Subrahmanyam is a defence analyst of great repute and his ideas and policy directives are given due importance in determining India’s internal and external security options. His contributions to the National Security Council (NCA) are undoubtedly quite substantive. It is widely held that he played a pivotal role in Indira Gandhi’s grand design to launch an all out invasion on Pakistan Army in the former East Pakistan and to create ‘Bangladesh’ to reduce Pakistan’s strategic clout in the region. “It is an opportunity of the century,” is the famous piece of advice attributed to him, which the then Prime Minister of India acted upon and gave full support, by formalizing the Defence Pact with the former Soviet Union. Subrahmanyam is generally recognized as a hawkish Defence analyst and quite in favour of India’s preponderance not only in South Asia but even beyond.
I recall that in 1999 (Jan 27-28), the famous think tank of India – Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) had arranged an International Seminar on Asia’s security in the 21st Century. Air Cdre Jasjit Singh, a very polished defence analyst was the Director of the Institute. Subrahmanyam presented a comprehensive paper in which he identified “China, Japan, Russia and India as main power centres and as opposed to multi-polar world power order, he advocated polycentric paradigm, in order to maintain balance of power.” I was the first to ask him a question. I said: “Charity begins at home and why has India not resolved the problems with Pakistan, a very crucial actor in the South Asian region through a ‘collective cooperative security’ as you advocated. India, on the contrary favours bilateral approach with independent nations of SAARC. Why is to so?” He gave a very evasive answer and I was not quite satisfied. During the tea break, he came to me and said rather shockingly that Pakistan should forget about Kashmir if it wanted peace with India. I replied to him that even in the event Pakistan forgot, Kashmiris will never forget their right of self determination, come what may.” General Beg’s paper, which I had the privilege to present, gave a very balanced view highlighting the importance of China, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, besides India in the Asian Security paradigm to be a workable proposition.
What is intended to highlight is that how conveniently Subrahmanyam has relinquished the Asian security paradigm based on collective cooperation and has aligned with USA, which perceives quit erroneously China as a great threat for the future. It is mainly for utilitarian reasons that India has aligned itself with USA, which has imperialistic urge to maintain its unipolarity in the Post Cold War era and as a consequence the Atlantic nations will continue prevailing over the Pacific.
This century could very well have been Asian century, had India not acted as the spoiler of power shifting towards the Pacific. China has promoted a paradigm of cooperation and inter-existence for all nations of the world based on the cardinal principle of respect for sovereignty of all, irrespective of their size. Subrahmanyam, on the contrary is obsessed with the size of its country and its power. As far back as 1972, he said: “India’s role is not that of a middle power, her area and population role that out India will in the next two or three decades become a major power and if it fails to do that external pressure will break her up.” The abiding motive is to squeeze as much advantage – military and economic – from USA as possible as it did with the former Soviet Union, during the bipolar global order. Milking both the super powers simultaneously had been the favoured strategic objective of India, even though USA and former Soviet Union were bitter enemies of each other.
In his very recent write-up Reassigning roles for national security (Indian Express) Subrahmanyam has cautioned that it was not enough for Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to brief Home Minister as well as Prime Minister, it was imperative for NSC member to be regularly sensitized to the security situation so that they proactively react to anticipated crises. The punch line is: “The challenge of China calls for coordination with regard to domestic and external economic policies, internal trade, and infrastructure development, expansion of higher education and technology and defence and security capabilities. The need for coordination in our internal and external security policies with other major powers of the world has also increased.” Mark the message of implicit help from the major powers. These are US and European nations – the Atlantic power wielders. Nothing of ‘Asian security’, is being propounded. Without mincing words, he makes it explicitly clear: “There is hardly the realization that arms purchases are not matters of selecting equipment on the basis of lowest tender, but the building of our strategic capabilities through partnership with the major powers concerned. At the end of his article he again reiterates: “The most important challenge currently facing India are the rise of China…” But why should rise of China be a cause of threat?
It is paranoid or a purposeful deceptive design aimed at hoodwinking USA that China needed to be counter-balanced, and India is the most desirable option. But it is here where USA is grossly blinded and shows a typical colonial predisposition to be scared of what Napoleon is reported to have said in his exile in St. Helena, ‘when China wakes, the world will tremble. This ‘trembling’ is very vivid in the West. The fact, however is that China exists and is trying to find own friends all over the world. In sharp contrast to the military might which USA uses to invade Iraq, Afghanistan and similarly threatening together with Israel – Iran – on the plea that it was making atomic bomb. China has adopted a policy of non-confrontation with any nation, and without firing a single bullet, it has achieved its strategic objective of ensuring a substantial supply of oil through Latin American countries, and Central Asian States, to sustain its growing economy.
I have been to China several times and found that a fairly good number of Chinese strategic thinkers particularly at Fordham University, are ardent supporters of great cooperation with India, based on the assumption that these two important Asian powers can block the western hegemony in Asia. Not a bad idea at all. India, on the contrary, by becoming a strategic partner with USA, can play USA’s surrogate role in Asia as does Israel in the heart of the Muslim World. China is very generous with its frontier disputes with India, Japan and Russia.
The US-India Civilian Nuclear Deal has pampered India and overly blown its ego, which makes it think as if it has become a power greater than even China. It is in this context that one can gauge the hyperbolic assertions of fantasy oriented Army Chief – General Deepak Kapoor, that India could take on China and Pakistan simultaneously and defeat them in 96 hours. The Indian Government should have prematurely retired and got him examined by a competent psychiatrist for his ‘delusion of grandeur.’ With respect to the nuclear partnership, a Chinese scholar Zahao Gancheng makes a pertinent remark: “A tense South Asia would significantly harm China’s periphery strategy. This is precisely what China is concerned about the impact of the deal…. big power must also be responsible power that takes responsibility as depicted by an American term – Stake-holder (Regional Studies Spring 2009, p.14).
If India were responsible, it should settle the Kashmir issue and promote Asian Security paradigm. But it opts to make strategic partnership not only with USA but build very cordial relations with Israel, as it is an arch enemy of the Islamic World. Fulbright had referred to the US Congress as “Israel occupied territory.” What an irony!

Dr S M Rahman is Secretary General FRIENDS, a Think Tank established by General Mirza Aslam Beg, former Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan Army. He is a regular writer for Opinion Maker.