Not ready for ‘two-and-a-half front’ war   

The chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat has spoken about a ‘two-and-a-half’ front war which means a coordinated aggression by Pakistan in the West, China in the North and internal insurgencies

Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Praveen Davar

India won the 1971 War, its greatest military victory ever, for a variety of reasons: brilliant political leadership of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, outstanding military leadership of General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw and the other two service chiefs – Air Chief Marshal PC Lal and Admiral SM Nanda, the sacrifice and valour of personnel of armed forces, and the stellar Mukti Bahini and paramilitary forces. The success of India’s foreign policy culminating in the signing of Indo-Soviet Treaty of peace and friendship was another important factor that contributed to India’s decisive victory in less than a fortnight.

In any future war, so many favourable factors are unlikely to converge at the same time and threat to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity may get far more challenging, with the possibility of a two front war being talked about in defence circles.

The chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bipin Rawat has gone a step ahead and has spoken about a ‘two-and-a-half’ front war which means a coordinated aggression by Pakistan in the West, China in the North and internal enemies in the form of insurgencies in J&K, North East and Maoist/Naxalite violence in several parts of the country spread over more than 200 districts.

But is the Modi government alive to the problem? What are the steps being taken to meet this grave challenge to the country’s security? According to a senior security expert, ‘currently India does not have the initiative and is not in a position to simultaneously engage with both its adversaries. It does not have the intention, resources, political and military will, or the leadership to do so. Nor does the Ministry of Defence (MoD) visualise such a situation.’

There is obviously a disconnect between the MoD and the COAS. While the Modi government claimed that the Doklam issue with China has been settled, the Chinese troops continue to be present in the tri-junction of India-Bhutan-China and the Chinese establishment continues to claim that Doklam has always been under its jurisdiction. But the opposing armies remain at a high state of readiness despite an illusory diffusion of tension.

Apart from establishing a ‘String of Pearls’ around India, its unsolved boundary problems with India and its decision to construct the US $56 billion China Pakistan–Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Gilgit-Pakistan (GP) and PoK indicate that India-China relations in the near future are likely to be less than cordial.

Though Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir has persisted since 1947-48 and it has since fought four wars with India, it has upped the ante, with increasing number of terrorist activities and cross-border violations, in the last four years. The casualties on Indian side, both military and civilian, have been much more than that during the UPA govt. and even the post-Kargil Vajpayee regime. The handling of Kashmir and relations with Pakistan during the premiership of Dr Manmohan Singh (2004-2014) was far superior and in national interest than the amateurish way the Modi government is dealing with out western neighbour.

Another major casualty of confused external/defence policy of the Modi government is the deteriorating India-Russia relations. India’s new policy to diversify its sources of defence procurement, especially to USA and Israel, has affected adversely our time tested relations with Russia (earlier USSR./Soviet Union).

The USSR always stood by India and vetoed resolutions unfavourable to India on J&K in the UN many times. The Indo-Soviet treaty of peace, friendship and co-operation prior to 1971 War was the hallmark of Indo-Soviet relations. India’s acquisition of weapons and modern defence systems from Russia was an enduring part of India-Russia strategic ties for over half a century.

Even today, nearly 60 per cent of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin. But in the last few years Russia has undertaken some radical changes in its policies in Asia. It is warming up to China and has opened channels of communication with Pakistan. This is not in India’s interest, and no time should be lost in mending our relations with Russia. The best way to do it is not to become heavily dependent on western countries and Israel for military equipment. Let us try and bring back the days of Indo-Soviet friendship.

However, in the long run, there is no alternative to self-reliance. India needs to step up efforts to develop its own defence industry and reduce its reliance on imported arms and ammunition to the bare minimum. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), a fifth generation multi role fighter aircraft, being programmed by HAL, is a good example. If it succeeds, it will be a giant step towards self-reliance and self-confidence.

(The writer, an ex-Army officer, is a former Secretary AICC and political analyst)

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