PM Modi and his proclivity

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(Modi arriving in Bishkek)

Prime Minister Modi’s flight took some 2-3 hours longer to reach Bishkek from New Delhi, having to go around Pakistan and the northern Arabian Sea and over Iran than if his plane had just flown north directly over and across the neighbouring state to the west, permission for which overflight though delayed by Islamabad was ultimately given.

Why did the PM decide to take the longer route and stay in the air so much longer? Because MEA veterans on Monday June 10 — Vivek Katju in an op/ed and his compatriot KC Singh at a ‘strategic seminar’ in Kasauli (the latter on a panel with this writer) — wondered why Modi was refusing to restart talks with Pakistan but seeking permission to overfly that country. Caught out on this supposed inconsistency, the PM swiftly reversed course and the Air India aircraft lumbered for hours before landing in Bishkek for the annual SCO bash.

Couldn’t, shouldn’t, he have graciously accepted instead the Pakistani decision and overflown that country and while doing so telegraphed the customary Good Wishes to Imran Khan and the Pakistani people? It would have been an indirect sign of his desire to resume a dialogue, which would in no way have diluted India’s formal position he voiced at the plenary session about no real possibility of an advance towards normalcy if the Pakistani Army-qua-state continued to rely on terrorism as a diplomatic tool because far from bringing Delhi to the table it was driving it farther away from it. That gesture plus this message would have left open that wee little space for the “back channel” to become active once again and it’d have been in sync with Imran’s cooing to the Press about a negotiable Kashmir solution. That didn’t happen. Perhaps because that would have been a dissonant note in his policy of cultivating Pakistan as a bogey to beat up on.

Trouble is Modi is ever mindful of correcting small inconsistencies but entirely oblivious to the larger inconsistencies of his foreign policy approach. He seeks to retain a degree of warmth in relations with Putin and Russia and not upset the apple cart with Xi and China while leaning over so much towards the US as to fall right into America’s lap. In fact, that’s exactly where Washington hopes India will be with Modi as the willing tool. This much was signaled by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Even as Modi was characteristically hugging a somewhat uncomfortable Putin — no matter how many times one is hugged it is hard to get used to!, and a more skeptical Xi was holding him at arm’s length, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was repeating a Modi election slogan — “Modi hai toh mumkin hai” (Every thing is possible with Modi there) before the US-India Business Council in Washington. Clearly, the Trump Admin expects that Modi — hand-held by his chief minion and foreign minister S. Jaishankar — will do whatever the US government asks him to do.

The US has made clear its priorities where India is concerned. Pompeo, besides aping Trump, his vocabulary-challenged boss, who repeats the word “incredible” quite often, mostly to describe himself and his presumed successes by mouthing “incredible” twice in the first minute of his speech, he explained that during his Delhi trip later this month he will push (1) the F-16/F-21 for the IAF and the F-18 Super Hornet for the Indian Navy, to enable India, he said, “to become a full-fledged security provider throughout the Indo-Pacific”, (2) to eliminate tariffs on max number of American goods and services exported to India, (3) to remove curbs on the functioning of social media companies (Facebook) and American firms doing commerce over the Net (Amazon) and, most significantly, (4) Delhi to finalize the sale of Westinghouse nuclear power plants and increased imports of LNG and crude oil from the US to, as Pompeo put it, “give Indians reliable, affordable, diversified energy independence so they will no longer have to rely on difficult regimes like those in Venezuela and in Iran.”

What Pompeo naturally failed to concern himself with was, for instance, the cost to the Indian armed services of two additional and new types of combat aircraft in an already horribly, and counterproductively, diversified air-order-of-battle. Or, the effect of alienating Iran which may end up depriving India of access to cheap oil at concessionary rates, but also to Chabahar port around which pivots this country’s long term and long-reach strategy for Gulf and Russia, and Afghanistan and Central Asia. Such willful distancing by Delhi from Tehran will also lose India the shia counterpoise and leverage to potentially use against the sunni Arab bloc led by the wahabbism-promoting Saudi Arabia.

It is astonishing just how ignorant Modi and his chief minion, Jaishankar, seem to be regarding the basic logic of India’s geopolitics which, in no way, is convergent with that of the United States, and how cavalierly they are going about undermining India’s strategic options, national interest and national security.

Were the Modi government not so top-down driven, there would be a point in urging the PM to restrain his foreign minister from jumping on to the American coattails on every issue and otherwise turning India into a virtual banana republic. But this is Modi’s thoughtlessly pro-US reflex too.

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.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Central Asia, China, China military, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Iran and West Asia, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, nuclear industry, nuclear power, Pakistan, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, SAARC, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Terrorism, United States, US., Weapons, West Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to PM Modi and his proclivity

  1. POMMES SUR says:





  2. Vaibhav says:

    Bharat Ji
    I completely agree with whatever you said there. We need to be disruptive in principle, not submissive towards the west. But The ONLY thing in which I disagree with you is The Present state of India’s nuclear arsenal. I have researched nuclear weapons, their associated doctrines etc extensively. On my google drive is a large database of public files related to the Indian Nuclear weapons programme.

    I just want to ask you, why do you think India doesn’t have the Hydrogen bomb.
    Also interestingly, Admiral Arun Prakash has said that a “brand new” nuclear warhead has been designed for INS Arihant et al.(see his article ‘the arihant in perspective’ available on livefist)

    Drdo Chief Avinash Chander has hinted that the warhead on top of Agni 5 is a 150-250kt one. See the article published in business standard just after the 2012 Agni 5 launch named ‘India launches 5000km range agni 5 successfully’.

    If you doubt the yield of Pokhran 2 shakti 1, see the 2 articles written by R Ramachandran in 2009 published by frontline. One of them is named ‘spectral defence’.

    Please reply bharat ji

    • Read the section on the 1998 N-tests in my 2002 book now in 2nd edition (2005) — Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security, and the writings of Drs PK Iyengar, AN Prasad, A Gopalakrishnan and myself compiled in the book — Strategic Sellout: Indian-US Nuclear Deal (2009) for all the reasons why the S-1 fusion test was a fizzle. Can’t keep repeating the details.

      • vivek says:

        yes TN test in 1998 was partially failed, but that doesnt mean than over years design was not improved using computer simulation and icf labs.It might be risky for other countries to assume that india have non working TN warhead

  3. Computer simulation cannot produce a certifiable weapon; unless physically tested there’ll always be doubt and the deterrent based on it will NOT be credible.

    • jorawar says:

      i know i won’t get a answer from you but has anyone in government ever utilized your advice, sir because it doesn’t seem to look like it.

      it seems like they love doing the opposite of what you desire for our country.

      maybe its because you want india to be a respected power where as the people in power want to see india to be the romania of w.w.2.

  4. Rupam says:

    Bharat Karnad ji is it possible for India to acquire Inertial confinement fusion and Dual axis radiographic hydrodynamic test facilities or design a in house one?

    • We have a small ICF at Indore but, as I have written in this blog and elsewhere, it is going to rack and ruin. We can design our own DARHT but will require really focused investment of manpower and other resources that DAE, lulled by the efficacy of what we have, is unprepared to do.

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

    Sorry but other countries have no role or relevance, in the confidence we have in our deterrence.
    It is Indian confidence in its own goods that is relevant.

    No idiot will ever get less threatened by a nuke or feel more threatened by a thermo-nuke.

    Indian confidence in Indian inventory will have its impact on related aspects like:
    1) the need for security arrangements and foundational agreements and the direction and quantum of pay offs for these agreements/arrangements.
    2) need for and characterstics (including ranges and apogees) of the ASATs that we will get to see as deployed.
    3) the ranges of Indian missiles and the need for going in for composite stages
    4) the count of Indian missiles and associated delivery methods.
    5) new R&D on hypersonic delivery platforms.
    6) the counter-value targets being targeted, which will in turn force the planned ABM defences in response to expected retaliations.
    7) number of SSBN/SSGN that India will produce at what timelines and at what thresholds. Also the actual results seen of claimed level of priority accorded to them.
    8) level of indigenisation targeted for strategic assets and extent of intrusive inspections regimes allowed as pay off (including the progress on the expected benefits of agreements like 123 and the associated diluting of Nuclear Liability).

    If you are confident about Indian actions/achievements, on these points (since the time Vajpayee went to Washington with his well known letter), then you have confidence in your inventory, else you don’t.

    What China or Pakistan think would be sufficient for them to address India the way they have done is not dependent on what we have. That would be dependent on what they have.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Fission is volume saving but weight intensive
      Fusion is weight saving but volume intensive

      Now what kind of warhead would you require on an Agni-5.

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