Conflict Foreign Affairs Politics

‘China provokes us but we still don’t know how to fight it’

THIS NEW book is a detailed critique of the military strategy of India. NC Asthana, a top IPS officer, and Anjali Nirmal, who has a doctorate in police administration, examine India’s preparedness in case of a war. Ranging across war doctrines, strategies, perceived threats and military capacity, they study what is wrong with Indian military. In a conversation with Kunal Majumder, the authors outline the reasons our strategies are often Pakistan-centric and why we are scared of China.


What’s the real military crisis for India?
Armies win battles, while nations win wars. Strong armies don’t win wars, strong nations do. Our nation isn’t mentally prepared to win a war. The entire approach to defence has become hardware-centric. Departmental interest becomes paramount and the army wants to expand, so it’s interested in acquiring more hardware. The field commanders and military lack a national perspective. On the other hand, the political leadership lacks military perspective. When the military men say they require X number of tanks, Y number of planes and Z number of artillery, nobody questions them because it becomes the holy cow of defence. Do it and you’ll be described as [someone] bent on jeopardising national security.

But isn’t this difference between the military’s needs and the politicians’ perception inevitable in a democracy?
The US military crisis is precipitated by its political leadership. Military thinker Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is an extension of politics through other means.” War starts when diplomacy fails, when war ends, diplomacy starts. Besides being hardware-centric, our strategies are also Pakistan-centric. Even the Cold Start (India’s military doctrine) is geared towards an offensive into Pakistan.

Why do you claim that Indians are subconsciously scared of China?
It’s our experience of 1962 that scares us. Whenever we talk of Pakistan, we boast of our numerical superiority. If we apply the same logic with China, we’re scared because we’re numerically inferior.

But should we be afraid of China?
There is no need. China cannot be militarily defeated. We should be handling it in ways that aren’t military. We’ve quoted a former naval chief in the book, saying militarily, India cannot defeat China.

Isn’t the probability of war with China or another country less than it was two decades ago?
The chances of full-scale war are rather remote. Our other thesis questions why we’re spending so much on defence. The budget last year was 1.47 lakh crore. Despite our Pakistan-centric military strategy, the fact is a nuclear Pakistan would not allow itself to be defeated decisively. The Chinese, on the other hand, are trying to provoke us in many ways but we still don’t know how we’d act in a conflict with them — only infantry, an armour offensive, or would we prefer a nuclear approach itself at the very beginning?

Published in Tehelka:

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