Don’t be panicked by sideshows, be it the Naxalites or US warships sailing around India

India’s security: It’s not the Naxalites. And it’s not US warships sailing around Indian maritime claims either. It’s Covid, massive unemployment, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. For once, the Modi government has got something right in national security in refusing to be panicked by sideshows.The recent encounter between Indian security forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh has got the Indian media and analysts in a frenzy. A lot of fingers have been pointed at faulty intelligence, bad tactics and uncaring politicians who refuse to give the Naxalite problem enough attention. All of which may be correct, but the real question is: What does the radical left hope to gain?When Mao Zedong led the Chinese communists in a people’s war to gain power, it did so by eventually dominating the countryside, encircling the big cities and besieging them till they fell. In China of the 1940s, there were only a handful of big cities: In 1949, Beijing was the fourth largest city with a population of 2 million. India, today, has more than 40 cities with a population over 1 million and 14 with a population of over 2 million. The Maoists of India therefore have their work cut out for them. They must encircle and starve out 40 cities of some size and 14 major ones.To do this the Naxalites must come out of the Indian forests and confront the Indian armed police, paramilitaries and eventually the Indian army. It does not take much to see that if they do, they will be cut to pieces by forces who know how to fight insurgents – they have had 70 years’ experience. The most recent example of an insurgency in the modern era that tried to take on a professional military is the LTTE in Sri Lanka – and we know its fate. To be sure, it won’t be easy to flush out Naxalites from the forests; on the other hand, it is hard to know how they plan to achieve revolution under such impossible conditions. Mao would have laughed at them and their strategic naivety.Hard on the heels of the panic over the Naxalite insurgency has been outrage over the US navy sailing into maritime zones that India exclusively claims. What precisely is the strategic worry here? The US is a quasi-ally. It has carried out these operations, in waters we claim, many times before. Over the years, the Chinese carried out incursions – termed ‘transgressions’ by our military – in the hundreds annually on our land borders. Until the standoff in 2013, in Depsang, our military soothingly told us that these incursions were routine. So are the US maritime incursions – and they are far less frequent and by a power that we consider friendly.The worry may be that the next time it will be the Chinese who intrude into these waters, emboldened by the US action and the lack of an Indian response. Really? The Chinese, unlike the Americans, are not our friends and can expect to get a hot reception. Nor do they yet have several carrier fleets to back them up. The Indian navy and air force, even if they wanted to, would be hard pressed to challenge the US navy. They can and will challenge the Chinese and the Chinese know it. Also, given that the Chinese have castigated the Americans for these kinds of incursions around their shores, it would be diplomatic hara-kiri for them to then mount the same actions against India.The real internal security worries in the next two years for India are Covid and its economic consequences including huge unemployment, not Naxalites. And externally it is how to deal with the possibility of a two-front war, the fallout of the US exit from Afghanistan and the roiling upheaval in Myanmar right on India’s doorstep, not US ships skirting our shores. Let’s begin to get our security priorities right.

SOURCE: Kanti Bajpai / TNN

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  • A marketing expert from Mumbai takes interest in covering defence and geopolitical issues. He has also been active in covering growth of private defence sector in India.

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