20th February 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot 

Note – There is only one important editorial today.

Question – Analyse the defence threats to India and highlight the way ahead.

Context – The hostile neighbourhood.


Threats to India:

  • Disturbed internal conditions in most countries of South Asia can be attributed mainly to unabated terrorist activities and organised crime. India has been facing sporadic communal, ethnic and Maoist violence, which is socially and geographically more pervasive than cross border terrorism from Pakistan and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, which have presently disturbed peace in the subcontinent. Chinese intrusions into Indian territory both in eastern and western sectors of Sino- Indian boundary are posing new threats to peace in the region.
  1. India – Pakistan faceoff – Pakistan has mostly if not always adopted a hostile policy towards India. And It seems there is no change in the policy of the Pakistan army in matters related to Kashmir. The top brass, along with a crop of retired generals, still believes that India should not be allowed to rest in peace till it agrees to accept a solution of the Kashmir problem as demanded by them. The Pakistan army, realising its inability to settle the problem by conventional military or diplomatic means, continues to wage an asymmetric conflict, hoping that India will finally relent.
  • Tactics and techniques of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists of using local people as a shield must be neutralised both in rear and forward areas as there are indications that a renewed and more vigorous assault by Pakistan irregulars coinciding with the American withdrawal from Afghanistan is in the offing. India must anticipate the pattern of the attacks it may face in the near future and reassess and review the basic concepts that underpin the doctrines of countering Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K.
  • The new Pakistani offensive can pose multiple threats, ranging from persistent terror attacks to low-intensity conflicts waged through subnational ethnic or religious groups recruited within our own country. Operations by a large number of non-state actors operating at the behest of the Pakistan army may soon assume the shape of a prolonged conflict in Kashmir along with terrorist attacks on high-profile targets in other parts of India.
  • Pakistan can pose multiple threats through non-state actors, fanatics and extremists supported by technology experts operating through secret networks based within the country. The potential of shadowy groups against security forces is underestimated at times, and non-state actors’ capability of conducting a prolonged and sustained conflict is often treated with disdain. Tactical pauses should not be mistaken for termination of hostilities or signs of victory.
  • The exact nature, forms and contours which a covert war can take in the future in the developing security environments are still by and large obscure. The diverse forms and shapes of the new Pakistani covert war may hold many surprises. The current doctrinal concepts for combating Pakistan-sponsored terror and subversive activities may prove largely ineffective unless we are able to anticipate and pre-empt future Pakistani plans with some exactitude and evolve appropriate models for dealing with the challenges that a post-modern covert warfare may pose
  • A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of the sponsor.
  1. Border instructions by China:
  • China, in the recent past, has been sending clear signals to India of a new assertive border policy to coerce India into settling the longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries. It is obvious that the growing economic and trade ties between the two countries have not translated into good relations. The stand-off that continued for over two weeks in April–May in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) created serious doubts in India about China’s future intentions in the region.
  • The Chinese have been rapidly improving their military capability in Tibet and all along the Indian border for the past few years, while India has been extremely slow in creating the required defence infrastructure on the disputed borders. China’s latest proposal on border management that neither side should patrol within a certain distance of the LAC or build new border defences simply aims to limit India’s military build on the borders. These proposals are meant to freeze India’s defence preparations and place China in a position of permanent military advantage on the borders.
  • China’s aggressive postures and brazen military intrusions across the Indian borders have forced India into a hurried acquisition of advanced military hardware for achieving parity on the borders. India, however, is still not in a position to eliminate the possibility of a military thrust by China in the Ladakh region. Although India has refrained from adopting an aggressive posture on the borders, it has made it clear to China at the diplomatic level that continued incursions may lead to a change in India’s strategic posture. Unlike in the past, India has stopped declaring that it considers Tibet an integral part of China.
  • China’s other activities that pose a permanent strategic challenge to India in South Asia are its expanded strategic ties with Pakistan, deployment of troops in northern areas of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and its plans to build a railway line linking Xinjiang with Gwadar port. Chinese activities have also increased in Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. Moreover, the Chinese have been negotiating with several countries in the Indian Ocean region for base facilities for their navy. In these circumstances, the Chinese intentions to up the ante for India in South Asian region are obvious. It is now time for India to fine-tune its military capabilities and improve its overall strategic posture in South Asia to counter the Chinese moves.
  1. Afghanistan: the new battleground:
  • The turmoil in Afghanistan is likely to intensify after the withdrawal of the US-led forces, and the next arena of conflict between Pakistan and India could well be Afghanistan as there is no change in the aggressive and intrusive policy of the Pakistani army towards India. The Pakistan army, in collaboration with the Taliban, is likely to make all efforts to oust India from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops from there.
  • The Pakistan army has a perennial fear of strategic encirclement by India and Afghanistan, and the Pakistan army believes that a pliant, pro- Pakistan Taliban regime in Afghanistan is necessary to ward off this danger. According to strategic thinkers in Pakistan, any regime with close ties to India should not be allowed to continue in Afghanistan as it may pose danger to the very existence of Pakistan. Pakistan’s military establishment believes Afghanistan provides vital “strategic depth” to Pakistan where it could relocate armament and crucial bases out of India’s military reach. In any case, a friendly regime in Afghanistan would provide support and enormous resources to Pakistan.
  • India, on the other hand, would want a secular India-friendly regime in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces in 2014. Pakistan would attempt to bring India’s ongoing development programmes in Afghanistan to a standstill. India has provided around $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan since 2002 for highways, roads and government buildings, health clinics and doctors and education.
  • In October 2011, India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement, the first that Afghanistan signed with any country. India has been training some Afghan military forces for some time and is now considering an Afghan request to provide its security forces heavy arms and equipment. Pakistan has repeatedly planned and executed attacks on the Indian embassy and consulates in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. Such attacks are bound to intensify in 2014.

Way forward:

  • A country’s domestic politics are an important pointer to a stable foreign policy. There could be different views within a nation, but equilibrium needs to be maintained if it is not to adversely impact a nation’s foreign policy imperatives.
  • An impression that the country is facing internal strains could encourage an adversary, to exploit our weaknesses. This is a critical point that the defence white paper needs to lay stress on.

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