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Saturday, June 6, 2009

India:The Weak State?

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India has been called as a weak state numerous times, both by India and foreign experts. After every terrorist attack, such claims become even more common. Mumbai attacks were no exception to this and scores of socialites who were seen on News shows talked repeatedly about India being a weak state.

Some of the arguments that were made were just too ridiculous. Comparisons were being drawn between India and Israel or India and US. Why can't India hit-back like Israel? When Osama attacked US, it hit-back with an invasion on Afghanistan, why can't India emulate the same? If you visit some of the online forums, its is quite common for Pakistanis to ridicule the Indians using similar arguments.

A fact that is quite easily forgotten is that Israel has to deal with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah which neither have an air-force nor have any tanks or other armored force. India on the other hand is dealing with Pakistan, a nuclear power nation. The two are just incomparable.

India's comparison to US is even more ridiculous. It is often argued that after the 9/11 attacks, US constituted Homeland Security department and since then there haven't been any attacks on US soil. But what is easily forgotten that US is thousands of miles away from the epicenter of Islamic terrorism i.e. Pakistan, while India is just next to it. So it may be for US to invade Afghanistan without feeling any repercussions, but for India it is just not the same.

A better comparison would be to look at the recent happenings in North Korea and see if the US behaves any differently. North Korea conducted its second Nuclear Test last week. Simultaneously, it also conducted long range missile tests over Japan into the Pacific. It is believed that North Korea is now capable of hitting at least some of the US cities. Even though its weapons program is still at a very infant stage, the fear of nuclear weapons is immense. US allies in the region like Japan and South Korea were already in its range.

But the response from US has so far been measured. Apart from condemning the Tests, US seems to be working towards introducing fresh set sanctions and is presently looking to garner international support for same, particularly from China which has consistently supported the North Korean regime.

So where is the US bravado? It is quite obvious that US can't use the same tactics it used in Afghanistan here. North Korea has the fourth largest army in the World behind China, US and India. Its special forces are the largest in the World, believed to be around 180,000. It has developed long range missiles and now with its nuclear capability, it is miles ahead of Afghanistan.

Another reason why there is a perception of India being a weak state is because Indian Govt and their intelligence arm RAW have rarely tried to showcase its achievements and choses to remain in the background. We don't make movies on RAW while Hollywood keeps making movies showcasing CIA and its capabilities. The reasons are best known to the people in the higher echelons of RAW and I would not like to question that.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of RAW was breaking up Pakistan and creating a new entity called Bangladesh. If all the noises from Pakistan are to believed then RAW is actively involved in Afghanistan and Balochistan and is trying to keep Pakistan weak. The only problem is that it may take years before we get some results from their action. But that should not mean that they are not doing anything at all.

But since we are a democracy which offers right to speech, there will always be people to question the actions of the Govt. Hopefully this shall push it towards providing faster results on the ground.

I expect lots of readers may point towards India's bureaucracy and inefficiency, towards how there have been serious lapses, how there was a scan in bullet-proof jackets, and so. I do not discount that, but I would like to distinguish inefficiency in operations from strength or weakness in decision making. It is easy to call someone weak without looking into the challenges faced and also on its constraints of resources.
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