Notes on the neighbourhood

Events in India’s neighbourhood demand greater attention and analysis but pre disposition and mental involvement with elections, a lack of strategic culture have been the bane of the Indian civil military interface. The lack of a naval chief is not considered an emergency yet the speed with which his resignation was accepted seemed like a national calamity. It is a foregone conclusion that the 2014 elections are going to be land mark elections in India the reasons are many and change of the old guard one of the most awaited, yet certain events demand a greater scrutiny and the nation needs to be aware and ask questions less India is again caught napping.

The loss of flight MH-370 over the Indian Ocean has grave security ramifications for India, it being a combination of an aircraft flying over sea. The United States was attacked on 9/11, with aircraft flying from various destinations and hitting certain pre designated specified targets at will. 26/11 took place on Mumbai with the sea breached. Flight MH-370 could fly in at 50 feet above sea level and hit any one of the cities, be it Kolkata, Madras, or Vizak. It was last tracked over the Strait of Malacca from where effectively it comes under India’s area of influence yet all reports coming out are of French or Chinese satellite, the flight could have gone anywhere up to Diego Garcia Island in the West which the Americans hold up to the Spratly Islands in the East which the Chinese claim, while currently the Southern extremity in the Indian Ocean is where all search is taking place. There has been no discussion on the security ramifications of the loss of this flight in India and there are many allegations flying thick and fast on the inter net that there is more to it than what meets the eye about this flight with cloak and dagger stories doing the rounds. The fact of the matter is that Indian cities both on the Western and Eastern sea board are very vulnerable to such civilian flights and India as a nation has enough security threats, yet ‘we have eyes that see not and ears that hear not’?

The next big international event is the fact that Russia has recently annexed Crimea and may be in the process of annexing Moldava region in Ukraine. The signals coming out, in case of force asymmetry, can a big power do what it wants with force in its area of influence? The West is only talking of sanctions but not tough enough sanctions because they need the Russian oil and harsh sanctions will become counter-productive. The biggest lesson which is emerging that in the current international environment with America waning might is still right in the 21st century. How mighty is India on the LAC with China? There have been more than 500 violations reported about six months ago by the Chinese and India has only diplomatically protested? Will it work? Last year the Chinese pitched tents in an inhospitable area in Ladakh, will Crimea give them any such ideas, and how will India respond. The West and NATO which egged on Ukraine against the Russians are missing in action except diplomatically, they say use of force will be counterproductive. America is withdrawing from Afghanistan they will not support India against Pakistan because they have to withdraw heavy equipment through Pakistan, and as far as China is concerned the American trade is heavily dependent on China. All this implies it will be a harsh hot swelter summer in Ladakh followed by Arunachal this summer for our soldiers. India needs to have adequate forces and defence spending is only $37.15 billion, while compared to Chinese defence spending at US $131.57 billion, India is far short of the Chinese, a situation as bad as 1962, no wonder the Henderson Brooks report is still kept under wraps.

The withdrawal of the Americans will cause a strategic imbalance in this region. India will remember the Americans because they gave stability to this strife torn region. As a regional super power which India aspires to be the first thing that needed to have done was anticipated this power vacuum and prepare itself to fill in this void as and when this takes place? Instead India has been like the grass hopper who played and danced during summer and when the winter came was found lagging. These years of peace have not been optimised by India’s strategic community, the power vacuum not anticipated and to day India dreads the American draw down and the much anticipated result is that the jihads will start to flow, China and Pakistan will openly join hands and the India nation in ten years’ time has inflicted a two front threat upon itself and created a half front jihadi threat all this in a nuclear environment. The American draw down and the rise of China have to be seen as one event in India and not two separate events, it may be two separate events worldwide, but the ramifications and the time frame in which it is happening on India’s border it is a single event. China is a growing super power and sees military modernisation as a way of making its presence felt. The PLA is asserting itself and has recently reorganised itself on India’s borders.

Earlier there were the Lanzhou Military Area Command which was responsible for Xinjiang and Chengdu Military Area Command which was responsible for Eastern Front, it is now rumored that a single, ‘Tibet’ Military Area Command (MAC) is coordinating all forces against India. The Chinese have always been assertive whenever they have been strong thus with India in deep transition the nation needs to doubly careful and in case India does not have a clear cut majority government. Elections are also due in Afghanistan. The sub-continent is going to be in a flux which may be a good time to fish in troubled waters, as internationally that is the best time to make hay, but India too has a tradition of standing united whenever the chips are down.

The author is a retired brigadier
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