Indian bureaucracy an obstacle to defence relationship, says US report - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 21 November 2012

Indian bureaucracy an obstacle to defence relationship, says US report

Amer Latif, of CSIS, recommends that US and Indian forces share bases in Diego Garcia and the Andamans

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Nov 12

A respected Washington-based think tank released a report on Tuesday, entitled “US-India Military Engagement,” which reflects the American strategic community’s growing --- if incredulous --- realization that New Delhi is not as enthusiastic as Washington about a high profile military partnership between the two countries.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) report, authored by the Pentagon’s former South Asia director, Sahibzada Amer Latif, describes the period from 2004 to 2008 as “a heady time for bilateral security and strategic cooperation.” But the “stymieing of deeper military contact” since 2008 has been ascribed to: India’s policy of strategic autonomy; the Indian defence ministry’s (MoD’s) inability to discuss policy and strategy; and the Indian military’s “capacity challenges.”

According to the report “the Indian civilian bureaucracy has been the main obstacle to deeper military engagement despite the Indian military’s desire for greater bilateral cooperation.”

The US strategic community has earlier contrasted India’s “professional” and “highly capable” military, with its relatively slow-moving and cautious bureaucracy. But this report sharply questions the military’s capabilities. It notes that “the Indian military is facing capacity challenges through a combination of arms modernization, serious personnel and discipline matters, and complex national security challenges that will tax the capacity of the Indian armed forces to engage the United States.”

“India, as a strategically developing country, has yet to develop a comprehensive and long-term concept of how and when to employ its military beyond its immediate neighborhood or on missions other than peacekeeping,” the report says.

The report recommends that “the United States needs to maintain reasonable expectations of India as a potential security partner over the near term to midterm, given its reluctance to partner too closely with the United States, which is rooted in a combination of [India’s] foreign policy orientation and capacity limitations.”

Mirroring Washington’s disappointment at Indian reluctance to play a more visible security role in the Asia Pacific, the CSIS report states: “Aside from Washington, the rest of Asia is also waiting for India to wade into the complex security scenarios that confront the Asia-Pacific region… Many Asian countries feel there has been episodic engagement and little demonstration of New Delhi’s intent to exercise more decisive leadership in the region.”

This would be a reality check for US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, who described India during his visit in May as a “linchpin” of America’s pivot to Asia. The report quotes Panetta, who said: “Defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy (of rebalance to Asia). India is one of the largest and most dynamic countries in the region and the world, with one of the most capable militaries.”

The CSIS report, unlike several earlier American reports, highlights the concerns that impose caution on New Delhi in engaging Washington. Amongst these are: Indian concern at the US-Pakistan relationship; domestic politics and the opposition of the Left; India’s impression of US unreliability stemming from “a past history of sanctions”, and the still unknown ways in which “the growing influence of state-based parties” will affect India’s national policies.

Given these constraints, the report recommends formulating a realistic long-term vision; dialogues about issues like Afghanistan and China’s military power; and multilateral cooperation with Asia-Pacific powers like Japan, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea. It advocates joint patrolling of the Indian Ocean with the navies like those of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. And, perhaps, most controversially, it recommends that the US and India share Indian Ocean bases like the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Diego Garcia.


  1. Diego Garcia... tactical... Indira Point... Strategic... The Republic of India... has its own independent strategic foreign policy... and The Republic's territory... is not for sale... for others strategic gains...

  2. Thank God for the Bureaucracy for being cautious.History of South East Asia post WW2 shows that caution is needed when dealing with the Americans. They make all the mistakes you can think of and then add some of their very own.Pakistan, Indonesia are good examples.The Americans would like to counter China. So would we but in a milder way.This fundamental difference -in approach and objectives-means our methods must be different.What teh Americans would like top do is to sell us high tech weapons of horrendous expense and then use Indian bodies to further their aims of being Unipolar. Let the Bureaucracy be cautious.This is something they know more than you and I.

  3. These americans using words like "security partner", "linchpin", "co-operation" etc think that it is going to convince india to do their 'naukar-giri'.

    Shameless race

  4. “The Indian civilian bureaucracy has been the main obstacle to deeper military engagement despite the Indian military’s desire for greater bilateral cooperation.” This line neatly sums up the problem the United States will continue to face as they look to goad the Indian Security Establishment to do their bidding for the re-balancing of the geo-strategic power equation in the Asia - Pacific. Saint Anthony is not going to oblige till he is in the chair and the rest of the bureaucracy (and even the military hierarchy) is quite happy to let the military to military cooperation stagnate at the tactical level. We really have to ask ourselves, who benefits most from a greater engagement; if it is India, only then should we (i.e. the Govt) take the next step in widening the military engagement. Overall an interesting thought summed up nicely by Colonel Shukla. Never Give In!

  5. Sir,the report is pragmatic one n imperative for india to think strategically with keeping its own interest untill n unless we get spare form our domestic catfight its impossible to think something constructive. as far as bureaucracy is concerned they underperform because they lack Strategic vision to Judge forseeble future.they work On "RAM BHAROSE"

  6. Dream on Yanks -- Indian bureaucracy takes orders from elected leaders. It is for them to determine the contours of a strategic relationship, not uniformed military.

    And yes India does not want to go around projecting force around Asia. We need to focus on our immediate threats and keep within our resources. No Iraqs for us thank you very much.

  7. Indian bureaucracy may be correct at such rare occasions.

  8. Its good that we are not getting too close to the Americans. Their own history especially their treatment of Pakistan after the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan does not inspire much confidence in their words and deeds. India must look after its own interests and must not be persuaded by USA to fight its own small wars on its behalf. Our foreign policy mus t be independent of outside influences.

  9. Two questions..

    Whats America's interest to hang around the Indian ocean in the first place??? If you guard the pacific n Atlantic and we will look after this side.. Acceptable??

    Not only is the base in Deigo Garcia unauthorised but has been sheer bully bashing by the USA since the last 4 decades.. The cold war ended a long time instead of saying sorry and vacating they are actually looking at Andamans.. someone somewhere has really lost their bearings ????

  10. Do those countries (Srilanka, Maldives & Bangaldesh) have navy and ships to patrol Indian Ocean ? Of course they have navy which does the job equivalent of a Coast Gaurd.

  11. I think issues/ opportunities like these need to be further negotiated. Running away from it, or avoiding it totally will yield nothing. I see the concerns folks have with such an arrangement, but the questions to ask are, is there a mutual benefit to be gained from such an arrangement, and is the benefit good enough to out-weigh the risks. If not, we should negotiate to improve the Risk/benefit ratio that does not put India at a dis-advantage compared to that the Americans will have. If the idea is to have only benefits and no risks, then there is no such thing out there. People need to think beyond that US/India relations of the cold-war era and approach this with an open mind, kind of like a business deal, look at what's on the table and discuss what else could be changed to make it a fair deal for both partners. And then if it feels like it cannot be negotiated, then both agree to dis-agree and walk away. Not talking about it and avoiding it completely, will benefit anyone.

  12. Steady as They GO..As the report suggest. Indian Civilian leadership is cautious. In a rightful way. Strategic Partner is an american foreign policy euphemism for Stooge. Just in case Americans are wondering why this is not happening, not in near term and Mid-term, is because of Indian energy appetite. And given American tension with Iran, India is thinking about the repercussion of losing Iran to China, as a strategic business ally.
    Indian global role is absolutely vital for Maritime Security. And securing and Joint patrolling Gulf of Aden. This is where US-India should work with a longer term perspective. Plus, as mentioned in the report, the joint maritime humanitarian and disaster relief operations (Like in the case of Tsunami 2004)
    And the simple transformation from an exercise based relationship to more stable one, depends upon American world-wide aggressiveness.
    And also till the time Indian military deal with the capacity challenge it is facing. Caution is important.

  13. Rahul Samanta(Kolkata)24 November 2012 at 10:14

    Ajai ji,

    That these Americans can go to any extent to see their superpower status unchallenged is again proved by them....They know that the challenge to their unipolar world order will come from Asia, so why not create a hostile situation in the whole of Asia so that the Asian countries fight and die with each other.....A stupid and medieval mindset ruled China is falling in their trap....The theory is simple: Make China nervous by constantly saying words which the Chinese don't like, then when a stupid China falls in that trap and starts making belligerent statements against her neighbours, go and pretend to allign with those neighbours.....India should carefully avoid the trap...When we were in college and the student unions would ask us to join in their protest parades, we would never say 'no', instead we would start with them and convince them that we are with them and once we reach main road from the bylanes, we would simply dissapear....

    The Americans had all the good words to say about Indian military in 2004-2005 because they wanted us as a counterbalance against China, now that they have realised that it is very difficult to make India fall in their trap because India also wants a multipolar world order, they have reversed their stances on Indian military....Simply ignore them....

    Here is a message to all Americans: We can never be strategic partners or friends; we have nothing in common beyond the mask of democracy and people to people contacts; in your country if you pull up an electric switch, the bulb flashes on and if you pull it down, the bulb switches off....Exactly opposite to us....So if we can't have similar thought process while making an electric switch, it is illogical to think that we will coincide on world matters....But we can learn to live with each other....

    Exchanging Diego Garcia with Andamans???? Lol, they must be dreaming....


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