicting ‘punishment’ on the enemy nation is not only an ineffective strategy for ending a war, it may well have side effects that actually hasten the defeat of the side that relies on such a strategy.”
From Cold Start to a Hot (Nuclear) Conflagration
Meanwhile, through its battlefield tactical nuclear weapon (TNW) Hatf-IX (Nasr) – declaring its willingness to even detonate it on its own territory under Indian aggression – Pakistan has effectively countered any CSD design. Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, recently noted that the Nasr missile “puts cold water on cold start.” Strategic stability in South Asia has been another casualty of Cold Start; India’s doctrine has made Pakistan abandon its nuclear policies of ‘minimum credible deterrence’ and ‘recessed deployment’ and adopt a strategy of ‘full spectrum deterrence.’
However, India’s Cold Start Doctrine and Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence have brought the two dangerously close to a nuclear altercation with no side willing to budge. In a speech in April 2013, India’s former foreign secretary and chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Board, Shyam Saran clearly outlined India’s policy of responding with a full-scale strategic nuclear response in the face of any theatre tactical nuclear weapon.
Shooting down any notion that India would distinguish between the employment of theatre and strategic nuclear weapons, Saran clarified: “A limited nuclear war is a contradiction in terms. Any nuclear exchange, once initiated, would swiftly and inexorably escalate to the strategic level. Pakistan would be prudent not to assume otherwise as it sometimes appears to do, most recently by developing and perhaps deploying theatre nuclear weapons.”
Reading Pakistan’s stimulus in inflicting harm to India Saran stated: “Pakistani motivation is to dissuade India from contemplating conventional punitive retaliation to sub-conventional but highly destructive and disruptive cross-border terrorist strikes such as the horrific 26/11 attack on Mumbai. What Pakistan is signaling to India and to the world is that India should not contemplate retaliation even if there is another Mumbai because Pakistan has lowered the threshold of nuclear use to the theatre level. This is nothing short of nuclear blackmail, no different from the irresponsible behavior one witnesses in North Korea.”
Saran concludes his hypothesis by declaring: “India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but if it is attacked with such weapons, it would engage in nuclear retaliation which will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage on its adversary. The label on a nuclear weapon used for attacking India, strategic or tactical, is irrelevant from the Indian perspective.”
It had been India’s nuclear explosion of May 1974 that threatened Pakistan into pledging a ‘thousand year war against India’ vowing to “eat grass but build a bomb.” Former Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi’s taunt at the time of Pakistan’s dismemberment in December 1971, “We have drowned the two-nation theory in the Bay of Bengal” has since been ingrained in Pakistani psyche. Unsurprisingly, Pakistani lawmakers raised a spectre of a nuclear war with India during India-Pakistan renewed hostilities in 2014. Addressing the parliament on 22 October 2014 a member of National Assembly demanded, “This is the time we (Pakistan) respond to India as a nuclear state.”
The belligerent statements of the Indian leaders after the Pokhran nuclear tests of May 1998 largely ‘compelled’ Pakistan to follow suit. Threatening hot pursuit in Kashmir, then Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani shocked the world by saying on 20 May 1998: “India would not shy away from using its new found strength, despite international disapproval.” His outburst on the next day was even more intimidating, “Our nuclear explosions have created a situation similar to that caused after the fall of Dhaka,” in reference to the 1971 war that severed East Pakistan and created Bangladesh.
India’s belligerence comes from an assumption that an internally unstable and conventionally weak Pakistan would be reluctant to use its nuclear option under international pressure. Retired Indian Admiral Raja Menon argues in his book The Long View from Delhi: To Define the Indian Grand Strategy for Foreign Policy that ‘Pakistani military officers are rational players and would not extend the threat to a point where either side would be forced to switch from conventional to non-conventional weapons.’ India probably thinks that Pakistan’s rigorous nuclear safety measures could delay Pakistan’s nuclear response to the point where it becomes irrelevant. However, at a dinner on 5 October 2005, Pakistani generals had asked former British prime minister, Tony Blair’s communications director, Alastair Campbell, to remind the Indians that “it takes us [just] eight seconds to get the missiles over.”
By bringing five ‘doctrinal changes’ in its January 2003 ‘nuclear principles and goals’ (a revision of 1998 policy draft), India has made its nuclear stance further ambiguous:
- Moving from finite deterrent posture (minimum deterrence) to credible minimum deterrence – a flexible doctrine that can easily lead to arms race behaviour (for ‘minimum’ can never be quantified in front of enemy’s horizontal and vertical nuclear development)
- Induction of ‘caveats’ to its no-first-use policy
- Use of nuclear weapons in response to biological and chemical weapons attack
- Nuclear retaliation not only against a territorial attack but also against threat to Indian forces anywhere in the world. This amounts to lowering the nuclear threshold to protect its forces employed under the Cold-Start Doctrine, which entails proactive operations, limited war, or surgical strikes (a dangerous policy which can spin out of control with perilous consequences); and finally
- Legitimizing a pre-emptive doctrine – simulating Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s Osirak reactor in June 1981 and US invasion of Iraq in 2003 on false pretexts of weapons of mass destruction
However, worries abound about India’s ‘no-first-use’ policy with the induction of many ‘caveats.’ Citing former Indian foreign secretary and national security adviser Shivshankar Menon’s book Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy, Vipin Narang, a nuclear scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has recently warned about India reversing its stated ‘no-first use’ nuclear policy:
“India’s opening salvo may not be conventional strikes trying to pick off just Nasr batteries [launch vehicles for Pakistan’s tactical battlefield nuclear warheads] in the theatre, but a full ‘comprehensive counterforce strike’ that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons so that India does not have to engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction.”
India has further declared nuclear retaliation not only against a territorial attack, but also against a threat to Indian forces anywhere in the world. This amounts to lowering the nuclear threshold to protect its forces employed under CSD. It means that any Indian surgical strike that Pakistan’s TNW responds to will invite India’s promised massive nuclear reprisal. In Inside Nuclear South Asia, nuclear expert Scott Sagan concludes:
“It is deeply ironic that the Indian government has produced a doctrine that is both less defensive in character and less independent in origin – copying controversial innovations developed in the United States and other nuclear powers – in its effort to be a more ‘responsible nuclear power’ and to add more ‘realism’ to Indian nuclear doctrine.”
International criticism on Pakistan’s fast-paced nuclear weapon production and delivery system often overlooks not only India’s own unstable nuclear activities – amid its aggressive regional posturing – but also fails to take into account the ‘stability/instability paradox’ in South Asia. Simply put, nuclear parity causes an itch to carry-out conventional or sub-conventional warfare under the nuclear threshold. South Asia has yet to achieve strategic stability; Pakistan’s lack of a (sea-launched) second-strike capability compels it to launch a massive punitive response in the face of Indian aggression instead of a ‘demonstration shot’ or ‘gradual use’ of nuclear weapons. In such a scenario, even if a few weapons are neutralized by Indian pre-emptive strikes or countered by India’s Ballistic Missile Defence shield, a sizeable barrage would still cause irreparable and unacceptable harm to the adversary. The use of MIRV technology (or multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) is therefore Pakistan’s – and India’s – next logical stage.
The problem is that despite being a smaller country, Pakistan is unwilling to accept Indian hegemony in the region. As Christine Fair found in her book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, Pakistanis view “acquiescing to India as their genuine and total defeat.” Pakistan seems prepared for total annihilation in the face of any Indian aggression. Former Pakistani army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani admitted that Pakistan Army’s deployment configuration is based on India’s “capabilities, and not intentions”.
Moreover, the subcontinent’s historic animosity does not only reside in outstanding territorial disputes, it lays in the socio-cultural ethos of the civilization too. Due to the extremely hot climate and a history of invading forces – mostly Muslim warriors from Central Asia – the temperament of the people generally remains fractious, ego-driven, envious and suspecting towards fellow natives.
In his book Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back, Bruce Riedel finds that “South Asians … tend to wallow in their history and nurse their traditional animosities … Indians and Pakistanis share the dubious distinction of being nuclear weapons states … hav[ing] an awesome power to destroy. They urgently need to ensure that their actions never lead to Armageddon.”
The Myth of India’s Two-Front War
The Indian army chief’s rhetoric of a two-front war – and also a two-and-a-half-front war, taking into account several insurgencies and separatist movements that India is facing – seems to be based on Germany’s First World War Schlieffen Plan that aimed to deal with a smaller enemy to the west (France) quickly, before taking on the larger adversary (Russia). The two short wars (out of three) in 1965 and 1971 that India fought against Pakistan has given India a confidence to defeat Pakistan swiftly before taking on the might of China.
However, in their book, Dragon on Our Doorstep: Managing China through Military Power, Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab underline the stark difference between the Indian and Pakistani armies. They posit: “Let alone China, India cannot even win a war against Pakistan,” because, while Pakistan has built a “military power,” India has just put together a “military force.” The authors further state:
“Military force involves the mere collection of war-withal, that is, building up of troops and war-waging material; military power is about optimal utilization of military force. It entails an understanding of the adversaries and the quantum of threat from each, the nature of warfare, domains of war, how it would be fought, and structural military reforms at various levels to meet these challenges.”
In another brilliant exposé, both authors further elaborate on their thought:
“There is a belief that India has a conventional superiority over Pakistan. This is not true, because this perception is based on bean-counting of assets of both sides. The Pakistan Army scores over the Indian Army in strategic command, control, coordination and higher directions of war. However much the Indian Army may shorten its mobilization time, it is impossible to beat Pakistan Army’s advantage of operating on internal lines. Thus, at the operational level of war, the two armies are nearly matched.”
India’s Domestic Labyrinths
Internally, while India’s northeastern ‘Red Corridor’ remains rebellious owing to a Maoist/Naxalite insurgency, the Kashmir separatist movement has gained new momentum after the Indian military brutally killed a young freedom-fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. Despite stationing some 700,000 troops in Kashmir armed with the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – enforced since 6 July 1990 – the Indian Army continues to repress hapless Kashmiris without any accountability. AFSPA grants the army, central police forces, and state police personnel deployed in “disturbed areas” “special powers,” including the right to shoot to kill, raid houses, and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents, and “to arrest without warrant” even on “reasonable suspicion” a person who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence.” Besides conferring extensive powers to the armed forces, AFSPA provides them immunity from prosecution. The law states: “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of the Central government against any person” who has acted under this legislation.
In another 2016 paper, Kashmir Bleeds: A Proxy Battleground and Nuclear Flashpoint in South Asia, I narrated the Kashmiri misery and Indian army’s jitteriness; the Indian Army not only uses oppressed Kashmiris as “human shields” (tied in front of their jeeps), but also keeps firing pellet guns towards unarmed crowds that are protesting the illegitimate Indian occupation of the valley. Ironically, the Indian Army major, Nitin Gogoi, who tied a poor Kashmiri to save himself from stone-pelting on 9 April 2017, received commendation from his army chief, General Rawat. In a media interview in May 2017, Indian army chief divulged his trigger-happy proclivity by stating: “In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do).” Rawat’s intransigence can be measured from the fact that despite New Delhi appointing an interlocutor to hold peace-talks with Kashmiri separatists, the general vowed to continue Indian Army’s operations in the Valley, proclaiming, “[W]e are negotiating from a point of success.”
Just like his obdurate and uncompromising political principals, General Rawat also refuses to listen to the voice of reason and keeps bragging about the effectiveness of a ‘hammer-and-anvil’ politico-military approach in Kashmir. Such a heavy-handed and brute strategy has never worked in the past nor is likely to succeed in the future. However, the general asserts: “The political initiative and all the other initiatives must go simultaneously hand-in-hand and only if all of us function in synergy, we can bring lasting peace in Kashmir. It has to be a politico-military approach that we have to adopt.”
The reckless use of pellet guns not only caused severe injuries to innocent people, but also caused quite a few teenagers to lose their eyesight, which The New York Times termed “An epidemic of ‘dead eyes’ in Kashmir.” Condemning the use of pellet guns, Amnesty International has called for a ban on them. The former head of India’s spy agency, A.S. Dulat, has also found the “situation in Kashmir never as dismal as in the past.” Meanwhile, on a plea from the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), the state-run human rights commission has asked the government in Kashmir to investigate at least 2,080 unmarked mass graves discovered in border areas of the restive region.
Despite being a coalition partner with the BJP, the (Indian-held) Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has repeatedly called for New Delhi’s bilateral talks with Islamabad on Kashmir. In the backdrop of continued spilling of innocent Kashmiri blood, the beleaguered leader of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took to the Twitter to voice her heart: “Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end the bloodshed … We have to talk because war is not an option.”
Indian Armed Forces Inherent Paradoxes
Before India adopts a policy of regional assertiveness – or nonsensical brinkmanship – it must remind itself some of the Indian defence forces’ intrinsic challenges:
First of all, Indian political leadership does not fully trust its military owing to its colonial legacy; during the two-century British rule over the Indian subcontinent, the military remained loyal and faithful to its foreign master. Perkovich and Dalton notably record that “Indian military leaders perceive a caste-like divide between themselves and the civilian defence leadership.” Seeing repeated military takeovers in neighbouring Pakistan, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, consciously devised national policies to keep the armed forces at arm’s length and out of any strategic decision-making process. Such an outlook has resulted in a lack of understanding about technical and military issues among the politicians and civil bureaucracy.
In my paper titled South Asia’s Nuclear Apartheid, I noted particularly that the Indian Army has been systematically peeled off of the nuclear program and associated policy beginning in 1990, following the Brasstacks exercises of 1986-87, when it was felt that the then-Indian army chief, General Krishnaswami Sundarji, had dragged India to war against Pakistan. The manoeuvres involved some 600,000 troops and were carried out with live ammunition just about 150km away from the Indo-Pakistan border, threatening an outbreak of war between the two countries. Senses were brought to India when Pakistan’s former president, General Zia-ul-Haq played his famous ‘cricket diplomacy’ – dashing to India to witness a cricket match between the two countries at Jaipur in February 1987 – and having already cold tested a nuclear device by December 1984, conveyed to Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi through Hong Kong based South-East Asian Economic Review that “Pakistan was just a screwdriver’s turn away from the bomb.”
Later, the Indian defence minister, George Fernandes, had to publicly reprimand his army chief, General S. Padmanabhan, for speaking on the nuclear issue; in one of his cavalier outbursts during Indo-Pakistan military standoff in 2001-02, the general stated on 11 January 2002: “If we have to go to war, jolly good … If we don’t we will still manage … Take it from me, we have enough [nuclear bombs].”
Second, despite boasting about its conventional military muscle, the Indian armed forces lack teeth. Moving from Soviet hardware to more sophisticated Western weaponry has been an arduous, time-consuming and frustrating exercise. Highlighting internal mudslinging, corruption and incompetence, not only has The Economist laid bare the appalling state of the “scandal-prone” Indian armed forces, but many of the books referenced in this study repeatedly point to India’s flawed, corrupt and sluggish defence procurement system. Famed Indian journalist and author Manoj Joshi reported in 2010 that “in a briefing to the standing committee of Parliament in December last year , the Army pointed out that its modernisation plans were so far behind schedule that they would meet their current targets only by 2027.”
Third, the Indian armed forces do not possess internal cohesion and a sense of purposeful coordination and collaboration. Damning the Indian defence forces, Perkovich and Dalton document:
“It is well known that the Indian military services – the Army, Navy, Air Force, and more recently the Strategic Forces Command – have resisted cooperation or ‘jointness’ in elaborating military doctrine, coordinating procurement, and conducting military operations. The former chief of the Indian navy, Admiral D.K. Joshi confirmed this: ‘India has services’ doctrines, but these lack credibility and weight because they do not represent a comprehensive view of national priority.’”
Furthermore, as stated earlier, Pakistan is likely to respond to any Indian proactive operation/CSD with its battlefield nuclear weapon, needing Indian Army, Navy and Air Force to coordinate their operations not only in the conventional warfare realm, but also under nuclear retaliation scenario – to which India seems unprepared.
In an in-depth analysis India’s naval nuclear dynamics, Iskander Rehman, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notably observed: “There is little intellectual cross-pollination between the Strategic Forces Command and the Integrated Defense Staff, let alone between the different services. Furthermore, no higher defense learning institution imparts any substantive form of education to military officers on nuclear strategy and operations, and service headquarters continue to plan primarily for conventional war.”
The question is, how can a modern nation-state like India ensure its sovereignty and territorial integrity – to say nothing of messing around with other countries – when its own armed forces have serious structural deficiencies, distrustful attitudes and diverging operational doctrines?
The Times of India has collated that without going to war India loses nearly 1,600 military personnel every year due to road accidents and suicides, not to mention training accidents and health issues, especially at the higher altitude warfare at the Siachen glacier – India’s mindless land-grabbing exploit since 1984. The figures stand much higher than the toll of lives in India’s numerous counterinsurgency operations or cross-border fire exchange at the Line of Control against Pakistan.
Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta further corroborate India’s lack of military preparedness in their book Arming without Aiming: India’s Military Modernization: “There remains an imbalance among the [Indian defence] services, and little or no serious integration of strategic planning, let alone operational coordination.
Finally, India’s intelligence capabilities remain far from satisfactory, as came out in the Kargil Review Committee report in 2000. The committee that was commissioned on 29 July 1999 identified several shortcomings and deficiencies of “systematic nature” in its findings under:
1) Developments leading to the Pakistani aggression at Kargil (lowering of guards)
2) Intelligence (failures)
3) The nuclear factor (abettor or avoider)
4) Counterinsurgency operations, Kargil and integrated manpower policy (lack of resources to commit to an ongoing war)
5) The technological dimension (deficiencies)
6) Media relations and information (differentiation between truth and propaganda)
7) Preventability of Kargil (flawed policies)
The report noted, for instance, that: “The critical failure in intelligence was related to the absence of any information on the induction and de-induction of battalions and the lack of accurate data on the identity of battalions in the area opposite Kargil during 1998.” Moreover, the clumsy and unguarded way Naval Commander Khulbhushan Jhadev (of India’s Research and Analysis Wing) was operating inside Pakistan – which led to his ultimate arrest – demonstrates Indian intelligence’s Achilles heel.
Internationally, India’s eagerness to safeguard US interests in the Indo-Pacific, by assuming a role of a naval watchdog in the South China Sea, is likely to make India party to international conflicts. India has fully integrated into (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s) Asian Security Diamond as well as newly formed Asia’s quad (the quadrilateral security framework comprising of U.S., Japan, Australia and India), besides nuclearizing the Indian Ocean through its blue-water navy. However, its Indian navy’s vulnerabilities that prohibit India from sharing of its data, strategies and satellite information with its so-called strategic partners.
In a RAND study, Indian Strategic Thought: An Interpretive Essay, George Tanham found India’s preoccupation with its power and security coming from four factors: 1) “Indian geography; 2) the ‘discovery’ of Indian history by Indian elites over the past 150 years; 3) Indian cultural and social structures and belief systems; and 4) the British rule (raj).”
India hosts a mosaic population. According to a 2011 census, out of a total of 1.28 billion people, Hindus comprise 80.5% of the total; Muslims 13.4%; Christians 2.3%; Sikhs 1.9%; and Buddhists 0.9%. However, it has been the Hindu communal mindset that keeps persecuting minorities in India: it brought about massive bloodshed at the time of the subcontinent’s partition in 1947, killing nearly 2 million people; triggered 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat; and continues to mistreat the communist Naxalite population in India’s Red Corridor, as well as the Sikh community that keeps demanding a separate homeland, Khalistan.
According to a news report citing Indian home ministry’s data, communal violence under the National Democratic Alliance government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party increased 28 percent over three years (from 2014 to 2017). Recording a high of 822 communal incidents in 2017, the clashes remind the year 2008 when 943 similar incidents took place. Uttar Pradesh (UP) – the most populous state in the country – reported most incidents (1,488) over the last decade.
Viewing Muslims as only marauders, invaders and plunderers of the sacred ‘Mother India,’ Hindu India’s odium for Muslims comes from its ‘Mahmud of Ghazni complex’ – the 11th Century Turkish conqueror who invaded the Indian subcontinent 17 times, smashing several temples and Hindu deities – as well as the Mughal dynasty’s rule from 1526 to 1858. India, thus, holds a special detestation for Muslims, which keeps erupting from time to time in the shape of lynching (for eating beef) and communal riots. Cohen, records in his book (referenced earlier) Shooting for a Century: Finding Answers to the India-Pakistan Conundrum:
“[I]n the northern and western states anti-Muslim riots have occurred regularly. These communal riots have a long and complicated history, but in almost every case they stem from the desire to raise the ‘Green [Muslim] threat’ in order to rally [the Saffron] Hindu votes. Indian Muslims often cannot retaliate effectively, especially if the police are controlled by unsympathetic state governments, and demagogues try to link them to Pakistan.”
India’s perverse Hindutva thought has been aptly described by an eminent Indian lawyer and author A.G. Noorani, who noted in his column titled Indian or Hindu? (16 December 2017):
“The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on Oct 27  revealed far more openly than before a clear policy to denationalise India’s Muslims, and the RSS’s age-old technique of deception. He arrogantly asked: “Whose country is Germany? It is a country of Germans, Britain is a country of Britishers, America is a country of Americans, and in the same way, Hindustan is a country of Hindus.”
This is where the deceit comes in. Aware that the candour gave the game away, he explained: “It does not mean that Hindustan is not the country of other people. The term ‘Hindu’ covers all those who are the sons of Bharat Mata, descendants of Indian ancestors and who live in accordance with the Indian culture.” That is the catch. In the idiom of the RSS and its mentor V.D. Savarkar, ‘culture’ means acceptance of Hindu culture and religion, and rejection of India’s secular composite culture. That explains why the BJP did not give the party’s ticket to a single Muslim to contest the recent UP elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked one Yogi Adityanath as chief minister. On Nov 11 , he [Mohan Bhagwat] declared that Modi and he would establish ‘Ram Rajya’ [Lord Rama’s state] by 2022. Establishment of a Ram temple on the demolished Babri Masjid will signify that ‘achievement’. It is worth watching how he proposes to ‘celebrate’ that crime, a quarter century later on Dec 6, 2017.
As with Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the writings of the RSS’s chiefs and ideological mentors have been neglected. In 1939, its chief M.S. Golwalkar wrote in We, or Our Nationhood Defined “Ever since that evil day, when Muslims first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu nation has been gallantly fighting on to shake off the despoilers.””
Since the international community stands for universal human principles of equity, justice, and interfaith and cultural harmony, it should not only take notice of a decline in Indian society and its strategic outlook, but also step forward to pour some sense of rationality and purpose to Indian mind. Indian diaspora – fully enmeshed in multi-cultural and diversified societies around the world – needs to present itself as a role model to Indians, passing on secular ideals and values of tolerance, respect, accommodation and fair-play for all faiths, ethnicities and cultures. Global businesses, which have heavily invested in India should become icons of hope and forbearance for a country seeking to become a regional power, but hurting its image abroad.
As India anxiously aspires to join the global elite and become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well, it needs to first carry out an honest introspection of its dichotomies and discrepancies and reconcile its internal paradoxes. Second, India should settle its longstanding territorial disputes with neighbouring China and Pakistan and end its fascination with the mythical notion of Greater Hindustan. Third, India must recognize its own challenges and vulnerabilities and stop threatening all and sundry in the region. Fourth, India should control its temptation of becoming a regional policeman on behalf of any superpower – defence and nuclear agreements, notwithstanding. India’s ‘Hindu style submission to their deities and Bollywood style offerings’ to the US – presenting itself as a pawn against China – only diminishes its self-respect and international standing. But then it is the India’s charm and glamour that speaks, when US Admiral Harry Harris admitted (in 2016) that his Pacific Command stretches “from Hollywood to Bollywood.” Finally, despite finding its lost glory and ancient grandeur in Hindu civilization, India must never shed its secularist ideals and accommodative values.
As Hollywood’s Spiderman pronounces, “With great power comes great responsibility;” India’s time to fame has yet to arrive. If destiny is choice, and not chance, then an adrift India must timely course-correct itself.
Adnan Qaiser is a Research Associate at the prestigious Conference of Defence Associations Institute, Canada, with a distinguished career in the armed forces and international diplomacy. He investigates India’s nationalistic drift, affecting its character, values and ethos. The views expressed are author’s own and do not represent any institutional thought. Adnan Qaiser can be reached at [email protected].
Tryst with Destiny was a speech made by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. The speech was made to the Indian Constituent Assembly, on the eve of India’s independence, towards midnight on 14 August 1947. It focuses on the aspects that transcend India’s history. It is considered in modern India to be a landmark oration that captures the essence of the triumphant culmination of the hundred-year Indian freedom struggle against the British Empire in India.
The phrase ‘rendezvous with destiny’ was used by the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1936 Democratic National Convention speech, inspiring the similar phrase ‘tryst with destiny’ by Jawaharlal Nehru: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
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 RSS unwilling to drop love jihad from its agenda, Hindustan Times, 21 Oct 2014 https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/rss-unwilling-to-drop-love-jihad-from-its-agenda/story-kdrkBgrx17K6A7u4xGcikI.html
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 Shujaat Bukhari, Is Taj Mahal really Muslim? by The Friday Times, 20 Oct 2017 http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/is-taj-mahal-really-muslim/
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 Vidhi Doshi, Indian ruling-party member offers bounty for beheading of Bollywood’s biggest female star, The Washington Post, 20 Nov 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/20/indian-ruling-party-member-offers-bounty-for-the-beheading-of-bollywoods-biggest-female-stars/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.930bd129467b
 Dhananjay Mahapatra, Take urgent steps to stop cow vigilantism, Supreme Court tells Centre and states, The Times of India, 7 Sept 2017 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/take-urgent-steps-to-stop-cow-vigilantism-supreme-court-tells-centre-and-states/articleshow/60387970.cms
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 Murtaza Shibli, Unravelling Hindutva, The News, 3 Mar 2018 https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/287731-unravelling-hindutva; Also see: Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s address at a security conference: Army Chief Bipin Rawat Speach at North East Region of India Bridging Gaps and Securing Borders Summit, YouTube, 22 Feb 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Dk1cn7wEWw
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 Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, India and China ‘preparing for armed conflict’ if Bhutan solution not found, The Independent, 15 Aug 2017 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-china-military-bhutan-armed-conflict-doklam-plateau-himalayas-troops-withdraw-a7893866.html
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 War with China, Pakistan at the same time cannot be ruled out, warns Army chief General Bipin Rawat, India Today, 6 Sep 2017 https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/china-pakistan-war-army-chief-general-bipin-rawat-1039236-2017-09-06
 Editorial, Rawat’s arrogance taints India’s image, Global Times, 7 Sep 2017 http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1065330.shtml; Also see: Strong message for Indian policy makers from Chinese state media, The News, 8 Sep 2017 https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/228611-Strong-message-for-Indian-policy-makers-from-Chinese-state-media
 Harinder Baweja, India has better options than surgical strikes to teach Pak a lesson: Army chief, Hindustan Times, 28 Jun 2017 https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-has-better-options-than-surgical-strikes-to-teach-pakistan-a-lesson-army-chief-bipin-rawat/story-HycX4sw7fr55m5LvrDdzDM.html
 Author’s Paper: 1) Adnan Qaiser, Radical Islamism: Understanding Extremist Narrative and Mindset, Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s On Track magazine, Spring Edition 2017, Page 24, 3 May 2017 http://cdainstitute.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ONTRACKSpring2017.pdf; 2) Adnan Qaiser, Middle East Conundrum: Saudi Jitteriness – Sanctifying Sectarianism, 12 July 2017 https://cdainstitute.ca/qaiser-middle-east-conundrum-saudi-jitteriness-sanctifying-sectarianism/; and 3) Adnan Qaiser, Saving Islam from its Saviours: The Feuds Within, Conference of Defence Associations Institute, 23 Feb 2016 https://cdainstitute.ca/saving-islam-from-its-saviours-the-feuds-within/
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 The four models include: 1) Security model (countries facing existential threats); 2) Domestic politics model (a state’s decision is dictated by the desires or wishes of its civilian and/or military leadership); 3) Strategic culture model (related to pride associated with a nation’s history and its strategic thought) and; 4) Normative model or norms model (driven by nuclear symbolism or prestige)
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 A Deeply Disturbing Study Reveals That More Than Half Of India’s Under-18 Population Lives In Poverty, India Times, 6 Jun 2017 https://www.indiatimes.com/health/buzz/a-deeply-disturbing-study-reveals-that-more-than-half-of-india-s-under-18-population-lives-in-poverty-323230.html
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 ‘Killing Rajiv Gandhi Was LTTE’s Biggest Mistake’, Leader Reportedly Said, NDTV, 10 Mar 2016 https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/killing-rajiv-gandhi-was-lttes-biggest-mistake-leader-reportedly-said-1285777
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 Will continue to militarily dominate LoC, says Arun Jaitley, The Times of India, 2 Jun 2017 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/will-continue-to-militarily-dominate-loc-says-arun-jaitley/articleshow/58953095.cms
 Path to peace between Pakistan, India passes through Kashmir: Gen Zubair, The News, 14 Nov 2017 https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/244215-Path-to-peace-between-Pakistan-India-passes-through-Kashmir-Gen-Zubair
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 Monitoring report, Jadhav may be serving naval officer, says Indian magazine, Dawn, 2 Feb 2018 https://www.dawn.com/news/1386827/jadhav-may-be-serving-naval-officer-says-indian-magazine; Also See: Praveen Swami, India’s secret war, Frontline, 16 Feb 2018 https://www.frontline.in/the-nation/indias-secret-war/article10055129.ece
 Stephen Cohen, Shooting for a Century: Finding Answers to the India-Pakistan Conundrum, (HaperCollins, 2013), 178. https://www.brookings.edu/book/shooting-for-a-century/
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 India, Bangladesh swap border enclaves, settle old dispute, The Hindu, 1 Aug 2015 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-bangladesh-swap-border-enclaves-settle-old-dispute/article7488497.ece
 What is China’s belt and road initiative? The many motivations behind Xi Jinping’s key foreign policy, The Economist, 15 May 2017 https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2017/05/14/what-is-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative
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 Myanmar rejects claims Indian forces cross border in pursuit of rebels, Reuters, 11 Jun 2015 https://in.reuters.com/article/myanmar-india/myanmar-rejects-claims-indian-forces-cross-border-in-pursuit-of-rebels-idINKBN0OR1EX20150611
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 Maleeha Lodhi, ‘We’ll eat grass but build the bomb,’ The Sunday Guardian http://www.sunday-guardian.com/analysis/well-eat-grass-but-build-the-bomb
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 Indian army awards officer who tied Kashmiri man to jeep as human shield, Dawn, 22 May 2017 https://www.dawn.com/news/1334726/indian-army-awards-officer-who-tied-kashmiri-man-to-jeep-as-human-shield
 Press Trust of India, Army chief Rawat dares stone pelters to fire weapons instead of stones: Backs decision to award Major Leetul Gogoi, who tied a man to an army jeep to act as a human shield, Business Standard, 28 May 2017 https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/army-chief-rawat-dares-stone-pelters-to-fire-weapons-instead-of-stones-117052800380_1.html
 Army chief on J&K: We are negotiating from point of strength, The Times of India, 25 Oct 2017 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/electronic-warfare-systems-may-monitor-borders-hinterland-army-chief/articleshow/61215523.cms
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 Ellen Barry, An Epidemic of ‘Dead Eyes’ in Kashmir as India Uses Pellet Guns on Protesters, The New York Times, 28 Aug 2016 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/world/asia/pellet-guns-used-in-kashmir-protests-cause-dead-eyes-epidemic.html?mcubz=0
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 (1) Suzuki Yoshikatsu, Abe’s Indo-Pacific “Security Diamond” Begins to Shine, Nippon, 8 Feb 2016 https://www.nippon.com/en/column/g00339/; (2) Also see: Joseph Chinyong Liow, What the United States and India can do together on the South China Sea, Brookings Institute, 10 June 2016 https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/06/10/what-the-united-states-and-india-can-do-together-on-the-south-china-sea/; and (3) See also: J. Berkshire Miller, The Indian Piece of Abe’s Security Diamond, The Diplomat, 29 May 2013 https://thediplomat.com/2013/05/the-indian-piece-of-abes-security-diamond/
 Sanjeev Miglani, Indian navy the odd man out in Asia’s ‘Quad’ alliance, Reuters, 22 Nov 2017 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-usa-quad/indian-navy-the-odd-man-out-in-asias-quad-alliance-idUSKBN1DM0UB
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