Ranjit B Rai
Briefly this post is an Analysis on ‘Strategic Thinking’ for India which is defined as a thinking process applied by an individual or group with the aim of achieving success in a game, business, endeavours, foreign policy or goals in war and peace. Strategy is steered like a ship’s course, and corrected along the way as currents and tides will cause drift, but the course is always clear to the ship’s Captain and the key crew members, to avoid collisions or grounding.
It was Rand Corporation’s George Tannan who said Indians do not have Strategic Thinking in their ways. It upset many as Khushwant Singh said Indians can criticize but do not like being criticized.
Late Gen K Sundarji in Singapore over noggins discussed this, and in the Chapter on Op Pawan written in Indians Why We Are What We Are, it was made clear that Rajiv Gandhi as Prime and Defence Minister ordered Indian Army at short notice in to Sri Lanka as a Tactical move. There was no joint military appreciation that Staff Colleges teach, or clear strategy in his mind. Distracting from the Bofors Scandal was on his and his clever Doon aides minds.
Many agree Op Pawan was an escape for Bofors Scandal and RAW in control of Sri Lanka affairs had tactical plans different to military thinking and an unclear Ops Order. The troops swiftly deployed by sea and air with tourist maps. RRM was Arun Singh, later fell out with his friend PM Rajiv.
Over 1987-91 in Pawan Army sacrificed around 1400 souls, and asked to leave by a wily Sri Lankan leader. History is a teacher too, and the papers in MOD and PMO have not been released to learn lessons. Is no one interested on the strategic aspects of that Military Foray to prove George Tannan right or wrong ?!
No General in India will ever refuse a Tactical order, even politically ordered to go to quell Jats or join Police in terror ops with no clear command and control or big– to go to war. Field Marshal SF Manekshaw was a rarity. CNS Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat bucked the Government in 1998 by disrupting the maritime Operation Leech, that the Defence Minister was pursuing for political ends. Bhagwat was sacked. Navy chiefs had less ‘Patti’—clout. . Not so now. It’s a Maritime Century and Indian Navy is doing well by standards of India. Navy Chief has Patti.
Ex COAS Gen K Sundarji conceded more endeavours were failures due to lack of strategy and even BJP is prey. Sundarji wrote a bio-pic political novel titled, ‘The Blind Men of Hindoostan’ on how India is run. The dedication is pledged, ‘To Arun Singh and all those colleagues in frustration, whose attempts to make the Government of India institutionalise the planning of strategy failed’. Has it changed ? India today is a bigger and stronger power and tactics alone may not work.
There is a need for the BJP – RSS government, to hone Capacity and Capability of the Armed Forces jointly and lay out and spell the strategy in confidence of what is expected of the Military on the long un settled land borders and in the IOR and Asia Pacific as India’s nuclear maritime reach is now in the Omani port of Duqm and Iran’s Chahbahar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi almost a four year ‘One Man Show’, (FM is unwell) has firmed up plans towards building strategic assets in South Agalega in Mauritius and Assumption islands in Seychelles which is still to be ratified, but work is afoot to tactically match China’s Necklace of Ports in the IOR.
With added responsibilities as a world leader even Mauritius looks to India to fight its Chagos (Diego Garcia and 2000 displaced ) case as its key ally – to submit a written statement on the Chagos question to the ICJ due soon for hearing and USA will be watching as Britain will oppose any change. And China is watching too ! It wants USA out.
India has an growing economy which needs stability but it has a belligerent nuclear Pakistan and its higher than mountains friend China which is making the CPEC on Indian claimed land. Is India’s strategy to disrupt CPEC or get back disputed land or play along and watch how India can gain. It can.
Indian leadership has to be clear on the strategy behind all its policy moves. Some selective unclassified airing can be done for public as economy and business is dependant on a Nation’s strategy as we see President Trump out lining strategies to aid US business. There has to be jointness in the powerful Armed Forces OF India to synergise with the strategy.
A modus Vivendi of acting with no strategy gives freedom to the Political party in power in India to take arbitrary military decisions or use military for its political needs, buy equipment and actions, most times confounding the loyal sacrificing Armed Forces. Is Kashmir becoming that with PDP-BJP disagreements ?
Army must hark back to 1971. FM Manekshaw as COSC told the PM the Armed Forces were not ready for war and asked for time so he laid out a strategy for victory. The situation today is better but not ready for a sudden war as the Command and Control and adequate equipment for war are yet to be addressed. But the BJP NDA government is confident they have done well in the last four years for preparedness.
The confidence of India’s political leadership stems after PM Modi hugged President Obama, which was tactical, and signed a Joint Strategic Vision for Asia Pacific in 2014. India USA says is a non stated Ally of USA as its most favoured defence partner and importer of Interoperable hardware from USA in the East and the critical bulwark against China in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). India has also joined the USA-Australia- Japan QUAD but with no details. France is India’s nominated partner with riparian islands in the IOR.
The security situation sees India facing two unfriendly nuclear neighbours. USA will not forsake Pakistan fully, but provide intelligence and UN Security Council support to India against China, but unlikely to down boots or planes on ground or ships on the seas as it has fears about China. North Korea China Russia has reared its head with US sanctions against Russia.
India’s nuclear submarines, SU-30s , Mig-29s and a host of other platforms are still dependant on Russia is watching for deals RM Sithraman did not do in Moscow.
India has touted that it is the net security provider ( NSP) in the Indian IOR that PM Dr Manmohan Singh announced August 2013 goaded by Robert Gates, but no guide lines what it means have been issued.
Sri Lanka’s fears India and its Pathfinder Foundation consulted some IOR states, taken guidelines of IORA that does not include Gulf states and Pakistan and IONS and proposed a Code of Conduct (COC) for the IOR s in January 2017 authored by a team led by Ex CNS Admiral Jayanath Colambage, backed by his PM.
The COC IS based on past Oceanic agreements in the area and the 1971 initiative of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike, and the President of Tanzania. The UN General Assembly declared: “The Indian Ocean, within limits to be determined together with the air space above and the ocean floor subjacent thereto … designated for all time as a Zone of Peace”.(A/RES/2832 (XXVI).
Indian Navy has cold shouldered the COC. There is rejoicing in US Strategic circles especially among Foggy Bottom and Pentagon, that India has become the regional satrap for USA with a Joint Strategic Vision for Asia Pacific. USA supports Net Security Provider.
NSP was on test in the political crisis in Maldives. Both Sri Lanka and Maldives were concerned India may intervene. Sri Lanka worries for its investments in Maldives. But it seems the Elephant in Maldives was Chinese interests. Maldives cold shouldered India in Milan and DEFEXPO-18 invited to, and is returning one of the two Dhruv helicopters that patrol with Indian crew. China has a leased islands it is reclaiming as it does in the South China Sea. IDF doubts a former NSA’s theory that no strategy helps and if so then India ‘Chalta Rahega Jaise The’……will carry on as it is and IDF will eat its words.