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<-Back to WTN Archives S ecurity and foreign policy imperatives
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Monday, August 8, 2005

4. S ecurity and foreign policy imperatives

by Maj-Gen Rajendra Nath (retd)
The Tribune, Sunday, August 7, 2005


The lack of effective coordination between the Ministry of External Affairs
and the Defence Ministry has led to the neglect of the security aspect. In
the initial years, India's foreign policy was shaped by morality, idealism,
fairplay, peace and justice for all nations etc. But powerful and strong
countries are ruthless in the pursuit of their national interest. As a
result, less powerful or weak countries had to suffer.

We had to pay a heavy price due to the neglect of our armed forces. Pakistan
is creating trouble in Jammu and Kashmir while the Chinese have occupied a
large portion of Aksai Chin in the north-eastern part of Ladakh in Jammu and

When India became Independent, Nehru was both Prime Minister and External
Affairs Minister for 17 years. Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon helped
Nehru in dealing with foreign affairs. He was, in fact, more interested in
international affairs than in the problems of the Defence Ministry. If India
was militarily weak in 1962, Krishna Menon is mainly responsible. There was
no excuse for this military weakness, for the war with Pakistan in 1947-48
cost India one-third of Jammu and Kashmir. But Indian foreign policy did not
attach much importance to the security aspect even though the Chinese had
occupied Tibet in 1950.

General Thorat, who was commanding Eastern Command in the late fifties,
briefed Nehru during a visit, on the possible Chinese threat. He suggested
that India should prepare a defence line somewhere half way from the Indian
plains to the high mountainous terrain along the India-China border. He
recommended proper roads from the plains to these mountain positions so that
we could defend North-Eastern India in case China created border problems
for India.

Nehru said that he was engaged in bringing about rapprochement between the
US and USSR and it would not be proper to move our forces towards the
Tibetan border. General Thorat thought that Nehru was taking himself a bit
too seriously. He wrote about this in his book Reville to Retreat. Krishna
Menon too thought that he could handle China diplomatically. The Chinese
Defence Minister in 1961 had told Menon that China would not attack India
and he, as Defence Minister, trusted this statement so much that he did not
prepare the Indian Army for a possible threat from China or move forces
swiftly when the occasion so warranted, to take on the Chinese attack. The
result was disastrous for India. Its non-aligned policy was found wanting in
saving our country's honour, prestige and frontiers.
However, India was better prepared for the 1965 Indo-Pak war, started by
General Ayub Khan to capture the remainder of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan
felt that India's borders were not sacred and that aggression pays. But its
invasion was repulsed. India had paid due attention to its defence
requirements and our forces were ready to counter the Pakistani threat.

Indira Gandhi followed a foreign policy which was holistic and looked after
India's defence and economic aspects properly besides day-to-day foreign
relations. The US and many other countries did not like her foreign policy.
She continued the non-aligned policy but signed a defence pact with the
USSR. This kept China worried about possible Russian actions, in case it
interfered in the Indo-Pak war of 1971, even though the US under Nixon
coaxed China to do sabre-rattling on the India-China border to distract
India's action in Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi remained firm even when the US
moved part of its Seventh Fleet to the Indian Ocean to frighten India.
Regrettably, Indian military experts were not present when the 1965 and 1971
Indo-Pak accords were signed after the wars. India actually lost on the
negotiating table what its brave jawans and officers had gained on the
battlefield after much sacrifice.

Then came the Pokhran nuclear explosion in 1974. India had developed this
capacity may years ago but did not test the bomb, as it had been holding
forth against nuclear weapons since 1948 on moral and ethical grounds. In
1965, Dr Bhabha came to the Defence Services Staff College to deliver a
lecture on nuclear energy when I was an instructor there. He stated that
India could produce a bomb in a year's time whenever the government gave the
sanction. It was left to the last government to test the nuclear weapons in
1998. India had after all become a nuclear power. Pakistan followed suit
immediately and it too became another nuclear power in South Asia.

The Vajpayee government's wrong policy on Myanmar enabled China to get naval
bases on the Myanmar coast. Myanmar wanted to purchase weapon systems from
India. It was an ideal opportunity for India to bring Myanmar closer to
India. But the Vajpayee government insisted that Myanmar must have a
democratic government before India could sell weapons to it. It was a
serious mistake. When Myanmar turned to China, it readily agreed. In return,
China has obtained access to naval bases in Myanmar which help it to have a
presence in the Bay of Bengal. India's security was harmed due to a wrong
policy decision. Thankfully, the present government is following a wise
policy to improve relations with Myanmar.

The Centre should handle the crisis in Nepal with tact because the
Maoist-Naxalite insurgents could pose a threat to India. If Nepal comes
under the influence of a foreign power, it will affect India's defence.
India should be vigilant.

Pakistan has been using terrorism as a war of attrition in Jammu and Kashmir
against India. Bangladesh is equally hostile to India and ISI is training
anti-Indian elements in Bangladesh, who infiltrate into the North-Eastern
states to create serious security problems. China is giving extensive
military aid to Pakistan and Bangladesh. Indian security is thus palpably

We need the United States' help today so that it will stand by us in our
hour of need. Herein lies the significance of Prime Minister Manmohan
visit to
Washington. The visit has improved the Indo-US strategic equation and will
help improve national security. But there is no free lunch in bilateral
relations. One has to give and take in a foreign policy. As India has strong
friends, it can take proper measures against those countries which think
that Indian borders can be violated.

Articles in this Issue:
  2. Selected Essay Writers and Nominees to Join Dalai Lama On Stage
  3. When Buddha Chooses to Be a Woman
  4. S ecurity and foreign policy imperatives

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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