(Abdul Majid Zargar)
Book Title: Dragon on our doorstep
AuthorS: Pravin Sawhney & Gazala Wahab
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Year of Publication: 2017
‘Let alone China, India cannot win a war against Pakistan. And this has nothing to do with possession of nuclear weapons-the roles of nuclear & conventional weapons are separate in the war planning of India, China and Pakistan.”
These are the first three lines taken from ‘Prologue, of the recently published book ‘Dragon on our doorstep’ by Pravin Sawhney & Gazala Wahab. The book has assumed extraordinary significance in view of the stand-off between China & India at Dhoklam plateau-a disputed territory between China & Bhutan where India has strategic interests. But before attempting a substantive review of the book, a few word about its authors.
- Pravin Sawhney, who took to journalism after after thirteen years of commissioned service in India Army, has been editor of FORCE (a magazine on national security and defence) since 2003. The author of two books—The Defence Makeover: 10 Myths That Shape India’s Image and Operation Parakram: The War Unfinished—he has been visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, United Kingdom, and visiting scholar at the Cooperative Monitoring Center, United States. Ghazala Wahab is executive editor, FORCE, where she writes on homeland security, terrorism, left-wing extremism and religious extremism. A career journalist, Ghazala has worked with The Telegraph and Asian Age
Now coming back to India’s inability to win a war with either China or Pakistan, the authors makes a distinction between the two concepts of ‘military force’ & ‘military power’. According to them, military force involves mere building of troop strength & war waging material’ while the latter means optimal utilization of that military force. He further explains the concept of military power as understanding of the adversaries, the quantum of threat, the nature of warfare, domains of war etc. The books laced with facts makes it abundantly clear that India is far lagging behind Pakistan & China in this sphere and hence bound to loose. In effect the authors fully subscribe and endorse the famous Chinese proverb-“Know your enemy, know yourself, in 100 battles, you will never be defeated; if ignorant of both your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle”.
The authors also make a mention of an interesting event of August 6 1947. When the partition of the subcontinent had become a certainty, a party to bid farewell to officers assigned to Pakistan army was in full swing in Delhi. On the menu, apart from food were choked emotions, frequent hugs & promises to stay in touch forever. But the events in Kashmir took such a turn that friends of yesterday became foes of each other overnight.
The author also makes a mention of little known ‘Operation meghadoot’ launched by Indian army in 1983 to evict Pakistani forces from Siachin Glacier, though he criticizes the move as .It traces the history of Siachin Glacier to late 70’s when Foreign mountaineers would seek permission of both India & Pakistan to visit the Glacier. With the passage of time, United States Air force maps and certain reputed world Atlases started showing the Glacier as part of Pakistan. Even Foreign mountaineers would now seek permission only from Pakistan. This alarmed Indian Army which sent out a military reconnaissance patrols in the area to notice, to its horror, Pakistani army stationed there. This set in motion the operation Meghadoot. The author reveals that when Indian Army started to shop for glacier specific items like boots & clothing in Europe, it was stunned to find Pakistani army already there shopping for the same items. The message was loud & clear. Indian army launched an assault to evict Pakistani forces from the area & also take control of unoccupied areas. Siachen is since then a bone of contention between the two armies & also responsible for huge causalities of jawans on both sides, without fighting any war.
Yet another interesting but strange proposal by Indian army to then CM Farooq Abdullah, when he took office in 1996 with elections rigged & facilitated by Indian army & renegades, to appoint senior army officers as commissioners & deputy commissioners in the state is also revealed in the book.
The authors also analyze the military strategies of the three Asian countries in the region in the back drop of their geopolitics. Out of the three— the two, 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. Till 2008, China kept a low profile when the world recognized it as an economic power. Since then 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 authors also reveal complete interoperability (ability to operate as one in combat) military arrangement between China and Pakistan. In their view, Pakistan & Chinese armies have achieved this unique capability to fight as one unit, should the need arise. Their relationship is further cemented by close economic cooperation with geostrategic design unfolding through the wide-sweeping One Belt One Road project.
The book has also some rare & interesting photographs. One such photograph depicts construction of gravel roads, as against tar roads, by Chinese right upto LAC which, besides being cost effective, are better able to withstand rain & snow at high altitudes. India cannot build such roads because the terrain on its side, unlike China, consists of sharp slopes and loose soil prone to landslides. At the same time India cannot build Tar roads on its side because of various treaties which bind both sides not to build permanent structures close to LAC. This is a very precious & strategic advantage to Chinese.
This book is a must read for those who are interested or involved with the subject of military capabilities or war-planning between three nuclear armed Asian neighbors.
(The reviewer is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)