India is providing training facilities for the armed forces of small Asian countries like Singapore, Vietnam and Qatar. That’s good, because it will give our armed forces a global perspective. When Indians are globalising why should the armed forces, especially the insular army, be left behind?
There should be beneficial consequences of this collaboration. The Indian armed forces will be multilingual if, as part of the tie-up, language teachers are exchanged. Military personnel would then learn Sinhalese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Farsi, Arabic, etc. Studies of these societies could also be encouraged so that Indians know better the past and the present of our neighbours. We don’t know anything about the film heroes, writers, artists, musicians and other celebrities of our neighbours. Nor about their social and economic problems. Most Indians turn towards the East during the morning-prayer rituals; for all other inspirations they turn towards the West.
The most fascinating outcome of the collaboration would be the bringing together of sharp minds from our neighbourhood to do advanced thinking and innovation in weapons, warfare and espionage. At the moment Indian and other Asian countries are dependent on Western gurus and weapons systems. This is good for Western governments, businesses and defence research laboratories. Asian nations pay a high price for these services.
India produces lots of scientists and engineers. Among them are geniuses and mavericks who escape from parochial India and gain fame abroad. We have many government-funded research institutes, but only God and bureaucrats know what they do; I don’t see their activities highlighted in the foreign science magazines that I read. There doesn’t seem to be any accountability in these institutes; they need reform.
If super-active Asian brains are attracted to these institutes, then Indian business houses will fund them. Defence research leads to military as well as civilian products. Indian industry can produce both for a global market. If the research and manufacture is well directed, the products may be more advanced than those made in Europe and America . Then the West might outsource its defence requirements to India.
In espionage, too, Asians could set new standards. Asians make natural spies. Because of the underdeveloped conditions they have grown up in, Asians have evolved advanced survival skills such as sharp observation, hiding of emotions, acting, secretive ways of transferring information and funds, networking, ostentatious sycophancy and other devious tactics which are crucial in espionage. Asians can be top-class spies and subverters. It’s time we produced another Chanakya guru.
The elementary military cooperation between India and Asian nations needs to be expanded to anticipate and cope with the accelerating worldwide tension.
Dilip Raote is a senior journalist