Can we Trust Congress On National Security: Historical Perspective

Congress was the successor to the British Raj politically and effectively in all spheres of the newly independent Indian nation. Nehru was chosen by MK Gandhi against the wishes of the majority in the Congress and nominated by the Congress WorCom or Working Committee whereas as many as 12 out of 17 PCCs or the Pradesh Congress Committees has nominated Sardar Patel to be the Prime Minister of the independent India.

Various contemporary British Raj officers had vouched for Patel being a more clear headed and more decisive leader who was a Realist first and foremost. However, Gandhi had in many ways since the 1930 Lahore Convention had more or less anointed Nehru as his successor and it was enough for Sardar to cede this most important prize of the Independence to Jawahar, as he was called by Sardar.

Nehru was more of an Anglophile, a suave and polished version decidedly liked by the British as they could easily relate to than Sardar, who despite his Bar in England was more rooted to the soil, a more rustic and traditional man whose views and values were more than pronounced in Indian context. It was primarily these qualities of Nehru which moved Gandhi to anoint Nehru as his political successor rather than Sardar. One thing which worked in favour of Jawaharlal was his acceptance among the minorities, especially Muslims who were left behind or chose to stay in India post Partition.

Kashmir Cauldron

This background is central to the issue of National Security in face of the events which unfolded soon after and which remain most relevant today. In fact, the 70 years must be viewed with a security spectrum as India is bound by not so friendly neighbourhood.
The first challenge rose soon enough in form of external invasion by the Pakistani Army and the Pashtun tribal militias in 1947-48. The bone of contention was Kashmir, a uniquely situated State with even more diverse ethnicity, its three regions had three different ethnic and religious groups of people.

Kashmir Valley and Northern Areas Of Gilgit -Baltistan was predominantly Muslim, Sunnis, with scattering of Shias and Gujjars, Jammu had a Hindu majority while Ladakh though sparsely populated was entirely Buddhist with Kargil district being Shia dominant. The peculiarities of his rule led Maharaja Hari Singh to dither and procrastinate on the future of his State, which according to the British mandate was free to choose its destiny. Both, India and Pakistan wanted this important State with its boundaries touching Central Asia, China and Pakistan, in fact Kashmir was the most interesting and most important piece of Real Estate post the British Raj in India. Even Britain wanted a piece of it to stall the Russian Bear in its southward march for the warm waters of Indian Ocean.

The treacherous game was evident in the way the Gilgit and Baltistan were betrayed by the British officers to Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh was forced to sign the Instrument Of Accession on 26 Oct 1947 in view of the impending entry of the tribal militias led by regular armed forces of Pakistan into Srinagar. The War then on is a subject matter of Military History but it gives insight to the workings of the people who were at the helm of affairs in India.

Nehru was more than hesitant to repulse what was essentially an attack on the sovereignty of the Indian nation. The Indian Army which was tasked to throw out the invaders was hamstrung by lack of clarity on behalf the top leadership led by Nehru and N Gopalaswami Aiyengar, his Minister of Kashmir…

When the Indian Army was poised to throw out the invaders, in a favourable situation, Nehru committed the Herculean blunder of referring the Tribal Invasion to the UN against the wishes of Sardar Patel. This decision has haunted the Nation ever since, if it wasn’t enough, he agreed to a UN sponsored and monitored Plebiscite in the entire State Of Kashmir. Sardar was against both the arbitrary decisions taken by Nehru as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Army has reiterated that it was capable of throwing out the Tribals if it was given the time. The referral to the UN and a Unilateral Ceasefire by India has led to this gargantuan Problem of Kashmir which we see today. It’s not the intent to point out the legislative bunglings which can fill volumes of books.

Chinese Checkers

If, Kashmir was Nehru’s miscalculation what excuse does the nation have with respect to the Chinese Conundrum ?

Never ever has anyone been able to decipher the foolish romanticism of Nehru while dealing with the Chinese. As early as 1950, China had started showing its colours, it began to subdue Tibet which acted as buffer between the two Asian giants, both gaining independence from foreign rulers and invaders. Chinese have always believed that Tibet is an integral part of ancient China and whatever deviation exists is of recent historicity.
China initially did not react to Nehru’s claim on Aksai Chin but subsequently after annexing Tibet it started its Sabre Rattling. Nehru was always aware of the fact that Chinese would take over Tibet but did absolutely nothing in this regard. In fact, in a note dated 18.11.50 he accepts the inevitability of Tibet wasting away and there’s nothing that we could. (Ref: Patel, A Life, Rajmohan Gandhi).

The fact that Nehru had abdicated Tibet in its gravest hour was another of his greatest blunders, if Nehru thought he had bought Peace he was sadly mistaken and it was proven by the Chinese in less than six years when China made that road through Aksai Chin linking Tibet to Zinxiang in 1956-57. In fact, the Burmese leader Ba Swe warned Nehru not to trust Zhou en Lai as the unclassified CIA documents show. While Chinese didn’t dispute any Indian territorial claims, it’s official maps showed a substantial Indian territory as China’s in both Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh or NEFA as it was then called.

The Panchsheel Agreement, Bandung Conference and many other hesitant steps to restore normalcy failed, the 1959 asylum to Dalal Lama was the proverbial straw that broke the Camel’s back. Chinese designs since 1950s had been very aggressive and demanding, there was no subterfuge when it came to expansionist tendencies of China on Tibet, yet when India pushed its Forward Policy doctrine, there was no change in its military policy, no augmentation of Forces, no force multiplier, no acquisition of new weapon systems, no material change except a change in doctrine without any support. And India paid heavily for this blunder in the ensuing War of 1962. Chinese came upto Tejpur in Assam and it was only Unilateral Ceasefire by the Chinese which restored sanity.

The Armed Forces had fought tooth and nails but were poorly equipped, poorly fed and poorly armed to meet a well oiled war machine in the PLA or the People’s Liberation Army. The stories of valour and bravery of our troops is the only reason for us to remember the debacle of 1962. The saga Of Rezang La, the stands at icy heights of Nuranang remind us of our inadequacy in the face of a dogged enemy who had done his homework better. Nehru had appointed BM Kaul, non combat soldier to head War only because he was a Kashmiri. There are tomes of reports on the Himalayan Blunder. Nehru died a disenchanted man, a romantic who was cured of his romanticism by the harsh reality of Chinese medicine.

1965 and 1971 Wars

India was dominant in the 1965 War and held more Pakistani territory than vice a versa but the Tashkent Agreement nullified the territorial advantage of as also the tactical advantage enjoyed by the armed forces by agreeing to a Ceasefire. The most important and strategically located Haji Pir Pass, the priceless prize of the War was returned to Pakistan at Tashkent, and not because Lal Bahadur Shastri wanted but the coterie with in Congress led by Indira was in cohorts with the Russians and its notorious spy agency, the KGB.

If failures of 1965 are a sore thorn in our sides we went on to suffer a tragic diplomatic defeat at the Shimla Agreement. Indira Gandhi had handed a humiliating defeat to Pakistan and divided Pakistan into two independent nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh by her military manoeuvres ably led by Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw. The fact that 1971 was the most comprehensive and complete victory by the Indian armed forces has been overshadowed by the post War losses suffered due to diplomatic failure.

India had divided a nation but it had gained nothing except a temporary reprieve. There was no headway in any of the other pending issues between the two countries. The LoC was never settled, the question of J&K as integral part of India wasn’t even brought up since Pakistan had gone to War twice before on the issue of Kashmir. India could not leverage its total victory on the battlefield to a successful degradation of the capabilities of our adversary. The fact that India had 93000 Pakistani POWs in the War yet we could not force the Pakistanis to return 54 of ours many of whom were in captivity since 1965 is a sad reflection on our inability to force the issue, especially on matters of National Security. Indira fought a great War but failed miserably at the Table. She was completely taken in by Bhutto’s charm say many who were there at the negotiating table.

Khalistan and Sri Lanka

Khalistan Movement was initially a ploy by Indira Gandhi to prop up Bhindranwale against the Akalis who were the most prominent in Punjab but it soon became its own master and played into the hands of the wily next door dictator, Gen Zia ul Haq. Zia has witnessed the division of Pakistan and was fired up with the Islamist’s zeal to see the end of India and what better way than breaking up India on religious lines.

Bhindranwale soon became the Frankenstein which every creator fears, Indira had to call the armed forces to deal with this unprecedented security threat posed from the precincts of the holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar. In the end, Indira Gandhi paid with her life. It is imperative here to know that Bhindranwale and Khalistan was a creation of Indira to sideline the comparatively moderate Akalis in Punjab politics. She went on to play with the Security of the Nation at the cost of her political career. Nothing can be more sinister and diabolic.

Sri Lankan Tamils had genuine grievances against the working of the Sri Lankan State which had suppressed the legitimate civil rights of the ethnic Tamil population mainly residing in the North and Eastern Sri Lanka. When Tamils started demanding their rights and took to violent means led by various armed groups. India dirtied the muddled waters by providing both financial and training assistance to the most powerful of the armed Tamil groups, LTTE or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It set up camps for training along with refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. This not so covert operation could be sustained only upto its optimum level of leverage or influence. Meanwhile, LTTE outgrew its utility to Indian strategists and India went into the Jayawardene-Rajiv Pact which called for disarming of all Tamil groups including LTTE.

Little did Rajiv Gandhi realise that it had walked into a snake pit. LTTE by the time this pact was signed was the sole representative of the minority Tamils. It had a huge following, armed to teeth and were masters of jungle warfare and guerilla tactics. Rajiv egged on by Jayawardene pushed Indian armed forces into a disastrous war with an enemy who was trained, financed and supported by India. IPKF, Indian Peace Keeping Force was a disaster in all aspects of statecraft. India lost face militarily, it lost the strategic game in the Indian Ocean and it soured the Indo-Sri Lanka relationship giving the Chinese a foothold in the Indian backyard. The consequences of this disastrous policy failure has led to China gaining an upper hand in our neighbourhood.

I have tried to deal with the macro issues of the national security concerns without going into the nitty gritties. The continuing terror related violence in India is the biggest concern and it requires a holistic approach by which this long term threat is minimised or completely removed from our midst. It has been almost four decades of terrorism in India, commencing with the Khalistan movement which has been contained but not eliminated and still remains a dormant threat to the country.

However, it’s the Islamic Terrorism or International Jihad which now assumes wholly new dimensions in India, there has been a constant and continuous radicalisation of Muslim society in general and the the Muslim youth in particular. Middle East, the ever smouldering powder keg is ready to blow itself anytime. ISIS, al Qaeda, LeT, JeM, HM and many others believe that targeting India is a legitimate duty of every Muslim, it is his duty to carry out Jihad against the Kaffir, the infidel.

The record of Congress does not inspire any confidence in the matters of national security. The inability of the successive Congress governments to formulate any tangible policy on countering terrorism is all too obvious in its functioning in the period of 2004-14 of UPA I & II. Mumbai 26/11 was a watershed moment in the way terror was unleashed in the heart of Indian financial capital, and the response was tepid and pusillanimous that it emboldened the Islamic terrorists to carry out widespread public bombings throughout the Country.

Many have derided the Muscular Approach of the Modi government in dealing with Pakistan and terrorism post-Uri but any sane nation will want to be insulated from a threat which over the decades has become more and more potent and will also want the adversary to understand the costs of conducting such operations. The adversary must know that its misadventure will be responded in kind with a heavy price to pay in matters of both men and material. The Surgical Strike post-Uri and the Balakot Air Strikes post-Pulwama have set a new precedent for the future conduct of similar attempts by our adversary. But gloating over one strike or an air strike is the surest way to lose sight of the long term objectives of the Country.

Modern strategic thinking believes in attrition and downgrading of the capabilities of the adversary to conduct or carry out similar attacks. And it’s not just the military might but a complex combination of economics, foreign policy, cultural or soft power attributes in consonance with a superior military might which may achieve the objectives desired by the Nation.

And, it’s here that Narendra Modi has demonstrated that he is capable of moulding a new approach to the most important issue in the lives of Indians and finding a way out of the Cauldron created by the lack of leadership and the ability to respond effectively to the threats posed by our adversary and also the phenomenon of Islamic Radicalisation which for long had left India alone but recent years have taught us that Home Grown Terror is no longer an exception but a sordid fact of every day life in India.

India has seen a much better five years of governance, a government which has visibly destroyed the ability of the adversary to attack the Indian Mainland with the terror acts restricted to the flashpoint Kashmir. Modi government has revisited the National Security paradigm with a totally different perspective than the usual conservative manner which was nothing but half measures unable to define our response to recurring concerns.

2019 LokSabha election will make or break the new Paradigm.

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