Following the follies of Lord Curzon’s vision of Imperial British Empire By MOIN ANSARI (Updated June 14th, 2009)
India now has two bases in Tajikistan, at Ayini near the Tajik capital and at Farkhor, Tajikistan, close to the border with Afghanistan. There were reports (India defence and New Post India) from India that Russia has asked India to remove the Indian Air base at Ayni or hand it over to the Shanghi Cooperation Organization (SCO). That eviction has not happened. The events came on the heels of Russia ignoring Indian pressure and allowing China to re-export more than 500 the RD-93 engines to Pakistan for the JF/17-Thunder fighter aircraft. Russia is reportedly upset at India’s coziness with the USA. There are also problems on Indo-Russian deal for an the Goshkov Aircraft carrier. Delays and price hikes (Russia is asking for an additional $1.5 Billion. Oriignal price $1.2 Billion) are the tip of the iceberg of frosty Indo-Russian relationship.
Ayni, located 10 kilometers from the Tajik capital Dushanbe, was used by the Soviets during the 1980s to support their military operations in Afghanistan. Following their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Soviets left Ayni and the base fell into a dilapidated condition. Sudha Ramachandran, Russian Turbulance for Indian Airbase Asian Times
Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad is being sent to as watchdog over Kabul. However the US has asked Bharat to close down the 4 “consulates” and 13 “information centers.”
- “[T]he master of India,” “must, under modern conditions, be the greatest power in the Asiatic Continent, and therefore . . . in the world.” Britain’s Lord Curzon,
- “To me, I confess, [countries] are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for dominion of the world.” Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, speaking about Afghanistan, 1898
Clearly and apparently, Gorshkov is not the only case of Indo-Russian defence collaboration gone sour. It is only the tip of the iceberg. Citing global inflation and depreciating US dollar, Russia has already asked India to cough up more for SU-3)-MKI combat aircraft. And, the Indian Navy on its part has refused to take delivery of the Kilo class submarine and the land attack missiles it was equipped with to fire, after it came a cropper in test firings. Similarly, last year India withheld the payment for one of the three IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft upgraded with the Sea Dragon submarine detection equipment since it did not fulfill the stringent norms set by the Indian Navy. Another bone of contention between India and Russia is the issue of technological transfer in critical areas for production of T-90S battle tank by the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi near Chennai. There is a dismay in India over the way Russians are putting impediments in its plan to indigenously manufacture 1000 T 90S battle tanks. Now India has decided to develop the critical technological elements in respect of T-90S that Russia has refused to make available.
As a defence analyst in New Delhi put it, India is irritated with Moscow for its failure to keep its commitment of delivering weapons systems on time and also failing to sustain a system to provide uninterrupted supply of spares, apart from jacking up the cost arbitrarily halfway through the implementation of the project. The break-up of the mighty Soviet empire leading to the bankruptcy of its vast and sprawling military industrial complex has been blamed for India’s far from happy track record in dealing with the Russian defence contractors. As it is, India had a taste of this in 1992, when succumbing to the American pressure, Russia refused to honour its commitment of transferring the critical cryogenic engine technology to India. Russia, which had signed with Glavkosmos as part of the deal with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) before the break up of the Soviet Union was required to make available the cryogenic engine technology. Subsequently, ISRO managed to build and test a fully Indian cryogenic engine stage meant to power its high performance GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle). Nav Hind Times
An historic realignment
India’s “Beyond the Oxus” policy is being continued with vigor. Recent events of this week shows the counter moves by Russia to India’s moves into Central Asia. The Nehru-Singh Doctrine is very poignant to today’s issues. It’s latest twist is India’s realignment and its Faustian deals. The Nehru-Singh Doctrine in many ways is associated to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and it is linked to pre-planned events to destabilize Pakistan.
Many saw it coming. The problems faced by Pakistan stem from the Sing doctrine and the events that surround the bases in Central Asia. Our Prologue discusses the current situation in detail.
THE NEHRU-VAJPAYEE-SINGH DOCTRINE’S “ON TO THE OXUS POLICY” Indira Gandhi once told Henry Kissinger, “the NWFP belongs to India and Punjab was in the way.” The Delhi strategists thought it was a great coup. Many analysts believed that it was a tectonic event. The repercussion of the base are being felt today. Pakistan is now facing the tsunami after the earthquake. In 2007 it was felt that India had over-extended its hand by trying to destabilizing Pakistan.
THE 2001 INVASION: AMERICAN “ON TO THE OXUS” PLAN PRE-DATED 911 AND PRE-DATED SOVIET INVASION OF AFGHANISTAN:
The truth about the “good war” is to be found in compelling evidence that the 2001 invasion, widely supported in the west as a justifiable response to the 11 September attacks, was actually planned two months prior to 9/11 and that the most pressing problem for Washington was not the Taliban’s links with Osama Bin Laden, but the prospect of the Taliban mullahs losing control of Afghanistan to less reliable mujahedin factions, led by warlords who had been funded and armed by the CIA to fight America’s proxy war against the Soviet occupiers in the 1980s. Known as the Northern Alliance, these mujahedin had been largely a creation of Washington, which believed the “jihadi card” could be used to bring down the Soviet Union.
The Taliban were a product of this and, during the Clinton years, they were admired for their “discipline”. Or, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “[the Taliban] are the players most capable of achieving peace in Afghanistan at this moment in history”.
The “moment in history” was a secret memorandum of understanding the mullahs had signed with the Clinton administration on the pipeline deal. However, by the late 1990s, the Northern Alliance had encroached further and further on territory controlled by the Taliban, whom, as a result, were deemed in Washington to lack the “stability” required of such an important client. It was the consistency of this client relationship that had been a prerequisite of US support, regardless of the Taliban’s aversion to human rights. (Asked about this, a state department briefer had predicted that “the Taliban will develop like the Saudis did”, with a pro-American economy, no democracy and “lots of sharia law”, which meant the legalised persecution of women. “We can live with that,” he said.)
…By early 2001, convinced it was the presence of Osama Bin Laden that was souring their relationship with Washington, the Taliban tried to get rid of him. Under a deal negotiated by the leaders of Pakistan’s two Islamic parties, Bin Laden was to be held under house arrest in Peshawar. A tribunal of clerics would then hear evidence against him and decide whether to try him or hand him over to the Americans. Whether or not this would have happened, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf vetoed the plan. According to the then Pakistani foreign minister, Niaz Naik, a senior US diplomat told him on 21 July 2001 that it had been decided to dispense with the Taliban “under a carpet of bombs”. John Pilger “The Good War is a Bad War”
INDIA FOUND AN OPPORTUNITY IN THE US INVASION OF 9/11: It has been half a decade that political scientists witnessed a watershed event in the history of the Subcontinent. India established it’s first military base outside India a few miles from the capital city Dushambe in Tajikistan. It was hoped that this military base combined with a massive $40 million Aid package to Dushambe would allow India unprecedented clout in Central Asia.
Was this takeover, combined with the growing Indian-Israeli nexus, a harbinger of things to come in Central Asia and Afghanistan? The Indian “takeover” of Tajikistan by establishing a military base there would have long term consequences for Central Asia, the Middle East, Pakistan and China.
In 2002 in a look West policy, had Russia abdicated her rights to Central Asia and given them to India? In 2008 a resurgent Russia has totally reevaluated this policy.
Has Indian ”imperialism” been defeated? The Indian “Charge of the Light Brigade”also started with a lot of pomp and ceremony! Is India getting too big for her boots? Does India have the ware withal to take over Russia’s Big Brother role in Central Asia or is this going to be another misadventure for India like the withdrawal from Sri Lanka? The eviction notice answered these questions.
Recent events of this week shows the counter moves by Russia to India’s moves into Central Asia. The Singh Doctrine is very poignant to today’s issues. It’s latest twist is India’s realignment and its Faustian deals. The Singh Doctrine in many ways is associated to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and it is linked to pre-planned events to destabilize Pakistan. Many saw it coming. The problems faced by Pakistan stem from the Sing doctrine and the events that surround the bases in Central Asia. Our Prologue discusses the current situation in detail.
HISTORY-ENTRY INTO DUSHAMBE: Dushambe has been the object of lust for centuries. The entry of the Ottoman Sultan into Dushambe has been aptly described by Milton in “Paradise Lost”. Here are few lines.
His eye might there command wherever stood
City of old or modern fame, the seat
Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls
Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can,
And Samarkand by Oxus, Temir’s throne,
To Paquin of Sinaean kings, and thence
To Agra and Lahore of Great Mogul
(Milton, Paradise Lost, XI.385-391)
His eye might there command wherever stood
City of old or modern fame, the seat
Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls
Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can,
And Samarkand by Oxus, Temir’s throne,
To Paquin of Sinaean kings, and thence
To Agra and Lahore of Great Mogul (Milton, Paradise Lost, XI.385-391)
THE NEHRU-SINGH DOCTRINE EMULATES THE MONROE DOCTRINE: The Singh Doctrine is nothing new, it is the application of the American Monroe Doctrine to Asia. The Doctrine defines spheres of influence for powers with “security zones”. To understand the Singh Doctrine, and to confirm that history repeats itself, we need to leaf through the pages of history for lessons learned Lord Curzon has been described as British missionary with a vision.
After eliminating the “Indian Mutiny”, (War of Independence) the British got serious in India. The sloppy command of the East India Company was replaced by the British Army that brought the situation in control Spring boarding from the conquest of India, he tried to establish the seeds of a global British Empire that would face the Europeans rivals, the Russians and the Chinese, the pre-eminent powers of the time. Lord Curzon presided over the “High noon of the Empire” and wanted to take it to new heights.
INDIA’S ATTEMPT TO EMULATE CURZON:
After subjugating “India” Drunk with victory, Cruzon wanted to rule the world.
“Lord Curzon celebrated India’s importance in The Place of India in the Empire (1909): The central position of India, its magnificent resources, its teeming multitude of men, its great trading harbors, its reserve of military strength, supplying an army always in a high state of efficiency and capable of being hurled at a moment’s notice upon any point either of Asia or Africa–all these are assets of precious value. On the West, India must exercise a predominant influence over the destinies of Persia and Afghanistan; on the north, it can veto any rival in Tibet; on the north-east . . . it can exert great pressure upon China, and it is one of the guardians of the autonomous existence of Siam. The New Great Game; Why the Bush administration has embraced India.Twining, Daniel
Curzon argued that the defense of the Empire entailed protection of the entire region between Kabul and the Amu Darya (Oxus river) to the North, Colombo to the South, the Makran coast (now in Pakistan) to the West and Mandalay in Burma to the East. Lord Curzon seemed to think that that the Britain’s future lay in capturing and holding Central Asia.
“Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia – to many these words breathe only a sense of utter remoteness or a memory of strange vicissitudes and of moribund romance. To me, I confess, they are the pieces a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the domination of the world.
“Because the successors of the Turkish Ottomans were unwilling and unable to exercise the right to rule many of their Turkish subjects in Eastern Turkistan, Britain evaluated her own right to rule these lands. After the defeat of Britain in Kabul, later British policy abdicated the right to rule Central Asia to Russia.India is considered by many as the successor state to the British Empire in India.
Many of India’s leaders think of “India” as the land stretching from the Hindu Kush Mountains to the mythical land of Raj Kumari beyond Bali in Indonesia. These were the lands that Hindus lived in for centuries. After solidly defeating Pakistan in 1971, Indira Gandhi seemed to appreciate this notion of Indian Grandeur beyond the Subcontinent. This means physical control of the territory and also a string of satellite states circumnutating the country itself. Of course, this does not mean physical control of the geographical area thus delineated by Curzon. Unfriendly regimes are not to be tolerated in Indian sphere of influence the “security zones”, Curzon’s concept later refined by President Munro of the United States and named after him as the Munro Doctrine.To understand the historical basis of the Singh Doctrine, and the events in Central Asia, we need to look at some snippets of history.
1813: The Treaty of Gulistan forces the Persian Shah to surrender all his territory north of the River Aras, including Georgia, Baku and naval rights on the Caspian Sea
1835 Dost Mohammad secretly approaches the Russians regarding getting help to recapture Peshawar from Ranjit Singh, an ally of Britain (Oct.)
1839: THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR ENDS IN EARLY CAPTURE OF KABUYL BUT REAL DEFEAT FOR THE BRITISH: Robert Bremmer publishes Excursions in the Interior of Russia and the Marquis de Custine publishes La Russe en 1839, both of which warn of Russia’s designs in Asia. The British invade Afghanistan via the Sind, launching the First Afghan War (spring). The British enter Kabul without a fight, Dost Mohammad having fled (July)
1841: Conolly arrives in Bukhara (Nov.) Burnes and others are murdered by a mob in Kabul (Nov.). Sir William Mcnaghten, political head of the British mission to Kabul, and others are murdered by Mohammad Akbar Khan, son of Dost Mohammad (Dec.)
1842: The British, under General William Elphinstone, leave Kabul after Akbar agrees to guarantee their safety, but are massacred by Afghan tribesmen en route to the British garrison at Jalalabad (Jan.)
1849 : The British seize the Punjab, detaching Kashmir as a separate state with a ruler friendly to them 1898 Russia gains the warm water naval base of Port Arthur from the Chinese. Lord Curzon becomes Viceroy of India
“Independent India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, shared Curzon’s expansive vision, declaring India “the pivot round which the defense problems of the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia revolve.” Wary Chinese strategists perceive a continuity of strategic design from Curzon to the Congress party today, accusing Nehru at that time of harboring ambitions for a “greater Indian empire,” and more recently criticizing India’s aspirations for “global military power.”
“China and India,” writes the Carnegie Endowment’s Ashley Tellis, “appeared destined for competition almost from the moment of their creation as modern states.” The New Great Game. Daniel Twining
LANDMINES ON THE ROUTE TO DUSHAMBE: At first glance the Singh move into Dushambe, was nothing less than a diplomatic and military coup. In one stroke the Indian Government ”took over” the republic of Tajikistan. Not only did India now have a military base in the Central Asian Republic, but India also gave Tajikistan a loan of $40 million to allow Indian companies to have free reign in the economic aspects of Tajikistan
INDIA WANTS TO THREATEN CHINA CONTAIN PAKISTAN:The Singh strategy goes beyond the desire to clearly encircle Pakistan and face China in the coming few decades. India’s presence in Afghanistan along with her presence in the Central Asian Republic allows her to claim regional status and goes towards her goal of a world power aspiring to become a permanent seat on United National Security Council and a say in world affairs. The current regime in Afghanistan prefers Afghanistan to become an Indian vassal than to remain an independent country tied to Pakistan.
By establishing the military base in Dushambe, India painted a red target on herself for not only all those that oppose the governments in those states, but also for her rivals in South and Central Asia, namely, China, Pakistan and Iran. Geographically Tajikistan is north of Pakistan separated by a narrow strip of Afghanistan that was created by the British Raj to separate the British Empire from the Russian Empire. The British had an “on to the Oxus Policy” and a few years later they retreated back to the Khyber pass leaving Afghanistan alone.Unable to control her own militancy in Kashmir, India now is poised to be bogged down in Tajiskistan and Kashmir.
Her charges of the militants moving back and forth between Kashmir, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics are now to be come a self-fulfilling prophecy, since there is now reason for all the “Hizbs” (Hizb e Tahrir and Hizb e Mujiheen) to cooperate with each other. To understand India’s move, we have to understand the the Central Asian republics are going through what can be described as Civil War.
Of course this is not covered in the mainstream or even the Muslim media. Some even consider America’s move into Afghanistan and Iraq to prevent the establishment of super state in Central Asia that would rival Russia and create a new power center to be dealt with. Neither Bolsevik decimation nor absolute Stalinist brutality, nor Putin’s dictatorship have been able to eliminate the desire of the Muslims of the Valley of Ferghana in Tajikistan, Karghyistan, Kasikhistan, Uzbekistan etc to come together under one flag. To take a peek into current affairs, w are witnissign the birth of a nation. All the growing pains are there. The aspirations of the people of Central Asia may allow them independence and control of their enormous oil wealth.
The antithesis of the Singh Doctrine is the Chaudry Rehmat Ali Doctrine. We have discussed the Chaudry Rehmat Ali Doctrine as accepted by General Hamid Gul that aspires to establish Pakistan as the focul point of the problems faced by the Central Asian Republics and what India will have to face in the coming decades, if it continues to follow the imperial policy of Lord Curzon.
“What Brown and his Foreign Office advisers wilfully fail to understand is that the tactical victory in Afghanistan in 2001, achieved with bombs, has become a strategic disaster in south Asia. Exacerbated by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the current turmoil in Pakistan has its contemporary roots in a Washington-contrived war in neighbouring Afghanistan that has alienated the Pashtuns who inhabit much of the long border area between the two countries. This is also true of most Pakistanis, who, according to opinion polls, want their government to negotiate a regional peace, rather than play a prescribed part in a rerun of Lord Curzon’s Great Game.John Pilger
Eurasia Insight: Stephen Blank: 1/11/08
TAJIK BASE SUGGESTS MOSCOW CAUGHT IN DIPLOMATIC VICIOUS CYCLE
India and Russia have traditionally had cordial relations, underpinned by New Delhi’s status as a prime buyer of Russian-made arms and military equipment. These strong ties enabled the Kremlin to sanction India’s efforts to establish a strategic beachhead in Central Asia, specifically at a Tajik air base at Ayni, about 15 kilometers outside the capital Dushanbe, and at a medical facility in Farkhor, near the Tajik-Afghan border. India has maintained a presence at the Ayni base since 2002, spending an estimated $1.77 million on upgrading the facility.
From New Delhi’s standpoint, seeking a permanent presence in Central Asia makes both economic and strategic sense. It would improve India’s response capability to a crisis in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, as well as potentially help India’s efforts to secure wider access to Central Asian energy supplies. As recently as mid-2006, reports were circulating that New Delhi was on the verge of deploying as many as 12 MiG fighter-bombers at Ayni — a development that would mark the establishment of India’s first military base beyond its borders. The deployment was initially delayed due to problems with India’s ability to upgrade Ayni. The base was not capable of accommodating the jets until mid 2007, when renovations were finally completed about two years behind schedule.
At about the same time in 2006 that India was contemplating MiG deployment, Russian and Indian diplomats opened discussions on the possibility of enlarging the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and on India’s possible role within the group. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. By engaging India, Moscow seemed clearly interested in trying to check rising Chinese influence in Central Asia, especially given China’s own efforts to establish a military presence in the region, and for Beijing’s refusal to turn the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into a military alliance.
When India was finally ready to proceed with making Ayni fully operational, Russia was having second thoughts. And during the latter half of 2007, Moscow let it be known that it not only opposed Indian deployment, but it also began pressuring President Imomali Rahmon’s administration in Dushanbe to revoke Indian access to the base. About 150 Indian military personnel, mainly engineers and support staff, have been stationed at Ayni.
Russia’s policy change, according to analysts, is connected to possible shifts in the international arms market. Available sources in India strongly suggest that Moscow is concerned that New Delhi is becoming too close to the United States in general, and, in particular, too close to US defense firms. Over the next few years India is scheduled to buy $40 billion in weapons systems from foreign providers, and already it has released a tender for 126 fighter jets. Military aircraft manufacturers, including the US giants Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, have until late February to submit bids. The American firms are competing against Russia’s Mikoyan Design Bureau, maker of the “MiG” line of combat aircraft.
Indian sources believe that Moscow’s pressure on Dushanbe reflects its anger and apprehension that a valued and long-standing client, namely India, might well turn to Russia’s main rival in the weapons business. This would be a significant loss to Russia’s defense industry since India has been the Russian defense industry’s largest client and longest-serving customer.
Difficulties with recent arms purchases and negotiations have helped spur speculation that India might look elsewhere for weapons. With Moscow’s coffers filled with oil money, the Russian military is in the process of giving itself a total make-over after falling into a state of decay following the Soviet collapse in 1991. Russian defense manufacturers are presently having a tough time keeping up with domestic demand, and this is causing serious delays in the meeting of its export obligations to countries like India and China. In addition to delays, Indian officials have reportedly been miffed by the shoddy quality of some recent deliveries, and Russian efforts to drag out ongoing negotiations in order to extract a higher price.
Given the pattern established by Moscow in its energy dealings, the Ayni base matter may well be Russia’s not-so-subtle way of threatening New Delhi: Either give Mikoyan the military jet contract, or else kiss the base goodbye.
Beyond attempting to pressure both local governments and third parties outside Central Asia by squeezing their interests there, Moscow’s stance toward India betrays growing apprehension about the Kremlin’s geopolitical influence in Central Asia. It is clear that Moscow wishes to have controlling influence over the region’s political and economic affairs. But after experiencing a rapid rise in its influence in 2005-2006, Russian influence may again be on the ebb, as the region’s wealth of energy resources is providing political leaders, especially those in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, with leverage to resist Russian pressure.
As recent energy deals with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan show, it is costing Russia ever more money to obtain energy form Central Asia. Central Asian governments are all increasingly able to conduct a “multi-vector” foreign policy, playing off regional powers — including Russia, China, the United States, and even India — for the maximum political and economic benefit.
In Tajikistan’s case, Dushanbe does not enjoy anywhere near the same level of foreign policy latitude as has been achieved by some of its bigger neighbors, namely Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Even so, Rahmon’s administration has grown more confident in itself over the past few years, as it has managed to establish a tight grip over domestic political life. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Thus, Moscow’s efforts to bully India, and by extension Tajikistan, could easily emerge as a source of irritation in Russian-Tajik relations.
Ultimately, the Ayni base issue highlights the fact that Russia may be caught up in a vicious diplomatic cycle, in which it must rely increasingly on coercion in order to get erstwhile loyal friends and neighbors to go along with the Kremlin’s economic and strategic wishes. Such a cycle can spin for only so long before it experiences a breakdown.
Editor’s Note: Stephen Blank is a professor at the US Army War College. The views expressed this article do not in any way represent the views of the US Army, Defense Department or the US Government.
|Mr. Moin Ansari the author, is a free lance journalist, a columnist, and a Senior Fellow with the International Center of Strategic Studies. He has three Bachelor’s degrees including one in International Relations, General History and Political Science, and an MBA. He is President of AJMA (Dialogue between the Children of Abraham). He is the CEO of own consulting business in East Hanover New Jersey. Contact Moinansari@aol.com. This is a seed article for the ICSS White Paper on Central Asia|
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