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The world through Indian RAW eyes

November 25, 2010

Threats are a matter of perception. Their assessments take into account capacities, not so much intentions, of a potential adversary. For an accurate reading, the short term and long term objectives of all leading players in the world have to be judged.

Applying this criterion will reveal that India is living in an environment of threat from many corners of the earth.


The dominant view in the Neocon circles in Washington DC favours aerial strikes against Iran to knock its nuclear facilities to eradicate a possible nuclear programme. How can one assume that the Indian programme, if it is resumed, will forever remain unthreatened?

Is there a threat from the United States? To answer the question one must first identify the basic interests of the US and then examine whether similar interests of India are supplementary or contradictory to those of the US. An objective study will lead to the conclusion whether the relationship between the two countries is essentially benevolent or malignant.

The broad national interests of the US can be summed as the following:

  • Geopolitical containment of Russia and China.
  • Non-proliferation.
  • Countering and eradicating Islamism or radical Islam.
  • Maintaining access to and dominating control of energy sources
  • In each of these areas the US is seeking to co-opt India as a junior partner.
  • Since Indian interests do not necessarily dovetail into those of the US, a potential collision lurks in the background.

US possibly views China as the single most potent long term threat to its continued domination of the world. It is, therefore, presently engaged in building coalitions to hamstring it from all directions. The US wants to develop India as an ally in this effort. Although India has its own fundamental differences with China, these do not go to the extent that it should play any role in the US strategy. An implicit threat in the relationship thus emerges.

As of today, one may not be off the mark to state that China-India relationship will remain a hostage to China’s crisis with Tibet.

Non-proliferation has been an article of faith with all recent US administrations that have been deeply unhappy with the Indian nuclear weapons programme. They want this programme to be capped, rolled back and eliminated. There have been some studies, commissioned by Neocons in the US, which have even suggested that it could be bombed out. A war was launched against Iraq, under the guise of dismantling its non-existent WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Today, the dominant view in the Neocon circles in Washington DC favours aerial strikes against Iran to knock its nuclear facilities to eradicate a possible nuclear programme. How can one assume that the Indian programme, if it is resumed, will forever remain unthreatened?

The US war on Islamism, fought in the name of terrorism, has brought NATO, one suspects, as a permanent presence in Afghanistan. For the US it also serves the collateral purpose of offering a checkmate to China. This war seems to be leading to a gradual polarization of the world into Islamic and non-Islamic, and could indeed set in a clash of civilizations. The impact of such a development on South Asia will be devastating. Afghanistan is already deeply radicalized. If anti American sentiment can be treated as an index to measure propensity towards radicalism, Pakistan is also affected. A radical fringe can now be identified in India also. The US policies on issues relating to Islam have, thus, a potential for destabilization of communal harmony in South Asia.

A resurgent Russia has put paid to US energy related ambitions in the Central Asian Republics, but in the energy belt in West Asia, the latter remains dominant. The American enterprise in Iraq was propelled actually by a desire to strengthen this domination. There is an American effort now to block the growth of Iranian gas and oil markets. Indian oil energy needs to the extent of 70 percent are met from foreign sources. This requirement is expected to rise to 90 percent at not too distant a date. The US frowns at possibilities of expansion of India-Iran linkages in this sector. In today’s world energy security is needed to reach human developmental goals and economic prosperity. But US eyes it as a strategic weapon. A conflictual environment is, thus, already created.

From the Pakistani view point there is no solution to the Kashmir question other than its amalgamation into Pakistan

While all that stated above does not amount to a totality of adverse relations, it is necessary not to ignore these factors while determining policy in India. One should not forget the abiding security dictum: there are only permanent interests, no permanent friends. Further, the ‘transformational diplomacy’ of the Neocons aims at converting nation states into American clones.

In the field of external relations two other countries stand out, meriting continuous scrutiny and caution, China and Pakistan. Unlike the US, there have been violent ups and downs in India’s relationship with them. One, therefore, must attempt to discover what the core problems are.

Looking at China first, its core concern is maintaining its integrity, territorial or otherwise, while it moves dynamically forward to build up its economic, political and military strengths. It seems to it that its strongest challenges will emanate from the US, seen to be encircling it from all directions with the help of its allies, and wanting to force a democratic wave within China, also targeting for loosening of its hold over Tibet and Xinjian.

Externally, their objectives will be to redefine Nepal’s relations with neighbours and other powers. Inevitably it will mean loss of India’s pre-eminent position in Nepal.

In the game of diplomatic chess that has emerged, China wants to ensure that no lending hand is given to the US by India. It seeks to achieve this objective by keeping India off balance. It has developed Pakistan as its Israel against India, extending nuclear and missile technology, all directed 100 percent against India. More than collaboration with the US, China fears India over the possible roles it can play around Tibet.

As long as fires of Tibetan nationalism burn in Tibet, and a diaspora of over 100,000 Tibetans, mostly well educated and politically aware, with Dalai Lama providing a focus, shelter in India, China will view India with grave suspicions. There is no way by which India can succeed in removing such mistrust from the Chinese mind.

While the resulting state of unease may not lead to a war as in 1962, it certainly blocks progress on the border settlement and withdrawal of territorial claims such as over Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. As of today, one may not be off the mark to state that China-India relationship will remain a hostage to China’s crisis with Tibet.

The threat from Pakistan is altogether of a different kind. It is not an exaggeration to say that this threat commenced from the day Pakistan came into existence. It was inherent in the two nation theory, propounded anywhere in the world for the first time, to divide a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation, on a religious basis. An impossible task had been attempted, considering the size of India and its population, religion wise.

Deoband fatwa, outlawing terrorism, while laudable, does not go deep into the question, whether doctrinal injunctions create a mindset disfavouring growth of liberalism which will offset terrorism.

The attempt succeeded in carving out a religious majority area, already existing, as a new nation, but the rump India still remained a many layered multi-religious and multi-cultural society. The two nation theory encouraged Pakistan to lay a claim over J&K State. Beginning with tribal incursions of late 1947, Pakistan has fought several wars to wrest the state out of Indian control. A proxy war continues even today.

This continued quest has completely reoriented the psyche of Pakistani people and re-aligned all instruments of governance and policy-making in Pakistan against India. The text books in schools and colleges, the entire military doctrine and the entire focus of its nuclear weapon development program is centered against India. The ruling establishment in Pakistan has had to rely more and more on Islam and ‘Islampasand’ parties to keep the nation under its control. Islam is now so deeply embedded in the corridors of power that none in Pakistan can ignore the Islamic perspective.

From the Pakistani view point there is no solution to the Kashmir question other than its amalgamation into Pakistan, a position which India can never accept, since any such scenario can ignite a chain reaction of separation in India. The problems between India and Pakistan will thus, remain insoluble, until Pakistan modifies its commitment to the two nation theory. The prospects for such a change are absolutely minimal, because demolition of the two nation theory means that Pakistan looses its raison-de-etre.

Unease with Bangladesh is not likely to end as their response on two major Indian security concerns remain negative, i.e. illegal infiltration into India and promotion of cross border terrorism.

The Pakistani designs against India have created a vast range of threats. Almost all movements within the country, agitating against the centre for political reasons have received support by way of finances, training, arms, guidance and shelter from Pakistani intelligence, ISI.

Within Pakistan itself Islamist groups have been created or supported by ISI for sabotage, subversion and terrorism in India. ISI with its surrogate Wahabi groups is now targeting Indian Muslims to get them involved in questionable activities. Whilst under US pressure Pakistan has somewhat relented on its support to Islamic radicals operating against the US, it has abstained from a similar downsizing of its activities against India.

What may one expect from the new configuration in Pakistan after the recent elections? There is no evidence yet that key changes are in the offing. The President retains all his powers as of old. He derives his strength from the military which, while it seems to have moved backstage, has not shed any substantive power. A new era will not dawn in Pakistan until the military is truly confined to the barracks. Till that happens, perceptions of threats from Pakistan must remain as before.

On India’s borders exist other failed or failing states which create deep security concerns. Recent (10.04.08) elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) in Nepal have pitch forked the Maoists in the leadership position for the first time for government formation. Their immediate objectives in the foreseeable future can be expected to be consolidation and management of CA deliberations to facilitate their smooth assimilation with polity and power in Nepal. Externally, their objectives will be to redefine Nepal’s relations with neighbours and other powers. Inevitably it will mean loss of India’s pre-eminent position in Nepal, with scrapping of mutual privileges. Covert support to Indian Maoists had not been on their agenda in the past and is not likely to be there in future while the process of consolidation is on. But transformation is never without some turbulence and hiccups. As they arise, they will need to be settled with foresight and patience.

The Pakistani designs against India have created a vast range of threats. Almost all movements within the country, agitating against the centre for political reasons have received support by way of finances, training, arms, guidance and shelter from Pakistani intelligence, ISI.

Unease with Bangladesh is not likely to end as their response on two major Indian security concerns remain negative, i.e. illegal infiltration into India and promotion of cross border terrorism. Bangladesh’s asymmetry with India and its extreme sense of inferiority vis-à-vis India contribute in a big way to these problems. The demographic aggression is a direct result of the pathetic poverty of Bangladesh. Infil-tration has significantly altered the population patterns in the border areas of India and constitutes a long-term risk. The Bangladesh situation calls for a holistic approach from India, combining a compassionate approach to help in its developmental objectives with firmness where security gets compromised.

In Sri Lanka, India is caught between the devil and the deep sea. The best solution for the crisis there would have been autonomy to Tamils in the North East provinces in a federal setup with a guaranteed and substantive devolution of power between the provinces and the centre. The moment seems to have been missed and Sri Lanka appears to be seeking a military option. India is left painted in a corner, unable to take any initiative on behalf of either side. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, public opinion in India is not very sympathetic towards the LTTE, but if misfortune continuously chases Sri Lankan Tamils, there will be calls to come out with a response.

The internal scene in India is also not free from anxiety on the threat front. Growth of Naxalism has been declared by the Prime Minister to be the top internal security problem of the country.

Roots of Naxalism, now known as Maoism, predate independence and now affect about 150 districts spread over 13 states. It has grown to this strength on account of cumulative wrongs, absence of social and eco reforms to ensure human dignity, justice and democratic rights to the rural and forest tribal populations of the country. The movement is seeking to establish a contiguous area from Karnataka to Nepal border to set up a compact revolutionary zone and is now well militarized. It will be a mistake to think that the movement can be countered by armed means alone. Ways have to be found to include the Maoists in the main stream and to fulfill the rising expectations of the rural and tribal people through better governance and a paradigm shift in administrative and development strategies, to ensure a better delivery.

Maoism and foreign subversion pose strong challenges, but the idea that is India remains strong. Nobody can say, that India is not an admirably successful example of a multi ethnic, multi religious, multi lingual and pluralist entity in motion

Subversion is another form of threat the Indian State is facing from several quarters . In J&K it takes the shape of a proxy war led by militant outfits operating from the safety of sanctuaries in Pakistan, at the behest of the Pakistani establishment. Despite the so called peace process between India and Pakistan, the thrust in this assault remains as sharp and purposeful as before. It is expanding and making inroads into the rest of the country. It wants to transmute itself into what has been dubbed as New Terrorism, mindless destruction of lives and property, merely for spectacular results. New Terrorism will employ WMDs if it can lay its hands on them. Its foreign promoters are eyeing the Indian Muslim community as a fertile field for recruitment of agents.

The Pakistani masters try to distort faith by sowing concepts that such terrorism is ultimately a service to the wider community. This in turn promotes sectarian tensions. It is not clear whether the dangers inherent in this Pakistani strategy have been fully comprehended or conceptualized in India. The Deoband fatwa, outlawing terrorism, while laudable, does not go deep into the question, whether doctrinal injunctions create a mindset disfavouring growth of liberalism which will offset terrorism. The Muslim community in India needs to be encouraged to examine why it remains out of step with contemporaneous concepts and ideas that can ensure such virtues as gender equality, freedom of expression and keeping religion and state out of each other’s way.

The turbulence in the North Eastern states of India is another form of subversion, orchestrated by foreign agencies, notably Pakistani. No doubt the militants in these states, principally Tripura, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland have long standing local grievances but there is an ongoing effort in most cases by the Central Government to deal with these through dialogue and counter insurgency. Cross border connections, guidance, financing and arming often put a spanner into such efforts.

Maoism and foreign subversion pose strong challenges, but the idea that is India remains strong. Nobody can say, that India is not an admirably successful example of a multi ethnic, multi religious, multi lingual and pluralist entity in motion. However, interplay of politics and corruption and absence of good governance, a must for efficient security, remains a big blot on India’s record and add to the existentialist threats, facing India from various directions. Security threats facing India By Anand K Verma. Anand K Verma, former Chief of RAW and author of Reassessing Pakistan

http://www.indiandefencereview.com/IDR-Updates/Security-threats-facing-India.html

 

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