Gains that were chipped away
Vijay Mohan

India’s National Security: Military Challenges and Responses
by Maj Gen Kuldip Singh Bajwa (retd). Har-Anand publications, New Delhi. Pages 372. Rs 595.

DESPITE considerable armed power, India’s national security environment has become increasingly fragile. Over half a century of wars, conflicts and battle against externally-sponsored internal strife notwithstanding, the world’s largest democracy has failed to usher in durable peace. Shifts in geo-strategic environment coupled with deteriorating internal situation in some nation-states have thrown up greater, multi-dimensional challenges for the security establishment.

The global attention is shifting to the subcontinent for reasons ranging from strong economic growth, growing markets, untapped socio-economic potential of the region and growing energy consumption levels. Juxtaposed with this are some countries in the region becoming fountainhead of terrorism, inviting close global attention. Thus, the interests and presence of global players coupled with instability in the subcontinent is a matter of grave concern. A rising China with its focus on military modernisation and economic growth strategically encircling India and the presence of radical Islamic factions on both the Western and Eastern frontiers are among factors confronting the national leadership.

Indian leadership, it is often argued, seems to have overlooked the platitude that territorial integrity of a nation exercises a profound influence on the dynamics of its growth and development. Further, neither the leadership nor the people at large have clearly grasped the essential nature of armed power, which is to add convincing weightage to effective applicability of state craft in the pursuit of national territorial, economic, political interests.

It is with this backdrop that the author sets out to extract lessons and examine the conduct of Indian security policies, laying special emphasis to strategic integration of armed power into state craft.

This work is the first volume of the trilogy on India’s power dynamics and national security, in which the author examines the tentative initial discovery of armed power as an instrument of state policy in 1947-48, its degradation from1949 to the 1962 debacle and its subsequent resurgence in 1965. The author was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1946 and participated in all military operations from 1947 to 1971 before hanging up his boots in 1979.

The book is divided into 12 chapters and is supported by numerous maps and sketches depicting various operations. Starting-off by giving a perspective insight into the pre-Independence era, touching briefly upon the developing politico-military situations in the subcontinent and the impact of Islam, the author takes the reader through the dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir wars, the Sino-Indian confrontation and its aftermath.

The author is of the view that in the planning and conduct of military operations by the Indian Army, ad-hocism has been a constant practice. From the very first post-Independence operation undertaken to save Kashmir in 1947, the pattern had continued in every subsequent operation and was to the fore explicitly in the 1999 Kargil operations. This, he contends, reflects the lack of both, learning from past experiences and the exercise of strategic forethought to grasp the imperatives of the future.

In the run-up to all armed conflicts, a clearly annunciated geo-political aim was missing. In consequence, there was lack of definition of complementary geo-strategic objectives essential to safeguard and promote national interests, the author says. Thus, at the end of each armed conflict, gains made by the employment of armed power were thrown away.

The author has selected 11 military operations for close analysis, including the fracas in the Rann of Kutch in 1965, the Kargil operation in 1965 which was the first offensive planned and executed successfully after the 1948 cease-fire and subsequent various battles associated with Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam.

While drawing out his assessments and lessons, the author examines the operational plans of India as well as Pakistan, the shortcomings in logistics, failure of intelligence and poor assessment where available, the success and failures of commanders at various levels along with a glimpse into the personality cult of the leadership and its ramifications. The author opines that it emerges from contemporary history that Indian leadership had not adequately managed its geo-strategic environment. Consequently, a firm impression had also taken hold that India was a soft state which could be pushed around.

The book ought to provide professionals engaged in the business of safeguarding national interests as well as those having more than a passing interest in national security affairs, an insight into the strong points as well as what went perceivably wrong into employment of armed force as an instrument of state policy. For, ignorance, complacency and nepotism enhance the cost of security in terms of manpower, resources and national prestige, besides seriously diluting its deterrence.