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The News International, Monday, June 10, 2002
Jaswant Singh on defending India

Prof Khwaja Masud

The writer is a former principal, Gordon College, Rawalpindi

In order to understand the Pak-Indian relations, it is absolutely necessary that we must know how the mind of Jaswant Singh works, because he is the foreign minister of India. In order to understand his mind, we must fully grasp his book "Defending India", which came out last year. He has not minced matters. He comes out clearly and definitely about the aims and objects of the India's foreign policy in this book.

Jaswant Singh believes that "India is a Hindu nation, and the Hindus do not see things the way others do". Indeed, it is a fantastic statement. Since it comes from the foreign minister of India, it has to be kept in mind, while attempting to understand the contradictory statements of the Indian leadership on our relations with India. One day, "a decisive battle" has to be fought; the next day, "the sky is clear of war-clouds, but the lightning may strike, even on a clear day."

His first thesis is that Pakistan and China have loomed too large on the Indian horizon. "It is a poor and myopic sort of country," Jaswant Singh says, "whose strategic horizon is limited to its geographical boundaries." "It is our entire neighbourhood (defined in a very wide-ranging way) that we have to focus on."

Jaswant Singh's second thesis is that with the exit of the Soviet Union, the US is now the sole superpower. Getting into and remaining in their good books could pay rich dividends. India should get along with the US efforts to contain China, which would give India an opportunity to expand its diplomatic presence is South-East Asia and would enable her naval presence along its shores. So far as US is concerned, China along with Russia in strategic alliance, is its main contradiction.

According to Jaswant Singh "with China in the absence of any social, cultural, political and economic commonality, a policy of improving relations could yet again mortgage our future for illusions of the present."

At the rate India is going west, India might soon find itself with the US as its nearest neighbour, though US itself will continue to have many nearer neighbours, both before and after India has outlived its utility. Jaswant Singh has no qualms about India leading from the front in the battle against terrorism not only in Kashmir but in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.

The third major point in Jaswant Singh's strategy is that India has been at the receiving end for too long, because of, according to him "our peace-loving nature" and the policy of "limited retaliation."

Elaborating this point, he says: "Adversaries were confronted only after invasion; then too, on a ground of their choosing. They were never pursued (beyond our boundaries). Threats were not recognised until they actually occurred: they were neither anticipated nor neutralised before they could actually materialise."

With reference to the operations in Jammu and Kashmir in 1948, Jaswant Singh says: "Operations were limited to the tactical. The strategic objective of denying routes of ingress, denying lines of communication and supply, were not even examined. Air power was not offensively employed; bridges and road-arteries reaching into Jammu and Kashmir were left entirely untouched. To pulverise the adversary's capacity to strike again was not spelt out as a military task; a simple pushing back of the Pakistani military became the primary goal."

Instead, Jaswant Singh says that India should reserve the right to strike back in any manner at any time and place and target. He continues that anticipatory strikes must definitely not be ruled out. Therefore, Jaswant Singh makes a strong plea for a hi-tech air force (consisting of missiles as well as planes). According to him, India must abandon once and for all the policy of using air force only for the limited purpose of supporting the ground operations of the army.

As for the navy, Jaswant Singh complains that the "political-military class" have failed to realise the "natural destiny" of India, with its "oceanic boundaries" stretching from the "southern fringes of Asia to the east coast of Africa, and the northern shores of Australia. He goes on: "India lies between the choke points of the Suez Canal in the west and the Strait of Malacca in the east. As a consequence, the growth of the Indian navy has been unnaturally stunned. It has remained a coastal protection force."

Even before Jaswant Singh became the foreign minister, he was playing an important role in shaping the foreign policy, although he was only deputy chairman of the planning commission. He was one of the few people taken into confidence about Pokhran. After Pokhran, Jaswant Singh met President Clinton's trusted deputy secretary of state, Strobe Tabbott, along with a number of aides. These hush-hush discussions were about the future role of India in world-politics as "an emerging great power." As a consequence, President Clinton visited Delhi and Jaswant Singh was catapulted into foreign ministry.

Jaswant Singh is said to enjoy the confidence of both Vajpayee and Advani. He is convinced that grand strategy must be the exclusive concern of a small, select band of people who should be chosen carefully. Jaswant Singh is highly critical of the Nehru family and holds them responsible for what has gone wrong with India. He is not in favour of subordinating the armed forces to the defence ministry, because, according to him, "civilian control has been cumbersome, time-consuming and bureaucratic," and it has been the "principal destroyer of the army's morale."

"Defending India" is compulsory reading for people interested in Indian foreign policy, be they friends or foes. Jaswant Singh emerges as a politician with innate fascist leanings, as an exponent of Indian hegemony, with aggressive diplomacy as an instrument. From Nehru to Jaswant Singh is a far cry.

All fundamentalists irrespective of their religion have a strong streak of fascism flowing in their blood. In India, fascism is represented by the Sang Parivar (RSS family) consisting of the RSS, the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and the Bajrang Dall. The BJP draws its support from the Sang Parivar.

Fascism rose in Italy and Germany after the first great war. In Europe its garb was political, but it flourished on hatred and intolerance. In South-East Asia its garb is religious, but it is fascism nonetheless. We shall have peace only when the fangs of fascism are exposed and fought by forging a united front of the forces standing for democracy, social justice peace, and progress.


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