12 May 2017

**** Ashley Tellis’s recent testimony at U.S Senate Armed Services Committee

P K Mallick

I sent this e mail yesterday. Please read if you have the time.

Dear Prof Sen,

This is in response to your anguish and e mail to heads of two Indian Think Tanks on Ashley Tellis’s recent testimony at U.S Senate Armed Services Committee available at : http://carnegieendowment.org/…/protecting-american-primacy-… for Ashley Tellis's statement.

In last few years I had tried to generate number of discussions on Indian Think Tanks. I thought it is done and dusted. For one last time I am responding.

Ashley Tellis is like Kala Pahad. Kala Pahad after converting to Islam became the biggest destroyer of Hindu temples. Tellis was an Indian, educated at Mumbai. But then he is a US citizen now and promoting US interests is his sacred job. He is doing it perfectly well. Somehow we have this infatuation with PIOs. If CEOs of Google and Microsoft or other NRIs come to India, it is to promote their business interest of USA. We, media, everybody go gaga, how much Google is paying his CEO, etc. Please note, there is hardly any IITians who are there in ISRO or BARC, our Indian torch bearers, they are keeping the Indian flag high. These NRIs are flying US Flag!!

My point is the attitude of our, your coined word, “Lumpen Strategic Community”. When Tellis delivers a talk in India, this community literally drools over his talks, hardly anyone confronts him with hard facts, US interests vis a vis Indian interests etc. No wonder his name keeps popping up as US Ambassador to India, he has the ear of the highest of the land etc.

The moment the present Govt came to power Ashley proclaimed that Indian aircraft carriers should have arresters for their aircrafts to land. Obviously it was US business interest. I have not read much about the compatibility factor of US aircrafts landing on Russian designed aircraft carriers. There will be major issues but after the demise of erstwhile USSR it is all Newport lobby in the Navy. There is nobody like Adm Vishnu Bhagwat who can raise a flag.

Similarly Tellis is pushing for India to purchase 40 year old A110 Warthogs for India’s Close Air Support needs. It is a different matter that IAF does not recognise Close Air Support (CAS). For them it is Counter Surface Force Operations (CSFO). How much of multi million dollar multi role aircrafts can be committed to the messy non glamorous Tactical Battle Area is never discussed. As per IAF, they know the best what is required for the army, what is required for the land battle and do it accordingly. Army need not bother. Is there any need for changing the archaic Second World War model of calling air support for the land battle? Indian Army is too big to discuss these mundane issues.

Ashley Tellis is blatantly pushing for his master’s interest aggressively for a long time. What is new about his testimony at U.S Senate Armed Services Committee. He has been telling or writing in different forums things like these for a long time : US Govt must extract their pound of flesh for the nuclear agreement, Rising powers like India and China exist in the world made and protected by USA, They are not free to engage in security competition, the competition is contained by the superior power of USA. USA has that dampening force to exert, dump non alignment and do external balancing with the help of USA etc etc. If none of us protested or raised these issues then what is the big deal now

However we must give the devil its due. When Ashley Tellis gives a talk or writes he carries out detailed study on the subjects and he is well prepared for his talks. Same cannot be said about our “Lumpen Strategic Community”.

Let me give you an example.

I have heard Ashley Tellis speaking in an US think tanks. In one of his talks he spoke the following on India’s security interest vis a vis China :

Land Battle

India has had advantages on land. China found it extremely difficult to move forces from distance regions of China to critical border areas where conflict took place in 1962.

Critical population centres of India are much closer to Sino Indian borders than those of China. On China’s side there is huge, vast, unpopulated areas in complete contrast to Indian side which is heavily populated. India maintains large volume of forces close to border which makes reasonable strategic sense. China’s logistics was similar to Napoleon campaigns of in situ logistics. You use what you have. India’s land forces had tremendous advantages.

Things have changed in last 10 years. Because of Chinese economic growth infrastructure of roads, rails, airport, FOL etc in TAR has improved tremendously. China’s ability to maintain far larger forces in proximity to border areas has improved manifold. The balance India sought to maintain post 71 has been erased.

Air Battle.

IAF developed its capabilities to protect Indian airspace in the same way European Air Forces did during second world war days. Built and acquired most capable combat aviation platform money could buy, trained pilots well, made sure if there were intruders pilots could fly out to intercept and hopefully defeat them before they enter our air space. IAF had, post 71, larger air superiority component than china’s PLAAF meaning India had more number of fourth generation fighter aircrafts than China. Rightly IAF invested in quality than quantity. This has changed dramatically.

PLAAF was huge with old tech aircrafts. Today it consists of around 1800 aircrafts than earlier 5000 aircrafts. These smaller numbers have aircrafts that are technically equal or superior to the capabilities of Indian aircrafts. Their fourth generation component aircrafts are much larger than IAF. Indaian airfields are in plains compared to TAR airfields which are in high altitudes restricting pay loads of aircrafts. China is countering this problem with the use of air to air refueling.

IAF operates on assumption that it has the best aircrafts, pilots, Air Defence network. IAF will be able to destroy PLAAF in the air and protect Indian airspace. PLAAF realising this has developed a strategy that does not focus on air to air engagement. It has put an asymmetric strategy which intends not to defeat IAF in air but prevent it to leave the ground. China developed the capability of long range stand off precision strike capabilities, Ballistic Missiles, to prevent an aircraft from leaving the ground, whether that aircraft is based on Taiwan, Japan. South Korea, South East Asia or INDIA.

What is India’s strategy against this remains to be seen.

To avert IAF’s falling fortunes Tellis recommends :

More budgetary support for procurement.

Go through difficult choice of restructuring of forces, cannot afford to maintain kind of diversity it has.

Pay great deal of attention to combat enablers like Airborne Warning and Control Systems, tankers. UAVs, expanding stockpile of advance munitions.

All these require money, planning, support from political leadership.


In old days Indian Navy and Chinese Navy lived in IOR (Indian Ocean Region) in East and South China Seas, world apart. Today China is dependend on energy from Persian Gulf and raw materials from Africa. The Chinese Navy operates in IOR as a way of protecting its own SLOCs. This creates new challenges for Indian Navy. Previously Indian Navy attempted to manage India’s interests in IOR by developing balanced fleet capable of dominating surface, sub surface and air. Because of India’s geographical advantage, it was easy for India to manage its interests in IOR. Today the challenges are :

Long term Chinese Naval capability in IOR is not known.

China’s efforts to maintain its capability in the IOR do not consist of essentially sending large fleets to challenge the Indians. It may employ the same kind of strategy it has developed to deal with a much mightier fleet of US coming to assistance of Taiwan. Same like airpower strategy based on land based attack capability built on ballistic and cruise missiles designed to attack a fleet at very great distances from the shore. The capability developed against US Navy can easily be employed against India in IOR.

Critical Infrastructure

China’s capability to attack critical infrastructure either through precision attacks by ballistic or cruise missiles or non kinetic attacks like cyber are unparalleled. How does India protect its critical infrastructure against both kind of emerging attack capabilities? Though India recognises the serious problem, its decision making and internal political coordination is so sluggish that its ability to develop the antidotes required to protect against these threats remains seriously deficient.

Should China decide to bring down critical Indian infrastructures like telecom, banking, electrical power, aviation etc, on current trends China would not have a hard time doing so. Indian policy makers have spoken, spent a lot of time discussing this and aired it publicly. However there is a huge gap between ambitious plan and the implementation. India’s capacity to mount requisite defences have lagged considerably behind.

Internal Security

Chinese threat to India’s internal security is considerably muted compared to what it was 30 years ago. Those days China very actively encouraged insurgency in North East India, supported communist parties in india, engaged in a variety of subversive efforts that were targeted at Indian state. After the reforms program revolutionary ardour in China began to diminish. China reduced its support for insurgency in North East Iindia in the last decade. However the bad news is, it is remission of the problem and not termination.

There is enough structural instabilities in relation between China - India that should the security competition between China and India get out of control, Internal Security component may burst into more malignant form.

China understands that there is a dagger pointed at the heart of China whose handle exists in New Delhi. as long as Tibet remain imperfectly integrated in China, Tibetan political ambitions are not adequately satisfied, leadership of Tibetan community in exile continue to remain in India, Beijing recognises that India can, if it chooses to, make life very difficult to China.

It was a long discourse where Ashley tells has also touched upon economic issues and bilateral trade, nuclear issues and deterrence and finally prescribed four things that India should do. I am not putting those here. If you are interested I can write those.

You may say what is so great, what is new, we all know this etc etc. You may not agree with some of the points he has made, which is perfectly all right.

Point I want to emphasise is that I have not heard such discourses by Lumpen Strategic Community in any of our think tanks. Remember the analysis made by George Tanham of RAND corporation on IAF? Obviously IAF funded CAPS can’t do that. Is there any other think tank who can do this?

TATAs have donated $50 million to Harvard Business School. He wasn’t the only one, Infosys has given US$5.2 million and Mahindra Group has donated $10 million to the Harvard Humanities Centre. One wonders why they can’t encourage R&D activities in Indian Universities. Ashley Tellis has been appointed TATA Chair Professor in Carnegie Endowment. Ashley Telliss of this world do not come cheap. I wonder if that kind of money could be given to some Indian think tanks like Takhshilla of Nitin Pai with some specific projects. I hear the strategic partners of MOD are going to be announced soon. Is there a link.

RAND president and CEO Michael Rich addressed at the 2016 China Development Forum in Beijing on March 19, 2016. Some of the points brought out by him are :

RAND is an independent, nonprofit organization established nearly 70 years ago, thanks to efforts of the U.S. Air Force and the Ford Foundation. Our mission is to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. we operate the world’s largest Ph.D. program in public policy, which is integrated into our research operations in multiple ways. This enables us to teach and export the RAND approach to policy research and analysis. This is a powerful combination for carrying out our mission, because it melds the academic rigor and spirit of discovery and innovation of a university; the access, sharp client focus, and practicality of a consultancy; and the public engagement of a think tank.

RAND has been able to help governments at all levels with

• primary data collection, including sophisticated surveys, extensive field work, and case studies;

• deep historical analysis, including the legal and regulatory basis for policy;

• extensive international benchmarking and performance measurement;

• sophisticated modeling and simulation, as well as gaming;

• policy formulation and program design;

• thorough program evaluation using the world’s best multidisciplinary analysis, featuring quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods;

• independent cost assurance;

• capacity building for clients in both formal informal settings, among other things.

Our research and analysis have made numerous contributions to improving governance in many countries. Let me give you a few examples. RAND projects have

• identified, measured, and drawn attention to unrecognized but looming problems, such as the mounting societal cost of dementia and the extent of psychological and cognitive
injuries from combat;

• provided rigorous evidence of which programs are working and which ones are not;

• debunked policies that are popular but ineffective or too expensive, such as mandatory minimum sentences for crimes;

• enabled governments to make sound choices in the face of enormous political pressures,as when they have to decide which schools to close or make important source-selection decisions;

• helped governments tackle problems that cut across traditional bureaucratic jurisdictions,such as reducing the use of illicit drugs;

• produced new inventions (such as packet switching) and analytical techniques (such as game theory, dynamic, and, later, linear programming) that have been useful in both the public and private sectors.

RAND’s role is to help ensure that the most important decisions—the ones affecting the most people’s lives, the most public resources—are made with the best available evidence. That means

• the best data, even when we have to collect them;
• the best lessons from history;
• the best policy options based on the best ideas;
• the best analytical methods, even when we have to invent them;
• the best analysis;
• the best anticipation of implementation barriers; and so on.

Please tell me which Think Tank can do this kind of work that Rand Corporation does. They are all busy producing papers which are subjective in nature. Use of quantification methods, analytical tools, statistical processes, modern management techniques, data analytics, simulation, mathematical models etc are strict NO NOs.

People will remain in their comfort zones, protect their turfs, organize events( event management?), travel to the USA during summer months to educate them about Indian discourse or spill the beans. This would continue. The woods can be lovely dark and deep but the roots are very deep here, shaking them up is a difficult next to impossible task.

I am fed up saying Sannu ki. If somebody asks I would say Tennu ki.

With regards,

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