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Opinion

The interaction between politics and the military: analysis

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In his inaugural speech on February 5 at DefExpo 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set an ambitious and ambitious goal for India: “We must ensure that defense exports cross ~ Rs 35,000 million.” The image of the prime minister holding a rifle and aiming, with a determined look, added to the perception of a leader committed to national security, an issue that Modi repeatedly dealt with in his pre-voting campaign for the Delhi elections. Noting that India had exported military hardware worth ~ Rs 17,000 million in the past two years, the prime minister, in effect, sought to double this figure. Realizing this objective in the stipulated time will be arduous and will require a concerted approach in mission mode. Modi said with confidence that defense manufacturing would be driven by the new department of military affairs (DMA), headed by the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS).

Earlier, on February 4, General Bipin Rawat, the first CDS, shared some of his preliminary thoughts with a select group of journalists on the restructuring of the military building and, in passing, stopped at the need to focus on improving capabilities of indigenous defense. Among others, the CDS made some other statements that seemed intriguing.

Together, DefExpo 2020, Prime Minister Modi’s statements and the CDS statements point to an anomalous pattern that is evolving in India: the gradual prioritization of national political compulsions over national security regulatory imperatives. DefExpo, which shows India as a nascent exporter of military inventory and among the world’s leading arms importers, was traditionally held in Delhi since its inception, but since the ninth edition in 2016, the place moved to other places, maybe related to constituency considerations. .

Former Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar moved the exposure to Goa in 2016. His successor, Nirmala Sitharaman, passed it to Chennai in 2018. And now, under the supervision of Rajnath Singh, the event moved to Lucknow. If Uttar Pradesh has the necessary ecosystem and infrastructure to emerge as a viable defense manufacturing center it remains debatable.

The compulsions of the policy were discernible in the first mandate of the government of the National Democratic Alliance, in which the prime minister could not retain a dedicated defense minister despite the sincere statements that underline his commitment to security and defense reforms . Thus, in Modi 1.0, India had four headlines as defense ministers: Arun Jaitley, Manohar Parrikar, Jaitley again and then Sitharaman. At that time, internal political events in Goa saw Parrikar take office as Goa’s prime minister almost overnight.

In the 2019 general elections, the Pulwama-Balakot episode allowed the Modi government to project its military determination as a winning card, and this strategy has been invoked again in the period prior to the Delhi elections. Pakistan is chosen as the permanent enemy and the most recent internal political protests on the Citizenship Law (Amendment) have been skillfully packaged, but potentially dangerous, as “anti-nationals”, in support of jihadi terrorism and an insult to the memory of the brave soldier. In summary: the citizen who participates in a peaceful protest or decides to vote for a party other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), now presents itself as a threat to security and deplorable exhortation “Goli maaro saalon ko (shoot the scoundrels) “is part of the militarization of the prevailing political discourse. The observations of the CDS, however, are disconcerting and indicative of this nascent internalization of political discourse by the military apex. Specific to the fiscal allocation for armed forces, General Rawat said that the budget allocated to the armed forces was adequate and added: “The administration of the budget is critical. The budget is more a matter of management than a matter of adequate funds.”

This goes against the cautious statements made by successive chiefs of service for decades that the general allocation is inadequate to maintain the operational advantage that the security environment guarantees. It should be remembered that in Modi 1.0, deficiencies in the military inventory were highlighted by the permanent parliamentary defense committee, headed by Major General BC Khanduri (retired), a veteran of BJP, in 2016. The report warned: “It can be said that budget cuts leave the possibility of having adverse implications for the security of the country. “Khanduri committee made similar precautionary observations in 2018 on capital budget allocations for military modernization. One presumes that General Rawat as head of the Army would have been more than aware of the cannibalization of the main platforms that now prevails in the Indian forces to maintain a minimum operational preparation.The prioritization of political compulsion was evident in the fact that despite its objective and thorough review of the deficiencies in the national security apparatus, General Khanduri was dismissed from his job Or, is there any sign here on the line that should not be crossed?

It is ironic that anxiety about the politicization of the military has been overcome by the open militarization of Indian discourse and political practice. This is not desirable and the PM must take the necessary corrections.

Uday Bhaskar is director of the Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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