- Trouble mounts for Sreesanth as Mumbai cops gather more evidence
- SIT to seek Supreme Court guidance on Maya Kodnani death penalty issue
- Tamil Nadu police bans Yasin Malik-linked pro-Eelam public meeting
- Kings XI Punjab end IPL 2013 campaign with a win
- Narendra Modi: India losing sheen as agricultural nation
Since it has taken decades for India's current predicament to come into being, escaping it fully will also take decades. India needs a strategy for the next generation, based on the conditions that will exist over the next generation. Saying that a democracy needs a long-term strategy is not an exercise in futility, even though the political challenge of working with millions of voters to produce a relatively steady course of action for decades seems impossible. Yet both tasks have been accomplished. India did build a nuclear arsenal and a national space programme and a metro in Delhi, all of which took decades of hard and steady work, by both national parties who were willing to cede daily management to specialist organisations tasked for these purposes. Equally to the point, we will be making choices based on assumptions about the future whether we like it or not. When we buy military systems and train officers today, we make decisions that determine what capabilities we will have 20 years hence. Our only choice is whether to do it thoughtfully or in response to the pressures of the moment.
Clearly, the foremost task is for India to maximise its potential national power by maximising its economic growth. Many thoughtful Indians appear to believe that the distribution of national income is at least as important as its total quantum, but global economic history reveals that for a country at India's level of wealth this is an illusory trade-off — more is better in reducing poverty, enhancing social peace and securing international peace. What needs to be done on this front is, at some level, well understood and discussed by fine Indian economists based in India and abroad and we do not wish to belabour issues that must be foremost in the minds of thinking Indians during the current economic slowdown.
The next task is to focus on the narrow military asymmetry issues. Here there are issues of defence management, strategy, choice of hardware and total spending, roughly in that order of priority. The single most important thing India could do is to make the China problem much more salient in its defence management processes and the object of an integrated effort. Precisely what bureaucratic mechanism is required is beyond our competence to prescribe, but it is clear that if a dedicated group of talented military officers and civil servants under the highest levels of political supervision are tasked with improving India's defence posture vis-à-vis China, much could be accomplished quickly — after all, India's military performance underwent a sea change in a short three years after the 1962 defeat. Such an effort would then take into account the growth in Chinese capabilities and the trends in military technology we discussed earlier to update Indian strategy vis-à-vis China. An important component of this shift would be to adopt an anti-access, area denial strategy in Tibet, where China is dependent on a limited number of roads, rail lines and runways. All of these are relatively vulnerable as fixed targets for modern precision strike systems.
The same set of tools should be employed to make it harder for Chinese naval power to operate in the Indian Ocean, much as China is making it hard for the US to operate off its coast. Such an approach would be quicker and cheaper than setting out to build a competing Indian surface presence in the Indian Ocean. Finally, Chinese strategic doctrine emphasises speed and surprise and thus Indian counter doctrine should emphasise paranoia and flexibility. Tactically speaking a mountainous border is good terrain to defend, but it still leaves room for strategic surprises — for instance, an attack through Bhutan. Ideally, India's military should constantly think through such novel scenarios as military capabilities in China evolve and fine tune the mix of Indian forces, fixed and mobile, to be able to respond to various contingencies and go on the tactical offence when needed. Other strategic surprises can involve the use of precision weapons against Indian assets and command and control facilities far from the border zone. Indeed, hardening Indian assets against such precision attacks should be accorded the highest priority. India needs an urgent effort to deal with its cyber vulnerabilities — this is a problem more in need of attention than large sums of money (by the standards of military spending). Finally, India should aim at keeping its defence spending at or above the 3 per cent of GDP on defence recommended by Indian strategic experts.
It has been noted by Indian strategists such as Admiral Raman Puri that compared with India's, Chinese hardware costs are lower because they typically involve domestic production. While this certainly argues in favour of seeking to maximise the indigenous component of India's defence acquisitions, the current policy based around foreign purchases tied to escalating "offsets" (compensating purchases) is seriously flawed. The current policy neither furthers the goal of India's acquiring the best available Western military technology (access to which is an area of advantage to India over China) nor of building up India's own defence production, as the "offset" purchases have no meaningful connection to technology niches where India has a comparative advantage, such as in equipment of use to other Asian countries. In principle, there exists a niche where India could respond to shrinking Western defence budgets by creating an outsourcing defense industry driven by the private sector, but the structure of Indian processes currently precludes such a response.
Let us turn now to the scope for India to cooperate more actively with other Asian countries concerned with maintaining a favourable balance of power and with the US. Much unofficial interaction proceeds with the assumption that there is a shared problem to be managed. Yet, official Indian positions as well as semi-official thinking — as recently on display in the "Non-Alignment 2.0" document — seem still paralysed by the curious notion that India's challenge is somehow to triangulate between China and the US and above all to avoid "offending" China. If India were happy with an equilibrium in its dealings with China this might make some sense, but India is neither happy nor is the relationship in equilibrium, so it is hard to understand what India gains by self-censorship. The evidence is that what cannot be said eventually cannot be dealt with in any rational fashion. Indian policymakers should take heart — the contest is not yet over, and in any case the option of accommodating to Chinese power will always be available, and thus there is no need to exercise it prematurely.
The hope of the world is that China's rise will not endanger peace and stability but instead bring back to the frontiers of human accomplishment one of the greatest civilisations to grace the planet. With this China, India must of course engage, economically and culturally. However, China is also a nation-state with definite views on the international order and it would be irresponsible for India not to take steps to ensure that a Beijing that decides to challenge the status quo faces the steepest odds. The virtue of the measures described above is that if they work as planned, they will render themselves obsolescent. Moreover, the costs of adopting them are much lower than the costs of inviting aggression by failing to compete.
Deal is president and CEO of the Long Term Strategy Group, a Washington DC-based defence consultancy. Rosen is Beton Michael Kaneb Professor of National Security and Military Affairs at Harvard University and senior counsellor at LTSG. Sondhi is on the faculty at Princeton and directs the India and the World programme at its Centre for International Security Studies
- Quake-hit and shaken, Bhaderwah spends nights in the open
- UP blast accused dies on way to jail, govt wanted to drop case against him
- Former civil aviation secy changes mind, seeks airport security exemption as EC
- BCCI suspects Gujarat players in other teams were also approached
- Police on money trail, Sreesanth in fresh trouble
- Chhattisgarh 'encounter' leaves 8 villagers dead, no Maoist link yet