'India has to prepare for single continuous war along two fronts'

A “serious and growing asymmetrical relationship” with China
'India has to prepare for single continuous war along two fronts'

Vishnu Makhijani

A "serious and growing asymmetrical relationship" with China, which has indulged in four instances of "salami slicing" along the un-demarcated border since 2012, and an increasingly bellicose and belligerent Pakistan means that India has to be prepared for a "single continuous war" along two fronts and not a two-front war -- sans any assistance from the US or Russia, says a scholarly work by veteran diplomat Rajiv Dogra.

"Since India no longer faces just unidirectional threats, it has to take a 360-degree view and prepare accordingly. Making the challenge dire is the fact that it is not a mere two-front war that India faces, but more likely a 'single continuous war' along two fronts. This war, when it happens, might stretch from one extremity of the Indo-Pak boundary to the other end of the Indo-China border," Dogra writes in 'War Time - The World In Danger' (Rupa).

"In that case, India will have to contend with a 'collaborative war' that involves interoperability between China and Pakistan across the entire military spectrum. Such a war will be fought both in the deep seas and on the high Himalayas," adds Dogra, who was India's Ambassador to Italy, prior to which he served as Ambassador in Romania and as India's last Consul General in Karachi.

Any willingness on India's part to respond forcefully to China might be "welcomed" in the US, where successive administrations have sought to integrate India into America's Indo-Pacific strategy but "this does not mean that the US will promptly jump into the fray", Dogra writes, adding: "Therefore, when this war breaks out, India could well be reminded that the US has 47 treaty allies and it is not one of them."

Noting that the nascent QUAD partnership "has yet to create its charter" and "languishes uncertainly", Dogra writes that President Joe Biden's promise to transfer advanced technology, including submarine nuclear-propulsion to Australia under the AUKUS alliance "throws into stark relief India's failure to acquire any significant high technology" from the US. "All that India has to show for its 'strategic partnership' is the nearly $22 billion worth of military hardware purchased from US companies," he writes. Even today, there continue to be many in Russia who consider the Indian relationship to be precious, "yet, the last few years, India has let it slide", the author notes.

What then, are India's options? Dogra suggests a nine-point plan of action:

* India needs to upgrade military technology with the latest in AI, drones and electronic warfare.

* It needs to move away from its traditionally defensive approach because it is physically impossible for it to guard every inch of the over 6,800 km stretch of borders it shares with China and Pakistan.

* It must invest in gray zone operations in the enemy areas.

* It must adopt a whole of government approach in countering threats to its security.

* Increasingly, India will have to find responses to the 'cognitive war' tactics of its enemies in addition to the possibility of 'no contact' warfare and the use of unmanned platforms in war.

* There is no reason to expect that, in any future war with China and/or Pakistan, India will understand their nuclear Rubicon or that the Indian armed forces will not inadvertently cross one or more.

* India must lessen its economic dependence on China in critical sectors.

* The US has become an increasingly critical partner for India. But this dependence raises serious questions as to whether it actually enhances India's strategic imperatives or if it opens up new vulnerabilities.

* India's effort should be to create issue-based coalitions. It will have to work with other countries who feel threatened by the overwhelming preponderance of the two great powers and who fear their marginalization in a world of contention and strife. Happily, much of this is work in progress. (IANS)

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