to fight a ‘limited conflict’ with China on the disputed border between the two countries. This would imply that the Indian establishment is integrated enough to have a strategy to deal with that country. Going by the manner in which the government has dealt with other ‘threat’ scenarios at the domestic or sub-continental level, it can be safely said that ad-hocism is more likely the norm. A system in which the government and Army Chief cannot agree on the latter’s age, how likely is it that they would be in accord on grand strategy? Factor in the Ministry of External Affairs and a Home Minister who has a finger in every pie, it cannot be said that anything is being done with an objective in mind. Whatever the moves being made to ‘strengthen’ the forces, they are way behind in terms of how soon they ought to be done and the scale necessary.
Remember, China does not care much about what spin Digvijay Singh, Manish Tiwari or Kapil Sibal might put on the reality. Considering these are the biggest guns that the Manmohan Singh Government has in its arsenal, there can’t be much being done. It is the lack of a strategy beyond asking the Armed Forces to be ready and providing them the barest of their requirements that allows China to inflict the almost daily humiliations on India, such as refusing visas to officials hailing from J&K or Arunachal Pradesh.
It is not enough to ask the Army to prepare for a border conflict. It is not enough for the US to believe that a major Sino-Indian conflict is ‘not imminent’. It is necessary for the Indian establishment to have an accurate assessment of India’s strengths vis-à-vis China and how these can be leveraged effectively. Traditionally, the problem with Indian foreign (and strategic) policy has been the constraints the country’s governments have imposed upon themselves because of ‘ideological’ reasons based on a worldview more suitable to Alice’s Looking Glass. Only Atal Behari’s tenure explored other dimensions, but he, too, felt obliged to harp on ‘continuity’ for the sake of form.
It is not that there have not been advances, but these have been forced on India by circumstance and less by choice or smart anticipation. One has only to visit one of the border outposts in Arunachal to know the difference between what China has done, and what is available to the Indian Army men. Chinese positions have all weather bunkers with regular power supply and communications. A soldier can get into a vehicle and drive off from any of these positions, while the Indian soldier has to walk and travel an average of five days to get to Guwahati, from where he can take a flight home and his leave begins to be counted. If ever there is a border conflict, the nation should not have unrealistic expectations. Like the BCCI, the Indian Government is just as unconcerned about the conditions its team is likely to face. Like always, it will be left to the heroism and elan of the Indian forces to pull out what they can from the situation.
And, indeed, what can be expected from a political establishment that excels only in manipulating the mathematics of caste and community, in divide and rule? In a situation where it is required to forge and enhance a national identity and purpose, at whatever sacrifice necessary, the temperament is to look at every short-term advantage that can be gained through whatever petty move that may come at hand. It is necessary to win the UP elections, so who cares about the long term implications of what is conceded for political gain? Buying fancy aircraft and tanks is one thing, but it requires equally sophisticated thinking to deploy them to advantage. The truth is, this cannot be done by those who are adept at distinguishing one caste from another.