Maroof Raza is a retired Indian Army officer, currently the Consultant cum Strategic Affairs Expert for Times Now. He had earlier also anchored and presented a 26 part series on the Indian armed forces, titled ‘Line of Duty’. An episode from this series, on the Siachen Glacier won an Award in the military documentary section at the Film Festival in Rome in 2005.
This TV series has entered the “Limca Book of Records” as India’s first military reality show.
Maroof Raza currently writes a column for ‘Salute India’ a monthly magazine for India’s armed forces, and has written editorials for all the leading newspapers of India, and has lectured extensively in India and abroad on India’s security concerns. He has also authored several articles, essays, and books.
With India rising as an economic power, it has to strengthen its defence and foreign policy. In an exclusive interaction with The Policy Times, Maroof Raza shared his views on where is India going wrong in defence preparedness, what should India act more smartly.
Q. How is India’s Defence preparedness vis-a-vis China and other world powers?
Answer: As far as defence preparedness is concerned, we have to look at this in multiple ways. One is to develop a strategic mindset and out of that with the political leadership giving brought directions should come out as India’s Defence Doctrine. Unfortunately, we don’t have a full-fledged doctrinal approach from the Ministry of Defence. Separate defence services have their own Doctrines. So we are now in a position that each individual service is willing to fight a conflict or two conflicts individually but they cannot collectively corporate under an umbrella Doctrine which has not been spelt out by the Ministry of Defence clearly. Then comes the issue of how equipped and how prepared our forces with the challenges. The pathetic state of funding for equipping arm forces has brought us to a situation where we are nearly as badly off in relative terms as the pre-1962 error when China humiliated us.
Though our armed forces are willing to fight to death and we now have reduced our capability to fight a 10-day intensive war scenario as against what was traditionally a 40-day intensive war scenario but even that capability will soon be reduced if we don’t immediately make up the critical gabs in defence and equipment of our armed forces such as emanation for air defence and weapon systems, the ability of our fighting soldiers to be equipped with the right kind of weaponry and Rifles to take on both internal and external threats, the capability of the air force which is already dwindled down to 25% below acceptable levels. So we are in just a touching-go situation as far as military preparedness goes with equipment.
The services have thought-through what they need to. They keep going through training exercises and debating these issues but at the level of critical funding, the government is not prioritizing. Not only this government but every successive government in the last 20-25 years have given lip services to National Security but done very little to meet the arm forces. And how well prepared our defence forces to take on the challenges in terms of a state of defences vis-a-vis China, Pakistan and terrorism in all those fronts, I can say with confidence that we are well-prepared and we have the capability of defending Indian territory as and when an unfortunate eventuality arrives. We also have an equal offensive capability.
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Q. How is India prepared a three-front war situation or problem of Kashmir, Pakistan and China?
Answer: Chinese are working very closely with Pakistan to keep us unsettled. While the Doklam incident shows the ability to stand up to the Chinese, I don’t think we’ll be able to do it all the time. The Pakistanis have always been very bold in their initiatives vis-a-vis India whether to launch a long-running insurgency or continue to challenges us in the International border but this Pakistani boldness comes out of a believe both in China and that we don’t have the political will to go the last mile in the event of a conflict and unless political will is exhibited more publicly and India’s politicians and bureaucrats play safe-and-don’t act in a defensive manner, we are continually being pushed around. The same applies to internal security threats that barring the so-called one surgical strike, we have done very little to repeatedly sent out of messages to Pakistan that sponsorship of cross-border terrorism will meet with both physical, economic and diplomatic casualties.
Q. China is never going to compromise on the land dispute that India has with it. What should be India’s strategy to handle China in long run?
Answer: China respects those countries that talk with a position of strength and we have not very often talked with the position of strength. Unfortunately, our diplomatic class feels that following Nehruvian approach on China which is passive and defensive is the best way forward. If you are military aggressive if you put trade barriers on China and make it difficult for them to enter the Indian market as liberally as the entered in the past and you play a tit-for-tat game by being openly and diplomatically offensive with China by building duffer military alliances with Japan and Vietnam. And making up your mind that is America India’s best option to counter the Chinese or go back to Russia to counter China.
China’s trade deficit with India should be reduced. And the best way to reduce is huge trade barriers on Chinese products just like they do with India’s products.
Q.What are the tangible outcomes achieved by the SCO Summit 2018 that took place in China?
Answer: I don’t think that Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is going to bring any tangible benefits to India. One thing China is pushing for is One Belt Road initiative. We didn’t go along with that. We need to understand that India’s interest vis-a-vis- China is very limited and we need to exploit our strength and not get influenced by China’s game. Make sure that organizations like SCO have to make a choice whether to invite India or Pakistan. We should not be very happy to be part of any group even if we have to compromise with Pakistan. SAARC made the end of it.
Q. How is India’s foreign policy working especially India’s ‘Neighbourhood policy,’ ‘ ‘Act East’ policy, etc.?
Answer: Prime Minister of India has been very proactive in foreign policy issues. He has brought out some serious changes in our approach in dealing with our international community as compared to UPA-II Government which was very passive. Particularly Manmohan Singh was reluctant to visit neighbouring countries. There is also a remarkable change in dealing with the Arab world and Southeast Asian countries in engaging more with India. UAE, Saudi Arabia have better relations with India, providing India with oil reserves, providing India their ports and spaces for Indian exports, etc. Southeast Asian heads were invited to attend India’s Republic Day Parade.
But the devil is in the details. The details come from the fact that we have one of the smallest foreign services in the world for a country as ambitious as India. Do you know that our foreign service is smaller than that of even Singapore and how are we going to play the game? And, therefore, the Prime Minister’s great speeches, notwithstanding, is not going to work. The implementation of those initiatives takes so long because we don’t have the capacity and there is a huge reluctance of the Foreign Service to take in more talent and intellectual pluralism. The UAE is telling India that they are willing to make a $75 billion dollar investment in India but as far as I know we have given no project proposals to that as yet just as like we missed the boat in Hambantota and in the Arab world.