China’s almost brahminical contempt for India

Indian Embassy In China Celebrates India's 75th Independence Day - Assam  Press
[The hideous-looking Indian embassy in Beijing]

It is heartening to see a militaryman, albeit retired — Lt General Prakash Katoch, ex-Special Forces, finally ask the question I have been asking for some 30 years now: Has the Indian government drawn red lines for Beijing not to cross? [ ].

The answer to the General’s question is no. And this is historically been the case from the days when Jawaharlal Nehru personally managed the country’s China policy. On the other hand, have the Chinese laid down red lines on the ground for India to respect and parameters for negotiation for Delhi to observe? Of course, and repeatedly. Worse, each new redline drawn by Beijing was meekly accepted by the MEA & Indian government, formalizing a new fait accompli every time only for it to trigger a new round of Chinese territorial creep and impositions.

So, why this discrepancy? Because once Beijing got India’s measure in military terms with the PLA not just handily beating, but humiliating, the fabled Indian army of Second World War repute, the way was cleared for Beijing to keep exploiting the moral and psychological edge they had gained on the Indian military. Mind you, this was the great Indian Army the PLA confronted on the India-Tibet border which had, after all, brought down Rommel’s Panzar armee Afrika, and ground the famed 33rd and 55th Divisions of the Japanese Imperial 15th Army into the dust in Burma and, therefore, aroused quite a bit of wariness in the PLA operations command planning the October 1962 hostilities. Except, the Indian army folded and Beijing realized that neither Indian governments, Nehru’s and the subsequent ones, nor the Indian army had the fight in them. Whence the process began of dictating red lines to Indian negotiators in the numerous forums, including the military-to-military talks involving theatre commanders, to push the de facto border India-wards.. This has become fairly routine practice because for Beijing it is risk free, cost free.

The pattern is this. Some PLA troops pitch a tent in an area Beijing desires, install markers, return a few summers later, and based on the self-same markers — a pile of stones, a painted slogan, a tattered flag left behind, claim the area as their own, with Chinese foreign ministry thereafter referring to it by some ridiculous Chinese name they have given the encampment. If the piece of land is particularly strategic and prized, a spurious history is invented for it about some ruler of the southern Han or the other sending an expedition in the distant past or similar nonsense, to legitimate and consolidate the territorial grab. Such piecemeal annexation and absorption of Indian border areas is relentless. And, voila! every other year a newly delineated LAC is on the negotiating table that the Indian side meekly accepts. For the Chinese, it really is that simple and they know that where India is concerned aggression pays.

The latest PLA offense — the building of the bridge over the Pangong Tso proximal to the old Khurnak Fort is on the line connecting it to Moldo — the two current PLA strong points from where the Chinese ousted the Indian army in 1962. This is only the latest example of Chinese brazen-ness and, as the Indian defence ministry now concedes, cuts the travel time between them from 12 hours to as little as 3 hours, enabling rapid switching of forces. It is the same Moldo post, incidentally, where the PLA garrison felt pressured by the Indian Special Frontier Force troops occupying the Kailash Range heights around Rezangla — heights overlooking Moldo that the Indian government — ever so sensitive to Chinese demands and helpful to China’s cause, ordered vacated nearly a year back, in February 2021, in exchange for the PLA not patroling the ‘Fingers’ 5 to 8 on the northern shore of the Pangong Lake which is Indian territory the Chinese annexed!

Unsurprisingly, the MEA’s reaction to the Pangong bridge was along expected lines, noting that

Regarding reports about a bridge being made by the Chinese side on Pangong lake, government has been monitoring this activity closely. This bridge is being constructed in areas that have been under the illegal occupation by China for around 60 years now. As you’re well aware, India has never accepted such illegal occupation.
Indian and Chinese soldiers exchange sweets at Hot Springs Demchok on LAC in eastern Ladakh. Credit: Indian Army
[Gifting sweets to PLA troops on the LAC]

Notice that far from hinting that such construction was unacceptable and that India will counter with military measures, whatever the cost, the MEA, accepted the bridge as a fact of life India can do little about. If by such means the Indian government is reconciling frequently to the changing Chinese delineation of the Sino-Indian border, why doesn’t the Narendra Modi regime stop the charade, go the whole hog, recognize the Chinese claimline in toto, and hand over all the Indian territory China contests because that’s what’s going to happen over time any way if Delhi does not mean to use force to defend and protect Indian territory,or take back the areas the PLA has stealithily occupied?

Meanwhile, after each new disruption caused by PLA action that violates the status quo, dumbfounded — or perhaps, simply dumb — Indian diplomats housed in that perfectly hideously designed building housing the Indian embassy in Beijing — an architectural horror reflecting Indian ‘PWD chic’ aesthetic also evidenced in the new MEA building on the Rajpath, issue mealymouthed protests, even as the Indian government on its part tries as hard as possible to ignore such provocation. And a horde of panda-hugging retired diplomats rationalize for an ignorant media each new Chinese provocation as not something to get worked up over, and even less to treat as casus belli (cause for war).

It leaves the lead units of the Indian army, who invariably fail to either preempt PLA actions, or forcefully react to PLA intrusions — assuming in the first place that field intelligence had been generated in time, to await instructions from Delhi, ending up, likewise, twiddling their thumbs, doing their best imitation of the MEA and Indian government, and hoping that ignoring the latest incremental loss of territory due to China’s map-changing tactics will, somehow, make the problem go away! Or, more optimistically, expecting that gifts of Indian sweetmeats (on New Year, Diwali, whatever!!) will lead to grateful PLA commanders responding to Indian niceness returning recently annexed Indian territory!

There’s a limit to the Indian government and military’s gullibility, naivete, pusillanimity, and just plain strategic stupidity — not that we have scraped the bottom of that barrel yet. Is there even a single instance of a “China specialist” in the Foreign Service and even among the retired lot of diplomats who while in service or after retirement has advocated military measures to deal sternly with China?

Indeed, the garden variety Mandarin blubberers spending time in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere if anything do a lot of harm, They retrun home to fill the China Study Circle/Group or as, in the case of the most recent ambassador, Vikram Misri, to join the PMO as the third deputy National Security Adviser (the other two DyNSAs being langotia yaars of the NSA, Ajit Doval, from the IPS). What are the chances he will counsel the PM of the diminishing returns of continuing to appease China in the manner India has been doing since… for ever? Nil, because the advice he offers the PM is likely to be along the lines evidenced in his statements in the virtual farewell meet he had with the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, December 6, 2021.

Misri had nothing to lose by being brutally honest and publicly telling the Xi Jinping dispensation via Wang what Indian ambassadors have long needed to say but shied away from saying, that India has had it with Beijing playing India for a fool, and that Delhi will not take it any longer, will certainly not put up with the PLA gobbling Indian territory in bits, and that the Chinese strategy of wearing out Indian negotiators in endless talks, has run its course. That’s not what he said though, chosing rather to speak tangentially as his predecessors have done: “Our relations comprised both opportunities and challenges,” he intoned, “and even though certain challenges since last year had overpowered the vast opportunities in the relationship.” If one wasn’t aware of China’s capture of a vast slice of Indian territory northeast of the Y-Junction on the Depsang Plains in eastern Ladakh in summer last year, and consolidating its military hold on it, one would be forgiven for believing that Misri was referencing a minor blip in otherwise warm and smooth bilateral ties.

Contrast Misri’s and the Indian government’s defeatist approach laced with awe of China to the “wolf warrior” attitude of Chinese diplomats. A junior official in the Chinese embassy in Delhi publicly upbraided Indian Members of Parliament as if they were a bunch of errant school boys for attending a function hosted by the Tibetan Government-in-exile. Or see how the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reacted to the brouhaha in India over the Pangong bridge and the MEA’s reminder that this construction was “in areas that have been under the illegal occupation by China for around 60 years [which] India has never accepted”. China’s response: An airy dismissal. Asserting that he was “not aware of” any untoward situation in that area, the Chinese spokesperson informed the international media that such infrastructure build-up “falls within [China’s] sovereignty.”

Professionaly habituated to banal language, Indian foreign service types are wont to repeat that old saw about disagreeing without being disaggreeable. This is fine if one knows the animal they are dealing with. But mostly they seem to have a wrong fix on Xi Jinping’s China. Consider how the newly appointed Chinese ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, began his innings in Washington in September last year. “If we cannot resolve our differences”, he told the Joe Biden Administration, “please SHUT UP”!! And he proceeded to wag a finger in the US government’s face, warning of “disastrous consequences” should it follow the “Cold War playbook”. Diplomatic quarters in Washington are still reeling from that assault, awed by this newby Chinese envoy’s gambit. It took balls, but Qin was no doubt told by President Xi to take a hammer to the Washington establishment, which he did with gusto.

That’s the sort of national self-respect and self-confidence Indians can only dream about Indian leaders, ministers, army generals and MEA officials sporting. Would Modi ever, in any circumstances, instruct the Indian ambassador to do a similar plainspeak in Beijing? Or, order the newly installed Commander, XIV Corps (Leh), Lt. Gen. Anindya Sengupta, in the manifestly useless and futile talks scheduled for January 12, to be abrasive, initiate the meeting by not shaking hands with his Chinese opposite number and, by way of signaling seriousness, walking out of the meeting after telling the PLA general that there’s only one-point on the agenda to discuss — the mechanics of the PLA’s vacating its aggression, pronto, and then staying the hell out. And demand that Army HQrs issue standing orders to the forward deployed Indian units to make the LAC live with artillery duels and ceaseless tactical action to wrest back lost territory any which way they can, and at any cost? This won’t happen, of course.

It leaves me to wonder at another level about the aptness of the contempt and disdain China has always shown, and continues to show Indian leadership and the Indian government — a treatment they so richly deserve, but India and the Indian people don’t. How deliciously ironical it is then to contemplate this almost brahminical attitude of Beijing’s towards India!!

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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80 Responses to China’s almost brahminical contempt for India

  1. Sankar says:

    Brilliant write-up of the stark reality facing sovereign India!

    Only one point I beg to differ: “Except, the Indian army folded and Beijing realized that neither Indian governments, Nehru’s and the subsequent ones, nor the Indian army had the fight in them. ”

    There was indeed a fundamental difference when Indira Gandhi was at the helm. Remember the erstwhile integration of Sikkim with the Union of India as a full-fledged State of the Union? China sat dumb watching the event then and did not know how to make a move.

    On an aside, in my book the retd Lt Gen Katoch has lost all credibility by writing recently in the IDR on the army firing on unarmed citizens of India in Nagaland. He desperately tries there to absolve the army by blatantly false statements – there is no escape route of the Army there. It bares open the reality of India’s armed forces that how low they can stoop and cover up their failure.

    • Deepak says:

      Indira Gandhi unlike her father Nehru has few credits like taking over Siachin Glacier, Integration of Sikkim with India which otherwise would have been another Bhutan like problem to India but she legalized Pakistani illegal occupation of Kashmir with Simla agreement.India has just defeated Pakistan in 1971 war and lot more favorable agreement to India could have been done at that time.

      • Sankar says:

        I have addressed the point you have raised here in one of the previous forums. Let me go over it again. There is a file on Kashmir with the UNSC (1949 vintage). It is impossible for India to close that file since it will need the support of the US and China to agree to it which will never happen. Indira Gandhi did her utmost to neutralize the provision for a plebiscite proposal in that file by enforcing Bhutto to sign the Shimla treaty at the conclusion of the 1971 war. The treaty sets out that there is no third-party involvement in settling the Kashmir problem. Thus, logically the UN cannot hold a “plebiscite” unless agreed on by India. That is the best outcome India could get on the international stage. In a sense, one can surmise that the Kashmir file in the UNSC is as good as defunct. That will be my reading and I cannot conclude “she legalized Pakistani illegal occupation”. In my view, the involvement of the UN has been “illegal” from day one in 1949 since the “Independence” of the “British Dominion of India” happened under the agreement among the political parties of then India and the British Raj – there was no role of the UN (it even did not come into existence). Of course, the international political world is controlled by military power and fundamentally there is no rule of law among the nation-states of this world.

    • JK Achuthan says:

      The Nagaland ambush was a case of mistaken identity, in which innocent lives were lost. True, it was a mistake. But it happened as there was credible intelligence of the presence and movement of armed NSCN Cadres in that area, and their intent was not benign. They had to be stopped and eliminated. You are wrong in running down the Indian Army on this score, as that part of the Country is remaining with India only due to the presence of the Armed Forces of the Union Govt. And the Army does not consider the people there as it’s Enemy, and have humbly sought their pardon, unlike the Armies of other Countries.

  2. Patriot says:

    Indian policy on the China border is quite schizophrenic.

    Instead of minimising losses and creating a clear delimitation of our land in territories not controlled by Chinese, they keep claiming that barren land of Aksai Chin while ceding territory in Ladakh.

  3. Amit says:


    If you’ve been saying this for 30 years and nothing has changed, then it seems like a very hopeless case. Indian security policy has too much influence from the MEA. Pakistan is dominated by the military, the Pentagon dominates US foreign/security policy (esp after 9/11), while China and Russia both utilise military hard power quite effectively. Chinese diplomats have become ‘Wolf’ warriors – note they call themselves warriors!

    Even our think tanks are full of the diplomat types (e.g. ORF). If you watch the IDSA discussions, even military personnel behave like diplomats. Our MEA personnel seem to have an almost Brahminical disdain for military hard power and they call the shots. Additionally, all that disdain is directed within India (like Suresh pointed out so well the other day!). As long as the MEA calls the shots on Indian foreign and security policy, I’m afraid this kind of diplomatese will continue. There is nothing anyone can do about it. Unless we have a more military minded Rajaadhiraj Maharaj.



      I wish you and your family a very happy and prosperous 2022.

      1.Between 2016-2021, Asian countries’ exports to China grew by apprx. between 250-300 percent and the post-COVID recovery in Asia is largely determined by China’s ability to consume further. (for example 35 percent of Taiwanese economy is dependent upon exporting semi-conductor chips to China)

      2. Just this week, the Chinese foreign minister cut lucrative trade and business deals all over the Indo-pacific well within India’s sphere of influence for e.g. in Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

      3. Almost all of India’s QUAD partners like AUS, JAPAN and US find it easier to cut lucrative trade deals with the authoritarian Chinese compared to the democratic, freedom-loving Indians.

      Once we find answers to this fundamental question, why the World finds it easier to do business with the authoritarian Chinese compared to the democratic, freedom-loving Indians , it will be easier to deal with the Chinese.

      I welcome your answers on this very fundamental question.

      • Amit says:


        The Professor has argued quite forcefully in his books and articles for the need of a Grand Strategy and Vision for India. According to the the European Council of Foreign Relations, I found a good description of the elements of comprehensive national power (CNP). Other nations like China and the US develop a grand strategy which connects all these elements of CNP. India needs to do the same and publish it.

        Here are the elements of what India should consider in its grand strategy:
        1. People – things like immigration, migration, diaspora, remittances, human resource potential, skills etc.
        2. Military – Hard power elements, which now also include cyber, EW and Space
        3. Climate – all the elements of climate change and how the country is preparing for it
        4. Technology – modern technologies, like AI, Block Chains, IoT, Quantum Computing etc. India does fairly well on the software side. Need to improve hardware side
        5. Economy – being strong economically and addressing the fundamentals of it
        6. Culture – elements of soft power like movies, liberal values etc.
        7. Health – ensuring the health of its people, health infrastructure,

        From what I have read in the media, there is definitely work going on in all these areas at the policy level. But it needs to be done as one grand strategy. Also, we need to define a vision of what India will be in the next fifty years. Like the Indian Monroe Doctrine the professor has alluded to (though here we need to include all the above elements). But more emphasis must be given to the deployment of Indian hard power. Once this is done, it will be clear to everyone how India plans to move ahead, including in its economy.

  4. Amit says:


    Here is an example where an independent judiciary delivers a swift verdict to show even the all powerful government its place.

    Such quick delivery of a verdict that too against the government, is almost an impossibility in India. While Mr. Modi has tried to change many things in India (transformational leader pitch), looks like the Indian citizen has even higher aspirations! Police reform and judicial reforms are necessary for more accountability in India. It is incredibly difficult to govern India. But we need towering personalities with a bigger vision for India. Not just one, but several.

    Mr. Shashi Tharoor highlighted an apt term ‘anocracy’ to describe the Indian democracy. However, I submit that India was no less an anocracy even under the UPA. We need a new word to describe India’s raja-maharaja democracy!

  5. Bhaskar says:

    I wish to understand one thing with reference to the distressing tone of the article. Isn’t there any mutual agreement between the 2 armies for patrolling here anywhere along the border?
    What can the Indian army really do in the talks then? They must have been mentioning about the Chinese ingressions over the years which China refutes possibly citing historical or other reasons.
    Other than doing exact tit for tat or using military force there won’t be any option left. The border is shrinking!


    Dear Dr Karnad,

    Thanks a lot for another wonderful and timely article. How much impact do you think the partition of Punjab in 1947 had with India’s overall preparation against the Chinese in 1962 and beyond ?

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

  7. Ayush says:

    Dr karnad, what you are advocating is suicide.Bravado should match your capabilities as North Korea did it .Unless we are willing to conduct atmospheric testing of “Beijing busting”
    Megaton nukes that we have, we have no choice but to accept the fait accompli.PLA can repeat a 62 if Xi gives the order,I think there is no doubt in that.Modi has the same colonial mentality that has plagued his predecessors. His foreign minister will not want to irk the US. I can understand that MEA and GOI are filled with brainless ,gutless cowards but at least they can parrot China.Throughout the length of the Cold War,China was able to deter the US with just 20 odd DF-5s scattered in Qinghai.India can easily do the same.

    • Ashish says:

      Exactly my thoughts….just keep on building ur national strength and military rocket force ….that’s most important

  8. Chattur Chamaar says:

    Looking at the picture, the first thing which strikes me is why do we need so many useless employees working at the Indian embassy in Beijing. They all surely are Chinese spies.

    No country in the world can afford to use Nuclear weapons. They are a useless drain on a country’s finances and are just a show piece item so, stop fooling people with your nuclear nonsense.

    I strongly suspect that your brief is to bring all Anti China hawks of India into the notice of Chinese establishment by writing instigating compositions.

    Indian establishment cannot even confront Pakistan and you expect them to fight with China, what a joke!!!!

  9. andy says:

    Re “demand that Army HQrs issue standing orders to the forward deployed Indian units to make the LAC live with artillery duels and ceaseless tactical action to wrest back lost territory any which way they can, and at any cost?”

    That requires guts and gumption seriously lacking in Indian leaders and the sloth probably permeates down to the armed forces as well. It’s sad to read in report’s that the main agenda for the commanders meet is going to be the Gogra hot springs area,where only platoon sized detachments confront each other,unless the talks are comprehensive what’s the point of engaging in futile exercises?Pinpricks like the tactical manoeuvre at the Kailash are not going to dissuade the Chinese dragon, even that has been squandered for a pull back at Pangong tso.

    Since this whole sordid saga unfolded it’s been obvious that the Depsang plains are the real deal for the Chinese,now the powers that be are considering passing them off as ‘legacy issues’, another way of avoiding the real issue and deflecting it for the future is being found,this will not do at all. A comprehensive solution needs to be found or the Dragon will keep harassing and hounding, while pushing the envelope further and further. Unless this is stopped at whatever cost, there’s no hope for any real peace on the borders. The portends are not good at all,the infrastructure and troops build up continues unabated and the signs are ominous from India’s point of view.

  10. Deepak says:

    Our so called great leaders are only interested to stay in power no matter what, do anything to win next election, promote self in the name of national interest. Doing something for the nation is the biggest propaganda our leaders do. Individual first, party next and country last are our leaders’ priorities.There is no hope anything major will change in the present system no matter which party comes to power or who becomes prime minister.

  11. Ayush says:

    Dr Karnad,what late K Santhaman,PK Iyengar,you and Dr Chellaney had dared to speak out in 2009,has turned out to be fatally correct.We lack both conventional and nuclear deterrence and hence it’s not surprising that china has caught us in this bear trap.In the words of K Santhaman,”To achieve credible deterrence,Agni-3 should be mated with a megaton warhead,what we have is 25kt warhead which has been weaponized and mated with all our delivery systems.”From the Chinese US ambassador incident you mentioned above,it’s quite clear that Xi is going to go to any extent to prevent an Indo-US military alliance.Whenever he talks about “Cold War mentality” he is explicitly referring to an indo-us military alliance.There is still no course correction from our side.People are fancifully thinking of reforms which will take some 5-6 odd years to implement.We need thermonuclear testing NOW!!

    • Ayush@ — By way of a historical footnote that may be of interest to readers of this Blog:
      The failure of the thermonuclear test in 1998, which I had written about immediately after the Shakti series of tests, was first confirmed in my 2002 book ‘Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security’ by the former chairman, AEC, Dr PK Iyengar, as a “partial thermonuclear burn”. However, he had by then retired. In my 2006 book — ‘India’s Nuclear Policy’ an “authoritative source” confirmed the S-1 fizzle. That source was Santhanam, Director, Field Testing, in Pokhran. However, it was at an IDSA seminar in Autumn 2010 held in India Interational Centre that we were both participating in, as I recall, where in response to my goading him to at least confirm in that closed gathering the failure of the fusion design, he did so — the first semi-public , semi-official, confirmation of that fact. Except, it would have remained an “official secret” had a reporter from the Hindi press, who apparently unaware of “Chatham House rules” being observed at the seminar, meant he could not attribute anything said there to the person who said it, went ahead and flashed it in his newspaper the next day, thus mercifully outing that secret!!! Santhanam soon thereafter, having burned his bridges to the government (in particular Dr R Chidambaram, the successor to Iyengar at AEC and the then S&T adviser to GOI, who in public steadfastly and idiotically maintained that the S-1 was a success), went more fully public in an interview to Outlook (I Think) that October.

      Chidambaram considered me a nuisance, but Santhanam a turncoat.

      • Prabal Rakshit says:

        Prof Karnad,
        You are not too benign yourself, the way you goaded Dr Santhanam :-). But all said and done, it does not make sense to cover up limited N tests. It makes it even more difficult for future governments to authorize further tests I feel, because the domestic audience is already expecting the country to be at a certain level of nuclear proficiency.

        You wrote quite well
        “If the piece of land is particularly strategic and prized, a spurious history is invented for it about some ruler of the southern Han or the other sending an expedition in the distant past or similar nonsense, to legitimate and consolidate the territorial grab.”
        I wonder why we do not promote the history of someone like Zorawar Singh Kahluria who led legitimate camapaigns to Ladakh, Tibet, Baltistan etc. Feel this is a huge narrative we are missing out on.

      • Deepak says:

        Sir,the moment they openly admit thermonuclear test was partial success/failure they have to again test it which they are not ready for fearing western sanctions.If you question them more they tell you we do simulations instead of actual test.
        Do you think these simulations are reliable without really testing it again?

      • Deepak@ — However good the simulations, they cannot — in any manner or form — replace actual physical tests to credibly and comprehensively validate nuclear/thermonuclear weapons designs.

  12. Ram says:

    @ Prof Karnad,

    The points you have raised are valid but being referred to the wrong audience. The courage you are expecting is of nation states such as Vietnam, Germany or Russia, not a collection of tribal kingdoms forcefully merged to form a country such as ours with religion added to the cocktail.

    The RSS-Modi combine nearly had it all going for them. A dwindling middle class – educated and noisy (such as your blog), high inflation with increasing poverty (so that unemployed dare not have high expectations, raise uncomfortable questions or file PILs in Courts and are contend with their usual lives), nearly all organs of the state subdued until Xi’s surprise assault last year.

    They are at pains to convince the world that PLA troops are anyway not expected to show up in Delhi to really make an impact on the Indian citizens. No ordinary civilian understands the Mac Mohan line and won’t make much of a fuss if redrawn hundreds of kilometers inwards till a border settlement is reached – especially since the voters along these border states are perceived to be “less Indian” compared to the cow belt states and barely make any impact to the electoral base.

    Its the death of our Jawans that blew the matter out of proportion but otherwise the government was fine with the lessons churned from its whatsapp University. They have a once in a life time opportunity to establish a “Hindu Rashtra” and they wouldn’t want to be distracted on such trivial matters.

    Taking a cue from the current government’s priorities, other nations in the Quad have stitched more serious relations amongst themselves, leaving India to deal with the giant on its borders alone.

    – Ram

    • Amit says:


      I have a slightly different take on the Quad and why India is behaving the way it is. Correct me if I am wrong, but this is my hypothesis. The Quad led by the US was not only becoming China centric but also Russia centric. Russia’s opposition stemmed from that fact (of being surrounded by the Quad on the pacific side, and NATO on the east). However, India has taken pains to assure Russia it is not anti Russia. This became apparent after Russian analyst comments after the recent Putin visit to India (Dmitry Trenin). And this maybe is a difference between Indian and US perceptions of the Quad.

      Additionally, India is not keen on spending too much resource in the East/South China Sea. It’s interest is more in the Indian Ocean, where the other three members do not want to spend too much resource. Also, AUKUS is likely going to be anti Russian too as both the UK and the US have major issues with Russia. Australia will always tag along since for them China is an existential threat and Russia probably not so important, plus they get nuclear subs.

      Moreover, the US likes to be clear about their military threats. They don’t hedge like India, Japan etc. They are much more military minded than the Indian MEA types. Please note also that the official name of the Quad is the Quad Security Dialogue. Clearly, security is the number 1 focus.

      As always, it’s hard to pin India down. There is always another angle it is playing. But this is my hypothesis.

      • Ram says:


        Did the threat from China emerge only in April 2020?

        Can you name one step that this government took to add to its comprehensive might in geo politics – namely economic, technological and militarily that would compell.the other powers to take notice?

        Haven’t all parameters deteriorated further , with the government hiding behind the Covid excuse?

        As explained by other readers, why isn’t China afraid of our Nuclear Weapons or missiles , the same way it fears the US?

        Finally, all other powers know the limitations of aligning with the US. Germany and Japan have thier own issues with Russia but balance their relationship since their comprehensive economic.power its very high to be ignored by US.

        Given our government’s Western oriented incompetent advisors, there is a price to be paid to jon this bandwagon and India should brace for the blowback, if its chosen to go this path.

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

    Citation: “Draft Report, ‘On the Trip of the Soviet Party-Governmental Delegation to the PRC,’ by M. Suslov to CC CPSU Presidium for Presentation to a Forthcoming CC CPSU Plenum (excerpt),” December 18, 1959, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Center for the Storage of Contemporary Documentation (TsKhSD), Moscow, fond 2, opis 1, delo 415, ll. 56-91. Translated by Vladislav M. Zubok. –

    “Chinese said that they visualize the possibility of the downfall of the Nehru government and see no great trouble if a reactionary pro Western government comes to power in India. In their opinion, this would only bring us closer to a revolution in India”

    That time Chinese per capita and military were a little below that of India and may be (just may be) they would have been afraid of India joining the West. Attempting a comparison today would only be a distraction. After this report the Chinese went onto partner the US. Most likely the 1962 war was the quid pro quo given by the Americans. Today they have convinced the Russians and with very very good reason. And even today, their assessment of 60 years back holds good in respect of the right wing in India. Does it look like they care whether India joins AUKUS or whatever?

    Chinese would be more than happy to see India ‘gain’ and stay in the status Ukraine and East Europe got for itself. That way they will have to negotiate only with the Americans and only once and the whole of the establishment will fall in line.

    Hindutvavaadi or right wing or nationalist specializes in offering milk to statues so the statue can drink it. Surely, there cannot exist any argument against these ‘Merit Candidates’😛. The idiocy has since been unashamedly and irrevocably on display, in a much more mature form, at least since the Rafale deal. Expecting Samman or Izzat or Samrasta or WTF, after all this, is the essence of Brahminism. There is little point in invoking ‘Brahminism with Chinese Characteristics’ to explain the mess. May be the original Brahminism really is the sole cause (just may be 😛).

  14. Ayush says:

    Dr karnad,under what conditions are OSA slapped?Well I am going to tell what I know.The recently retired BARC guys who my gramps’ best friend has spoken to say that modi govt held a frantic nuclear posture review post Doklam .They were genuinely surprised as to how china was behaving despite us being a “nuclear power”.Following the review a few A-5 tests were ordered which were anyway delayed till 2018.In the meantime N Korea carried out its spectacular thermonuclear test back in September 2017.They immediately glanced onto Kim jong Un posing with his mighty h bomb.They did not long to figure which and how much fissile material they used in their secondary.They were absolutely “stunned” to find out that their design was extremely sophisticated ,much better than that of our own back then.They quickly concluded that it was a latest Chinese design probably a MIRVed warhead for DF-41.China had most likely used NK as a proxy nuclear test site.They got the priceless bomb and the sanctions along with it.Hence, by December that year newspapers like HT were printing “NKs nuclear tests are a threat to India’s national security “.These scientists are “startled” that modi govt has not yet ordered another round of snap nuclear tests.They say that even a kid can say that China has called our nuke bluff “loud and clear”.Full yield sea tests will remove any doubts anybody has regarding our weapons.It give the much needed deterrence.

  15. Vijay Veer says:

    Bharat Karnad’s observations are correct but unfortunately he like most is not aware why such a situation has arisen. Major share of the blame goes to Nehru who had weakened the Army to such an extent that when India requested the US for equipment the US wondered what the Indian Army had and that to when tension was building up since 1959. Nehru hated the Army and he and Menon did not listen to the Army’s advice but had his favourite bureaucrats and intelligence officers as advisors. Nehru was so far from reality that he ordered the Army to throw out the Chinese and went of to Srilanka on a visit. The 62 war was lost before it began. The troops at many places gave a very good account of themselves.
    Today too before the Chinese build up the Modi Govt to had reduced the Defence budget to 62 levels as a percentage of GDP. Obviously the powers to be despite the past experience had not learnt any lesson. Karnad as a ‘Defence Affairs Strategist’ should know military has no or little role in deciding the policy or role or freedom to take action on the borders without Govt orders and clearance. Hope he knows about the Sumdorong incident where the local Div and Corps commander acted contrary to the orders of the Govt.
    To deal with China credibily India needs to earnestly prepare and equip itself adequately otherwise. The write up by the author lacks proper understanding of strategy. However he is right when he says the Govt’s response needs to be strong.

    • Vijay Veer@ — That’s precisely the point I have been making for many years that bold and enterprising Div commanders — whatever GOI prohibitions, can take action w/o waiting for Delhi’s clearance. As the great Gen. Sagat Singh did as GOC, 17 Mountain Division, at Nathula, in 1967, and Lt Gen Narahari did by initiating immediate action on Somdurong Chu in 1986, which COAS Gen Sundarji, fortunately, backed. The problem is the army treats these as one-off incidents, not as SOP on the LAC everytime there’s PLA provocation.

      • Vijay Veer says:

        By way the initially Sundarji opposed the corps commander. Anyway this is not the point. Are you advocating that local commanders act against Govt Policy?
        As far as the present Ladakh stand off is concerned it is rumoured that Gen Harinder the erst while corps commander much against the Govt’s desire took an aggressive stand. It is for you to confirm this from your sources.

      • Vijay Veer@ — Assuming what you say is correct, General Harinder’s removal from the Leh Command proves my point, doesn’t it, that any forward commander who chooses to react hard is given his marching orders?
        Re: Sundarji seeing light, the fact is Narahari had done too much too fast on the ground to surround the Chinese from the heights for AHQ to reverse.

      • Sankar says:

        @Vijay Veer”
        “To deal with China credibily India needs to earnestly prepare and equip itself adequately otherwise” –

        What will be “adequately” in your calculation – number of army helicopters, mountain howitzers …? How do you come to the figures? Could you please spell the numbers out to quantify “adequately”?

        “The 62 war was lost before it began” – not according to my understanding.
        It was “lost” since India did not continue the war. In every military conflict, the aggressor has the great advantage, which was the case in 1962. But if the defender aggressed on could continue the war, the table is turned on the enemy. India lost because India did not continue the war.

        “Karnad as a ‘Defence Affairs Strategist’ should know military has no or little role in deciding the policy or role or freedom to take action on the borders without Govt orders and clearance” –
        You should know that Gen Manekshaw played the decisive role in the formulation of Delhi’s policy for the 1971 war. Initially, he had vetoed when Indira Gandhi wanted to take on East Pakistan. The civilian part of the bureaucracy and the ministers can give only a general direction at the overall strategy when war looms up, but the conduct of the war at ground level is always under the command of the military hierarchy. And there is a lot of leeway there which Professor Karnad is trying point out in the context.

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

    “A minimum of 12 squadrons of supersonic all-weather fighters are essential. We have no modern radar cover in the country. The United States Air Force personnel will have to man these fighters and radar installations while our personnel are being trained,” Nehru wrote in the letter, which has been quoted by Riedel in the book. –

    To be piloted by USAF. Repeat……and again. There never was a need for Indian pilots or ground staff.
    Why is it so difficult to accept that the so called nationalists in India are bigger failures of character than Nehru and bear none of the redeeming qualities. So ultimately crypto-westerners in India got U-2 flights as aid. Pray, what to do with a U-2 base.
    Nehru needed to know that after the Gilpatric Committee report if India figured anywhere in all this or if PMS Blackett and JK Galbraith were just abusing the uncalled for trust reposed on them. And what better way than to, ‘ask for material help and be denied’. But at least in this high stakes game, Nehru preferred to die a lonely man than to push the country into Nuke nude status.
    Compare that to what did the nationalists did when Trump threatened ‘retaliation’ for a decision he clearly mentioned ‘I don’t like that decision’ from somebody he thought was ‘for many years have been taking advantage of United States’. I don’t know which advantage he was talking about – David Headley advantage, Rabinder Singh advantage or the U-2 advantage. I mean if a management control agreement for an HCQ manufacturer is so onerous than how the hell will any of the now to be privatized local military industry ever produce for Indian needs. It is destined for producing the stuff that the ‘FDI investor’ does not needs to produce in its own country. Basically something as irrelevant as U-2.

    And nobody needs nukes to put up a stand for their own interests. Chinese beat back the so called UN forces at Yalu when they had no nukes. Viets got Russians to do the flying for them when they needed to beat back a nuke power. What North Korea has is besides the point. North Korea deserves its nukes because 10% of their countrymen were killed by a nuke power which has since been reasonably calm. Why must the nationalists of India hold out Kim as a threat to India. India does not need to test because Kim has one or China did a surreptitious test. India needs to test because Vajpayee was guilty of writing uncalled for letters to US Prez, forfeiting India’s need to test. And karma being a bitch, that one act is arguably the biggest reason Modi finds it hard to retaliate against China. China knows India’s nukes are meant for chowkidari and not for warfighting. It would be a welcome decision to test a convincing TN warhead. But then it will require some moral fiber on part of nationalists, to live with the possibility that it may still not be enough to get a win in 2024. Is it really possible to test under such uncertainty? What happens to the Hindu Rashtra, then? Will Biden create more difficulty for the Hindu Rashtra in case of a test? Hindu Rashtra vs TN is a real choice, I guess 🙂.

    I for one, honestly feel that for the damage the so called nationalists have caused, an honest TN warhead test, is the least that they owe to the country.

  17. Jacky says:

    An interesting article , i would like to follow it.

  18. Amit says:

    @Ram, I don’t think India has joined any bandwagon. It is pussyfooting with both the bandwagons – China and the US – tiptoeing around each one’s red lines. what would help is if India did something that completely is in its interests ignoring US or Chinese or Russian interests. There is plenty it can do in this regard. But my guess is that it will continue pussyfooting.

    As for your other points on India showing military, economic or tech strength, I don’t disagree with you. But at the same time, I think it is moving in the right direction, or at least attempting to. And the results of that won’t be immediate.

    But the sense of many who are commenting here seems to be India should do something quickly that has an impact like a TN test. That I’m afraid won’t happen. Our foreign and security policy is run too much by the MEA and the bureaucracy. When the defence of the country is the responsibility of the defence secretary, then what can one expect?

    • Ram says:


      None of China’s other neighbors take their settled borders for granted. Even Russia knows they are game once Putin or Sergey Lavrov demit office. Due to the asymmetry in comprehensive national power, these countries have used other methods available at their disposal to counter the threat. Most of East Asian countries are manufacturing hubs that have Chinese businesses invested heavily in them. This acts as a leverage as well has made them prosperous.

      Russia has rebuilt its conventional military industry from the ashes, uses its Cyber warfare and energy resources as a weapon against the West so as to be taken seriously. Its is only India which is playing to the gallery. Simply buying expensive off the shelf expensive toys won’t make much of a difference since there is no political will or the economic might to sustain a war, should the need arise.

      Xi’s 2015 reforms culled around 3 lakh servicemen from active duty and instead re assigned them to BRI countries as far as Africa. It has always considered matching US in economical and technological prowess and accordingly prepared for it for at least 3 decades. In case of smaller countries where coercion works, it doesn’t need to go to war.

      Can any Indian minister dare the armed forces not to add unwanted manpower, machinery or re assign personnel to these third world countries to promote India’s interests (and not necessarily to US or Europe)?
      How many grown up children of our soldiers dare question why their parents are being used as Cannon fodder when rest of the world is marching ahead on all technological fronts precisely to avoid such bloodshed in case of a conflict?

      The PLA isn’t losing sleep over fears that they might permanently lose some of their strategic locations in Tibet or Ladakh to the Indian forces .As the gap widens between India and China, they are quite assured that India can never ever be in a position to leverage the unmarked borders to its advantage, the way China does.

      As far as nuclear weapons are considered, it is past its sell by date. The realization has dawned that it can only be used if there’s an existential threat for the country – which isn’t the case for India’s border skirmishes. Unlike China, there is no appetite for even a conventional confrontation in India, let alone a nuclear one.

  19. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    The very fact that the outgoing Indian ambassador to China, Vikram Misri has been made Deputy NSA reveals the whole game plan. There are already 2 Deputy NSA’s. Why does the country need a third one? There is a saying in Hindi “andhaa battaeyy rewariyaa, apnaeyy apnoo ko deaeyy” (A blind man is distributing sweets giving them to only his close associates)

    Nuclear testing or no nuclear testing doesn’t make any difference since. We will keep denying and blame it on Nehru.

  20. Kunal Singh says:

    Is it not corroding the boldness of military’s junior leadership that’s gonna be in top ranks at some point of time coz they r shooed whenever they try to be offensive in crisis against the enemy mil (which is brazen n hardheaded). Is this how to prepare for superpower ?!?

  21. Amit says:

    @Sankar, there are a lot of problems in the Indian security situation, but the biggest mess is in defence procurement and production, which can impact tactical and operational preparedness. Also the higher influence of bureaucracy and lack of depth in defence expertise at the political level which can also impact the strategic situation. There will always be politics in any organisation – so some military commander will disobey someone and will be transferred or court martialled, another will be conservative. But you can’t deal with a country like China at that level.


    Dear Mr Karnad
    Gen Naravane has said that India is ready to negotiate Siachen with Pakistan. Does it mean that we are not happy with how the talks have been going with the Chinese (mediated by the Russians so far) ? I would be greatly awaiting your views regarding this.

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

  23. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @Sankar- The international political world is controlled by military power and fundamentally there is no rule of law among the nation-states of this world.

    The above statement of yours is spot on. As I always say, law is like a cobweb, where smaller insects get caught while the bigger ones just break their way through.

    In the dirty world of international geopolitics everything goes. No country can claim a higher moral ground. There is a saying in Hindi, which translates as “in the public bath house everyone is naked”

    Remember there is was a narrative in Indian media years back wherein Chotta Rajan was portrayed as a “Deshbhakt Don” (Patriotic Gangster) hahaha.

    If a criminal is indulging in illegal activities by himself he is branded as a crook while on the other hand, if the same chap gets the blessings of an intelligence agency, he becomes a national asset.

    • Sankar says:


      If Indira Gandhi were in power today, I do not think this disastrous state for the Indian Army facing PLA in Ladakh would have happened, always on the backfoot losing territory. India would neither have lost Depsang Plane nor Pangong Tso – some 1000 sq km of her sovereign territory. India would have never abandoned Kailash Mountain after securing it with a great military move. Another debacle is now on the horizon for Arunachal.

      I had a glimmer of hope when Modi was hoisted to power in 2014. But everything has vanished now – what a flop.

      • Amit says:

        @Sankar, let’s not go overboard in praise of Indira Gandhi. While the 71 war was her crowning glory, she has done long lasting damage to the Indian economy through her nationalisation of banks, development of a corrupt culture and changing the constitution to make India a ‘socialist’ republic. This socialist culture that pervades India now stifles economic growth and is also a security threat. The fact is no Indian PM has had strings of successes only. All mixed bags. Some more than others. A lot of propaganda to go around everyone.

      • Sankar says:

        Oh, we do have radically different understanding of this world, not to mention its “values”. I would be one hundred percent in support of Indira Gandhi’s bank nationalization.

        Following the 1971 war, India was under severe financial stress which happens for every country that gets involved in wars. Furthermore, there was an “international squeeze” on India by the US in the marketplace. Thus, it was absolutely necessary to control the money-transfer trail the major conduit of which were the so-called private banks siphoning forex out of India. She took the right decision in the era to close that loophole. So was the case for emergency although its implementation went awry.

        Not sure what you mean by ‘socialist’ republic. If you live and work in Western Europe, you will come to know real socialism – citizens do not have to pay for medical costs when they are ill unlike in the US where only the rich can afford to get treatment. Students do not pay for their university studies, the unemployeds get some living allowance, life is in general secured. Nowhere India has never matched the European standards as far as socialism is concerned, so the culture of socialism could not be a hindrance to growth and progress. In my interaction, the general living standard is much higher in Western Europe than in the US where the corporate culture rules.

        Look at the recent COVID situation. All the research done for its vaccines is undertaken by public money from the State’s coffer. But the big corporates like Pfizer (and others) are reaping huge profit by selling the final product, and the ordinary man must pay for it!

        The 1971 war was more than just defeating Pak and freeing East Pakistan. In one stroke it smashed the connivance of the 1947 Partition of India by the Colonial Master which created some sort of balance between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. But post-1971 (Hindu) India becomes dominant power in the subcontinent. It brings in mind the words of the Israeli PM Golda Meir in great admiration of Indira Gandhi in the international world (I forget the reference) after 1971. To my understanding, Indira Gandhi rose to the heights of Bismarck in the world at large.

      • Deepak says:

        @Sankar, showman modi has given mostly flop shows,very few average shows from day1 barring one time super hit like abolishing article 370 for which he will be remembered no matter he being a super flop star overall.

      • Sankar says:


        “… one time super hit like abolishing article 370 for which he will be remembered …”-

        Indeed, as this latest link has superbly captured:

        “With a lack of documentation in real time, absent chronicles, eyewitnesses aged or dead, the Kashmiri Pandit narrative had nearly gone missing. Now, slowly, the tide has changed”

  24. Tony says:

    Modi ji beated crocodile when he was kid , what is PLA in front of him he is just giving them time to save their face , when right time comes he will show them his 56 inch chest and they will leave for Korea, so the joke goes.

    Japanese used to do harakiri, the Nagpur gang can only ban firecrackers on diwali.

  25. Amit says:


    Quick question for you on how the stranglehold of bureaucracy can be reduced in defence procurement and DPSUs to make them more efficient. Since changing Article 311 is a remote possibility, what about having military leaders in the role of Defence Secy and Defence Procurement Secy? Is this possible? We need content experts in these roles, not generalists.

    Also, using more retired military leaders to run DPSUs? Most of them retire relatively young and can take up leadership positions in Industry, especially DPSUs and induce a dose of military discipline. Or is it already being done?

    • Corruption long ago seeped into the military, and MOD is a well of it. Handing pocurement to mil officers could worsen the problem. Look at Pakistan. But young retired officers could be put in accountable charge of DPSU projects from their service, except DPSUs themselves are a problem. The only option is to create two competing defence-industrial complexes (merging pribate and public sector defence Cos., run by pvt sector giants — had proposed L&T and Tata) as was first suggested in a paper I wrote for the Tech Review Committee of the first NSAB (back in 1998), and detailed in my 2015 book Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet).

      • Amit says:

        Ok…does not sound like a pretty picture at all. After I sent my question I did some research into the top 10-15 global defence manufacturers. Out of the western ones (there are some Chinese ones in there too), I did not find even one CEO who was a top military leader. One was in the Air Force who retired early but rose through the ranks (I think Lockheed). There was one intelligence officer who was also part of the US DoD who became CEO. But almost all of them had decades of experience in the industry before reaching the top. However, there are many General or equivalent ranks who become VPs and handle large complex defence programs (this I have seen). Or become Board members of defence companies. So the top executive seems to come from Industry in general. Not the military or the bureaucracy.

  26. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @Professor Karnad- Former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said about the BrahMos deal in a tweet: “This is a long-delayed decision, which could alter the India-China strategic equation. By arming its Indo-Pacific friends, India not only helps bolster their security, but also gives China a dose of its own medicine! Vietnam & Indonesia, too, are waiting.”

    An excerpt from the following;

    Finally, it seems that the Indian establishment has started acting on your recommendations. Enjoy the day 😀

    • Ayush says:

      It is no good unless those Brahmos are nuclear tipped.Taiwan has US PAVE PAWS radar(can detect any missile launch in China).Can also track ships as it is placed atop a mountain.We should arm a few of their Brahmos with 100kt nukes to create ambiguity in the minds of the PLAN.Also it would be a good idea to give a few of our untested TN to them.We should encourage them to test it for us(and them).Nuclear tipped Brahmos will pour cold water over whatever delusional plans Xi has. “Der Aaye durust aye”.But when are ensuring our own strategic security.

  27. Amit says:

    @Sankar, you seem to be a big fan of Indira Gandhi – so be it. While the case for nationalisation of banks may have existed at that time, it has become a bane for the Indian economy today. The high percentage of non performing assets are primarily in the national banks. Private banks have fared much better. Nationalised banks have become the conduit for crony capitalism in India and it seems like this is a monumental task to reverse. The corrupt culture also solidified in her times. She gets full credit for the 71 war, but don’t project her like Bismark. She did good, but also had her flaws. You seem to have been taken in by all the propaganda of those times.

    As for socialism, Western Europe is capitalist not socialist. But they have a well developed social welfare state. The US is also a similar model but with a much smaller welfare state. The industry in Europe is mostly private companies, not public like in India (which is the hallmark of socialism). India is more socialist than capitalist in many industries. It’s got very restrictive labor laws, the unions exercise a lot of influence even when the labor force is not unionised and hiring and firing is very difficult for any company with >100 employees (increased to 300 in some states). I have done a lot of thinking about the structural flaws in the Indian economy, but that’s for another time.

    As for COVID vaccines, you are entirely wrong about just state support. I recently researched this technology to understand what it is. M-RNA technology was first developed in 1960 in US universities (possibly Europe too). It took ~30 years of scientific research to develop the ionising lipoprotein to transport the m-rna into the cell cytoplasm. Around 1989 this was achieved. It took another ~20 years for the m-rna nano particle to be validated in animal testing. In 2009 it was approved for testing in humans. From 2009 it took ten years to develop the first FDA approved m-rna vaccine, but it was for a disease which is not very prevalent. Then COVID hit. Moderna had been working on the technology for ~10 years already. So they were able to develop a nano particle which was more stable at higher temperatures than Pfizer, which did not have that much time to develop it. While Moderna did benefit from US investment in the last 10 years, this technology has taken 60 years to develop by generations of scientists primarily in US universities. Many of those universities are private and not state funded. Some maybe state funded. But that’s how the US works. University research goes into the private industry so that wealth can be created while solving major problems. The Government can additionally support such research through CDC etc. It is a very capitalist system which no one in the world has been able to replicate as well. The US stands apart in this aspect from the rest of the world. India did well in developing its own vaccines, but I bet if private enterprise was allowed to make healthy profits, it would have happened faster. But India’s socialist system looks down on private enterprise making ‘too much’ money. Is paying INR 1500 or 2000 too much to save a life in India? For doing the heavy lifting in creating a life saving vaccine, I do not view paying $25-$30 to Pfizer or Moderna as price gouging. That is the view of socialists in India who do not understand the sweat and toil that has gone into this technology for over 60 years now.

    So please stop making the case for India’s socialist system, which was set up during the Nehru years, but solidified and corrupted during the IG years. The rot that pervades the Indian economy has a lot to do with the system that was selected by the early PMs. A lot of the problems that occur today in the economy relate to the slow pace of reversing the system put in place in the early years.

    • Deepak says:

      @Amit,Indira had her own positives and negatives.This is common to all leaders all over the world all time(past/present/future) irrespective of type of regime.You have to judge the leader in their times, did they do what they could have done best in their times.
      I had same hope like Sankar when Modi arrived after spectacular victory in 2014 “Finally here is a rough and tough true nationalist has arrived” but all lost now after repeated blunders/failures one after the other.
      What I realized from Modi’s almost disastrous show is do not support any leader just by face value,speeches, mass appeal, tall claims like 56 inch chest when in reality utterly cowardly.
      We have dumb Modi supporters and equally dumb Modi haters.Both of them blinded by love/hate are not interested in really evaluating Modi’s real track record in governance.This is why Modi is getting away scot free with every mistake he does with ease.Opposition has miserably failed to keep checks and balances of this government.Democracy in India has failed with useless combo of government and opposition.

    • Sankar says:


      1. I am fan of nobody. I judge people and leaders in the political arena by what they do, i.e. their achievements – not what they are, how they look, how much money they earn, or what they say.
      Another feather in her cap:
      In 1974 India undertook her first nuclear test (Pokhran) under Indira Gandhi’s direction in a hostile international political climate.

      Can you name any other political leader who could have gone for it then?

      The 1971 war victory is the first crowning glory of the Indian nation after 2500 years of the Great Ashoke who conquered Afghanistan in history! Are you aware of that, and if so, what is your evaluation of the significance of the 1971 war?

      Modi-Shah’s recent “nullifying” of Art 370 is surely a move forward in contemporary times, but it pales into insignificance compared to what Indira Gandhi achieved for India in 1971.

      “While the case for nationalisation of banks may have existed at that time, it has become a bane for the Indian economy today.” –

      Are you saying that there was no case for bank nationalisation in the past under Indira Gandhi? Or it should not have been done then since in your view it is a bane for today’s economy?

      “Nationalised banks have become the conduit for crony capitalism in India” –

      who are the cronies – Ambanis, Adanis, … all associates of Modi-Shah?
      Do you think private banks do not have their cronies?

      “… but don’t project her like Bismark” – how will you project her on the international political stage?

      2. “As for COVID vaccines, you are entirely wrong about just state support” –

      Here is public news:
      “… Pfizer did sign an agreement with the U.S. government in July worth $1.95 billion — if the vaccine pans out and is cleared by the FDA — to supply 100 million doses. That guarantees Pfizer a U.S. market, an important incentive.” –
      Your cut and paste for mRNA research are of no use in the context of this political forum. I am not a microbiologist to understand the science and I do not think there is anyone else here is, are you? The point I made is about the profit motive of state funding for private drug companies.

      3. “So please stop making the case for India’s socialist system, which was set up during the Nehru years, but solidified and corrupted during the IG years. The rot that pervades the Indian economy has a lot to do with the system that was selected by the early PMs” –

      All the higher scientific and technological institutions such IITs, Space Research Agency, Indian Statistical Institute. Atomic Energy Commission … were planned and created during Nehru’s era. Are you saying that this was all wrong planning because they are products of socialism and they are unproductive and they should not exist today?

      4. “As for socialism, Western Europe is capitalist not socialist. But they have a well developed social welfare state.” –

      You are contradicting yourself in the jargon of socialism and capitalism.

      “The industry in Europe is mostly private companies, not public like in India (which is the hallmark of socialism)” –

      Not sure about what your qualification “mostly private” stands for. The French Dassault has heavy Government investment in it.

  28. Amit says:

    @Sankar, my original point was all the consequential PMs India has had have had successes and failures. Apart from the nuclear test, you can add the green revolution to Indira Gandhi’s successes. Nehru and IG can be judged now as enough time has passed for the consequences of their decisions to be fully assessed. Vajpayee and Modi are the other two consequential PMs. Historians will judge their full impacts in the coming decades. My point was that all four have had successes and failures.

    As for M-RNA research, I will refer you to technical videos on YouTube. The one I watched was from two Associate Professors from CMU and Ohio State Univ. You will get a full description of the history of M-RNA development and the details of the technology, it’s benefits and future potential innovation. You can call it cut and paste research as I’m not an M-RNA scientist. But it’s a great way to learn. If journalists who write articles learnt more ‘cut and paste’ like this, there would be less misinformation floating around.

    As for price gouging – look, America is quite capitalist. My view is that these companies have increased their war chests to sustain themselves in the future through the profits they have made. They can use this to hire the best, invest further in M-RNA tech, and solve many other diseases in the next five to ten years, and generate more wealth. While many of our Indian companies will continue to struggle to compete with them as they cannot match the capabilities of these so called ‘greedy’ Pharma companies (there are other more legitimate instances of greed, but M-RNA is not one of them).

    Regarding Capitalism and Socialism, I don’t want to get into further debates about Europe. My point was India is sufficiently socialist, has many industries which smack of socialism (e.g., defence), and Nehru and Indira Gandhi solidified its roots in India. A lot of the economic problems India faces are related to those early decisions.

    I’m just pointing out that both Nehru and Indira Gandhi also made huge mistakes. I would still consider them great leaders of India. Modi and Vajpayee are two other high impact PMs. But their full impact will be known in a few years.



    Very recently Admiral Raja Menon of the Indian Navy has recently called for India to completely shift from the continental land war (two-front war) mode and shift to ocean mode (become a naval power). This strategy includes to occupy and operate naval bases in the Nicobar and perpetually occupy and operate a military naval base at Oman.

    1. In my view there is a legacy issue involved in this. Historically the last naval power from the South Asian region were the Chola empire whose South-East Asian empire lasted from AD 1010 – 1070 CE. This means almost a millennium has passed since the last naval empire of South Asia did reign the earth. A lack of historical memory for this period in the popular cultural realm does not encourage going back to glory for that period.

    2. The Turkish, Mughal and British periods saw Indian armies being organized into war machines which looked to defend the land frontiers of these empires. This is the colonial legacy that even today’s Indian army carries. It is not easy to change millennial habits for nations whose sense of popular memories have been shaped by colonial experiences and whose most important public institutions have been nurtured by colonial practices.

    3. Moreover the colonial powers in the region and in particular the British and the Americans have always played the role of the primary Naval power in the Indian ocean region and they are not willing to give up that role for the Indian Navy.

    4. What the Americans and other Anglophone powers are like to see is the Indian Army play the role of the back stopper of the empire in the Tibetan border while the American navy play the role of the defender of the Indian ocean. If an war erupts in the Taiwan sea then the US navy can come to fight the Chinese while knowing that the Indian army will be keeping their back in the Himalayas.

    5. India’s LoC and Kashmir insurgency are problems that the Indian army did tackle largely by posting a huge army on the border to stop infiltration from the Pakistani side. In the post 370 space that role may be very valuable given the current situation in Afghanistan. Most of Indian army leaders and policy makers understand war by these counter insurgency operations in Kashmir and Loc. In order to transform the army into an oceanic power a complete structural change has to be brought to the war culture of the Indian army.

    6. To conclude two significant issues prevent the Indian army to completely transform itself into an oceanic power. These are the legacy issues as well as counter insurgency duties in Kashmir. It is unlikely that the Indian army will completely transform itself into an oceanic power without resolving these two issues.

    What are your thoughts on this topic ? Here are my thoughts

    • Amit says:


      I too read the article which highlighted the interview with Rear Admiral Raja Menon. Very interesting ideas. But I’m not a war strategist. This is a question better posed to Professor Karnad.



    Dear Dr Karnad,

    David Devadas recently mentions that PAKISTAN and CHINA are not two separate fronts but one single collaborated front as they are now collaborating together in a singular front against India. David Devadas also mentions that CHINA through BRI and CPEC is trying to integrate the rest of South Asia with the Chinese economy and isolate India in her own region.

    I would love your views on the same.

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

    • Debanjan Banerjee@ — China is trying to do all that, true, but so far only with very limited success. Because for that front to actually emerge would require Pakistan army and Islamabad establishment to sign up fully with Beijing and reconcile to a complete cutoff from the US and the West. Too many vested interests are involved. So, no, that won’t happen.


        Thanks for your prompt reply Dr Karnad. But does it not reflect poorly on our own diplomatic capabilities that 50 years after conquering that same Pakistani nation in 1971 we are now completely dependent upon the West to deal with Pakistan on our behalf ?

        Moreover the West has not helped us with respect to China in Ladakh since 2020. So how can we be dependent upon them to help us against China now ?

  31. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    I am politically neutral and fan of no political party yet, one should appreciate the good work under any government.

    The most important achievement of Indira was the abolition of privy purses for the erstwhile Kings.

    A major part of India’s GDP used to go to these useless parasites, who had a history of fighting amongst each other. Their mutual animosity towards each other resulted in centuries of Mughal rule followed by the advent of British empire in the then Indian sub continent.

    Establishment of Bangladesh was no doubt a feather in Indira’s cap but it wouldn’t have been possible without the active support of erstwhile USSR.

    One should not forget Narasimha Rao’s bold steps in pioneering the opening up the Indian economy during the early 90’s. It resulted in large scale job creation for Indians thereby considerably enhancing the size of India’s middle class.

    Isn’t it ironic that inspite of so much of “American sycophants” in the present establishment, India hasn’t been able to take back POK, on the other hand it has lost substantial land to China while maintaining a complete silence over Chinese encroachment of Indian land.


    Dear Dr Karnad,

    Let us consider these two scenarios.

    1. Taiwan declares independence. China declares a complete naval blockade demanding reunification. How the QUAD will tackle this scenario ?

    2. During the blockade , China decides to target major military bases inside Taiwan by using long range missiles without using land invasion. How the QUAD will tackle this scenario ?

    What do you think will happen in these scenarios ?

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

    • PLAN is in no position to sustain a blockade on Taiwan’s eastern shore, and only partially in the Taiwan Strait, especially if hemmed in on the western side by the US, Japanese and other friendly navies, which will happen. The attack on bases, well, American troops are already on these bases and if injured/killed in the first wave of PLA attacks will frontally bring in the US and Allied forces. China cannot handle any such thing and, therefore, will not precipitate a conflict. But it will talk up a storm!

  33. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Amazing story. My conclusions after reading the aforesaid article are;

    1. Lal Bahadur Shastri didn’t die a natural death. He was poisoned by the Russians to bring Indira to power because KGB had already penetrated Nehru and his close family/ official connections.

    2. Subhas Chandra Bose was a real nationalist in fact more nationalist than Gandhi, Nehru, Patel etc. He didn’t die in any air crash. Nehru probably handed him over to the British or Bose managed to find sanctuary in USSR.

    What’s your opinion about this article, Professor Karnad? It would also be interesting to read the thoughts of other fellow readers.

    • Netaji was the only noncompromised nationalist leader in the freedom movement.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Professor Karnad- There were other true nationalists like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Chandrasekhar Azad, Uddham Singh etc. plus other youngsters associated with them.

        Congress party was founded by the British liberals of that time. All it’s leaders, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel were controlled by the British to stall India’s freedom.

        The active campaigns by Congress leaders to recruit Indian soldiers to fight for the British in the two world wars is proof enough of their collusion with the English.

        I have no respect for the Indians, who joined the British army and fought needlessly for them.

        Britishers had zero regard for them and when injured in the battlefield these ‘traitors’ were denied the services of British nurses as to avoid any romantic relationships developing between the natives and the English ladies.

        The names of all these soldiers, who were just mercenaries should be deleted from the war memorials in India. They didn’t do anything for India instead they fought and died for the colonial masters.

        Why should India honor these ‘soldiers of fortune’. They joined the British army to earn money.

        The present establishment of India, their erstwhile leadership comprised only of British stooges. Their tallest leader Savarkar begged the English for pardon through his numerous mercy petitions.


    Well the consensus in this forum seems to be that China and not Pakistan is the main anniversary of the Indian republic. However I believe there are at least 3 schools of thought in the Indian defense and security establishment which does not see things in this way. These schools of thought can be called “identity” , “mercantile” and “Chankyan” schools of thought.

    1. However the Indian security and defense establishments have long chosen Pakistan as the primary enemy and it will be very difficult to choose otherwise in such a short notice. The reality is that the current Indian society and the popular culture is based upon the assumption that an Indian can only be an Indian if and only if he or she considers himself or herself hostile to Pakistan. This is an assumption that now runs through the complete gamut of the Indian society and even the armed forces are caught in this influence wave. It is very difficult to change your identity just because of a tension in a land that is far distant from the Hindi heartland. I would like to call this particular school of thought as “identity” school of thought.

    2. There is a school of thought present in the Indian defense and security establishments that since China is the biggest benefactor of Pakistan and Pakistan is the main enemy therefore India with huge business ties with China can wean China away from Pakistan. Considering the huge mercantile and business interests rising between India and China and considering the inherent antagonism towards Pakistan undoubtedly this school of thought will be preeminent in the policy making circles. This particular school of thought can be called the “mercantile” or the “pragmatic” school.

    3. The third school of thought which I would like to call as the “Chanakyan” school of thought , believes that India should be defensive against a stronger China and be domineering against a weak and inferior Pakistan. According to this particular school of thought , Pakistan is a filed state that is going to face civil war very soon and will disappear very soon from the face of earth. This particular school of thought therefore does not believe that India at this moment needs to concentrate more upon a weaker Pakistan so that it can quickly bring an end to Pakistan.

  35. Harinder says:

    Indian security establishment is horribly out of depth
    Has no idea of source of Chinese confidence

  36. Ayush says:

    Dr karnad,your dream of Himalayan tunnel complexes are fast becoming a reality.

    These are ostensibly for storing “sensitive ammunition”but will most likely have a dual use role.It seems MoD pundits are finally reading your books.Obviously not before getting tightly slapped by PLA at LAC.They truly deserved that trashing.Only an overt ultimatum of war from china is going to make these fools order snap TN tests.Modi has already asked drdo to remain on standby for testing,as is evident from what dr christopher said some four years ago.The tests will not be carried out at pokhran as site preparations will easily be caught by modern satellites.There are hints that there are top secret camouflaged L-shaped shafts in Himalayas or sea testing will be carried out.Modi’s problem is that he gets cold feet at the eleventh hour.Well he will have to make that decision very soon,especially after 20th people’s congress of CCP.More and more senior intel veterans are now convinced of an imminent pla offensive after October.Xi is on a hitler-like warpath and India will be his first victim if we don’t act fast.


    There is a significant school of thought present among Indian policymakers that Russia can be weaned away from her present embrace of China if Mr Putin is offered sufficient incentives such as huge weapons purchases or giving respect as deserved by a former superpower. This school of thought believes that the Russian alliance with China is just another part-time affair which will not stand the test of time given historical Sino-Soviet antipathies as well as given the fact that Russia as an European nation should ultimately stand against the yellow hordes. I do believe that this particular viewpoint misses out on the following key points.

    1.Those who believe that buying more arms from Russia will make Russia tilt away from China needs to understand that the annual India-Russia trade is only about USD 10-12 Billion and most of it is in defense industries whereas annul China-Russia trade is about USD 140 Billion. Moreover Russia has been depending upon the Chinese market to offset the Western sanctions imposed against her following the Ukrainian situation.

    2.Those from the West who harp upon historical Sino-Soviet tensions need to understand that Russia has more historical acrimonious relationships with West compared to China. After all last three centuries have seen one emperor from the West after another first uniting Europe and then invading Russia for conquest. To the Russian mind it was Napeoleon in the 19-th Century, then in the 20-th Century it was the third Reich and now it is the US-led NATO that is now knocking on their doorstep. No Chinese empire has ever tried to conquer Russia at least in the last three centuries.

    3.The Russian mind is still dominated by the memories of the cold war and the way the West drove NATO well within the Russian sphere of influence. The tremendous feelings of humiliation where an once great civilization had to beg the predatory Western institutions for succour. The current crisis in Ukraine is therefore much more existential to the Russian mind as this is her opportunity to seek revenge from the West for the humiliations all these decades back.

    4.Another lesson for Russia from the cold war was that the Sino-Soviet split ultimately disturbed Russian focus from the greater challenge of the West. Can the Russians trust the West as they come calling Russians as “civilization brothers” when they need the help of Russia to divert the focus of the Chinese ? As Libyans , Iraqis , Afghans and plenty of people from the West Asian region would say “trusting the untrustworthy is beyond foolishness”

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Debanjan- An excellent analysis by you.

      China as well as Russia are both veto power holding members of the U.N. They mostly stand together as a bloc on most geo-political issues.


        @Gaurav Tyagi

        Thanks for your very prompt and favorable reply here. I actually missed out on another important dimension here which is given below.

        5. So many Western commentators are identifying Russians as “fellow Christian brothers” against the Godless yellow-face Asian Chinese hordes. Indian readers would do well to know that although post-Communist Russia has seen a strong Christian revival however Russian variety of Orthodox Christianity does not have very favorable views towards Western versions of Catholic and Protestant varieties of Christianities. Some prominent Orthodox commentators have even refused to accept Westerners as Christians and they recognize only Russia as the authentic successor state of Constantine i.e. Rome. In this view , most Western Churches are considered (including the Catholic and various Protestant varieties ) as descendants of the Barbarians who first destroyed the civilized Greco-Roman civilization (the authentic true Christian Church according to this group) and then usurped the throne of the Caesar. Other prominent Russian Christian commentators like the noble laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn hold the view that the modern West has gone too further into it’s materialistic modernity to be considered an authentic Christian civilization. In this view, the signs of the Western prosperity are nothing but rewards for Western pact with Satan whereby the West rejects Jesus and sells her soul to the Satan for temporary earthly prosperity. The rapid growth of liberal ideologies such as gay rights, environmentalism and abortion rights are considered as signs of Satanic influences on the West.

        I would love your views on this particular point.

    • Amit says:


      All good points, but Russian embrace of China is not a permanent thing. It is being driven by Russo-NATO tension over its expansion in Eastern Europe including Ukraine.

      One thing that could disturb the Sino-Russian apple cart is if China starts to dominate the relationship. Russia is a proud nation and this is an important factor for it. It views itself as a great power and expects to be treated as such (Dimitri Trenin). Something the Chinese have not been good at lately with many nations.

      Another point of potential friction is the migration of Chinese into Siberia and the claims of Russian territory. Apparently, Vladivostok is under Chinese claims. There are potential tension points over the Arctic as well.

      Additionally, as China builds the BRI in Central Asia, there could be more friction. So far, the tacit agreement between them is the Russia provides the security cover in the stans, while China focuses on economic investments. But if China starts to get interested in security in the stans, then there could be friction. Kazhakstan is something to watch closely.

      It is for these reasons that Russia would want to develop its ties with India. For connectivity through Central Asia and Chabahar, and a potential alternative to China. Also, grow ties economically.

      However, given the huge Russo-US tensions, it is unlikely India will be able to do much as demonstrated by the lack of progress on the north south corridor. In fact there is risk of rupture in Indo Russian and/or Indo-US ties, based on how India manages things.

      Finally, there are streams of thinking in the West that they should have better relations with Russia and not expand NATO. Note the recent ex German Navy Chief’s pro Russian comments. But the mood within the US is so hard line against Russia, that such views will not be tolerated currently.

  38. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    I came across this article today;

    An excerpt from the aforesaid link;

    ‘Open society with free media can’t reveal all that’s afoot’

    “Managing a complex relationship with China is intrinsically difficult for India; an open society with a free media cannot reveal all that’s afoot. For me that translates into trusting my government to do the right thing.”
    — Kishan S. Rana, former ambassador and currently Emeritus Fellow at Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS)

    Reading the above statement of this man made me laugh. It’s crystal clear from his nonsense that he is a Chinese mole.

    Indian bureaucracy largely has this kind of ‘compromised’ officials.

  39. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Debanjan valid point.

    I am baffled by the fact that what are the reasons that the following is not talked about neither by the Indian politicians, media and surprisingly not even by the Armed forces;

    This implies that the war scoreline is not 1-0 in favor of China but in reality it’s 1-1. Post the Chinese capture of Indian territory in 2020, its 2-1 now in favor of China.

    To my mind, the only reason that an average Indian is unaware of the aforesaid shows how Chinese establishment has deeply penetrated all wings of the Indian establishment.

    What’s your take Professor Karnad and other fellow readers of this blog?

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