Saturday, December 02, 2006

India springs a strategic surprise

In "A Matter of Honour", a history of the British Indian Army, historian Philip Mason theorizes on why Indian armies suffered defeat time and again. According to him, it was not the quality of the fighting men, they were as courageous as anyone else, and their training was actually superior to that of Europeans. Nor was it their equipment - until the 1850s when the Industrial Revolution really kicked in - Indian manufactures matched or exceeded that of Europe in quality. Indian workshops quickly duplicated European improvements in weaponry; Mason says Europeans would often rearm themselves with captured weaponry.

The reasons for failure lay in political organization, and lack of attention to the arts of war, both strategy and tactics.

Please note that these failures were in defensive wars; Indian rulers seldom had ambitions outside of their "natural sphere" between the Himalayas and the seas, and from the Indus in the West to the mouth of the Ganga/Brahmaputra in the East.

The result of military failures was disastrous for India. It lost its political independence, its sciences and its arts, and its economy. India would enter the modern world in the third world.

It seems independent India has at least partly, taken those lessons of the past to heart.

The latest is this (for a limited time, you may find the full article here
It is only a "proof-of-concept". Its significance lies in the proof-of-effort. It is an attempt to increase the cost of Chinese and Pakistani threats to those countries.

Ten centuries ago, when Mahmud of Ghazni's father, Nasir-ud-din Sabuktagin, was laying the groundwork for Mahmud's devastating invasions of Northern India, it does not seem that Indian rulers of the time recognized the threat. There is a unstated "never-again" consciousness at work here, I believe.

Quote:

"The New Guardian

India unveils an all new anti-ballistic missile expected to be the fore-runner of a sophisticated air defence system to thwart, among other threats, a Pakistani nuclear weapons attack

By Raj Chengappa

It looks like the Prithvi and even flies like one, but that's where the semblance ends. On November 27, not just India but the world got to know the difference after the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) unveiled a brand new missile, said to be a precursor to an advanced national air defence system.
The test was short but decisive. At 10.15 on a blustery winter morning off the east coast of Orissa, a conventional Prithvi missile posing as an enemy weapon was launched. Within seconds after its take-off, a sophisticated, long-range radar picked up the signals, analysed its flight path and sent an electronic command to an interceptor missile stationed at Wheeler Island. Almost immediately, the interceptor codenamed pad01 lifted off with a roar and plume of smoke. Travelling at five times the speed of sound, it rapidly closed in on the incoming Prithvi. Two minutes later and after some mid-course corrections, pad01 detonated its proximity fuse at a height of 50 km above the Earth. Both the missiles exploded in a ball of gas and the debris fell harmlessly into the Bay of Bengal."

End quote.

Does it make the world a safer place?
Probably not.

Should it matter?
Only in a world that embraces a concept of collective security would this be a wrong thing to do.

1 comment:

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