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As India celebrated on Sunday the anniversary of victory in the Kargil War and paid tribute to the martyrs, it was also a time to think about India’s strategic approach to conflicts. In every war, India has suffered early setbacks because it has failed to defend against pre-emptive attacks or failed to anticipate the adversary’s plans. Such failure can prove fatal at some point if not corrected. Quite obviously there are deficiencies in the threat perception mechanism and intelligence gathering. Somewhere at the heart of this problem lies a basic pacifism and misplaced idealism that became ingrained during the Nehruvian years. It is partly a misreading of Gandhi’s principle of non-violence.

Those who want India to be militarily strong enough to counter aggression by what PM Modi has described as ‘dusht’ neighbours, substitute capability with bluster – the more distant they are from the frontline, the more jingoistic is their approach. While the popular mood after incidents like that in the Galwan Valley can be of flag-waving patriotism, it is cold-blooded assessment of the reality that would be more helpful in dealing with such incidents. It is the duty of the intellectual class to develop among the people the resolute spirit required to face down the enemy. In the Japanese book of the Samurai, ‘Hagakure’, it was prescribed that the spirit of the approaching enemy could be judged by whether there was a shadow on their faces or the light shining off them. Those eager to go to battle looked down and, hence, the shadow. It is the reality that impresses, not the clamour over the TV news shows.

If China and Pakistan continue to pose a problem to India, it is because they have their long term objectives laid out. No matter who comes to power, that policy is strengthened and furthered. What is India’s long term plan for Pakistan and China? If we want peace with China, would it not be worthwhile to settle the border questions, once and for all, even if it means giving away some territory? On the other hand, if China is not to be trusted, should it not India’s long-term goal be liberation of Tibet, and Xinjiang as a bonus? If the latter is the case, it would be appropriate to prepare accordingly, instead of believing it will happen by itself. The reason why Pakistan is so scared of the Modi regime is because it genuinely believes the plan to recover POK could be put into operation. But, is there such a plan? It is not just on the borders, but also in other areas – India must start playing on the front foot, instead of going back to every ball bowled!