A timely pointer to how In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy falls short of the chal­lenges posed by China’s grow­ing po­tency

India Today - - LEISURE BOOKS - By Ananth Krish­nan

Let alone China, In­dia can­not even win a war against Pak­istan” is the stark warn­ing de­liv­ered in the very first few pages of Dragon on Our Doorstep. It sets the tone of what is to fol­low in the sub­se­quent 400-odd pages: an ex­haus­tive over­view of the grow­ing mil­i­tary chal­lenge In­dia con­fronts from its two trou­ble­some neigh­bours, and a clear pre­scrip­tion of what needs to be done.

There is cer­tainly no short­age of books on In­dia’s China threat (or, alas, of those de­ter­mined to unimag­i­na­tively in­sert ‘dragon’ or ‘ele­phant’ into their ti­tles, seem­ingly at all costs). The ti­tle notwith­stand­ing, this new book by Pravin Sawh­ney and Ghaz­ala Wa­hab is a wel­come in­ter­ven­tion in this genre, es­chew­ing trite com­par­isons be­tween the neigh­bours to pro­vide a hard-nosed re­al­ity check on the chal­lenge In­dia faces from across the Hi­malayas. Sawh­ney, who re­tired early from the In­dian Army, is an ac­com­plished de­fence jour­nal­ist and au­thor of books on In­dia’s de­fence re­forms and Op­er­a­tion Parakram. His co-au­thor Wa­hab is a jour­nal­ist who ed­its, along with Sawh­ney, a mag­a­zine on na­tional se­cu­rity and de­fence is­sues.

The au­thors ar­gue that In­dia’s China pol­icy is fun­da­men­tally flawed be­cause it has con­sis­tently ig­nored the mil­i­tary di­men­sion. “In­dia is per­haps the only coun­try in the world,” they write, “where for­eign pol­icy with na­tions hav­ing dis­puted bor­ders—China and Pak­istan—is made with dis­re­gard to mil­i­tary ad­vice.” A lack of “ap­pre­ci­a­tion of mil­i­tary power”, they ar­gue, has been a ma­jor short­com­ing in In­dia’s de­ci­sion-making, which the au­thors high­light via a de­tailed re­view of In­dia’s mil­i­tary his­tory with Pak­istan and China. Their pre­scrip­tion is for the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship “to be­come an in­te­gral part of diplo­macy” through far-reach­ing re­forms, in­clud­ing bring­ing in the chiefs of the three ser­vices into de­ci­sion-making con­sti­tu­tion­ally and giv­ing them a greater say in for­eign pol­icy as, say, in the United States.

Some­what provoca­tively, the au­thors call for an end to the ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­istry be­ing “the sole cus­to­dian” of In­dia’s China pol­icy. While there is cer­tainly lit­tle ar­gu­ment against en­abling greater mil­i­tary in­puts in In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy de­ci­sion-making, they are per­haps un­nec­es­sar­ily de­ri­sive of In­dia’s diplo­mats. They sug­gest that ev­ery border pact with China, start­ing with the 1993 Border Peace and Tran­quil­ity Agree­ment which they de­scribe as “ill-con­sid­ered”, has been detri­men­tal to In­dia’s mil­i­tary in­ter­ests.

For­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Shivshankar Menon, who dis­cusses the 1993 pact in de­tail in his new book Choices, per­haps makes a more com­pelling case for how the agree­ments have helped, rather than hurt, na­tional in­ter­est. The book’s strong­est sec­tion is the re­view of China’s mil­i­tary re­forms and its grand strat­egy. That it takes more

Dragon on Our Doorstep: Man­ag­ing China Through Mil­i­tary Power by Pravin Sawh­ney and Ghaz­ala Wa­hab Aleph Pages: 458 Price: Rs 799

Il­lus­tra­tion by ANIR­BAN GHOSH

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