NEW DELHI: India has no understanding of its military and strategic ambitions vis-à-vis its stated enemies, Pakistan and China, and is unable to beat any of them in a battle, a new book by N.C. Asthana, a retired Indian police officer who is known for his security insights, says.
A analysis of the book Strategic Security and Conventional Arms Race: Spectre of a Nuclear War was conducted by The Wire on Tuesday. It cites the book as seeing “a huge mismatch between, on the one hand, the militaristic official and media rhetoric and the reality, which is that India can not militarily defeat either country.”
Asthana is quoted by the reviewer, Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of the respected current affairs portal, as saying that India will be best served by seeking answers to the security problems both Pakistan and China present by reinforcing itself domestically and exploring non-military solutions, including diplomacy, instead of pouring large quantities of money into costly weapons imports.
Asthana’s columns are widely read for their scholarship, and while in office, he has published 48 books, written or co-authored. Varadarajan says he is particularly noted for his ability to be harshly critical of the political and bureaucratic establishment.
Author says that exploiting enmity with Pakistan for electoral benefits has made Indian leaders victims of their own rhetoric
Asthana also places the spotlight on what he terms “the warmongering policy,” which has dominated public debate in India over the past six years, according to him.
“He notes how a large number of Indians seem to be itching for a war, under the delusion that India has somehow, magically become invincible.”
This narrative of invincibility is both fueled and amplified by constant shipments of firearms. In the five years since 2014, Asthana sets the figure India has spent on weapons imports at $14 billion, “and the undisclosed cost of the 36 Rafale jets purchased from Dassault Aviation is not included.”
But even this number pales before India is expected to spend $130 billion on weapons imports over the next decade, including 100-plus even more costly fighter jets to cover for the shortage created by the decision of the Modi government to cancel the earlier contract for 126 Rafales.
Each of these acquisitions is celebrated and sold to the public by the media as weapons that would flatten India’s rivals, as the fanfare over the launch of the first Rafales demonstrated. But this is far from the facts, of course,” Varadarajan quotes the book as saying.
The frenzied importation of conventional weapons, Asthana suggests, would never guarantee a lasting solution to the military dilemma posed by Pakistan or China, since both countries are nuclear-weapon states and cannot be overcome decisively on the battlefield.
“The futility of warmongering should be clear, considering the myth of Indian invincibility. But, as the past few years have shown, jingoism is at an all-time high in India,” the book notes.
Although conventional weapons may have a tactical edge in restricted theatre conflicts outside of combat, the danger lies in escalation, which is difficult to manage at the best of times, but especially when the strategy of warmongering has vitiated public discourse.
Asthana argues that the manipulation of enmity with Pakistan for political advantages has made Indian politicians victims of their own propaganda, leaving them with a one-dimensional approach that is impractical in the face of nuclear missiles from Pakistan. Quoting Napoleon, he notes: “Nations should avoid the pinpricks that precede cannon shots if they want peace.”
The army, the air force and the navy of India are greater than those of Pakistan. The small number of attack axes, however, in which the much-touted Cold Start could be used, seems to make the entire thing very repetitive, according to Asthana.
Any factor of shock and surprise has little scope. In addition, both sides have discussed and examined nearly all solutions and counters to them.
In any event, the moment Pakistan fears that, under the weight of a greater Indian force, it will lose a conventional battle, it will feel forced to instantly go nuclear. It’s not 1971. Recall what General Khalid Kidwai, head of the strategic command of Pakistan, told a visiting delegation of the Italian arms control organisation in 2002 about the country’s red lines.
“General Kidwai recalls the Wire review as saying that Pakistani nuclear weapons will be used “if Pakistan’s very life as a state is at risk. Asthana summarises the red lines of Gen Kidwai thus: “Nuclear weapons are directed exclusively at India.” If deterrence fails, it would be used if India threatens Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territories (space threshold), if India ruins a large part of its land or air force (military threshold), if India manages to strangle Pakistan politically (economic strangling), if India forces Pakistan into political destabilisation or produces a large-scale internal subversion in Pa
Examples of Pakistan’s economic strangling include a naval blockade and the stopping of the flows of the Indus River, according to General Kidwai,