Countering the Rogue Nuclear Triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea

Have advocated nuclear missile arming Vietnam as tit-for-tat policy against China from the time I was a Member of the (First) National Security Advisory Board in 1998-99 when Vajpayee was PM. It has been a regular theme in all my books and writings since then. The transfer of the conventional warheaded Brahmos cruise missile to Hanoi is a start that I had urged as an interim step, and is finally being taken by the Modi regime.

This is a longish, better researched, paper on the subject with hyperlinks, originally written for ‘War on the Rocks’ — a lively online journal in the US dealing with the military, war and international security issues. It was in response to an earlier invitation from its editor, Ryan Evans, to write for his journal. Evans reacted two days later to my piece emailed May 11, saying it was “a good piece” but could I cut it down to 2,500-words. The abridged article was sent to Evans May 18. Did not hear from him again, nor has the piece been featured in ‘War on the Rocks’. Apparently, he got cold feet. For reasons why, read the paper at its original length (and for the hyperlinks) published today (July 25, 2016) in the ‘The Wire’ at

By arming countries in China’s periphery, India – on its own or as part of a counter-triad with Japan and South Korea – could undermine the security system Beijing has so ruthlessly installed to further its goal of domination.

Then again, Beijing is, perhaps, banking on the proven timidity and diffidence of Indian rulers to escape the actions of a justly vengeful India (and an Asian counter-triad). The question, therefore, is whether the Indian government will be disruptive for a change in order to permanently reduce China strategically – a big enough goal for New Delhi to temper its risk-averse habit of mind.
[Main article below]

North Korea’s fifth underground nuclear test, when it happens sometime later this year, will occasion dread and set off the usual flutter of apprehension in the West. With this, the perception will grow of the bomb affording vulnerable states near absolute security in a complex international threat system, and leading to the spread of nuclear weapons and the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Treaty-based nuclear order. Leading the charge in dismantling the NPT system is the rogue nuclear triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea, which has left its footprint in the major hot spots of the world (Iran, Iraq, Libya). But, curiously, far from suffering any retribution this trio of states have individually benefitted from their proliferation activity. This may be because with China at its core and Pakistan, the US’ perennial “frontline state”, in the mix, Washington, fearing unpredictable outcomes, is disinclined to exercise forceful actions. The reluctance may also be because the US and many European countries had a role in establishing the triad, and now find it impolitic to acknowledge the menace they created, let alone deal with it.

The fact is, triadic arrangements to clandestinely transfer nuclear materials, technology and expertise have been the disruptive means in the nuclear age to strengthen strategic partners, unsettle adversaries, cultivate diplomatic and military leverage, maintain regional balance and otherwise to influence international politics. By permitting states more fluidly to share resources, responsibility, executable actions and to dissipate external pressure, such schemes – quasi-military alliances actually – are flexible, historically proven instruments to achieve large strategic goals. Participation in nuclear triads, moreover, allows states to maximise their mischief value and to pursue risky policies under the protective cover of the principal state – China, in the present case.

The precursor triads

Nuclear proliferation occurred early in the Cold War on a bilateral basis as part of the intra-bloc capacity-building of allies. In many cases, the dyads grew into triads involving states in ideological or strategic sync. In the 1950s, the US separately assisted the UK and then France to become nuclear weapon states. Post the 1956 Suez Crisis, the US and France helped nuclearise Israel, resulting in a jointly-designed French-Israeli nuclear device being tested in the Algerian desert in 1959. Then, in a sort of nuclear daisy chain, under the US aegis, Israel provided the white-ruled South Africa with nuclear weapon capability. In the new century, considerations of economical use of resources led to a revamped US-UK-France cooperative scheme to share nuclear weapons research and development expertise and infrastructure, as well as to cut modernisation costs. Thus British scientists from the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston utilised the 2006 Anglo-French ‘Teutates Project’ to configure the original B-76 design given to the UK by the US in 1980 into the new B-76-1 Mk-4 nuclear bomb/warhead capable of taking out hardened targets, a design approved by Sandia nuclear weapons laboratories in March 2011 before, presumably, being productionised.

A similar Cold War intra-bloc dynamic prompted the Soviet Union to seed China’s nuclear military program until the ideological rift between the two Communist countries in the mid-fifties led to the abrupt termination of Russian technical assistance. But by then having mastered the relevant science and technologies, China tested an implosive fission device in 1964 and, three years later, a thermonuclear bomb, thereby securing itself against both the Soviet Union and the US. Bolstered by the rapprochement with the US in the early seventies, China cast its sights wider. Appositely, Washington’s myopic, “realpolitik”-infused policies of the Nixon era to nurture the ‘China card’ to use against the Soviet Union allowed China to rapidly become a global manufacturing base, a trading powerhouse, a wealthy economy and a burgeoning military power to eventually surface as a peer competitor and great power rival to the US.

China’s military advancement is recognisably the skew factor. It was also in the early 1970s that Pakistan, afflicted by terminal insecurity aggravated by the 1971 war that saw India midwife an independent Bangladesh, approached China for seminal nuclear assistance. India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974, a much delayed realisation of the weapons threshold reached in March 1964, subsequently offered Pakistan a justification. China jumped at the opportunity to permanently hobble India, its natural Asian rival, and contain it to the subcontinent by arming Pakistan with nuclear missiles. This proliferation began in the era when India was regarded by Washington as a Soviet stooge, a perception cemented by the 1971 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Leonid Brezhnev that deterred potential armed interventions by the US and/or China to forestall the Indian dismemberment of Pakistan. Beijing compensated for the 1971 lapse in their “all weather friendship” by transferring nuclear goods and expertise to Islamabad and vetted a Pakistani-designed nuclear device and tested it at the Lop Nor site in 1990.

Meanwhile, Washington watched the process of Pakistan’s nuclear empowerment incentivised to do nothing by General Zia ul-Haq’s 1979 deal permitting the US Central Intelligence Agency to use Pakistani territory and resources to wage an asymmetric guerrilla campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. What is not as well known is Pakistan paying back China with sensitive Western technologies. The blueprints for the individual vertical centrifuge and for the centrifuge cascades at the Urenco plant at Almelo in the Netherlands purloined by A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani-origin metallurgist working at the Urenco plant, became the initial currency for technology barter. In exchange for Chinese nuclear weapons design, relevant materials and bomb-making expertise, Pakistan offered advanced centrifuge technology to China, facilitating its switchover from the costly, clunky and obsolete gaseous diffusion enrichment stream it was stuck in. With a view to help China reverse-engineer and incorporate into its aerial combat platforms the latest technical advancements, Pakistan allowed Chinese aviation experts to scrutinise and study the US F-16 aircraft inducted into its air force. More recently, a Tomahawk long range cruise missile fired from an American warship in the Arabian Sea at a Taliban target in Afghanistan that crash-landed in Pakistan, and the remains of the high-tech stealth rotors of the helicopter that crashed in Abbottabad during the 2011 US SEAL operation to take out Osama bin Laden, were onpassed by Pakistan to China. That Washington never took umbrage at these Pakistani leaks of its technologies suggests the China-Pakistan-US (CPUS) collusion is still on. Moreover, the CPUS triad was established in the late 1970s, around the time the US and Israel were materially assisting the apartheid regime in Pretoria to acquire nuclear weapons of mass destruction. It undercut any Western moral outrage and criticism of Beijing’s policy of nuclear missile arming both an unstable Islamic state, Pakistan, and, subsequently, a reckless regime in North Korea, which ended up forming in the 1990s the full-blown rogue nuclear triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea.

The nuclear rogues: dependent on China and the West’s denial

Whether the CPUS triad should be considered rogue depends on how one views the China-Pakistan-North Korea triangle. If one is rogue the other is too because they are joined at the hip. Just how deeply Washington is engaged in the CPUS trilateral can be gauged from how the US government still propagates the fiction that the “nuclear Walmart” that sold sensitive nuclear technologies for cash to Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and Muammar Gaddafi-ruled Libya, and as payment-in-kind to North Korea, was a commercial venture run illegally and exclusively by Khan to enrich himself, when actually it was from the beginning a well-oiled Pakistan army-run operation. The Pakistan-North Korea nexus, in turn, was forged at China’s behest as a convenient route for Beijing to proliferate nuclear weapon and missile technologies to these countries. Specifically, Pakistan-produced centrifuges were traded for North Korean missiles and technologies transferred by China to Pyongyang. It is the established pattern of remote Chinese proliferation. This triad has since grown into a complex web of strategic interlinks.

Ruled by the mercurial Kim family, North Korea has all along been the triad’s ace card to keep the US and its Asian allies off-kilter, and give China the advantage. An absolute dependency of China, the Kim Jon-un dispensation precipitates strategic crises with South Korea, Japan and the US at will, or at Beijing’s prompting. China then inserts itself into a downward spiralling situation as the intermediary able to hammer sense into a supposedly risk-acceptant Pyongyang, to prevent a tense situation with Seoul and/or Tokyo and/or Washington from becoming worse. It earns Beijing grudging respect and even a measure of goodwill from the US, Japan and South Korea as a situation stabiliser. In comparison, Pakistan is too constrained by its traditional links to the US and the West to be as useful to China, but its pugnacity keeps India distracted. With two able and willing nuclear conspirators, Beijing keeps the geopolitical pot simmering at the two ends of Asia, enhancing its diplomatic stock as the indispensable middleman and peacekeeper in the Korean Peninsula and potentially in South Asia.

While some aspects of the dyadic activities of the China-Pakistan-North Korea combo have come to light, the dots have seemingly not been connected by the US or any other Western government, or even by Japan and South Korea. If they have indeed noted the growing nuclear association between the three outliers, they have abstained from even acknowledging the problem, other than to complain about Pyongyang’s provocations. The fact is the three rogue countries act in concert to advance their separate politico-strategic interests. Consider the separate stakes of these nuclear rogue states. China is at the core of this cabal responsible for almost all nuclear proliferation in the world since 1975. “Deng Xiaoping’s China apparently decided”, writes Thomas C. Reed, a one-time nuclear weapon designer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and former US Secretary for the Air Force, “to actively promote nuclear proliferation within the Third World [because] it would be in [its] best interest to accept, or even encourage, multiple nuclear events (or wars)” to thus keep the US and the West on tenterhooks. China has achieved this aim. Nuclearising Pakistan and North Korea has endowed it with the capacity, moreover, to manipulate regional and Asian power balances at the expense of India, Japan and the US, and to simultaneously blunt the strategic edge of the three countries whose getting together China fears. In this triad China’s all-round heft affords protective cover to its lesser partners.

Pakistan prizes nuclear weapons because they help it to emulate the 19th century English satirist William Makepeace Thackeray’s frog blowing itself up to ox-size. It enables Islamabad, it believes, to remain relevant in the Islamic world, and in the subcontinental, Asian and global politics, gain some international traction and negotiating leverage for itself, and, by the by, dissuade a conventional military-wise superior India from taking liberties with it. But it is North Korea – the true outlaw state that is the lynchpin. It has apparently no qualms and no interest in adhering to the rules of the road, or following established norms, or entering the international mainstream. Backed by Beijing’s unwavering support, Pyongyang exploits its pariah status to the fullest to create havoc when and where it can. Kim Jong-un’s devil-may-care attitude means the crisis North Korea periodically triggers to needle the US, frighten its Asian allies and raise China’s value as mediator, also offers Pakistan opportunities to sharpen, under Chinese expert guidance, its nuclear weapons designing and production skills and competencies, and to test its designs.

How the Pakistan-North Korea tandem – the active part of the triad – functions was evidenced in the fourth North Korean test explosion of a Pakistani crafted fusion-boosted fission (FBF) device on January 3, 2016. Preparations for it, such as the digging of an angled L-shaped tunnel in the Hamyongg Mountains, began at least three years prior to the event. Several aspects were of note: the similarities between the instrumentation bunkers at Pungyye and Pakistan’s Ras Koh nuclear testing complex; the presence of South Asian-looking men in Pyongyang and the possibility that these were Pakistani nuclear technicians readying the nuclear device for testing; the Chinese vetting of the design, and its transportation along with the fusion fuel – tritium, and highly-enriched uranium needed for the FBF device – by road across the mountainous border from the adjoining Jiangsu province to the test site in northwestern North Korea to minimise the chances of detection. The open-ended nuclear tests in North Korea of Pakistani-designed weapons under Chinese supervision offer Beijing the means of controlling the nuclear skill levels of its partners just so this issue does not end up hurting its own interests, while enabling Islamabad’s nuclear weaponeers to validate their advanced designs without Pakistan having to conduct tests on its own territory and facing the prospect of damaging Western economic and other sanctions. Throughout this process of explosive testing, Pakistan and China are insulated from its consequences, even as North Korea, immune to economic bans and prohibitions, has its reputation as a budding nuclear weapon state burnished, gaining for the Kim Jong-un dispensation the freedom from fear of an external attack or externally-induced regime change.

Pyongyang’s nuclear antics precipitate crises that heighten Beijing’s clout and enhance the confidence of Pakistani nuclear weapons complex. The pattern is for North Korea to fire off a missile, conduct a nuclear test, or create a rumpus in the demilitarised zone and threaten to incinerate Seoul, Tokyo, or Manhattan. The targeted countries get agitated and mull an appropriate action, but ere a collective response can jell China, in its “responsible state”/stakeholder avatar joins Washington in calling for restraint, reins in its client state, leading to military de-escalation of a nascent conflictual situation and a Beijing, allergic to destabilising the current, diplomatically useful regime in Pyongyang, ensures Kim Jong-un stays on.

Such crises only deepen the mystery about how North Korea – a dirt poor, pre-industrial country with a subsistence agrarian economy and no science and technology infrastructure worth the name – has progressed inside of 20 years from the basic fission weapon stage and conventionally-armed missiles to, in 2016, testing a boosted fission nuclear device, launching a three stage rocket with an engine that can propel missiles intercontinental distances and miniaturising nuclear warheads. The literature on the Chinese policy of nuclear weaponising North Korea is meagre. There is no dearth of news reports and commentaries, however, along the lines of a nuclearised North Korea requiring Western help to avoid an implosion with potentially disastrous consequences for the region. It is a view Beijing would like to see gather steam in American policy circles in order to revive the “six party talks” that could lead to a negotiated outcome that will see the US sharing with China the costs of pacifying the mercurial Kim Jong-un regime.

Strangely, westerners permitted access to the closed North Korean system far from being informative, end up supporting the Chinese line that Beijing has little or no influence on the North Korean nuclear programme. Thus Siegfried S. Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the main US nuclear weapons designing centre, who has visited Pyongyang’s secretive nuclear programme, said after his 2010 trip, that North Korea’s progress in the uranium enrichment field was due to Pakistan’s help with centrifuges, and raised the spectre of Pyongyang emerging as an autonomous nuclear proliferator. It is again the sort of worry the North Korean dictator and Beijing would like to see kindled in order to strengthen Pyongyang’s negotiating hand in future talks with Washington, whenever these happen. Around the time Kim Jong-un was threatening nuclear attacks on Seoul in April 2013, Hecker returned from another North Korean trip and, once again, was off on a tangent, this time referring to North Korean capability-shortfalls in centrifuge enrichment, while avoiding any mention of China’s role in that country’s advancement in the nuclear weapons sphere. Perhaps, deliberately ignoring China’s role, he wrongly asserted that nuclear warhead miniaturisation was beyond Pyongyang’s ken. Two years later, Hecker, who claims to have visited North Korea seven times and the Yongbyon nuclear complex four times, astoundingly absolved China of all responsibility for the North Korean nuclear program growing “from having the option for a bomb in 2003, to having a handful of bombs five years later, to having an expanding nuclear arsenal now”, saying flatly that “Chinese experts did not have access to Yongbyon”. Such credulity on Hecker’s part – if it is not entirely by US government design – makes him, in Lenin’s memorable phrase for capitalist Armand Hammer and from Kim Jong-un’s perspective, “a useful idiot”. In the meantime, the US military’s assessment of North Korean strategic capabilities was increasingly less sanguine. Testifying before the US House Armed Services Committee in October 2015, heads of the US Pacific Command and US Northern Command declared that North Korea can hurl missiles with miniaturised warheads at US targets and is “the greatest threat”, directly contradicting Hecker’s 2013 estimate of North Korea’s warhead miniaturising capability. In the event, the conclusion India should reasonably reach is that China, through the North Korean channel, has managed to transmit the warhead-miniaturising skills and capability both to Pakistan’s strategic plans division, to inject credibility into its tactical nuclear missile-based deterrence, and to Pyongyang.

Bending over backwards to not implicate China in Pakistan and North Korea’s nuclearisation and assigning benign motives to Beijing’s policies despite its reckless nuclear proliferation track record is something that has been correctly ascribed to Henry Kissinger’s awe of China, which has since been institutionalised, congealing into a Washington foreign policy blind spot. But it does not explain why, some 25 years after the termination of the Cold War and a decade since China’s emergence as a military rival and economic peer competitor to the US, Washington continues to coddle China – the Frankensteinian monster it created as a Cold War ploy. A powerful China now wants to construct its own world order on the ruins of the existing NPT system. Whence, Kim Jong-un is stimulated to carry on with his confrontationist tactics to maximise its own peace-keeping value and Pakistan is encouraged to keep the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) talks at the UN Commission on Disarmament in Geneva gummed up, because Beijing is unconvinced the FMCT serves its security interests. Diplomatically it is all gain and no pain for China, notwithstanding accusations by informed commentators that the US government is reinforcing “the worst tendencies in Beijing by inadvertently creating a set of perverse incentives”.

Fostering North Korea and Pakistan as nuclear security threats and helping to deal with the contingencies they create firms up the perception that no regional or international issue of war or peace can be resolved without China’s goodwill and involvement. It allows Beijing to condition its help in tackling the crises its rogue clients precipitate on the US terminating its arms sales to Taiwan, and to carry on freely with aiding and abetting the clandestine efforts of non-weaponised nuclear aspirant states, such as Iran. As a strategy, it has helped China to decisively turn regional and international affairs to its advantage. The failure of Washington and the US’ Asian allies to recognise and react to China’s running with the hares and hunting with the hounds policy, and to accept Beijing as the source of nuclear security problems and an inalienable part of their solution, is doubly evident. China is thus nicely placed, unique in its ability to simultaneously undermine the global system, strengthen its own relative position, and to exploit the privileges and maneuvering room it enjoys as a near great power and a Non-Proliferation Treaty-recognised nuclear weapons state to pursue its narrow national interests without regard for the common good.

A triadic counter

With Washington uneasy about doing anything other than skirting around Beijing’s culpability for creating nuclear flashpoints, Asian countries directly in the line of fire have to wonder if US President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” does not amount to doing nothing and whether the natural follow-on to this isn’t Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s view that because the US cannot, in any case, afford to protect Japan and South Korea, they would be better off procuring nuclear weapons of their own for security? In the event, is it now time to begin assembling a counter-triad of India, Japan and South Korea to take the fight to China? This is the drastic solution for the dire security situation they face, to function in an overt-covert concert to replicate for China the touch-trigger situation Beijing has created for them by arming countries in China’s periphery, such as Vietnam, with nuclear missiles and other strategic armaments.

Such a counter-triad would right the distribution of power long tilted in Beijing’s favour and strategically roil the security situation for the Asian behemoth in the manner India, Japan and South Korea have been discommoded by China and its nuclear henchmen, Pakistan and North Korea, and will be in line with the US policy of strategic partner capacity building. It is a strategy to compel Beijing, as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer put it, to “share the [nuclear] nightmare”. Such a response has become urgent with the news that China may be upping the ante by transferring wherewithal to help Islamabad and Pyongyang configure full-fledged thermonuclear armaments and ICBMs. Unless the game is turned around, and harsh payback and high costs imposed on Beijing, China will persist with its policy of targeted nuclear proliferation to undermine its adversaries.

India’s situation is in every respect more worrisome and, should Tokyo and Seoul be pressured by Washington and otherwise have reservations about participating in a counter-triad to blunt China’s aggression, New Delhi should prosecute its own policy of selectively and covertly proliferating nuclear weapons technology, especially to an assertive Hanoi, which has time and again shown the mettle to stand up to China. India is aware of China’s responsibility for equipping Pakistan with nuclear missiles, and concerned about Islamabad’s role in using the North Korean nuclear tests to improve its “boosted fission” weapon- and, eventually, hydrogen bomb-making skills. The time for payback is nigh. A platform exists for the secret transfer of the necessary nuclear goods and expertise to Vietnam – the 2003 India-Vietnam civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. It was augmented in 2009 by the defence cooperation accord and in May 2015 further enhanced by the ‘joint vision statement’ envisaging a comprehensive upgrade in relations. In line with its new “Act East” thrust of policy, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government has finally agreed to sell to Vietnam the indigenous Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. It is another matter that New Delhi is yet to dispatch them to Hanoi.

It is possible that Washington’s reluctance to call out China in a more forceful manner on nuclear proliferation is inducing caution in New Delhi. The other factor that may be acting as a dampener on an aggressive policy of counter-proliferating to Southeast Asian countries inclined to stand up to Chinese bullying is the potentially adverse reaction of the US, which the Modi regime is particularly mindful of. Will Washington react with its usual mindless nonproliferation zeal, or look the other way, which it has repeatedly done in the past? In this respect, notwithstanding the US government’s consistent opposition to India resuming nuclear tests and acquiring credible thermonuclear armaments to achieve at least notional strategic parity with China, the fact is such a development serves US strategic interests. The chances, however, are Washington will stay with its longstanding “Kissingerian” policy of currying favour with Beijing in the hope of constituting a global G-2 order with the US and China at the apex, permitting the CPUS triad to covertly “balance” a nuclear India with a nuclear Pakistan in South Asia, and to bind a worried Japan and North Korea more closely to America by keeping alive the bogey of a crazy nuclearised North Korea.

Japan and South Korea may ultimately be restrained by Washington. But a determined and resolute India that knows its interests and is intent on equalising the strategic correlation of forces in Asia cannot be stopped from strategically undermining by any and all means the security system China has over the years so ruthlessly installed to further its goal of domination. The policy of nuclear empowering of its Asian friends may win New Delhi some genuine respect in the world. Then again, Beijing is, perhaps, banking on the proven timidity and diffidence of Indian rulers to escape the actions of a justly vengeful India (and an Asian counter-triad). The question, therefore, is whether the Indian government will be disruptive for a change in order to permanently reduce China strategically – a big enough goal for New Delhi to temper its risk-averse habit of mind.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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49 Responses to Countering the Rogue Nuclear Triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea

  1. Vivek says:

    India’s ability to help other states is suspect, as India itself doesn’t have fusion design that can work. Also, is India in position to do nuclear tests again as Western sanctions will impact more badly today than they did in 1998.

    • India’s ability to help anybody in the thermonuclear (fusion) weapons realm would be suspect. But India can certainly help in the fission weapons department, which is what is suggested here by way assistance to Vietnam. And India is in a far better position to ward off sanctions today than ever in the past. Such harsh US response will in any case not be forthcoming because, in straight strategic terms, Washington needs India more more thn India needs the US.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Mr. Karnad, I beg to disagree with your analysis. Washington knows that India will crawl when asked to bend. A phrase which has been attributed to Theodore Roosevelt goes as: ““If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”. The US has India by the mind, and now we are seeing its (India’s) heart and balls follow. To provide an example, as you are well aware and have written about, a staff member of a US think tank (Tellis) has unprecedented access to the “Nationalist” Indian PM (Modi). This is a status he (Tellis) does not enjoy in his own country! What can one say about the state of affairs?

        Psychologically, for generations, Indians have placed the US at the centre of their minds and desires/aspirations. A US link (however tenuous and/or meaningless) is a status symbol for most Indians. Nobody knows this more than the US. It is only a matter of time when India and Indians start to learn the meaning of the well known saying: “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!”.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Mr. Karnad, in my previous post I claimed to disagree with your analysis. I would like to clarify that it is not the analysis of the article which I disagree with, but in the tenability of some of the points in your post (above). India is indeed in a far better position to ward off sanctions today than ever in the past.. It is also true that Washington needs India more than India needs Washington. These are all facts, but do the Indians living in “la-la land” understand this? To ward off sanctions, one has to be mentally prepared. In life, everything is first played out in the mind.

        I believe that the US will try to push India into a corner to back down since India has shown it can forever be taken for granted. There will be a period where every Quisling and hireling across the religious, social, and economic spectrum will be incentivized to cause mayhem. I believe there will be a period of harsh sanctions to see if the Indians follow their usual behavioral trends. The fear of losing the so-called “special/strategic partnership” coupled with my counter-arguments will scare the Indian powers-that-be silly. It is in this light my post (above) and those below need to be interpreted.

  2. andy says:

    You absolutely nailed it with this one!Hats off.No wonder Ryan Evans got cold feet.

  3. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    With such an all exposing essay why would an American publish it? That you got till the itself should be a great achievement because no media house in India would be willing to carry this piece. It is really unfortunate the country being peddled as an ally of the US:
    1) was the main sponsor of those who caused the death of so many soldiers and civilians in India; and
    2) has saddled India with a vicious future.
    And all this is being done by people who swear by izzat-o-gairat. The harder these idiots try the lesser are going to be their gains and worst the fall.

    Anyhow we Indians too need to get our act together. The upper echelons of society for last 1500 years has always had people willing to ally themselves with outsiders. The country still lived. Our job should be to ensure that so many people are not allowed to die in vain and the real history of this country is preserved for the future generations to be able to make their own independent judgement about the our history.

    This always was a generational thing.

    Anyhow the US ‘McCain Initiative’ seems to be hell bent in co-opting Vietnam. Which implies that the chances of the Brahmos supply to Vietnam and future missile deals between India and Vietnam would have to be through Pentagon. That is going to be bad for both India and Vietnam.

    Chinese would be more than happy to negotiate with US instead of having to deal with an Asian group of countries. As it is the Chinese policy pivots around dealing with all the South East Asian countries separately, despite the fact the several counter claims are present in the disputed seas in that region. By outsourcing the negotiations to Pentagon and onwards to State Department only US interests will get addressed.

  4. andy says:

    Some one really knows how to keep flogging a dead horse, so there was a disagreement and later a change of mindset

    • andy says:

      Continued from above
      …..due to Bharat’s writings,why is this so hard to accept? It’s a free country one is entitled to change ones opinions without facing persecution.All I want to say is no point in carrying chip on your shoulders all your life,better to live in acceptance.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        @Andy: Suppose India was seen as asserting itself, and Obama and his successors “stopped talking” to Modi for awhile. No trips to the White House, no speeches in the Maidson Square Garden, Wembley stadium, etc… Do you think Modi could take the strain?

    • andy says:

      What I said has nothing to do with Bharat’s paper,only I ,Bharat and the person concerned know,so let it pass.I am in complete agreement with Bharat.,so let it pass .It’s a long story ,not worthy of being talked about now.

  5. &^%$#@! says:

    How can India aggressively prosecute what you have suggested without first asserting itself? A succession of weak kneed and compromised governments has left India in a state where it is not considered to be a serious and/or strong nation. The continuous delay (read freezing) of the Agni program by the self-proclaimed Nationalist Modi regime owing to “battery problems” is proof enough that India is sliding from bad to worse in its will to assert itself, and maintain the last vestiges of its self-respect.

    Let’s assume that India started testing to correct the failed TN tests of 1998. Do you think the Indian power dispensation in Lutyens Delhi has the stomach to weather the storm and the periods of isolation? Trump may say what he likes in the run up to the US presidential elections. However, if he is elected I do not think he will deviate much from the Bush-Obama line. The “Deep State” in the US is the one that sets the long term policy, and not the US President.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      ADDENDUM: Mr. Karnad, I saw your interview on the NSG and MTCR:

      Therein, Meera Shanker former Indian Ambassador to the US who was one of the panelists, was smug when pontifying about India’s impeccable non-proliferation credentials. Every single Great Power has proliferated to some degree or the other. Do you really expect the Indian power structure, which has historically been largely staffed by “House Negroes”, to suddenly change their genetic profile?

  6. Shaurya says:

    From a Beijing lens, the ASEAN rim nations + Australia and India are like the claws of a crab. i.e: Without the Crab, they are individually not a binding force. The challenge for India, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand is to have a common arrangement without the US in the picture. This united front minus Washington will rattle Beijing.

    In order to pull this off, we need an Asian narrative. Democracy, trade, international law are fine but we need an emotional binder, a shared Asian value system that is worth shedding blood over.

    Can India lead this effort?

  7. Vihan says:

    Dear Bharat,

    Excellent piece as always. However, it would have been even better if you had sourced some of the following facts (names, dates, dramatis personae in Pakistan both civilian and military) from some articles by the late and great B Raman as well :


    The old links quoted above are now dead and the new ones are as follows :


    – vihan

    • Vihan — Where Pakistan is concerned, best to use AQ Khan himself as I have done to show the N-Walmart was a Pakistan Army operation. As to the other references, relying on Indian sources even if so credible a one as the late, great, B. Raman, opens the source being questioned if only Pakistanis who (like us, their Indian copusins) are readier to accept Western sources of even banal information.

      But thanks for providing the Raman sources that readers can go to.

  8. &^%$#@! says:

    Mr. Karnad, the first step before even remotely thinking of implementing your suggestions, is to revoke the clause that allows foreign ownership of the Indian media. This was another “gift” to India by the “Nationalist” BJP. One may argue (and to a great degree inaccurately) that this is only limited to the English language media. Even so, the audience are the one’s that count in India.

  9. &^%$#@! says:

    Mr. Karnad, I forgot to mention in my posts that this is a very well written article. IMHO on the fateful and unfortunate day when the “Nationalist” BJP Govt. of Vajpayee backed down and did not follow through with further tests to correct the failed TN test, it was the moment of “Paradise Lost”. After that, despite the official rhetoric, things went southwards strategically for India. To undo the damage made at that juncture of time, will take supreme effort of an unprecedented nature.

  10. &^%$#@! says:

    The expected North Korean-Pakistani test may not be far away. Let us see if the GoI has the guts to declare that any such test will result in India resuming testing, and follow through on its declaration.

  11. Tushe says:

    Hi Bharat,
    Thank you for a brilliant and insightful piece.Please do signpost the readers of your blog, towards any of your future speaking engagements in India or abroad.

    PS: There is a small error in the second last paragraph…..

    ” a worried Japan and North Korea more closely to America by keeping alive the bogey of a crazy nuclearised North Korea.”

    Should be Japan and South Korea… I think…

    • Sorry, that was a typo.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      BTW, NoKo is not crazy. It may be a screwed up nation overall, but in the nuclear and missile front all its moves/actions are logically gamed. I would go to the extent of stating that given its resources, NoKo has done more on the nuclear and missile front than India with far greater resources at hand!

  12. Krantiveer says:

    Hello Bharat,

    Is it possible the CPC can give Srilanka & nepal the equivalent of Brhamos in response?

    • In theory, yes. But nothing passes SL’s and N’s gates w/o a nod from Delhi.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Chinese could off course try but then even if Sri Lanka and Nepal start arming themselves basis Pakistan like donation of weapons after 1965 war.

      In any case you have to have some history of bad blood to be exploited. That is what China has been trying to achieve for a long time in Nepal. With Sri Lanka too they can exploit our earlier mis-steps.

      This is where the role of MEA and MOD comes in. Mostly lackluster except in whisky session in gora company. Jitna marzi gyan le lo inse, goron ke bare mein but when it comes to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and IOR countries, they are ‘not on our radar’.

  13. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @Andy & @&^%$#@!, The two of you have contributed 4 posts so cryptic that the make no sense. I come here thinking oh! 22 comments and you put in 4.

    @BK “In exchange for Chinese nuclear weapons design, relevant materials and bomb-making expertise, Pakistan offered advanced centrifuge technology to China, facilitating its switchover from the costly, clunky and obsolete gaseous diffusion enrichment stream it was stuck in.”

    Yours was a huge write up so don’t be surprised if I keep at it for sometime :). But this is something typically mentioned amongst Indians.

    But these net chatter fails to take into account a few basic facts:
    1) Gaseous diffusion is not exactly a lesser tech and Centrifuge is not exactly a hi tech thing. Till 2008 the GD supply from US and France was 1/3rd of world supply. The Chinese GD plant at Lanzhou produced ~6 tons of 90% HEU by 1979-80 after that switched to civilian production and by 2000 they closed that too. 13 years before the Americans closed their GD plant. Chinese need for Centrifuges had nothing to do with their military or proliferation needs.

    2) The Chinese centrifuges are most likely based on Russian designs. Russians had begun supplying centrifuges, towards early 1997. This was also the period during which the Americans were buying LEU after conversion from HEU from the Russians and we were getting Su-30MKI. All due to Soviet breakup. The tech demonstration plant at Lanzhou already had hosted the Russian Phase 3 supplied plant. which started in 2001. By 2002 the first Chinese designed centrifuge was ready which essentially flowed into the Chinese tech demo plant starting 2008.

    2) And Chinese have been more than willing to get all of Lanzhou under IAEA. IAEA infact decided – no ji, we don’t have funds to safeguard, so let the chinese alone. A. Q. Khan is not even a factor in all this, except for some Indian apologists for American propaganda. If A. Q. Khan had the brains to do it, he could have done it for Pakistan. In future I won’t be surprised if even India sources as a matter of general practice, its LEU from China, something that was already done a few years back.

    I have asked this earlier and ask again. The Americans prior to 1963-64 period were circulating all manner of reports within their strategic circles about Chinese ability to secure HEU for their Lop Nur tests. The Soviets had withdrawn support to Lanzhou before 1959-60. So how did the Chinese secure the tech that allowed them to test so many devices so fast and produce 6 tons of HEU in 16/17 years at the rate of around 350 kg per year.

    Till we state upfront the answer to this question, all analysis about American lead Asian pivot and Indian supplications to US govt. would be incomplete.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @~!@#$%^&*()_+: You’re correct! As early as the mid-1990’s Russian supplied centrifuges were installed in both the Hanzhong and Lanzhou plants/ This was during the Yeltsin era. The GD plant in Lanzhou was closed only as late as 2000.

  14. &^%$#@! says:

    This article correctly cites US complicity in proliferating N-weapons technology to Pakistan. This fact was confirmed by the former Dutch PM Ruud Lubbers. This has even been confirmed in hearings held by the US Congressional Sub-committee on terrorism and nonproliferation in 2006:

    “…According to former Dutch Premier Ruud Lubbers, the Netherlands government was prepared to arrest Khan in 1975 when he was caught spying at the Urenco enrichment facility in Almelo, but the CIA asked the Dutch government to let him go so that more information about his activities could be obtained. That allowed Khan to go on to a career in Pakistan that resulted in Pakistan manufacturing nuclear weapons, which made him a national hero whose birthday is celebrated in Mosques….”

    Earlier in the same paragraph, it is stated:

    ” …Our intelligence agencies, although they had been tracking Khan’s activities since the 80s, including intercepting communications going to and from some of the companies involved with the Khan network, claim to have been unaware that Khan had reversed the flow of nuclear trade involving Pakistan…”

    This does not add up!

    • &^%$#@! says:

      …On one hand the CIA lets A. Q. Khan off the hook in Holland ostensibly to track his activities as early as 1975. On the other hand US intelligence agencies are claimed to have placed Khan under surveillance since the 1980’s! Why start placing Khan under surveillance in the 1980’s when his activities were known as early as 1975??????? That’s what doesn’t add up!

  15. andy says:

    Of course they do.
    Pakistan could never have gone nuclear without the support of both China and the USA,but what’s really bad from Indias point of view is that there are sections in the USA that blame India for the nuclear arms race in the Indian subcontinent, such groups are inimical to India’s interests

    Perhaps the most virulent opponents of India in the US are the highly influential New York Times and Washington Post. These two Pentagon mouthpieces continue to see India through Cold War as well as colonial lenses. One can detect a tone of talking down to Indians in their editorials.

    In a piece titled ‘No Exceptions for a Nuclear India’, the New York Times’ Editorial board launched into a vicious attack on India, virtually implying it is India – rather than Pakistan – that is a nuclear rogue state. Blaming India for Pakistan’s runaway nuclear programme, it says America’s “relationship with India rests on a dangerous bargain”.

    The paper adds: “For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear program to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a civilian nuclear deal with India that allowed it to trade in nuclear materials. This has encouraged Pakistan to keep expanding a nuclear weapons program that is already the fastest growing in the world.”
    It says if India gains membership, (to the Nuclear Suppliers Group) it would be in a position to keep Pakistan, which has also applied for membership, from gaining membership. “That could give Pakistan, which at one time provided nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran, new incentives to misbehave.”

    Blaming India for the South Asian nuclear race is disingenuous because the two countries that facilitated the Islamic Bomb and Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). First up, it is China that provided – way back in 1966 – an export model to Islamabad and later in 1990 tested the first Islamic Bomb in the Lop Nor desert.

    The US knew about it but the Ronald Reagan administration looked the other way and instead gave billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan. So is it any surprise that a day after rejecting India’s special status Bill, the US Senate approved $800 million in funding for Pakistan. That’s free cash to buy more F-16s and crank out more battlefield nukes.The more than $30 billion in aid to Pakistan has also been used to make more nuclear weapons.

    Instead of holding China accountable for nuclear proliferation, the USA now leans on India to exercise restraint in its dealings with Pakistan, talk about double standards.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: While R. Chidambaram is responsible as one primary parties to India’s N-predicament, there’s one thing that is true in his “famous” Venn diagram he displayed in May 1998. All proliferation stems from the US!!!!!!!!

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: WRT “..These two Pentagon mouthpieces continue to see India through Cold War as well as colonial lenses… “-hasn’t India’s conduct and performance warranted it?

  16. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Document 5: by CIA, October 24, 1964 (after Chic-1) – says GoI knew there would be pressure in Lok Sabha and GoI planned to resist it. Reason is stated, in part to be the belief in promise of Lyndon Johnson against Chinese aggression.

    Document 19: Milo D. Nordyke, LLNL, May 29, 1974. – says that the Pok-1 device must have been hard, dry rock – the kind required for PNE.

    Document 20: State Department, June 5, 1974. – says In South Asia it reports that “the impact has been hardest on Pakistan.” China, it concludes, “probably calculates that the Indian program will not alter the balance of power or threaten China for a number of years.”

    Document 22: Intelligence Community report on failure to warn of Pok-1 – says the failure was because it was not being considered a sufficiently high priority.


    US gives assurance for something they know is not going to happen, GoI believes in it w.r.t. Chic-1 test and off its own volition decides to check the likes of K. C. Pant and Jana Sangh. Later, off course, LBS allows the R&D to go towards PoK-1 eventuality but only off records. US intel community is given enough such assurances, that they believe in the Indian preparations to be only of he peaceful kind. So much so that India is not a high priority for US Intel community.

    Later US goes around and signs NPT which is designed to essentially keep India in check while at the same time allows China in. Then knowingly protects A. Q. Khan and China-Pakistan axis. Then keeps India in tech denials of all kinds culminating in Yeltsins withdrawal of the Cryogenic Engines tech supply.

    By shouting at US for its complicity in allowing Paki nukes we are missing the bigger picture, which actually affects India. If anything even Gen. Sunderji had accepted the need for Pakis to have some nukes.

    We are focusing on the wrong objective. We need to re-focus on China instead and USA. G-2 has been the reality for a long long time. Just that our leadership would want to avoid having to admit that to our people.

    Japanese and South Koreans are reconciled to their fate being decided by Americans. They will do absolutely nothing should North Korea test again. But sending 1.25 billion Indians down that road will create a lot of troubles for us.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @~!@#$%^&*()_+ : WRT: “They will do absolutely nothing should North Korea test again.” This I know. But there is absolutely nothing that can be done. The die was cast around 1500 years ago!

  17. MS says:

    Who is the audience for this post-I was wondering as I was running through the paragraphs, and then I saw that it could be for the Indian leaders and the movers and shakers in the power corridors of Delhi.

    I have seen you advocate enabling Hanoi in nuclear weaponery. The biggest question, even if our leaders muster the courage, is how to develop Hanoi’s capability. You have said that we have the platform.

    I would like you to do the scenario gaming with your team and then suggest sometime, how effectively India could do it and still escape the economic sanction(very humiliating words to use for any proud Indian). No one can have sanctions on China, how could we be in the same boat?

    You have to feel the fear of our leaders and address it. Ofcourse, a good leader will read my comments and tell that you have got to give the tech to Hanoi intelligently and covertly and not worry much but raise your game and be ready to assuage the west by ‘give and take approach.’

    I am not sure whether you could do in public space or not. Actually, it does not matter because the world though looks very secretive. It actually is not-it is all about the players’ interests.

    India can’t wait to become an economic power like China to play the game you talk about here as it may be too late. Both the things have to go hand in hand – economic growth at a furious pace, and the Hanoi like co-operation in a steady and furtive way. You enlighten your growing set of readers!

    • MS@ — I have a team of one, me.

      I have suggested such gaming to many military training institutions when I used to get invited, none of which followed up, as far as I know, on my suggestion. But that’s in the past. Invitations dried up virtually instantly in 2012-2013 after a lecture to the Higher Command Course at a Service college when the then Chairman, CoSC, whose talk preceded mine. He sought permission to sit in on my talk on “Nuclear Strategy”. I jokingly responded, saying: “Sure, please do. You’ll learn something!” That remark taken personally along with the contents of my talk — a no-holds-barred critique of the country’s nuclear strategy, plans, posture, and policy convinced him to write a DO letter to the COs of all military training institutions that “Mr Karnad is anti-establishment” and hence should not be invited. This was told me by a commandant of a major military training institution, post his retirement, and was confirmed by a former commandant of another institution. This ban is still on. Only Narsimhan at the Army War College invited me earlier this year, perhaps, because he had only a few months left in service. The institutional exception is CDM, Secunderabad, which to its credit ignored the CCoSC’s directive. Going there again mid-October.

      In any case, my view is that it is the military’s loss that young, armed services leaders, don’t get to hear me and the other side, and have to make do with the “all is hunky-dory” stuff purveyed to them all the time — or so I am told by many of these officers — by the other uniformed and civilian visitors.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        What is anti-establishment? This seems to be Charlie Browne. There are more skeletons in closet’s of some people than in a haunted house, and yet they sit on judgement on everything and everybody. A serious investigation into the Pilatus, M2K upgrade, and Rafale deals is very much in order.

  18. &^%$#@! says:

    IMHO India needs to give up entertaining any “strategic relationship” with Japan, S. Korea, and the Philippines. Australia is totally out of thee picture. Concentrating just on Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Bangladesh with a focus on increased economic activity with a military angle, and, making use of the 2003 Indo-Vietnam civilian nuclear agreement will pay huge dividends in the long run. Instead of buying third-rate untested and potentially unsafe Westinghouse reactors, India should be setting up the tried and tested INDU PHWR’s in Vietnam. The 220 MW-types would be most suitable there. If in the process, anything else flows between the Ganges and the Mekong, then so be it. JMT!

  19. andy says:

    Hope you will indulge me with this over long post,but it’s something that needs to be said, you can delete it if you want to.

    I am not a student of history but I sure am stumped by this 1500 years of foreign rule in India theory. I am even more surprised to find this postulated by otherwise very earnest Indians in the mistaken belief of their own history,which gives credence to the following quote:

    “As long as the lions do not have a story teller, history will always glorify the hunter 

    Even a cursory examination proves that history taught in our text books is wrong, a legacy of imperialism. A narrative written by British and Islamic historians to legitimise their occupation of our motherland.

    When examining our history I see a spirit of defiance stretching over a thousand years in the face of implacable and merciless enemies, who put an end to many other cultures and civilisations. The same forces which had overcome virtually every indigenous civilisation in the world had thrown their entire might against India – and failed.

    Attack after attack was defeated. Horrific massacres could not force the people to abandon their culture and identity. The destruction of holy places did not see dharma die but rise again and overcome the oppressors. The banner of freedom was raised generation after generation. Sacrifices were made again and again. Indian civilisation was down but it was not out by a long way. The most prolonged and biggest genocide the world has ever seen (80 million slaughtered by some estimates) couldn’t break the indomitable Indian spirit.

    The defeats suffered by the invaders were glossed over and Indian subjugation highlighted.Although India as we know it today was never completely subjugated.

    “What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was in reality a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century” noted Orientalist and Indologist Dr Koenraad Elst observes.

    Some 150 years of effective rule by the Muhammadans and 90 years of British rule were suddenly expanded into ‘one thousand years’, an utterly absurd contention is being bandied about like an absolute truth.But this lie has failed to hide the facts that remain unaltered in history. Ancient faiths like Buddhism and Zoroasterism were almost obliterated from the Middle East and Central Asia but the Indians rose in defiance to emerge even stronger at the end of this blood soaked millennia.

    Even well wishers, lost in their Victorian outlook of India, have propagated the same absurdities ,totally insulting the enduring Indian spirit. The spirit is best exemplified by the renowned historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar when talking of the legendary Maratha king Shivaji:

    “He [Shivaji] has proved that the Hindus can still produce not only clerks and soldiers but rulers of men. (…) Shivaji proved that the tree of Hinduism is not really dead – that it rose from the seemingly crushing load of centuries of attack and put forth new leaves and lifted its head to the skies.

    Peshwas of the same Maratha lineage for a short period in the 18th century ruled over a geographical area that was bigger than the Mughal empire at its peak.So much for India being ruled by invaders for a thousand years.The Vijayanagra empire in South India kept aloft the indigenous flag from 1336 to 1646 AD even as the Mughal expanded elsewhere.Mewar and Assam were never cowed down.

    In this colonial narrative, Indian heroes and victories are all but forgotten. Anyone remember the ‘Shahiya dynasty’? whose tenacious resistance from 664 AD to 1026 AD held off the mighty Arab & Turkish armies at India’s borders .The struggle lasted more than 300 years,the same armies, mightiest in the world at the time had captured the whole Middle East including the Persian empire and North Africa in 70 odd years. The Caliphate had failed to conquer a small Indian principality, in spite of their being the mightiest power on earth .Years later, Al-Biruni historian from Ghaznii wrote in his ‘Tarik AL Hind.’

    The Shahiya dynasty is now extinct, and of the whole house there is no longer the slightest remnant in existence. We must say that, in all their grandeur, they never slackened in the ardent desire of doing that which is good and right, that they were men of noble sentiment and noble bearing.

    This from a enemy historian!Indians have all but forgotten the valiant Shahiyas.

    Does anyone remember the Indian victory in 1033 AD at the ‘Battle of Bahraich’ which stopped any more Turkish invasions for the next 150 years (Masud Ghazni nephew of the infamous Mahmoud was routed and his army of 120,000 put to the sword by Raja Suhaldev of Shravasti) or lasit Borphukan the legendary Assamese general who defeated the Mughals on the Brahmaputra in 1671 AD at the ‘Battle of Saraighat’ and they were never able to subjugate Assam or the epic ’27 Year War’from 1680 to 1707AD the Marathas waged ceaselessly against Aurangzeb that brought the mighty Mughal empire to its knees. About the ’27 year war,’ Sir Jadunath Sarkar makes an interesting observation. In his own words:

    “Aurangzeb won battle after battle, but in the end he lost the war. As the war prolonged, it transformed from war of weapons to war of spirits, and Aurangzeb was never able to break Maratha spirit,”

    The question is why India was not able to expel the invaders when it had such valorous sons? This can be attributed to two serious flaws:
    *Regionalism more than nationalism was in vogue in Indian society, the Indians never fought as one.Even today,barring Shivaji none of the bravehearts mentioned above is known outside his immediate geographical region,if at all,when in fact they should all be national heroes.

    *As Al- Biruni wrote in his ”Tarik AL Hind.’

    “We can only say that folly is an illness for which there is no medicine, and the Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs. They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. They are by nature niggardly in communicating that which they know, and they take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another caste among their own people, still much more, of course, from any foreigner,”

    To be sure this is an adversaries take, but can anyone deny the kernel of truth in it? Indian society still suffers from these maladies.

    As V. S. Naipaul states in his book written in 1976 ‘India—A wounded civilisation,’ if India has to survive in this newly given freedom, he believes, it needs to break away from its old patterns. The turbulence in India didn’t come from foreign invasions, but was generated from within. And India cannot afford  to respond in the old way. Naipaul further warns that the old Indian reticence will make India more archaic.

    There can be little doubt that these attitudes help to explain the successes of Mahmud and later invaders. The invading armies who had adopted ideas and techniques from many quarters, had an enormous advantage when they faced a culture that had ceased to be receptive to alien influences. 

    These are just a few examples, one could go on and on but I don’t want impose on Bharat’s hospitality. The point I’m trying to make is, the historical narrative of India should change to one that is Indian nationalistic in its outlook not a distorted colonial left over.

    More than a generational thing this is a titanic civilizational struggle this needs to be brought out in its truthful entirety for future generations to learn from.

    As George Santayana the Italian philosopher said ‘Those who don’t learn from their past are condemned to repeat it!’

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Andy: I disagree with your statement:: “Some 150 years of effective rule by the Muhammadans and 90 years of British rule were suddenly expanded into ‘one thousand years’, an utterly absurd contention is being bandied about like an absolute truth.”.

      The Mughals ruled for around 180 years. However the just replaced the previous Muslim rulers who were the dominant politico-military power in India, notably in the Indo-Gangetic plains, commencing from the start of the Delhi Sultanate by Qutb-ud-din Aybak, In South India, the Bahmani Sultanate was set up in around 1347. But it was essentially the offshoots of the Muslim rulers in Delhi.

      Shivaji stands head and shoulders over any Indian ruler. There was the Vijaynagar Empire which in its heyday was a force to be taken seriously. However, I agree with you that it is sad and shameful that most Indians have never heard of the Hindu-Buddhist Shahiya dynasty that ruled over Kabul/Gandhara.

  20. andy says:

    An invader holding bits and pieces of territory cannot be called the rulers of India,this is a sweeping statement,with no real basis.

    The situation during the 14th and the 15th centuries has been summed up by Dr. R.C. Majumdar in the following words: “The Khalji empire rose and fell during the brief period of twenty years (A.D 1300-1320). The empire of Muhammed bin Tughlaq broke up within a decade of his accession (A.D. 1325), and before another decade was over, the Turkish empire passed away for ever. Thus barring two every short-lived empires under the Khaljis and Muhammad bin Tughlaq,there was no Muslim empire in India. This state of things continued for nearly two centuries and a half till the Mughals established a stable and durable empire in the second half of the sixteenth century A.D.As we read the history of medieval India we find that only a few Indian princes made an abject surrender before the proved superiority of foreign arms. Invader historians cite innumerable instances of how Indians burnt or killed their womenfolk, and then died fighting to the last man. There were many instances of invaders being defeated decisively by Indian heroism. Many of the so-called conquests were mere raids which succeeded initially but the impact of which did not last for long. The account which Assam, Rajasthan, Bundelkhand, Orissa, Telingana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and the Punjab gave of themselves in successive waves of resistance and recovery, has not many parallels in human history.”

    In order to reestablish the Mughal empire in 1556 ,Akbar had to defeat the unfortunate Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya in the second battle of Panipat,the Samrat was newly crowned emperor in Delhi.

    It is, therefore, a travesty of truth to say that invaders enjoyed an empire in India for 1000 years. What happened really was they struggled for centuries to conquer India for good, but failed in the final round in the face of stiff and continued Indian resistance. Hali was not at all wrong when he mourned that the invincible armada of Hijaz which had swept over so many seas and rivers met its watery grave in the Ganges. Iqbal also wrote his Shikwah in sorrowful remembrance of the same failure. In fact, there is no dearth of poets and politicians who weep over the defeat of invaders in India Their brutality was more than matched by Indian tenacity for freedom.

    Nor is it anywhere near the truth to say that the British empire in India replaced an earlier Muslim empire. The effective political power in India had already passed into the hands of the Marathas, the Jats, and the Sikhs when the British started playing their imperialist game. The foreign principalities in Bengal, Avadh, South India, Sindh, and the Punjab were no match for the indegenous might that had resurged. The Mughal emperor at Delhi by that time presented a pitiful picture of utter helplessness. The Mughals were repeatedly inviting Ahmad Shah Abdali from across the border to come and rescue them from the abyss into which they had fallen. In 1760 the Peshwa of Maratha empire talked about installing his son on the Delhi throne.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      I have never used the term :empire” anywhere in y post. I have stated that the pre-Mughal Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526) barring the brief reign of Babur, where the dominant politico-military power in India, notably in the Indo-Gangetic plains, Have you ventured to look at a map of the Khilji dynasty? If that constitutes ” bits and pieces of territory”, then I have nothing to say.

      About the Mughal’s, are you aware that to a very substantial degree and period of time, the Mughal army was in essence a Rajput army? About Panipat, if you have not read it, I suggest you read the book Panipat 1761 by Shejwalkar. It is the most authoritative source on what happened then. About the Maratha empire, the 3 volume set New History of Marathas (Maratha Riyasat) by Sardesai is considered to be an authority. BTW, are you aware that the Indian Navy which was founded by Shivaji, and which reached its peak under Kanoji Angre, was destroyed by the Marathas themselves on account of the Peshwa and the British colluding to destroy the fleet at Vijaydurg on 1756?

  21. andy says:

    For your kind information I mentioned the second battle of panipat that took place in 1556 not the third as you refer to, that happened in 1761 ,Most authoritative work on the third battle of panipat is ‘Solstice at Panipat’ by Dr Kulkarni but that depends upon what source you want to follow.

    If you want to contest what Dr.R.C Mujumdar has to say then it’s your choice.A stable and durable empire was founded by the Mughals only in the mid 16th century and thats because Akbar left behind bigotry and started a new version of Islam known as Din E Ilahi which co-opted the indegenous people without persecution,thats why Mirza Raja Jai Singh was made his commander in chief.As soon as the Mughals stopped following this path and started religion based persecutions by imposing Jiziya tax and destroying places of worship, it gave rise to innumerable mutinies,the biggest of which was led by the great Shivaji.The simple fact is there was no continuous occupation of India that was not contested by the Indians ,we are talking about a 1000 year time line and you want to agonise about a brief 20 year period of the Khilji dynasty!Even raids that had no lasting impact are depicted on the maps.

    But then it’s not your fault, it’s to do with what has been drilled into the Indain psyche by the British historians that wanted to portray Indians as cowards who allowed all sorts of atrocities to happen without raising a voice.

    I am glad to note you are looking up various sources on the net,that was the purpose of putting out this post,to create just a little awareness about India’s true history as opposed to the colonial narrative.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      WRT: “I am glad to note you are looking up various sources on the net,that was the purpose of putting out this post,to create just a little awareness about India’s true history as opposed to the colonial narrative.” – I’m not looking them up, I have actually studied them though I am not a historian. You seem to be cherry picking facts and putting your own spin to things. More soon.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      ADDENDUM-1: I know you mentioned the second battle of Panipat wrt Akbar. I suggested Sejwalkar’;s book in response to your statement: “The Mughals were repeatedly inviting Ahmad Shah Abdali…”. There’s a lot more to this than Mughal instigation that brought Ahmad Shah Durrani to India in 1761, even after Timur Shah was kicked out of Delhi by Ragunathrao, who later thrashed Durrani’s forces in Attock (1758) and Peshawar (1759). I believe that had Ragunathrao commanded the Maratha forces in 1761 and Shivaji’s doctrine of not having a large baggage train especially one consisting of non-combatants like family members, etc. been adhered to, the Marathas would have won at Panipat. Instead, a glorified clerk like Sadashiv Bhau was put in charge and we know the result. He too could have won in 1761 had he known how to grasp the initiative and coordinate cavalry with artillery. BTW, I know what British historians are. More soon!

  22. andy says:

    I am talking about a 1000 year time line ,if you want to discuss thousands of specific events I don’t think this is the right place,a discussion about what went wrong with the Marathas at panipat in 1761 would itself require days of debate,dont think Bharat would approve.Plus I have no intentions of putting a spin on things,its you who seems to be nit picking instead of having a wider view of history.If you agree with what I said it’s OK if you don’t agree it’s no big deal,the Sun will still rise tomorrow morning.

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