The vagaries of geopolitics sometimes throw up strange and unexpected bedfellows. As in human relations, there are some who are keen, eager and willing to join the party while others may have to be lured or coerced. The US is a past master and manipulative host of such parties and appears to have enticed India to come to its party in the Asia Pacific.

The US has exploited India’s prime national vulnerability of a severely bloated false ego, an inflated sense of self-importance and grossly misplaced self-assumed greatness. The US has managed to convince it of the inevitability of its “singular role” at the global level and its “undeniable destiny” as a major power broker of the 21st century and its place by its side as its “natural and strategic partner.”

India, as expected, has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

It is clearly venturing into unchartered territory here, punching way beyond its weight and calibre. It is now a part of the emerging US led Asia Pacific cabal along with Japan and Australia. They are pursuing the US pivot to the Asia Pacific and its primary aim to contain and manage the rise of China.

But does India have the wherewithal, the economic stamina, the political and military will, skills and capacity to commit itself to such an extensive and high stakes adventure on a consistent and long term basis; disregarding China’s concerns and responses?

Under the Modi Doctrine, India has started to look East. Encouraged by US patronage, it already has lofty pretensions of creating spheres of influence of its own in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. It also wants to (a bit prematurely, one would surmise) help define the security paradigms in the Asia Pacific and be recognized as a proactive security provider for lesser regional powers.

While India impetuously looks East it cannot remain oblivious of its immediate West where nuclear Pakistan, a sworn Chinese ally, is blocking all its land trade routes to the fossil fuel riches and economies of the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and beyond to Russia and Eurasia. The most critical factor in this entire geographical equation is the “Wagah-Torkham Link”. It has such great strategic importance (for India) that it even made a shoddy attempt during the latest SAARC moot to somehow acquire it under the garb of “regional interconnectivity”. It failed miserably, Mr Modi’s sulk thereafter notwithstanding and much to the chagrin of Mr Ajit Doval, the “Chanakya” in his team.

India’s main Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) lie in the West towards the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It gets its major supplies of oil from the Middle East. With Gwadar emerging as a vital port (and a possible future naval base) at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, India might want to reconsider its total commitment to the Asia Pacific. Naval Forces operating out of Gwadar would overwhelmingly dominate its western SLOCs. Does it expect to have enough military resources in the near future to deploy them judiciously between the areas of operations in the subcontinent, in its spheres of influence in the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific and still have some to secure its western SLOCs? Or does it intend to fight more than one major regional conflict at any one time - a la the US! Even the US is hard pressed to do that today; much less delusional India.

Mr Modi must realize that in order to become a player of the major league at the global level India has to first emerge as the clear, singular and overwhelmingly dominant power in South Asia. It has first to become a regional power, a regional hegemon in fact and then expand its sphere of influence in the extra regional dimensions before it can even think in global terms.

For that to practically happen it must first and foremost neutralize and break free of nuclear Pakistan. It will either have to defeat Pakistan militarily and reduce it to the status of a genuine vassal state or it can earn its willing cooperation by resolving all outstanding issues with it on the basis of sovereign equality and respect. Mr Modi must opt for one of these options.

It is evident that Mr Modi will be unable to do so through military means. Any conflict, no matter how small and apparently insignificant between the two has the potential to rapidly escalate into the nuclear dimension - despite Mr Doval’s strategic appraisals to the contrary. The consequences of such confrontations are too horrendous to even contemplate. It would set India’s global ambitions back by multiple decades if not centuries. He has tried and will continue to fail with coercive diplomacy. His meaningless though boisterous rhetoric and blatantly anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim biases will not scare a self-confident nuclear Pakistan. The ceasefire violations along the LOC, the working boundary and the international border are unlikely to make any worthwhile impression on nuclear Pakistan either. With the political changes in Afghanistan gaining strength and credibility, maintaining and sustaining anti Pakistan terrorist groups astride the Durand Line and in Balochistan will become increasingly counter-productive and self-defeating for India.

The only way he can “free up” India and its Armed Forces from being perpetually hinged and pegged to sub continental issues and be able to play any kind of external role at the South Asian, regional, Asia Pacific and even global levels is by engaging Pakistan diplomatically and coming up with fair and just solutions to all issues between them led by the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir. Period.

Else, the desires and ambitions of Messrs Modi and Ajit Doval notwithstanding, India will remain stuck at the sub-continental level for ever. It will remain consigned to a “petty Pakistan-centric middling power” and be unable to realize her potential at the regional or global levels, if any.

Your call Mr Modi - or is it Mr Ajit Doval’s?

The author is a retired Brigadier, a former Defense Attache’ to Australia and New Zealand and is currently on the faculty of NIPCONS (NUST). He can be contacted at