Ajit Doval, India’s longest serving and current National Security Advisor in a rare public statement warned states inimical to India. Doval, a career spy and former head of India’s domestic intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau, is considered a hawk when it comes to India’s security challenges. Extremely reticent to airing his views in public, Doval nonetheless is largely responsible for a doctrinal shift in India’s national security strategy from a purely defensive orientation to a more proactive defensive-offence posture.
While speaking at the Parmarth Niketan ashram in the Indian holy town of Rishikesh on October 24, Doval said, if India perceives a threat, it “will surely fight, on our soil and on foreign soil as well.” Elaborating further Doval said “It is not necessary that we only fight where you want to, but where the threat originates.”
Doval’s statement is being construed as a not-so-subtle warning to Pakistan (India’s traditional arch-enemy) and China (with whom India is locked in a bitter military stand-off in the Himalayan region of Ladakh). The Indian NSA’s statement on the back of similar assertions by India’s Army & Air Force chiefs is significant as it signals a confidence in the Indian military establishment to confront hostile powers head-on.
From the Indian military establishment’s perspective some of the reasons why they are confident of coming out on top in case of confrontation with China are: –
1. Firm political leadership which has a track record of taking risks and backing the commanders to the hilt.
2. The strategic alliance with the USA providing access to American military hardware and diplomatic support.
3. A battle-hardened Indian military which can give a bloody nose to its opponents in a conflict.
4. Purges in the top ranks of the Chinese PLA under Xi Jinping’s ostensible anti-corruption drive and the appointment of Xi loyalists at the top posts has left the battle effectiveness of the PLA in doubt especially when confronted by a professional army like India’s which prides itself on its military ethos.
5. Internal dissent and the murmurs of a revolt in the Chinese communist party as a result of Xi Jinping’s power grab and the upending of the Chinese system of generational leadership change put in place by Deng Xiaoping and followed by Presidents Jian Zemin & Hu Jintao.
6. China’s global unpopularity across the world and especially the West as a result of the Wuhan Coronavirus epidemic. China seems to be isolated diplomatically on the world stage with a galaxy of rogue nations like North Korea, Pakistan and Iran for company.
All of the above factors contribute to Doval’s assessment that if push comes to shove India can take the battle to the enemy camp and do some serious damage to the opponent.