An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 28 June 2005

India’s Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee is a bright man and a West Bengal politician who has risen without a political base. After Mrs Gandhi's assassination he almost became PM. He speaks English with a pronounced Bengali accent and Americans heard him speak Bonglish on Monday at the Carnegie Center in Washington DC. Senior brass who have interacted with him say he is better at understanding economics, rather than Defence needs and security perspectives, having never been exposed to war, insurgencies and Sun Zu or Mahan, till he took over in the MOD.

In a game of survival of the fittest, senior Indian brass know how to play the tune. The Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat affair and more recently Air Marshal Hari Masand’s recall from retirement and promotion has proved it. As we post this, Mukherjee is in Washington  and according to media reports he had an unprecedented quiet dinner on arrival with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and then he met the smooth talking Condelezza Rice on Monday. Rumsfeld when briefed about his visit is supposed to have said, “bring him on”, in typical gung ho  American cowboy style. By now the establishment in USA would have summed him up and decided whether he was the man who can fit India into the American shape of things in the Indian Ocean.

The Republicans appear to have a game plan for the Indian Ocean region and the East –– to pit India against China. It is a trap –– but if we play our cards smartly and learn from Gen. Musharraf who has milked the Americans –– then it will be advantage India. This is the message we humbly convey in this analysis –– while the Chinese Ambassador goes around asking Indian businessmen to team up with China, with the message that Indian software combined with Chinese hardware can become the most potent trading force in the world. The Chinese know that “non alignment” is nonexistent.

Recently India has aided nations with military equipment and in mid June INS Magar delivered Petya and Osa class spares to Viet Nam. India plans to set up an air defence network and supply radars to Sri Lanka and refit their ships. President Kumartatunga and Vice Admiral Sandhygiri CDS Sri Lanka have both discussed a defence pact with India –– only the scare of the opposition and LTTE in Sri Lanka dissuades them from signing it. The Army Chief of Singapore Maj Gen Richard Kuek was here and India–Singapore defence ties are now very warm after their Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean visited many of India’s military establishments. Many MOUs were signed and there were several visits from both sides and exercises galore. Earlier Singapore (smaller than Delhi’s NCR) relied on Taiwan and Australia for space to exercise and now it is with India. India is now girded into the world for security and Russia is watching. Earlier we were captive friends, and our politicians and bureaucrats travelled the easy road of cooperation and Russia knows how to do defence business with Indians.

Now the Western sharks all over the world led by USA are beginning to discuss serious strategic moves with the bait of a UN Security Council seat for India. We believe that Indian politicians have neither the experience nor a strategy, so India must not fall into any traps. India’s intelligence is duty bound to offer analysis to the Government but that job has been left to the NSA. There is just so much one man can do, and Sakiat Datta has done a good story in Outlook Magazine on India’s intelligence and the internecine battles raging. The RAW chief Tharakan brought in by NSA from Kerala to revamp things has been given an extension and NTRO India’s fledging National Security Agency for technical listening, snooping and reporting is still to deliver and is probably going to have an empire on the Mehrauli–Gurgaon road where radio listening antennas are housed.


India is doing incremental business with China and is aware that it is the right thing to do but it also views nuclear China, which is arming itself, as its biggest competitor in the region for dominance. It also sees China lining up new energy sources, which will have to transit the Indian Ocean, which India sees as its parish. The combined appetite of the two Asian giants for oil is also raising prices and putting greater demands on world oil supplies. The armies of India and China, which fought a border war four decades ago, are now burying the past and leaders are doing their bit to resolve the border more or less on as is where is basis along the line of peace and tranquility, with minor adjustments, and mutually working to drop claims.

The Indian Navy exercised with the Chinese Navy off Shanghai in 2004, and recently in end May the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash who is also Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee held talks with the visiting Chinese Chief of General Staff, General Liang Guanglie. The visiting Army general’s team included high ranking naval and air force officers of the PLA. The PLA Navy has been invited to join in exercises off India and the delegation visited Western Naval Command. Indian armed forces officers have been deputed to institutions in China and many strategic teams have visited each other’s institutions. The Chinese General was the guest of Army Chief Gen J J Singh and Indian Army declared it would hold unprecedented joint counter-terrorism and peacekeeping training programmes with China in the near future. One Indian Major General and a team witnessed exercises in China. This is being reciprocated.

These are interesting times as the Chinese say, and if Mukherjee and the Indian Ambassador in Washington known how to be wily diplomats, they should play their cards right now, so that during PM Manmohan Singh's visit to meet Bush in mid July, India can reap a harvest. Our aim should be to squeeze technology from USA, show we are friends and show utmost cordiality and offer traditional hospitality and ensure steps to see that FDI flows like water, but also see that USA does not build India up to raise Chinese suspicions and reduce Russian  cooperation.

It will be a tight rope walk but ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. America is awash with money and the deficit does not bother them and now is the time, with the water rising that Mukherjee must grasp the tide to improve the lot of Indians.

On ballistic missile defence it is reported India’s Swordfish plan is doing well with Green Pine, so we can cooperate with USA and get Link 16 technology incorporated but not allow them to set up their facilities in India since BMD is anti North Korea, China and Iran for the present.

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