20 August 2017

For past 70 yrs, India’s fauj has been its strongest shield


Seven decades later, this security challenge over contested territoriality remains intractable if the current developments apropos Pakistan and China are taken into account.

India at 70 is a special punctuation — three score and ten — and the very symbolism of attaining ‘azadi’ or freedom from colonial oppression has a resonance that the younger generation may not quite appreciate. Yet, this nascent sovereignty and territorial integrity was threatened very soon — in October 1947, over Kashmir.

Seven decades later, this security challenge over contested territoriality remains intractable if the current developments apropos Pakistan and China are taken into account. However, India has faced the many complex challenges that have come its way over the last 70 years with a resolve and tenacity that is admirable and the role of the Indian military and the soldier merits attention.

If the last 70 years are disaggregated in slivers of 14 — the first phase till 1961 was one of heady optimism under then PM Nehru. India occupied a politico-diplomatic perch that was unprecedented on the global stage, and the concept of non-alignment found ready acceptance in large parts of Asia and Africa. The wresting of Goa from colonial rule in 1961 seemed to indicate a certain steely resolve where the core national security interest was concerned.

However, the second period from 1962 to 1975 saw India being ‘taught a lesson’ by China in October 1962. Nehru died a broken man and the need to acquire appropriate military capability and accept objective professional advice on matters of national security was internalised. Delhi grew closer to Moscow even as the US-China axis altered the contour of the Cold War. The birth of Bangladesh in December 1971 under the leadership of PM Indira Gandhi restored the ‘izzat’ of the tricolour and the fauj.

The third phase (1976-89) was a period of military modernisation and consolidatio n by India. Externally, the regional and global security and strategic domain was becoming inimical to the Indian interest. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 and the rise of Islamic radicalism morphing into terrorism occurred during this phase, and it was compounded by China-Pakistan strategic cooperation leading to Rawalpindi acquiring covert nuclear weapon capability.

The fourth phase (1990–2003) was co-terminus with the end of the Cold War, symbolised by the disintegration of the Soviet Union — that became ‘former.’ But internal security and the scourge of terrorism in J&K in particular — stoked as they were by Pakistan — have bedevilled the Indian establishment. This phase was also distinctive for the manner in which India dealt with the nuclear issue, and in May 1998 declared itself a state with nuclear weapons. This one act changed Delhi’s locus in the global strategic grid definitively and the Kargil war of 1999 consolidated India’s profile as a ‘responsible’ nation.

The most recent phase — the fifth, is significant for the rapprochement that has been realised in the long troubled and uneasy India- US bilateral. Initiated in 2005 by the George Bush-Manmohan Singh combine, this was brought to fruition in late 2008 and I would characterise this a very significant and positive strategic development for India.

The greatest achievement for India — as a postcolonial nation — in normative terms, is the adherence to the liberal democratic principle for the last 70 years (barring the brief emergency period) and the manner in which this has been enshrined in the Constitution.

Threats and challenges to national security, whether by way of disputed territoriality or internal security attacks a la Mumbai 2008, will have to be addressed and requisite capability acquired. India now sees itself as a ‘leading power’, but this profile will need a credible military underpinning.

Many of the post-Kargil security domain reforms need to be completed, and hopefully there will be a full-time Defence Minister soon. And the robust Indian democratic trajectory, with all its attendant turbulence and discord, will continue to be enabled by a professional and apolitical ‘fauj’, which rises to the occasion unfailingly — every time.

Jai Hind.

The writer, a former Commodore in the Indian Navy, is Director, Society for Policy Studies, Delhi. Views expressed are personal.

No comments: