Illiteracy of War Drums: Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
In a recent TV debate on the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, to a suggestion by a veteran Army General that India should be resolute in response, a Member Parliament from the ruling party said, “Yeh badi badi moochon wale general larai karwa kar chodenge (these big mustachioed Generals will plunge us into war).
Lack of governance and defence preparedness, plus incoherent strategy has undoubtedly created asymmetries vis-a-vis China.The irony is that we are chock-a-block full with politicians of this breed who were best described as “Post Tortoise” by a wise farmer, which he amplified by saying, “When you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that’s a Post Tortoise. You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he’s up there, he’s elevated beyond his ability to function, and you just wonder what kind of dumb jackass put him up there to begin with.” This specific Post Tortoise should have been asked, has one single military veteran ever recommended in the first place that this bunch of banner totting Chinese picnicking at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) be attacked and wiped out or bombed?
The problem is that these Post Tortoises cannot visualize anything between war and groveling diplomacy – read inaction. Hence, disdain and arrogant retorts to sane advice of the ‘mustachioed General’. For them, any physical action whatsoever signifies direct beating of war drums. These are the fellows who perched atop the fence post are responsible for the nation’s security but do not see the a requirement of any national security strategy or even a standard operating procedure despite numerous intrusions and offensive actions by the Chinese who capitalize on fear psychosis of the Indian hierarchy.
Ask the government and take a bet they cannot reply why the ITBP guarding the LAC in DBO Sector is not under the Army and why is the Indian Army not responsible for complete land borders. Therefore, the gumption of the Chinaman in merrily intruding 30 kilometres inside your territory, with Xi Jinping surveying the scurrying chicken with some running to nanny for advice and the Prime Minister with the Foreign Minister in tow still insisting this is “localized action”.
One wonders how many read the article by Manas Chakravarty titled “Lost but not found” in Hindustan Times dated 26 June 2011, saying that the real Manmohan Singh is gallivanting in Pattaya Beach and that his replacement back home is a robotic marvel made to order by the Japanese and wondered how much of it is fiction. As for the Post Tortoise, any mention of physical action gives him hallucinations of massive cyber and nuclear strikes by China. Mercifully, most of them, if not all, would be unaware of the Chinese term ‘Shaoshou Jian’ or Assassin’s Mace least much more panic would generate. But then how can you expect the Port Tortoise to imagine that physical actions can also be other than direct attack, which can nonplus the attacker and make him recoil.
If only Nehru had followed just the first part, then we would have not halted operations in 1948 when Pakistanis were on the run. There would have been no POK and we would be linked with Afghanistan through the Wakhan Corridor with China treating us differently.Writings in India, are full of quotes by Sun Tzu like, “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill”. Very appropriate and we get awed by the Chinese following it religiously, for are aren’t these numerous intrusions and changing claim lines part of the same philosophy? But then Chanakya too had said that if the end could be achieved by non-military method, even by methods of intrigue, duplicity and fraud, he would not advocate an armed conflict.
Many of our Post Tortoises would perhaps not be aware who Chanakya was, what he wrote in 6th Century BC and if you tell them he said, “As soon as fear approaches near, attack and destroy it”, their immediate response will be to equate Chanakya with the ‘mustachioed Generals’ who can only think of ‘attack’; signifying beating of war drums. These fellows are the Ahmad Shah Abdalis of today; without a clue to attack fear and indulge in foolish action like Abdali leading a war on the sun. Those of us who have read Chanakya’s (also known as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupt) ‘Arthashastra’ would agree that Chanakya was at par, if not greater than Sun Tzu. Chankya wrote of “Silent War” including use secret agents, sowing discord amongst the enemy, use of ‘disinformation’ and the like. To the ignorant polity of ours, Arthashastra will perhaps be thought of as “Earthshastra” with visions of it being a treatise to optimize illegal mining for making billions. But the fact is that Arthshastra should be compulsory education for the ruling hierarchy with periodic quizzing to ensure it actually sinks in. For that matter, the teachings of Gita too are excellent exposition for developing conflict strategy but that would be taboo on grounds of vote bank secularism practiced by our Post Tortoises.
Chanakya’s pearls include, “Your neighbor is your natural enemy state. The neighbor of your neighbor is your friend”. He did not by any logic preach that one must go for war against the neighbor but advocated an entire spectrum of statecraft to handle neighbours on the premise that the neighbor could be an enemy or potential enemy. Therefore, his teachings contained a five-fold approach; conciliation, gift and bribery, dissention, deceit and pretence, open attack or war. He also advocated that the ruler should not hesitate to break any friendship or alliances that are later found to be disadvantageous.
If only Nehru had followed just the first part, then we would have not halted operations in 1948 when Pakistanis were on the run. There would have been no POK and we would be linked with Afghanistan through the Wakhan Corridor with China treating us differently. Similarly, he would have not had the blind faith in the Chinese with Chou-en-Lai befooling him completely in 1962. But why talk of 1948 and 1962? In hindsight, Nehru’s successors should have at least taken in the second part of this advice by Chanakya – “The neighbor of your neighbor is your friend”. Had we followed this, we would have had our own string of pearls surrounding China and not the other way round. But nothing is lost even now.
Ironically, over this entire span of decades since 1948 to-date, of shall we say dismal statecraft, the present ruling party has the predominant lion’s share of causing national loss, both in terms of territory and prestige.Through the follies of our Post Tortoises, we lost control of practically one third of Jammu and Kashmir in 1948; 13,297 square kilometers to be precise. Then was the usurping of 38,000 square kilometers of Aksai Chin by China followed by the illegal ceding of the 5,860 square kilometers of Shaksgam Valley by Pakistan to China. But it did not stop at this. Then has been the periodic swallowing (not nibbling) of Indian Territory by China, mostly kept under wraps by our petrified Post Tortoises, as is being attempted presently in relation to the Chinese intrusion in DBO.
Yet our Post Tortoises want to cover up portraying the 30 kilometres deep intrusion as 19 kilometres – as if the latter is of no consequence. It was depressing to listen to former Ambassador Stobdan (who hails from Ladakh) on national TV (29 April 203) telling us that since 1980, in Ladakh itself over 400 square kilometers of Indian Territory have been lost to China over and above the 38,000 square kilometers in Aksai Chin. Ironically, over this entire span of decades since 1948 to-date, of shall we say dismal statecraft, the present ruling party has the predominant lion’s share of causing national loss, both in terms of territory and prestige.
Lack of governance and defence preparedness, plus incoherent strategy has undoubtedly created asymmetries vis-a-vis China. Our border communications and infrastructure are pathetic despite the hollow declarations of improvement. Given the current dispensation, these asymmetries are not going to go away in a hurry and may even increase. Those who talk of ‘first’ get over the asymmetry are living in a fool’s paradise. What we need to do is to target the mind of the enemy. “The arrow shot by an archer may or may not kill a single person; but skilful intrigue, devised by wise men, may kill even those who are in the womb“, said Kautilya. China has numerous vulnerabilities that are targetable and she knows them. That is where we need to apply pressure, however, this should not be misconstrued that we should not resort to acupressure in Ladakh also.