‘Don’t mix electoral politics with macroeconomics, macro-strategic matters’ (Book Review)

Indias rise is inevitable despite current pitfalls or past mistakes but for that electoral politics needs to be kept apart from macroeconomics and macro-strategic matters while greater synergy is required in civil-military matters and the country considers the instrument of military diplomacy to further national interests with many countries being governed by military/quasi military governments, says a new compilation of 19 scholarly articles on the roadmap ahead for the nation.

“Notwithstanding any current pitfalls or past mistakes made by the nation, India’s rise is inevitable. However, all governments in India must remember the lessons of Indian history down the ages, where lack of unity within had crippled India’s stability. An essentially diverse and large nation like India requires all its 1.3 billion people to march in unison and thus respect and celebrate its diversity and secularism,” writes Lieutenant General Kamal Davar (retd) as he distils the essence of the 19 articles in “Securing India’s Rise – A Vision for the Future” ((Bloomsbury).

“The country must never mix electoral politics with crucial macroeconomics and macro-strategic matters. Politicians who accentuate societal fault lines must be shunned by the people. We should never forget that all political dispensations and personalities are transient but the nation is eternal. All stakeholders must earnestly strive to strengthen our institutions independent of political influence. Our leadership, both in the states and at the Centre, has to recognise that India is bigger than the sum of all its parts. Only statesmen—lofty, visionary and selfless—must lead the nation for only the noble and self-sacrificing will be able to take this nation forward to its yet unattained glory,” writes Davar, whose distinguished military career spanned 41 years.

Simultaneously, in peacetime, defence planning has to be conscientiously undertaken so that the nation is fully prepared for all probable conflict situations across the entire spectrum of warfare. Defence planning must emerge from national security and military strategies and, thus, sound civil–military interaction following guidance from the political leadership is a sine qua non.

Unfortunately, in India, since Independence, “civil and military harmony, which translates into effective decision-making as regards security matters, has not been of the desired order. Our political authorities are fully aware of the loyalty of the armed forces to the nation’s democratic values, constitutional fidelity and their unique non-political orientation. Accordingly, the government must make full use of the talents and dedication of the senior military hierarchy in strategic affairs,” Davar says.

“As the relatively new office of the CDS (Chief of Defence Staff) endeavours to address this long-standing shortcoming, a most important task for him is to work with the government to issue a well-conceived and implementable national security strategic document. The armed forces must work with clarity and mission orientation on the short-term, mid-term and long-term perspectives. Additionally, inter-ministerial coordination in security aspects needs to be further synergised,” he adds.

“However, since Independence, overall defence planning and serious interaction between bureaucracies and the civil as well as military leadership have remained lacking of the desired order… Besides, India requires a fully integrated MoD (Ministry of Defence), wherein the military leadership remains fully in the loop of strategic defence planning and contributes towards decision-making regarding both external and internal security. The CDS should formally be inducted into all discussions held by the Cabinet Committee on Security,” Davar says.

This is all the more necessary as Indian diplomacy, at the bilateral and multilateral levels, has had its ups and downs but, unfortunately, has been more reactive than initiative based and, “in the last few years, there have been many upheavals in the existing world order and Indian diplomacy will have to adapt to the new dynamics as they emerge”.

“With many countries of the world being governed by military/quasi military governments, India may also consider using the instrument of military diplomacy to further national interests,” Davar maintains.

More so, as the Indo–Pacific ‘Great Game’ intensifies into maritime rivalry, India will have to ensure its naval preparedness both on its eastern and western seaboards. The Indian Navy’s operational requirement for a third aircraft carrier and additional submarines must be catered to so as to enable it to carry out its missions in the vast Indo–Pacific expanse.

Fortunately, India is blessed with an advantageous maritime geography and can dominate both the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands confer on India the relatively easy strategic capability to augment China’s ‘Malacca Strait Dilemma’ while dominating the sea-lanes towards China.

“As India gears up to combat a confrontationist China all across the Himalayan region, it must also shed its earlier strategic reticence and unequivocally support the provision of military muscle for the QUAD concept. Banning of Chinese apps and reducing imports from China, especially in the hi-tech telecommunications sector such as the controversial Huawei 5G deal, is a step in the correct direction taken by the Indian government,” Davar says.

“Overall, by all indicators, non-military and military, China’s not-so-peaceful rise and its defiance of established international norms must propel all other countries to synergise their resources to contain and manage China’s ever growing global ambitions. Its vastly superior information warfare capabilities and cyber and space challenges also need to be monitored and technologically negated,” he adds.

At the bottom line, the China-originated COVID-19 pandemic, “which has caused unimaginable havoc and misery to the entire world, throws up many lessons for India, which need to be thoroughly analysed as the future may see worse manmade pandemics”.

“Was this pandemic an inadvertent lapse originating in China’s wet markets or its Wuhan-based laboratories or was it China’s deliberate attempt at testing a bio-warfare weapon—the jury is still out. Nevertheless, India, like the rest of the world, has to factor in the recurrence of such pandemics which may strike similar or even worse blows to humanity. India should play a leading role not only in medical research to prevent and contain such pandemics but also assist third-world nations in provisioning of medical aid,” Davar maintains.

“Securing India’s Rise” is a path-breaking anthology that is a must-read for intellectuals and those in the establishment, citizens, especially the youth, and all those who believe that India’s rise has to be secured for itself and the good of the region and the world.

The contributors include Admiral Arun Prakash (retd), General V.P. Malik (retd), Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda (retd), Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (retd), Brig. Sukhjit Singh (retd), Shyam Saran, Sharat Sabharwal, K.C. Singh, Bharat Karnad, Vikram Sood, Shashi Tharoor, Srikant Kondapally, Ajit Sahni, Mohan Guruswamy, Tilak Devaskar, Prakash Singh, Samir Saran, Seema Mustafa and Manish Tiwari.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)