Thursday, October 25, 2012
India should master art of strategic thinking
Indians are great thinkers, but can they be strategic thinkers?
This question is valid for all fields of Indian life.
You have just to live in Tamil Nadu to notice. In the rural area where I live, we have between 10 and 15 hours of daily power cuts.
The Times of India reported: “The near-crisis in Tamil Nadu on the power front could well be one of its worst. The demand has climbed to a steep 11,000MW and the demand/supply gap has grown to 4,000MW, indicating a skewed policy by successive governments.”
Between 2001 and 2010, the State’s installed generation capacity went up only by 483 MW. The planners have just forgotten to cater for the mounting industrial and domestic demand, which rose from 6,000MW in 2001 to 10,000MW in 2010.
The fact that the State is greatly dependent on wind power, which fluctuates during the year, results in a mega shortage.
The only logical conclusion is that for over two decade nobody has thought of the future and planned accordingly. Like in many domains adhocism is the leitmotiv. One plans after and often too late!
It was true fifty years ago already. During the last few weeks, India ‘remembered’ the debacle and the blunders of 1962. Chaos, anarchy, arrogance, lack of vision and leadership can best resume the NEFA’s operations. When in the morning of September 8, 1962, the Chinese launched their first offensive on Indian troops, there was panic on the Indian side.
Nobody in the Government had thought that China could do this.
A retired Brigadier, who as a young Captain was posted on the Namkha chu (river), told me: “The Army HQ in Delhi is supposed to prepare an appreciation of the situation, what is the threat, who is the enemy, etc”. In 1962, the only appreciation was that the Chinese were not ready, until they bring a railway line from Beijing to Lhasa.
There was no Plan B for the Indian Army. The then Director of the Intelligence Bureau kept confidently repeating, “the Chinese won’t attack”; but China attacked and chaos descended on NEFA.
During the months of September/October 1962, the 7 Infantry Brigade posted on the border was only told “Challo! Challo! Move!” The General Commanding Officer (GOC) of the 4 Infantry Division was getting frantic calls from his Corps Commander and Delhi: ‘go forward’.
When the new Corps Commander (Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul) arrived on the front, things then changed for the worse: “I am the GOC of 4 Corps,” Kaul introduced himself. Nobody had heard of this 4 Corps; it was an adhoc creation to “kick the Chinese out”. Kaul announced: “move forward, I will sack whoever does not immediately move forward” There was total chaos.
As a result of this lack of preparation and vision, the Indian nation has remained traumatized for the past 50 years.
An element which compounds the trauma is the fact that the Government still hides the reports of the 1962 conflict.
Interestingly, a US “Basic National Security Strategy” signed in September 1986 by President Ronald Reagan has recently been declassified by the White House. The reading of this paper shows what strategic thinking really is (even if one does agree with the content).
The 19-page ‘basic’ US policy is to “serve as the starting point for further development of policy and strategy.”
The first point made by the White House is that the Administration should ensure that all other policy directives should be consistent with the new document: “Supplemental directives will be structured to ensure conformance with this guidance.”
The Secret document defines the broad purposes of US National Security Policy: “to preserve the political identity, framework and institutions of the United States as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution” and further “to protect the United States — its national territory, citizenry, military forces, and assets abroad — from military, paramilitary, or terrorist attack.”
Then there is a Grand Strategy: “to avoid nuclear war while preventing a single hostile power or coalition of powers from dominating the Eurasian land-mass or other strategic regions from which threats to U.S. interests might arise.”
The way to achieve this objective is based “on the maintenance of a strong nuclear deterrent, dynamic alliances and a Western-oriented world economy”. The secret National Security guidelines mention that the US should remain the natural enemy of any country threatening the independence of others, and the proponent of free trade, commerce, and economic stability.
It may not apply to India, but what is fascinating is the clear definition of the US national interests and the logical consequences which should ‘strategically’ follow.
The program required the development and integration of “a set of strategies to achieve [the US] national objectives, including political, diplomatic, military, informational, economic, intelligence, and arms control components.” Can we dream of such paper in India?
Then the paper studies the ‘Threats to U.S. National Security’ (mainly the Soviet armed forces and the Soviet exploitation of regional instabilities).
In his Art of War, the great Chinese strategist Sunzi advised, “Know your enemy strengths and weakness”.
President Reagan’s paper goes into depth into the Soviet motivations: “The geopolitical objectives of the Soviet Union include the dissolution of Western alliances in Europe and Asia, the erosion of China's ties to the West...”
As a result the US faces a concerted effort by the Soviet Union to diminish its influence through the world.
The US Strategic Forces’ Requirements is based on this analysis. The General Purpose of the Forces is clearly defined (used in peacetime by deterring aggression, by demonstrating US interests, concern, and commitment) as well as the Resource Priorities (to complement diplomatic, economic, and security assistance strategies); it is followed by a General Guidance and the Priorities and Objectives in Peacetime. According to these clearly defined objectives, the paper looks at the world region by region: the Western Hemisphere, Western Europe and NATO, East Asia (the paper says “We will continue to develop our relationship with China in ways which ... [1 line deleted] enhance the durability of Sino-U.S. ties”), then Near East/Southwest Asia and finally Africa.
What is striking is the coherence of the paper. Even the Priorities and Objectives in War are described in detail: “War-fighting strategy and contingency planning concerning the potential employment of US forces will continue to be developed through operational plans which are prepared by Combatant Commanders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and reviewed and approved by the Secretary of Defense and the President.”
It has to be noted that the operational plans are prepared by the military, not by some obscure babus in the corridor of the Pentagon, like it was done in India in 1962 (and perhaps today too).
The paper concludes with something unknown in India, the need of coordination: “Further development of policy and strategy …should continue to emphasize the need for coordination to ensure consistency with overall policy objectives and maintain the interlocking character of supporting strategies.”
In an article in The Times of India, Indrani Bagchi also complained of lack of strategic thinking culture : “To a casual observer, India's actions — or lack thereof — often appear to be a result of who the government spoke to last, or based on ad hoc considerations that undermine India's interests.”
She adds: “part of the problem is the lack of an articulated grand strategy — that makes it difficult for either practitioners or analysts to figure out exactly why we do what we do.”
Can India prepare a coordinated Basic National Security Strategy?
Politicians have probably more pressing issues to ‘think’ about; in the meantime, on the other side of the Himalaya, China has been planning for years for any future eventualities.