The metaphor is Geography makes History. India neglected its Khyber pass and the Himalayas, and allowed ingress from the seas by foreigners, which has scripted India’s history. Lessons need to be learnt as Geography has not changed, except a belligerent Pakistan has become India’s neighbour, and China is its best friend.
India dominates the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with its Maritime Geography. Hence Indian Navy’s ships submarines and aircraft singly and more with an Air Sea Doctrine of co-operation between Naval platforms, IAF Su-30MKi’s operating from Carnicobar with Brahmos missiles in the Andamans with IL-78 Re-Fuellers, and IL -76 Phalcon AWACS and P8is can block maritime & oil trade to China which will affect the world’s economy and could lead to unrest in China. Navy awaits the lighter Brahmos NG for its MIg-29Ks and P8Is. That is why QUAD nations covet India for its capability and for its population as a virgin maiden market and wish to contain China which would not like India to grow fast, and land disputes fester including POK.
Pakistan’s geography dominates the Western Arabian Sea and oil rich Hormuz Gulf and if Pakistan possesses a powerful Navy or allows PLA Navy full access and bases and China helps to beef up the Pakistan Navy, and brings in the military power of 5G into Pakistan the two can challenge India with Cyber. China with Huawei is getting 5G next year as a transformation and even USA Korea and EU will take time as they lack the full technology. UK signed a $1.5 billion deal with Huawei. In summary that is what is happening in the IOR for India which will wait long for 5G.
Ipso facto without co-operation of India and to some extent Pakistan nothing can move easily in South Asia. So USA covets India’s partnership to contain China and Pakistan’s to help in Afghanistan, having usurped South China Sea and warns US by denying US Navy freedom of navigation through the islands, that China has created from rocks. Unlikely China will give up its claims in SCS and with its back to the wall will raise Taiwan’s large Ibu Ata –Taiping Island with its EEZ in UN which is currently not recognized, as Taiwan is not a member of the UN ! IDF’s theory is supported by facts.
Pakistan’s advantageous land geography connects it with land locked Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics(CAR) the arena for the Great Game made famous by Peter Hopkins, when Russia wanted to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The game is repeating this time with China already a maritime power with bases in the IOR ! This makes India’s truck with USA a fait accompli, is the message of this post.
But can USA be trusted ? It needs careful thought in agreements that India signs and must develop its technology, an industrial base and not be totally dependant on USA in the long run as India was on Soviet Union when it collapsed. PM Narendra Modi appreciates this by shedding the baggage of the past and signed COMCASA and LEMOA(text is classified) but most of his well thought out long term schemes have floundered with poor execution. Make in India is an example after Demonet and GST and as of writing the CAA on citizenship is making wrong waves. The BJP Government has lost its eye on the economy concentrating on gaining power. USA looks to India to sign space BECA foundation agreement, another force multiplier as Space and Cyber will decide who wins.
China had cleverly cut India out for their (Great) game in 1963 by secretly signing a border agreement with Pakistan and took over J&K’s Shaskgam Valley with connections to the Karakoram Pass. Article VII of the Agreement Entered into Force with the signature of the parties with a Protocol to the Agreement signed at Rawalpindi, March 26, 1965, stated, “The two Parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute (which includes POK) between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will re-open negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China… so as to sign a Boundary Treaty to replace the present agreement.” The protocol and the large-scale maps appended to it have not been publicly released. This means even when India gets J&K, it will still have to discuss the Shaksgam border with China.
Since Independence, Pakistan played games with USA and signed SEATO CENTO Pacts and allowed US intelligence planes to use its airspace. Pakistan garnered military aid and funds, and President Gen Musharraf helped USA with its ‘Fight on Terror’ but made hay behind American backs with its truck with Taliban and the Haqqani net work. As China grew rich it inked a $ 56 billion CPEC.
India too had taken US help after India’s defeat at Chinese hands in 1962 with Exercise Shiksha which improved India’s air defence with radars and few know in 1962 IAF was worried about Chinese PLA(Air Force) as it had almost no air defence to direct its powerful Air Force. USA helped India set up Centre 22 in Chakrata to train Tibetans for covert actions and set up airfields in Charbatia in Orissa and Sirsawa that ARC uses for Intelligence. When India opted for Non Alignment, West dropped India as a Communist state. PM Modi has changed all that for India’s future with professing strategic autonomy, shedding the baggage of the past.
India tilted to USA after 9/11 attack in USA and RM Pranab Mukherjee signed a one page Defence Framework with USA’s Defsec Rumsfeld in 2014 in DC and PM Manmohan Singh signed the 123 Nuclear Agreement with President Bush who helped get China’s clearance for India in the Nuclear Supplier’s Group(NSG) with a quid pro quo for Pakistan’s additional nuclear Chashma plant. PM Modi signed the Strategic Partnership with USA in 2015 with President Obama when he came as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day. In 2017 US Congress National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2017, “recognised India’s status as a major defence partner of the United States.” Almost a non Nato ally ?
India has bought P8is, C130s, Globemasters, Apache and Chinook helicopters and soon 155mm guns already worth $ 16 billion and with FMC sales of 24 MH-60 Seahawk Sikorsky helicopters and 16 sets of BAE 127mm Guns for the Indian Navy possibly inked. Drones and 6 more P8i planes are on the anvil. India is now in the US grip for military support with its ally Israel, as it was with the Soviet Union. Russia accepts the fait accompli as long as India imports defence wares and is tied with nuclear technology as India’s third and fourth nuclear submarines are in building with Russian help.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla India’s Ambassador to USA recently stated, “ South Asia is one of the most sought after regions by the world’s sole superpower, the US ……….If one closely follows the current US policy towards South Asia, that too, specifically under President Trump, one would find Afghanistan and India continue to decide the fate of not only the entire region but also the future of Pakistan-US relationship…… The US seems to have decided to engage Pakistan via Afghanistan but the road ahead is slippery…….. and our militaries exercise regularly with each other,……India-US bilateral trade had been growing at 10 per cent year-on-year basis to reach USD 142 billion in 2018 and had also become more balanced”.
For India, Indo-Pacific is important which Includes the Indian Ocean up to West Asia as EAM Jaishankar affirmed in the Indian Ocean Dialogue and the debate is whether Indian Navy will get support or is US Navy’s closeness after so many Malabars and inter-operability enough. The Doklam incursion by China in 2017 shook PM Modi to act for Army and hurriedly buy Rafales for the IAF. India needs a stronger Navy and a clear Maritime Strategy and an Air-Sea Doctrine based on the above headlines especially as France a Riparian IOR nation with largest EEZ has offered its bases and UK too has supported the QUAD.
US steers India, and India determines Pakistan’s response as both nations are nuclear and may see a skirmish as COAS Gen Bipin Rawat tipped to become the CDS warned that India was ready to attack if Pakistan F-16s had hit 25 Div’s ammunition depot on 27th Feb post Balakot. It will need consultation with USA.
Recently Secretary Michael Pompeo & Defsec Mark Esper, met EAM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and India’s Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh in DC for the two plus two meet and signed the Industrial Security Agreement to share technology with confidentiality. India had signed such long ago with Soviet Union. That precluded private Indian defence sector from manufacture of Russian equipment. This time private firms may benefit as US has no Public Sector Defence Companies. In 2 plus 2 both sides agreed to establish a new exchange program for legislators and launched new initiatives to help secure internships for innovators in each of our two countries, and support India’s Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. Ache Din Agaye on Foreign Policy but economy and Navy need thought. Shan No Varuna.