Crouching Dragon, Kneeling Tiger

Kharavela

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WHY INDIA IS NOT A GREAT POWER (YET)
Author:
Bharat Karnad
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi

http://www.business-standard.com/ar...ing-dragon-kneeling-tiger-115112001203_1.html

Followers of this country's strategic and security policy know well that to read Bharat Karnad is to imbibe the most hawkish Indian world view and perspectives outside the Sangh Parivar. Over the years, Karnad has steadfastly advocated staring down China (India's real rival, he asserts), ignoring Pakistan (irrelevant to a major power like India), developing, testing and deploying thermonuclear weapons (the final arbiter of power), establishing military bases abroad in areas like Central Asia (to outflank China and Pakistan) and a muscular, outgoing foreign policy (a la Israel) that tells any antagonist that she messes with India at her own peril.

A few lines from the first page of Karnad's latest book sum up what he throws at you for the next 551 pages: "The United States did not become a globe-girdling country by staying behind the moats of the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans nor Britain 'Great' by restricting itself to the Dover Strait; Czarist Russia obtained strategic weight by extending its reach to the Pacific; Prussia was a truculent Central European kingdom until Bismarck used the Prussian Army to unify the Germanic states and elbow Austria and France out of their pivotal position in continental Europe; and Japan would have remained a small group of islands in the Asian Far East but for the Meiji Restoration and the vigorous policies it sparked. Great power-wise, the twenty-first century is no different than the previous ages in that a combination of widely defined interests; an outgoing, agile, and proactive foreign policy backed by economic might and military prowess; and the ability and, especially, the will to power and the determination to use it still matters."

Those who dismiss Karnad as a right-wing crackpot are usually guilty of focusing mistakenly only on his more outrageous suggestions (more on that later). In fact, Karnad brings to his work a wide-ranging reading of history -though some would contest his interpretation of it - a compelling and often elegant writing style, and an unapologetic drive to conclusions that do not seek shelter behind caveats. Karnad's expertise straddles the fields of strategy, diplomacy, nuclear weaponry and doctrine, and, importantly, defence planning and warfighting. This raises him above the bevy of former diplomats and intelligence officials who lord it over India's think tank community without any clear idea of the grey realm where diplomacy shades into military coercion. This perspective imbues Karnad's writing with a certitude that comes out in sentences like: "The problem in a nutshell is that the Indian government, military and the policy circles are habituated to aiming low and hitting lower."

Among thinkers who relish the notion of a non-aggressive, soft-treading India - and there are many such, especially in the US and in India - Karnad's book will spark a fresh round of tut-tuting. His plans for boosting India's power include abandoning nuclear "no-first use" and resuming nuclear testing; placing "atomic demolition munitions" (miniature nukes) at Himalayan passes on the Sino-Indian border to block Chinese invading forces; basing nuclear missile submarines in Australia, from where Chinese targets are conveniently at hand; and arming Tibetan and Vietnamese guerrillas to fight China. India's grand strategy must be to "meet China's challenge, rather than … fight yesterday's wars with a lesser foe (Pakistan)"; and to implement an "Asian Monroe Doctrine", in which India becomes the sole security custodian of the Indian Ocean and other regional waters.

This is disruptive stuff, especially for conservative New Delhi policy elites, whose strategy has traditionally accommodated international sentiments. Yet strategic thinkers should read Karnad's prescription carefully, knowing they bookend India's most provocative policy options. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi more inclined than his predecessors to assertiveness (though, so far at least, his policies are characterised more by continuity than transformative change), some of Karnad's scenarios may well come to pass. A key former policy maker, the previous national security advisor, Shivshankar Menon, noted during the book's release function in New Delhi that many of Karnad's prescriptions were already part of the Indian government's policy, excepting, of course, the most aggressive and eye-catching recommendations. For the author, of course, this is not nearly enough. He believes India's "ambition void" is ensuring that the country "is proving to be its own worst enemy".

After deploring India's namby-pamby strategy and diplomacy in his initial chapters, Karnad moves on to an equally hard-hitting critique of India's military planning, structuring and war-fighting plans. These later chapters - with titles like "Hard Power and the Deficit of Strategic Imagination" and "Military Infirmities and Strengths" - analyse in detail India's defence forces and the military-industrial complex that should be backing it with weapons and material. Karnad laments that India's navy, air force and, especially, army, "haven't implemented systemic changes to make them capable of obtaining decisive results fast…" Milder observers have been irritated by this comedy of errors; the irascible author, predictably, tears apart the subject with relish.

Amid this carnage, Karnad raises key issues. He dissects the viability of India's "theatre switching" strategy - or New Delhi's option to retaliate against Chinese land strikes into, say, the sensitive Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh (where Chinese invaders would enjoy important advantages), by imposing a naval blockade on Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean (where the initiative and advantage would lie with India). Though this is a comforting thought for New Delhi policy makers, the author questions the viability of such a strategy: asking whether the navy could react quickly enough, and "is the sinking of a few Chinese warships and the apprehension of several merchantmen the equal of, and enough recompense for, the loss of valuable territory to China for good?"

A strategically and militarily educated reader will both enjoy Karnad's book and be exasperated in equal measure by the certitude of his pronouncements. Even so, as one of the first studies of India's security dilemmas to include a keen study of the military apparatus and the industrial backbone that undergirds it, this book will find a place in every strategic scholar's library.


Please feel free to comment...
 
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Srinivas_K

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These are some jingoistic titles dude !

We need muscle and until then we should work calmly. Chinese have big muscle and economy we have to match that first then we can play the game accordingly.

we are on the right path and we should continue in this direction.

Mean while we should form alliances with Japan, US and other like minded countries which are around China.

We should also improve our economic relations with China. China is a market for us.
 

pmaitra

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I agree with the second paragraph of the OP.

The rest of it is also reasonably argued.

What India lacks is it is not internally forged into hardness. Most of the countries that became major powers because so only after resolving its internal weaknesses. India since 1947 has followed a slightly different approach. World powers are not inculcated on such foundations.
 

Razor

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These are some jingoistic titles dude !

We need muscle and until then we should work calmly. Chinese have big muscle and economy we have to match that first then we can play the game accordingly.

we are on the right path and we should continue in this direction.

Mean while we should form alliances with Japan, US and other like minded countries which are around China.
If we are serious about countering China in the future, we need to form close relationships with at least Russia, Korea and Japan.

China is securing to supply lines over land through Central Asia, Pak etc and through sea (string of pearls); in order to prevent Chinese hegemony in the near future, these must be disrupted.

Oh, and nuke capability and missile defence should be a priority.
 
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spikey360

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Wow! This is the right stuff. We need a mix of ambitious types like these and practical types like Ajit Doval.
Couldn't have agreed more, especially with the first paragraph.
 

I_PLAY_BAD

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The path to a regional power is eradicating poverty and illiteracy.
Eradicating these two problems is a necessity to obtain an enhanced human resource base which India is mulling to use to attain power presently and in future. Any building cannot be built on a weak base. So the base must be strengthened first. Until then we must be calm and composed and focus only on our internal development with limited attention to playing a power.

I like the idea of ignoring Pakistan which is a paper country with dozens of its own problem. It shouldn't cause much trouble to India until it is battling its own problems. For being pro-active India can fund and arm its rebels but nothing much attention beyond that on Pakis.

I am completely against the idea of viewing China as an enemy. Rather China must be viewed as an opportunity like India is for them. China boasts of a better skill base but believe me they have but they do not have cutting edge innovation. On those grounds India and China are not the same level. This century purely belonging to people who innovate India must go on that path. For that Indians must be capable of doing that. Again this point is linked to my previous argument of empowering our people. So to counter China we must develop ourselves, again !

Pakistan is a paper country and we must not take it into account whenever India is being discussed.
 

Rashna

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Not all powers began as powers, imperialism means destroying other economies to build your own. In the current world order superpower status is a dignified form of imperialism. In that sense one can go back to Ashoka's empire and the Mauryan empire, was it necessarily linked to economic prowess or more linked to military might?

Economic might came after military success as one gained access to the wealth of other nations.
In that perspective Karnad's theories say go belligerent, ignore the niceties of being a responsible country and forge ahead with getting hold of the superpower status through sheer bravado.

I don't think we as a country can gain respect as superpower by muscling our way through. Case in point the nepal fiasco. We aren't able to bully even a tiny neighbour which is totally dependent on us for everything. In that light we have a long way to go before we achieve that status, but the soft power status which India earned with Buddha and the indian epics resonate even today. Food for thought.....
 

spikey360

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don't think we as a country can gain respect as superpower by muscling our way through. Case in point the nepal fiasco. We aren't able to bully even a tiny neighbour which is totally dependent on us for everything.
.. and who kept track of how many such incident occurred during Ashoka's expansion? Also a food for thought..
 

pmaitra

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@Rashna, good post.

I like the Mauryan approach and you are right, economic might came after military conquest.

Soft power is good but only to some extent. Ashoka became soft and started patronizing Buddhism. We all know what happened after that. Sadly, today Modi government is trying to abolish animal sacrifice in the Indian Army.

India did not bully Nepal. India tried to reason with them. It is a part of Nepalis who are blockading the roads as they feel marginalized. If India wants, India can put Nepal under its finger tips.
 

Rashna

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Ashoka turned to buddhism after a lot of blood was spilt. So there surely was lot of violence.... Someone should add on to this.
.. and who kept track of how many such incident occurred during Ashoka's expansion? Also a food for thought..
 

Rashna

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They are trying to invoke "panchsheel". Is it relevant in the context of Karnad's theories? If we have to follow this theory we should be a China and not care about human rights record or our place in the world as a responsible power? Then again we are not even given a permanent place in the UNSC... what power do we have?

@Rashna, good post.

I like the Mauryan approach and you are right, economic might came after military conquest.

Soft power is good but only to some extent. Ashoka became soft and started patronizing Buddhism. We all know what happened after that. Sadly, today Modi government is trying to abolish animal sacrifice in the Indian Army.

India did not bully Nepal. India tried to reason with them. It is a part of Nepalis who are blockading the roads as they feel marginalized. If India wants, India can put Nepal under its finger tips.
 

Bahamut

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First we need a very strong economy (75% of china), huge middle class and increase our industrial and scientific capability.We can do a lot of investment in china backyard .To be strong outside we have to be strong inside .Secure our interest in our backyard.Keeping the chines away form pak,Sri lanka etc .
For china play a long term game ,the government is very unstable and if growth in china is slow that means more public backlash.The easiest way is let the CCP do what it is doing ,it will rot form inside. All central Asian countries will join EEU,sooner or later. More important get all the 5 columns out of India and increase our human resources .
 

alphacentury

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Indians need to be assertive for their Army to act assertively. But ,then we are expecting too much. We have better things to worry about - "Love, brotherhood, human rights". Good article.
 

Sylex21

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In short since you asked for opinions, the author of this book seems lost in hawkish day dreaming and imagined threats while failing to think of the practicality and consequences of his proposed actions, nearly all of which are TERRIBLE ideas. I counter that the real battle isn't India vs China but USA vs China. USA rules the world, China is the up and comer, India is in no place to challenge either one of them head on as a 3rd..... (yet), but perhaps it never really needs to. India needs to decide what it wants overall. Imagine infinite power, what would India really want to do with it? Would India ever want to be the world's only hyper power or police the entire globe? I highly doubt it. If that isn't the goal, then seeing China as a bitter enemy till the end isn't really needed anymore.

I also hate all this "India is doing poorly" talk. I argue that India is doing GREAT. On every metric if you compare it over the past 20-30 years, India has surged ahead. True it hasn't matched the pace of China, but a 1 party dictatorship is better designed for rapid change than a democracy, but there are benefits to slow and steady quality long lasting change as well.

India is also pretty much punching at its exact weight right now, and there is no need to try and act like a super power, till it has the military and economy to match.

The only thing India needs to sort out is 1) Either to find a new way to reach a peaceful accommodation with Pakistan, 2) Find some way to finish off Pakistan permanently. Only when the USA was free of local challenges was it able to travel across the globe as a super power.
 

Indx TechStyle

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WHY INDIA IS NOT A GREAT POWER (YET)
Author:
Bharat Karnad
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi

http://www.business-standard.com/ar...ing-dragon-kneeling-tiger-115112001203_1.html

Followers of this country's strategic and security policy know well that to read Bharat Karnad is to imbibe the most hawkish Indian world view and perspectives outside the Sangh Parivar. Over the years, Karnad has steadfastly advocated staring down China (India's real rival, he asserts), ignoring Pakistan (irrelevant to a major power like India), developing, testing and deploying thermonuclear weapons (the final arbiter of power), establishing military bases abroad in areas like Central Asia (to outflank China and Pakistan) and a muscular, outgoing foreign policy (a la Israel) that tells any antagonist that she messes with India at her own peril.

A few lines from the first page of Karnad's latest book sum up what he throws at you for the next 551 pages: "The United States did not become a globe-girdling country by staying behind the moats of the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans nor Britain 'Great' by restricting itself to the Dover Strait; Czarist Russia obtained strategic weight by extending its reach to the Pacific; Prussia was a truculent Central European kingdom until Bismarck used the Prussian Army to unify the Germanic states and elbow Austria and France out of their pivotal position in continental Europe; and Japan would have remained a small group of islands in the Asian Far East but for the Meiji Restoration and the vigorous policies it sparked. Great power-wise, the twenty-first century is no different than the previous ages in that a combination of widely defined interests; an outgoing, agile, and proactive foreign policy backed by economic might and military prowess; and the ability and, especially, the will to power and the determination to use it still matters."

Those who dismiss Karnad as a right-wing crackpot are usually guilty of focusing mistakenly only on his more outrageous suggestions (more on that later). In fact, Karnad brings to his work a wide-ranging reading of history -though some would contest his interpretation of it - a compelling and often elegant writing style, and an unapologetic drive to conclusions that do not seek shelter behind caveats. Karnad's expertise straddles the fields of strategy, diplomacy, nuclear weaponry and doctrine, and, importantly, defence planning and warfighting. This raises him above the bevy of former diplomats and intelligence officials who lord it over India's think tank community without any clear idea of the grey realm where diplomacy shades into military coercion. This perspective imbues Karnad's writing with a certitude that comes out in sentences like: "The problem in a nutshell is that the Indian government, military and the policy circles are habituated to aiming low and hitting lower."

Among thinkers who relish the notion of a non-aggressive, soft-treading India - and there are many such, especially in the US and in India - Karnad's book will spark a fresh round of tut-tuting. His plans for boosting India's power include abandoning nuclear "no-first use" and resuming nuclear testing; placing "atomic demolition munitions" (miniature nukes) at Himalayan passes on the Sino-Indian border to block Chinese invading forces; basing nuclear missile submarines in Australia, from where Chinese targets are conveniently at hand; and arming Tibetan and Vietnamese guerrillas to fight China. India's grand strategy must be to "meet China's challenge, rather than … fight yesterday's wars with a lesser foe (Pakistan)"; and to implement an "Asian Monroe Doctrine", in which India becomes the sole security custodian of the Indian Ocean and other regional waters.

This is disruptive stuff, especially for conservative New Delhi policy elites, whose strategy has traditionally accommodated international sentiments. Yet strategic thinkers should read Karnad's prescription carefully, knowing they bookend India's most provocative policy options. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi more inclined than his predecessors to assertiveness (though, so far at least, his policies are characterised more by continuity than transformative change), some of Karnad's scenarios may well come to pass. A key former policy maker, the previous national security advisor, Shivshankar Menon, noted during the book's release function in New Delhi that many of Karnad's prescriptions were already part of the Indian government's policy, excepting, of course, the most aggressive and eye-catching recommendations. For the author, of course, this is not nearly enough. He believes India's "ambition void" is ensuring that the country "is proving to be its own worst enemy".

After deploring India's namby-pamby strategy and diplomacy in his initial chapters, Karnad moves on to an equally hard-hitting critique of India's military planning, structuring and war-fighting plans. These later chapters - with titles like "Hard Power and the Deficit of Strategic Imagination" and "Military Infirmities and Strengths" - analyse in detail India's defence forces and the military-industrial complex that should be backing it with weapons and material. Karnad laments that India's navy, air force and, especially, army, "haven't implemented systemic changes to make them capable of obtaining decisive results fast…" Milder observers have been irritated by this comedy of errors; the irascible author, predictably, tears apart the subject with relish.

Amid this carnage, Karnad raises key issues. He dissects the viability of India's "theatre switching" strategy - or New Delhi's option to retaliate against Chinese land strikes into, say, the sensitive Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh (where Chinese invaders would enjoy important advantages), by imposing a naval blockade on Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean (where the initiative and advantage would lie with India). Though this is a comforting thought for New Delhi policy makers, the author questions the viability of such a strategy: asking whether the navy could react quickly enough, and "is the sinking of a few Chinese warships and the apprehension of several merchantmen the equal of, and enough recompense for, the loss of valuable territory to China for good?"

A strategically and militarily educated reader will both enjoy Karnad's book and be exasperated in equal measure by the certitude of his pronouncements. Even so, as one of the first studies of India's security dilemmas to include a keen study of the military apparatus and the industrial backbone that undergirds it, this book will find a place in every strategic scholar's library.


Please feel free to comment...
Actually, India is an intersection between great powers like US, China and Global Powers like Germany and UK.
And no offense for India's current inability of great power status as no one had to start with just 13% literacy and 97% poverty rate.
As of now, India still emerging as a great power.
By watching speed, we can catch up in Human Development indicators in 2020, economically 2025 and militarily by 2030(for fully operationalizing indigenous industry).
Better to watch our path.
India has often done better than economist's predictions.
I can't understand why everybody remains in hurry.
GDP per capita can be 3 times in every 15years if current speed goes on.
Rise of India is inevitable.
But I will be happy to see India as a Vishwa Guru and not and bully. ;)
 

AnantS

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<snip.. snip> Case in point the nepal fiasco. We aren't able to bully even a tiny neighbour which is totally dependent on us for everything. In that light we have a long way to go before we achieve that status, but the soft power status which India earned with Buddha and the indian epics resonate even today. Food for thought.....
US could not bully Cuba into submission, this fact did not impact USA. The Nepal policy is prime case of Big Carrot & soft stick policy. Its a tried and tested one earlier. Nepal want to burn India via China. India very well knows its fault-lines, and is just using right pressure to hint Nepal costs of becoming another Pakistan for India.

China can open new routes to Nepal which will be costly to maintain in winters, and things will be pricey unless China subsidizes it.
 

Rashna

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I am of the opinion that bullying doesn't work hence India should focus on being firm but not belligerent.
All of our neighbors stand to benefit from good relations with us and with China too, but it doesn't change the fact that they are culturally closer to India than to the Chinese, also the geography makes it difficult for China to react like India can and does most times.
We should cash in on the natural advantage we have rather than adding to difficulties in our neighborhood. That is the right approach to "Super Powerhood", if one is aspiring for that status.

US could not bully Cuba into submission, this fact did not impact USA. The Nepal policy is prime case of Big Carrot & soft stick policy. Its a tried and tested one earlier. Nepal want to burn India via China. India very well knows its fault-lines, and is just using right pressure to hint Nepal costs of becoming another Pakistan for India.

China can open new routes to Nepal which will be costly to maintain in winters, and things will be pricey unless China subsidizes it.
 

AnantS

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I am of the opinion that bullying doesn't work hence India should focus on being firm but not belligerent.
All of our neighbors stand to benefit from good relations with us and with China too, but it doesn't change the fact that they are culturally closer to India than to the Chinese, also the geography makes it difficult for China to react like India can and does most times.
We should cash in on the natural advantage we have rather than adding to difficulties in our neighborhood. That is the right approach to "Super Powerhood", if one is aspiring for that status.
Everything you said is all hunky-dory but is based on false premises that nepal is goody goody and India bad bad. Nepal like any hilly state in India has two factions lower hills/valleys vs upper hills. Upper Hills is strongly pro China and has Paki complex of thinking themselves superior to "dhotis" and think that Nepal rightful owner of all Northern/Northwestern Hill states which India has occupied illegally. Lower Hills/Valley faction is pro India also called Madhesis as they are of Bihar UP stock primarily and oppose blant Chinese interference. The Upper hills hold the power and they themselves spread propaganda against India. Remember bad propaganda against India even when India supplied largest ever relief material? The propaganda spread was that India occupied their airports preventing their friend china to send more relief planes and were bad mouthing India left and right. They opposed Indian media because, they wanted to stop transmitting images of India helping reaching out in remote regions and helping out Army. The main issue is now that in China guided constitution India finds its bigger votary Madhesis carefully sidelined, a move to suppress Madhesis as well cock a snoot at India. India is doing nothing it is just helping Madhesis find their voice just as China helped Maoists in Nepal. Its a game between China and India, who can throw big money & who can provide easy transit passage for Nepal. Nehru politics that you are suggesting looks good in books or in theory. Realpolitik is different ball game.
 

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