We have stepped into the new year – 2019 – but with hesitation and cynicism that surpasses the past. The grim picture of the world presented by global affairs today, desists us from commemorating the year. War-torn pictures from countries in the Middle East, migrants dying at sea with governments watching them in helpless manner and closing their frontiers on them which is against humanitarian laws, people starving for food and water, and states preparing for future wars – we have become apathetic to the state of becoming numb. We seek refuge by sinking into ourselves. South Asia has been no exception to the grave dangers that the possible future holds as countries like India, Pakistan and China mould their national security policies in favour of military campaigns than peace building.
It has been hard to establish triple entente between India, Pakistan and China – the three regional powers in Southeast Asia – with each of them vying for the top position of a regional hegemon. China, one of the leading economies in the region and globally also, with its military prowess has been taking on even bigger fish like the United States. It has been wary of the US maneuvers in South China Sea, a territory (sea area) that can offer strategic advantage to the latter. The seriousness of US-China confrontation could be gauged from October 2 incident when a Chinese destroyer came ‘dangerously close’ to the US Decatur ship. Some years ago China had lifted its fighter jets to force the US planes out of the region in what it (China) called violation of its air space. These are all military moves, and not the economic war that the two countries have been engaged in for years.
India has also played its part to sever the eastern connection by adding more fire power to its naval capabilities. In November 2018 India announced that its Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear Submarine (SSBN), INS Arihant, had completed its first deterrent patrol. Those who follow war doctrine have argued that the K-15 missile system, with a range of about 750 kms on INS Arihant is not good enough to make it a formidable deterrent. They argue that longer range missiles (K-4) that are capable of striking targets in China and Pakistan with range exceeding 3000 kms need to be inducted. The naval dominance, besides giving a strategic edge, also ensure that sea trade routes remain influenced by the dominant power. The reaction from Pakistan on India’s naval investment was a bit subdued and in one report published in a Pakistan’s major daily newspaper, a security expert instead bragged about tactical weapons and capabilities possessed by Pakistan to hit back at India.
Pravin Sawhney in an article titled ‘New Land Warfare Doctrine Is Not a Credible Deterrent to China or Pakistan’ that was published on The Wire on December 28, describes the current view of Indian Land Warfare Doctrine that according to him is lifted more from ‘American writings’. Pravin has been critical of the overhyped counter insurgency operations (COINOPS) and military intervention in political affairs. The article seems to conclude that Indian army is not ready for a conventional war and at the same time points out the military prowess of China with precision guided missile systems, unmanned vehicles and advanced technologies like AI and robotics.
It may have escaped the notice of some, but India more than a week ago test fired its nuclear-capable Agni-IV, which has a strike range of 4000 kms. Long range missile systems that act as smooth delivery vehicles and include continental ballistic missiles and inter-continental ballistic missiles have been at the centre of numerous security debates. They have been rendered more serious with nuclear payloads instead of conventional war heads. The competition between India and Pakistan on this front has been an old one with the two engaged in the race of enhancing their firepower in the last over three decades.
But Pakistan’s interests in the security field seem to converge on action near its borders. In one report published a day ago it has come to light that Pakistan is planning to procure about 600 battle tanks including T-90s from Russia. Besides tanks, the Pakistan is also planning to procure 150 mm guns to power its artillery. These ambitious plans will have a direct effect on Indian security concerns and may trigger further escalation of the arms race in the region.
Those professing war doctrine have got cause and reason to push for larger military budget in India. It is the same for Pakistan where some security experts and hawks keep on tempting the political leadership of upgrading the arsenal in order to compete with India or maintain balance in the region. To generals such talks or plans are the icing on the cake, as they are always ready for an upgrade than downgrade.
Considering the economic conditions and other indicators in India and Pakistan, such reckless pursuits are surely disastrous. Pakistan’s present economy is so fragile that without external help the whole state may collapse within days. India too is not sure footed and most avoid taking its leap over the troubled waters. A Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report in July 2017 revealed that the ammunition available to the Indian army will be exhausted in 10 days of war. With the farmers demanding their loans to be waived off, shelter homes turned into dens of sexual abuse and prostitution, children asking for quality education and nourishment, diseased begging for hospitals and treatment centers – will India wake up to this side of the reality or keep on fancying battles and wars that will bring more deaths and destruction in the world. Regional instability has also increased following the inflated sense of nationalism to the point of chauvinism that has infected the countries in South Asia. The generals seem to forget that world is a bigger place where people from diverse ethnicities and culture live and get along amicably.
Today, the world needs peace more than it did before. Why should people be forced to go to war when we all can live peacefully together?
The famous Russian novelists Nikolayevich Tolstoy, famous for his treatise ‘War and Peace’, wrote “Can it really be that, for court and personal considerations, tens of thousands of lives must be risked.” Tolstoy and Gandhi were the two undisputed pacifists of their time, and they saved a lot of people in their little worlds in their own way.