Flexing military muscles without arms

20 Apr

Of Merry Missiles and MAD Men
Graphics: Avijit Das

When the army chief V.K.Singh’s letter bomb to the Prime Minister exploded the myth of India’s military might, few imagined that there would be light at the end of our defective deterrence tunnel. Less than a month later, the God of Fire smiled on us. With the test-firing of  his namesake, the Agni V inter-continental ballistic missile, we were taken out of our defense doldrums and jet-propelled into the elite club of missile super studs.

You would think now that would make the world sit up and give the country its due of fear-induced respect. But oh, no, no! Our Prime Minister has spoiled it for us. Totally taken in by his benign blinking presence, except for a paranoid Pakistan, the rest cannot imagine a belligerent India all set to nuke its neighbours. Poof! There disappears our missile mirage! Wait, not so fast!

As all war is about deception so also is all power about perception.When our pols fall short of projecting it, we can always count on our ‘in battle-mode’ media to do the job.  Keen to not let the country be deprived of  its moment under the sun, our press packed a punch with their headlines predicting everything short of the missile actually hitting the world’s latest hate-crush China.  Unfortunately, while we were ready to celebrate the 5000 km giant leap into mass annihalation, that killjoy called reality intervened.

Bubble-bursting fact 1: Our WMD would have to fly through more testing times before it would be able to enter the country’s dust-gathering armory.  So for those trigger-happy gents ready to air it for use, they would just have to wait for the day when the Chinese would discover their distaste for money and shun a business relationship worth USD 100 billion for the simple pleasure of firing missiles at us. Thus, our flight of fantasy hits a snag when it comes to deterrence as our leaders full of moral vim and no military vigour volunteered for a “no first use policy”.

Bubble-bursting fact 2:  What with the ball being in our frenemy’s court and its  fire power far exceeding our’s-  at least by 7000km- Cold War’s Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine of deterrence has gone cold. The “East Wind” (China’s Dongfeng 41 ICBM) is up to speed, and ready to snuff out our second strike capability.

But what the heck! We got ourselves an ICBM. Woo hoo!

Our army chief might bemoan the fact that our tanks are ready to keel over, that our air defense is in the ICU and that our infantry and specialized forces are far from being fighting fit.   He might ask for a booster shot of Rs. 41000 crore to resuscitate the military and through infusion of further cash, hasten its recovery. He might caution against sweetheart deals that are not too picky over the quality of defense procurement by the world’s largest arms importer. But look at the big picture. Blitzkrieg is so passé ! Who needs ground support when the heaven and the gods are with us!

My colleague at the news bureau, bristling at the studied nonchalance of  the foreign press, exclaimed, ” If we were North Korea, we would have been front page fare. But look! They have given us a few measly lines! They want to pass off India as a mild-mannered grannie! Well you should meet my grannie. Give her a shiny new cane and see her strike fear into the backyard bully!”

The doubters might ask what if her hand is not strong enough to raise the cane and her legs too bent to give chase? Well, our military arms might be weak, but it is the spirit that counts! So start flexing those imagined muscles.  For who knows North Korea might finally get its missile right and then, I guess, we would have to “die another day”.

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6 Responses to “Flexing military muscles without arms”

  1. Bappa April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Excellent..is next post related to Agni 5?

    Bappa

    Like

  2. GEETA April 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    A delightful satire. It is time to ponder and rethink our strategy. While people criticize spending on military when millions go hungry we forget that unless our country is well protected, we cannot look after our people. In a subtle way, the writer has impressed on the need of the hour. Waiting eagerly for your next article.

    Like

  3. Dr. Biswajit Chatterjee April 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    I am not much into military policies but the article was extremely entertaining as usual. DRDO has often been criticized for the slow pace of its R&D products. Agni is a milestone in the country’s quest for self-reliance. But as you have rightly pointed out there are glaring gaps in our basic defense structure. A good defense starts with a strong ground support. It reduces chances of war and higher casualties.

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  4. Sandeep April 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Can you also write a more elaborate piece of the pros and cons, am pretty sure you have material for more insights. Would like to get a clear picture instead of the horrible news coverage that I see

    Like

  5. Sangeeta Mahapatra April 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    @ Sandeep: Military strategists believe that second strike capability is best guaranteed by a submarine launched missile as it is difficult to detect. Sagarika or K15 is a 700km SLBM that completes our nuclear triad of deterrence (land, air and sea launch pads). But its range poses a problem. Agni V is fine when we talk of DRDO justifying its existence by ultimately delivering on, at least, some of its R&D projects. If the tech can be scaled up for real precision guided warfare that ensures lesser casualties (more civilians and non-combatants die due to aerial bombardment than ground combat despite the use of the so-called precision guided munitions), then it would make sense. But come on! This is the age of 4th generation warfare. Using an ICBM will be like using a bazooka to kill a bee.

    And all that rot about warfare between two states and the threat of ICBM being enough of a deterrent, well, a simple cost-benefit exercise will expose the hollowness of this reasoning. Cold War showed how overstated were the nuke doctrines of deterrence. Just to give one example, while the salami-slicing tactic in Vietnam bled the US dry; both the US and the Soviet Union realized the value of conventional deterrence over the nuclear one.

    So create weapons for the war you might have to fight. There is more heft in the argument for making our borders impregnable and improving our military capabilities from stem to stern.

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  6. Saheli May 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Sangeeta, this piece reminded me of some briliant articles that were hand-picked for the reading lists of graduate seminars. While packed with a ton of pertinent information and satiric comments, it still manages to raise thought-provoking questions about deficits in defense and ground support. A perfect piece of writing for an animated classroom dicussion.

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