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