China: If there is no getting around making peace and reaching an accommodation with Pakistan, this is even more the case with respect to India’s giant neighbour to the north and one of the world’s last three remaining Great Powers. It is astonishing that the Narendra Modi government is claiming China’s tactical withdrawal in Doklam as a victory for the regime and is selling itself to ASEAN states and other East Asian countries as a great and invincible “dragon slayer”. Fools truly rush in where angels fear to tread.

Compared to China, India has no geopolitical vision. Any vision that this country could claim for itself has been squandered by the geopolitical vacuity of the current government. The government has a unidimensional view of geopolitics. This view places all the weight of geopolitics on the force of arms and leaves no room for strategic thinking and diplomacy. On his Asian tour, the US president, Donald Trump, vowed to make the American and Indian militaries the greatest in the world. Trump was acting as a super-salesman for US weapons and the Indian side fell hook, line, and sinker for his smooth talk.

The question to ask is, how effective is overwhelming military superiority when it is not joined to political objectives, diplomacy and strategic planning? Not very; indeed, not at all. The United States has the strongest military in the world today. It has been the greatest Great Power of Modern history since the end of the Cold War. At the conclusion of World War II, it had a military strength comparable to the erstwhile Soviet Union. But it is pertinent to ask which significant fighting war the United States has decisively won since World War II with its most powerful military? It lost its way in Korea, it was beaten in Vietnam, and it has been unable to bring peace in Afghanistan and Iraq, its twenty-first century theatres of interventions. Its present plans for Afghan peace are hopeless. It is a shame on the US military that this is all it can drum up after more than fifteen years of fighting in the country. But don’t be surprised. In the philosophy of US war-fighting, there is no role for political objectives, which in turn renders the United States impotent in the endgame. This fatal flaw was pointed out in the last leg of World War II by Winston Churchill to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower but to no salutary effect.

The silly Indian media, doubtless at the encouragement of Modi’s national security team, has gone gaga over Trump’s juvenile allusions to the “greatest” US and Indian militaries. If these were not targeted against a third country, especially a prickly Great Power, they could be dismissed as hyperbole. But that is precisely the game of the United States. Trump wants to use India as a cat’s paw against China. Much earlier, in the past century, the United States propped up Pakistan as a “frontline” state against the Soviet Union. When Pakistan was no longer required in that role, it was discarded. Pakistan was never a healthy state. It got what was coming to it. Nevertheless, its state failure and internal terrorism became pronounced after the US expended its utility in Afghanistan. Having no acquaintance with history, Narendra Modi is now hurtling India to a showdown with China at the behest of the United States. Modi’s epic ignorance, impetuosity and hubris will cost the country dear.

Unless it comes to a total war where the existence of civilizations is threatened, military alliances rarely live up to their promise. NATO, the most natural alliance that can be conceived (because its member states by and large share common traditions and cultures), has never been outstandingly successful. NATO stayed out of the Vietnam War considering it “out of area” even when the United States was humiliated and defeated. NATO has never been enthusiastic about US unilateralism. On the other hand the record of World War I definitely shows that alliances can also increase the mischance of conflict. Serbian nationalism was loathed in Imperial Germany, Tsarist Russia and Great Britain. Yet, when the Archduke was assassinated, the alliances proved too powerful for the shared loathing, and it led to a war that no one wanted. (It is instructive that political authority was weak in all the European states that went to war in 1914 with the exception of Great Britain.)

The Quad is in the nature of India’s first flirtation with an alliance, and it is programmed to explode in India’s face. Australia is not a serious power. Since the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in the First World War, Australia has muddled along, and it can never amount to more than it is. More to the point, it will not come to India’s aid in a faceoff situation with China. The economic linkages with China are too old and deep. Japan, for its part, is a bigoted, inward looking bully. Its re-elected prime minister has imperialistic delusions which the rest of the country wants no part of. Japan has neither territory nor population to become a Great Power. The countries in the region will thwart its rise in any event. Like Australia, Japan will not be a party in an armed conflict between China and India. This leaves the United States. China has enough resources to manage the American political leadership. The United States will not pick up a fight with China on account of India. Indeed, it will urge India to settle with China. Geopolitics plays by hard rules and the Narendra Modi government is happily and sinfully oblivious of them.

To be continued...

Also read “India’s geopolitical crisis - 1” here .