• By Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa
  • September 3 2019
  • By covering a wide gamut of areas this article comprehensively tells how India can build comprehensive power.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”, said the Cheshire Cat to Alice. - Alice in Wonderland, By Lewis Carrol


August 5th 2019, fortunately Indian Government knew where they were going and what road they were to take to reach there. Mercifully they did not have to depend on the Cheshire Cat for advice or direction. It was a hard decision in the national interest, not pandering for electoral votes. It displayed an iron political will, something the country was found wanting in these last 70 years.


One cannot say the same for Pakistan, where in the aftermath of this momentous decision taken on Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (JK&L), there are dozens of Cheshire Cats dishing out advice and showing direction along every degree of a compass!! Pakistan, as expected is giving it a Hindu-Muslim twist. That is what has been done to Kashmir in the last 30 years – demolished Sufi culture of ‘Kashmiryiat’ and imposed radical Wahabi Islam there.


Article 370 and its subsidiary, Article 35A, have been annulled by a Presidential Order in accordance of the Parliamentary norms in a more transparent and democratic manner than the opaque and undemocratic process adopted by the then Government which had surreptitiously included it in the Indian Constitution on May 14th 1954. It was to appease just one man, who was desperate to seize the moment in history for his own personal selfish motive and personal glory – Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Article 370 was a highly divisive provision which fostered a sense of exclusivity to the people of the State (in particular the Kashmir Valley) and was the primary factor preventing the full integration of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh with the rest of the country. Post the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmir Valley in 1990, the Valley became fertile ground for radical Islam to step in.


On the advice of Mr Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah had met Dr BR Ambedkar, the then Law Minister, to convince him to include some temporary provisions in respect of J&K State in the Indian Constitution. Dr Ambedkar refused to do anything of this sort and told Sheikh Abdullah point blank in these words:–


Mr Abdullah, you want that India should defend Kashmir. You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India, but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir and Government of India should have only limited powers. To give consent to this proposal would be treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as Law Minister of India, will never do. I cannot betray the interests of my country.” (Dr BR Ambedkar, “Framing of Indian Constitution”, page 472). That it was furtively included in the Indian Constitution while Dr Ambedkar was alive, must have been the greatest betrayal that he would have been subjected to or experienced in his lifetime.


As with any “temporary” provision or policy enacted by a Government in power, the temporary nature of such a provision or policy is invariably shrouded out and the provision or policy manipulated to suit vested interests and passed on in perpetuity as an inherited legacy of a permanent nature. Subterfuge and political blackmail then rules the roost. A case in point, beside the erstwhile Article 370, there is the Indian government’s Policy on Reservation. It is now carved in stone and will not change.


The BJP manifesto carried the Party’s intent to annul Article 370 in the run up to the elections in 2014. It was reiterated in the manifesto issued for the 2019 Parliament elections. By its inclusion in both these manifestos the Party was surely not ‘crying wolf, wolf’!! To have ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ was easy; the same lot of political blackmailers in Kashmir and self-appointed protectors of Kashmiri interests would have continued to squeeze India of funds to amass wealth and properties worldwide for themselves.


The West and in particular a number of British Parliamentarians as also the leader of the Labour Party have been rather critical of the action to annul Article 370 taken by the Indian Government. A decision which has been taken with the Indian Parliament’s overwhelming support. The Parliamentarians more than amply echoed the voice of the people whom they represent. Being a purely internal matter of governance and internal administration this bellyaching by the British Parliamentarians and Labour Party Leader was more an act to bolster their own fading image as a global player. This diplomatic eructation of the British Parliamentarians questioning the decision of the elected representatives of the people of India is not just a faux pas but a gaffe by a pigmy of a nation seeing its own breakup – British Occupied Northern Ireland and Scotland get freedom from the once ‘United Kingdom’!? It also gives traction to the machinations indulged in by Britain in partitioning India so that it does not become a great power in the future.


National Power hinges on political “Will”. In fact, all elements of national power gain in strength when there is political “Will” backing them in their role to compliment national power. National power is the synergy of all these elements of power. To harmonise national power, all elements must get their due weightage. 


To orchestrate these into a smooth symphony requires a close knit of all the ministries working in sync and having no discordant notes. The National Security Adviser having been given a Cabinet rank is, thus, an important step to achieve this harmony in the symphony orchestra that is the government.


An important initiative now, in consolidating national power, is the need to revive the economy.


Economic strength is an enabler for developing soft and hard power. In fact, some strategic analysts consider economic strength as ‘hard power’. This is true. For far too long the crony capitalists had waylaid the economy and bled it to amass personal wealth. Demonetisation, introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, digitisation of financial transactions and economic Enforcement Directorates activism have rattled the easy going cash biased informal economy. It was a haven for those who were churning out fake five rupee coins and ten rupee notes as also 50 and 100. They remained well below the radar and thrived. 


In August 2016, this Author raised an issue of easy availability of currency notes of rupees 500 and 1000 denominations in the Kashmir Valley which could be bought for rupees 300 and 600 respectively. It was questioned as to why did any government not enforce demonetisation of currency notes of these denominations? That three months later this was done was ample redemption.


The present set of Labour Laws of the Central Government (44) and the States (nearly 200) and Land Acquisition for industrialisation including such provisions as leasing of land instead of buying are to be tackled on priority. It will be heavy heaving. Going by the penchant of the opposition of all hues to blow up issues out of proportion, they will inflame passions and indulge in rabble rousing. Economic development will be adversely impacted if these vital issues remain unattended.


Energy security is a strategic necessity. Importing 80 percent of its requirement makes India vulnerable to extraneous forces that can disrupt or derail the development process. The recent case where US terminated the waiver for India to source crude from Iran has been a setback. The sole superpower in its own strategic interest can seriously obstruct the economic development of another country which can be exploited by inimical forces to further create internal dissent and serious disruptions. India will need to device new ways to reign in fuel consumption. A network of highways and internal road arteries enabling unimpeded smooth flow of long haul goods traffic is paramount. Small towns and mushrooming commercial entities along these highways are serious bottlenecks which extract a price on fuel consumption. To enable free movement NHAI and other state road authorities need the support of suitable land acquisition laws. Considering the size of the country and the scale of the movement involved this wasteful expenditure becomes humongous in scale and cannot be glossed over.


A strong economic base is the sine qua non for keeping the military modernisation at pace with technological developments. For the West, future wars have transmuted to anything but a conventional war – wars have become unconventional, sub-conventional, hybrid, non-traditional, wars to fight drug war-lords and mercenaries armies and last but not least wars against private armies of dictators or even multinationals (!). 


However, India will need to continue to be prepared to protect its territorial sovereignty well into the long term.


Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh is fallaciously claimed by China, which, is also illegally in occupation of Aksai Chin that forms part of Ladakh. On the West, Pakistan had, through aggression in 1947-48, captured territory of Jammu and Kashmir which it continues to occupy as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit-Baltistan which it has separated as an administrative sub-division from POK). These territorial disputes are in the mountainous region.


As a consequence, India’s focus must be to modernise those forces which it will deploy to fight in these mountainous regions and those that will closely support these fighting forces in these areas. While it may look glamorous to see a mechanised combat team, comprising tanks and Infantry Combat Vehicles, speeding away cross-country in the desert or semi-desert terrain raising a huge cloud of dust in its wake, it will be prudent to deeply assess the real threat and prepare accordingly.


Linked closely to military modernisation is the indigenous manufacture of military hardware.


Make in India is a laudable initiative but it is floundering on sticky surfaces and progress is not impressive. Research and Development (R&D) are an integral part of product development and upgradation. It is an unpardonable failure when this is not integrated along with the manufacturing of military weapons and weapon systems. The INSAS 5.56 mm personal rifle and light machine gun were being manufactured since 1997 in the Ordinance Factories (OF) at Ishapore, Bengal and Kanpur, UP. However, the Army had to go to the global arms bazaar to get a new assault rifle and a light machine gun reflect on the non-performance of the R&D of the OF manufacturing the weapon and the Ordinance Factory Boards (OFB’s) work ethos. 


In another instance, India had received the Japanese NISSAN – Jonga and One Ton vehicles in the early sixties. These were excellent powerful vehicles which performed reliably in the tracks in rugged mountainous terrain along the northern borders. These vehicles were assembled from the imported complete knocked down (CKD) kits in the Vehicle Factory at Jabalpur. Through the entire duration of their service in the forces (that is over 30 years) there was no tie-up to with the parent company to improve or upgrade these vehicles till their induction into the Army stopped. In the course of those 30 odd years NISSAN had continued to improve their products and develop new ones, but OFB did not seek technology transfer for this product.


The trade unions of the OF and civilian staff of Army Base Workshops  at times actually dictate terms to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and prevent modernisation or even change in organisation structure! Non-performing staff cannot be fired and skill development and upgradation is poorly implemented. The answer lies in corporatisation of the OF’s. Core group manufacturing factories (those that manufacture systems like armoured vehicles of all categories, artillery guns, whole range of small arms, air defence weapons, missiles, radars, surveillance devices etc.) must remain and be integrated, while non-core group manufacturing factories (like clothing, boots, tents, tarpaulins, camouflage nets etc.) should be shut down. Selected manpower of the non-core group of industries should be retrained and suitably skilled thereafter transferred to the core group manufacturing industries so as to make up any deficiencies in manpower. These factories, like in the private sector, should be responsible of the quality of their products. The certification of International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) should be the acceptable standard rather than the Ministry of Defence’s organ – the Director General of Quality Assurance (DGQA). 


For self-sustenance a corporatised OF will have depend on exporting its products for which the ISO certification will carry weightage and not a certification of DGQA. To export weapons and warlike equipment the OF’s will be pitted against the world’s best weapon manufactures thereby demanding very high quality products and technology. Without exports the internal demand will not be adequate to sustain these factories.


The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has not been able to keep pace with the likes of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which, on being denied the technology for the manufacture of Cryogenic engines by the West and Russia in 1993 took up indigenous development and production of these engines. After a few failures it finally succeeded in 2014. In contrast, DRDO has not been able to start serial production of the Rustom Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) after over 20 trial flights of its first and second version. In the interim, India had to go in for the Searcher Mk 1 & 2 followed by Heron Mk 1 and 2 from Israel. It is the same story of the Nag Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) that has been under development since 1980’s. Incidentally, after a successful test in July 2019, DRDO claims that the missile is ready for serial production. However, during this waiting period India procured Milan 1 and 2 from France, Konkurs from Russia for Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV) and now going in for Strum Ataka for the fleet of Mi 35 Attack Helicopters. The Spike ATGM is also being procured from Israel and India has been offered Javelin ATGM by the US. The Apaches will likely get the Hellfire Fire-and-Forget ATGM. Thus by DRDO’s inability to produce ATGM Nag in time India has had to acquire a mixed inventory of ATGM’s with their associated problems of logistics management. These are just two cases for illustration, because the list is long and pathetic. The country can rest assured that the armed forces will deliver in any circumstances. 


To make them more responsive DRDO has to be responsible to the military that it is supporting

The current new-age technologies such as cognitive systems, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, cloud, and big data processing, and the Internet of Things and the resulting ecosystem need a holistic security architecture embracing a proactive approach on the issues of defence, protection, mitigation, compliance, trust, and risk. Social media has divided the population into cognitive silos. Artificial Intelligence (AI) assisted fakes fed to opposing groups are a serious threat to national security.


There is a requirement to have a group of very creative persons who work under the NSA and Cyber Security department to prepare narratives for information warfare. India takes on a lot of hard punches by the likes of Pakistan and China by their contrived information warfare narratives before it responds. Pro-action in the case of annulment of Article 370 should have overwhelmed any narrative from Pakistan.


Similarly, India needs to take up the cause of the Balochis seeking an independent nationhood. India too need not be too considerate of China’s sensitivities with regard to Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan or the South China Sea and now, of late situation in Hong Kong if China does not respect India’s sensitivities. China cannot push India into the sea. If it harms India it will be harmed too.


Post-Cold-War, Non-Alignment has acquired a new “avatar” in the form of Strategic Autonomy 

By its size, populous, rich resources and geographic location, India has the ingredients for becoming a global-power. However, India is a reluctant contender for this title. It has been inward looking and since the Nehruvian era has sought a sort of autarky.


With globalisation it became necessary to remodel itself. For almost two decades US has tried to cultivate its relationship with India expecting it to align as an ally at a time of the rise of competitive authoritarian regimes. There are voices arising within the US criticising this overinvestment in India which is not translating into profitable dividends. The current US President blowing hot and blowing cold has compelled India to assiduously maintain its strategic autonomy.


Like in human relationships, individuals have friends of various categories – ‘bestest’ friend, best friend, good friend, know him well, do know him and just an acquaintance. Nation’s too develop bi-lateral relations in a similar fashion. India has more ‘good friends’ and ‘know him well’ and none as best friend or higher up the ladder. No ally’s, no bandwagoning India strictly ploughs a lonely furrow in international relations. 


The path India has adopted makes it even more essential that holistically consolidates its comprehensive power by harnessing its abundant natural and human resources it is blessed with. Strong leadership, committed focus for national good and the iron will to take tough decisions will take India forward. It is great to see it happening now. It augurs well for India’s future generations.


In a gentle way you can shake the World.” - Mahatma Gandhi


Author is Editor Indian Defence Review and former Chief of Staff, Eastern Command and Director General Infantry.  


Article is courtesy Indian Defence Review and was first published here


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