SECURITY CHALLENGES CONFRONTING THE NEW GOVERNMENT.

 

By

Colonel Anil Athale (Retd)

 

Two points make the 2009 electoral verdict very satisfactory-for one, there is a clear mandate and the govt would be stable. Secondly, the resounding defeat of the Chinese Party of India (Marxist)-(expanded version of CPI (M)) augurs well for us to clearly focus on the long term threat and inimical actions of our Northern neighbour. But true to form, the media and the public as large is focussed on the economic issue while the security issues, as usual take a back seat. This is an attempt to rectify that imbalance.

 

Sample this-

  • China opposed an Asian Development Bank loan to India on the grounds that the project was located in Arunachal Pradesh-“A Disputed Area” according to the Chinese.
  • Sri Lanka launched its final offensive against the LTTE, using air force, heavy artillery and tanks. Tens of thousands of Tamils (with ethnic and family ties with Indian Tamils) perished. Indian advice to restrain the use of heavy weapons fell on deaf ears. Sri Lanka continues to pursue a military solution to the problem of Tamil minority.
  • Nepal’s Prachanda cocks a snook at  India and visits China on his first ever official journey. The Maoist throw out the traditional Indian priests from the Pashupatinath temple and in a move to consolidate power dismisses the Army Chief. When thwarted in the attempt, blames India for the crisis.
  • After much delay the Pakistani army launches a brutal offensive against Taliban-it’s erstwhile ‘Strategic Asset’ (General Kiyani was caught on tape saying this). It is only a matter of time before the Taliban/ISI/Pak Army create a 26/11 like incident in India so that they can cite Indian threat and abort anti Taliban operations.

 

One common factor in all these events is that the heat began to be turned on precisely at the time when Indian decision making went in a limbo. It was widely expected that there would be hung parliament and a weak government. Thanks to the Indian voter’s legendary sagacity, that has not happened and there is a clear mandate.

 

In international relations there are very few accidents and the bunching of these anti India actions in our neighbourhood could not be just coincidence but show a design and pattern. Inpad worked relentlessly for the establishment of an institutional mechanism for national security. While it is understandable that the politicians were busy with the elections, the NSC Secretariat and other bureaucratic heads ought to have been active both in Nepal and Sri Lanka humanitarian crisis. Apparently they were, but also ineffective. Why this happened is a question that Indians must seriously ponder!

 

In 1962 the Chinese attack on us followed the Cuban missile crisis to the last dot. The attack took place when the missiles were detected in Cuba and the Chinese declared a ‘unilateral cease fire’ the day the crisis ended, 21 November and the American intervention on behalf of India became a possibility. Was it a mere coincidence?

 

IMMEDIATE CHALLENGES.

 

Taking Pakistan first. Many foreign analysts as well as some Indians, have warned of a 26/11 type of terrorist strike against India. The logic is simple; such an incident will lead to Indian reaction against Pakistan giving excuse to the Pakistanis to call off the much disliked action in Swat. We were lucky last time round, ie during the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, in a sense that the terrorists could have targeted some other  important installations and caused ever greater disaster. I don’t want to mention which ones for the sake of not wanting to give ideas to those animals! A situation,  in  Pakistan may come about where the Taliban get hold of a nuclear weapon and export it to India via a sea borne container……….

 

It is time we have to give a very serious consideration to our nuclear posture of no first strike. The govt must order a through review of all the options.

 

The 26/11 attack showed up multiple failures at various levels. The navy, coast guard, the army units in Mumbai, the police and delay in NSG arrival. It is time a closed door independent enquiry is ordered to pin point the flaws and rectify them. We owe it to the victims of that horrible massacre if we wish to avoid a repeat in future. The aim should be rectification of the systems and not witch hunting. An in house departmental enquiry can never be impartial and would fail to bring out the truth. Now that the elections are over, this ought to be the first priority of the new govt.

 

On the Nepal and Sri Lanka front, it is time to remind the govt of steps taken by Rajiv Gandhi- airdrops over Jaffna without asking the Lankans and economic blockade of Nepal to bring it to senses.

 

It is time Indians have a re-look at the ‘Indira Doctrine’ of 1980s, essentially a policy of hands off for foreigners in the Indian subcontinent. India is today in far more powerful position than 1980s in terms of economic clout. Where we have possibly slipped is our military power. It is time serious attention is given to build a military muscle commensurate with our size and capability.

 

The build up of military power takes time and cannot be created in an emergency. The process has to be medium to long term. As the official historian of the 1962 India-China border war, one is reminded of an incident.

 

The Indian army fought the Chinese in 1962 with the First World War vintage Lee Enfield bolt action rifles, the kind that the Policemen continue to carry todate! The army’s request for automatic rifles was stuck in the red tape and govt apathy. On 10 November, after the drubbing received in Towang sector, the govt woke up and the Americans began their military aid. 7.62 Semi Automatic rifles, in their crates and with protective grease, were airdropped on the hapless troops in Dirangzong area of Arunachal Pradesh. Nobody told the Babus and the Netas that induction of new weapon takes atleast a year or two to train the men in handling it…………..All that we ended up doing was to gift brand new rifles to the Chinese………………..

 

If we do not anticipate and prepare BEFORE the threat manifests, we may well end up like in 1962. Many political commentators have been hailing Dr ManMohan Singh as only the second PM after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to have got re-elected after a full term ……..like Nehru in 1962. But come October 1962, and the Chinese attacked us. Nehru was never the same again. While the PM basks in glory of being only second after Nehru, this is useful reminder of pitfall of neglecting security.