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The Time Warp Of A Cold War Mindset


Saturday 8 November 2003, by VAJPAYEE*Atal Behari

Article paru dans Outlook India, ?dition en ligne du vendredi 7 novembre 2003.

It is time for pragmatic decisions, says the PM, on the boundary question with China and emphasises that a harsh Pakistan policy would not be adopted in the elections as ’the constituency for peace with Pakistan is much larger than that which favours hostility.

An edited version of the Prime Minister’s speech at the Combined Commanders’ Conference, on November 1, 2003,

In the [last] 12 months the world has been through some extraordinary experiences. The Iraq war opened up new post-Cold War divisions, with heated debates on the meaning and viability of a cooperative multipolar world order.

We saw the inability of UN structures to deal with current world realities. A new acrimony developed among members of the P-5. There has also been a steep escalation of violence and terrorism in Asia, Europe and Africa. We need to understand the true significance of these events.

Everyone knows we live a globalising world, undergoing many simultaneous technology revolutions. But the evolution of the post-Cold War world and its impact on our political, diplomatic, strategic and security equations are not so well understood.

The end of the Cold War and disintegration of the Soviet Union gave a strong jolt to many of India’s strategic and security assumptions. The changed circumstances of the Indo-Soviet strategic alliance greatly affected India’s room for diplomatic manoeuvre. All of you now how badly the collapse of the USSR disrupted our defence cooperation with that country.

Simultaneously, our security environment also deteriorated rapidly. The Russian retreat from Afghanistan released thousands of armed mujahideen and jihadis, whom Pakistan could re-direct into Jammu and Kashmir. The present phase of cross-border terrorism began then.

I have mentioned these developments because I often wonder whether we have really comprehended their implications. The recent national discussions on events in Iraq showed many in our country are still caught up in the time warp of a Cold War mindset.

Of course, we have emerged from these turbulences with many positive achievements, India exploited the fluidities in the emerging world order to forge new links with democratic societies on the basis of shared values, convergent worldviews and - more recently - a coalition against terrorism.

We have experienced an economic resurgence by developing and using skills in the knowledge-based technologies, and by pragmatically accepting globalisation. The Pokhran nuclear tests and our ambitious missile programme showed our determination to respond decisively to our security environment.

We have re-established our cordiality with the US, while strengthening our strategic partnership with Russia. We have established summit-level dialogues with the European Union and ASEAN.

The number of heads of state and government visiting India these days can be seen from the regularity with which Vijay Chowk is blocked off to traffic on two or three mornings virtually every week!

We have played an important role in the G-20 efforts at Cancun. We have had discussions on India-Russia-China trilateral cooperation and, on a different plane, an India-Brazil-South Africa dialogue.

Again the magnitude of these developments is not fully grasped. Too many of us are caught up in limiting ideologies and a limited vision of what India is doing and where it should be going.

As we grow in our international stature, our defence strategies should naturally reflect our concerns, extending well beyond the geographical confines of south Asia.

Our security environment ranges from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, including central Asia and Afghanistan in the northwest, China in the northeast and southeast Asia. Our strategic thinking has also to extend to these horizons.

The relentless march of technology drives war-lighting doctrines and defensive strategies today. IT, cyber-techniques and other elements of ’’no contact’’ war have revolutionised military thinking. Operation Enduring Freedom and the recent war in Iraq again reminded us of this truth.

Our defence strategists have to work closely with defence research and development establishments to ensure a smooth two-way interflow between technology and strategy.

Since both technologies and strategies naturally transform each other, it is essential users of the technology - the field units - should also be in the loop. Some streamlining may be required in this area.

Indian scientists and engineers, in India and abroad, are powering much of the technology explosion. Many of them are in research laboratories in the private sector.

In today’s competitive world, it would be inefficient for our defence R&D establishments and equipment manufacturers not to make use of the talents available in the private sector.

The use of neighbouring countries by various insurgent groups has helped to prolong insurgency in our Northeast. Deliberate efforts to inhibit access to these states create hurdles to economic growth. We have to adopt a two-pronged strategy to counter this.

One, to use various means of persuasion with our neighbouring countries to choke off support to the terrorist groups. Two, to focus on development and improved connectivity of the Northeast.

Our border with China has remained largely peaceful for the past few decades. During my recent visit to China, we agreed to raise our bilateral and economic cooperation to a qualitatively higher level.

The decision to appoint special representatives to discuss the boundary question from a political perspective was a particularly significant measure. A final resolution of the boundary question would release considerable military energies and finances for more purposeful activities.

It is therefore a strategic objective. To achieve it, we should be willing to take pragmatic decisions.

I will also say a few words about our western neighbour, Pakistan. We have yet again announced some measures to promote greater people-to-people interaction, cultural exchanges and economic cooperation. Our constant effort is to encourage those elements in Pakistan who recognise the folly of permanent hostility towards India.

By our recent measures, we have also silenced the whisper campaign that the requirements of forthcoming elections dictate a harsh Pakistan policy. The political leadership of this country is well aware that the constituency for peace with Pakistan is much larger than that which favours hostility.

At the same time, we will continue to deal firmly with cross-border terrorism. A meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is only possible when we see sincerity in the effort to stop infiltration and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.

We have talked about our security perspectives, specific security threats and the situation in our immediate neighbourhood. In the globalised world, every strategy is inter-disciplinary. It is therefore imperative to develop a close synergy between our security agencies, our armed forces, our diplomats and our finance, commerce, energy and other ministries.

In the 21st century, war in whatever form can be won only through multiple levers of power.

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