Mr. Niaz A. Naik
o subject has preoccupied Pakistan
more than the appraisal of the goals
and objectives of our neighbour. No
other deserves greater and more constant
attention, for, India is both difficult and
dangerous - difficult because it is complex
and dangerous because it has never hesitated to use force to achieve its objectives.
In the early days of its independence, its
annexation of Goa by force, of Junagadh
and of Hyderabad by the so-called Police
Action and its illegal occupation of Jammu
and Kashmir demonstrate India’s relentless
pursuit of its ambition to acquire preeminent status in the region.
Tryst with Destiny
India being the predominant power is a
perception deeply rooted in the ancient
Hindu scriptures. It was sustained and
strengthened over the centuries even when
India remained under the rule of successive regimes which the Indians described
as foreign or alien. India rediscovered its
real self when it attained independence
some forty-nine years ago. Pandit Nehru
called this landmark as India’s tryst with
destiny. The rekindled vision of India has
been visualized by well known Indian intellectuals in contradictory terms. For instance, Swami Vivekanda, a Hindu revivalist espoused the idea of a Spiritual Conquest of the World not by armies which
make brutes of humanity but by disseminating the great virtue of Vedanta. A moderate nationalist like Surendernath Bainerageea conceived of a great future for the
beloved fatherland through unity amongst
all religious communities. Another Indian
intellectual Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
glorified Hindu nationalism, denigrating
the Muslims. Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi
both envisioned a glorious future for India
in unity but they disagreed fundamentally
on the prescription for India’s ills. Around
the time of partition, Hindu nationalism
came to the fore with a virulent force. Vinayak Savarkar, President of Hindu
Mahasabha not only opposed the estabThe Citadel No. 1/96 55
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Pakistan but also advocated the reconversion of Hindus who had embraced
Islam. The Hindus, he said would make
India great and a day will come when
mankind will have to face its force. He not
only preached Hindu rashtra but organised
a countrywide programme with the aim of
all sided development of Bharatvarsha.
The Jana Sangh, the political front of RSS
established in 1951 formally set before
itself the objective to end the separation of
India and Pakistan and to bring the two
together. Last year in most of the BJP’s
political rallies in India, echoes of undoing
the partition were heard from the BJP
Even without referring to any non-Hindu
leader, these samplings of influential perceptions are enough to show the great variety of ideas about the role and objectives
of India that have existed in that country.
Obviously, it would be risky to assume
that any single leader was the true interpreter of Indian or even the Hindu ambitions. India is too complex, diverse and
enigmatic. But the central question remains as to what role a confident and
powerful India aspires to play in the regional and global context?
India has all the attributes of a great
power. It is a vast country, as vast as
Europe without Russia. It is a subcontinent
in itself with a wide variety of physical
features. It is the second most populous
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country in the world with nearly 900 million inhabitants, descendants of various
races and cultures. The magic spell of India’s national unity in the midst of diversity had impressed itself on all these races
and cultures welding them all into a vast
synthesis. In contemporary terminology,
India has made impressive advances in
political, military, economic, industrial
and technological fields.
Politically, India has made impressive
strides towards stable democratic set up.
Over the past 49 years it has held several
general elections and on more than one
occasion ensured the peaceful transfer of
power on defeat of incumbent prime ministers. Even the aberration of the emergency during 1973 - has served to foster
confidence in the capacity of the polity to
correct course. The Constitution of India
has demonstrated its durability and value.
Predominant Element of Indian Power
India today possesses the third largest
army, fifth largest air force and the third
largest navy including the blue water
navy. According to latest estimates, the
Indian Army has 3 armoured divisions, 3
semi mechanised divisions, 27 infantry/mountain divisions, 8 independent armoured brigades, 7 independent infantry
brigades, one each para brigade and amphibious brigade.
The Indian naval strength is equally substantial. It has two aircraft carriers, 18
submarines, 5 destroyers, 15 frigates, 24
missile corvettes and boats, 21 fast attack
crafts, 18 mine sweepers, 18 amphibious
ships, 6 fleet tankers, 45 combat aircraft,
30 patrol aircraft and 106 helicopters.
two plutonium reactors, a number of other
research reactors as well as a centrifuge
facility for enrichment. It has been estimated that the Indian plutonium inventory
has exceeded 4 tons with which India
could produce between 60-100 nuclear
The Indian Air Force has 38 squadrons
of combat aircraft, 10 squadrons of transport aircraft, 4 squadrons of gunship helicopters and 14 squadrons of transport helicopters.
India has not lagged behind in developing credible short and medium range missiles. Its single stage Prithvi missile with a
range of up to 250 kilometers and a nuclear capable mobile launcher can hit any
city in Pakistan with a warhead of 500 to
1000 kilograms. The two stage Agni missile can deliver a 1000 kilograms warhead
over 2500 kilometres range thus capable
of targeting Beijing, Jakarta, Tehran and
In other words India has carried forward
the modernization of its armed forces and
continues to do so. In 1992-93 India was
the largest importer of arms in the world.
Emphasis has now been shifted from defence to strike role as the forces have assimilated highly sophisticated and lethal
weapon systems. India has now acquired
the power projection capability in the
Asian and Indian Ocean region.
India has developed a very large and sophisticated nuclear programme. It is one of
the few countries in the world which can
claim a complete control of the nuclear
fuel cycle covering local production of
uranium, fuel fabrication, enrichment,
construction of research and power reactors and recovery of plutonium reprocessing. India has three reprocessing plants in
operation with a combined output of 400
tons per year and another one of much larger capacity is under construction. It has
In addition, India is developing an Advanced Space Vehicle (ASLV) which
could be converted into a 2500 miles
range missile. In a recent study by the
Washington based Heritage Foundation, it
has been stated that future Indian long
range missiles may be capable of reaching
US forces in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Only recently, the Indian Weekly Political Events has revealed that Indian scientists have developed the stealth technology
allowing Indian aircraft to escape detection by a radar. This has reportedly been
tested successfully on the Jaguar aircraft
of the Indian Air Force. It was also re-
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ported in the international press that recently three Indian scientists have been
arrested by the US on charges of espionage and stealing the stealth bomber technology. When integrated with components
of electronic warfare capabilities, the
stealth technology will give the Indian Air
Force a phenomenal ability to match the
most modern defence aviation technology
in the world with its decade old aircraft.
Industrial Potential
India is amongst the 10 most industrialised countries and among the world’s ten
largest economic markets. With a strong
base in heavy industry, India has built up
capacity for production of machinery for
chemical and metallurgical plants. It has
set up a vast network of ordnance factories that are manufacturing all kinds of
equipment from trucks to tanks, mortars
and missiles, frigates and aircraft. In short,
few developing countries equal India in
the range of scientific and technological
India had realized from the very beginning that economic weakness threatened
its political stability and imposed severe
constraints on her search for power and
prestige. So the main thrust of Indian economic policy has aimed at self-reliance
and autarky. India gradually changed her
economic policies from Nehru’s Fabian
Socialism to present day free market economy. Thus the constant goal of self-
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reliance is given a new interpretation as a
vital attribute to India’s status as a great
The question often asked and much discussed both in India and abroad has been
as to the proper status of India. Is India a
small power because of its low per capita
income and the pervasive poverty? Is India
a middle power by virtue of its size, capability and the middle position it occupies
between competing blocs? Is India a regional power because of its strategic location and historic position in South Asia?
Or is India an emergent great power in its
aspirations and ambitions?
Hegemonic Aspirations
India regards itself as a successor to the
British Raj in South Asia and automatically arrogated itself the role of an imperial power. It developed and executed its
own Monroe Doctrine, especially during
the premiership of Mrs Indira Gandhi.
With the Indira Doctrine, India sought to
establish its regional supremacy as a first
step towards its larger ambition of playing
a great power role at the international
level. The Indira Doctrine was ruthlessly
pursued by India to claim the right to intervene in the affairs of neighbouring
states if their relations with external powers or their internal disorders threatened
Indian security.
The earliest manifestation of this doctrine became transparent when in April
1950, India imposed its will and authority
on Nepal under the disguise of special relationship with Nepal. The treaty was
based on 83-pages long document submitted by India to Nepal on 30 March 1950
which contained a comprehensive set of
proposals. This document was a revelation
of India’s imperial attitude towards its
smaller neighbours. The treaty required
Nepal to consult India on matters of defence and foreign policy and obliging Nepal to procure military equipment from or
through India. Being a land-locked country and dependent entirely on India, the
socio-economic development of Nepal fell
virtually in Indian hands.
In an exchange of secret letters accompanying the 1950 Treaty, India unilaterally
asserted its right to defend Nepal’s territorial integrity against foreign aggression.
The fundamental fact of the treaty reflected India’s long term strategy to play a
pivotal role in the regional security arrangements. Despite Nepal’s valiant
struggle to extricate itself from the special
rights conceded in the 1950 Treaty, India
has not allowed revision of the Treaty’s
unequal provisions. Nepal’s independent
assertion of its position by its declaration
of a Zone of Peace was rejected by India
on the grounds that the proposal undercut
1950 Treaty. Nepal’s attempt in 1989 to
purchase some light weapons from China
invoked Indian anger which promptly imposed an economic blockade around Ne-
pal. It led Nepal to pledge for a prior consultation on defence related matters which
in the view of either country could pose a
threat to its security. This represented not
only a reversal in Nepal’s position, it was
also meant as a clear signal to China.
Bhutan has been in a worse predicament.
Taking over the mantle of the British imperial power, India concluded a treaty with
Bhutan in August 1949 under which Bhutan agreed to be guided by the advice of
the Government of India in regard to its
external relations. The treaty subjected
Bhutan’s sovereignty to narrow limits and
placed its defence and foreign policy virtually under Indian control. Bhutan is not
allowed to establish diplomatic relations
with other countries without India’s prior
permission. The Bhutanese have to be extremely careful of the consequences of any
defiance of the Indian authority. The example of Sikkim can be ignored only at
great peril. Sikkim’s aspiration to achieve
recognition for its national identity was
nipped in the bud in 1974 when India annexed the Kingdom. The then Indian Ambassador in Sikkim justified the annexation in response to what he considered as
vulgar criticism of his country and his
Prime Minister. [Mrs Indira Gandhi was
dubbed as Empress of India].
More recently, New Delhi has asserted a
more novel doctrine in respect of its relations with its neighbours. Following the
anti Tamil riots in Sri Lanka in July 198384, New Delhi declared that it could not
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remain indifferent when riots affected people who had cultural or other close links
with India. The significance of this assertion can not be lost on neighbours, each of
whom has sections of population with ethnic, linguistic or other links with some
section or another of the population in India.
At about the same time, India objected to
Sri Lanka’s intention of requesting some
friendly countries for military help for the
maintenance of internal security. Clearly
India sought to limit the sovereign right of
Sri Lanka to individual or collective selfdeference under Article 51 of the UN
Charter. The Indian interventions during
July 1987 to March 1990 in Sri Lanka
confirmed New Delhi’s calculated commitment of its military power in the furtherance of its political objectives. The
Indo-Sri Lanka accord in 1990 and the letters exchanged between Indian Prime
Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayawardane of Sri Lanka makes it abundantly clear as to how India envisaged its
relations with its neighbours. India engineered a coup attempt in the Maldives in
1988 and demonstrated its air and sea
borne capability of defending the security
of one of its distant neighbours.
It would be evident from these examples
that India aspires to be the predominant
power in South Asia. It behaves towards
its smaller neighbours like a regional
dominant power, intervening politically,
militarily and economically, and dominates their cultural life. India also vetoes
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their relations with large external powers.
After having militarily intervened in East
Pakistan, India proceeded to impose its
preferences on Bangladesh. The IndiaBangladesh Treaty required Bangladesh to
remain secular and not to raise the ‘Farraka Dam’ issue in international forums.
But none of this applies to India’s relations with Pakistan which alone has the
power to deter India. As an American analyst has stated: There is an imbalance in
balance of power between India and Pakistan and no matter how much India might
wish it, Pakistan is unlikely to become a
client state of India.
Indo-Pakistan Relations
Since 1947 India has tried through political, military and economic instruments to
bend Pakistan to its own will. Opposition
to security links between India’s neighbours and foreign powers has been a persistent goal of Indian policy. When in the
1950’s Pakistan secured defence assistance from the USA, India denounced both
USA and Pakistan. New Delhi maintained
relentless pressure on Washington to discontinue the aid relationship with Islamabad. The same pattern was repeated in the
1980’s following the wake of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The recent most
example was the hue and cry of India to
block the passage of Brown Amendment
by the US Administration.
India has always sought to limit the role
of the United Nations in regulation of relations between Delhi and its neighbours.
India has developed an extraordinary doctrine of bilateralism which seeks to limit
its neighbours to a one-to-one relationship
with India and to the resolution of differences exclusively through bilateral negotiations. They are required in effect to surrender their rights as independent states
and resort to other peaceful means recognised under International Law and the UN
Charter. New Delhi claims that in the
Simla Agreement Pakistan conceded the
so called principle of bilateralism. Needless to add that Pakistan has rejected that
tion, it strongly denounced US decision to
provide arms to Pakistan. Throughout and
after the Afghanistan crisis, India missed
no opportunity to erode or disrupt Islamabad-Washington link. Pressler and similar
other discriminatory legislation against
Pakistan were welcomed by India which
worked hard to ensure that such legislation
were neither repealed nor relaxed in favour of Pakistan. New Delhi has now
threatened after the adoption of the Brown
Amendment that it will take adequate
measures to off set the imbalance which
would be created when the held up arms
are supplied to Pakistan.
India felt that by dismembering Pakistan
in 1971, it had achieved its goal of predominance in South Asia. It started assuming a global role by asserting its hegemony
over its self-styled sphere of influence.
New Delhi raised its sights to extend its
security parameters beyond its geographical area to include the entire Indian Ocean
basin. Indian pronouncements began
stressing that India must shoulder the responsibility for peace and security in the
Indian Ocean. One analyst went to the extent of warning that unless distant bases
like Singapore, Mauritius, Aden and Scotra are firmly held, there will be no security for India. However, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan transformed the
situation and frustrated the Indian ambitions. Nonetheless, while India remained
mute in its disapproval of the Soviet ac-
New Delhi’s policies are explained by its
perceptions of the effect of the new developments on the realisation of India’s multidimensional aims in the region. The
search of India for great power status has
been intensified after the end of the Cold
War. It had played the Cold War deftly. It
enjoyed all the benefits of a de facto strategic alliance with the Soviets while giving little in return. The former Soviet Union became the ultimate guarantor of India’s security, the supplier of cheap weapons that fed Indians grandiose military
ambitions and provided a huge captive
market for shoddy Indian consumer goods.
In the post Cold War era and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, India was quick
to readjust its confrontational relations
with the USA - the only remaining super
power. While doing so, New Delhi never
Search For Great Power Status
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lost vision of India as a great power. Indian scholars began asserting India being
among the global actors along with USA,
European Union, Japan and China. India
was no longer perceived as a mere South
Asian power but the predominant nation of
the Indian Ocean basin and an equal of
China in world councils. Indians began
extending the geographical definition of
South Asia to Southern Asia thus embracing a much wider sphere of influence. India is now trying to regain its influence in
Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics as well as in Iran and the Persian Gulf.
At the 50th Anniversary Special Session
of UNO in October last year, the Indian
Prime Minister openly staked India’s
claim to be accepted as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Indian Political Scene
The political stability which India enjoyed under the Nehru dynasty is facing
great challenges and strains. The governments of Mrs Indira Gandhi and her son
Rajiv Gandhi were followed by two weak
minority governments of V.P. Singh and
Chandera Shaker. Both were brought
down largely by regionalism, HinduMuslim confrontations and the casteridden politics. Prime Minister Narasima
Rao’s government has fallen sequel to a
stunning but predictable defeat in elections. As expected, non of the three main
political parties have won the required majority. India appears to be heading in the
foreseeable future towards a coalition
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government. Even the Indian experts are
apprehensive that their country is entering
a long period of political uncertainty. The
political polarisation has weakened the
central government’s relations with the
state governments, especially where the
second largest political party in the Lok
Sabha - namely the BJP - won elections in
the most affluent and influential states.
India’s very size and diversity has ensured the presence of centrifugal forces at
virtually every stage of Indian history. The
caste system, religious differences, multiplicity of languages, and ethnic divergence
have interacted to stunt the evolution of a
cohesive, unified, and homogeneous nation-state. As an especially heterogeneous
nation of over 900 million, India has long
struggled with challenges to its unity and
integrity. The Indian society is at crossroads. To say that it is gravely imperilled
and almost on the verge of collapse may
be somewhat exaggerated but not completely off the mark. In any event, it is in
turmoil, fragmented, and afflicted by tensions and conflicts.
The growing civil strife has threatened
India’s stability and tarnished its democratic credentials. Mrs Indira Gandhi was
assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards
in retribution for the assault on the Golden
Temple. The May 1991 assassination of
Rajiv Gandhi has been linked to the interaction of ethnic strife involving ethnic
Tamil separatists in neighbouring Sri
Lanka and the separatist forces in India’s
Tamil Nadu State.
Other separatist movements in Punjab
and Assam have played a significant role
in the growing fragmentation of Indian
national polity. The indigenous uprising
by the people in the Indian Held Kashmir
is in a special category. The repression let
loose by India on the unarmed civilian
Kashmiri people and the gross violations
of their human rights have now been well
documented to the great disadvantage and
discomfort of the world’s most populous
Hindu Revivalism
One crucial aspect of the explosive situation in the Indian Held Kashmir is linked
with the treatment of the minority communities in India. The Muslims who constitute one of the largest Muslim population in the world have throughout suffered
at the hands of the Hindu majority. Provisions in the Indian Constitution on the protection of minorities have been observed
more in breach than their compliance. The
beginning of 1980’s can well be regarded
as the end of brief era of secularism in Indian history as it was shaped and practised
by the leaders of modern Indian renaissance and those of the independence
movement. Today there is a competitive
drift towards Hindu communalism which
has now acquired new dimensions. Communal riots have become more frequent
and better planned resulting in greater violence on a much wider scale. The drift towards Hindu Communalism cultivated in
the demolition of the Babri Mosque when
the so-called secular Indian Government
decided to remain a silent spectator and
helplessly watched the spate of communal
riots that followed it.
The Babri Mosque incident may well
prove to be a watershed in the political
situation in India. The incident deepened a
feeling of deep mistrust and fear among
the vast majority of more than 100 million
Muslim population of India. Such a widening rift in the largest minority constitutes a
standing threat to national cohesion and
unity in India.
The state of social inequality and injustice is a stark reality in today’s India despite the provisions in the Indian constitution. Not only the minorities, i.e., Muslims
and Sikhs are subjected to discrimination,
the plight of the schedule caste population
is even worse: 59 million of them are unemployed; 72% are still marginal farmers;
12% of them are landless workers and
53% of them live below the poverty line.
On a national level, 324 million Indians
are still illiterate in the age group of 7 and
above. The rural female illiteracy is close
to 70% in the country as a whole.
Economic Realities
The economic reforms were launched
with great expectations and met with considerable success in the initial period. But
in the run-up period to this year’s elections, the Indian government was almost
paralysed by inaction in order not to offend one or another interest group. The
economic growth has slowed down and
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the cancellation of the US
ENRON by the new Maharashtra State
Government has slowed down the flow of
foreign private investments. Even the Kentucky Fried Chicken enterprise has not escaped the opposition of the BJP which in
any case is opposed in principle to the free
play of foreign investments in India. The
main point is that the economic reforms
have failed to transform a society that was
predominantly rural, feudal and autocratic.
A slow rate of growth, which the economists called the Hindu rate of growth, is
barely able to keep up with rising population increase; a high cost economy unable
to compete in world trade and a stagnant
society. India’s domestic and foreign debt
is mounting at an alarming rate. It is being
accentuated by India’s defence expenditure on dealing with internal separatist
movements, in dealing with the popular
uprising in the IHK and above all by New
Delhi’s ambitions to catch up with China.
The truth of the matter is that China stands
today in stark contrast to India. Beijing's
economic and military power already
dwarfs New Delhi's, and the gap seems
destined to widen as China consolidates its
superpower status. Those who have analysed the dissolution of the former Soviet
Union resulting from its blind race to out
match United States see an obvious parallel in India’s ambitions to be equal of
China. The saner elements in India and
abroad are hoping India defusing its international ambitions and turning inward to
confront its lengthy and vital domestic
Will India succeed in achieving its regional and global ambitions? A definitive
answer to this question must await the
verdict of history. As a preliminary response to this question, it seems that India’s search for great power status is running into serious difficulties.
Mr. Niaz A. Naik is a diplomat of international repute. He joined
Pakistan’s Foreign Service in 1949. He remained Ambassador
and Permanent Representative to European Office of UN at Geneva and UNO, New York. He was High Commissioner to India
from 1988-89. He was also the elected chairman of First Committee of the UN General Assembly on Disarmament and Arms
Control. Mr Naik has been actively associated with North-South
dialogue on international economic issues, proceedings of NonAligned Movement and SAARC. Since April 1991, he is Chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.
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