Efficacy of India’s diplomatic response to Uri — Rajya Sabha TV

There was a panel discussion, involving Lt Gen Mohammad Ata Hasnain (Retd), former GOC 15 Corps, ex-Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal and myself in the Rajya Sabha TV programme ‘India’s World’ on “How effective is India’s diplomatic response to Pakistan” recorded on September 24, 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz-spo9s9Yw&list=PLVOgwA_DiGzpWrMV__M9_rHINn7PzABlM

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The Surgical Attacks Will Change the Rules of India-Pakistan Game

The Director-General of Military Operations, Indian Army, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh’s announcement that India had launched a series of strikes on the night of 28 September against seven different “launch pads” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that jihadi terrorists used for attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) has come as a relief.

Especially, no doubt, to the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that had raised expectations of a disproportionately harsh response to the terrorist strikes on 18 September that resulted in the death of 19 jawans of the Bihar and Dogra regiments, but had stayed its hand until now.

In fact, these may have been the second set of cross-LoC strikes; the first lot of attacks going in on the night of 21 September, as first reported by The Quint. (Read: Army Confirms PoK Surgical Ops: 1st Strike Reported by The Quint)

Setting a Precedent for Proportional Retaliation

This is the first time that India has reacted with military action to a terrorist event. It obviously surprised the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence which, based on India’s past record of not responding to even significant political and economic provocations, such as the attack on Parliament on 13 December, 2001, followed seven years later by the attack on the commercial capital, Mumbai on 26 November, 2008, must have assumed that no Indian retaliation would be forthcoming.

This may be deduced from the large number of jihadi fatalities, as many as 70-odd if the Indian army’s estimate of each pad having ten terrorists and two ISI minders holds up. Had the Pakistan Army anticipated these counter-strikes they would have been prepared to meet them and engaged in fire-fights and attempted to shoot down the helicopters engaged in lifting the Special Forces to their target sites.

Such retaliation is fully justified both in terms of raising the cost to the Pakistan Army and setting a precedent for proportional retaliation in the future. General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, had so far assumed that their choice of asymmetric warfare was cost free and hence carried on with them without compunction.

India’s response in kind is also condoned by international law under the rubric of “self defence”. Article 51 of the UN Charter, for instance, states clearly that “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”.

The ramifications of India’s retaliatory measure, albeit belated, are many. In the main, New Delhi has changed the rules of the game that Pakistan was playing by. India has now asserted its right to punish Pakistan, manifestly a state sponsor of terrorism, for its sustained campaign to destabilise Jammu & Kashmir and keep India unsettled, in a manner that will pass muster with the international community.

The Indian reaction has been localised and keyed to eliminating the threat from only those who posed a terrorist threat to the country.

The other equally significant aspect is that it has proved that the Modi government will shrug off the pressure from friendly Western states with the United States in the lead, that India observe restraint as it has done in the past, and that a non-response accompanied with a lot of “Don’t do it again” warnings and teeth-gnashing by the Indian government would be sufficient to deter Pakistan from again playing the terrorist card.

It did not ever work, but previous Indian governments were too eager to please Washington to do what’s good and right by India. This may be as important a change in India’s foreign policy mindset as the determination to strike at Pakistan — the linchpin of terrorism in southern Asia, whose baleful effects are being felt in ever-widening circles.

And finally, this anti-terrorist action suggests the Modi government has gone over the hump of hesitation and inaction that had marked its attitude after the terrorist jihadi attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January this year, and is now resolved hereafter to deal with the LeT and JeM outlaws and their minders as they deserve to be treated — with extreme prejudice.
Published in the Quint, September 29, 2016, at https://www.thequint.com/politics/2016/09/29/the-surgical-attacks-will-change-the-rules-of-india-pakistan-game-after-cross-border-loc-strike-after-uri-attack

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Utilizing phased-out fighter aircraft for educational purposes

There’s little the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Narendra Modi and the Ministry of Defence under Manohar Parrikar, under a cloud after their studied non-response to the latest Pakistan-supported terrorist provocation (in Uri), can do, considering the Indian military has been criminally negligent in doing the basic things right, like having strong perimeter security even around their own encampments and depots in the extended Kashmir “covert war” zone (which includes Pathankot) and left them with no choice worth the name.

May be Parrikar, who has allowed himself time and again to be railroaded into wrong decisions usually by Modi and his PMO (LEMOA, Rafale, prospectively EMALS), can do something imaginative and good for the country for a change! Here’s a suggestion that takes him far from the immediate concerns but which would have tremendous consequences in terms of seeding a huge aerospace engineering base in the country and propelling not, “Make in India” effort which will merely reinforce the licensed manufacture tendency in the indigenous defence industry in both public and private sectors, but a genuine design-to-delivery capability for all manner of combat aviation platforms, from fighter planes to fighting drones.

It will simply require Parrikar, an IIT alumunus, to instruct his Ministry that, hereafter, no phased out aircraft — combat or transport, will be sold as scrap but rather transferred with its full complement of avionics and communications suites to the aerospace engineering departments functioning in the numerous Indian Institutes of Technology, the National Institutes of Technology and, foremost in this group, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. It will enable undergrad and graduate students in these departments to gain familiarity with just deactivated/near-operational combat and transport platforms, and gain knowledge of diverse technologies through intense laboratory study as a means, down the line, of reverse engineering every part and component, sub-assembly, so that in time and as part of their course work for their advanced degrees they are capable of innovating the machine designs they have dissected and put together on a series of MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 aircraft. Imagine the high quality skills engineers and designers will have acquired along with their degrees, instead of just being armed with bookish knowledge. This manpower could step right into high-pressure jobs and begin producing for DRDO labs and DPSUs in the government sector, and increasingly, for private sector defence industrial ventures, which, hopefully, will have a larger role in the future.

This endowing by the government of advanced technology and platforms is normal in the more advanced societies where universities are the intellectual seedbeds for nursing and generating skilled manpower for the national aerospace/aviation sector. The Aerospace Depts at Caltech, Pasadena, and Purdue University, specializing in engineering sciences, which produced Neill Armstrong — first man on the moon who, after his astronaut career returned to his alma mater as professor of aerospace engineering, are famous for their achievements. Purdue, for instance, has its own aircraft and even an air strip!

Of course, babus up and down the chain in MOD who have long benefited from the selling of demobilized aircraft as scrap will be angry and upset. But, perhaps, Parrikar will risk their ire and take the decision to dispatch the decommissioned MiG fighter aircraft to the educational institutions, for the greater good of the country.

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Rafales, India’s secret nuclear weapons city(?)

There’s little left to say which’s not already been said. So we await the signing at the MOD tomorrow (Aug 23) in the presence of the Indian and French defence ministers Manohar Parrikar and Jean Yves le Drian respectively of the 7.9 billion Euro deal for the French Rafale fighter aircraft along with the full ordnance loads of unproved (in real live battle conditions against, not Libya for God’s sake, but a proficient foe) “smart” missiles and stuff, such as the Meteor AAM.

Much is made by the Modi government about saving 750 million Euros. Considering the deal for 36 Rafales will cost upward of US$ 30 billion eventually, when the final bill is totted up, this “saving” is small change, and one the French, having finally succeeded in baiting and reeling in India, can well afford. This manifestly bad deal will only reinforce India’s reputation as a country with government displaying little strategic sense but with a spendthrift’s way with the hard-earned Indian people’s monies where military hardware is concerned — an attitude arms peddlers and supplier states rejoice in.

So, let’s take our mind off this vexatious topic and on to another equally important one relating to the partly underground “vertically integrated” secret nuclear weapons “city” — such as the Russian Arazmas 16 complex, revolving around new, more numerous, centrifuge cascades to enrich uranium to bomb grade for weapons and as fuel for the Indian SSBNs, being built in hinterland Karnataka. Al-Jazeera is hardly a disinterested TV company, being Arab-owned. But it is the first to air a programme on this subject, albeit with the familiar tilts. This programme on ‘India’s Top Secret Nuclear City’ was broadcast August 31, 2016, and is accessible on youtube.com at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTF0tuGEup4.

Whether this N-weapons complex will be used for genuine strategic impact in terms of designing advanced thermonuclear weapons with various yield-to-weight ratios, including very high yield weapons, and experimenting with developing miniaturized fifth-generation clean fusion armaments will, however, remain a matter of hope, prayer, and speculation. But what chances of this last with the generic “government’ in New Delhi institutionally unwilling to risk resumption of nuclear explosive testing because devoid of strategic sensibility?

Posted in Asian geopolitics, Defence Industry, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, nonproliferation, nuclear industry, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Weapons, Western militaries | 33 Comments

After Uri – nothing! Why? Because…

The situation after the daring terrorist attack on the army camp in Uri is a symptom of a basic malady of the Indian government’s and the Indian military’s inability to come to grips with reality that the State is in full-fledged covert war with Pakistan. Have always maintained that Pakistan, as an equal legatee of the doctrine of ‘kutayuddha’ (covert warfare) expounded in the Arthashastra, is a far more adept practitioner of this form of asymmetric conflict than India has ever been

This is so, I have argued in my writings and books (especially ‘Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy’) because Pakistan (like Israel) enjoys a very small “margin of error” and therefore is more proactive where national security is concerned, as its safety rests on keeping the bigger, better endowed, adversary unbalanced with strategems and tactics, such as periodic attacks on the latter’s military capabilities, less to hurt them grievously than to keep the enemy permanently unsettled. Whence, the seaborne terrorist infiltrators struck the shoreline hotels in Mumbai in 2008 rather than take out the bulk of the Western Fleet then at anchor a short distance away, in other words do a “Pearl Harbour”. It reflected and still does as the Uri incident shows, a fine-tuned Pakistani strategic sensibility — provoke India sufficiently to make a point but not so much as to trigger a war that would cost Pakistan plenty.

The main problem is Indian rulers’ traditional-historic complacent attitude nurtured by geography that there’s so much landmass to withdraw to that, as in the present case, NSA Ajit Doval’s “offensive DEFENCE” is always feasible. Any time DEFENCE is propagated in any guise, it is a guarantee of do-nothingism. India’s record bears this out.

The Vajpayee regime’s decision to do nothing after the terrorist attack in December 2001 on Parliament — the symbol of sovereignty, mind you, and the attack on the Kaluchak camp in the midst of the “general mobilization for war” (Op Parakram), other than mumble appropriate retribution, which has ever since become the stock non-response of GOI and haas never been prosecuted, a wrong signal was sent out to the Pakistan Army. It confirmed GHQ Rawalpindi’s long harboured assessment of ‘Hindu Lala’ India as too cowardly and callow to respond decisively, even when international law and the UN charter completely legitimated retaliation as an act of “self-defence”. (Article 51 states: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”.)

Terrorist strikes have thereafter been launched periodically and with increasing impunity (Pathankot in January this year, and now Uri), with New Delhi each time reacting in the same manner: there’s a muffled threat to hit Pakistan at a time of India’s choosing, there’s the attempt by GOI — that will fail — to garner international support in order to “isolate” Pakistan, and a sudden burst of activity in terms of intensively manning military posts in J&K, etc., and once the temper cools and the ardour for action lost, things settle down to the usual. This leads one to wonder what the Indian Army units believe their role in J&K is exactly — considering there’s no effective perimeter security worth the name around their own encampments and depots — the minimum one would expect?

It reflects the complacency now deeply entrenched even, and especially, in the Indian armed services. How else to explain the fact that the security at military bases is so lax and that too in J&K — a live area of military operations — despite the continued threat from terrorists and, hence, an open invitation to any armed group to saunter into any camp, open fire, and repeatedly inflict an appalling exchange ratio — three terrorists finishing off 17 soldiers at Uri. Oh sure, the para-commando elements held as Northern Army reserve, will now wear their black patkas, daub black paste under their eyes, and go out on night-time retaliatory kill/destroy culvert here, blow up a bridge there missions, even as intended targets — the LeT and JeM camps and their inhabitants have been moved to safety to hinterland areas. And there the matter will rest. Until the next terrorist incident.

In the wake of Pathankot, the AOC was transferred — presumably, with no ill effects on his forward career progress, and this time the commander, Uri camp, will likewise be relocated. This will about sum up India’s reaction!

In the civil society meanwhile there are the predictable noises about the need for forbearance and measured response or, at the other ideological end, there’s the RSS General Secretary Ram Madhav — the Modi government’s go-to-guy for foreign policy advice, spouting vengeance and demanding Pakistani “jaw” for an Indian tooth, but being satisfied with the PM’s promise of severe action. Will wait and see what this action will be but be advised to not hold your breath.

The reason why Vajpayee did not order immediate retaliation — of an aerial strike on PoK targets in 2001, and Modi won’t do so now is because — you guessed it — our new found friend, ally, and strategic partner — the United States of America, which does not tolerate even the slightest terrorist provocation itself but is ready to counsel patience and conciliation on friends, and back it up with punitive means. If there’s any doubt that Washington will not countenance a violent and telling Indian military reaction, New Delhi should see what happens if Modi girds up his loins and actually orders massive and lesson-teaching military actions. But, of course, GHQ-R has covered that (nonexistent) possibility. It will indicate movement of nuclear missiles, which will be enough to freeze Modi in his tracks amidst the media hub-hub for caution, which the PM will use as pretext for doing nothing. Remember the previous BJP govt’s succumbing to “public opinion” to negotiate with the Indian Airline flight IA 814 Afghan Taliban hijackers in December 1999? New Delhi will once again be satisfied with the US wagging its finger at Islamabad, which will be heralded as a great diplomatic victory for a “responsible” power — India. One can imagine the Pak Army brass rolling around in mirth.

In the event, stirring calls for action such as by the well-meaning retired Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal as per his “four pronged” strategy (http://www.rediff.com/news/column/time-to-hit-and-hurt-the-pakistan-army/20160918.htm ) involving aerial and artillery strikes on PoK targets, covert ops against Pak Army capabilities and military infrastructure, but continued engagement with the civilian leadership and civil society in Pakistan amount to nothing more than the usual knee-jerk “do something” plea whose operative parts GOI will feel free to ignore.

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White elephant — Rafale, and missed opportunity with Su-35 in N-role

The phrase ‘White elephant’ refers to an acquisition exorbitantly costly to buy, run, and upkeep and is derived from the story of a rare pachyderm that was acquired by the Thai court as a symbol of its Hindu power and religiosity and ended up beggaring that kingdom.

The 36 Rafales that the Narendra Modi regime is obtaining for the Indian Air Force are, collectively, the white elephant whose costs will sink India’s military power because there’ll be no monies left over after the full program costs (with steeply rising value of the euro) of US$30-$40 billion are borne by the luckless Indian taxpayer, to fund any other major military procurement for the next decade or so.

The Modi PMO is readying the cabinet note for approval of this buy by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which is a formality. With nobody of political weight among his colleagues to question the PM’s choice, CCS’ OK is a foregone conclusion. This is generally what happens anyway when a military hardware selection process gets to this stage. There’s no instance, as far as I can recall, where CCS has come up with a nyet.

This reduction of CCS to a rubber stamp is an attribute of the Westminister model of government the Constituent Assembly chose without pondering the practical consequences for the country and which the ex-colonial power, Britain, incidentally, long ago trashed as inappropriate for a time when there’s lots more and revealing information available to any concerned legislators for the asking to enable informed decisionmaking.

In the IAF’s medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) sweepstakes, the Rafale was shortlisted along with the Eurofighter — Typhoon, and won the race not for any technological or operational edge it provided, but because the French have been more diligent in nursing and nurturing a “support system” over the years that seamlessly servicing strategically placed personnel in the military procurement loop and within the Indian political class, Indian armed services, and Ministry of Defence (MOD), so when it comes to pushing their wares, the French items invariably come out on tops. After all, we Indians are only human and who can resist bank accounts full of euros, employment of close relatives in French transnational corporations in Europe, and crowned by repeated trips to, where else, Paris — ooh la la?

India’s national interest, in the event, cannot compete with the inducements France can so effortlessly summon. So India is the usual Third World state ripe for Paris’ (and, generally, West’s) pickings, whatever the political dispensation in New Delhi.

The Eurofighter was finding it difficult to find traction even within its primary market — the four main countries forming the EADS consortium that produced it, the plane being dismissed by the cognoscenti as something “Germany doesn’t want, Britain can’t afford, and Spain and Italy neither want nor can afford!”. And, mind you, this ‘Typhoon’ had virtues the Rafale doesn’t, especially in terms of its potential for future development as a weapons platform with its modular structure and engineering aspects (which, by the way, EADS has foresworn because of the financial unviability of a genuinely 5th generation fighter project).

If the Eurofighter lost out because of minimal price differential (and EADS’s lack in Delhi of the French-type “support system” owing to the more straight-laced dealings by Germany, the lead player), the more economical Russian MiG-35 was summarily rejected for no good reason at all. This even though as one of the foremost aviation specialists Dr Carlo Kopp of Australia said this in an extensive 2008 write-up in ‘Air Power Australia’ of the MiG-35 and the Su-35 Flanker E+: “Perhaps the most foolish of the popular misconceptions of Russian basic technology is that which assumes that the US and EU maintain the technological lead of 1-2 decades held at the end of the Cold War. Alas, nearly two decades later, in a globalised, digitised and networked world, the US retains a decisive lead only in top end stealth technologies, and some aspects of networking and highly integrated systems software. The Russians have closed the gap in most other areas, but importantly, have mastered the difficult embedded software technology so critical for radar and electronic warfare systems, as well as sensor fusion, networking and engine and flight controls. The Russians are working very hard at closing the remaining gap, with the planned PAK-FA fighter to be properly shaped for low observable and very low observable stealth capability.” (For Kopps’ detailed assessment of MiG-35, see his article at http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2008-04.html.)

Some eight years later, that gap in stealth has been closed, even as the US retains the edge in terms of wide aspect data fusion.

But with IAF sidelining the MiG-35 as MMRCA and, earlier, the request for the Su-35 aircraft by the Strategic Forces Command for manned delivery of nuclear weapons being also turned down, the IAF and GOI seem bent on switching the country’s critical military capabilities with Western hardware at a cost-prohibitive price and the loss of what remains of India’s balancing leverage in international affairs.

[The N-delivery system is not the subject here, but consider below the reactions to Su-35 by the US military to get an idea of just how potent Russian aircraft now are. The US Air Force as long ago as 2014 dubbed it the most serious challenger to its own fifth-gen JSF-35 Lightning-II. Regarding what the Su-35 can do consider the words of USAF pilots and aviation specialists, whose statements are reproduced from a 2014 story published in the ‘National Interest’ (http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-russian-bear-roars-the-sky-beware-the-deadly-su-35-11799): With, as the story says, the Su-35 launching its weapons from “high supersonic speeds around Mach 1.5 at altitudes greater than 45,000 ft”, and the “F-35 primarily operating in the 30,000-ft range at speeds around Mach 0.9”, the Russian air-superiority fighter’s “major advantages are its combination of high altitude capability and blistering speed—which allow the fighter to impart the maximum possible amount of launch energy to its arsenal of long-range air-to-air missiles.” Or as an USAF officer put it, “The Su’s ability to go high and fast is a big concern, including for F-35”. The Su-35 builds on the already potent Su-27 Flanker airframe, superior to the F-15 Eagle, and “adds a lighter airframe, three-dimensional thrust vectoring, advanced avionics and a powerful jamming capability.” As as an USAF pilot says “Large powerful engines, the ability to supercruise for a long time and very good avionics make this a tough platform…It’s considered a fourth gen plus-plus, as in it has more inherent capability on the aircraft [and] possesses a passive [electronically-scanned array and it] has a big off boresight capability and a very good jamming suite.” The addition of the electronic attack (EA) capability, according to the story, “complicates matters for Western fighters because the Su-35’s advanced digital radio frequency memory jammers can seriously degrade the performance of friendly radars. It also effectively blinds the onboard radars found onboard American-made air-to-air missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM. But even the addition of AESA radars does not really solve the problem for F-35. “We—the U.S. Department of Defense—haven’t been pursuing appropriate methods to counter EA for years,” per a senior Air Force official with experience on the F-22 Raptor. “So, while we are stealthy, we will have a hard time working our way through the EA to target the Su-35s and our missiles will have a hard time killing them.” The Su-35 also carries a potent infrared search and track capability that could pose a problem for Western fighters. “It also has non-EM [electro-magnetic] sensors to help it detect other aircraft, which could be useful in long-range detection,” a Super Hornet pilot said. Another of the Su-35’s major advantages: “One thing I really like about the Su-35 is that it is a high-end truck: It can carry a ton of air-to-air ordnance into a fight,” a US Navy pilot said.]

Even if one were to disregard the MiG-35 as that option is gone, Rafale will face similar kind of trouble against the Su-30MKI, leave alone the upgraded “super Sukhoi” version of this aircraft, and which was part of Parrikar’s thinking when he talked of inducting more Su-30s rather than buy the Rafale.

So some Qs about the Rafale for IAF & GOI:

1) Consider the mismatch if the strictly 4.5-gen Rafale has to do battle with huge, unending, numbers of the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) Su-35s being acquired on a priority basis, and even then India will not have the full complement of 36 Rafales until the mid- to late-2020s by when the PLAAF will have transitioned fully into the 4.75-gen Su-35 and its own 5th-gen Chengdu J-20 and the Shenyang J-31. So, great strategic forethought and force planning Vayu Bhavan?

2) How does IAF reconcile its stress on the dogfighting capability of its fighters with its reliance on BVR 100 km range AAM Meteor, while falling in with the French with their Hammer ASM at the expense of the indigenous more advanced version of the lightweight Brahmos ALCM for ground attack as part of the “multi-roles” it is supposed to pull? Especially because with the procurement of the Rafale armed with Meteor AAMs & Hammer ASMs, IAF will succeed in killing off the locally-made Tejas LCA and Brahmos ALCM by starving these programmes of desperately needed funds. Even if this isn’t the plan, that will be the desired outcome. No?

3) Lacking numbers and in the “best case” context, no more than 23 Rafales will realistically be available to IAF at any given moment in time. How will these 23 be deployed, if in concentration — will they be enough to defeat the more numerous and swarming PAF or PLAAF aircraft, and if singly — again quantity pitches in against supposed quality — so what use will the aircraft be in single sorties?

4) It is a recipe, of course, for the Rafales being safely quartered, held away from harm’s way in war — considering they are simply too expensive to lose. Hence, another useless showpiece in the inventory, like the EMALs-equipped Indian super-aircraft carrier?

5) Because there’s virtually no commonality in spares and upkeep regimes and protocols between the Mirage 2000 and the Rafale, entirely new and more expensive servicing training and maintenance infrastructure will have to be built up at enormous cost. Because whether IAF buys 6 Rafales, or 36, the investment in this aspect is the same! And as I have argued it will result in IAF making the case in the future that with these sunk costs, IAF should be allowed to import 60 or 100 or whatever additional number of Rafales the IAF brass of the day feels comfortable touting. That’s the strategy for upping the Rafale numbers is it not?

6) Dassault/France will milk recurring profits (to reach the $40 billion figure) from stocking the above infrastructure with the requisite spares and service support, and from stockpiling and purchasing when required untried and untested ordnance, such as the Meteor, each costing, what, US$2 million, and Hammer at around US$ one million a piece? That’s the French profit plan and the lifeline to keeping their combat aviation design and development industrial capability in tact and in good health. And India pays for this long term economic security of Dassault and France?

To paraphrase the quip by the great American comedian, WC Fields — suckers never get an even break.

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“Subcontinental drift?” — an American take on recent writings on India, the US, and South Asia

Reproduced below is a review article by Daniel Markey, former US State Department official and currently on the faculty of the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC, published in ‘The American Interest’ and available at:http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/07/01/subcontinental-drift/

The books reviewed are (1) Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet) by Bharat Karnad, Oxford University Press, 2015, 568 pp., $59.95, (2) Getting India Back on Track: An Action Agenda for Reform, Bibek Debroy, Ashley J. Tellis, Reece Trevor, eds. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2014, 348 pp., $19.95 (paperback), (3) The South Asia Papers: A Critical Anthology of Writings by Stephen Philip Cohen Brookings Institution Press, 2016, 400 pp., $35, (4) The Technological Indian by Ross Bassett, Harvard University Press, 2016, 400 pp., $39.95, (5) The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience by Christophe Jaffrelot, Oxford University Press, 2015, 670 pp., $34.99, (6) Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris by Christopher Snedden, C. Hurst & Co., 2015, 288 pp., $30.

What’s interesting to see is the take of the South Asia/Asia policy enclave in Washington, DC, to which Markey belongs, of the various Indian and other views and schools of thought on India’s foreign policy tilt to the US and, generally, developments in the region.



Subcontinental Drift


The United States needs a powerful India, a peaceful Pakistan, and accord between the two. What are the chances?

Over the past 15 years, the U.S. government has devoted greater and more sustained attention to South Asia than ever before. September 11 brought America back to Afghanistan’s war and into yet another round of tortured dealings with Pakistan. Over the same period, U.S. diplomats took the historically unprecedented initiative of courting India in an attempt to reverse decades of estrangement and build a “strategic partnership” based on common interests and ideals that would bolster India as an Asian counterweight to China.

To date, the payoff from this unprecedented U.S. involvement in South Asia has been mixed at best. This is largely because U.S. policymakers face a daunting challenge in South Asia: In order for the United States to achieve its goals, India, Pakistan, and Indo-Pakistani relations all need to change in fundamental ways. And they seem not to want to do so, certainly not just to please us.

For its part, India needs to mature into the role of a serious global power, or else the strategic utility—at least in Washington’s eyes—of a partnership diminishes. Pakistan faces an even more urgent need to get its act together, first so that its military and intelligence services confront terrorism rather than foster it, and then in order to avoid the further deterioration of a nuclear-armed state with roughly 200 million citizens. Otherwise, the United States will never find a safe way to end its military operations in neighboring Afghanistan or a politically sustainable way to assist Pakistan itself. Together, India and Pakistan need to find a path toward normalization—if not peace—in their bilateral relationship or their hostilities will continue to weaken and destabilize them both.

Engineering change in other states is a tall order; any American who doesn’t know that by now has just not been paying attention. It may be especially difficult in South Asia, where populations are enormous, institutions are often weak, and history runs deep. That said, neither India nor Pakistan is static. To the contrary, both are undergoing extraordinary, and in some cases quite rapid, changes on their own. So the real question—at least for U.S. policymakers—is whether these states are moving in ways that suit U.S. purposes, and if so, whether they can be accelerated or modified by specific policy choices. Several recent books help to shed light on these issues, mainly by looking to history for clues about the changes that have already shaped the region’s recent past.

Making India Great

Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all appreciated India’s potential as the world’s largest democratic state, a vast and growing market, and the only nation on earth with the scale—if not yet the resources—to balance China.
Bill Clinton’s trip to India at the end of his presidency received gushing coverage from the Indian media and marked a major change from the chill in relations that followed India’s 1998 nuclear tests. The positive momentum continued into George W. Bush’s Administration. His national security team clearly viewed India in grand strategic terms, motivated by a view of the world in which China constituted a rising “peer competitor” unlike any the United States had seen since the Cold War. At the same time, New Delhi’s BJP-led government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signaled its own enthusiasm for a new sort of partnership, even though it—and its successor, the Congress-led government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—never shed its lingering reluctance to be perceived as a traditional ally. The shock of September 11 and the launching of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq forced the Bush Administration to put many China-centric initiatives on the back burner, but top officials never lost sight of India. Their efforts bore fruit in the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear deal, an arrangement that not only permitted India to buy American high technology equipment that had previously been off limits, but also removed one of the main sticking points that had hampered the bilateral relationship for decades.

Since then, leaders in both countries have perceived the value of closer diplomatic engagement, although no similar breakthrough agreement—or even the full consolidation of gains from the civil-nuclear deal—has yet materialized. President Obama has been uncharacteristically eager to build ties with his Indian counterparts.President Obama has been uncharacteristically eager to build ties with his Indian counterparts. He hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the first state dinner of his Administration and traveled to India twice. In his first visit he spoke before parliament and pledged to support India’s candidacy as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and in his second he was the “Chief Guest” at India’s Republic Day festivities. The White House also hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and again in 2016, when he addressed a joint session of Congress. These visits laid to rest Modi’s rocky history with the U.S. government—as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi was denied entry into the United States in 2005 for his controversial role in the communal violence of 2002.

So India and the United States have come a long way in a relatively short stretch. The trouble, as Bharat Karnad argues in his book Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet), is that India has a lot more work to do before it achieves anything close to the promise that has so impressed U.S. policymakers. Karnad begins with a lament about India’s persistent lack of global ambition and vision, observing that, “the Indian government, military, and policy circles are habituated to aiming low and hitting lower.” Then, even if India were able to overcome this “absence of strategic imagination,” Karnad fears that its military is wrongly oriented (with too little focus on China), too low-tech, and poorly integrated in terms of operational and command structures. India’s arms industry, which Karnad sees as “a precondition for great power,” also needs a “radical structural/systemic rejig.” Finally, India suffers from a debilitating array of “enduring internal problems relating to the nature of politics, the governance structure, and policymaking.”

Karnad’s diagnosis of Indian failings shares common points with those of other India boosters, such as the contributors to Getting India Back on Track, a volume released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to fanfare in New Delhi just as the new Modi government took office. Whereas Karnad is principally concerned with India’s strategic vision and military capabilities, the contributors to this volume situate the most critical Indian deficit in its political economy. Co-editor Ashley Tellis writes, “India’s most conspicuous failures are still rooted in economic arrangements and political postures that derive their inspiration from various forms of utopianism,” by which he means India’s “unfortunate fling with socialism.” What follows is a series of detailed, policy-oriented chapters on topics ranging from revamping agriculture and managing urbanization to strengthening rule of law and correcting the administrative deficit.

Reading Getting India Back on Track and Why India Is Not a Great Power (Yet) side by side exposes Karnad’s policy recommendations as generally unwelcome, at least from an American point of view. For instance, quite unlike C. Raja Mohan, whose chapter on India’s foreign policy includes the advice that “revitalizing the strategic partnership with the United States must be the foundation on which the new government pursues its great power relationships,” Karnad stresses the “limits on how close India and the U.S. can, in fact, get,” clearly fearing the possibility that India will make itself a junior partner in the service of America’s imperial agenda. He ponders “just how much India-U.S. relations are hostage to fundamental policy differences and strategic compulsions.”

Many American readers will also bridle at Karnad’s recommendation that India should play a more Pakistan-like “problem child” role, by “upping New Delhi’s unpredictability quotient” and better appreciating that “nuisance has great disruptive value in foreign policy.” Karnad, who seems sometimes to be channeling Richard Nixon in his “brinksman” moments, muses that India should have made itself a “first-rate nuclear vendor,” and “rendered infructuous the entire West-dominated nonproliferation system.” He advocates “nuclear missile arming Vietnam to payback China for nuclear weaponizing Pakistan” and suggests that India should defend against a Chinese military offensive by mining Himalayan passes with atomic munitions. If a scenario exists in which India could turn itself into a pugnacious power and alienate well-wishers in Washington, Karnad probably favors it. He wins points for creativity, but one has to wonder whether many in New Delhi take his recommendations seriously.

For readers seeking a more sober analyst of the U.S.-India relationship, Stephen P. Cohen has been a resource for over fifty years, first from an academic perch, next on the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, and finally from the policy/academic halfway house of the Brookings Institution. It is fitting that Cohen should release a “critical anthology of writings,” The South Asia Papers.

Cohen’s anthology is instructive for its clear demonstration of how much the U.S.-India relationship, and India itself, have already changed over the past half-century. Cohen’s earliest writings reflect an India mired in a post-colonial or Cold War mentality, and he relates how his own professional experience was shaped by India’s refusal to grant visas to American scholars in the early 1970s. But by 1980 Cohen was arguing that India (along with Japan and China) had the “potential for great power status, and quite possibly near-superpower status.” By 1997 he was considering the “critical dimensions of a possible U.S. strategic partnership with India,” based on commercial opportunities, shared interests, and a similar ideological commitment to democracy.

With the Cold War’s end, a reimagined U.S.-India relationship has had a series of champions in the White House, but its origins are deeply rooted in Indo-American educational and business ties, especially in high technology fields. As Ross Bassett’s The Technological Indian explains, our contemporary view of India as a source of seemingly limitless engineering and computer science talent was barely a dream at the time of India’s independence in 1947. Bassett painstakingly recounts how that dream became intertwined with the history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a school that embodied the new American ethos of engineering and science and, in its creation, represented a break from the British model of higher education. MIT also served as an important transmission belt for Indian students, initially from elite families in western India, who sought to transform themselves and their nation.

Bassett’s story draws out the connections between India’s society, politics, and technology. Along the way he partly dispels the common perception of Gandhi as “anti-technological,” presenting him instead as a Benjamin Franklin-like character committed to peacefully re-engineering Indian society and instilling values of “discipline, time-thrift, organization, and quantitative thinking,” who chronicled how one of his closest associates and a young protégé both chose to study at MIT. In the post-World War II era, Bassett situates MIT at the center of India’s effort to rewire its technological connections away from Britain and to the United States by adopting MIT as “the standard to which Indian technical education would aspire.”

Change has not come easily or rapidly for India. Yet in tracing the stories of the many “sons of leading Indians” who studied at MIT in the 1950s and 1960s, Bassett finds the roots of the Indian IT industry that burst onto the scene in the 1970s and 1980s and went global after India’s epic 1991 economic reforms. He shows how intellectual and professional networks developed between India and the United States, persisting even when official bilateral relations turned frosty. Bassett takes pains to note that the Indians profiled in his book “are a tiny elite.” Yet that elite has already “made India a participant in the world of high technology and brought Indians to the pinnacle of American technology and industry,” thereby transforming India’s future prospects and firmly linking it to the United States in ways that could be missed if we pay attention only to official state policies or formal diplomacy.

Dealing with Pakistan

America’s rooting interests in India are fairly clear. In Pakistan the situation is murkier. For over six decades, the United States has repeatedly tried to hitch Pakistan to its own strategic purposes, while Pakistan has sought to use the United States for other goals entirely. Similar patterns persist to this day.

During the Cold War, Washington intended Pakistan to serve as part of its defensive bulwark against the Soviets’ southward expansion into the Persian Gulf, first by drawing it into a treaty alliance and later by using it as a conduit for sending money and weapons to the Afghan mujahedeen. All the while, Pakistan’s leaders—usually dominated by the military—pocketed resources for the fight against their principal adversary: India. In the 1990s, Washington’s concerns quickly shifted to nuclear nonproliferation, but neither threats nor costly sanctions dissuaded Pakistan from testing, weaponizing, and even sharing its illicit technologies with other states like North Korea and Iran.

Then in 2001 the fight against al-Qaeda eclipsed all other U.S. business. The good news—that many of the world’s most notorious terrorists have been killed or captured in Pakistan—is pretty much the same as the bad news. Early on, U.S. intelligence officials were pleased with Pakistan’s cooperation against targets like September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. But by May 2011, President Obama revealed Washington’s basic distrust of the Pakistani state by launching the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound without cooperation or prior warning.

In Afghanistan, Pakistan has never deviated from a decades-long strategy of asserting its influence through favored Afghan proxies. Since 2002, it is the United States that has shifted its approach, from forbearance rooted in confidence that the new Afghan state would take hold, to increasingly frustrated attempts at violent coercion of, and negotiation with, the Taliban. Thus far, at least from an American perspective, nothing has worked.
By now most U.S. policymakers, intelligence officials, and legislators have simply lost patience with Pakistan. Still, many also appreciate the risks associated with treating Pakistan solely as the adversary it too often is. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is home to roughly 200 million people with a median age of only 21 years. Lacking adequate education, health care, and good job opportunities, but surrounded by extremist ideologies and networks of sophisticated militants, too many of Pakistan’s youth have already turned to violence. This is no Somalia or Yemen—Pakistan is a big state bordering other big and important places, like China, the Arabian Sea, and Iran. Pakistan isn’t going away, at least not quietly, and there are good reasons to fear that, as difficult as Pakistan is today, its future could be far worse.Pakistan isn’t going away, at least not quietly, and there are good reasons to fear that, as difficult as Pakistan is today, its future could be far worse.

Thus the question of Pakistan’s future haunts U.S. policymakers and analysts. Christophe Jaffrelot’s The Pakistan Paradox was not written to resolve that question, precisely, but more to impress readers with just how complicated a serious answer would have to be. The author delights in the details of Pakistan’s early history, in which he perceives the origins of many of the state’s present-day troubles.

Jaffrelot identifies several core tensions that define Pakistan. The first is the sheer difficulty of governing from the capital; Pakistan’s national leaders have always tried to unify and centralize political power but cannot come to terms with the provincial, ethnic, and other interest groups that militate for greater local autonomy. Next comes the divide between Pakistan’s military and civilians. Here Jaffrelot appreciates that the surface game of alternating civilian and military governments masks an underlying reality, in which nearly all civilian political leaders play along with a dominant army to form a permanent “establishment” that protects its narrow interests at the expense of the vast majority of the population. Pakistan’s third tension is found in the competition between different conceptions of Islam. This started when Pakistan’s founders used their Muslim identity as a core justification for political separation from India. National leaders later turned Islam to violent purposes in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and those efforts gave root to Islamist social movements that the state is now only barely able to contain.

Finally, Jaffrelot blames the role of outside powers, especially the United States, for Pakistan’s continuing dysfunction. Unfortunately, his brief summary judgment—in just four pages out of nearly 650—reads like an afterthought in a book where so many other episodes are described in thorough detail. Jaffrelot charges Washington with providing aid that “spares the state from having to implement a [responsible] fiscal policy,” and infringing upon Pakistan’s sovereignty in ways that “cause a huge deficit of self-esteem.”

Looking to the future, Jaffrelot suggests that as Washington withdraws from war in Afghanistan and likely reduces its assistance to Pakistan, Islamabad will be forced to undertake healthy tax reforms. Yet for a scholar so invested in the details of history, it is curious that he chooses not to ask why, when Washington dropped aid and imposed sanctions on Pakistan throughout the 1990s, no serious fiscal reform ensued. Instead, Islamabad staggered through years of what Jaffrelot describes as “a façade of democratization,” “impotence, corruption and lawlessness,” and “parliamentary dictatorship.”

Cohen, like Jaffrelot, is inclined to place much blame for the Pakistani mess at the feet of its army, an institution that “cannot run Pakistan effectively by itself but…is also unwilling to entrust civilians completely with the job.” Nor does Cohen spare Washington the blame for bolstering generations of Pakistani generals at the expense of democrats, writing that “Pakistan’s current plight and troubled prospects can only be understood in the context of its having embraced the role of America’s ‘most allied ally.’”“Pakistan’s current plight and troubled prospects can only be understood in the context of its having embraced the role of America’s ‘most allied ally.’” Cohen faults a parade of U.S. policymakers for their focus on tactical security interests without considering how investments in Pakistani education and industry could better serve both Pakistani and U.S. interests over the long haul.

Although they are unsparing critics of Pakistan’s own leaders and the U.S. policies that encouraged Islamabad’s bad choices, Jaffrelot and Cohen remain open to the possibility that Pakistan will change for the better. In other projects—like the volume he edited in 2011, The Future of Pakistan—Cohen has even played the game of considering alternative future scenarios for the country. His generally gloomy conclusion is that Pakistan is most likely to “muddle through,” but that “more extreme and unpleasant futures” cannot be ruled out. Jaffrelot, for his part, is frustratingly unwilling to apply his evident historical familiarity with Pakistan toward predicting its future. Although he explicitly leaves the door open to the possibility of change, he refuses to suggest how it might occur, concluding, “only the future will tell.” That, at least, we already knew.

Jaffrelot’s work is also noteworthy for its focus on politics and social identity, often at the expense of economics. To be sure, Pakistan is a place where politics reigns. A traveler from America, where we so frequently think of our political leaders as being in the pocket of major business interests, would be struck by the extent to which Pakistan’s business community takes its cues from the state. The general uncertainties of life in Pakistan have created a business culture characterized more by quick transactions than patient investment. But the timidity of the business class relative to the politician can probably be traced to January 1972, when “Bhutto nationalized 31 major enterprises in a dozen industrial sectors ranging from the iron and steel industry to petrochemicals and including electrical equipment.” Wealthy families dispossessed of their industries were not compensated. Some went into exile, and most invested their remaining fortunes outside Pakistan.

Economic uncertainty and underinvestment explains a lot about Pakistan’s present condition. More to the point, accelerated economic growth is probably the only conceivable way for the state to overcome some of the many political pathologies identified by Jaffrelot and Cohen. For U.S. officials thinking about Pakistan’s long-term prospects, this suggests the need for sustained attention to economic policies, especially those designed to expand opportunities for tens of millions of young Pakistanis.

Indo-Pak Hostility and Kashmir

India and Pakistan are large states, and their futures will depend mainly on domestic policy decisions. Yet they will also always be bound by their pre-partition identities. After 1947, their prospects have been shaped in large measure by mutual hostility, war, and—especially after 1998—the threat of nuclear escalation. Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris by Christopher Snedden explores the issue that is both a cause and consequence of Indo-Pakistani discord.

Like Jaffrelot, Snedden is consumed with the intricacies—and even more so, by the intrigues—of political history; roughly half his book covers the period up to and including the partition of British India. For it was as the British expanded their control over India that Kashmir assumed a formal territorial status, and, in the context of the famous “Great Game” of imperial rivalry between Russia and Britain, took on a broader strategic significance. But Kashmir’s unique identity stretches back hundreds, possibly thousands, of years, as Snedden describes, “apart from ancient Greeks, informed Chinese knew about the region, as did Romans, Jews, Tibetans, and people in the ancient and advanced city of Taxila.”

Snedden is also willing to contemplate Kashmir’s future. He perceives that “all that can be currently said with much certainty about J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] is that India and Pakistan will continue to bicker over it, seemingly without relenting.” Cohen’s writings on Kashmir tend to be similarly pessimistic; his book on Indo-Pak relations is entitled Shooting for a Century, by which he means we should anticipate that New Delhi and Islamabad have at least another several decades of hostility ahead of them.

Yet there is an awkward gap between Snedden’s gloomy prognosis on Kashmir and his idealistic recommendation that India, Pakistan, and the international community should “let the people of Kashmir decide their fate,” through a process that would require leaders in New Delhi and Islamabad to “significantly change their attitudes to allow J&K-ites to be involved in resolving the Kashmir dispute.” Cohen, too, was once less willing to play the waiting game on Kashmir. In 1995 he wrote that, “The only solution that should be ruled out is doing nothing. Time will not heal the Kashmir problem,” and argued that, “seemingly intractable disputes can be resolved, or ameliorated, by patience, outside encouragement, and, above all, a strategy that will address the many dimensions of these complex disputes.” In short, nothing is likely to work in Kashmir, but that doesn’t mean policymakers shouldn’t try. Sounds a little like the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and not without reason.
Policy Lessons

But what can all of this tell U.S. policymakers charged with, in a nutshell, making India great, turning Pakistan around, and keeping the two from going to war longer enough for those goals to be realized?
First, a simple reading of Bassett’s work shows the transformative power of U.S. educational institutions. Although he is careful to note that Silicon Valley has drained a good number of India’s best brains, it is also clear that MIT and other U.S. research universities have disproportionately shaped India’s economic prospects and, in critical ways, stand at the heart of the U.S.-India relationship.

Today India and the United States are ripe for a new round of educational collaboration, with many U.S. research universities feeling the pinch of financial constraints and millions of Indian students clamoring for top-quality degrees. It seems only a matter of time before someone cracks the code on how to deliver American degrees to Indian students at a quality and price point that serve everyone’s interests. More than defense sales and co-production agreements, or even blockbuster civil-nuclear deals, collaborative efforts in education will enhance India’s prospects and bind Americans and Indians together with a shared worldview.

Second, at the moment the prevailing sentiment about Pakistan in Washington is deeply pessimistic. The Obama Administration long ago lost whatever patience it might have had with Islamabad (and even that patience resided mainly at the State Department, where improbable schemes for transforming U.S.-Pakistan relations through massive assistance gave way to other, only slightly less improbable schemes for a Pakistan-aided negotiation with the Taliban). But this does not negate the need to think about Pakistan in a longer-term context, drawing lessons from Jaffrelot’s careful assessment of domestic dynamics and Cohen’s focus on civil-military relations.

For the United States, this principally means implementing policies that aim to boost Pakistan’s economic growth and development.For the United States, this principally means implementing policies that aim to boost Pakistan’s economic growth and development. Rather than following past practices of providing direct aid to Pakistan’s civilians and military, however, Washington should seek mechanisms to expand trade and investment. Once implemented, these efforts should persist not because they offer leverage to encourage Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting terrorism or serving U.S. purposes in Afghanistan, but because they hold some realistic potential for delivering a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future to Pakistan over the long run. In other words, at least with respect to development assistance, we should adopt the approach of a patient gardener, and forget about harvesting anything for the time being.

Third, the next U.S. Secretary of State is not likely to be so delusional as to enter office with urgent plans to resolve the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir. That said, he or she would be wise to start preliminary, closed-door conversations with India, Pakistan, and possibly even China. In the event that these discussions begin to bear fruit, a more formal diplomatic process could be arranged. Given the U.S. interest in avoiding war in South Asia, a diplomatic investment of this sort is warranted, even if it is unlikely to pay off in the near term.

All of this is to say that U.S. policymakers can have a modest—and on occasion, perhaps even a decisive—role in fostering desirable changes in India, Pakistan and Indo-Pakistani relations. But success will almost certainly require a long-term perspective of the sort that has not historically characterized U.S. South Asia policy, more often described as reactive, forgetful, and security-obsessed than as patient or forward-leaning. Thus, the parting question for Washington is whether it too is capable of change.
Daniel Markey is a senior research professor of international relations and the director of the Global Policy Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is the author of No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad (Cambridge, 2013). From 2004–07, he held the South Asia portfolio in the Policy Planning staff of the U.S. Department of State.

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