Non-aligned status of India is no longer a reality. While it has become customary in Indian Strategic Circle to blame Pt Nehru for numerous faux pas that he committed but his stance on keeping India, a non-aligned nation was his biggest and most substantive contribution.
Military alliance with any nation, particularly with a nation state, which is literally and actually across seven seas does not appear to be a sensible strategic decision. Military alliances do not necessarily require a treaty document/organization viz existing NATO and defunct Warsaw Pact among nations. Export of military hardware and signing a military treaty are two entirely different entities like the two banks of the river. But signing of an agreement like BECA beacons towards military alliance.
It is presumed that with signing of BECA, USA will be willing to share sensitive target info and accurate target coordinates to enable our SSMs striking the targets with pinpoint accuracy. In return India, too, will have to share sensitive info and target details to USA. Subtle difference is that while USA, a global power would be in need of such info from India more than India seeking such info about our hostile neighbours.
Regional alliances aimed at regional development in spheres viz sharing of river waters, creating/construction of dams, construction of roads and railway, etc. is to facilitate mixing of citizens of neighbouring nations on equal terms. On the other hand, a military alliance invariably is loaded in favour of the more powerful entity of the group. NATO is near perfect example of this.
According to the constitution of NATO, THE SUPREME COMMANDER will always be from US Military. All NATO campaigns were/are headed by US Military Commander. General Schwarzkopf headed the Op Desert Storm against Iraq. Thus the less powerful nation of every military alliance invariably becomes a ‘second grade’ nation by virtue of possessing inferior military power.
By signing agreements viz BECA, we are slowly but surely headed to become an US ally, which in military terms is degradation of status of India vis-à-vis USA. It may be pertinent to mention that UPA government considered this issue as well but did not sign the agreement. Do we need an agreement like BECA? One of the most important benefit of this agreement is supposed to be access to sensitive information viz target coordinates, which will enhance the accuracy of our missiles targeting a vital target. I consider it to be almost an inconsequential gain in true strategic sense.
What is our Military Aim? Our stated national aim is to protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty. Indian Military is tasked towards ensuring that territorial integrity is not compromised along land and/or sea borders. Indian Military has done an outstanding job of ensuring that in spite of being ill if not poorly equipped and operating under severe constraints/restraints during operations. However, protection of ‘sovereignty’ related issue does not fall under the purview of Indian Military. It is the exclusive preserve of Politicians and Bureaucrats.
Every alliance invariably is in the form of intersecting circles. The portion of circle that is part of intersection does not enjoy the same degree of autonomy as against the free portion of the circle. In strategic terms it implies that every member nation of the alliance forfeits some part of its sovereignty. A classic example of military alliance between an extremely large (area wise) and powerful military nation and much smaller and far less powerful nation would be in form of concentric circles, with the largest and most powerful military nation encompassing all smaller nations within the circle.
In this model the smaller nations, though remaining independent, forfeit their sovereignty to the larger nation. For instance, Military/Political aims of France might be at variance with that of NATO, a military alliance.
By heading towards forming a military ALLIANCE with USA by signing agreements viz BECA are we prepared to forfeit a part of our sovereignty to USA is a tough question, which must be answered before taking more such decision. Are we by default walking into a trap? Are we giving wrong signals to the world, in particular to our most trusted all weather friend the erstwhile USSR, now Russia?
We must not forget that USA in a not too distant past was in favour of UNSC resolutions, which were totally against India. It is the VETO of USSR that saved the day for India. For records; Nearly 70-80% Indian military hardware as on date is of USSR/Russian origin. But we have never ever signed such agreements with Russia. To the best of my knowledge USSR/Russia has never offered/asked India to sign such agreements.
Now the main issue. Why do we need BECA? With our national and military aims clearly enunciated, Indian Military will require accurate coordinates of target/s for targeting by missiles in Pakistan and China, the two main adversaries as of now. Let me elaborate. I consider Pakistan as an enemy but China as an adversary. There is a huge difference in dealing with an enemy and an adversary. If we needed BECA, we should have sought this agreement decades ago to target Pakistan. Current face off with China does not warrant this under any circumstances.
"We must not forget that USA in a not too distant past was in favour of UNSC resolutions, which were totally against India. It is the VETO of USSR that saved the day for India. For records; Nearly 70-80% Indian military hardware as on date is of USSR/Russian origin. But we have never ever signed such agreements with Russia."
Current POTUS is perhaps the first POTUS, who has enunciated US postulate of international relations clearly and candidly, which is ‘AMERICA FIRST’. I endorse his views fully because I as an Indian believe ‘India First’. Hence US will never compromise her strategic interests. For instance, no US administration will ever declare Pakistan a terrorist state. USA did not hesitate to declare a non-nuclear Iran a terrorist state but a blatantly nuclear state Pakistan, cradle of terrorism, escapes that ‘reward/recognition’ from successive US administration. It is unlikely to change in near future as well.
I will not be surprised if we discover a decade later that by signing BECA, USA has taken us for a ride in the process getting most/all relevant information required to protect US interests but giving us very little.
This write up will be incomplete if a bit of technology was not discussed. We are no longer India of 1971. We have access to sub-metre imagery from our own satellites, which is adequate for targeting even while using an ordinary unguided rocket/bomb by fighters and a SSM engaging a target based on GEOREFF. No doubt our military capability has suffered a setback with respect to our very own GPS having become non-functional due to failure of atomic clocks. Hopefully our scientists will overcome this problem sooner than later.
Can the US promise us that in the event of any future war with Pakistan unfettered use of differential GPS will be available to Indian Military while denying it to Pakistan? Incidentally selective disability region wise is possible. US satellites viz KH-11 and now the latest variant launched specifically to monitor Russian and Chinese nuclear facilities are not meant for us. It would be a great and monumental folly to seek accurate target coordinates for a conventional warhead tipped missile because the most accurate target coordinates with an error of few seconds will result in missile missing the target.
USA just might be using us as a pawn in her war against China to remain the only super power. Like USA China is also trying to become ‘Two Ocean Power’. What China does in South China Sea should not be of any interest to us but What China wants to/intends to do in IOR should worry us. Geographically we are more powerful than China to keep control of IOR provided we are willing to exercise our authority, resolve and power as we have done in the recent face off in Ladakh.
And finally as a soldier I would be terribly ashamed of myself and my colleagues in uniform if we were to accept and indicate by our actions that we cannot handle China threat on our own and we need BECA with USA.
Let us ‘milk’ USA for weapons and weapon platforms and not indulge in military alliance.
(Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'.
He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected])