The likelihood of a Sino-Pak military assault against India remains quite high. India’s economic progress and continuing acquisition of economic autonomy and resilience undermine Sino-Pak interests. The re-election of a Modi government in 2019, with its evident determination to achieve far-reaching economic transformation, will make the outcome of any future Chinese intervention against India uncertain and dramatically alter the balance of power with Pakistan. Pakistan’s armed forces are already significantly dependent on China and they facilitated a major Chinese footprint within Pakistani society and economy while the rationale for their overweening role in society is becoming incoherent. Quite clearly, the interests of the armed forces are pre-eminent, above society and alleged religious identity.
The period after 2004, once the continuing economic impact of the Vajpayee era waned, was a godsend to China and Pakistan. The parlous condition of the Indian economy, the prospect of social upheaval owing to economic setback and the threat of bankruptcy bought time for them both. These were conditions in which an advantageous settlement might have been considered a prospect by both China and Pakistan. It seems the major concessions that the Manmohan Singh government was willing to countenance with Pakistan originated with Sonia Gandhi herself, probably persuaded by suspect international pressure. And unknown engagements with China were likely to have been occurring regarding the border and the issue of China‘s primacy in the region. It is a matter of huge relief that India’s deep state proved its mettle by blocking hugely damaging concessions to Pakistan over the border dispute. Yet the insanity of allowing a foreign-born spouse to seize control of the Indian polity was poised to cause a massive setback for India and must be curbed by a constitutional amendment. This ignominy is what the Indian National Congress inflicted on the Indian people within decades of a blood-soaked hard worn independence.
The on-going campaign for India‘s 2019 general elections is a truly international affair, with many parties abroad involved in an attempt to influence its outcome, as never before. Evidently, the election of the Indian government is too important a matter to be left to the whims of the Indian voter. Indian political parties threatened with oblivion by the rise of the Modi BJP have been picked by foreign players in the hope of impacting the outcome of the 2019 general elections. Money, advice and prodigious efforts to provoke latent societal fissures were the obvious and expected tactics. But, perhaps, for the first time, such a determined effort is being made to intensify latent or dormant vertical, horizontal and spatial societal cleavages in India. The scale of the effort was probably beyond the imagination and temerity of the Congress Party until hard headed analysts of Cambridge Analytica pointed to a strategy no Indian political party dared conceive on such a hugely dangerous scale earlier. Vote banks and social divisions were always misused, but never to the extent of contemplating the political breakup of independent India to achieve political ascendancy. The origin of such high treason from a specific source is confirmed by the fact it is being executed through the singular efforts of Rahul Gandhi, the intermediary of foreign agencies to bring chaos to India.
China and Pakistan have a minimum goal of buying time before they are obliged to act to because India’s rise is an irresistible threat. The goal of manufacturing success through Make in India is a particular source of concern because India has not hitherto possessed industrial autonomy to manufacture war materials domestically for a prolonged military engagement. There is also the subsidiary factor of India emerging as a competitor to China in international markets because of economies of scale and cost advantages that more advanced countries do not possess together. Modi’s known travails with the global evangelist movement were not really about his alleged responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots but the curbs he had placed on them. Although they have had a puzzlingly free hand to evangelise recently and convert, virtually conquering Nepal and meeting with huge successes in southern India, they suspect the present hiatus may end in 2019, with a more confident Modi government returning to power. Nor are they confident that US government blackmail, by using the China card to intimidate India, will suffice to stay Modi’s hand. They correctly surmise that Modi, in the final analysis, is Sangh ideologue at heart with no other motives to influence him.
India is going through a precarious phase in its history of a possible transformation that has virtually no precedent since the rise of the Vijayanagara Empire in the early sixteenth century. But India needs to avoid that great empire’s fate of subsequent destruction by consolidating itself, first and foremost, as a society immune to foreign subversion and, second, as an economy too robust to be derailed. India has the size and resources to achieve the latter, but is also vulnerable to the former by virtue of its very size and inherited scope for fissures and ideological brainwashing. The principal ideological platform for cultivating and deepening national divisions is the catch-all concept of secularism. Its neo-colonial origins have bared its real fangs in the alleged need to protect minorities, the final card the British colonial power played to resist eviction from India. Onto this bandwagon have jumped an unholy alliance of Jihadis and evangelists, and of course communists, looking to China for succour and also worrying about the highly profitable private business empire it managed to create in India during its years in power.
India needs to militarise urgently, but lacks the courage to recognize that the essential way to deter a Chinese military assault is to signal readiness to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons. In the event of the alternative of a conventional engagement in which India, unable to resist the sheer scale of Chinese manufacturing might, seeks foreign assistance (as it did in 1962) will be to end up at the mercy of US diplomacy and military hardware. It will lead to an humiliating peace for India only celebrated by the US and China as a fortuitous means of addressing their own global rivalry. On the Pakistan front, India needs to bite the bullet and embark on a long term plan to dismember it and leave only west Punjab as a rump state. Its other neighbourhood troubles, catalysed as Sino-Pak proxies, will be resolved automatically as a result. The only other military strategy that India should carefully evaluate is what is necessary to create havoc with China’s Indian Ocean supply lines, on which it depends excessively.
The re-election of the Modi government in 2019 is the only goal that matters. The alternative of chaos and a very real threat of national disintegration loom large. Modi has rescued India in 2014 once already, from an unfolding catastrophe that recalled Nadir Shah’s plunder of three centuries of Mughal treasure. His greatest strength and the one asset that cannot be denied him is the trust people have reposed in him, even if they do not agree with him on various issues. Personal integrity matters to ordinary Indians and Modi has a perfect score on incorruptibility, whatever shortcomings affect his government and administration. The record of his government is also apparent in the data, from electrification and LPGs to health care and road construction, among many. Modi’s implementation of the GST unified the economy just as Sardar Patel did the polity. The third inestimable strength that will influence his re-election prospects is the scale of the cadre support that will fan out across the country to ensure one factor that matters hugely, getting out the vote. The Opposition attempt to divide the country to neutralise enough votes to deny the BJP a majority is a danger that its many strengths must overcome. In the end, the election will be about Modi, poised to transform the nation and achieve historic greatness.
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Dr. Gautam Sen taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.