BIMSTEC Needs both Economic and Defence Cooperation to Flourish

BIMSTEC Needs both Economic and Defence Cooperation to Flourish


BIMSTEC held a conclave recently at Kathmandu. Thereafter members of the BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation sent their Army Contingents for a Field Training Military Exercise to Pune. This exercise was known as BIMSTEC – MILEX 18.

Contingents from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka took part in the exercise. However Nepal and Thailand just sent their military observers. Now Thailand’s hesitation in becoming part of this “ military “ group is understandable but in case of Nepal, it requires serious thinking on part of both Indian Defence and Indian External Affairs Ministries and even the PMO.

While speaking at the sidelines of the closing ceremony of the BIMSTEC-MILEX 18. Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat Sunday said that countries like Nepal and Bhutan “have to be inclined to India because of geography”. On Nepal’s growing alignment with China, General Rawat said, “Countries like Nepal and Bhutan have to be inclined to India because of geography. Geography favours inclination towards India and as far as alliance (with China) is concerned, it is a temporary thing.”

At best he gave a very simplistic example of current relation between Pakistan and the US, General Rawat said such ties were temporary and bound to change along with the scenario at the global level. “The best example of this is the relation between America and Pakistan. It is not the same as what it used to be 70 years ago.

Therefore, we need not be bothered about all these issues. We need to concentrate on how to keep our country strong,” he said. He forgets that it is because of this very relationship India has had a virtual nightmare since 1948.

Yes, at that time even Americans wanted an Independent Kashmir for their selfish ends …..a base to monitor USSR, and an emerging China and even India also to keep an eye on Iran and Iraq. Pakistan then fulfilled this aim together with POK.

Now both Pakistan and USA are at odds because of the fact that Pakistan has become not only a hotbed of terrorism but an exporter too.

Also it is mainly because of Pakistan that USA finds the Afghanistan problem like an albatross round its neck. Secondly for all practical purpose China has stepped in and replaced USA as a military ally to Pakistan.

General Rawat said that India looked at China as a competitor because of “economics”. “They are looking for a market and so are we. There is competition. Whoever does it better will win the race,” General Rawat said.

As a General he forgets that ECONOMICS is just one aspect of the Strategic manoeuvre for dominance, there are military, diplomatic and cultural aspects too.

The General is of the view that just because India is a big country, others will follow its lead. This may not work out like this and the current happenings in Maldives is a clear indicator.

Even RRM Subhash Bhamre, while addressing the press at the military function was surely caught off guard on the issue of Nepal not participating. Though being an obvious issue he should have given a much better reply.

Saying that Nepal had participated by way of sending observers was just a laughable answer. “They (Nepal) have sent their observers so there was participation from them.

We need not look at any other angle,” he added. That no one in MoD or the Army HQ or PMO or External Affairs had given it a thought was clear from this statement of the Rajya Raksha Mantri – “In all the previous summits they (Nepal) have participated.

This time it was a military exercise and this is the same period when their command changed (new General taking over as CoAS of the Nepal Army).”

As General Rawat rightly brought out that India believes in developing relations with its neighbours. However it has to be a joint effort by the Govt Of India and every ministry has to be serious about it.

Maldives, Nepal, Myanmar even Bhutan and Bangladesh have felt our indifferent attitude some time, many a times or all the time. We have to be serious about the whole thing, half hearted measures will not do.

The length of porous Indo Nepal border is around 1750 kms. It is guarded by Sashatra Seema Bal, with virtually no Army Units even nearby. There is just one Mountain Division, a GHQ reserve, available nearest.

China has already developed enough infrastructure in Tibet and now there was an article regarding a Bullet train from Beijing to Kolkata via Kathmandu. All very thrilling.

However just for a moment, if we think of a scenario where this border either becomes hostile itself or there is a danger of Forces pouring into Nepal from Tibet and then onwards to this border of ours then what happens ?

Presently General Rawat is talking about reduction of Army’s strength by a whooping 150000 men. In case the above nightmarish scenario comes alive even partly then our Central Command will need raising of at least two Corps HQ with six Divisions if not a third Corps.

Another food for thought …..In 1971 East Pakistan had around 3 Divisions, two ad hic divisions and assorted troops but today Bangladesh is having three Corps HQ with around 10 Divisions and assorted troops.