It was supposed to have been a courtesy call inquiring about the defence force officer’s health and well-being. But the officer, who had seen J&K at close quarters, and was in the hospital to recover from the injuries received, was in no mood to be patronised.
He had one stinging observation: If you guys think that the Sensex crossing 30,000 is top news on the day when your own army soldiers were beheaded in your own territory, you should stop talking about national security. It is a joke.
One wonders why India’s media has no appetite for a real discussion on national security when it can spare real estate on fake coup attempts and “experts” – i.e. bureaucrats talking about civilian supremacy and the necessity of an “apolitical” army. This they do without questioning the experts on why they sat in judgement on files related to urgent defence requirements for procedures and other considerations.
The crisis of India’s national security stems, in this author’s humble analysis, from the following conceptual failings:
The founding fathers of the Republic of India accepted the European concept of a country, nation and territorial sovereignty based on Westphalia Treaty of the 17th century as paramount. They penned it as Article 1 of the Constitution itself. From then on, India has tasked its armed forces to maintain its territory even to the “peril” of their lives.
But while doing so, the founding fathers perhaps failed to realise that the departing British rulers may have raised the bogey of the military takeover in independent India to suit their Cold War aims in the region. The realpolitik practised by the Raj helped create an India where the two most critical systems – the defence and civil bureaucracy – were put at loggerheads.
Amazingly, Indians somehow forgot that the military-civilian systems had performed in absolute sync when they were under the British Governor General. And it was these two systems that had not only fought two World Wars successfully but also managed to keep domestic law and order functioning despite a freedom struggle directed against them.
In fact, the two systems were the key cogs that were able to prolong British rule over India through a divide-and-rule policy towards the freedom struggle. The crowning glory was the creation of Pakistan, which was meant to be a bulwark against Soviet Russia in the Great Game and the Cold War.
The injected paranoia about military rule was quite ironical because, on the one hand, we talked anti-colonialism but we allowed the same colonial British, who started the ruse of a military coup, to remain key decision makers in independent India’s defence stances. Little wonder then that India was advised to stop the J&K campaign when the advantage was with it. It is highly unlikely that India’s British advisors did not know that Pakistan’s invasion was aided by English officers in the Gilgit Scouts.
On the public level, the narrative was manipulated to reinforce the image of police and military as violent men bludgeoning non-violent freedom rallies. Thereby, the demand for the need of a strong leash through civilian supremacy of the military and police was created and achieved. The sad reflection of this naïve and delusional state was the aspersions of a coup cast on India’s first General K.S. Thimmaya when he had no such plans!
Some blame, of course, lies with the high brass of independent India’s armed forces, with few notable exceptions, for allowing the idea of civilian supremacy to pass the muster and then by allowing the bureaucracy to roughshod over them.
Otherwise, it is difficult to understand how these men allowed the allotted defence funds to be returned as “unused” when they themselves were crying hoarse about India’s security challenges!
In the daily rush for bread, what also escapes the attention of common Indians is that the civilian bureaucracy, which raised the bogey of a military takeover, ensured its own primacy in terms of salaries and perks. Consequently, roads will be built to the villages and homes of the common jawan only when VIPs are expected to come to lay a wreath on his coffin.
Strangely, the same bureaucracy also wants the military to control riots and give relief in floods partially created by its own mismanagement. One can only imagine the disgust that such treatment must be creating in the minds of the defence forces.
No wonder they privately think of common Indians as “bloody civilians”.
Common Indians also seem to have never cared to understand and accept that the world today is based on nation states and their country is also a construct based on the Westphalian system.
Indians have, of course, accepted the trappings of the Westphalian-based state such as constitutional posts, ceremonies and other such shows of power. But they have failed to understand that the constructs such as universal brotherhood, etc. are incompatible with this Westphalian nation state where national interest is paramount.
They have failed to understand that their borders are now sacrosanct in all situations. Consequently, they are gullible enough to accept portrayals of citizens of neighbouring states as long lost brothers.
This failing has consequently created in Indians the inability to distinguish between strategic and tactical situations.
The baying for blood in retaliation for the beheaded Indian soldiers is an example of this strategic incompetence. According to this popular perception, a retaliatory border raid on Pakistan will be a sufficient “lesson” for it. The cycle of surprise, anger, and call for revenge will repeat the next time Pakistan does something similar.
If one looks objectively at the LoC happenings, it would be clear that surgical strikes and fire assaults are unlikely to deter the Pakistan army. Clearly, the problem lies somewhere else.
Perhaps it lies in how Pakistan has understood the gridlock created by the British in India’s society and psyche. So India’s society wants territorial sovereignty but is allergic to the use of violence by the state and at the same time, considers its duty to achieve universal peace. As a result, the society values world opinion over its own well-being and interprets such praise as milestones in the aim of attaining superpower status.
Consequently, India’s society buys the nonsense of “non-state” actors committing murder and mayhem amidst its homes when the source of the violence is crystal clear. It is also somehow ever willing to sue for peace with the chief prosecutor of the violence hurting it. It also allots the biggest benefit of the doubt to terrorists killing its members but will not blink an eye before sending its own soldiers into jails for the slightest error. Pakistan, therefore, only needs to aid the discord in India through pious statements, carefully controlled delegation visits and espouse humanitarian ideals with a desire for better “people-to-people” ties.
Perhaps, India needs to learn from Pakistan that cunning was, is and will be the criterion to survive in a world without a higher appellate body. It was the sharp-eyed focus on national interest with which Jinnah was able to create Pakistan by gutting India. He promised his country’s support to the West in the Cold War, which then deftly switched sides towards China as the U.S. dominance seemed to gradually decline.
Indians need to introspect rather than curse Pakistan or China. Neither of them treats their military as cannon fodder the way Indians do. “Soldiers are meant to die” is the popular modern Indian perception and propagated almost automatically in the mass media.
At the same time, leaders themselves suggest soldiers’ perks and facilities as dead weight on the nation but are never asked to answer their charges in times of conflict. It is almost like that when the time comes; soldiers better die and cover up the failures of the political and bureaucracy. This happened in the 1962 war with China and in the 1999 conflict in Kargil.
The armed forces have to take the blame for perpetuating this perception of being disposable souls by projecting a readiness to become martyrs for the nation as their foremost quality. They seem to have forgotten that won wars are not won by dying, but by killing the enemy before you are attacked and then staying alive.
Quoting Kautilya in a doctrine text that first glorifies martyrdom is a sign that the authors and top brass have not really understood Kautilya’s cunning and focus on pre-emption of eliminating enemies.
The paranoia about military coup has also scuttled all talk of compulsory national service in India. It is a strange situation where the school textbooks preach duty towards the country and fellow countrymen but there is nothing that forces Indians to practise it in real life. Consequently, most Indians never see the vastness of the country, neither its borders nor its people. To expect such a country to get its act together is high hope.
Because like the officer said: They came and butchered 173 of you. What did you do?
*AdityaSurya is an expert on geopolitical issues.