The US’ drive to retain its hege­mony at the global level contin­ues to gain momentum. It has embroiled Russia quite inextricably in Ukraine and has profoundly test­ed China’s political and military will over Taiwan. Concurrent­ly, it is trying to isolate both its adversaries by weaning their major allies away from them. It would rather see In­dia disregard its age-old ties with Russia and prefer the US-led West over it. Similarly, it would like to see Pakistan move out of China’s stra­tegic partnership and trust the US-led West, yet again!

To these strategic ends, it must of ne­cessity, have a very meaningful pres­ence in the South Asian Region (SAR) and the ball thereto appears to have been set arolling!

First India; it has been very whole­somely engaged by the US. It has played heavily upon Indian sensitivities and sensibilities; its misplaced hubris, self-righteousness, megalomania, obses­sive compulsion to be considered great and its insatiable desire for a seat on the “round table of elite global play­ers”! They have factually become Indi­an vulnerabilities that have been adroit­ly exploited by the US. The US-led West has boosted its ego further by offering it modern weapon systems, transfer of defence technologies, joint research and productions, joint military exercis­es etc. However, India has yet to gradu­ate from the status of a strategic partner to an ally—by choice, perhaps.

Can the US achieve its twin aims any­time soon—wean India away from Rus­sia and turn it viciously against China? Most unlikely. Anywhere between 60 to 70 percent of India’s military hardware is of Soviet/Russian origin. It will take an unprecedented paradigm shift and eons for the Indian military to shift compre­hensively to western military hardware, if at all. The evolution of compatible doctrines, strategies, operational strat­egies, tactics and intensive field train­ing of formations would be a colossal, time-consuming effort in itself, there­after. If the Indians do not drastically transform their military capacity very soon, they will consign themselves pe­rennially to an adverse strategic balance with the Chinese. The basic differential will remain essentially unchanged even if the Indians induct a few select weap­on systems or force multipliers from the West. So, it is immaterial whether the Indians ditch the Russians or not, it will not make any real difference in the stra­tegic balance between them and China. (A two to three-front war scenario for India will be covered later). The longer that India takes to bridge this differen­tial the more time the Chinese will get to evolve further as an economic, polit­ical and military power that challenges US’ global pre-eminence, even more. It is a no-win situation for the Indians as well as the US-led West. Thus, keeping the overall time constraints in mind, In­dia will always be a weakness, a vulner­ability in the US’ strategic design against China. (Did the Chinese already car­ry out pre-emptive operations in June 2020 and acquire meaningful strategic advantages?)

Will the US-led West be willing to in­duct well-equipped, well-trained forc­es into the South Asian theatre of war to overcome this Indian weakness, to tilt the strategic balance in its favour? (Most unlikely). That would imply that the US and European militaries, popula­tions, and industrial and infrastructure centres will become legitimate targets in the war too. Will this keep the war limited to the Himalayas/SAR theatre of war or spread it inevitably from the Pa­cific to Continental USA and GMER and Europe—a potential World War scenar­io? However, will India accept this and the costs thereof willingly? The bat­tles will essentially be fought on Indi­an soil and Indian soldiers and civilians will die while Indian infrastructure, in­dustrial and population centres will get destroyed too. (Remember Ukraine!). Where does this leave India’s famed strategic autonomy, if it has to become subservient to US diktat? Do US and In­dian vital national interests converge so compellingly that they are both will­ing to go to war with China? Together? The implications of such a conflagration would be horrendous and global in na­ture. India however, must also consid­er where its economy, its military and its future will stand at that end of such a conflict. Should India actually play ball? In any case, the Indians must ask the one most basic albeit vital question first—what is the quid pro quo and is it really worth it?

The Indians are not likely to fall for these US stratagems. They have a his­tory of multi-alignments and are likely to pursue the same policies even now. They are most likely to keep engaging the US, Russia and China simultane­ously, as has been their wont for ages. They are likely to gain all that they can from the US-led West without prejudice to their decades’ old relationship with Russia (military hardware, missiles, nu­clear power plants, cheap oil, wheat etc) and their mutually beneficial trade ties (US $ 100billion) with China. They con­tinue to deal with Iran as well, CAATSA notwithstanding. Clearly, the US has yet to acquire a controlling influence over India; not a very sobering thought when it is preparing to confront China.

India, however, will continue to milk the US at international fora like the UN, G7, G20, etc too. It will remain osten­sible partners in the QUAD, I2U2 etc, without losing its presence and clout in the SCO, BRICS etc. India will contin­ue to wreak all manners of genocides, atrocities, rapes, murders, cordon and search operations, demographic and po­litical engineering and ravage all stan­dards and conventions of human rights in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jam­mu & Kashmir Region (IIOJ&KR). It will also persist in demonising and decimat­ing Indian Muslims and other minori­ties and yet the US-led West will remain tongue-tied and paralysed into inaction for their need to appease India and ex­ploit it against China.

India will run with the hare and hunt with the hound for as long and as far as it is possible. However, it will never commit itself to a battle it knows it can­not win—and fighting China, alone or with distant allies, is clearly not a pros­pect that inspires any visions of victory.

To be continued

Imran Malik

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at im.k846@gmail.com and tweets @K846Im