If the report about PMO ‘stalling’ the raising of Mountain Strike Corps for apprehension of ‘sending the wrong signal to the Chinese’ is true, it’s ridiculous on two accounts – the decision itself, and the manner in which it seems to have been taken. In fact, it is a sorry commentary on the way issues of vital national security are dealt with in this country.
Let’s talk about manner of taking decisions first. Raisings forming part of the long term force structuring are not something likely to have been dreamt up by some General in a weaker moment. One assumes that the decision would have been backed by adequate debate and deliberations within the Service Headquarters. Consultations with other services should have followed. The case should then have been presented at various levels including to the Defence Minister, National Security Council and Cabinet Committee on Security. In depth and independent analyses of all aspects should have taken place at each of these levels. The circle of stakeholders and related inputs would have widened at each successive level, with the CCS presumably having requisite perspective to evaluate the connotations and consequences of such raisings on the economy and diplomacy.
The facts that one Division of the proposed Strike Corps has already been raised, and approval for raising of the Corps accorded two years back, as reported in the same news item, indicate that the matter had moved beyond deliberation phase. If this has been done without a process akin to that described above, it is amazing. Conversely, if the decision is being reversed now despite such a process having taken place, it would imply either that drastic changes have taken place in the strategic scenario and our relationship with China in the past two years, or that the initial decision was taken without due deliberation. Since there is no obvious sign of the former, one would have to regrettably conclude that the latter is true. One shudders to think that our strategic vision is so short sighted that it cannot even look beyond two years.
Now let’s examine the merits of the decision itself. Obviously the mandarins in PMO have a deep insight into the current dynamics of Sino Indian relations. As per the PMO, “China in the last few last years has not increased its troop strength along the 4,500 km long Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC) and any accretions by India will prove counter-productive as both the countries are holding regular dialogue to resolve the vexed boundary dispute” . But as any layman who reads open source material would be able to reckon, China enjoys an overwhelming infrastructural edge over India. It can rapidly build up its forces along the LAC, moving them from the hinterland over roads and railway lines constructed in the last few decades for this very purpose. India, on the other hand, does not have this luxury. Not only is the infrastructure inimical to rapid troop buildup, the fact that we have to simultaneously guard our Western border zealously limits the quantum of troops that can be spared. Also, the ‘regular dialogue’ has been on much before the decision of force accretions was taken, so it is difficult to understand what has changed.
It has been expressed on this blog earlier that the boundary dispute with China needs to be sorted out with a pragmatic approach by both sides regarding respective perceptions and interests. Yet, negotiating from a position of strength is an imperative. To that end, enhancing our capabilities to meet any eventuality does not undermine the dialogue – it strengthens our position on the dialogue table.
It is not conceivable that the PMO is convinced that the fact that we are talking to China guarantees that we will not be facing any kind of adverse military action anytime in the future. If they are, it would be instructive for them to read the following passage from Ramachandra Guha’s epic ‘India After Gandhi’:-
“In a note circulated to the cabinet, He (Nehru) thought it a pity that Tibet could not be’ saved’. Yet he considered it ‘exceedingly unlikely’ that India would now face an attack from China; it was ‘inconceivable that they would undertake a wild adventure across the Himalayas’. He thought that ‘the idea that communism inevitably means expansion and war, or to put it more precisely, that Chinese communism means inevitably an expansion towards India, is rather ‘naive’.
History proved who the naïve one was. It would be a cliché to talk about what happens to those who choose to ignore history. Should we just keep our fingers crossed?