The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Giving Kabul a leg up: My article in Pragati

In the January 2010 edition of  Pragati, I argue that it is in India’s national interest to invest in training the Afghanistan National Army (ANA).  There are two aspects to this proposition — the first is protective, i.e., denying the Pakistani army and ISI strategic depth in a vassal state to further their ambitions against India.  The second is aspirational — loosening India’s self imposed shackles and allowing it to project its power beyond its own shores, as it must as a regional power.

India must offer to train ANA military personnel through programmes in both Afghanistan and India. India has several COIN schools such as the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) and specialised training centres like the High-Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Jammu and Kashmir.

The CIJWS already draws international participation of military
personnel from the United States, United Kingdom and other Central Asian states. Further assistance can be provided by augmenting logistics and communications infrastructure to aid the ANA and providing essential
military supplies to the country.

India can also assist in augmenting ANA’s air defence capabilities. Training can be provided to ANA Air Corps’ pilots; specific requests for training on Mi-35 helicopters (the air corps operates a handful) have previously been made. Indeed, further opportunities for Indian assistance exist even in the medium to long run, as the ANA Air Corps seeks to induct light multi-role attack/air superiority jets by 2015.

Read more about it on Pragati ( PDF; 1.7 MB)

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Filed under: Af-Pak, Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, India, Pakistan, Pragati, Terrorism, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indian media discourse on China’s 60th

China celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1, 2009.  It did so with the pomp and circumstance befitting a significant milestone.  Fireworks, aerobatics,  even a  female militia in miniskirt ensemble, and of course, contingents from the world’s largest armed forces.

In India, media coverage was distressingly predictable.  Labeling the military parade China’s “massive display of strength”, the media harped on about how the People’s Republic overwhelms India in military might.  Like this wonderful piece, called China vs India: Military might put together by an “NDTV correspondent” on their website (and also broadcast as a news item on television).

The article gives you a blow-by-blow of China’s relative superiority — 6,000 more “airplanes” in the PLAF, 100,000 more troops.  Run of the mill, factually incorrect observations — like Chinese plans to build and induct an aircraft carrier by 2010.  For those with an eye for the bleeding obvious, 2010 is next year.  And lest the nuclear arena be ignored, the article points out that China’s most potent warhead tested was 4 mT, whereas apparently an Indian nuclear test yielded 50 kT.  The author should have disclosed this a few weeks ago — it would have put an end to this ruccus.

Reading this article, you get the sense that China overwhelms India militarily and that the sanest thing for the Indian army to do under the circumstances is to pack up and go home.  Except, defense and national security aren’t played out on balance sheets or through inventory counts.

Any Chinese military misadventure is contingent on a number of factors, including India’s conventional  military capability, analysis of the impact of war on China’s economy and global standing, prospects of game-altering strategic alliances should war be imposed on India, and of course, China’s definition of “acceptable damage” and its assessment of India’s ability to cross that threshold via a nuclear assault.

Of course, not once was any of this remotely brought to the fore during India’s marathon coverage of China. To do so would be to bore an already disengaged audience about the intricacies of military strategy and international relations.  Why complicate matters when you can shock and scandalize someone and quickly cut to a commercial where Yuvraj Singh tries to sell you a Fiat Grande Punto?

Georges ” le Tigre” Clemenceau once said “war is too important a business to be left to soldiers”.  Disengagement of the public from matters relating to national security has led to very low levels of accountability in the defense of India.  Of the TV news anchors and “on-site” correspondents, not many can talk intelligently on such areas and ask probing questions to defense guests.  Comically, (and speaking of “le Tigre”) this blogger remembers TV coverage of the Kargil War, where one TV-news personality made repeated references to “Tiger Hills”, like it was some dashed hill station.

Today, the only honest, probing and meaningful analysis is conducted mostly by think tanks, whose publications are, unfortunately, only read by other think tanks. The Filter Coffee has long held the position that discussion on the defense of India needs to move away from think tanks and into our living rooms.  It is only then that true accountability can be demanded, both from the system, riddled as it is with bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, and from the media, who today get a free pass on peddling half-truths and sweeping generalizations on an unsuspecting public.

As it stands today on matters of defense and national security, the media fails the very democracy it says it is protecting.

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Filed under: China, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, indian media, Indian Navy, nuclear weapons, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Down to Chinatown

When the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) labels your country a security threat, you will probably sit up and take notice.  The Global Times published the results of a pulse survey where 90% of the respondents indicated that China’s security was threatened by India.  The article provides a rare insight into the political machinations of Big Red.

India’s military moves could cast a shadow over bilateral relations, said Dai Xun, an expert in military affairs, who described India’s actions as “plundering a burning house”, when the international community was focused on a reported nuclear test in the DPRK, destroying the mutual trust between neighboring countries

The pollster, huanqiu.com, also hosts a defense and strategic affairs Internet chat forum, which is very much in the mold of many other defense forums —  mostly filled with bravado and rhetoric, and generally lacking in pragmatism.  But what makes this blogger take notice isn’t so much that such distorted numbers existed, but that a mouthpiece newspaper for the CCP would publish these results, and pass them off as having merit.  The website also polled users on other questions concerning India, a translation of which is included here.

After all, the most recent World Public Opinion (2008), indicated that while there was a general antipathy towards India in China (44% had an unfavorable opinion of India), the statistics were not nearly as skewed as the newspaper article suggests.

All this because of  reports that India is deploying an additional two divisions (mainly light infantry) and two SU-30MKI squadron in Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers “disputed”, and part of “Southern Tibet”.  However, while the dispatching of additional firepower to Arunachal Pradesh is a welcome sign, it merely acts as a deterrent in the here and now to Chinese misadventurism and doesn’t really give India the sense of parity that it needs along the McMahon Line.  Indeed, the most urgent need in Arunachal is not in the deployment of additional troops, per se, but in the development of border infrastructure.

China has worked feverishly to ensure that sufficient infrastructure is in place to be able to quickly move troops and supplies from as far out as Lhasa to the border through land and air.  That India has withdrawn from over 40 border roads projects committed through the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) doesn’t help make matters better.

The recent brouhaha about India in the Chinese press certainly means that China is concerned about India’s growing presence in Arunachal Pradesh.  The deployment of additional troops, and the presumtive refocusing on BRO projects in Arunachal are baby steps, but essential and need to be taken. Manmohan Singh’s government has been blisfully asleep to China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and the leverage it now has with India’s neighbors, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.  This, aside from the “all weather” friendship that it has with Pakistan.  The time has come for India to formulate a strategic response to China’s growing influence in the region. One can only hope that India’s message to China vis-a-vis troop deployments, are only part, and not the full extent of India’s reply to China’s hegemoneous designs.

Filed under: China, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, International Boundaries, Line of Actual Control, McMahon Line, World, , , , , , , , , , , ,

By-two Kaapi (Twitter)