The new security threat India faces by Girilal Jain

Going by the Indian government’s past record, it is highly unlikely that the Prime Minister will raise the issue of Islamic upsurge in his discussions with the visiting British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major. But this is the crux of the security threat India faces and will face in coming years and decades.

Pakistan’s hostility has never been in doubt, though in certain periods its circumstances have obliged it to observe restraint, as between 1971 when it split, and 1981 when it began to receive massive military assistance from the United States. Since then it has trained, armed and financed terrorists in order to detach the border states of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir from India; currently it is busy extending these activities to western India.

Bangladesh has constituted a different kind of threat. Hordes from there have poured into this country for years. The figures of illegal immigrants is placed anywhere between five and eight million. Recent events have shown that as the Islamic tide has risen there, Dhaka is no less hostile than Islamabad even if it is not as potent and free to organize an assault.

Equally significantly, there is no longer any scope for the illusion that non-Muslim majority India has any firm friend among Muslim countries from the Wagah border to the Atlantic. That they should have censured New Delhi on the demolition by a crowd out of control of a nondescript non-mosque despite decades of support to them by it on the Palestinian issue and of cooperation in the economic and other fields speaks of the possible dangers ahead. All of them have ignored the destruction of hundreds of temples in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Muslim world is, of course deeply divided. Almost all Muslim regimes are highly unpopular with their peoples. Many of them live in terror of the fundamentalists who wants to abolish 14 centuries of history. Some of them have taken tough measures in a futile bid to ensure that mosques are not used as centres of armed subversion. But all that is no insurance that some of them will not back Pakistan with money and weapons in an armed confrontation which is always a possibility and in its continuing programme of sub­version. Saudi Arabia and Iran compete in financing Muslim ‘causes’. If it is unfair to Israel to compare its security problems with ours in view of its miniscule size in terms of both territory and population, it is also unfair to India to compare its difficulties with Israel’s in view of Jerusalem’s clear military superiority over its neighbours and the support it continues to enjoy in Washington. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and disarray in Russia have added to India’s woes.

Not only has the supply of spares and replacements become uncertain, Russia in desperation has sold the latest weapons systems to China and Iran, both of which are, to put it no higher, better disposed towards Pakistan than towards India.

There is growing evidence like the recent Carnegie Endow­ment report, that westerners are no longer as insensitive to India’s security requirements and as solicitous of Pakistan as they have been till recently. But they still do not, at least publicly, have a worldview which can enable them to visualize or acknowledge the kind of threat this country is likely to face.

Three major factors which make future projections in re­spect of the world scene a hazardous business the Islamic upsurge, uncertainty about China and disarray in Russia converge on India as they do not on any other country with the possible exception of Israel indirectly. For no neighbour of Israel has the military capability and potential which Pakistan has vis-à-vis India.

The world has changed beyond recognition since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but old habits die hard. Thus both Washington and London continue to equate India with Pakistan, especially in respect of nuclear weapons potentiality, as if South Asia can be insulated against winds blowing from West Asia, Central Asia, China and Russia.

The most charitable explanation can be that they too are at a loss to work out a comprehensive framework and are therefore trying to find piecemeal solutions to some limited problems. This may be valid to an extent in respect of Israel, but it is certainly not so in the case of India.  The new faultlines run along its borders and coastline.

A recent article in The New York Times (reprinted in International Herald Tribune on January 14) details the kind of weapons that are necessary to avoid annihilation of Israel and Saudi Arabia by Iran, or Iraq, or Syria in possession of weapons of mass destruction. These are mind-boggling. A sober assessment of India’s possible require­ment cannot but be much worse. Deterrence is the only realistic and practical way to cope with the nightmare.

The Observer of Business and Politics, 25 January 1993

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