National and International Issues

India’s Strategic Blunders in the First Quarter of 21st Century

India’s Former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh in his book ‘In Defence of Honour’ laments the Indian strategists’ propensity for committing the ‘Himalayan Blunders’. He lists the three ‘Himalayan Blunders’ made by India in the Cold War period i.e., taking the Jammu and Kashmir issue to the United Nations in 1948, alignment with the former Soviet Union and adopting a socialist centrally planned model of economic development that ensured a so-called ‘Hindu rate of growth’ of 2-3 percent for four decades. In an irony of fate, his own political party i.e., Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is ruling India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has yet again committed new Himalayan blunders. No wonder, due to strategic errors and domestic vulnerabilities, global scholars agree that India has been ruled by foreigners for the most part of its 4000 years history.

The BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed three additional ‘strategic blunders’ which will have far more damaging consequences for India in the coming decades. Only time alone will stand witness. These include adoption of ‘Hindutva’ as a state ideology replacing secularism (which had remained India’s state ideology for seven decades); secondly, alignment with the United States and Japan (by giving up on its ‘cherished’ policy of Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) of seven decades), and thirdly, by adopting a militarized and aggressive posture on the heels of an arms buying spree, it has negated its long held image of pacifism and ‘non violence’ preached by its Founding Father Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and finally by isolating itself globally by opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aimed at promoting regional connectivity and development in the euro-asiatic region.

Such strategically misplaced Indian policies have however begun producing immediate consequences, such as increasing ‘Hindu vigilante attacks’ or so-called ‘beef lynching’ of minorities such as Muslims, Christians and Dalits. The Indians are fleeing their country, becoming the largest group of ‘asylum seekers’ in the OECD (Organization of Economic Development) countries in 2016. According to another press report, the 54 heads of African Diplomatic Missions in India’s capital New Delhi wrote a letter to Indian Foreign Ministry in April 2016, threatening to take up the issue of racist attacks on the African nationals to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Further, the Belt and Road Initiative episode has inflicted on India, not only a loss of face, but also a narrowing of diplomatic options. They say in the West, ‘you cannot fool everyone around, all the time.’

India attributes its wrong-doings to the other countries, particularly those in its neighborhood. For example, the Indians have a protracted belligerent attitude towards China, as was seen by BRI episode, Malabar Naval exercise, stance on Tibet, Doklam dispute, NSG membership debate, UNSC Permanent Membership application fiasco and position on the South China Sea dispute. India in its ultimate state of ecstasy and delusion feel that ‘China's policy-makers know that if at present USA is its immediate rival, then it is India which is going to be their main rival in the near future’. Hence they feel China is trying to stop India's rise, whether it is UNSC permanent membership or NSG membership. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Chinese do not even take notice of the Indians and why should they, given the glaring differences in the economic indices such as exports, foreign exchange reserves, foreign direct investment, external debt and the basic structural realities in the two countries. The showcasing by India of a few cities and fudged figures of economic growth under the limelight of the Western mainstream media for political expediency cannot carry it too far. The average Indian Hindu extremist hates the Chinese, Muslims, Africans, Russians, and Pakistanis etc. According to a survey, India is the most racist country in the world.

India’s neighbors and the international community are truly concerned about the deteriorating state of the Indian society with caste and communal violence increasing in intensity, more than ever before. The most recent incident is the riots by the high caste Hindus against the Dalit population in a locality in Maharashtra and the widespread ‘cow vigilante attacks’ on the Muslim community. Every year India celebrates January 26 as its Republic Day with a display of its ‘hard power assets’ to impress outsiders with its achievements and strengths. India backs up her deceptive image with the so-called Mumbai’s sleazy culture better known by the acronym ‘Bollywood’. What Indians however fail to acknowledge is that neither India’s so-called hard power nor Bollywood has ever impressed its near or far neighbors. After remaining on the wrong side of history for most of the period of its history since independence during the Cold War (1945-1991), India has conveniently in a chameleon like behavior changed its color to jump to the side of the declining U.S. power in order to showcase itself as a counterweight to China. Since the U.S. has termed China as a ‘strategic competitor’, India has offered its so-called services for the U.S. containment policy against China without realizing once again the transformed global realities of multi-polarity. Indians have now made a blunder bigger than any in the past, which is bound to have serious repercussions for it in the coming decades.


The showcasing by India of a few cities and fudged figures of economic growth under the limelight of the Western mainstream media for political expediency cannot carry it too far. The average Indian Hindu extremist hates the Chinese, Muslims, Africans, Russians, and Pakistanis etc. According to a survey, India is the most racist country in the world.

The world is a changed place as it races to complete a quarter of the 21st century. Old gimmickries will not work. Old rules of the game will not hold. The U.S. ‘Cold War-II’ template and so-called ‘Coalition of Willing’ paradigms have no more buyers. If at all anyone has doubts, it should be laid to rest by the UN General Assembly Vote on the U.S. decision to shift its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem despite threats of aid cuts to voting nations at the highest level. India has chosen to align with an isolated and declining West and an even more isolated and hated country Israel. Indians have once again demonstrated their incapacity to take correct strategic decisions when they are needed. No wonder why the Indians have been ruled by the foreign conquerors and dynasties for the most part of 4000 years. 
The Indians by their actions have inflicted on themselves a ‘siege mentality’ within and without. It has violated its own long-standing principle of the foreign relations of opposing the interference of extra-territorial powers in South Asia. By aligning with the strategic objectives of U.S., India has overturned its own foreign policy upside down. All these would have been inconsequential if India had different geographical, demographic, economic and political realities. It does not. India is the most vulnerable country in the world with an anarchic society. One-third of its area is termed as the ‘Red Corridor’ with 52 districts suffering from Naxalite insurgency. In fact, it is a camouflaged struggle of the have nots, tribals, indigenous Santhalisagainst the haves, high caste and Urban Banias. The rising inequality between different sections of population, regions and castes and communal groups make India tailor-made for violent upheavals. Indian states are at each other’s throat on water and territorial disputes, the minorities i.e., Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. who comprise a fifth of population, are the disaffected lot. The low caste Dalits and the untouchables who comprise a third of population resent the control of the Brahmins who are merely 8 percent of population, but monopolize almost half of the jobs and leadership positions in politics, civil service and military forces.

The U.S. interest in India is driven by its own selfish interest at a time when it finds itself isolated globally, weakened economically and disoriented locally. India has more to lose than gain from such a strategic partnership. The Indians should know one thing clearly i.e., they cannot dominate Pakistan. Pakistan has seen worse times. The 21st century is harbinger of Pakistan’s good times to come. India will be well advised to sit down with all its neighbors and settle the issues and establish amicable relations. India should avoid taking the trajectory of the former Soviet Union which indulged in an arms race in a bid to achieve geo-political dominance. It instead became history. India is indulging in an arms race in order to supposedly take on Pakistan and China. It can be a grave strategic mistake which the Indians have repeatedly made in their history and lost control of their destiny. The rise of China cannot be thwarted. Pakistan cannot be denied its destiny of joining the top ten nations in the global high table. U.S., India and Israel can play all the gimmickry they want. Pakistan has demonstrated its resilience to withstand tougher tests. Pakistanis love the thrill of pressures and shocks, as it brings the best out of them. By choosing the path of ‘isolation’ along with USA and Israel, India has opted for a costly gamble. There is no way India can recover what it has lost, both at home and abroad, so much so quickly! The U.S. Cold War-II template has no buyers globally except a few nations including India. It may be recalled that India was also among the few strategic allies of the former Soviet Union, which became history. Nazi Germany could not have fought the world with Mussolini’s Italy on its side. Similarly the former Soviet Union could not have fought the world with India on its side, as indeed the U.S. cannot do it now either.

The writer has served as Pakistan’s Ambassador in Germany, Singapore and Mauritius. He worked in China for two diplomatic assignments for nearly a decade. He is the author of several books on China. Currently, he is Director Chinese Studies Centre, National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Islamabad.

E-mail: [email protected]

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