Dragon on our doorstep review

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dragon on our doorstep review

Dragon on Our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power by Pravin Sawhney

India might not admit it, but should it find itself involved in a border war with China it will lose. Apart from superior military power, close coordination between the political leadership and the military and the ability to take quick decisions, China has potent anti-satellite and cyber warfare capabilities. Even more shockingly, regardless of popular opinion, India today is not even in a position to win a war against Pakistan. This has nothing to do with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. It is because while India has been focused on building military force (troops and materiel needed to wage war) Pakistan has built military power (learning how to optimally utilize its military force). In this lies the difference between losing and winning. Far from being the strong Asian power of its perception, India could find itself extremely vulnerable to the hostility of its powerful neighbors. In Dragon On Our Doorstep, Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab analyse the geopolitics of the region and the military strategies of the three Asian countries to tell us exactly why India is in this precarious position and how it can transform itself through deft strategy into a leading power.
The most populous countries and fastest growing economies in the world—India and China—have cultural and economic relations that date back to the second century bc. But over the years, despite the many treaties and agreements between the two nations, border clashes (including the disastrous 1962 war) and disagreements over Tibet and Jammu and Kashmir have complicated the relationship. For decades China kept a low profile. However, since 2008, when it was recognized as an economic power, China has become assertive. Today, this Himalayan balancing act of power is clearly tilted towards China, in whose view there is room for only one power in Asia. In this rise, Pakistan has emerged as China’s most trusted and crucial partner. The partnership between China and Pakistan, whether in terms of military interoperability (ability to operate as one in combat), or geostrategic design (which is unfolding through the wide-sweeping One Belt One Road project), has serious implications for India. The best that India can do is try and manage the relationship so that the dragon’s rise is not at the cost of India.
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Pravin Sawhney

Dragon on Our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power

Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab's clear-eyed analysis on the blinders India wears when it comes to its military strategy against China and Pakistan. In an interview with India Today last month, the chief of army staff, General Bipin Rawat, made a comment worthy of attention. Whether we have to conduct conventional operations for such strikes is a decision well-thought through, involving the government and the cabinet committee on security. This is an audacious statement. The logistics of the military build-up at the border meant that by the time three strike corps were in place, Pakistan had deployed its troops. Thus, Cold Start—a doctrine envisioning a response within 48 hours of provocation, with integrated battle groups pushing across the border.

Jump to navigation. A timely pointer to how India's foreign policy falls short of the challenges posed by China's growing potency. It sets the tone of what is to follow in the subsequent odd pages: an exhaustive overview of the growing military challenge India confronts from its two troublesome neighbours, and a clear prescription of what needs to be done. There is certainly no shortage of books on India's China threat or, alas, of those determined to unimaginatively insert 'dragon' or 'elephant' into their titles, seemingly at all costs. The title notwithstanding, this new book by Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab is a welcome intervention in this genre, eschewing trite comparisons between the neighbours to provide a hard-nosed reality check on the challenge India faces from across the Himalayas.

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Let alone China, India cannot even win a war against Pakistan. And this has nothing to do with the possession of nuclear weapons — the roles of nuclear and conventional weapons are separate in the war planning of India, China and Pakistan. The reason India would be at a disadvantage in a war with Pakistan is because while Pakistan has built military power, India focused on building military force. In this difference lies the capability to win wars. It entails an understanding of the adversaries and the quantum of threat from each, the nature of warfare, domains of war, how it would be fought, and structural military reforms at various levels to meet these challenges. Even after twenty-six years of proxy war, the Indian leadership continues to confuse military force with military power and, consequently, dismisses Pakistan as an irritant, based on number-crunching.

Given the enormous asymmetry that has already developed in the comprehensive national power of China and India, there is no resolution that is possible, the issue can only be managed and the authors suggest that to even begin that process, India must set its defence system right. But India has diluted this ingredient, has suffered the consequences and will continue to do so till it changes its approach. So, it is critical of those who speak blithely of a two-front war with China and Pakistan, arguing that even a one-front war was not an option. What it advocates is an effective military capacity as a precondition of building durable peace with Pakistan and China. This is a provocative book and deliberately so, aimed at shaking Indian complacency. As the editors of Force magazine, the authors have traveled across the country, visited numerous facilities and units, and spoken and interacted with a large number of military officers in key positions. A great deal of this is evident in the material that has been marshalled in the book, as well as in the assertions that they make in the book.

India has little institutional knowledge of China. The result in India is a wide array of opinions about how best to handle the Middle Kingdom. The two authors of Dragon on our Doorstep argue the way to handle Sino-Indian friction is to use military power more strategically, using a toughened border stance to send messages to China and make peace with Islamabad. The China policy outlined here starts with the Sino-Indian border. The fallout: a declining Indian military capacity. This is a specific meaning for the authors and they return to it repeatedly. Bizarrely, the authors see even the Line of Control ceasefire as having contributed to this decline.

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