http://indianexpress.com/article/opinio ... ssion=true
The PB Mehta article linked above is being bandied about as some sort of serious criticism of the government’s foreign/strategic policy. In reality, it is nothing more than political diatribe couched as analysis, rhetoric with little indication of reasoned thought behind it and just reflective of a low political cunning combined with plain intellectual laziness and dishonesty. (Forgive errors grammatical or otherwise, typing on the fly).
What is unfortunate, but sadly not surprising, is that former NSA Shiv Shankar Menon has retweeted it referring to it as “accurate”!
So let’s look at this a little more deeply, starting with the very first sentence:
“India finds itself increasingly cornered into a strategic cul-de-sac”.
Really! How so? The dishonesty of this article is transparent in the follow through. The writer accepts that diplomacy “expands” (whatever that means, but let’s assume he means that it is becoming far more involved, robust and immediate with a large number of partners, and also increasingly visible on the global stage). But political options “seem to” decrease. The tone is being set here. While the writer admits (as he cannot but) that diplomacy is reaching out to look east and west, the strategic space does not “seem” to be expanding.
In other words, the positives are accepted as real even by the writer, but the negatives only “seem” to be so. Yet this is the flimsy basis on which the rest of the verbiage is built. The political sourness is clear in the language, referring to the government’s “bluster about a strong state”. One wonders where the current government’s language on strength of the state has not been backed by action (there are sufficient examples which any serious observer would be aware of), and what the bluster factor for comparison is with other world governments or previous governments in India itself. The political knifeplay is clear.
Still, guess what, the writer feels “doubts about its military capabilities are growing equally louder” (sic). One wonders where? We would like to know where such doubts are growing "louder", other than in the ideologically corroded minds of think-tankers in India, indebted to a discredited elite and floundering, in fact, to pay it in some meaningful way.
“So, paradoxically, India finds itself in this position that even as it is globally recognised, it looks more helpless in its own backyard.” It appears the writer assumes that just because he says it, everyone must believe this to be true. The world has changed. We are showing face in the South China Sea and China is in the Indian Ocean. Pakistan continues killing Indians, and unlike in the past, this government is returning the favour in spades. When the dragon bares its teeth on the Himalyan ridgelines, the tiger growls and prowls menacingly close to the fire.
My sense is that these “looks more helpless” type of comments generally come from folk who feel that any move by India to articulate its position forcefully runs the risk of counter-action “and then what will we do”? Appearances are what matters to them. How can a chaiwallah take all these grand measures on behalf of India, of which folks like writer of the article and a coterie of what are known as the Lutyens Elite are the gatekeepers. The impudence. In fact, the truth is they don’t know what to make of it. It is they who are floundering trying to find solid ground under their ideological feet.
That’s why you find sentences such as these: “These are days where strong propaganda obscures the most basic of common sense. To begin with a simple question. A hallmark of the strategic success of any government is whether it expands the options available that can help you achieve your core objectives. Have the options available to India expanded?”
Can anyone with a modicum of honesty really look at the last three years and say the options available to India haven’t been expanded? Relations with virtually every country have been improved upon. On the nuclear front, we are now members of the Wassenaar Arrangement, and China is the only roadblock en route to NSG membership – and it is not India which is standing alone on that one. Militarily, agreement after agreement has been signed with one country after another in the region, not to mention a steady growth in economic relations. If these do not represent a widening of options I don’t know what does. A prime minister who can entertain the Israeli prime minister, visit the West Bank separately, then travel to the UAE and Oman, just before hosting the Iranian president is certainly one who has not just widened options, but created new ones that were seemingly outside the realm of possibilities for his predecessor Sonia Gandhi.
The following two paragraphs are pure blather on political science 101, “raw capability”, borrowed phrases (thanks Ramana) like “arming without aiming” (as it that’s some kind of sin!), “defence production in the private sector has not taken off” (yes, over 50 years of socialist/Marxist neglect can be fixed in under 4 years). And Arihant is “out of commission” – our first indigenous nuclear submarine is facing some issues. There’s a learning curve on these things and more are being built. The writer should know that such comments are literally below the belt, because there is nothing that this government can do if a submarine needs repair other than fix it and build others so that we are not exposed. The government is doing that. And the writer should know that. Dishonesty.
There is some acknowledgement of the successful partnerships being built by the government, but it “is not clear that these initiatives are enough to get Pakistan to change its behaviour, or secure our long-term objectives in relation to China”. First let’s tackle the bit about China. I’d like to know, as I’m sure anyone would, what would secure our long-term objectives vis-a-vis China with certainty. It is a silly formulation because no one can be “clear” that anything will do that. This government, or any government for that matter, can only do the right things – encourage trade, encourage moderation, be firm where it needs to be and flexible where it must. And the government has been doing that, certainly with more clarity than in the past, and definitely with more firmness.
On Pakistan, if the writer believes anything other than co-operative military action (or something so close to it) will get that failed country to change its behaviour, he is mistaken. In reality, there is not much India can do other than repayment in kind with interest. And make every effort to separate that entity into its constituent parts. It is not only in the interest of India now, but of the world. This reality may light the minds of some in Pakistan enough to get them to change by themselves, but no one with any sense, common or sixth, will be betting on it.
Here's another gem: “It tells you something about the unreality gripping public strategic discourse that our hearts flutter with joy at a term like “Indo-Pacific”. This term may have some nominal rhetorical value”. Pure nonsense. It seems the writer is confusing the flutter in the media to reflect the general disposition. I suspect the military establishment as well as the security managers in the government are a bit more hard-headed than the writer gives them credit for. In any event, the term itself is something that the US is using to signal its own priorities, and as far as that matters, it is a symbolic tilt in our direction which holds the promise of becoming a substantive one.
And coming for someone who was whining about lack of capability building just a few paragraphs earlier, this bit sounds downright out of place: “It is good India is deepening its engagement from Seychelles to Oman, acquiring new docking capabilities and logistical support. But with what wars and what interventions, what military objectives will these achieve? It is almost like we will acquire these facilities without any clear sense of the uses to which we will put them. They signal our global intent but do not add much to our capabilities”. Say what? We just signed these agreements over the last couple of years, and these will be built upon. It is the clearest indication that the state is expanding its options precisely with the intention of having the capability to deal with unpredictable events in the Indian Ocean littoral. Is the writer saying that unless you can predict precisely what will occur, the capabilities should not be built up?
However, it is in this paragraph that the real unscratchable itch is revealed, the perennial sense that this sort of playing at the top division is beyond us. Observe: “This expansive outreach has also, in some strategic circles, created this illusion that India can outgrow its region; it does not have to be tied down to its geography. From Doklam to Kashmir, from the Maldives to Nepal, India has been rudely reminded about how easy it is to put it in a helpless position in its own neighbourhood. The idea that India can do a great power projection without being able to manage its own neighbourhood was a pipe dream in any case”.
First note the sleight of hand, the ducking of responsibility, for what is to come. It is in “some strategic circles” – the clearest indication that he wrenched it out of his own rear, but does not want to own it because the writer knows that it is a spineless posture. Check out the language: “created this illusion that India can outgrow its region”, “rudely reminded about how easy it is to put it in a helpless position”, and then see the examples he puts out. Doklam, if anything, was a clear indication that India will not brook any Chinese nonsense, and China was the one that was clearly tied down there. Kashmir is not something that began in 2014. In the Maldives, the situation is still fluid and maybe the writer’s enthusiasm for surrender got the better of him. In Nepal, well, we have had some issues for some time now, but it’s hardly an example by which to assert India being “tied down to is geography”. It is a reality that today, nothing of global consequence can happen without India being consulted - and in the case of the Modi government, most foreign leaders seem quite comfortable doing it directly with the prime minister who has worked on what his predecessors built up gradually.
What this sort of rhetorical language indicates is a mindset that is defeatist and pessimistic, but most of all cynical. It is suggestive of a joyless mindscape that sees nothing good coming out of the will of the majority, unless it is articulated through a select cabal of mutually beholden comrades. The next two paragraphs are more of the same tired verbal diarrhoea, until it comes to this question: “Is there a political strategy on Pakistan at all, or is it all bluster covering up a great floundering?” Since the writer feels the government is incompetent on this front, perhaps it is time for him, and others like him, to come up with a strategy to end Pakistan’s terrorism sponsorship. It should not involve giving up any territory, and it should involve recovering Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as parliament insists.
The writer then comes up with this gem: “We are more cornered by China than we were a few years ago”. How did he measure this “more” bit? And where is the corner? We can only roll our eyes at the desperate effort to show how the government has screwed up somewhere. I’m tempted to surrender on this one and say, yes, Modi messed up on China and dolt-in-waiting Rahul by having dinner with the Chinese ambassador fixed that mess. Childish.
And we are back to his true gripe: “Add to this the atrocious deterioration of public discourse in India, where Mohan Bhagwat can openly taunt the army” bla bla bla….The fact of the matter “seems” to be that this poor fellow has been so downtrodden by the change on the political landscape in India that he’s simply prepared to say anything so long as it hurts Modi, who probably has undermined his fixed positions on how India should be run. Sad, but funny in a way.
Finally, here the writer spews his real bile: “On any measure, hard power, diplomacy, alliances, political framing, and consistency of domestic resolve, we seem to have fewer not more options. The vigour of Modi’s travels can barely disguise the fact that in terms of India’s security objectives, he is looking very weak indeed. Any other prime minister would have been hauled over the coals if India had been backed into the corner it is now.” But here, too, the author covers his rear with a “seem”. And apparently Modi is “looking” very weak indeed. Any half-wit who paid even casual attention to the events of the last three years will immediately recognise that this writer is not interested in the truth - if he can say with a straight face that the Modi government has not created more options in diplomacy, alliances, consistency of domestic resolve or hard power.
In fact, this so-called analysis is a collection of bald-faced lies, covered up with the strategic use of fudge-words. Gutless.