Former Chief of Army Staff and the current Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, in an interview in the year 2017 talked about a Two & Half Front war scenario. In the interview, the CDS spoke about a coordinated strike on India by Pakistan and China along with an internal strife occurring at the same time. Thus India would be facing Pakistan and China while also struggling to maintain internal law and order effectively fighting Two and Half Fronts. Then in 2018, the respected Gen. again cautioned the country by raising doubt over our readiness to counter such a coordinated strategy by external and internal enemies. The events in the last one month especially after the Citizenship Amendment Act was brought out, makes one wonder if the prophecy of Gen. Rawat is indeed coming true. So, let us begin by understanding what are the Two & Half Fronts??
The fact that Pakistan has been inimical to our country is not a hidden fact. It is a country with whom we have fought four wars. Pakistan calls Kashmir as the unfinished agenda of partition and is always keen to destabilize India whichever way possible. If we look at the past five years Pakistan has tried repeatedly to unsettle India and keep Kashmir issue on the boil. One cannot forget the Uri attack of 2016 or the Pulwama attack of last year. Even today Kashmir valley faces the scourge of terrorism which is funded and pushed in by our hostile Western neighbour. It is only due to the proactive approach of Indian Army that terrorism is getting a beating in the valley.
Recently the 15 Corps commander Lt Gen KJS Dhillon in an interview said that the entire leadership of JeM has been destroyed by the Army, and Hizbul is also on the verge of extinction. Credit goes to Fmr COAS Bipin Rawat who carried out the Operation All Out successfully in the valley despite facing odds at the hands of media and politicians. Credit also goes to the central Govt for standing behind the soldiers in every situation. Also, one can’t forget the twin Surgical Strikes carried out on Pakistan, when the situation warranted an escalatory response. Here, we must mention the role of our NSA, Sh. Ajit Doval who is the architect of the grand military strategy. During the period 2016 to 2019 the message of “Islamic State” was prominently raised in communication which gradually broke the narrative of so called “Freedom movement”. The army also used internal divisions within the ranks of terror groups to fragment the terror groups and cause infighting among them. Those who are aware of the Ikhwani movement in the 1990s can draw parallels between Kukka Parray and Zakir Musa. Along with the Iron Hand approach towards terrorists, the Govt also cleaned the sympathizers at the state level and effectively dismantled the terror ecosystem operating in the valley. Only when the situation had sufficiently improved that the Modi Govt moved ahead to annul the Article 370 paving way for complete integration of the state with the country.
China aspires to be a World power and has in fact already reached a status of a regional power. Though China projects itself as a rival to the USA not India, but many of its actions go against our geostrategic interests. China has often displayed expansionist tendencies and its actions in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean can be considered hegemonic in nature. Even though both countries have conducted numerous relationship building exercises fact remains that there exists a lot of mistrust in between. There are two reasons for this mistrust. First is the historical context of 1962 war in which India was hurt very badly. Even though successive PM s from Rajiv Gandhi to Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to reset the relationship and bury the past the sourness of 1962 continues to persist. The second reason is the unresolved boundary issue between the two countries. The 4000 kms Line of Actual Control (LAC) is unmarked at many places while there are many places which both countries contest. The resolution of boundary dispute has not happened in the past 70 years, even though both have moved ahead by solving the less conflicting issues first. For example, it was only in 2003 that China recognised Sikkim as part of India, in return of India recognising Tibet as part of China. But there are many long standing issues such as the five finger areas of Tibet that face the maximum incursions from Chinese army. The issue of Arunachal Pradesh which China still considers disputed and the issue of Dalai Lama are other thorns in the relationship. Another historical issue which has practically never been raised by the Indian diplomacy is the Chinese Occupied Kashmir or CoK. CoK is a piece of strategic land area called the Shaksgam valley which Pakistan ceded to China through the Trans Karkoram Pact in 1963. No Govt has ever highlighted the illegal Chinese occupation of the said land. And from the looks of it, it seems we require some more years of high economic growth to become assertive on CoK.
Another area where the interests of the two Asian giants come into conflict is the Belt & Road Initiative i.e BRI. Though BRI is a vast geostrategic project encompassing number of countries, one project under the BRI is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The problem with CPEC is that it passes through PoK which is illegally under Pakistani control. Questions on the viability of CPEC have been raised time and again. India has often raised concerns on the India’s infringement of territorial rights due to CPEC. Though China will not rescind from its investments in CPEC, it can become a bargaining tool in the hands of India, provided we play our cards right. Modi Govt has iterated that it will definitely try to take back PoK one day. If or when it happens CPEC will be under the shadow of Indian guns and China sure would be keeping such a scenario in her calculations.
The effects of the Chinese animosity with India can be seen in many places. One is Pakistan, which China uses as an effective tool to underpin our country. From opposing UN resolutions on JeM chief to stonewalling India’s entry into NSG (Nuclear Supplier Group), China in order to support Pakistan has put its foot down on many occasions. China also supports insurgencies in the North East and Maoists in Central India thus exploiting the internal fault lines of the country. One should also remember the Doklam crisis of 2017 which was an instance where China tested the resolve of the Modi Govt. They must have noted the lessons well, because after the Doklam crisis there have been hardly any flare-ups since. To rekindle the relationship, Modi Govt did conduct a summit last year in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, but it was more focussed on the economic front. For the simple reason that better economic ties form a deterrent to a too steadfast military posture, and also provide bargaining chips for de-escalation. Nevertheless, China will always attempt to keep India on the boil so that our economic growth is hampered, and more resources are put to douse house fires.
The Internal Half Front
Indians have often boasted about our diversity. For long we have celebrated the idea of Unity in Diversity. Hardly do we realise that the inherent disunities in the social fabric of the country are used by vested interest groups to further their own agenda. We are one country which cannot even develop a homogenous linguistic culture in the country. For example, an attempt to popularise Hindi in the South is hit with a North-South divide syndrome. Some even go to the extent of creating a separate state of Dravid Nadu to reduce influence of North India. Similar ideas were floated about the distinct identity of Jammu & Kashmir prior to dissolution of Article 370. People should understand that no sub-nationalism can be larger than national interest. Any sub-culture which damages the unity of India must be discouraged even if some diversity gets sacrificed in the process. Diversity should be celebrated only to the extent that it stays within the ambit of overall national culture.
Caste disunity is another fault line which has been thoroughly exploited in the past 70 years. These caste differences should have subsided down from the society by now. But instead of reducing them our political system gave a permanent notion with the reservation system and various constitutional amendments made under the presumption of improving social equality. However, in last 70 years these constitutional safeguards seem to have only increased the caste fault lines and not eliminated them. To the extent that an entire ecosystem has thrived on the outdated caste system of India and it is in the best interests of this political system to maintain the status quo.
Third major social fault line that exists in India are the minorities who are often used for furthering political agenda. It is a fact that heterogeneity always exist in societies. And therefore in every society there would be people of a marginal number whose beliefs would be different from the rest. But these differences should not prove detrimental to the rest of the social structure or there would be a natural resistance in accommodating these minority beliefs. Hence, here a distinction must be made between a multi-cultural versus a multi religious society. A multi religious society can stay united and stable in the long run until all the diverse religions follow a unified culture. However, doing a reverse is a sure recipe of disaster. This is precisely what we have been doing in the name of secularism. Promoting diverse cultures in the guise of religious diversity has alienated a large section of the country’s population to Indic culture itself. Whenever these minority blocks reach a critical mass or a substantial level of cohesion there will be secessionist or separatist tendencies arising from within.
Caste system and minority appeasement are two ways through which vested interest groups interfere in the internal matters of the country. Both are often used to create nuisance and disrupt the law & order of the country. Remember the various agitations that took place in the last decade and we will find some caste block agitating against the rest of the society, demanding more favours. Be it the Jat or Gurjar agitations, or the Farmers, anti SC, ST Act agitations of 2018. The recent anti CAA protests should also be taken in the same context. Only difference being that this time it is a section of minorities who are protesting against something which doesn’t affect them. It is a case study in itself as to how freely the radical Islamist elements are living within our society who can ignite the entire country at the touch of a button.
Experiments like #Shaheenbag prove to be successful because of the very fact that the protestors blocked a major land route in the national capital for months and no one from the rest of the society complained. This apathy led them to believe that they could do the same to Assam as well and thereby bring down the state to knees. If the rest of the society had also risen in revolt against the public inconvenience, against the hateful Hinduphobic speeches that were made, the protest would have ended quite early. Since the experiment has paid off so it seems, we may see repeat of the #Shaheenbag at many places in future. The radicals know that the common man has a pretty high threshold for inconvenience and nationalism is also not of much importance, along with helpless State machinery which doesn’t have the galls to do the right thing. The problem of Naxalism is also of a similar nature. However, the issue of Naxalism can be taken up separately, but dissecting it will reveal similar exploitation of social fault lines as would any other separatist movement that developed in our country.
The country is fighting many wars simultaneously. However, the external enemy is visible and the nation has the shield of the Armed Forces to face them. But the internal enemies are not easily visible to the society and the public is poorly equipped to deal with such internal security threats. So a lot depends upon the alertness levels of our intelligence agencies as to what extent they can ward off the dangers. But eventually some weight of the social upkeep will have to be shared by the public too. In an evolving threat environment nobody knows which way the threat vector is going to move. Hence it is imperative that both, the society as well as the central Govt remain vigilant.