The Indian Fault Line

Capt (Retd.) Bharat Verma

The genesis of the Indian fault line can be traced to many centuries of foreign domination of the subcontinent. Its scars are deeply etched in our psyche. It inhibits us from developing a cogent strategy for the nation. Notwithstanding the large resources, genius, skills, young population profile and an imposing geographical location in Asia , this limitation manifests in creating multiple fault lines across the national canvas. To develop a successful strategy, a nation must primarily take into account its own characteristics prior to incorporating other elements. For example, a military expert recommended demilitarisation of Siachen glacier with two riders. First, he suggested that there should be a role model treaty like the Indus Water Treaty to ensure Pakistan did not commit treachery in occupying the areas vacated by us. Second, even if it did so, we should make it clear that there will be serious repercussions on other frontiers with the concomitant collateral damage. As a military man he was acutely aware, it will be nearly impossible to regain the territory lost on the glacier given the adverse terrain and climatic conditions. Right? No. Wrong on both counts.

First, Indus Water Treaty is not a role model arrangement for the simple reason that hypothetically, if the direction of water flow were from Pakistan to India , this treaty would never have materialised in the first place! Indus Water Treaty survives because of our magnanimity. Second, New Delhi does not boast of any instinctive characteristic of military retribution ever, except in the case of 1971 conflict. Also, the Indian Fault Line disallows our elders to comprehend or scan the bigger picture. If they do indulge in such an exercise, they would be strategically prudent in not offering demilitarisation of Siachen in isolation to other negative elements that are intrinsic to Pakistan ’s overall game plan. The tendency to create their own make-believe world convinced many of our countrymen that the invasions from our land frontiers for centuries could be ignored as the subcontinent assimilated the invaders in the existing society. How misplaced and erroneous, a perception. Invaders from the Northwest/Central Asia ruled over the locals by edge of the sword and forced their assimilation. Our helpless, bewildered ancestors with their petty bickering were left with little choice and therefore, tried to make a virtue out of consistent defeats. It persists in the Indian mind. No wonder; the terrorists across LoC ignore the fancy Cold Start Doctrine!

However, with generational change sweeping the entire spectrum of the Indian society, certain assertiveness is finally creeping in as witnessed during the Tsunami that was handled with finesse by New Delhi . The generation next is extremely focussed, capable of comprehending the entire strategic picture swiftly, and displays a fine balance between tolerance and aggressiveness simultaneously. The key question, in my mind, has always been whether India will be a surrogate or a ‘great power’. Fortunately, the generation next is impelling India towards the great power status. It is not a status quo generation, but remains confounded with New Delhi ’s inability to define clear strategic objectives. In a discussion held recently, I asked a former prime minister what our national strategic objectives were? It took him good one and a half hour that included a lunch tuck-in to respond that the national objectives were to have a peaceful neighbourhood! Even if one agrees with that generality, than what exactly was the strategy to achieve it? It did not elicit any answer.


Our national objective should be to promote India as an eminent power in Asia by 2020 by developing it as the alternative geo-economic hub that integrates and influences our extended neighbourhood through economic and military diplomacy. India as a benevolent power is suitably placed and conveniently located, geographically, culturally and otherwise to play this role effectively. Equipped with the most powerful Free Media in Asia that can be intelligently utilised as a weapon platform to further national interests, it needs to develop strategies that influence Central, West and Southeast Asia . With all its inadequacies, it remains a democracy worth


emulating that checks formation of a medieval jehadi Caliphate that the terrorist organisations in our vicinity intend to create. It is the only power in Asia that is eminently poised to extend a helping hand to restore a debilitating situation in its surroundings; balance the negative fallouts from an authoritarian regime of China in the region, even as we enhance our multi-faceted cooperation with the dragon. Our strategy in the present unfolding favourable geo-political scenario should be to further strengthen the relationships with the existing friends while adding new strategic partners to the list.


However, it is imperative that the implications of the fault line are understood and erased as the generation next gradually takes over the instruments of governance. Even as we embark on expanding our influence on global scale, we need to resolve the adverse situation prevalent internally and on our land frontiers as explained with the help of a map along side.

·         India is ringed by failed / failing states. Pakistan (land boundary with India 3310 kilometers) in the northwest. Nepal (land boundary with India 1751 kilometers) in the north. Bangladesh (land boundary with India 4095 kilometers) in the southeast. Myanmar (land boundary with India 1463 kilometers) in the northeast. India ’s internal turbulence is inter-linked with external factors. On our North, in addition, we face China ( India shares borders spanning 3440 kilometers) from whom we not only face conventional, nuclear and missile threats but it is also the guru that influences / or uses as proxy other countries mentioned earlier in every possible way to weigh India down. In a nutshell, India ’s 14,058 km long land frontier is impacted by hostile or semi-hostile environment. Failed /failing states export instability, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, arms and drugs. Further, in the context of strategy, capabilities are more important than perceived intentions, as China has demonstrated not only to India but also to the world. It has intelligently diverted international focus away from itself to North Korea, Pakistan and countries like Iran through proliferation of sensitive technologies, even as it conveniently works to achieve a super power status by solidifying its status as the ‘Asian top dog’. For example, in the six country nuclear talks with North Korea , it is Beijing that calls the shots. It can switch on or off the negotiations at its will to derive the maximum strategic mileage. In comparison, New Delhi continues to remain in ‘also ran’ category.


·         If China is the guru than in Pakistan it has found a suppliant disciple. Pakistan desires to be the Sarpanch of the subcontinent! The territory was given to it with an understanding that the entire Muslim community will transfer itself to the so-called land of pure. It was only approximately 15 percent which accepted the idea and made Pakistan their homeland. Others displayed great wisdom in choosing to remain in India with its liberal philosophy and where the prospects of prosperity were far greater. The community continues to produce Presidents, generals, diplomats, ambassadors, business tycoons etc.who served/serve the country with great distinction. Overall, the community’s contribution to India has been enormous. Since the majority refused to exit, as speciously argued by Pakistan founders, Islamabad should return the excess land given to it. Instead, since its creation, Pakistan has perpetually been resorting to war and export of terrorism to appropriate more Indian territory on one pretext or the other. The irony is that it has not been able to bring prosperity to the territory it holds. The only widely known export worldwide from Pakistan is terrorism. While India ’s generation next profile is positive, Pakistan faces a negative profile of indoctrinated and unemployed youth trained in Islamic Jehad Factory against us. The profile becomes more worrisome because of Islamabad ’s ethnic cleansing of minorities, that were 12.5 percent in 1947 but are only two percent today. Thus the voice of moderation has become feeble over the years. Besides, Islamabad ’s military junta’s agenda to undo India , helps them to retain power. The obsession to harm us ultimately allured Pakistan to become rent-a–state country. It lives on others money. It not only carried out ethnic cleansing of its own minorities but created situations in J&K through terrorism to force the exit of minorities from there.

·         Meanwhile, New Delhi instead of permitting and encouraging Indians of all hues to settle in J&K and the Northeast to consolidate the Union , remained a mute witness. Despite being broke, Islamabad continues to fuel anti-India activities through Nepal and Bangladesh with impunity. India remains the target and operating ground for Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist groups orchestrated by ISI, notwithstanding the weekly condemnation that Musharaff offers India after every terrorist attack on our soil. The parrot like statements emanating every month from New Delhi that “Stable and secure Pakistan is in India ’s interest” is appreciated. However, the fundamental question is – will Pakistan ever be stable and secure? Never. Therefore, New Delhi needs to evolve an alternative strategy to comprehensively defeat the adversary’s nefarious activities that poses military, nuclear and demographic inversion threats. This is a do-able proposition provided our elders can think beyond the overwhelming burden created by the inherited fault line. In any case, appeasement cannot constitute an element of strategy for any country.


·         To attain eminence in Asia by 2020, New Delhi needs to move on three axes simultaneously i.e New Delhi –West Asia , New Delhi–Southeast Asia and New Delhi–Central Asia . Out of the three, the most critical is the New Delhi-Kabul-Tehran-Moscow axis, on two counts. First, for centuries this is the route of invasions and will remain so. With Russia today threatened as much, an opportunity for a tie-up exists which could lend stability to the region. We can only afford to ignore this axis at our peril. Second, as the second largest consumer of oil and gas in Asia , and as one of the engines that will power the world economy, energy security is the most critical factor in India ’s national security calculus. Future energy will be based on a combination of fuels – nuclear, oil, gas and coal. By 2010, a substantial amount of oil and gas will be delivered by Central Asia . This resource rich territory will fall prey to Pak sponsored Talibanisation if India and other countries do not preempt it. In fact, the American companies in such an eventuality will be expelled, particularly with Chinese gradually gaining ground and occupying positions that will dictate the agenda in Central Asia in future. Therefore, it may be prudent for American capital to join hands with the Indians in a JV, especially since we enjoy great deal of goodwill there. Many other sensible permutations and combinations for harmony in Central Asia can easily be worked out by New Delhi . This will in turn check the destructive influence of Islamabad and balance the Chinese strategic thrust.


·         In the North, similarly Nepal continues to slip into the Chinese sphere of influence due to counter-productive policy by New Delhi . To apply the template of democracy being bandied by the west that is workable neither in Iraq nor in Nepal , we have walked into a trap of our own making. The King’s Army is at present unequal to the challenge posed by the Maoists for want of military hardware supplies and training. In Nepal , the Maoists have a sizeable influence in 45 of the 75 districts, their most formidable presence being in mid-western Nepal . The Maoists have linked up with the Peoples War Group (PWG) in India . The latter in a bid to expand its influence has carved a corridor encompassing the states of Andhra Pradesh–Madhya Pradesh–Chhatisgarh–Orissa–West Bengal–Jharkhand–Bihar as shown in the map. This corridor that has been formed with ease depicts the Indian Fault Line with stark clarity on ground.

·         Combine the bleak picture above with Bangladesh and Myanmar borders and the Indian Fault Line engulfs most of the eastern half of the Union . Insurgency in varying degrees impacts on the Northeast with the exception of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh and has trans-border dimensions with Myanmar and Bangladesh . The 21 to 65 km wide and 200 km long narrow Siliguri corridor between Nepal and Bangladesh is delicately poised when also considering China in the north. This corridor threatened by Kamtapuri insurgency and demographic inversion by Bangladesh can cut off the only land link to the Indian Northeast and in such an eventuality supplies will have to be maintained by air. Consequently, Bhutan may also slip into the Chinese sphere of influence. There is already a nexus between Maoists in Nepal and ULFA in Assam and is being enlarged to include PWG in India and Islamic terrorist groups in Bangladesh . With Dacca ’s geographical interface with five Indian states i.e. West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram; Indian security stands threatened by: demographic assault, arms and drug smuggling, and safe havens for Indian insurgent groups. Islamic groups in Bangladesh under ISI tutelage, Saudi finance, and China ’s patronage, have become more vicious, thus adding another dimension to India ’s security headache.

·         To appreciate the grim reality on land frontiers, it is necessary to take it as one big wall of turbulence running from West to North and from there to the East. Pakistan , of course is the main culprit with military, mullah and ISI mix. Internally, inability to govern is the central issue. Besides, the shortage of Officers to the tune of 14,000 in the Army, ageing profile of the Defence Services, and the snail pace of modernisation of the military  (when we have access to the latest technology worldwide and the money in our pockets to buy it) should be a point of worry to New Delhi . I am afraid; it does not cause sufficient stress!


·         In this big picture of strategic deficiency, if a vertical line from Central Uttar Pradesh southwards to Eastern Andhra Pradesh were drawn, it would lead to an ineluctale observation that India ’s Eastern Half is in turmoil. The Western Half is not only relatively progressive and peaceful but also generates most of the wealth along with the South. Even with this lop-sided generation of wealth by the Union , the Western agencies predict India to be the third largest economy by 2025. Just imagine the result if the Eastern Half along with Kashmir can be put in order through development and bold counter-measures, to ensure the requisite peace and stability, conducive to generation of wealth. In addition, the negative profile of the Eastern Half in times to come will tend to engulf the Western Half, if not resolved. However, if our elders display ineptness in dealing with Nepal , which mirrors Indian culture and is located in our backyard - what exactly can they handle?

To emerge as the great power that can lead Asia, the generation next waiting to take over the instruments of governance by 2010, should erase the Indian Fault Line from the map and psyche before other self-inflicted distortions by the Union on ground can be resolved.

This article first appeared in the Indian Defence Review, volume 20(3) and has been reproduced here with the permission of the editor. The writer is Editor, Indian Defence Review