Putting Austin right with plain, unvarnished, talk of what’s at stake


Moscow Region - July 21, 2017: S-400 Triumf Russian anti-aircraft weapon system in combat position at MAKS, Russia. It is the best rocket missile system in the world. Modern technologies of defense.
[S-400 AD system]

Writing this post a few hours before the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin touches down in Delhi and begins his meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Washington has already indicated the line it will take to compel the Indian government to do what it desires, namely, cancelling the S-400 air defence system deal with Russia.

Austin will use the one-two punch — the soft left jab followed by a hard right, to use an old boxing metaphor.

In both instances — the jab and the right cross will be attributed to US Senator Robert Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who, here, is playing the villain. The soft jab is the supposed US concern with Human Rights violations in India, and Austin’s opening will be with the senator’s statement that the Defence Secretary will “raise democracy and human rights concerns in your discussions with the Indian government” and how the Indo-US “partnerhip” “is strongest when based on shared democratic values [which] the Indian government has been trending away from…”.

This has to be countered by Rajnath Singh telling Austin in as clear a language as the defence minister’s MEA minders can muster that the Biden Administration would be better advised to look inward and work on addressing the reasons for the breakdown in the democratic order in the United States — as mirrored in the insurrection by religious bigots and ideological exremists — and how this is endangering the lives of immigrant communities in America, and why the Indian government fears Indian immigrants may be next in line for such victimhood. And further — to give the dose of the same democratic medicine to the Biden Admin — that Delhi will be closely monitoring the developments in the US.

Next, Austin will use Menendez’s threat of sanctions if India does not resile from the S-400 deal, to indicate that President Biden’s hands are tied were the US Congress, in fact, to use this Russia contract as the prompt for harsh action against India. “If India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that [](Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act] will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defence sector under Section 231 of CAATSA. It will also limit India’s ability to work with the US on development and procurement of sensitive military technology. I expect you to make all of these challenges clear in conversations with your Indian counterparts,” Menendez apparently wrote to Austin on the eve of the latter’s visit to various Asian states.

Far from acting intimidated, Rajnath Singh, in the best Uttar Pradeshi tradition of responding to a threat with a counter threat, should tell Austin in no uncertain terms that this isn’t the Cold War period of the 1950s, and in the fight against China the US needs India as much, if not more — and stress this last — than India needs the US, and so while the US Government is free to take whatever actions it deems fit, the Indian government in service of its national interests WILL not let an external power dictate which country it wants to cultivate, or what it buys from where by way of armaments and military goods. And that Austin better understand what the exchange here is. And if the US government follows through on the CAATSA threat issued by the likes of Menendez , Washington should expect an equal and opposit reaction from India — for starters the voiding of the four foundational accords, and the potential loss of the Andaman-Nicobar staging area that the US Air Force, for one,has been eyeing with considerable interest. And that India’s Quad cooperation, that much is being made of, is also at risk.

Here Rajnath should not listen to the habitual queasy appeasers and collaborators should the S Jaishankar-led MEA advise conciliatory language. MEA have already spoiled the situation for the country vis a vis China, and if given the chance, will make India grovel before America, China and any other country that begins throwing its weight about.

The best results are obtained and respect won with the US when plain language is used, one without obuscation or any hint of mealymouthedness that could be misread by Austin and his advisers as a tendency to flinch — something they can exploit.

The trouble with Delhi has always been it doesn’t hold to the true North on a compass of national interests. Time for Rajnath and for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to understand and appreciate that the manner of correctly dealing with the Americans has not been learned by MEA or government interlocuters dealing with Americans, and to remind Austin and the Pentagon what’s at stake.

Results of the Austin trip will show if the Modi government caved in, or stood its ground.

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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53 Responses to Putting Austin right with plain, unvarnished, talk of what’s at stake

  1. V.Ganesh says:

    @BharatKarnad I don’t think the Government of India is going to abandon the S-400 Triumf deal with Russia irrespective of what Llyod Austin says because the Indian Air Force advised the Government of India to buy the S-400 Triumf even it meant sanctions by the USA.

    But, if India rebuffs Bob Menendez speaking through Llyod Austin when he comes to India, will all arms deal under process with the USA be stopped by the Government of the USA?

  2. V.Ganesh says:

    @BharatKarnad Will it be a good idea to counter Lloyd Austin on his own turf when he comes to India with the threat of CAATSA, that if the USA imposes CAATSA, US defence manufacturers would be barred from participating in tenders for the Indian Air Force’s 114 aircrafts requirement and from the Indian Navy’s requirement for 57 aircrafts? The Indian Air Force tender itself is worth US$15 billion.

    • Any and all leverages are usable.

      • V.Ganesh says:

        @BharatKarnad Does the Government of India have it in it to use this and all leverages? S. Jaishankar at the recently held India Today Conclave South was unusually candid when he said China will get what it gives. But, will Modi allow the USA to get what it gives?

      • Jaishankar is all talk.

      • V.Ganesh says:

        @BharatKarnad Will the US defence manufacturers and other companies throw the US government and Lloyd Austin under the bus if it CAATSA prevents them from getting business in India in the form of new orders and pending payments for orders already signed? Llyod Austin at best will be Secretary of Defense for 8 years assuming Joe Biden gets a second term as POTUS and the politicians in the US will definitely need companies for fundraising.

  3. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Excellent write-up, Professor Karnad. Talking straight without beating around the bush is the best policy. No point in being too docile.

    Respect is earned in this manner not by dilly dallying in diplomatic political correctness.

  4. Amit says:

    When the US put pressure on India versus Iran, India chose the US over Iran (and hopefully it got US shale oil at a decent price for that in return). Maybe now the US thinks it can force India to chose the US over Russia. But for India this time, its own self interest is more important than the relationship with Russia on the S400 matter. The S400 is supposed to be superior to the THAAD and India needs a missile defence system fast. So I think the US is being foolish here just like the Chinese were in Galwan. But apart from destroying the hard won agreements India and the US have signed, India does not have much leverage with the US. I doubt the US will yield on CAATSA, such is their disgust for Russia. This is a lose lose situation for all, except the Chinese who will benefit from a US-India tiff. The only silver lining is that the corner India will find itself in, will hopefully spur it to be more efficient in improving it’s defence eco system as well as it’s economy. Otherwise India is headed to be the proverbial ‘dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka na ghat ka’.

  5. Anon says:

    United States can take a hike.This loser will be negotiating with Taliban as if Taliban are very democratic.

  6. Sankar says:

    “…. Time for Rajnath and for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to understand and appreciate that the manner of correctly dealing with the Americans had not been learned by MEA or government interlocuters dealing with Americans,…” –

    Too tall an order for Rajnath and Modi. For Rajnath, “Astra Puja” is the limit, not to mention sycophancy. For Modi with his background, it is beyond his capability to have grips on MEA, by the way, Modi do not understand the English language.”
    Furthermore, “Results of the Austin trip will show if the Modi government caved in, or stood its ground”.
    This Government has already caved into China – what more can one want?

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Sankar- Excellent comment. A must read for all members of BJP fan club as well as Modi backers.

    • Avatar says:

      Sankar@ –Why this slavish talk — “does not understand English”. So what if it is true (even if it is not)? Many great powers have conversed in their language with translation. Using English denies jobs to Hindi translators of Hindi.

      • Sankar says:

        Avatar@ — You have a point. But life in international relations is not that simple – diplomacy is a cutthroat business. The diplomat must be master of his words and nuances, all that communications cannot be translated from its expressions in their original form and something gets lost when one tries to convey in a different language.

        Here is a snippet. During the heydays of NATO, funding for military weapons as well as research and development was divided between France and Britain. Some sort of Anglo-French agency was formed which held meetings alternatively in Bristol (England) and Fontainebleau (near Paris in France). The rule was agreed upon that only French will be the language for negotiations and dealings when the meeting is held in France and only English the language when the meeting would take place in England. It so happened that most of the time in the final outcome the French came on top of the British to win contracts and other crucial technical works. The British to their dismay figured out that it was because the French negotiators had better command of the English language than they, the British, had over the French Language.

  7. Vikrant says:

    Menendez is one of the most currupt politicians, he’s for sale and we should buy him off. In fact we should have an active program to capture elites of both the parties. If the puny little Qatar can do it so should we.

    And when it comes to the threat of CAATSA sanctions on S-400, well, it’d a blessing in disguise. We should not be buying S-400 anyway when we’re working on the domestic alternative- XRSAM. Rather than wasting already meagre defence budget on S-400, we should instead pour all the money in XRSAM to expedite the development process.

  8. Gopalan says:

    Yes, I have never understood why India doesn’t try to work for national interest? We keep making problems for ourselves. Nuclear program, ecnomy etc it’s like Delhi is being held hostage or something. Why does this keep happening?
    Also didn’t you say once that India doesn’t even need the S-400s so why did we buy it.
    I have seen some analysts on twitter say quite self-assuredly that India will get an exemption from CAATSA despite all of this. Also the quad is about to move on from security to ‘vaccine diplomacy’ now, so I don’t know who needs who?

  9. Gaurav Tyagi says:


    An absurd/illogical directive by the Central government. Deporting these refugees back to Myanmar is a death sentence for these people.

    The corrupt/crook army authorities of Myanmar cannot be trusted with the security/safety of the above mentioned group.

    The central government keeps harping about the whole world being a big family. Their actions on the other hand are complete opposite of their preaching.

  10. Kunal Singh says:

    What do you think of vc11184 INS dhruv commissioned recently?

  11. Kunal Singh says:

    Amit Shah is fit for exchanging words but let’s see

  12. Emailed by Joydeep Sircar. oropolitics@gmail.com, Sat, 20 Mar at 11:27 am

    Excellent advice to Rajnath and co. to deliver some home truths, but in this case it would be even better to listen to Austin-Menendez with every appearance of sincere interest, and proceed to do exactly what we want to do. This is the tactic successfully employed for years on end by Pakistan with impunity. It will do no harm to remind the general that the US enjoys the reputation of an untrustworthy liar with India, and it is up to the US to earn India’s trust, and not the other way around. Failure to curb the black and trash white backlash against the successful Indian-American community must be raised as a prime example of America’s deplorable lack of control over it’s law and order situation. A gentle squeeze on the pressure points of Amazon/Google/Facebook may be used to drive the point home.

    Modi’s ill-concealed desire for US appoval represents a hidden threat that no strategist has adequately dealt with.

  13. Joydeep Sircar@ — “Modi’s ill-concealed desire for US appoval represents a hidden threat that no strategist has adequately dealt with.”

    My 2018 book ‘Staggering Forward: Narendra Modi and India’s Global Ambition’ more than adequately deals with this desire of Modi, tracing it to his experiences of America vists — as back-packer, RSS pracharak and as part of a conducted US State Department tour. And the distrust aspect just as exhaustively tackled in this book and in my 2015 book ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’.

  14. Vivek says:

    till date modi govt already toed under US pressure on various occasions(linke importing oil from iran), no reason to believe they will stand firmly against US pressure this time.

  15. Ram says:

    @ Prof Karnad,

    “fight against China the US needs India as much, if not more”.

    I beg to differ with your above observations in the current times. This would have been true back in 2014-15 while India was still relevant in world affairs, especially in South Asia and the expectations from a strong Modi government on the economic front – that could further add to its Security interests. Post Doklam and our handling of the pandemic, I am sure even the Quad would be having second thoughts of our membership and possibly looking for other suitable partners. Let me explain this in detail.

    Most Indian strategists believe the territorial border issue with China is the only dispute (from their experience dealing with Pakistan on Kashmir) and relations can normalize once an agreement is arrived at. True, this was a legacy matter handed over for many decades. While China has resolved its land borders with many countries (on its own terms), with increasing economic and military power, it is only a matter of time when these “settled” boundaries can be milked and leveraged depending on the balance of power. If a more powerful leader assumes power in China, you may find all such “settled” borders with its neighbors disputed again. Should Putin lose power to a lesser powerful leader in the future, even the settled Russian border could turn disputed.

    The point we are missing is while the establishment here is only concerned with border settlement (that does not make headlines closer to elections), has a territory centric view of its security affairs, a superpower like China is using the border only as one of the leverages and it will keep on pressing on new pressure points at a time and place of its choosing to suit its strategic objectives – both economic and military. Even if we assume Xi will miraculously oblige Modi with a border settlement as a face saver, it can again cause problems with dams over the Brahmaputra in Tibet should it find India non-co-operative – say in trade matters. It may coerce the weaker countries – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Pakistan (already its de facto ally) into unequal security treaties to officially host PLA troops and create the same unease as in Ladakh. Finally, the threat to Andamans (from the Kyaukpyu port in Myanmar) may change in severity depending on Chinese businesses profiting or losing in the Indian market due to our knee jerk bans to Chinese investments.

    India and possibly entire South Asia was ignored during Trump’s tenure. Did a strong and decisive leadership in India send out the message that we can indeed manage things on our own? We instead picked up fights with nearly all our smaller, weak neighbors or raised it to a point of no return (in case of Pakistan) for purely domestic consumption. Even in case of Doklam, there were murmurs that but for Bhutan’s opposition to the BRI (on India’s instance), this would have never occurred. The economic mismanagement and resulting misery are nothing to boast about with the pandemic and unplanned lockdown delivering the final nail in the coffin.

    During the same time, Trump repeatedly attacked long established relations with close US allies for maintaining the burden of friendship. These countries have had enough of the US taunts and are indeed on their way to prove that the US needs them more than they need the US. Despite strong opposition to the nord stream pipeline from Russia, Germany continues with the engagement as its indeed a technological and economic powerhouse and can surely manage its affairs even without US help. The US will also face resistance from another ally – Japan which is keen to settle the Kuril islands with Russia (and not join the US in sanctions over Ukraine or meddling in US elections) and has also modified its constitution to pursue a more aggressive stance faced with the Chinese threat. Even a minnow – Pakistan has managed to extract better deals and make itself relevant for the Afghan peace deal to resist US pressure beyond a point.

    By excessively focusing on matters of irrelevance – from domestic politics (including howdy Modi events in both the countries), religion to mismanaging the economy, haven’t we squandered away the opportunity to enhance our economic, military, and strategic outreach for a truly less US reliant relationship in our neighborhood? The India of today (with only geographical advantage ), certainly cannot dictate from a position of strength. While there is strong case for waiver of sanctions on the S-400 deals, the current US administration filled with Indian origin liberals may certainly not give the Modi government a free pass on human rights and related matters.

    Finally, the real leverage the US has on the aspirational Indian middle class. The “visaquake” that could send tremors through the government by minor tweaking of visa rules does not really place us in a comfortable position to dictate terms to the US. You would agree that France, Japan, Australia and finally Israel wouldn’t be engaging with us without the US nod.

    • Sankar says:

      Ram@ — “True, this was a legacy matter handed over for many decades.” –
      The Americans had been warning India ever since the end of the Korean war that China is an expansionist power. But such strategic foresight fell on deaf ears of Delhi which led to 1962.
      Hence, I fail to see it as “legacy” issue – it is a total breakdown of India’s statecraft which has continued even today excepting for the short period in 1967-68 and the few years under Indira Gandhi’s command when China did not make any noise. To recall, in 1967-68 China received a bloody nose at Nathu La when the Indian Army stood firm and hit back.

      ” While China has resolved its land borders with many countries (on its own terms), with increasing economic and military power,…” –

      China has settled her border with Myanmar (Burma) on the basis of the same McMahon line which existed between Tibet and India but denies its validity for India. The reality is that China has invaded Tibet and the present policymakers in Delhi are in denial about it.

      Boundaries between nation states are decided by fighting wars, and that is why the military is sustained. The problem is like a coward the Indian army will not stand its ground in Ladakh. If Indira Gandhi were in power today, the army would have never abandoned the Kailash mountain. It is too much to expect that command from the likes of Hindu Modi and Rajnath.

      • Ram says:


        The reason China pokes us on tbe borders is because we are too sensitive (chest thumping bravado ) to such issues and it has an upper hand.

        The US and Canada have unresolved border issues at 4 crossing points (yes, you heard it right) . Does this give sleepless nights to both the countries? Can Canada expect to win a war with the US or would the US want a hostile neighbor to its north?
        Both the counries have got the others back and therefore it balances out.

        Did India take advantage of the sane un resolved China border to make ingression 5-10 kms all through these years and get them to beg us to vacate?

        Have we made real progress to put fear in the Chinese that we can take off power grids in its major cities at our time of calling?

        Have we really put fear in them that we can take off their satellites – with no regard to international conventions (like N.Korea) and carry the war deep inside Chinese territory, not just restricted to the border?

        Aren’t things therefore playing out on expected lines?


    All the discussions in this forum are directed towards Russia, China and US with very little contribution towards the situation in Dhaka and Yangon. In fact I believe that North-East is actually India’s soft underbelly. Bengali-speakers include the greatest overwhelming majority as population in these with roughly about 80-85 percent.

    The current government of Sheikh Hasina is perceived as pro-Indian however one needs to look into the long-term trends in Bangladesh. Overwhelming majority of that population was born after 1971 and these people do not see India in the same reverential way as their previous generation.

    Economic factors indicate that Dhaka is the biggest economic partner for India in Asia (after China and maybe Japan) with USD 15 Billion economic imports for Dhaka. The rise of the middle class in Dhaka will inevitably lead to a situation whereas the growing middle class needs an enemy to define its nationalism and it can only be India (just look at the way all sections of Bangla society has protested Modi visit to that country)

    We cannot afford to get on the negative terms with Dhaka since they are our biggest economic partner in Asia after China but what if a regime in Dhaka that is flush with overwhelming sense of Bangla nationalism demands hegemony in India’s North-East (a logical demand considering much of West Bengal and North-East economy depends upon Bangladesh) ?

    Make no mistake. Both Beijing and Islamabad would love a regime in Dhaka that is more assertive against Delhi and that ultimately seeks regional hegemony in India’s soft underbelly North East.

    I would love the views of the members of this forum on this important issue.

    • Ram says:

      @Debanjan Banerjee,

      “Overwhelming majority of that population was born after 1971 and these people do not see India in the same reverential way as their previous generation”.

      Is there any introspection in the Indian establishment why this is so, the hatred has perhaps aggravated after 2014? Isn’t this the same case with the youth in Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka as well? Is one of my earlier writings I had described how our big brother attitude and chest thumping to these smaller neighbors will come back to bite us, isn’t that playing out now?

      These countries share our socio-cultural habits to some extent and have been offered incentives such as a single market and easy legal movement of people. How far has this been put to good use? Their trade with China is many times over than with India (that brings long lasting prosperity), study in prestigious Chinese universities in a more welcoming atmosphere. How many bright students from Bangladesh relate to rest of India other than Bengal and would be comfortable settling down legally in other parts of India? Same with Sri Lankans and Tamilnadu.

      Do we come across memorable experiences of their visits to India for study or leisure on public forums – especially Bangladesh? Hasn’t this government (including those holding constitutional posts) gone the extra mile to demean them repeatedly due to the religious overkill?

      Your other observation – “In fact, I believe that North-East is actually India’s soft underbelly.”

      On a larger context, most of the north east states (non-Bengali population) do not identify with the “core” Hindu values practiced in the cow belt states that BJP/RSS considers as “mainland” India (which were subject to the twin blows of large-scale migration and foreign rule).
      Many of these states have Christians in majority and eat beef (dog meat is a delicacy in Nagaland). The north east being culturally on a different pedestal due to historical reasons and being border states should have been treated with outmost care in light of the Chinese influence. Instead, aren’t we seeing the same movie of insensitivity/indifference play out across all states since 2014 (with disastrous consequences for the north east), thereby alienating the local populace and facilitating a fertile environment for foreign powers to play their act? The latest changes to the citizenship act (despite wide spread opposition from all the affected north east states) will surely add to the frustrations building up in these states. It won’t come as a surprise if the north east indeed prove to be India’s soft underbelly.

  17. Gaurav Tyagi says:


    This government just knows how to talk big. How many of these 1000 so called defence manufacturing industries are functional?

    Anyone can register in this directory. This so called Yogi has taken stupidity to a new height.

  18. Roy says:

    Bob Menendez is a neocon puppet. Neocons, marginalized in the Trump administration are running the Biden administration. Neocons have shaped America’s Russia phobia.


  19. Gaurav Tyagi says:


    Excerpts from the above article;

    The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have all been contesting China’s claim to almost all of the Sea for decades but tension steadily increased in recent years.

    Two years ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended his non-confrontational approach to the maritime dispute with a quip about Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    “When Xi says ‘I will fish’ who can prevent him?” he said, quoted by the Associated Press. “If I send my marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, I guarantee you not one of them will come home alive.”

    I have been to Philippines a couple of years ago. The Americans (due to their military base) have turned the whole country into a nation of selfish, corrupt, immoral, lazy parasites.

    Filipinos don’t have any issues in pimping their women to foreigners of any race or skin color. Once a foreigner gets trapped in a relationship with a Filipino woman. The whole clan from the female side piles on to the guy to get monetary favors from him.

    The country is full of white grandpa’s in their 70’s and 80’s in relationship with Filipino teens.

    The country is so corrupt that even at the airport, one has to shell out 300 Pesos to smoke in the “smoking room”. To put things in perspective, a packet of Marlboro costs around 90 Pesos in Philippines.

    Chinese, Koreans and Japanese run businesses like casinos, strip clubs, bars etc. there. Indian Punjabi community is largely into money lending business to the local Filipinos.

    Philippines will never confront China. Only Vietnam in the region possess the guts to counter China.

  20. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    I have been to Vietnam as well. I would request Professor Karnad and other fellow readers on this forum to please read the following article written by me;


    This shows how Vietnamese are still openly cheating the Chinese and the Chinese authorities have turned a blind eye to it.

  21. PRATIK KUMAR says:

    Sir when are you launching your next book? I will be very happy to read it.

  22. krishna soni says:

    Respected Sir @Professor Karnad according to you what are the results of the Austin’s India trip –did the Modi government cave in or stand its ground.

  23. Sankar says:

    “The reason China pokes us on tbe borders is because we are too sensitive..” –

    Oh no, historically (pre-1947) there was no border between India and China. China invaded Tibet in 1949 and hence the problem arose. You cannot be oblivious to recorded history. This invalidates most of your post.

    “The US and Canada have unresolved border issues at 4 crossing points”-

    I do not know what issues are there precisely ‘unresolved”. This analogy does not hold for the India-China border. Anyway, the US is not changing the goal post every decade, i.e shifting the border in their favour by hundreds of kms for Canada to agree. If that were not the case, there would be a potential of war breaking out – you cannot ask a hypothetical question for me to answer.

    You need to orient yourself on India’s Nehru-Chou en Lai negotiations with China (even sacrificing Tibet) during 1950-1960. First, China was supplying India cryptic maps for their claim on the border again and again. And when queried they were changing the boundary alienation in their favour every time with a new map – moving the goal post. Nehru woke up belatedly to this Chinese perfidy and finally rejected negotiations hands down. This led to the 1962 debacle for India as the military was caught unprepared.

    For your info, China tried an almost similar trick with the Soviets in the 1960s to grab territory from Siberia. Initially, the Russians were caught by surprise and had a few reverses. When they realized what was afoot, the red army brought their artillery back from the East German border and delivered a devastating blow to the PLA in the Usuri river area. And China reeled back, learning the lesson, never daring to make any move further. That was the way the boundary between the erstwhile Soviet Union and China has been settled in the Siberian landmass.

    This is precisely what I have noted that boundaries between nation-states are decided by fighting wars. Remember what Churchill said, peace can be achieved with your neighbour only by the threat of war.

    I trust this answers your points from my perspective.

    • Ram says:


      I am putting it in a different way:

      1. With a revisionist power like China, there is no concept of a border settlement. While our govt can claim a self goal with such niceties, these hold no value and can be easily done away with when the power differential increases substantially. Even countries with which it has settled borders aren’t taking it for granted and always on the guard.

      2. We need not be trigger happy for a war but our capabilities should be such (and known to the enemy) through occasional display that we will definitely hit back ( a pain not worth the gain). In our case, its other way round. China need not actually fire missiles or drop bombs.Just movement of a few thousand troops or a veto on insignificant aspirational matters ( Hafiz Saeed or NSG membership) is enough to shakeup the entire establishment. Imagine a situation when after their ingress, we had also occupied settled areas ( with equal significance ) else where, wouldn’t they also be pushing for a settlement as a face saver?

      3. For all practical purposes, India has to be self sufficient with minimal dependency on foreign powers whose objectives do not necessarily align with our. Our membership in the Quad grouping would be meaningful only if it guarantees US boots on the ground in the Himalayas ( for which other members should consider us a realistic military and economic power and not just as a landmass for their naval supply logistics, which is the case now). Given our poor governance and policy flip flops , we simply don’t make the cut, though they may not openly admit so and beat around the bush whenever the case comes up.

      Whatever the present dispensation is doing is self congratulatory to be “seen” doing something and will not halt China. They are unprepared for a futuristic war with a super power like China ( which is preparing for one with the US) and we are “hoping” that this will involve only territory, men and blood letting..which was our focal point a this while involving Pakistan.

  24. Summary- Question on the radical islam of the indian subcontinent.

    Sir, I frequently read your articles on national security. Although they are disheartening, it is the truth.

    I feel you only write on the external security threats, not domestic.

    Why don’t you write something on recent incidents similar to the “Kashmiri pandit” exodus and the ideology responsible for it, which is very much prevelant in today’s India.

    Asking this question because I have been close to this

    1. How do we deradicalise?
    2. Like the jews did with arabs in Israel, how to make them more inclusive, or is it even possible?
    3. How serious of a threat do you think this is? I suppose you won’t know it because you stay away from the peaceful community

    • Saurabh Sharma@ — I deal with subjects I study. True, radical Islam is an internal security problem. But its socio-cultural roots — which is a field in itself, is something I haven’t studied and hence don’t delve into (too much). But one thing is clear that the mischief in the last 50 years began with the US-CIA using Islam to rouse the Pashtun to become mujahideen against the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan — an excersie in which Pakistan was frontline player. Once religion is brought into the mix, everyone has hell to pay. Except the US then compounded the problem for itself and the entire world by waging war against, and removing, Saddam Hussein — who was a tyrant but kept a tight lid on Islamists in what was the old Mesopotamia (extended Iraq) and the Levant. These developments couldn’t but influence India.

      • Thank you sir for sharing your take on this. If you plan on doing some research, please let us know when you will be publishing an article on the de-radicalisation process.

  25. Sir, I read your articles frequently. Although they are disheartening, they are facts.

    I request you write an article on the security threat that lies within the country which is very real.

    The radical Islamism which is present within the minds of the muslims of the Indian subcontinent at large.

    You cannot deny that radical islamism is not real,the people saw this during CAA among numerous incidents.

    My questions–
    1. Do you think the problem is real? If yes, how big?
    2. How do we tackle this challenge of radicalisation?
    3. Can the Arabs and their clerics help us in this?

    You frequently write articles on nukes and the missiles. About time you write something on this powder keg.

  26. krishna soni says:

    Respected Sir @Professor Karnad what should be India’s stand on th un resolution against Sri Lanka,we should favour,oppose or abstain from it.

  27. krishna soni says:

    Respected Sir @ Professor Karnad
    1)What should be India’s role in Afghan peace process to ensure the region’s stability and its mutual interests?
    2) What should be India’s stand on UN resolution against Sri Lanka:support,abstain,oppose?

  28. Gaurav Tyagi says:


    Indian establishment can keep licking the feet of the Yankees. Iranians will get the Chinese to fund the aforesaid plus other projects.

  29. Bharat kumar says:

    UAE brokered indo pak truce. Are we that horrible to have arabs make us commit to 2003 ceasefire agreement?
    Please throw us some light on this issue…

  30. krishna soni says:

    ‘When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders meet later this year, they will debate the recommendations from a group of experts (which I co-chaired) that advocates, among other things, extending a formal offer of partnership to India’ from HINDUSTAN TIMES. Respected Sir @ Professor Karnad ,I know your views on this topic that India should not join NATO as it would be giving its independent neutral foreign policy to US interests but please elaborate what are India’s option of developing a regional NATO of regional players except the BRIS and the modQUAD which you had already mentioned in your books and articles, in this article Paul Antonopoulos https://swarajyamag.com/world/a-coalition-of-civilisations-why-it-is-time-for-india-to-unite-with-nations-threatened-by-pakistan-and-turkey mentions that India should form a COALATION OF CIVILISATIONS It is for these reasons that India, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Egypt must establish a Coalition of Civilisations to counter the persistent threats made by jihadism emanating from Turkey and Pakistan. It is only natural that India, as an emerging global superpower, must take the reins and spearhead such a coalition if it is to elevate itself to unprecedented heights of global respectability and influence.

    Just as the U.S. draws on its alliances with NATO and key regional states like Colombia in Latin America, Japan in East Asia and Israel in West Asia; or China draws on Pakistan in South Asia and Ethiopia in Africa; or Russia draws on the partially recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the South Caucasus and Syria in the Middle East to project power and influence, India is severely lagging in having strong and reliable allies outside of its immediate neighbourhood.

  31. Bharat,

    As you had mentioned Austin did raise both the issues, human-rights and S400 in his presser. Any sanction over S 400 would certainly throw a spanner in the works for Indo-US relation.

    I would like to ask you a more fundamental question though. I remember Strobe Talbot would say in early 2000’s that India and US are not allies and will never be allies.

    Ofcourse if India does start seing US as an ally or at least live under the US influnce so to speak, then it would necessary have to agree to play second fiddle to US give the obvious power differential.

    I have always wondered if India does have any natural allies. My own answer so far is that India does not have any natural allies the way say west can claim that western countries are natural allies. We might try to build up the erstwhile Indic sphere of influence which today means a patchy group of countries from Afg- SE Asia with Pakistan sticking out like a sore thumb.

    So my fundamental questions are:

    1) Does India have any natural allies?
    2) Can US be an ally of India and if so what all has really changed since Strobe Jaswant talks to warrant that idea?

    • primeargument@ — India has natural allies — Japan, SE Asia, Taiwan, South Korea — whence my longtime advocacy (from the 1980s) for a coalition of rimland and offshore countries to contain China topped by a concert with all the subcontinental states including Pakistan & Afghanistan. But that’d require an alert open-mindedness and generosity Delhi finds hard to summon. And no the US is not, can never be, a reliable strategic partner but just a tactical convenience for contingent mutual benefit.

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