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Act Without Forethought,
Brag Imprudently and Repent Forever
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
If a single sentence were to summarize the history of India, it would be the above title. The Scythians, Huns, Greeks, Persians, Afghans, Turkomen, Mongols and Arabs have used the Boland, Khyber and other northwest passes to attack, plunder and colonize the Indian subcontinent and neither the border nor the regional Hindu kingdoms gave a single thought to guard or fortify the few bottlenecks singly or collectively even after repeatedly experienced disasters. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to re-live it. The repeated invasions of India, Russia (Napoleon & Hitler) and currently Iraq (Britain & US) prove this. Mohammed Ghazni raided Northern and Western India dozens of times for plunder, but no Hindu king set up any warning posts or defenses to impede the difficult logistics of his raiders over a thousand miles of India in an era when the only mode of transport was human or animal limbs. Eventually plunder gave way to conquest and colonization for nearly a millennium with active collusion by local traitors without remorse.
The second route of subjugation later was maritime. The cruel and atrocious behavior of Vasco de Gama was not only ignored and not retaliated against, but led to craven cowardly collaboration by petty competing rulers. Eventually the Portuguese carved out local enclaves as did the French and British using Indian sepoys to fight their wars and subjugate their own people. The so-called mighty Indian Mughal Empire had to pay bribes to Portuguese pirates in the Arabian Sea to allow it to send ships for trading to Gulf ports and for Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. It took three to six months in those days for reinforcements from Europe to arrive to support the British, Dutch, French and Portuguese territories in the Indies. There was no internal cohesion, independent spirit or revulsion at subjugation leading to any mass movement of liberation.
In the fifth century BC, the onslaught of the mighty Persian Empire encompassing present day Iran, parts of Iraq and Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey was stopped cold at the narrow pass of Thermopylae by a small group of Spartans with a little foresight and willingness to die. It set a pattern and allowed the fleets of the unified Greek City States to decisively defeat the Persian fleet at Salamis. In the fifteenth century the Spanish expelled the colonizing Moors after seven centuries. The Dutch escaped the Spanish yoke over a century later. The Greeks, Serbs and Bulgarians overthrew their Turkish colonial rulers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Americans despite being ethnically and linguistically identical left the British Empire as India was forcibly inducted in it.
Some may excuse the Indian idiocy on the basis of historical artifacts of earlier times but the lack of foresight, egotistic trumpeting and subsequent long laments still continue post-independence in India. A foolish and naive Nehru egomaniacally strutting on the world stage ignored the national defense needs, laying the country open to the 1962 Chinese aggression and Indian debacle and had to throw himself at the mercy of American military help. His ignoring of basic needs like agriculture led to the humiliating indebtedness of India to America for the PL480 grain aid to prevent starvation. His daughter Indira Gandhi's machinations to perpetuate dynastic rule led to her creation of the Khalistan and Kashmir insurgencies. Even today the shameful sycophantic intellectual cowardice leads to a puppet Manmohan Singh ruling on stage, while Sonia, an unqualified dynastic relic pulls the strings behind the curtain like the British political agents of the vintage days of the Raj. Only America the land of an equally ignorant and apathetic electorate has dynastic rule despite relatively open and fair elections, apart from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, all in South Asia and with similarities in culture.
Nothing is gained by the tirade of proclaiming the litany of past follies, if one keeps repeating the same mistakes. The catharsis of confession even when inclusive of remorse and repentance has little meaning when unaccompanied by reform. It is conceivable that there were legitimate reasons for India's inability to join the nuclear club prior to the NPT of the late nineteen sixties. There was no advantage to the explosion of 1974. It was done by Indira Gandhi in her usual pique to shore up her falling popularity that ultimately led to her declaration of emergency and arrests of the opposition a little over a year later. Her plots led to Bhindranwale, the Khalistan insurgency, the Golden Temple attack and her assassination. Similar foolish delusions of grandeur without the premeditated malice of his mother led to the assassination of the heir Rajiv.
Nehru may be redeemed for his buildup of research and education institutions and setting up of public sector entities like AEC (now BARC), BHEL, BEL etc. Indira maybe redeemed for her facilitating the birth of Bangladesh, while garnering world sympathy despite the intrigues of the crooked Nixon-Kissinger cabal. If she had chosen the Israeli route of being a covert unannounced nuclear power, she would have retained the goodwill of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and may have prevented the nuclear arms race on the sub-continent.
She did not take the steps to achieve independent self-sufficiency in Uranium ore or enrichment when she detonated the bomb and thus brought upon the country sanctions for which it was unprepared. The fault may lie also with our scientists who have been slow to innovate or plan. This is equally evident in the dismal performance of our DRDO's inability to develop indigenous components of or completed tanks (Arjun), 155mm Howitzers or their ammunition, ATV (nuclear submarine power plant), multi-role combat aircraft (LCA), submarines, aircraft carriers and even adequate numbers and varieties of missiles.
Take the example of Russia whose navy was defeated by the Japanese in 1905 and whose total armed forces lost and disintegrated in WW1. After the Bolshevik takeover, by WW2 Russia was manufacturing a great deal of its military equipment and getting it from the Allies lend-lease program. By 1960 it was almost on par with America. In nearly sixty years of independence India is pathetically dependent on Russia, Sweden, UK, France, Italy, US, Germany and Israel for components, spare parts, ammunition, radars, transports, helicopters, aircraft, carriers, submarines, tanks, radar, UAVs, APCs and everything we need.
It is this inability to procure or produce enough HEU for civilian nuclear reactors and the inability to build large ones with 500MW or greater capacity that requires us to want the new treaty with America. Our cuddling up to America has required alienation of Iran, our energy supplier and irritated Russia, our major arms supplier. Manmohan's recent visit to Russia resulted in Russia saying that it will follow the nuclear suppliers group's decision and limit our access to certain arms source codes, thus downgrading our special relationship. America also is not offering the pact for altruistic reasons and wants its own pound of flesh. It wants to restrain and if possible cap India's fissile material production and stockpile and missile capabilities to the level of minimal deterrence against China and Pakistan but below any threat to America in range, number or power. It also wants to build up India in economic and conventional military capability to counter and contain China.
There is nothing wrong in our reassessing and changing alliances. Nations do that all the time and we have benefited tremendously in our closer relations with Israel. It must be done after deliberation, debate and assessment of consequences and most importantly by our design and not by forced errors or buffeting by forces beyond our control. Thus if we get sufficient technology (civilian nuclear and aerospace as well as defense and commercial), trade and commerce and do not sacrifice our independence, deterrence capability and security, it maybe alright to irritate our present allies and downgrade our relationships provided the price and resultant restraints are not too onerous or ruinous.
This requires that
the current Indian government publicly release the information regarding our
needs, capabilities and benefits of the nuclear pact and allow informed and
reasoned public debate. It must not be done in the pig in a poke style Enron
electricity and Bofors arms deals for bribes in Swiss Banks, that is the
preferred modus operandi of Indian leadership including this one at the very
top. Thus we want to avoid thoughtless explosions or invasions, followed by
statements of our shining effulgence or bragging "bring them ons" in costumes.
These will only end in perpetual repentance for entrapping agreements or
military quagmires from which we seek desperate ways out to save face at the
cost of blood and treasure as in Kargil or Iraq, while enriching our corrupt
coffin buyers or hellish burden military contractors.
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