India’s defence planners have been obsessed with enhancing its force levels at the cost of starving its teeming millions. The Indian penchant for force is turning it into a bully towards its neighbours. India, for instance, has gone to war with Pakistan on three occasions, invading Kashmir in 1947-48; usurping a major portion of it, in 1965 - which ended in stalemate and in 1971, when India severed Pakistan’s eastern wing, “liberating” Bangladesh. Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan have tasted the Indian wrath, while Sikkim - an independent nation - was annexed. Against this backdrop, though India as said earlier has been on the verge of conflict with Pakistan on numerous occasions, but since 1998 - when both countries crossed the nuclear threshold - it has not dared to engage the latter in a large-scale conflict. Nevertheless, India has not dithered from hit-and-run operations and limited skirmishes, only to appease its voracious appetite for flexing its muscles.2013 has been a bad year for its neighbours, since India’s adventurism has generated fracas with both China and Pakistan, two countries perceived by New Delhi as bitter rivals.Looks like it is difficult for the Indians to appreciate the spirit of mutual co-existence; hence, they continues to give vent to their inner desire of dominating others. They keep playing games even against China, a regional power.Recently, New Delhi stressed the need to develop infrastructure along the international border in Ladakh. As the Chinese withdrew from Depsang, its forces constructed fortifications in Chumar sector. Beijing’s quick response ultimately resulted into an Indo-China standoff. Remember the depressing consequences of India’s year-long eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Pakistan in 2001-2, when it was forced to retreat. The Indian military planners deduced that they could not afford a prolonged faceoff, therefore, they requested for a flag meeting to resolve the issue. China maintained its principled stance, pressurising India’s army to accede to its demands. Reverting to the topic. The leadership in New Delhi, however, through its media cleverly created an impression for public consumption that the standoff in Ladakh ended unconditionally, as the Chinese troops withdrew without posing any conditions on India. In reality, however, they pulled out only after halting patrolling by Indian troops in the area, consenting to India’s removal of all fresh fortifications, and the assurance that in future it will not construct them. India’s leadership and army high command accepted all the conditions imposed by China at the cost of demoralising their troops.Moreover, since the beginning of this year, India has indulged in violating the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and Pakistan’s international boundary. A number of Pakistani soldiers have been martyred, while India makes false claims of having lost a few Indian soldiers too. It is ironic that while Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was extending felicitations to his newly-anointed Pakistani counterpart, the Indian forces were breaching Pakistani positions and attacking the local population and soldiers on this side. To add insult to injury, India claimed that a Junior Commissioned Officer of its army was killed in heavy firing with automatic weapons and rockets from the Pakistani side of the LoC in Poonch sector and to justify its own contravention of international norms, India unleashed unprovoked firing. Then an incident occurred barely two days after Nawaz Sharif; a peacenik took oath as Pakistan Prime Minister. While last week, a Pakistani girl was killed and nine people were injured when the Indian troops resorted to unprovoked small arms and artillery firing at the LoC in Rawalakot district. So, it is evident that India understands only the language of force. In the recent Indo-China standoff at Ladakh, the Indian troops backed off in the face of stern warnings from the Chinese military, perhaps, remembering the sound thrashing they had received in 1962 at the hands of the Chinese forces and the ridicule they has suffered at the hands of the people for its cowardice. Therefore, this time around, the Indian defence planners chose to hide the facts from their own public, lest a vibrant and open Indian media catch on to its moment of weakness and take the military commanders to task.It is manifest that despite its lust for acquiring weapons, expending scarce resources for acquiring weapons of mass destruction and conjuring Pakistan-specific ‘Cold Start Doctrine’, the Indian military is full of hot air. Whenever it resorts to jingoism and sabre-rattling with Pakistan, we should call their bluff. If we look them squarely in the eye, the Indians are bound to cow down and restrain their hawks, despite their penchant for force. That is typical behaviour of all bullies and India is no exception.
The writer is a former group captain of PAF, who also served as air and naval attaché at Riyadh. Currently, he is a columnist, analyst and host of programme Defence and Diplomacy on PTV.