National security must come first

National security must come first

Mohammad Vazeeruddin: National security must come first, This train of thought has been set in motion by newspaper reports that some politicians have...

This train of thought has been set in motion by newspaper reports that some politicians have suggested introduction of foreign direct investment (FDI) in India’s defence sector. Of course, the Central government and Parliament will discuss the proposal. Incidentally, Demosthenes told the Athenians, when they were threatened by Philip of Macedon that “if a democracy lets its internal debate drag on too long, it will find that it has lost the power to take any effective action.” The Macedonian army proved him right.

Chinese and Pakistani threat to our borders right now is no less real for all the efforts of the Modi government to keep them in good humor. While it will not do to take an alarmist view of it, it will not do, either, to coddle ourselves into the belief that they will not attack India when they can.

No Indian wants a war with either, but if one is foisted on it, India should not be found wanting. Indeed the backs of China and Pakistan must be tingling as they watch Indian leaders absorbed in animated discussions on their political affiliations and merits thereof and, of course, the scams that keep surfacing with monotonous regularity. The popular also looks keyed to such themes.

People know that the package economic and military aid worth $4.02 billion for 1987-93 billion which Pakistan received from the US only fuelled its military ambitions betrayed by General Zia that a war with India could not be ruled out. As though the US action was not a potent enough source of threat to India, China about the same time started making some menacing noises, including the charge that Indian troops were “nibbling” at its territory and that the Indian Air Force had violated its airspace!
According to one estimate then, China had deployed five divisions, with 5,000 to 10,000 men in each, in Tibet. Besides, it has built roads all along the border right up to the Line of Actual Control, laid an oil pipeline all the way to Lhasa and a railway line halfway to Tibet. Moreover, in addition to the 12,000 square miles of Indian territory occupied in 1962 war, China is sitting pretty over Arunachal Pradesh. As though all this was not enough, it conveyed through Russia and the US “a warning” to India.
Of course, our defence forces are always ready to meet any external threat from any country. But are our politicians prepared for such an eventuality? Their antics, including the slanging matches in Parliament, do not encourage the belief that they do.

Parenthetically, the Americans, until President Nixon learned to use chopsticks preparatory to his visit to China, often said of Chinese nature that the ago was apt to leap across middle ground and see itself as the universe. Some Indians may be hugging the belief that in the event of China and/or Pakistan committing aggression against India in future, the US and Russia, jointly or severally, will come to India’s aid. It is true that in the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the US sided with India, but that was partly because of Kennedy being the US President at that time, and because he had enormous admiration for Jawaharlal Nehru; and also because the super power had not yet started mending fences with China.

One illustration should suffice: The then US Treasury Secretary Blumenthal said in Beijing on February 25, 1979, that China was the “transgressor” in the fighting then raging in Vietnam, and warned that Sino-US relations would depend on a quick end to the fighting. The then Finance Minister of China, Chang Ching-fu, defended the invasion and said his country would continue fighting till Vietnam agreed to a conference “to settle the dispute.”

About the same time, the then US Vice-President Walter Mondale said in Washington that his country would not intervene militarily. If such was the US response to aggression against a country in whose name it had fought for long and relentlessly, how can India expect the US to fight alongside it in the event of Chinese aggression in future? Besides, the US at that time was not half as involved militarily as it has since become, be that in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

As for Russia, it has its own share of troubles, including the Ukraine. Though a dependable friend for decades, it may not be able to join forces with India in the event of the latter facing aggression. That means that, like Fitzgerald’s perpetual tango dancers, we Indians are now left to ourselves. At least this realization should make us take our minds off trivial issues and concentrate on national security. We Indians now have to worry about ever newer threats in West Asian countries.

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