India’s contemporary national security challenges

Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd.)
Former Chief of Naval Stuff

Introduction

I thank the Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust for according me the privilege of delivering its 24th annual lecture.  I am aware that ‘national security’ may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but since all of you are taxpayers, and contribute to the defence budget, it may be worth your while to hear me out on ‘India’s Contemporary National Security Challenges’ for the next 40 minutes or so.

Let me start by offering felicitations to the recipients of today’s awards.  I also laud the Trust for seeking out young journalists of high-calibre and recognizing their objectivity, courage and integrity – qualities that Mr Prem Bhatia stood for, throughout his distinguished career. We have seen the hazard that a subservient or ‘lapdog’ media can pose to democracy, and this is a good occasion to recall Mr LK Advani’s scathing indictment of the press after the Emergency. He said of them: “…when only asked to bend, they crawled.” 

Ladies & gentlemen, implausible as it may sound, my first association with Mr Prem Bhatia goes all the way back to 1947, when I was just three years old.  If this claim raises some eyebrows, let me briefly explain.

On the night of 27th October 1947, the village of Badgam, in the Kashmir Valley, where my family lived, came under heavy fire from Pakistani tribals, on their way from Muzaffrabad, via Uri and Baramulla to capture Srinagar airfield.  At daybreak, my father, fearing the worst, despatched my mother, two siblings and me, to Srinagar airfield.  There, we were bundled into an RIAF Dakota which had just disembarked troops of the Sikh Regiment.  After landing in Delhi, we made our way to Lucknow, where we sought refuge with a certain Mr & Mrs Bhatia.

Prem Bhatia was then Special Representative of the Statesman, and his wife Shakuntala was my mother’s younger sister. My family remains indebted to the Bhatias for the sanctuary and succour they provided us, in difficult times; till we returned to Kashmir in mid-1948.

As a consequence of our early association, I remember following Prem Bhatia’s brilliant & many-splendoured career through my youth and adulthood.  Starting as a reporter, in the Civil & Military Gazette of Lahore, Prem Bhatia switched to broadcasting, followed by a stint, during WW II, as army PRO in the Middle East. He went on to distinguish himself as a gifted journalist, accomplished diplomat, astute political commentator and editor of eminence. Witness and participant in India’s post-independence history, he knew the dramatis personae intimately and his commentaries carried the stamp of authenticity.

During his lifetime, Prem Bhatia’s personal integrity and professionalism symbolized the free, fearless and objective press that is the sine qua non of a true democracy. That is why; he will remain an exemplar for generations of journalists who follow in his footsteps.

India’s Ambivalence

Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a view that India, despite its size, economic heft, military strength and nuclear arsenal, has shown ambivalence in its national security outlook and policies. For decades after independence, this ambivalence manifested itself in the ability, of India’s political elite, to reconcile two contradictory sentiments.  One was a sense of hubris, based on its ancient culture and heritage, which drove India to occupy the moral high-ground and claim an exalted position in the global pecking-order. The other was a minimalist posture which translated into strategic diffidence and self-imposed constraint in policies. 

Not only has India fought five wars since independence, its internal situation has long remained fraught with danger, and today it continues to face a daunting external environment.  It is for this reason that, notwithstanding other, pressing, demands on its financial resources, India has had to devote huge amounts to national defence. For many years, now, India’s defence budget has remained amongst the 4th or 5th largest in the world.

Given these circumstances, it has been a cause for great concern that India’s politicians have, traditionally, shown indifference to national security. This came about, because they did not see it as a ‘vote-catching’ issue and wanted to devote their time and attention to electioneering and other issues of political survival. A manifestation of this disinterest is that, for over 70 years, the management of defence and security has been farmed-out to an ill-informed and apathetic bureaucracy. 

A Review of the Past

Against this backdrop, let us re-visit a few episodes in our recent history, so that you can judge, for yourselves, how effective India has been, in upholding its national security interests since independence.

In October 1947, when Pakistani forces invaded Kashmir, our nascent political and military leadership undertook no overarching analysis of the situation and gave no strategic direction other than to ‘repulse the invaders!’ After a year of sporadic, but fierce fighting, just as the Indian army was getting the upper hand, Nehru referred the issue to UN. Consequently, the so called ‘Kashmir problem’ festered for seven decades, till it was addressed in a decisive manner, last week. 

China, at the end of its Civil War, in 1949, had a clear vision of becoming the dominant Asian power; and cutting India down to size was part of this agenda. Yet we deluded ourselves with hopes of Sino-Indian camaraderie, and sought to appease China by acknowledging its suzerainty over Tibet. Poor political judgment led to a military confrontation, with the PLA overrunning our positions in NEFA and Ladakh.  This debacle, while demonstrating strategic naiveté also exposed how out of touch with reality India’s ruling elite had been. 

India’s finest hour, without a doubt, came in December 1971 when a historic victory over Pakistan led to the liberation of Bangladesh. Mrs. Gandhi’s resolute leadership and sound military planning resulted in a swift campaign which achieved all its objectives. And yet, as a victor, India faltered on the negotiating table. We gave away the gains of a bloody and expensive war – including PsOW and territory – in return for false undertakings which Pakistan had no intention of keeping. Let us note that Mrs Gandhi did not consider it necessary to have a military adviser, at hand, for consultations during these crucial negotiations. 

Coming to the strategic domain; India agonized for 24 long years, after Pokharan I, before testing its nuclear weapons – only to have Pakistan promptly catch up with it.  As India’s nuclear-weapon, missile and missile-defence programmes unfolded, it became obvious that they were guided, exclusively, by the scientific community; with the armed forces remaining on the margins. 

Pakistan’s nuclear programme, under the close supervision of its military, has switched from uranium to plutonium-based weapons, and its warhead stockpile, reportedly, exceeds India’s.  Despite Pakistan’s nuclear sabre-rattling, India has stood firm on its ‘no first use’ undertaking, while promising ‘massive retaliation’ against a first-strike. However, Pakistan, by arming of its tactical and cruise-missiles with nuclear warheads, may be contemplating a policy of ‘flexible response’. These are developments that call for a review of India’s 16-year old Nuclear Doctrine.

Finally, events like the Kargil War, the 2001 military mobilization, the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and the Dokalam stand-off, have all posed strategic dilemmas for our decision-makers in an environment of mutual nuclear deterrence. But are we sure that the right lessons have been learnt from them for the future

Strategic Culture

Observers draw unfavourable comparisons between China, whose rise to eminence is taken for granted, and India, which is seen as a power that is still unable to ‘get its act together’.  Amongst the factors often adduced to explain New Delhi’s sub-par performance, are its under-strength diplomatic corps and a defence bureaucracy lacking in military expertise. But the major blame for India ‘punching below its weight’,  must be laid at the door of its political class; so engrossed in domestic politics that they have no time or interest in issues related to grand strategy, national security and the employment of military force.  

This disinterest has been ascribed by scholars to India’s weak ‘strategic culture’. A relatively recent concept, ‘strategic culture’ is said to be a metric for assessing how a country’s decision-makers interpret domestic and international developments, and formulate national responses.

American scholar, George Tanham, has suggested that certain attributes of Indian culture and society have impeded the development of a strategic outlook and resulted in adverse outcomes throughout the country’s turbulent history. “Indian elites”, says Tanham, “…show little evidence of having systematically thought about national strategy. Few writings offer coherent, articulated beliefs or a clear set of operational principles for Indian strategy”.  

This thesis has been hotly contested by others, who assert that Indians, being inheritors of the rich philosophy of Vedic literature, epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata; and the wisdom of Chanakya-niti, have never lacked a strategic culture Nehru’s policies of ‘non-alignment’ and ‘economic autarchy’ are cited as its earliest manifestations, post-independence.

The fact, however, remains that there are few records which offer coherent, articulated beliefs or a clear set of operating principles for Indian strategy. Apart from domestic discord, the historic shortcomings that enabled successive foreign invaders to violate our sovereignty include; an absence of strategic thinking, a limited understanding of military force and technological backwardness.   

Tangible proof, that these shortcomings persist, is to be found in India’s Parliament, where our elected representatives gather to discuss matters of national import.  Rarely, in the past 72 years, has Parliament found the time or inclination to address national security issues or to discuss the defence budget. Unlike in other democracies, no demand has ever been made for the government to produce a White Paper on defence, undertake a strategic defence review or deliver a national security strategy. Parliament is seen to routinely ignore the recommendations made by its own Standing Committee on Defence.

This lack of political interest and oversight has engendered complacency in the national security establishment. Starting with the 1999 IC-814 hijacking, the early years of this century, saw successive crises, catching India by surprise; unprepared and invariably in the reactive mode.

The maladroit handling of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack by all agencies could have been condoned; had the right lessons been learnt. But as the fidayeen attacks on the Pathankot air base, the Uri and Nagrota army camps and the CRPF convoy in Pulwama, showed; little had changed. We remain deficient in intelligence-analysis and dissemination, inter-agency coordination, standard operating procedures and, above all; a national security doctrine.  

Moreover, India’s indecisiveness and vacillation, in the face of repeated provocations, have been suggestive of timidity, masked by the fig-leaf of ‘strategic restraint’. India’s forbearance did garner international applause, but for the Indian citizen, such passivity was demoralizing and frustrating; he looks forward to change.

Dawn of Change?

The run-up to the 2019 general election appeared to herald the dawn of radical change. The Pulwama terror strike and its sequel saw a major shift of political focus; with national security issues being accorded prime importance in election rhetoric.  Post-election analysis showed that the ordinary voter had, indeed, noted and applauded the government’s resolve; as demonstrated by the September 2016 cross-border raids and the February 2019 air strikes on Pakistan. The NDA government’s emphasis on national security was, thus, seen as a major factor, contributing to its re-election with a massive majority.

With the elections behind us, and politics having resumed normal tempo, it remains to be seen whether the focus on national security signifies a strategic transformation or is merely a populist and transient tactical measure. Noteworthy, however, is an early post-election development, whereby the National Security Adviser has been upgraded from Minister of State to full cabinet rank. Prima facie it would be appear to be a positive step, if it brings greater focus on security issues and propels the evolution of structured security doctrines and strategies. 

National security used to denote the ability of a state to protect its territory, citizens, fundamental values and interests, in the face of military threats or political coercion. In recent years, it has come to be seen as ‘multifaceted and all-encompassing’ and is often stretched to include a huge diversity of issues. That is precisely the reason why repeated endeavours at formulating a national security doctrine or strategy have failed, so far.

Dealing with complex, multi-dimensional issues requires the bureaucracy to adopt, what is termed, in the West as, a ‘whole of government’ approach. India’s bureaucracy, however, continues to work in isolated silos and remains incapable of processing a strategy or doctrine that attempts to address a vast agenda encompassing economic, food, cyber and energy security to border-management, governance and centre-state relations.

There is, clearly, a need to view national security through a narrower prism, and to evolve a less ambitious strategy that focuses on matters directly related to defence of the republic and ensuring its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Against the backdrop of clearly defined national interests, aims and objectives, the strategy must provide guidance to the national security establishment and the military on how to attain them. It is also time to define India’s strategic frontiers, as distinct from political borders, and to equip our forces, to protect them.

People often ask why we need a strategy or doctrine, when we have fought many wars and generally “done quite well” for the past seven decades. The answer is rather simple, even if it sounds rhetorical: ‘If we don’t know where we are going, how will we ever get there?’ 

India’s Doctrinal Reticence

It is  not apparent to many, that the size, shape, equipment, training and operational-planning of a nation’s armed forces must emerge from the aims and objectives laid down by the political leadership.  Currently, in the absence of a national strategy, and lacking a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), India’s army, navy and air force plan, train and equip themselves for war, as considered best by their individual headquarters. Apart from overlap, duplication and wasteful expenditure, the resultant lack of operational synergy could be disastrous in war.

It is worth mentioning that India’s 72-year long doctrinal reticence makes it unique amongst major military powers. By way of contrast, last month Beijing issued its 10th successive white paper, titled; ‘China’s National Military Strategy’; cogently spelling out national aims and objectives and specifying the military capabilities required for their attainment. Most other countries, ranging in size from Sri Lanka, Cambodia and New Zealand to UK, France, Australia and USA, regularly issue documents encapsulating their national vision and articulating defence strategies and doctrines. 

 New Delhi’s caginess is ascribed, by some, to India’s traditional ‘strategic restraint’, and by others, simply, to a lackadaisical approach. Foreign analysts seem more concerned about India’s sub-optimal performance than our own security elite; and I paraphrase what The Economist of UK had to say in this context, a few years ago:  

“India should start to shape its own destiny and the fate of its region. It must take strategy more seriously and build a foreign-service befitting a great power….It needs a professional MoD and a unified defence staff to work with the political leadership… And it needs a well-funded navy that can become both a provider of maritime security and an expression of India’s great power aspirations.”

 Against this backdrop, I am going to highlight six issues, which, in my opinion, pose grave challenges, and which, if ignored, could cause serious harm to the nation’s security and well-being.

Domestic Peace & Harmony

The first issue, in the order of priority, relates to domestic peace and harmony.  India’s Army Chief has, frequently, declared his readiness to face a ‘two and a half front war’. The ‘two fronts’, obviously, refer to our neighbourhood adversaries, China and Pakistan who, individually, and as partners of a nexus, pose a formidable threat to India;  aiming to undermine its security, impede its economic progress and thwart its quest for major power status.

The ‘half’ front, signifies an even greater peril, inherent in India’s multiple internal fissures; religious, sectarian, linguistic and caste-based.  Some of these have already erupted into violent conflagrations, while others await a spark.  Amongst India’s current internal security threats, which include insurgencies in the north-east, and the violent Naxalite movement, across 14 states, I would pinpoint continuing unrest in Kashmir as the most serious.

I focus on Kashmir because it has symbolized the barrenness of New Delhi’s strategic culture; as manifest in our failure to evolve a strategy for the resolution of this imbroglio since 1947. Despite our bigger size and military superiority, we have failed to deter Pakistan from waging four wars over Kashmir and from pursuing its strategy of ‘bleeding India by a thousand cuts’. 

We hope the abrogation of Article 370, and changes in the status of erstwhile J&K State, will bring peace and help foster integration as well as economic development. However, if we are to debunk Jinnah’s ‘two-nation’ theory, and convince the Muslim-majority Union Territory of J&K that they made the right choice in 1947, we need to reflect, seriously, on some larger issues:

1: Whether the pursuit of majoritarianism, of any kind, is a good idea for a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country like India?

2: Whether engendering insecurity amongst any section of our people will enhance India’s security or undermine it?

And three; should maintenance of domestic harmony and preservation of the nation’s internal cohesion, not be made a key national objective? Only then will the Indian army be able to face external threats without worrying about a ‘half front’ war in its rear?

India’s Higher Defence Organization

The second area of national security that demands urgent attention is our antiquated higher defence organization (HDO).

The partition of India and division of the armed forces, in 1947, was accompanied by a hurried reorganization of the Imperial defence structure to suit the new republic’s needs. During this turmoil, the military leadership remained ignorant of a significant development that originated from the civil side.

The three armed forces HQs, instead of being designated  ‘departments’ of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), or being merged with the ministry, were reduced to the status of ‘attached offices’ and made subaltern to the Department of Defence (DoD) – one of four in the MoD. This measure, by placing a layer of bureaucracy between the military and the politician, has replaced ‘political civilian control’ by de-facto ‘bureaucratic control’.

This ‘act of commission’, was to become a fatal flaw in our national security matrix. It was followed by an equally damaging ‘act of omission’; the failure of the new Indian state to accord recognition to the functions and status of its armed forces. The IAS and IPS (to be joined, later, by the Indian Forest Service) were created as ‘All India Services’ by Article 312 of the new Constitution. However, the functions, responsibilities and status of the armed forces, their Chiefs, operational commanders and senior staff functionaries, found no mention in the Constitution, any Act of Parliament or even the Government of India (GoI) Rules of Business.

This absence of recognition and lack of defined status has worked to the detriment of India’s military in many ways. The Service Chiefs receive perfunctory attention from politicians and bureaucrats, because they have no locus standi in the edifice of the Government, and it is the Secretary Department of Defence, who, by the Rules of Business, represents the three Services.

Unlike every other democracy, in India the military has been sequestered in Service HQs while the MoD is run by a 100% civilian staff.  Other major powers follow a paradigm, in which the military head, whether CDS or C-JCS, is not only a part of the government, but has direct and regular access to the head of government or state. In India, it could take months before a Chief gets to meet the Prime Minister.

The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), concieved as a key organ in our higher defence organization, is presided over by a Chairman whose post is not only part-time, but also rotational.  As the senior-most serving officer of the Indian armed forces, a prime function of the Chairman COSC is to oversee ‘joint’ formations like the Andaman & Nicobar Command and to promote ‘jointness’ amongst the three services. Far more critical is the Chairman’s role in the nuclear command chain. As ‘boss’ of the Strategic Forces Commander, he is supposed to constitute the military interface between the PM and India’s nuclear forces. 

The part-time and rotational nature of the Chairman’s post and lack of clarity in his roles has two consequences. It erodes the credibility of our nuclear command and control, and dilutes the push for ‘jointness’ amongst the three Services. Clearly, this is an ineffective concept and a better alternative is required. 

The past 18 years have seen expert bodies, constituted by UPA and NDA governments, pointing out glaring flaws in the current organization, and recommending urgent defence reforms. The most vital recommendation has been the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff or a ‘Permanent Chairman COSC’. Neither government implemented this recommendation. This brings me to the third issue of defence reforms. 

Defence Reforms

This year’s allocation of budget to the MoD amounts to 62 billion USD, or a little over 2% of the GDP. While the military may complain about government’s parsimony, the fact is that this figure represents a significant 16% of the overall central government expenditure.  Given the current state of the economy, there is just no more money available.  

Of far greater concern is the fact that a full 60% of this amount will be spent on the pay and pensions of, 14 lakh soldiers, 4 lakh civilians and 31 lakh retired personnel; leaving hardly anything for modernization or re-equipment. The realization, that the most expensive item in the defence budget is not hardware, but manpower; has dawned very late upon us.  China, on the other hand, grasped this reality much earlier and through a steady process of radical reforms and transformation, has reduced its military manpower by half a million personnel; replacing soldiers with technology.  

India’s attempts at military reform have been repeatedly stalled. Had we triggered the process of civil-military integration as well as jointness between the three armed forces and undertaken technology-induction, two decades ago, we could have ‘right-sized’ our military and achieved significant manpower reductions. 

Transformation, modernization and right-sizing of the military have, now, become imperative, and it would be extremely myopic for India to postpone national security reforms any longer. Time does not permit me to dwell further on the issue of reforms, and I move on to the third national security challenge, which is the vexed issue of civil-military dissonance that prevails currently

Civil-Military Dissonance

There is no better reminder of a soldier’s place in the scheme of things, than Carl von Clausewitz’s dictum that: “War does not have its own logic and purpose. The soldier must always be subordinate to the statesman; the conduct of war is the responsibility of the latter…” From this it is clear that control of the military, too, devolves, squarely, on the political leadership. 

Control of the military, however, demands knowledge of strategic affairs and military issues and involves enormous responsibility. It also places heavy demands on the time of the minister assigned the defence portfolio. Successive Defence Ministers have found it convenient to delegate this responsibility to the civilian bureaucracy, in the incorrect belief that ‘civilian control’ of the military can be exercised, on their behalf, by the bureaucracy. Assigning control of the military to bureaucrats, apart from signifying political dereliction, has resulted in a steady increase in civil-military asymmetry.

India’s bureaucracy takes pride in being generalists, who can switch from State to Centre and from ministry to ministry with equal facility. National security is, however, a discipline that requires continuity as well as deep expertise to deal with issues of immense complexity. In our current system, civil-service postings to the MoD are short and often stop-gap assignments. They do not permit the individual to acquire knowledge and experience required to deal with intricate issues of military hardware, force architecture, infrastructure and personnel management.

By refusing collegiate consultation with the armed forces, the bureaucracy has denied itself the benefits of professional expertise; and this is one of the reasons, why delays ranging from 5, 10 or 15 years are fairly common in MoD’s processing of cases. A simple solution to this conundrum lies in integrating the Service HQs with the MoD; which is how every other country works. This will ensure a two-way flow of expertise, enhancement of synergy and efficiency resulting in civil-military harmony.

The fourth area of serious concern is India’s failure to attain self-reliance in production of weapon systems. 

Reliance on Imported Weaponry

India has a vast defence-industrial complex comprising thousands of talented scientists, and a network of DRDO laboratories, backed by advanced production facilities of the ordinance factories and public sector undertakings. Over the years, they have assembled thousands of imported aircraft, aero-engines, tanks, missiles and other items. Among the major achievements of Indian scientists, we can count nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, a fighter aircraft and a nuclear submarine. 

And yet, when it comes to self-reliance, India is the world’s 2nd largest importer of arms, and remains abjectly dependent on unreliable foreign sources.  Successive governments, by failing to provide a ‘grand-strategic’ vision and roadmap for India’s massive defence-industrial complex, have scripted its precipitous decline.  Inattentive defence ministers have failed to infuse innovation, dynamism and efficiency in defence PSUs and neglected to plan their future growth. 

Most decision-makers fail to realize the double-jeopardy this situation imposes on India. Firstly, every system imported from abroad, creates a dangerous dependency for the life-time of the equipment on an unreliable foreign source. Secondly, such reliance takes away India’s options to go undertake military action at a time of its choosing. India’s claims to ‘rising power’ status will remain hollow, unless it acquires the capability to design and undertake serial production of major weapon systems. 

At the root of this failure lies in the total autonomy granted to the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which enables scientists to set their own priorities; often at the expense of the soldiers’ urgent needs.  Since the military has no say, and the bureaucracy lacks the expertise to intervene, scientists are not held accountable for time and cost overruns or performance shortfalls in critical systems.

Similarly, the vast public sector defence production complex, under supervision of the MoD bureaucracy, has disappointed by undertaking assembly and licenced-production when we expected indigenization. Had the armed forces been permitted a greater say in the functioning of DRDO as well as defence production units, far more could have been achieved in terms of efficiency, innovation and self-reliance over the past seven decades.

Izzat of the Armed Forces

The sixth and last area of concern that I want to bring to your attention relates to the ‘izzat’ of the armed forces, from a Veteran’s point of view.

Apart from fighting five wars, in the past 72 years, our military has remained involved in an incessant series of low-intensity conflicts, involving cross-border terrorism as well as skirmishes and face-offs along our unsettled borders. On the domestic front, too, the military is frequently tasked to tackle outbreaks of extremism, social disorder and occurrences of natural calamities. The citizen, as well as soldier, is, therefore, aware that India’s armed forces are a measure of last resort when all else fails.

It is often forgotten that in addition to their role of safeguarding the nation, India’s armed forces also provide a bright strand in the national fabric, which represents the ideals of integrity, discipline, secularism and professional excellence. They embody a proud pan-Indian martial tradition, which promotes a sense of national unity and cohesion. In a region full of Praetorian militaries, the Indian armed forces have remained scrupulously ‘apolitical’ and staunch pillars of democracy.

Against this backdrop, there is a widespread feeling of dismay, amongst military Veterans that, successive governments, while extracting full mileage from the soldiers’ sacrifices and achievements, have let down the armed forces badly. 

Without going into the minutiae of grievances, one can only point out the appalling indifference of politicians, and the hostile manner in which the MoD bureaucracy has been handling problems relating to pensions and allowances of aging veterans, war widows and battle casualties. Forced to go to courts, they are often stunned to find expensive lawyers hired by the MoD fighting them at every step through appeals to higher courts.

Adding insult to injury is the calamitous fall in the status and standing of the armed forces in the past two decades.  Successive Pay Commissions, using whimsical equivalences, have depressed the armed forces, in terms of emoluments, and consequently of status, relative to the civil-servants and police. Despite repeated appeals, the military has not been granted representation in any pay commission ever; leading to the conclusion that the military’s progressive downgradation has full political approval and support.

 The most blatant example of this bias is the military’s struggle for certain benefits, allowances and perquisites, which have been met with stiff opposition from the MoD at every step.  In stark contrast, the Ministry of Home Affairs has been able to obtain the very same benefits, within days, for the Central Police Organizations; putting them at an advantage with respect to the military, in many ways.

 Any remedial change in, what is seen as a step-motherly, attitude towards the nation’s armed forces will only come about if initiated from the apex level of the government. 

Conclusion

As I come to the end of my talk, let us recall that for years, Indians have yearned for resolute leadership which could clearly define India’s national interests, visualize concrete goals and articulate a national strategy for their attainment.  In the past two decades, both the NDA and the UPA have ruled the country for ten years each, but none of this has happened. 

We are now, in the first few months of a new government which has ridden, triumphantly, back into power with an overwhelming majority. Can we, at last, hope for a military transformation, starting with national security reforms? 

Such reforms, the world over, are wrought by visionary and enlightened politicians; almost always, in the face of fierce opposition from the military. In the UK three defence ministers – Duncan Sandys, Michael Heseltine and John Nott – are celebrated for their reformist role in creating a genuinely integrated MoD and enforcing jointness. In the US it took a herculean struggle by two politicians, Senator Goldwater and Congressman Nichols, to bring about radical security reform through an Act of the US Congress.  

Dare we hope that a bold and visionary politician will come forth, in India, and make the new government ‘bite the bullet’; implementing reforms that our national security desperately needs?