|Aim low, hit lower|
STATES become Great Powers – other than on the back of the traditional attributes of size, location and human and natural resources – primarily on the basis of their strategic military strength and their willingness to use it especially against like states and only secondarily because of their economic muscle. (The Soviet Union imploded, not because of excessive military spending as alleged in shallow historical analyses, but because Mikhail Gorbachev lacked the political acumen of his Chinese counterpart, Dengxiaoping, in managing the transformation of a totalitarian system into a state that retained the dominance of the Communist Party while mustering, through whatever means, economic efficiencies.) Indeed, military reach and clout have historically opened up markets for trade and commerce, been the engine for economic growth and for the dissemination of cultural values. Trade follows flag even in a globalized milieu.
Great powers define their vital national interest expansively, delineate their defence perimeter far from the homeland – on the shores of distant littorals, oceanic chokepoints and the away steppes (even as lesser countries concentrate on territorial defence), and by seeking to extend their military protection to an ever widening circle of countries, increase their legitimate sphere of influence. And they do all this by expending a lot of political and military effort and, in the process, blood, sweat and riches. But the payoffs are huge. With overwhelming military force as backdrop, morality becomes a handmaiden and the great power can more easily propagate its values and culture.
This was true of Elizabethan England in the 17th century onwards to the highpoint of Empire, Napoleonic France on the cusp of the 19th century, a unified Germany under Bismarck from the1850s upto the First World War, and the United States of America in the 20th century. It is the plan-form China has faithfully followed in the last 50 years until now when it is giving American strategists sleepless nights, not least because it prioritized the securing of strategic military wherewithal (nuclear ICBMs) to take out the US West Coast by the late 1960s thereby compelling Washington to talk with Beijing as equals, and is now involved in augmenting these same capabilities as a means of neutralizing American influence in Asia and the Pacific in the decades to come.
India, on the other hand, while enjoying all the characteristics of great power, is unlikely to become one because it has no fixity of strategic vision nor sense of purpose. Is it a status-quo-ist power happy to go along with the international order as-is or is it intent on reordering the international hierarchy whatever it takes? Is India to be a substantive counterpoise to China in Asia or merely a US satrap in the region? Should it be the natural centre and the engine of an extended regional security and economic complex in the Indian Ocean area and Asia and the world at-large or an operational adjunct to the American global security architecture? Depending on the party in power and the vagaries of intellectual fashion in the strategic community such as it is in India, the vision shifts as does the purpose. But what is constant is a hankering for great power status, but minus the willingness to pay the stiff entry-price.
This hankering has been trivialized these days to even a veto-less membership in the UN Security Council, which is literally not worth the cost of the chair the Indian Permanent Representative may occupy in that august chamber. What this reflects is the absence of a grand vision for the country combined with an appalling historical sense, which fact not only highlights but explains the serious lack of national self-awareness and, ultimately, of national self-respect of the elite and the government. Great Power, in the estimation of the wise persons in and out of the official corridors, is apparently some kind of dole to well-behaved and ‘responsible’ states – not something that has to be wrenched from the grasp of those states that have already made it. That is the reason why, time and again, when on the verge of realizing genuine great power heft, New Delhi has chosen to buckle under pressure and sue for peace with the mighty.
This happened in 1964 when Lal Bahadur Shastri spurned the perfect justification for nuclear weaponization in response to China’s test, ten years later when Indira Gandhi stopped further testing that she had approved, and finally in 1998 when Atal Behari Vajpayee, rather than seeing an open-ended series of tests through as a first step in the acquisition of a credible and survivable full-fledged thermonuclear force, apparently perceived these as an end-point in the country’s nuclear weapons development and announced a moratorium on testing, the easier to cut deals with Washington.
‘Great Power’, contrary to official Indian thinking, is not some ‘affirmative action’ scheme or a social void to be filled by quota from among the ‘deserving’ backward states. Neither is it a title that can be bought as some well-heeled Indian immigrants in Britain have done by purchasing decrepit castles and manor houses and the titles that go with the properties. Rather, it is a recognition that has to be earned the hard way as other countries have done through the ages by impressing the great powers of the moment as much by one’s growing capabilities as by the implicit promise of doing great good by the world and a covert threat of inflicting immense harm on them and the extant international order if they do not make space at the high table. By this reckoning an India, sans the will to power, is not up to it. Far from being a great power, it can never hope to become one with its present attitude and approach and is not, therefore, in a position to reasonably claim any of the attendant benefits or prerogatives.
Clearly, our political leaders and strategic thinkers do not have the mindset and the mettle to play in the international senior league. From their writings and other expostulations, it would seem that to them ‘national security’ is a fungible idea encompassed in words that any regime of the day can, like the Queen in Alice’s Wonderland, take to mean anything they want it to mean, and hence to compromise the country’s security at will – undermine it, use it as chips to strike bargains with, do whatever at the expense of the larger, long-term, national interest.
Unable to summon the required Vision, Conviction, Strategy and Will, such compromises invariably settle around what is thought to be a moderate median – the usually soft option – on every issue of consequence. Thus, we have a military that size-wise is amongst the biggest but capability-wise cannot fight long duration wars to a successful conclusion even with a minor foe, Pakistan. And the government has restricted the country’s so-called nuclear force to such thin proportions as to render it an apology for a deterrent, capable of only tackling phantom threats.
The real strategic dangers to India are complacently disregarded because the Indian government seems too scared to stand up to the big powers, believing that for the country to prepare to deal with the threats posed by China and the US is to provoke Beijing and Washington into pre-emptive action. So much may be gleaned from Minister for External Affairs Natwar Singh’s comments at the recent National Conference on ‘India and the World’ held under the aegis of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust. ‘They,’ he said gravely, probably referring to the US, ‘can harm us.’
Meaning what exactly? Mount a strike on Indian nuclear facilities, for instance? Well, such plans have been formulated in the Pentagon’s counter-proliferation office for many years now, as I have revealed along with a lot else hitherto not known about the Indian nuclear programme and the evolution of its strategic thinking and about the US nonproliferation policies as these impacted on India since the 1950s, in my book Nuclear Weapons & Indian Security (Macmillan, 2002). So, what is new by way of intimidation tactics? Does the Indian government really expect Washington and the rest of the P-5 to send out a formal invitation to Delhi and throw a welcome mat as added incentive for India to join their exclusive great power club? Or, is it not more realistic to expect that India will have to fight its way into their strategic domain?
But New Delhi’s attention is not so much on strengthening and consolidating national security as doing so within the parameters permitted by Washington! How else to explain the quite extraordinary lengths to which the Indian government is going to appease its American counterpart? There is no question but that India and the United States are ‘natural allies’ – a phrase first used, incidentally, in my chapter in a book I edited (Future Imperilled: India’s Security in the 1990s and Beyond) published in 1994 and subsequently made famous by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. I had then outlined a model (further fleshed out in my recent book) for strategic cooperation with the US based on distinct ‘division of labour’ and on an Asian cooperative security architecture pivoted on India and tethered to democratic Israel and Japan at the two ends, and a beefed up Myanmar and the South East Asian littoral, especially Vietnam and Taiwan, in China’s ‘soft underbelly’.
The logic was that security concerns in Asia ought to be left to indigenous cooperative security efforts because intrusive involvement by out-of-area military forces is destabilizing and hugely complicate a delicate balancing game with the coming power in Asia, China. I had pointed out that whatever its intent, the US lacks the attention span and stamina to stay the course, especially when the going gets tough. These were prophetic conclusions borne out by the embroilment of the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
My strategic paradigm had posited derating Pakistan from a threat, which it manifestly is not, to a security ‘nuisance’ which it is, and tackling it at a lower level by low-key means with the ultimate aim of co-opting that country into the wider Indian economic and strategic matrix if Islamabad is willing or to leave it out to stew in irrelevance if it was not. The benefits to the US from such a system of extended regional security would be substantive and obviate the kind of ‘imperial over-stretch’ that it is suffering today. And, I argued, that the benefits to America will outweigh Washington’s concerns about a meaningful Indian thermonuclear arsenal, which in any case will give it pause for thought and disincentivize any punitive, pre-emption measure it may at any time contemplate.
This is a comprehensive security solution whose many building blocks, like the trade and economic inter-linkages and cooperative security programmes with the ASEAN states and Vietnam, the strategic technology cooperation with Israel, the strategic dialogue and naval diplomacy with Japan, etc., are now in place and only need a government to pull the various strings together. Among the many virtues of the above strategy for good Indo-US relations is that it marks out a major strategic role for India, services its legitimate great power ambition, and buffs up its self-respect – this last being a commodity that is central to the US’ taking India seriously. After all, a country that does not think very much of itself and shows it by compromising its national security is unlikely to elicit respect from other states. Weak collaborator states may be liked but are not, in the final analysis, respected or even trusted.
The troubling issues mentioned in the preceding section are occasioned by the trend evident in the public debate over India’s attitude and policy towards the United States. It is mirrored in (i) the revelations contained in Strobe Talbott’s account (Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb) of the many rounds of negotiation dressed up as ‘security dialogue’ that Jaswant Singh, the minister of many portfolios in the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government, conducted over five years with the US government ending in India’s voluntarily donning a strategic straitjacket, and (ii) the strong indications that the new, Congress party-headed dispensation in Delhi is carrying on from where Atal Behari Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh and Co. left off and is preparing to further undermine national sovereignty.
What is at stake and why should we worry? Almost seven years after the supposedly decisive Shakti series of nuclear tests (Pokharan-II) that the Vajpayee government said had propelled the country to the status of a ‘nuclear weapon state’ and gained for it ‘strategic autonomy’, India is not only not a bonafide nuclear weapons power which has successfully guarded its strategic independence and expanded its operational domain, it is on the verge of becoming a security dependency of the United States in the region, a’la Pakistan. It is a cryptovassal state that joyfully accepts small-time jobs. Like having the Indian Navy escort US warships across the Malacca Straits or agreeing to train Iraqi poll officials and policemen. Will this downsliding ever stop? Not any time soon.
The Indian government is considering signing the Container Security Initiative (CSI) which measure, under the pretext of detecting trade in clandestine materials, will mandate the stationing of US and other foreign nationals and technology as a virtual inspectorate at Indian ports. Also, there is a desire to join the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) – which will eventuate in even more direct and egregious assault on India’s sovereignty with provisions in it for the violation of Indian territory (airports and bases) and territorial waters, and the stopping and boarding ‘on demand’ of national flag carrying vessels on the high seas and aircraft in flight on mere suspicion of any of the signatory states.
And, then there is the likely purchase of the US Patriot anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system that the visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld formally pushed with his Indian interlocutors during his flash-visit on 9 December 2004. The American desire to sell the Patriot ABM is understandable. Having gauged New Delhi’s seriousness about a terminal-phase intercept anti-missile weapon and seeing India approach Israel for its Arrow-2, the US decided it made more politico-commercial sense for Raytheon to sell Indians the Patriot than for Washington to oppose Israel’s selling its Arrow. Either way the twin US purpose of getting India to step into a nonproliferation trap and rely on Washington for its future security will be served. How?
A missile passes through three phases before it impacts. When the rocket engines fire, the missile is lifted to its ballistic trajectory. The time the missile remains within the earth’s atmosphere is referred to as the boost-phase. When rising, the missile is at its slowest speed and can be intercepted more easily than at any other time in its flight, assuming that the launch is picked up by high-altitude infra-red (thermal) sensors and this information communicated real-time for a killer missile to be instantly triggered in the hope it will intercept the targeted missile before it escapes the earth’s atmosphere.
The progress of the missile to its trajectorial apogee in deep space but before it re-enters the atmosphere, the mid-course phase, is when the missile can, in theory, be intercepted by satellite-based killers like kinetic energy weapons or high-energy laser beams, both being technologies that are being tested in the laboratories in the US (though, to-date, without much success). Once it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere, the missile, hurtling down at speeds in excess of 12 miles per second in its terminal phase, is almost impossible to stop. This is what the American Patriot and the Israeli Arrow promise to do.
So far, the evidence that these ABM systems can perform is, when not doctored at source, dubious at best. The tall claims for the Iraqi Scud-missile kills by the Patriot in the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, for example, were proven to be hogwash. The Israeli Arrow, on its part, has undergone just a couple of physical tests with no distinction.
In simulations, however, meaning in video game scenarios – glorified ‘space invader’ stuff that children are proficient in – the Arrow has reportedly registered a decent kill-rate! Yes, but what use is a leaky system when even one nuclear missile getting through the supposed missile shield can vapourize a whole city? This then is the immature technology and nonperforming ABM the Indian government may throw down good money for.
Insofar as one can make out, the clinching argument for the Patriot/ Arrow is that this is an interim solution; that once the satellite-based sensors, kill vehicles and lasers begin working tickety-boo, the enemy missile if not intercepted in the boost phase will be eliminated in deep space, well before it gets into its end-run when the Patriot/Arrow may or may not work! In the meanwhile, and addressing India’s idee-fixe, there is the offer of the theatre naval BMD available courtesy of the Aegis radar on US Navy destroyers that, combined with the Patriot, will allegedly bring down any short to medium range missiles Pakistan can shoot at India.
In all these BMD arrangements there will of course be no Indians in the sensor-detection-warning loop. This means that India’s ability to intercept missiles with exorbitantly-priced BMD systems, assuming these work at all, will be subject to the American Aegis systems passing on the correct information in time to nearby Indian Arrow/Patriot units. India’s security, in effect, will be hostage to Washington’s perception of the US interest at that point in time in a crisis. Is this tolerable? And is this not a criterion of a client-state of the US? India’s sovereignty, already abridged by CSI and PSI, will finally and formally become purely notional.
The remarkable thing is that the Indian government, which thinks nothing of possibly investing as much as $3-5 billion in the all but useless Arrow/Patriot ABM, has all along shied away from doing the one prudent, ultimately cost-effective, measure that would convert the country’s nuclear arsenal into a genuine strategic deterrent able to stare down even the most powerful adversary states in any crisis situation – namely, resume open-ended testing of a variety of fully weaponized boosted-fission and fusion warheads, including megaton-yield thermonuclear weapons, to the satisfaction of the end-user, the military (rather than solely BARC scientists who can be persuaded to say whatever the government wants them to say), and developing and deploying intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the shortest possible time.
The overarching military logic for doing so is that even the most optimistic BMD supporters in the US establishment do not conceive of the system being able to handle more than 25 attacking missiles. That is to say, however dense the missile cover, it can be easily defeated by a small salvo of strike missiles to ‘saturate’ it and which can be procured, moreover, at an infinitesimal fraction of the cost for the overly complicated high technology and improbably expensive missile defence system. And this reality is unlikely to change, if ever.
And there’s the rub. Nuclear testing and full-scale thermonuclear weaponization and ICBM deployment is the one thing the Indian government and political leadership (across the parties) do not want to do, the one decision they do not care to make, even though it is the only action that will vault India willy-nilly into the great power ranks, ensure ‘strategic autonomy’, endow the country with unparalleled political leverage and afford it a role in shaping the world order, as happened with the United Kingdom, France and China when they did these very things.
It is, of course, majorly in the interest of the P-5 – the US and the four other Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT)-recognized nuclear weapon states – Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, to keep India from attaining this strategic level. A minimally nuclear armed India on the margins safely feuding with a nuclearized Pakistan is, from their point of view, manageable and the preferred option. Because the alternative of an India with a ready thermonuclear-ICBM force handy will compel this most powerful coterie of countries into an accommodationist stance and into diluting their individual power and leverage. The P-5 do not wish the issue to become, as an earlier Texan in the White House, Lyndon Baines Johnson put it, one of having the powerful outsider ‘pissing into the tent’; better under the circumstances, he said, for him to be brought in so he can piss out of the tent!
The cost of a thermonuclear war-headed ICBM force is highly affordable. The acquisition cost, for instance, of a second tier nuclear force (alongside of China, the United Kingdom and France) with 400 plus weapons/warheads and the delivery triad of bombers, IRBMs-ICBMs, and nuclear ballistic missile-firing nuclear-powered submarines of some Rs 100,000 crore over 30 years is far less than what the country will spend, say, on its armored and mechanized forces in the same period. What is required in planning for future war is the reprioritizing of threats, contingencies and military expenditure programmes, without which the money will be funnelled into sustaining obsolete capabilities and the cry of ‘no money’ for genuinely strategic force structures and armaments will continue to be heard. But keeping India well short of such globe-girdling military capability has, for understandable reasons, been the main and unvarying aim of the United States, albeit under the nonproliferation rubric.
This much is plain. Washington, according to Talbott, has had four main nonproliferation policy objectives since the 1998 tests, namely, to get India to (a) sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), (b) agree to stop its production of fissile material, (c) acquiesce in a ‘strategic restraint regime’ which, in effect, prevents India from further testing new nuclear/thermonuclear weapon designs and otherwise continuously upgrading its arsenal or developing and fielding ICBMs, and (d) impose exceedingly strict export controls on indigenous nuclear weapons-related goods and missile technologies. The American purpose behind such policies – to keep India under pressure and well below the genuine strategic military threshold – was and is transparent.
Now consider the singular successes scored by Talbott. The material in his book, not refuted or contested to-date, shows that he not only convinced Jaswant Singh (which may have been easy, because the Indian leader was so predisposed) for India to sign the CTBT, he showed how this could be made palatable by having New Delhi sign but not ratify the treaty – an attempt at expedient analogizing from the US situation and quite inapt as Jaswant pointed out to Talbott, but which tactic, Jaswant, was nevertheless ready to use. (In India, any government of the day can sign any treaty, which is tantamount to ratification, with such signing being negated only if the ruling party loses a vote of confidence on this account in Parliament. But by then, India would have got itself into the position of a signatory state which wants to resile from its legal commitment – not easy as North Korea’s and Iran’s efforts to renege on the NPT suggest.)
Jaswant also agreed for India to be ‘strategically restrained’. There was the a priori commitment by the Vajpayee government to abstain from further testing followed by its decisions based seemingly on agreement in the Jaswant-Talbott talks to maintain the small, basic and insignificant Indian nuclear deterrent in a ‘de-mated, de-alerted’ mode and not to embark on designing and testing an ICBM.
Talbott managed to secure as well an undertaking that India will join in the FMCT negotiations and impose the strictest, most severe, regime of export controls with an American oversight – this last being part of the NSSP (Next Steps in Strategic Partnership) to deliver high technology goods, and to arrange transfers of select high technologies and collaboration in certain high value science and technology projects. The NSSP was the US quo to all the quids Jaswant ‘negotiated’ on behalf of the BJP coalition regime, which the Congress party coalition government is going along with.
Jaswant Singh and current minister for external affairs, Natwar Singh, the principal interlocutors with the US government, are well-meaning and, as Indian politicians go, unusually well-read and articulate leaders with broad-based international exposure and experience. And, undoubtedly, they are deeply patriotic, which only deepens the mystery about how the two individually and their respective governments ostensibly agreed with the basic premises of the US nonproliferation policy – the starting point of their interaction with Washington. No doubt the attention paid by Talbott and the Washington establishment – the well-orchestrated but muted hosannas being sung in praise of the Indian interlocutor’s wisdom and strategic insight by American officials and assorted American think-tankers, the carefully choreographed drop-ins by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in the White House and, in Talbott’s words, the ‘kitchen table treatment’ featuring, as news reports at the time described, white wine and salmon, must have been all very flattering.
But it is doubtful whether any of this swayed Jaswant an iota. This leaves only one conclusion to be drawn, that Jaswant Singh actually believes, much as the US does, that India will be better off being a minimally nuclearized weapon state that poses no danger to any of the P-5 countries and the prevailing global hierarchy and keeping on the right side of the predominant power and, by these means, winning its confidence and goodwill. This was preferred by Jaswant to India trying to shake-up the world by doing whatever was necessary to get its due. Like asserting itself thermonuclearly in the international arena and shedding its image as a pliant dormouse (other than in its dealings with the immediate neighbours and poorer states when it imitates a lion). Why else would Jaswant Singh apologize and express profuse regrets to Talbott for, as the latter reports, ‘letting you down’ on the CTBT – the one accord that, had New Delhi signed it, would have written a definite finis to India’s ever making it big?
In historical terms, Jaswant Singh resembles the Indian potentates – the rajas, nizams, nawabs and maharajas who after Seringaptnam quickly recruited themselves in Cornwallis’ ‘subsidiary alliance’ system, reconciling to the British paramountcy in the subcontinent.
Now cut to Natwar. He is in many ways a charming old-world type whose professional acme as diplomat was probably reached when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi picked him to head the secretariat of the 1982 Non-aligned Summit in Delhi. Some twenty years later he still talks about the relevance of nonalignment and not ‘tilting’ and so on, as if the Cold War was still about us. In the same breath, he declares that ‘Indo-US relations are beginning to acquire a degree of stability and predictability’ – a state of grace presumably reached because of his acceptance (along with his government’s) of the Jaswant Singh-Talbott policy template.
But as a copiously self-advertised Nehruvian, he seems entirely oblivious to Jawaharlal’s finest, most enduring, policy achievement – the seeding, in Nehru’s phrase, of the secretive ‘Janus-faced’ nuclear programme to gain for India dual mastery over the civilian and the military atom, and of broad-based defence science and industry geared to make the country militarily self-sufficient. Together, these capabilities were planned by Nehru to take India to the top rank of nations because, as a classical statesman necessarily of the realpolitik stripe, Jawaharlal appreciated these as the prerequisites of great power. His successors in office have hog-tied the one decisive capability and, in connivance with the bureaucrats and the military brass, reduced the other to a massive ‘licensed production’ workshop sustaining various defence industries abroad, among them, Russian, Israeli, French, British and, if Delhi would have it, American!
So absorbed is he is of Nehru’s rhetoric that Natwar Singh refuses to acknowledge the nuclear and military reality and Jawaharlal’s actual policies, in the main, it seems because the MEA, like most of the rest of the officialdom was not informed about any developments in the Department of Atomic Energy and deliberately kept out of the nuclear decision loop. Jawaharlal, apparently, did not trust Indian officials – and, in retrospect, who can blame him? – not to leak what India was upto in the nuclear realm especially to the big powers who, he feared, would by foul means, prevent India from acquiring the great power military wherewithal he so desired the country to possess. Hence, personally, Natwar has no stake in the nuclear security or more generally in military security.
It does not help that he may think of security as a function of deft diplomacy of the sort he thinks MEA is expert in rather than, in hard terms, as a function of strong and comprehensive military capabilities hitched to a dynamic grand strategy. Indeed, Natwar Singh has publicly pooh-poohed nuclear weapons, going so far as to tell a questioner at the earlier mentioned conference, who wanted to know what effect, if any, India’s nuclear weapons have had on the conduct of Indian policy, that the Indian nuclear arsenal had ‘no effect’ whatsoever!
In other words, Natwar is prepared to risk being seen as entirely abstracted from political reality just so his antipathy towards nuclear weapons is not doubted. In which case, Natwar’s thinking is a liability to the state. Except, he presides over its foreign policy! In the event, one can expect that led by Natwar, the Congress coalition will be content not rocking the boat and persisting with the BJP legacy of a half-cocked nuclear deterrent which, like simulated sex, fools nobody and is no good.
Jaswant Singh was, as Talbott reveals, always on a leash held by Brajesh Mishra, the factotum in Vajpayee’s Delhi durbar. Natwar has no such constraints on him other than those that the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi may decide to impose. (J.N. ‘Mani’ Dixit, the National Security Adviser to the PM, Manmohan Singh, cannot do a Brajesh because as an MEA stalwart – and Natwar’s junior from his days in the Foreign Service – he is a ‘pragmatist’. Recall, that during the time Jaswant was ready to sign CTBT, Dixit in his newspaper columns urged precisely this course of action.)
Uninterested in military matters and even less in the nuances of nuclear deterrence, there is always the danger of Natwar Singh ceding strategic ground to the US and P-5 by inadvertence. (He has, it is true, formed a committee of ‘outsiders’ to ‘advise’ him. But this body is unlikely to muster any new or different ideas, in the main, because almost all of its members are – you guessed it! – retired diplomats and former colleagues of the minister!
And finally there is the legion of newspaper columnists and ‘defence experts’, each trying to outdo the other, in chumming up to the Americans and preparing the ground for the public’s approval of many of the controversial policies discussed above, which will result in India’s strategic reduction. Suffice here, to pick on what K. Subrahmanyam, the doyen among civilian strategists, is saying. He has been in the van and giving the lead to the press and much of the Indian strategic community. In the past, he opposed the resumption of testing prior to the 1998 tests and advised India’s signature on the CTBT, and he is a votary of a minimalist ‘minimum deterrent’.
These days he is arguing for defence cooperation (CSI, PSI, BMD) with the United States. How ironic that Subrahmanyam has come to adopt the positions he has. It was after all he who in 1979 wrote the then defence minister C. Subramaniam’s speech to the National Defence College in which, keeping the erosion of India’s independence as a consequence of Cornwallis’ system firmly in mind, the latter had warned about the dangers of forging ‘subsidiary alliances’ with either of the super powers.
For example, Subrahmanyam in his column curiously titled ‘Towards Realpolitik’ (Times of India, 12 December 2004), justifies close defence cooperation and collaboration with the US, which Washington has conditioned on India’s restraining itself in the strategic sphere by not building-up its nuclear and missile forces as an opportunity for New Delhi to engage in joint high technology military projects in which the country’s vaunted software prowess would be deployed, to create ‘a multi-strand mutual dependency’ to ‘counter’ America’s ‘hegemonic tendencies’.
It is a self-consciously clever concept (like his view, for instance, about the ‘strategic restraint regime’ as allowing the US the time in which to raise its comfort level about India’s nuclear/thermonuclear and missile forces!), typical of Subrahmanyam’s writing but one that is neither plausible as policy, leave alone workable. The reason simply is that to expect Washington to concede a seminal role for India in the US’ national security policies that India has all but ceded to the United States in the strategic security field is, to put it mildly, a patently nonsensical premise. If Tony Blair’s Britain, which is the closest ally of the US, complains it is unable to access cutting-edge American military technologies, what to talk of that country’s participating in their development, it is unlikely Washington will cut India any slack.
The fact is the US will string India along for as long as it possibly can with promises of high technology and collaboration in some rinky-dink projects with no imminent military-use prospects. When have suckers gotten an even break? A ‘mutual dependency’ can be generated between equals or near equals, or between countries who hope to gain equally from defence cooperation, something that will not be facilitated by NSSP and such like. But NSSP or no NSSP, the new National Security Adviser in the White House, Steven J. Hadley, assured Talbott of the continuity in US policy and of his intention to not allow India in any way to ‘unravel’ the prevailing NPT nonproliferation order.
If it is ‘mutual dependency’ India wants it can be realized by my paradigm wherein, India with consequential thermonuclear and conventional military capabilities provides the sinews of an expansive security structure in Asia meant primarily to serve its national interests, secondarily the security interests of its Asian strategic partners and, by the by, making itself indispensable to the US as well. This more equitable relationship is evident in the Information Technology sector, where the US companies are not doing India any favour by setting up software development and microchip/semi-conductor design centres and BPOs. The two sides are in the game for mutual profit.
That is the way for India to go. It is high time New Delhi stopped begging for a UN Security Council seat and badgering every notable passing through Delhi about it, stopped looking to the United States and other countries to provide the country overarching security – it is demeaning – stopped being diffident and eager to please the big boys, and instead got on with the business of acting its size, and mustering the will and the vision and speedily acquiring real teeth so that when India barks everybody will be aware it can bite.