Random Thoughts

Carrots, Sticks and Donkeys

Those who have some knowledge of American policy and strategy anticipated the sale of P3C Orions, F-16s and other sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan. What makes it all laughable is that the pretext is to aid Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts. These weapons will be used to intimidate or attack India. The daydreamers in India including respectable web-sites are mollified and crowing about two op-eds by former Ambassador Blackwill and former Senator Pressler recommending that America wholeheartedly embrace democratic India and overtly state its tilt towards it. The timing of these writings should make sensible thinking persons suspect that these were carrots hung in front of the donkey to fool the ass before it is to be struck by the heavy stick of arm sales to Pakistan. However well meaning these two persons maybe, they are currently out of power. One has become a lobbyist who gets paid to cash in on past influence and the other is on the board of directors of Infosys and has to proclaim a pro-India bias. The pie in the sky promises of Condoleeza Rice are just that. The hurdle of convincing the Congress and negotiating terms and transfer of technology in planes and nuclear reactors are slow and uncertain.

Let us consider why India was offered F-16s or F-18s. It was a sop to cover the sale to Pakistan. Furthermore, the technologies are a generation old and being phased out by replacement with the Raptor F-22 and the JSF F-35. It would be foolish for India to own the same model plane as Pakistan, even though modern air warfare is often beyond visual range. The reason Pakistan was offered the planes is to please Musharraf and his generals and defuse the widely prevalent public ill feeling towards America. This would consolidate Musharraf's hold on power and obtain his co-operation, if Iran is to be attacked. This would calm the primary worry of America of Pakistani nuclear assets falling into the hands of Islamic terrorists. It is worth noting that there is no limit on the number of planes and I am sure that one of them will handed over to China for reverse engineering. This doesn't worry America and India's concerns do not matter a bit to America, as the timing of the sale and previous anointing of Pakistan as a key non-NATO ally prove.

There is another widely prevalent misconception amongst Indian analysts that we can cozy up to China. China has no interest in seeking a military alliance or partnership with India. It has designs on our territory, is economically and militarily stronger, and having India on its side does little to help it stand up against America in the Taiwan or any other future dispute. It fears Japan which has the economic might and technology to threaten it, if it escapes American domination. Thus it wants a pacific Japan relying on American protection. It has not forgotten Nanking and Manchuria. Presently it wants to trade with America to obtain foreign exchange, provide jobs for its roving unemployed and obtain western technology. Thus it voices protests but still pretends to co-operate with America with regards to North Korea. In the meantime it is becoming the largest trading partner of Japan, South Korea, the ASEAN group and it is making inroads into Latin America and former Soviet Republics and Iran. It will continue to hold Pakistan's hand, support Bangladesh and Burma, while fomenting unrest in Nepal and the Indian northeast to cripple or slow India's rise.

Japan's interest in India is to police the Straits of Malacca, the bottleneck in the route of its oil supply. Until it abandons the American umbrella, there is no benefit to it of closer political or military ties to India. Only Russia, a dethroned superpower may have interest in a closer relationship. It is wooing Iran to counter American interference in Georgia, Ukraine etc. Its technology though good is not often superior to that of America, but it would be downright foolish of India to fight a war with America or even prepare for one as China is doing. Taiwan is the cause of that. If we fight a war with Pakistan, America may threaten or criticize us but it is not going to defend Pakistan as it may defend Taiwan.

Some of the technological gaps can be filled with the help of another country with whom we share a world-view. That is Israel. It has the technology as the refit of our MiGs, the Phalcon system, Green Pine radar, UAVs and Barak missile system purchase proves. In the meantime we should become a first rate military power by improving our economic might and that means trading with all and making it a point to negotiate transfer of technology in purchasing arms. France and to some extent Britain are two such sources worth cultivating, while still giving preference to Russia and Israel with whom we currently have common interests, while avoiding open conflict with America and China, just as America did by placating Britain and France within a decade of its birth as a nation. We must also follow America's example of not becoming the handmaiden of great powers, nor be beguiled by their grandiose proclamations or vague future promises. Our current price advantage in back office work, BPOs, call centers and software services is ephemeral and undependable. It could vanish overnight if America is peeved or someone does it cheaper. This is why China chose to go the manufacturing route and not the service sector one. Another lesson to be learnt from Prithviraj and America is that war, economic or military, is not some chivalrous contest on a medieval battlefield where victors and vanquished have a peg or two like pukka sahibs in the officers' mess, but a zero sum game where the victors make the rules and the vanquished get Nuremberg trials. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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