BOOK REVIEW Future
shock The Writing on the Wall.
India Checkmates America 2017 by S
Reviewed by Chanakya Sen
In a February 2004 joint combat
exercise of the US and Indian Air Forces held in
Gwalior, American F15C planes were defeated nine out of
10 times by Indian pilots flying Russian-made SU30Ks and
MIG-21s. This set the cat among the strategic community
pigeons, who inferred that a developing country with
skills and equipment can stave off the mightiest. Former
Indian army chief General
Padmanabhan's elucidation of US-India
conflict buttresses the case. The short war results in
hasty retreat of the superpower, which faces a prepared
and vigilant India.
The curtain raises in April
2003. Despite differing institutional perspectives on
responding to the US invasion of Iraq, strategists
concur that India could become a future object of US
military whims. New Delhi's aversion to providing troops
for the US-led stabilization force in Iraq and
Washington's strong tilt towards Pakistan appear to be a
casus belli. The Indian defense minister asks his
service chiefs how asymmetrical and unequal wars,
increasingly commonplace in the unipolar word, can be
fought and won. He asks for detailed plans with 15 years
lead time "to resist the USA if she turns rogue (p 27)."
A draft National Security Policy (NSP) is
mooted, projecting a long-term defense outlay of 3.5% of
India's gross domestic product. It prioritizes a new
defense shield to intercept ballistic and cruise
missiles over and around India as well as nano-chip
integrated machines with artificial intelligence. NSP is
guided by the reasoning that "in a unipolar world, the
more friends one has, the greater one's security" (p
31). A strategic partnership with China is the
centerpiece of this diplomatic coalition-building. On
internal security, dialogues would be opened with
misguided elements for settlement. In the Kashmir
Valley, Indian army training and lessons learnt are to
be improved for tackling mujahideen terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan president orders urgent
strikes in Kashmir to pacify the religious parties
raising the banner of revolt against him. The
Inter-Services Intelligence hands jihadi groups a target
list and timetable. Soft spots like the Vaishno Devi
temple in Jammu and a civilian bus in Doda are
identified. The bosses demand night vision devices and
money to finish the job. Incidents of terrorist violence
rocket in mid-2003, but India's announcement of sending
an unmanned spacecraft to the moon before 2008 injects
buoyancy into the national mood and sets tongues wagging
on security implications for industrialized countries.
India's decision to form a strategic block with China,
Brazil, Mexico etc at the World Trade Organization
Cancun meet also raises eyebrows.
By early 2004,
the Chinese send signals to Delhi that "they regard us
as a staunch opponent of US hegemonism" (p 76) . Towards
the end of that year, Pakistan attacks the
Naushera-Poonch-Rajauri sectors of Jammu and Kashmir. In
counter-attacks, India seizes strategically valuable
territory in Pakistan. The US demands an Indian
pull-back, which is not complied with. As a US-India
collision seems possible, Indian politicians close ranks
and form a government of national unity. Though the US
Seventh Fleet enters the Indian Ocean, the crisis tides
over, but not without presaging what is to come.
The new government passes a multi-partisan
national agenda with clear-cut policies towards
separatist movements, culminating in peace accords in
Nagaland, Manipur and Assam by 2008. Left-wing extremism
also dies out with more just distribution of resources.
In late 2007, the Vietnamese UN secretary
general proclaims expansion of the Security Council to
admit India, Brazil and South Africa and reiterates that
the UN is the only acceptable hope for all nations to
retain their unique nationhood and integrity. India
undergoes a significant accretion to its national power
that the world observes and takes note of. Less
developed countries increasingly look up to India for
assistance. with the view that a "new and highly benign
power had arrived to help others grow (p 126)."
In 2009, China proposes an Asian Security
Environment (ASE) comprising Russia, India, Iran,
Vietnam and the Central Asian Republics, provoking
nightmares in Washington. The US ambassador in Islamabad
tells the Pakistani president, "You, as a friend of both
the USA and China must stop this happening (p 109)."
Pakistan and the US see convergent interests in
containing the "China-India axis", demonstrated when a
terrorist attack in Jammu in 2010 is condemned in
Beijing and wholehearted support is extended to India to
take retaliatory action on Pakistan.
missile defense project Vajra is successfully tested in
early 2010 as per schedule, thanks to red tape and
corruption-free defense deals. Association of users into
weapons development processes by integrating Indian
army, navy and air force officers with scientists yields
As the ASE approaches
inauguration, the US senses a new military alliance more
powerful than the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and
decides to take covert and overt measures to prevent its
opening. Diplomatic pressures through itinerant
officials are used to sow dissension among member
states. Restrictive trade practices are introduced
against participant states. To "bring India to its
senses", the US steps up military aid to Pakistan,
playing the old card of balance of power in South Asia.
Undeterred, ASE agreements come into place by the end of
2015, by which time India is substantially ready for
In April 2015, Syed Salahuddin,
the supreme commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM)
terrorist outfit under house arrest in Pakistan is
brought back to India through a bloodless intrigue. He
disbands HM. Pakistani intelligence gathers that more
jihadis active in Kashmir are contemplating surrender.
In high dudgeon, the Pakistani president enjoins a
debilitating strike at the Jammu and Kashmir
government's convoy shifting to the summer capital
Srinagar. Over 80 persons are killed and 134 wounded.
India's retribution destroys the Muridke headquarters
and Kotli office complex of Lashkar-i-Tayyaba by aerial
bombing, killing its leader Hafeez Muhammad Sayeed. A
prominent jihadi madrassa (seminary) is destroyed
and the new director general of the Inter-Services
Intelligence is assassinated swiftly.
military ruler desperately turns to the US for a formal
treaty alliance with Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. The
US president nods saying, "I expect you to keep the
Indians so busy that they do not have time to finalize
the Asian Security Environment (p 202)." An advisory
group from the US Special Operations Command works in
tandem with Pakistan to sabotage Indian nerve centers.
In March 2016, an Indian commercial ship is sunk
by Pakistani naval forces released from duty on paper.
Delhi sets a time-bound ultimatum for the saboteurs to
be handed over for trial. The US national security
adviser informs India that "if it comes to an Indo-Pak
war, we shall fight on the side of our ally (p 219)."
India withdraws the ultimatum after the US appeals to
avert war and promises to rein in Pakistan.
Behind the scenes however, US agent provocateurs
are sent into India and other ASE component states to
engineer riots, sabotage and to provide a last resort
option of triggering war between Pakistan and India. US
Special Forces personnel blow up the strategic Jawahar
Tunnel linking Jammu and Srinagar in July 2017. India
demands surrender of all responsible persons in 10 days.
The Pakistani president eyes an opportunity of a
lifetime in Indo-US flare-ups and declares war against
India, with the chilling assurance, "With the US on our
side, victory is assured (p 238)."
armed forces suffer serious setbacks in the war as
Lahore is surrounded by Indian troops on the first day
of the war itself. In the Oval Office, the American
president is told that unless Washington enters the
fight, its ally would be defeated and "religious
fanatics may capture power and the bomb (p 242)." US
carrier battle groups move into the war zone to launch
seven Tomahawks at Indian high-value targets, only to be
decapitated by the Vajra missile defense umbrella.
Indian electromagnetic pulses powered by "e-bombs"
incapacitate American phones, electric grids and
computer networks. When some Indian communication
satellites are destroyed by US action, Delhi switches to
backup satellites of allied countries within a record 45
minutes. A UN resolution stops the war with a unanimous
ceasefire of all permanent members of the Security
Council within two days of active hostilities.
In Pakistan, the mullahs attempt a palace coup
using zealous sections of the army unhappy with the
setbacks against India. Indian armed forces that make
inroads come to the rescue and save the Pakistani
president, effectively ending the war. So weakened is
the latter that he concedes control of Pakistan's nukes
to US control and lets India take the whole of Jammu and
Kashmir. The defeated general also sends to the Indian
prime minister "far-reaching proposals that will end,
forever, our terrible relations of the last 70 years (p
Padmanabhan's forward planning idea
carries relevance at a time where there is "no limit to
which the US would not go if she perceived even the
faintest threat to her national security (Preface)." The
most fantastic assumption of the book is the China-India
alliance, which remains tantalizing yet unrealistic in
today's lenses. But then, as world politics is churning
rapidly, no future shock is really a shock. Padmanabhan
deserves kudos for a holistic approach to security and
an original imagination.
The Writing on the
Wall. India Checkmates America 2017 by S
Padmanabhan. Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2004. ISBN:
81-7049-175-4. Price US$35, 300 pages.
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