PM Modi’s strategic miscalculations

PM Modi has ended up steering his country into a strategic blind alley with nary a viable option in sight. He is facing multidimensional challenges. India’s economy is tanking and the coronavirus is relentless in its debilitating effects. The borders with China are hot and it has been summarily outmanoeuvred at the tactical and operational levels in Ladakh-Line of Actual Control (LAC). PM Modi and his military have clearly overreached. They now negotiate from blatantly weak positions. India’s strategic partner, the US and even the ever-reliable Russia have been reticent to help against China. Other South Asian states seem to be increasingly leaning towards China, too. PM Modi finds himself isolated and unenviably stuck between a frigid hell in Ladakh-LAC and political doom at home and abroad. He has to live up to his overblown macho image or perish!
This paradox is the outcome of some serious strategic miscalculations and blunders by the Modi-led RSS-BJP government over time.
The basic flaw in PM Modi’s political philosophy and style of governance lies in the overwhelming influence of the RSS-inspired Hindutva ideology on statecraft, governance, policy formulation and decision making to achieve political and other objectives. Indian national interests have since had a distinctive Hindutva tinge. Domestically, this manifested itself in the ruthless pogroms of Indian and Kashmiri Muslims; first in Gujrat, then all over India and finally in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K). Resultantly, Indian society got polarised and fractured, irretrievably. These effects have clearly seeped down the command channels of the Indian military and may have seriously affected its combat potential, too. However, this unnatural concoction of Hindutva, statecraft and inspired policy formulation and decision making came to serious grief when it was applied to achieve foreign policy objectives. Quite obviously, the xenophobic Hindutva ideology and the norms and principles of international relations, geopolitics and geostrategy are mutually exclusive.
PM Modi first tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to coerce Pakistan into submission through a series of false-flag operations, cross-LoC ceasefire violations and RAW-sponsored terrorist attacks from Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan’s swift and deadly response to India’s failed air attack on Balakot, post the false-flag operation at Pulwama, badly exposed the Indian military’s inadequacies as the IAF lost an SU 30 MKI, a MIG21 Bison and a pilot(s)! India’s chauvinistic Hindutva ideology had clearly gotten the better of military strategy, good sense and judgement. Much to India’s chagrin the tenuous strategic balance in the subcontinent got reiterated emphatically.
Undeterred and unrepentant at the reverses suffered at the hands of the Pakistanis, PM Modi struck next in IOJ&K. He moved to incorporate the internationally recognised disputed territories of IOJ&K as well as Ladakh into India as Union Territories. The Indians issued maps which fraudulently claimed these territories as Indian and even included China’s Aksai Chin and the Pakistan controlled Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) to boot. This was expansionism at its most pathetic. It inevitably drew China in to become a proactive part of the larger Kashmir issue. This was India’s worst strategic blunder (Hindutva inspired) of all and had serious strategic ramifications. It vitiated the strategic environment in the most sensitive nuclear flashpoint of the world—where the interests of three nuclear powers clashed violently. This strategic imbroglio was further compounded by the Indian attempts to build defence infrastructure in Ladakh in stark violation of the understandings with the Chinese. This included the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road (DSDBOR) and the airstrip in the area. The deceitful maps, the defence infrastructure, the boisterous claims by the BJP politicians, the megalomaniac rantings of their military commanders and the insufferable media campaigns were clearly part of India’s expansionist plan to encroach upon Pakistani and Chinese territories. The Indians were generating unambiguous physical threats towards Aksai Chin, G219, the lateral of strategic importance between Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Region, the Karakoram Pass, Siachen, AJ&K, GB and the rather distant KKH-CPEC-BRI! Predictably, it gave common cause to China and Pakistan to confront India. The Pakistanis have always kept their powder dry. The Chinese had no option but to move in and crystallise the LAC, to put an end to this Indian Hindutva-driven madness. They did so swiftly, occupied positions on their own side of the LAC and started dominating the only Main Supply Route in the area, that is the DSDBOR. This has put shackles on all Indian pretensions to expansionism in the region and restricted them to tactically disadvantageous positions.
Shell-shocked, the Indians poured about three infantry divisions into Ladakh and may have yet erred again in their operational strategy. Have they senselessly manoeuvred themselves into a strategic vise, a nutcracker—with Pakistan and China already positioned as the two pincers? In another hypothetical scenario here, Pakistan could form the anvil to China’s hammer or vice versa. The Indians may have ironically actualised the two-front war scenario they have been dreading all along. A simultaneous upheaval in IOJ&K will destabilise the internal front, threaten the Indian base of operations and make all operations in Ladakh and across the LOC quite untenable. Any misplaced bravado by the Indian military (even against Pakistan) will lead to an all-out war and a possible nuclear holocaust/winter. Discretion might be the better part of valour for the Indians.
The Indians feel let down by the US offer of mediation instead of their unqualified material and physical support. Presently, US and Indian interests in this region appear divergent. Quite unsurprisingly, the Indians approached the Russians for succour and relief. Ideally for the US, India and China ought to expend their economic and military resources against each other in a conflict that lingers on unabated. This will serve the dual purposes of constraining China’s multidimensional rise and making India a permanent client state of the US. At the grand strategy level, such a scenario will also keep Asia from replacing the US and its allies as the geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic centre of gravity of the world!
And that might become the most fateful outcome of all of India’s shenanigans and grave strategic miscalculations.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at and tweets @K846Im.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt