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India has to consider its security policy more seriously

Ever since independence India has followed a policy of independent foreign policy and not aligning with either of the super powers during the cold war. India championed the Non Aligned Movement with like minded countries who didn’t want to have anything to do with the cold warriors. That didn’t stop India from aligning with the Soviets who provided weapons, investments in industry and political support with its clout and veto in the UN.

The cold war is long since over.Today Indian economy in nominal terms is as big as Russia’s and twice the size of Russia in PPP terms. Russia has struggled post cold war and its only relevance in the world is because of its military might and the thousands of nuclear weapons it has.

India since the cold war has opened up its economy which has led to rapid growth and a rising middle class consuming every kind of products. In spite of the recent slowdown of its economy, it is on the radar of every multinational company backed by their governments.

India’s military is getting stronger but due to lack of a strong domestic military industrial set up, India is the largest importer of weapons in the world.

India is located on the strategic sea lanes of the Indian Ocean through which more than 80 percent of the world’s seaborne trade in oil transits.India’s own energy security and trade depends on the seas. India with its growing naval strength has assumed a vital role in keeping the sea lanes safe. India is involved in anti piracy operations and regularly conducts naval exercises with many nations including with US for better interoperability.

In spite of this, India remains a weak state vis a vis the powerful US and China which with its big and growing economy and military has assumed greater role in world affairs. China’s rise is not as peaceful as it was made out to be. It now lays claims on vast areas in Asia including many islands in East and South China Sea and more importantly for India, it occupies Aksai Chin and lays claim to Arunachal Pradesh. China regularly intrudes into India and on every occasion India tends to downplay them blaming it on the difference of perception of the LAC.

Every country in Asia is wary of the Chinese. Countries like Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Australia are under the protective umbrella of the US. India steadfastly maintains that it will not get into any military alliance with any country aimed at another country. This is read as that it will not get into any alliance against China to not send any wrong signals to China. This while China repeatedly violates India’s sovereignty.

India, having got rid of colonial power after 200 years of colonial rule was probably rightly averse to any military alliances during the cold war which would have required basing of foreign troops and equipment on its soil. Let us see what India’s independent foreign policy has meant and what it has to show for it.For all the sensitivities India shows about its sovereignty, it has vast tracts of territories occupied by its neighbors. Pakistan occupies large parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (73,000Km2 of Gilgit Baltistan and 13,000 km2 of Kashmir). Pak ceded Shaksgam valley (5800 km2) to China. China controls Aksai Chin (37,000 km2).

India’s two principle enemies have been Pakistan and China and have fought wars against them. India has been coy to any multilateral security framework to not appear to be against these nations,China in particular but these nations have regularly shown aggression against India regardless.

The other reason for India not getting into any multinational security framework like NATO has apart from not wanting to open its territory to foreign forces, has been the issue of getting sucked into foreign wars because of the treaty clause like collective defence. It is worth mentioning that during the entire Cold War, not once was NATO clause of collective defence invoked. No wars were fought by NATO. Throughout the Cold War the alliance made sure the stakes and consequences were too high to allow any escalation keeping the member states safe.

It is amply clear that as China becomes even more militarily and economically powerful, it will get more aggressive. Depsang like incident would not have taken place if India was part of a multilateral security framework. Its worth noting that while China intruded into India, it has not attempted the same in east Asia which is under US protection although it has done some needling to test the resolve.

There have been talks over the years about an India-Japan-Australia-Japan alliance with probably other smaller nations of Indo-Pacific region. It has not gone through as India has not given serious consideration for reasons I’ve stated earlier. India was on the other side of the ColdWar with the US and remains wary about US intentions. In the current situation it will make strategic sense for India to shed those inhibitions & forge an alliance with it. The gains will not only be on the strategic front but also on economic. India can get US investments in high technology & develop a good industrial base. India already has good relations with Japan with substantial investments from them.

Indian & US goals usually don’t converge on many world issues but India will have to find a middle ground over them for its own interests & security. India’s relations and dealing with Iran come to mind. This doesn’t mean India should be a lackey of the US. NATO members aren’t, not are Japan or Australia. A South Asia Pacific Treaty Organization is certainly possible.

This should be a mid term foreign policy of India going through 2030. India has to have serious about itself and frame short term and long term vision,goals and policy to achieve them.

If India doesn’t take urgent action in securing itself, it may well face a situation where it is forced to part with more territory or be forced to sign a treaty to forego its claimed territory after a war with China.

About Yusuf Unjhawala

Editor, India Defence Analysis. Admin,


  1. Sunil 20 February, 2014 at 05:30

    The Congress Party has been the bane of India and is responsible for the ills of the nation. The latest report by the parliamentary committee warns of lack of investment in infrastructure by the Defence Department and lack of political will by the government.

    If we couple this with an unpatriotic population we can see why we are in trouble. India is a nation of slaves.

    • Yusuf 1 March, 2014 at 14:17

      Thanks Sir. Yes we know the cold war history, and i mentioned that in my piece. We need to move beyond.

      I think you cant say the US might not be open to a NATO like alliance in Asia. I think it will become imperative for it as China becomes more assertive and dominating. If the US can have a bunch of countries at the periphery of China which is treaty bound to come to US aid and vice versa, it will make the job of the US easier. I think there is a convergence of interest in the region to warrant this. NATO and Warsaw pact never went to war with each other. We are heading towards another Cold War if not already.

  2. W.G.Ewald 22 February, 2014 at 21:39

    This is a good summary article.

    A comment I would make on a quote from the article:

    “India was on the other side of the ColdWar with the US and remains wary about US intentions.”

    That was probably due to US position being simply, “You’re not with use, then you’re against us”, not necessarily for any other good reason.

    Also because India being Socialist Republic.

    My opinion is that US and India should conduct joint naval and military exercises, but I don’t see another SEATO which would include India.

    Again, the article is a good summary and makes valid conclusions.

    • Sunil 23 February, 2014 at 05:22

      Socialism is dead and in any case did the general population agree to the constitution or the legal name of the nation? No. It was thrust upon us. Weakness, inaction and lack of will is due to the bad leadership of the Congress Party. We are all suffering the ill affects.

    • Yusuf 1 March, 2014 at 14:16

      Thanks Sir. Yes we know the cold war history, and i mentioned that in my piece. We need to move beyond.

      I think you cant say the US might not be open to a NATO like alliance in Asia. I think it will become imperative for it as China becomes more assertive and dominating. If the US can have a bunch of countries at the periphery of China which is treaty bound to come to US aid and vice versa, it will make the job of the US easier. I think there is a convergence of interest in the region to warrant this. NATO and Warsaw pact never went to war with each other. We are heading towards another Cold War if not already.

  3. George Chakko 25 February, 2014 at 10:44

    Comment on India’s Security revision need.

    I will have to disagree a bit even while conceding in principle, a greater military cooperation with SE Asian nations and Far-East will be to India’s advantage. The raison d’être is, in the current constellation of Asian and global realities, the future is not only least predictable, but far more complex than what appears at first look. There are unsteady U.S. global political vacillations, the boiling South China Sea disputes & Far-East territorial dispute conflicts, half-silently imploding South Asian uncertainties, plus the current, post-Sochi tension in Ukraine – Russia vs. the West ).These make a clear-cut decision for India the way you suggested, an unenviable mental marathon with chances of implementation success a dubious dream collapsed at best.

    My reasons are:

    I. With exception to Israel, the U.S. will never transfer advanced microelectronics or any other advanced, military high-tech fabrication knowhow to India, not even to their close European Allies, all the more, as India is cooperating with Russia to develop 5th generation joint-fighter. America knows too well that Russia is weak in advanced electronics (Russia does not have a Silicon Valley type, free industrial culture, churning out multiple novel products every week in consumer and advanced electronics, nor the exuberant capability of Japan in such areas.). Transferring technology to small countries like Taiwan and South Korea is one thing, but transferring to a potential future Big Power India, something else totally. Hence, no pipe-dreams please.

    II. India can ill-afford to sacrifice the current military cooperation with Russia. In material technologies and strategic raw materials inheritance, Russian strength is well-acknowledged, Russia is a far better source for easier technology transfer than what India can ever hope from the U.S. Don’t forget George Walker Bush is pensioned and the U.S. Congress has a substantial chunk of Congress members (esp. the Democrats) heavily opposed to India’s nuclear power status due to India’s positions on NPT and CTBT.

    III. India got itself, or, history, got India tied-up. The Past determines the Present and the Present the Future – It is historical determinism. Pres. Putin is an ace politic-chess profi. India will continue to need Russian support, be it on Kashmir or other matters at the UNSC, If India radically sways away from Russia, Putin could anytime open up Pak military aid option.

    IV. We can’t decline to discern that Russia is a factual Eurasian power enjoying the largest land mass in the world. Possibly it has the largest nuclear navy of the world. Most Indians, nor do American citizens ever know how many Russian nuclear submarines are so close to Washington D.C and other U.S. power centres 24×7 to nuke the U.S., if the U.S. ever dare to nuke Russia via U.S.– led NATO expansion through Ukraine. Hence irritating one such Russia is out of question for India.
    Frankly, such an eventuality doesn’t rise, because Russia has always been friendly to India even during Communist times, whereas our Big Daddy democratic brother America looked the other way supporting Pak dictatorship against India.

    V. Any India connivance with a pro-America military alliance will cost its blood. India’s Afghan and Iran friendships would get strained, as Russia supports both. As we have seen lately, even Saudi Arabia is disenchanted with the U.S. on Syria and Iran and Russia has begun courting the Saudis. Russia has long been an invited observer in OPEC meetings and know their Arab friends quite well. Let’s be frank to admit that it was Russia that saved America’s face in the Syria conflict, apart from habitually helping NATO alternative emergency supply lines to Afghanistan via its territory.

    VI. Russia’s game in the world is open. Nonetheless, it does not foreclose India’s military cooperation with democratic forces in Asia vis-à-vis a potential Chinese power aggression. India needs to culture Russian relationship deeper so that it works as an antidote to any possible Chin-Pak aggression on India. American help in such a situation would mean confrontation, a Russian help peaceful compromise.

    VII. If both China and Pakistan were to gang-up on India and the U.S., in order not to risk a nuclear war stays effectively neutral, Russia would the realistic, effective, intermediary help, because Russia has certain strategic leverage on China. China needs Russia’s strategic alliance as a nuclear heavy weight for SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) to succeed.

    Unmistakably, embedded in the SCO is a Eurasian Silk Road, which in the long run expectedly change the entire economic landscape of Eurasian continent, guaranteeing economic future of all involved. Why should India forego a chance for that reality by entering into U.S.–tailored Asian defence alliance principally designed to torpedo such developments to keep up U.S. predominance.

    VIII. History has taught India a hard lesson that the U.S. is not a proven reliable partner in several areas, politics, military and hardware spare parts. India’s military will be optioned to buy whole-system units at high price, probably with loan credits from U.S. banks to get India mortgaged to the U.S. as a permanent financial slave. The U.S. gives no free lunch. [One and only exception, the US$10 billion PL-480 write-off for grains provided in the 1966 famine (All grains were rationed throughout India then)]. Whenever and wherever the U.S. helped, it made sure it got something solid and double in return.

    IX. What would happen, if someday both BRICS and SCO and few Gulf Oil and anti-U.S. Latino countries decouple from dollar trade? The ever indiscriminate, mass-printed paper dollars, supposedly backboning U.S. trade as world currency, will turn valueless. The U.S. does not have the equivalent amount of gold for every dollar printed, as according to Bretton Woods principles. The truth is, U.S. has only 8133.5 tons of gold reserves (International Gold Council). America seemingly rides on a bluff, staking its new-found mass energy sources, commercially yet to see market light,as legitimation for its continuous its dollar print proliferation to justify a print-money oligopoly). [One American insider source (conspiracy?) recently claimed to know (relayed over Internet) that in the past two-and-a half years the U.S. printed roughly 2 to 3 Trillion dollar notes!].

    X. Viewed from such backdrop the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS offer a far safer, economic and political alternative than any hazardous military alliance with the U.S. India’s pragmatic and realistic option will hence remain a tough one, a fine but risky friendship balancing act towards all players, as per the motto – ‘Malice towards none and love towards all’. If India opts for a military alliance she will split and entrench the world into 2 dangerous confrontational blocs, because many developing countries will follow India – a pro-Russo-Sino bloc and a pro-American-Asia Pacific bloc. The U.S. has already launched its variant to SCO & BRICS, albeit a weak one, the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), eyeing India to join the group. Hereto, pl. see my critical comment on CFR’s Asia expert Dr. Elizabeth C. Economy’s article ‘The Asia Pivot’ published in Global Times, a leading Chinese publication. *
    * (Council on Foreign Relations based in Washington D.C. is a powerful, ‘non-partisan’ think tank, overseeing and reporting daily on U.S. Congressional matters through their publications & daily briefings, and whose experts often testify to the U.S. Congress on Global issues)

    George Chakko, Former U.N. correspondent at the Vienna International Centre, now retiree in Vienna, Austria. 25/02/ 2014 6.15 AM

  4. Deepak 5 March, 2014 at 19:59

    The first thing which is urgently needed is to educate our Political Class on Stratigic and Military Matters. Unfortunately all the politicians, from all parties & background, are totally oblivoius to long term stratigic military matters. They remain busy trying to run down each other. No long term decisions are ever taken, and on the contratory decisoins taken by one Government ot Minister are negated and overturned by others. Whereas on the other hand countries like China, USA, UK , France, Germany Japan etc have a long term perspective on such things and all successive governments persue the stratigic goal without any let up. I was in CLAWS( Center For Landwarfare Studies) and it was sad to notice that NO Politician( Both Congress & BJP included) ever attended and seminar. CLAWS holds some very good seminars on military matters, but politicians do not wish take advantage of such Think Tanks, and this is a sad commentry.

  5. W.G.Ewald 16 May, 2014 at 20:39

    It is worth pointing out that in the Forum, many DFI members have become visciously anti-NATO and actively pro-Russian, to the point where one moderator will delete anything said against Putin. It is refreshing to read an article that is well-balanced.

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