Monday, January 5, 2015

Ideological Compatibility ....... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/January 04, 2015

Ideological Compatibility Among Ministerial Troika Strengthens Modi-fied Pak Policy

According to the great 6th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War, “Invincibility lies in the defence, the possibility of victory in the attack.” Now in 21st century India, for the first time since Independence, a strong defence and offence strategy is in place. This was evident on Friday when the Indian Coast Guard intercepted a Pakistani boat laden with explosives and terrorists whose ostensible purpose was to repeat the 26/11 attacks. The pre-emptive action was the outcome of a properly coordinated strategy prepared by the ministries of Home, Defence and External Affairs with the PMO fully in the loop on one of the most successful operations against India’s enemies.

Undoubtedly, the number of Pakistani incursions, LoC violations and terrorist infiltration has risen during the past six months, but the Modi government has decided to pay Pakistan back in the same coin, be it forceful retaliation to enemy fire or blowing up a terrorist boat. The wait and watch approach to Pakistan has been thrown into the dungheap. If comments made by the stakeholders of India’s security are indications, it is obvious that the PM has chosen to follow bullets-for-bullets tactics towards Pakistan.

The change in perception and strategy is not by accident. It is embedded in the composition of Modi’s Cabinet and the restructured security establishment. Earlier, various ministers and officials were able to impose their personal preferences when it came to dealing with Pak-led terrorism. There was little ideological connectivity between those who ran the ministries of Defence, Home and External Affairs. Modi has ensured that the Big Three—Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar—complement, instead of confronting each other on national security. Not only are they die-hard Hindutva followers, but also none of them have been part of any kind of pro-Pak backroom diplomacy or belong to the peacenik club. No power player in any Western capital could ever have dreamt that an IIT-ian from a tiny state like Goa would be chosen to lead India’s gargantuan defence ministry. Swaraj and Rajnath are ‘fortunate’ victims of the class apartheid enforced by the Indian elite. Defence agents, international lobbyists and hawkers of Hawks jets, fighter planes, submarines and other defence equipment had thought it was below their dignity to include them on their mailing lists. Hence, the exclusivity of the three tigers has become India’s virtue.

The champions of dialogue and commerce with Pakistan would never have imagined the triumvirate occupying three of the five powerful corner rooms in South and North Blocks, where security strategies are evolved. Rajnath, Parrikar and Swaraj have acquired a reputation of a troika on a track, which means to destroy those hostile to India. They are working not for fame in Washington, London, New York, Mumbai or Lutyens’ Delhi but to make Pakistan an international pariah who breeds and feeds jihadists. Their mission is smooth, because the PM himself and NSA Ajit Doval have given them total support in their endeavour.

Defence analysts expect that ideological compatibility of the key players of Indian defence strategy will be able to restore some sanity to the Pak Army and its political leadership. Now, through Track-II brigade, they will not be able to infiltrate directly or indirectly Modi’s new fortress-like framework. Rajnath, Swaraj, Parrikar and Doval have minds of their own and directly report and discuss every issue with the PM. They have blighted the chances of many retired defence officials, superannuated diplomats, journalists and corporate leaders by making them irrelevant, and thus unemployable by any Janus-faced international agency or NGO, which encourages the arms race while propagating dialogue. Most of them were collecting commercial and strategic information during interactions with ministers and senior civil servants in previous regimes. All such informal espionage has stopped for the time being, since there are no conflicts of opinion either in the BJP’s political forums or the government hierarchy.

Modi, it seems, has learnt lessons from the past and has avoided choosing opportunists who pursued their own agendas without staying true to self-professed ideology. With promise of strong action against Pakistan during election rallies, Modi was deviating from the thinking of even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose political DNA made him evade confrontation in dealing with Pakistan. Kargil was forced on him. Vajpayee’s magnanimity was mistaken as weakness. During NDA I, there were differences between home minister L K Advani, foreign minister Jaswant Singh, defence minister George Fernandes and NSA Brijesh Mishra on Pakistan policy. Advani was overruled many times when he suggested strong action against the country whenever its terror plots were unearthed. The pro-US Mishra was always in favour of indulging Pakistan. Despite strong division within the Cabinet, Jaswant bartered with terrorists and accompanied them to Afghanistan to bring back a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in December 1999.

During the UPA’s rule, from PM Manmohan Singh to defence minister A K Antony, not one leader favoured an eye-for-an-eye approach towards Pakistan. Home minister Shivraj Patil, Antony and foreign ministers like S M Krishna, Natwar Singh and Salman Khurshid followed the diktat from the PMO or NSA Shiv Shankar Menon. The regime was habitually receptive to guidance from the US. Starting from 1950, none of the over three dozen defence, external affairs and home ministers had ever spoken—until now—in one voice on a decisive Pakistan policy. From Nehru to Manmohan, it was the acceptability among the classes and not the masses that dictated India’s response to its belligerent neighbour. All our leaders were influenced by non-state players of India or Pakistan while taking the final call. Modi has so far resisted all external pressures, which have tried to influence his strategic and diplomatic initiatives. The Modi-fied command and response mechanism has sent a clear message. The PM is convinced that any “strategy without tactics is the shortest route to victory”. Sun Tzu would agree.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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