THE SINGH DOCTRINE (Part I)
Resurrecting Lord Curzon’s vision of Imperial India
Resurrecting Lord Curzon’s vision of Imperial India
The repercussions of the tectonic event are being felt like a tsunami in Pakistani today.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. This military base combined with a massive $40million Aid package to Dushambe allows India unprecedented clout in Central Asia. Is 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 has long term consequences for Central Asia, the Middle East, Pakistan and China. In a look West policy, has Russia abdicated her rights to Central Asia and given them to India? Will this perceived “imperialism” be defeated? 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? This monograph attempts to answer these questions. The entry of the 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 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, 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 Springboarding 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 Empire” and wanted to take it to new heights.. He 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 seemd 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.)
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
Thus the British move into Afghanistan was a total failure and British retreated back to the Khyber Pass and ruled India from the Khyber to Burma.
At first glance the Singh move into Dushambe, may seem that in nothing less than what is to be considered a diplomatic and military coup. In one stroke the Indian Government has taken over the republic of Tajikistan. Not only does 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
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 has now 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. The second part of this article will deal with the Chaudry Rehmat Ali Doctrine as accepted by General Hamid Gul that aspires to establish Pakistan as the focul point of problems faced by the Central Aisan Republic and what India will have to face in the coming decades, if it continues to follow the imperial policy of Lord Curzon.
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