Friday, 21 September 2018

Book review

Saifuddin Soz hit the national limelight when his lone vote in the Lok Sabha brought down the Vajpayee II government. In 1999, the late Prime Minister Vajpayee was into the thirteen month of his second stint—the earlier one in 1996 being aborted in a mere thirteen days. Vajpayee’s coalition lost the No Confidence Motion in April 1999 by the narrowest margin possible of one vote—attributed to Soz voting against the whip of his party, the National Conference. He later joined the Congress Party and became a minister in the Manmohan Singh government. Alongside, he served to further the United Progressive Alliance government’s outreach to disaffected Kashmiris in a period when the peace initiatives were at their most credible mark. In the event, the Manmohan Singh government was unable to deliver and peace remains elusive in Kashmir a decade on.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/14940/Kashmir-When-Politics-Contaminates-Strategy-

Kashmir: When politics contaminates strategy

Tenanted by former professionals from fields that are traditionally part of national security, it is clear that the national security advisor’s (NSA) position is not one for practicing politicians. However, it is understandable for the predisposition of incumbents along the liberal-conservative continuum to be in sync with the political position of the government.

The idea behind this is that in the advice the political master receives, the strategic supersedes the political; the political part being the purview of the political master.

Expectations from politicians are different. For a former defence minister to get away voicing his personal view on a pillar of India’s nuclear doctrine, No First Use is unremarkable. As is perhaps, to pass off the current defence minister’s rant against an opposition party as a party for ‘Musslims’ (said with a hisss) as a hangover from her party spokesperson days.

But what happens when national security advice is politically contaminated?

Expectations along the lines of the foregoing theory of the current NSA, Ajit Doval - who was earlier an intelligence official – have not been validated over the past four years. This owes to his decade-long post-retirement practice of his politics as head of the right wing think tank, Vivekananda International Foundation. His ideological predilections contaminate his output as NSA is evident from the state of India’s twinned policies on Pakistan and Kashmir.

The latest evidence is his take that the special constitutional status of Kashmir amounts to divided sovereignty; in his words, ‘diluted and ill-defined’. Extolling the strong man Sardar Patel at a book release function at a Mumbai event of the foundation he once headed, he had it that Jammu and Kashmir’s constitution was an ‘aberration’.

Doval presumably implied that had the Sardar been around longer, this would not have happened, attributing the ‘aberration’ thereby to Jawaharlal Nehru who allowed a negotiated accession to the Union in case of J&K, unlike other princely states who – in the Hindutva worldview – were frog marched by Loh Purush I, namely Patel, to sign the dotted line.

Doval’s articulation is perhaps a curtain raiser of the agenda of Modi II. Doval was playing the music for the ruling party’s base, a political act. Taken along with Amit Shah’s widely and often shared intent of going further in 2019 than the 2014 numbers in Lok Sabha, the message is for a constitutional overturn of Article 370 by the brute majority.

It is no wonder that the backlash in J&K reminds that the Article amounts to a basic feature of the Constitution and cannot be trifled with, even by an absolute majority.

As for the strategic consequences, the NSA knows better. His staff has surely apprised him that last month mere rumours of the Supreme Court hearing fresh petitions on Article 35A had set off violence in the Valley accounting for 12 injured. It is with good reason that the court has put off its consideration till early January.

That his statement provides fuel to the fires in Kashmir cannot have escaped the NSA. It may even have been intended as such, enabling India to point to the continuing unrest as the handiwork of Pakistan. With the annual late-September India-Pakistan joust in the General Assembly at hand with both foreign ministers scheduled to speak, this could prove timely.

This despite the NSA surely knowing that in the current troubles in Kashmir there is only a minimal Pakistani hand. It is not Indian army’s vigilance at the Line of Control (LC) that is keeping it so. The Pakistani strategy appears to be to show up the militancy as indigenous, by exercising self-restraint in terms of infiltration.

Else, it is not in their interest to have accepted the ‘ceasefire’ along the LC, since their firing provided the cover necessary for infiltration groups to get across in the din.

Pakistan alongside extended a hand, first by placatory remarks of its army chief and, after the election, of their champion, Imran Khan. Besides, they are under pressure to behave by the United States, best exemplified by the cut-off of USD 300 million to the army.

Self-restraint helps defuse the terrorism tag that India has tried to foist on them and the indigeneity of disaffection and its expression lends credence to their line on self-determination as a holdover from Partition.

Despite knowing this, India continues to go after novice militants, having put away 260 over the past two years. A central armed police chief testified to their limited ‘shelf-life’. This only proves that these days hardened (Pakistani) terrorists are few and far between. This continuing punishment of the Kashmiris for defiance plays to the ruling party’s base in Jammu and elsewhere.

A counter insurgency expert dismissed comparison of the current unrest with the nineties, pointing to a high of some 4000 deaths towards the end of that period. Such bean-counts neglect another yardstick of comparison, that of societal memory. To some, India’s crushing response then has - inter-alia - brought the current crop of youth to the streets and into militancy.

The Concerned Citizen’s Group reports that the Kashmiri youth is not under anyone’s control and there is a glamourisation of violent death. Not only will the current generation be reckonable politically for another three decades, but those following in their footsteps will be available as cannon fodder in another decade.

The upshot is that a strategic view militates against adding unnecessary grist to the militancy.

If this bypasses Doval then it’s the NSA playing politics, not doing strategy.

A strategy would constitute using the cabinet rank special interlocutor doing the rounds in Kashmir for the past year appropriately. At the start of the year, the army chief seemingly laid out the strategy, saying, ‘The political initiative and all the other initiatives must go simultaneously hand-in-hand and only if all of us function in synergy, we can bring lasting peace in Kashmir. It has to be a politico-military approach that we have to adopt.’

Rather than synergy, politicking with and in Kashmir continues. Moves are afoot under a political governor – reportedly sharing his alma mater with the NSA - to foist another coalition on Kashmiris, possibly with a Jammu-origin chief minister or one reliant on a Jammu-based crutch. Rightly, such moves have been called out as impelled by the political calculus of the ruling party as it heads into elections. Doval stands to enter history as an apparatchik.

A Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan image of India also exacts collateral damage. It sends the message that the framework agreement in place for Nagaland – a centerpiece peace initiative of the Modi-Doval duo - cannot be turned into comprehensive peace, since the government cannot countenance innovative federal constitutional arrangements. Perhaps this is what holds up a promising peace initiative. Another instance of the promise of peace being held hostage to an ideology.

The NSA who is apparently playing to the Hindutva gallery needs reminding of his role as buffer, insulating grand strategy from ideological politics

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

http://www.kashmirtimes.in/newsdet.aspx?q=82553
India's spooks: Getting too big for their boots?

The pitfalls of an intelligence agency getting rather ahead of itself are fairly easy to spot. The doings of friendly neighbourhood bogeyman, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is an easy example. Unfortunately, the times in India have got to such a pass, that the question in the title needs framing and needs an answer. 

The recent arrests of leading human rights activists across the country, supposedly in relation to a Naxal plot to assassinate the prime minister, provide the juncture for the question. Presumably, the police acted at the behest of their political masters, fed in turn by intelligence agencies. 

There are two possibilities. The political masters acted autonomously and have had the intelligence agencies cook up the rationale. Second, the intelligence agencies fed the political masters what they know their political masters would lap up. Both possibilities do not speak well of the good health of India's intelligence agencies. 

Intelligence agencies in both cases appear in cahoots with the Hindutva inspired political dispensation. They are certainly not in sync with their professional obligation of political neutrality and keeping to their intelligence related mandate. This bespeaks of subversion of the intelligence agencies from within by the Hindutva project. 

This is aggravated in light of the higher profile of intelligence community in the strategic scheme lately. The higher profile owes primarily to their doyen tenanting the chair of national security adviser. This places him in control of key appointments. His sharing of the ethnic profile and proximity with an army general reportedly led to the elevation of the general to head the army. His sharing of an alma mater - a college in Meerut - perhaps helped with the current incumbent in the Srinagar Raj Bhawan landing the job. 

Former intelligence honchos have had bestsellers out, shaping the national security narrative on various issues including Kashmir and Pakistan. The take away from these tracts is the inordinate levels of reliance on intelligence men with regard to both internal security - in relation for instance with Kashmir - and foreign policy - in relation with Pakistan. Their role expansion relegates the place of the home ministry bureaucracy, foreign service specialists and the military input in the national security schema. It can be inferred that the mess in both these key policy areas owes to the internal institutional balance in favour of the intelligence agencies 

A former intelligence agency head is on an unending conflict analysis spree as the special representative for engaging interlocutors in Kashmir. While he can be expected to have expertise in negotiations, it would be in the field of hostage release etc, and not one informed by peace negotiation or mediation. It is no wonder when asked as to what his Kashmir policy amounted to in a recent staged interview, the prime minister said that there was an interlocutor out in Kashmir talking to people. It's close to a year now of talk masquerading as policy. 

His predecessor at the intelligence agency demitted appointment as a special envoy on counter terrorism, with a remit intruding on foreign service turf of engaging governments in West Asia and Af-Pak on the issue. One former intelligence man, who also was once also in the army, is a talking-head specialising in disrupting and diverting discussions on prime time, and on that count is understandably favourite of Republic TV and Times Now. 

Each think tank in Delhi has it quota of former spooks, who dutifully weigh in with Pakistan-bashing and insinuations against Muslims on terrorism. One ensconced in the Vivekananda International Foundation has complemented his hatchet job on Jawaharlal Nehru of a couple of years back recently with a book extolling Sardar Patel. Another, former head of the military intelligence, is its strategic studies minder. The think tank's profile is evident from serving military officers now doing stints with the VIF and each of the three chiefs having lectured there successively. The affiliations of the VIF are no secret, with the book 'Defining Hindutva' having been released there by Mohan Bhagwat in the run up to last elections. 

Intelligence denizens are current day masters of the narrative. The heading of a recent article - 'The Enduring Threat' - by the earlier intelligence chief - who was also national security adviser - raised expectations of a possible reference to the ongoing arrests by Maharashtra's Anti-Terror Squad of saffronite terrorists. However, it turned out instead to be all about Islamic State (IS) and, how it, though roundly beaten, continues as a threat. Given that the IS is history and history on-the-make in the tradition of Hemant Karkare closer home is ignored thus, the question emerges as to the lengths the intelligence community will go in putting out diversionary narratives. It bears recall that though reportedly a Gandhi family favourite, the vilification of Muslims and the ascendance of then chief minister Modi as the savior of Hindus - after the killings of alleged terrorists out to get Mr. Modi - began in his tenure as national security adviser. 

There are two consequences of the discussion above. One is the higher profile of the intelligence lobby is at the cost of that of the ministries - home, foreign and defence - and the military. This makes the national security system go awry. In a change-over early this year, a RAW hand was appointed deputy national security adviser. His last appointment was in the secretariat as the resident Pakistan watcher, no doubt leading up to aggravating the hardline on Pakistan. As an afterthought a diplomat has recently been added as a second deputy. The imbalance is reflected at the ministerial level. The defence minister is a novice and double hatted as a party spokesperson. Her latest episode was on national television in a face off with a Karnataka minister. The foreign minister has been ill for most of her tenure, as has been the finance minister. The home minister appears to have his heart in the right place but has no muscle. Thus, there is little ballast in the other national security relevant institutions. 

The second more grievous underside is in the fact that the cultural nationalists - as seen above - have the run of intelligence services. The Pakistan obsession of the intelligence fraternity and the fixation with India's minority, its Muslims, of the Hindutvavadis, makes for a coming together in a shared, symbiotic relationship. It cannot be said with any surety that the Hindutva brigade is one that has taken over the intelligence lobby. It is well nigh possible that the intelligence community has opened itself to such a take-over. This ideological disposition of the intelligence community perhaps stems from their four-decade long cloak-and-dagger game with the ISI. The ISI has evidently been more successful than credited so far. It appears to have instigated a make-over of India in the Pakistani image, engineering a right-wing reset of democratic and plural India into a Hindu-Pakistan. 

A roll back will have to await next elections. In the interim, the intelligence card will recur in the runup to national elections. The corralling of urban naxals is but a beginning. With minorities already cornered by lynch mobs; civil society cowed by a compliant-police; institutions such as universities hollowed out; the common man bruised by demonetization and job scarcity; and dissent murdered by right wing goon squads, it would appear that this may not be necessary. But if all at hand is a hammer, every problem will appear a nail. The ultimate infliction on democracy is the alliance between the intelligence instrument and an ideology.

Friday, 31 August 2018

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/14821/Command-Responsibility-In-Relation-to-Good-Faith

Command responsibility in relation to good faith

The case of an alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur, being investigated by the Supreme Court mandated Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), came to a head with the SIT filing a first information report last month against a serving army officer who it claims led patrol action in which a 12 year old was killed when deployed in Manipur with the Assam Rifles.

The development triggered an unprecedented petition by 356 army men to the court asking for status quo on the Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act (AFSPA) under which the army is deployed in disturbed areas. They want their cover from prosecution to continue as hitherto, in order that military operations and morale do not suffer.

From the details in the media it appears the officer over-reached the limits of plausible ‘good faith’ in his conduct of the operation. Apparently, the pre-teen youth was dragged out from his house and with his parents locked in, was thrashed and killed outside his house. The ‘good faith’ argument in this case would have it the youth attempted to escape the dragnet and resisted being subdued, leaving the military men no recourse other than use of force in self defence.

However, the self-defence argument did not fly since none of the score-strong team was injured. They could have overpowered the youth. Civilian witnesses present – parents and neighbours – testify otherwise. The officer has since gone on to become a colonel.

The case was one among the six sample cases probed in 2013 by the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Santosh Hegde committee. It found that the self-defence argument was not sustainable in any of the cases. The CBI has vindicated the finding.

The question that arises is as to why the facts were not ascertained by the army itself nine years back when the then major returned to camp with his report on the encounter.

It appears the army took the story of the major that he was acting in good faith at face value. In doing so the army has itself struck a blow to the credibility of the position that its members act in good faith and in compliance with its rules of engagement, duly informed by the ‘ten commandments’ regulating actions under AFSPA. The major’s version of events was not verified with due diligence, a lapse in command responsibility.

Alternatively, even if it was known the encounter was a fake one, the army covered it up as a genuine one for institutional reasons. These could be to protect its image of being mindful of human rights. Conspiracy theorists would have it that such reasons could also be personal, intended to show the perpetrator and his superiors in good light in the bean count game. The latter, if amounting to a pattern are less personal than institutional, with the institution taking the rap for fostering a command climate in which bean-counts count.

Command responsibility in internal security deployments entails ensuring that the rules of engagement are widely known and followed. In case of operations resulting in killings, the version of events needs to be verified in the debriefing of the returning patrol. The command channel is sensitive to the good faith provisions and is more than likely to empathetically view events from the eye of the ground soldier caught in inevitably fast moving and high tension environments. Commanders have sufficient acumen and experience to be able to sift facts and arrive at a prima facie impression on credibility.

Their reporting responsibilities entail checking on reliability and credibility. Where the circumstance is likely to generate controversy, it makes sense to dwell on the incident in more ways than just a verbal de-brief and a paragraph-worth situation report. In this case the command channel appears to have privileged the reliability of its source – the patrol commander – over the credibility of his report.

It is also possible that enlightened reporting attend such cases. Such reporting can involve an informal transmission of the facts, even while the situation report might apply the gloss over some or other pertinent fact. Any superior condoning the report takes on the onus of departures.

Shouldering of the responsibility of lack of action against violations of the good faith clause is delegated upwards in the chain, thereby seemingly absolving those down the line. Under such commanders a laissez-faire command climate tends to develop in relation to human rights, with the nation having to pay a strategic cost. Commanders need measuring up to their pay scales.

The concept of command responsibility and failure to act is a feature in international humanitarian law (IHL). The Indian position is that IHL is not relevant since there is no internal conflict on, and, in any case, India is not a signatory to the relevant additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

Be that as it may, under AFSPA, good faith actions are covered by the impunity clause that requires prosecution be undertaken only on clearance by the defence ministry. None of the fifty such cases from Jammu and Kashmir calling for waiver of immunity have received approval from the defence ministry so far. The ministry has passed up its responsibility. The command responsibility to ascertain operational actions are in good faith ends at the military’s door. As a corollary, in case of shortfalls, command responsibility entails initiation of disciplinary action by the military.

Army men who have approached the courts are apprehensive that the very investigation of alleged over-reach by security forces would be detrimental. Personally, they would be held to scrutiny by what is perceived as investigation agencies of the local police biased towards the local vested interests.

Institutionally, this will impact effectiveness of the military by making its personnel unnecessarily wary of the consequences of their actions, even those done in good faith. Surely, none of the signatories of the petition would like egregious and willful violence to be exonerated by the good faith clause.

Taking cue, a potentially win-win outcome is for the army to increase its oversight of operations. This does not imply doubting the word of its tactical commanders from challenging situations on the ground. One manner can be for a forward-pull command culture, where a look-see is considered better than a dozen reports.

The concept of command responsibility suggests that while members are individually culpable, the context and command climate they operate in is framed by the command hierarchy. Incidentally, this does not stop at the brass, but must encompass their political supervisor.

In the case of Manipur, the previous Congress government reputedly had a liberal approach to elimination of insurgents. As seen, the defence ministry – then in the Congress’ charge - has long abdicated its responsibility. A wider view by the Supreme Court may help pin the buck where it should belong – up the uniformed, safari-suited and dhoti/sari-clad heirarchy.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

https://www.epw.in/journal/2018/34/strategic-affairs/modi-helm.html

Modi at the Helm

Whither Nuclear Decision-making?
Nuclear decision-making, when examined at the institutional and individual levels, suggests that India’s case is fraught with shortcomings. This adds to the complications for regional security, already present on account of Pakistan’s nuclear decision-making being military dominated. The aggravated institutional infirmities of India’s nuclear decision-making structures and the authoritarian tendencies in India’s primary nuclear decision-maker, the Prime Minister, heighten nuclear dangers in future crises and conflicts.


he Rafale deal reworked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to Paris early in his tenure has come under scrutiny recently. Critics have it that the jettison of the original deal—in which India was to get 18 aircrafts and assemble 108 separately—in favour of getting only 36 aircrafts in a fly away condition, albeit with India-­specific enhancements, has been to India’s disadvantage (Sinha et al 2018). The decision figures alongside the sudden demonetisation as another landmark decision by Modi. Critics have it that both cases lacked due diligence in processing. While then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was seemingly out of the loop on the shift in the Rafale deal (Dutta 2017), it remains unclear which officials were consulted on demonetisation (Indian Express 2017). What do such major decisions bespeak of India’s ability to handle arguably the most fraught decision, that on nuclear weapons use?
The last four years have provided adequate insight into the workings of the Modi government. The Rafale deal, demon­etisation, and the roll-out of the goods and services tax are taken as the leitmotif on its decisiveness (Hindu 2018). These provide enough grounds to suspect that decision-making on nuclear weapon employment could well be problematic. This is troubling, particularly as the government is about to approach the voters once again for another five years at the helm.
Owing to its nuclear weapons overhang, South Asia has on occasion attrac­ted attention as the “most dangerous place on earth” (Hiro 2016). The contribution of the pathologies of Pakistan’s nuclear decision-making are rather better known (Narang 2014: 75). Pakistan’s military has deployed nuclear weapons as a cover to pursue a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) (Joshi and O’Donnell 2018: 63, 79). While in the Pakistani decision-making structure, the Prime Minister has pride of place in the Employment Control Committee of the National Command Authority, in practice, the military controls nuclear decision-making (Narang 2014: 84). It can be inferred that the institutional interest of the military, which colours its vision of the national interest, can potentially render nuclear decision-making awry.
If this was not bad enough for regional crisis stability and escalatory pressures in conflict, the situation in South Asia is compounded by lesser remarked on deficiencies in Indian nuclear decision-making. This article examines the drawbacks in India’s nuclear decision-making, cautioning that these heighten dangers in regional crises and conflicts. Possible sites of shortcomings in nuclear decision-making are discernible in two ways. One is at the institutional level, with the peculiarities of the Modi government taken into account; and the second is in the character of the primary decision-maker, Prime Minister Modi. If the recourse to the process of decision-making is taken insufficiently, a matured decision is unlikely.
So far the perception has been that organisational position holders among India’s policymaking elite have had a “passive stance on nuclear issues” (Frey 2010: 198). The emphasis on nuclear decision-making discussions in strategic literature has consequently been on the necessity to demonstrate resolve and commitment by the leadership to order a massive or punitive retaliatory strike (Kanwal 2017: 190). The underside of decisiveness in nuclear decision-making reveals two issues: the decision-maker may be held to an image of dynamism and decisiveness, impelling a decision on nuclear use; and this may undercut the taking of recourse to deliberation in high-tempo and high-tension nuclear decision-making.
Institutional Level
The infirmities at the institutional level are owing to the overweening salience of Prime Minister Modi in the government. He rode to power in 2014, forming the first majority government in three decades. The campaign itself was seen as a presidential one, magnifying Modi’s profile and personality. Initial hiccups in cabinet formation were indicative of the problems ahead. For want of a suitably high-profile defence minister, the ministership was given temporarily to the finance minister. There have since been two ministers in the chair, with the finance minister coming back in the interim between the two for a second time. The current defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, did not have a traditional heavyweight profile (Hindustan Times 2017). This playing of musical chairs with a significant cabinet position undermines the decision-making table at which the defence minister sits alongside the finance, external affairs, and home ministers, namely, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the National Security Council (NSC), andpossibly—since its composition is not known—the political council of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).
Of the other three ministries, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s office is not only a busy one in itself, but he has faced health issues and grappled with party issues. A low profile has been thrust on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, with Modi taking over 50 foreign trips, testifying to the centre of gravity of foreign policymaking having shifted from her ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The home ministry’s disaster management role has been diluted with the National Disaster Management Autho­rity (NDMA), chaired ex officio by the Prime Minister, currently lacking a vice chairperson (News18.com 2015; NDMA nd). A low, technocratic profile of the NDMA furthers the centralisation at the PMO.
Centralisation implies a higher profile for the National Security Adviser (NSA). NSA Ajit Doval reputedly enjoys a close relationship with Prime Minister Modi. As secretary of the political council, his input is, thus, liable to become magnified. The upshot, first, is in an increase of bureaucratic weight, and lessening of ministerial weight in policy- and decision-making. The strategic-level perspective represented by the NSA as head of the executive council of the NCA needs to be superseded by political-level considerations provided by ministerial members of the political council. Dilution and asymmetry in salience between the two levels—political and strategic—tends to have an adverse impact on the political weight and considerations in nuclear decision-making (Ahmed 2010: 5). If the ministers around the table are restricted in terms of their power differential, the Prime Minister–NSA alignment can deflect decisions in directions other than what might have emerged from collegiate and deliberative political-level decision-making.
Second, personalisation, by making the Prime Minister more than the first among equals, results in going against the grain of the Westminster-style parliamentary democracy system adopted by India. An illustration of this is in the joint doctrine of the military, according the Prime Minister the decision-making authority within the political council (Rej and Joshi 2017: 21), which is at variance with the official nuclear doctrine of 2003 that states: “The Political Council … is the sole body which can authorise the use of nuclear weapons” (MEA 2003).
As for the executive council’s input, its advice collectively arrived at is to be conveyed by the NSA. The interrelationship between the NSA and the institutional heads in the executive council—who largely also sit in the Strategic Policy Group of the NSC system—corresponds to that of the Prime Minister and his political colleagues, one of power asymmetry. The other pillar of the NSC system, the National Security Advisory Board, which is expected to be a repository of national security expertise, has been run aground with its membership comprising four members, including the chair (Economic Times 2018), as against 22 members in the first advisory board headed by the doyen of the strategic community, K Subrahmanyam.
Individual Decision-maker
This brings up shortcomings in nuclear decision-making discernible in the character of the individual decision-maker. At this level, the character of the Prime Minister as decision-maker is consequential. Modi’s significance in his government—best illustrated by the information ministry employing some 200 media watchers to regulate the coverage of the Prime Minister by the media (Bajpai 2018)—magnifies the implications of him being the decision-maker.
Critiques of Modi popularly have it that his is an authoritarian personality. Such appraisals usually compare him with Indira Gandhi, infamous for the Emergency days. Sociologist and clinical psychologist Ashis Nandy (2002) has stated that Modi exhibits a
mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive use of the ego defence of projection, denial and fear of his own passions combined with fantasies of violence—all set within the matrix of clear paranoid and obsessive personality traits.
Nandy (2002) writes that on emerging from the interview in which he formulated this impression of Modi, he felt he “had met a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer.”
Modi’s electoral majorities over three successive elections in his home state, Gujarat, have reinforced his image of having authoritarian traits. He was able to fend off then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s possible move to oust him from chief ministership after the Gujarat carnage (Ullekh 2017). He withstood the scrutiny of the Supreme Court through its Special Investigation Team on his role in the carnage (Dasgupta 2012). Facing these challenges contributed to the rise in his political profile. The habits formed in Gujarat have come to define Modi and have carried over to governmental functioning at the centre.
As can be expected, the nuclear field has been affected (Ahmed 2017). The initial promise from a nuclear doctrinal review having found mention in the manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party was dashed with Modi silencing any talk of change, claiming nuclear weapons were a “cultural inheritance” (Reuters 2014). As a result, over the past four years, there have only been hints of possible change, such as in his defence minister making a personal observation in public on whether the no first use (NFU) policy tied down India’s hands (Kanwal 2017: 33–35). Consequently, the official doctrine, predicated on NFU and “massive” retaliation (MEA 2003), remains unchanged. The remainder of this article examines the implications of an unchanged doctrine when viewed through the organisational theory lens at the individual level.
Determinants of Decision-making
Four factors are likely to influence decision-making regarding nuclear use. First, is the Prime Minister’s image of decisiveness. This could tend to push for a quicker decision from the political council, overshadowing the abundant caution that needs to attend such decision-making. Second, is the strong-man image of the Prime Minister and the NSA, who respectively chair the two councils of the NCA. Apprehending a heightened reputational risk from a decision that does not conform to a tough line may lead to an unnecessarily harsh decision on the nature of Pakistan’s punishment for the temerity of going nuclear, albeit at a lower-order level of introduction of nuclear weapons into an ongoing conflict. Third, is the perceived reservations the Prime Minister and the NSA have of Pakistan, evident from the prevalent hard line towards Pakistan. Last, but not least, and compounding this issue, is the attitude that Prime Minister Modi has towards Muslims in general (Malhotra 2017).
The upshot of deliberations on nuclear retaliation is less likely to be in favour of restraint. India may go ahead with its doctrinal follow-through of “massive” retaliation, or a watered-down version: “unacceptable” damage. In a recent iteration of this by a former head of the Strategic Forces Command, Pakistan stands to lose 8,00,000 people as primary casualties and another 12,00,000 as secondary casualties to such retaliation (Shankar 2018).
Lest the walkthrough appears speculative, a look at nuclear developments might strengthen the case on nuclear dangers. Commentary on the Rafale controversy has it that the change was possibly necessitated by India needing a nuclear weapons air-delivery system. The India-specific enhancements that have apparently shot up its cost and necessitating secrecy may have been to the nuclear avionics of the Rafale (Mitra-Iyer 2018). Alongside, India is set to purchase the S-400 Triumf air-defence weapons system from Russia at a steep cost of ₹40,000 crore (Hindu 2018). This system is expected to deploy a
protective screen alongside the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s endogenous and exogenous missile defence system around the national capital region. Expec­tation of protection against Pakistani retaliatory strikes will embolden aggression in nuclear decision-making. It provides a rationale for jettisoning self-deterrence from perceived vulnerabilities that constitute mutual deterrence.
India’s nuclear policy and decision-making structure is designed for democratic decision-making. But, the propensities in India’s higher governmental leadership today appear to be the opposite. Thus, the structure is unlikely to function as envisioned. The hollowing out of India’s institutions can, thus, exact a rather steep price. The very traits in the primary nuclear decision-maker that so enamoured the middle classes and voters at the last hustings show up now as liabilities. An extension for the ruling party at the helm in 2019 increases the likelihood that the unthinkable is at our doorstep.
References
Ahmed, Ali (2010): “The Political Factor in Nuclear Retaliation,” Strategic Analysis, Vol 34, No 1, pp 5–8.
Ahmed, Firdaus (2017): “Are India’s Nuclear Weapons in Safe Hands?” IndiaTogether.org, 20 December, http://indiatogether.org/are-india-s-nuclear-weapons-in-safe-hands-op-ed.
Bajpai, Punya Prasun (2018): “A 200-Member Government Team Is Watching How the Media Covers Modi, Amit Shah,” Wire, 10 August, https://thewire.in/media/narendra-modi-
amit-shah-media-watch-punya-prasun-bajpai
.
Dasgupta, Manas (2012): “SIT Finds No Proof against Modi, Says Court,” Hindu, 10 April, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sit-finds-no-proof-against-modi-says-court/article3300175.ece.
Dutta, Saikat (2017): “Cutting the Hype: There Wasn’t Really Much to Manohar Parrikar’s Stint as Defence Minister,” Scroll.in, 23 March, https://scroll.in/article/832418/cut-the-hype-there-wasnt-much-to-manohar-parrikars-stint-as-defence-minister.
Economic Times (2018): “National Security Advisory Board Reconstituted with Ex-envoy to Russia Raghavan as Head,” 13 July, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/national-security-advisory-board-reconstituted-with-ex-envoy-to-russia-raghavan-as-head/articleshow/54765284.cms.
Frey, Kersten (2010): “Guardians of the Nuclear Myth,” South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan, Itty Abraham (ed), New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, pp 195–212.
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— (2018): “Narendra Modi’s Is an Honest, Decisive and Sensitive Government: Amit Shah,” 26 May, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/modi-govt-ended-dynasty-politics-ushered-politics-of-development-amit-shah/article23998346.ece.
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Ullekh, N P (2017): “‘Modi Has to Go’: Post-2002 Gujarat Riots, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Wanted then CM to Step Down,” Firstpost.com, 7 January, https://www.firstpost.com/politics/modi-has-to-go-post-2002-gujarat-riots-atal-bihari-vajpayee-wanted-then-cm-to-step-down-3191210.html.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Watch | National Security Conversations: Making Sense of India's Military Doctrines

Doctrinal thinking in the Indian armed forces and the need to devise a comprehensive national security strategy .
https://youtu.be/N6fK182w3VA

Thursday, 16 August 2018

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/14637/A-National-Security-Mess 

A national security mess

The BJP’s desperation is showing. Confronted with budding unity in the opposition, the ruling party is trotting out its election cards. This time round it is taking credit for outing illegal immigrants in Assam, as the Supreme-Court mandated and supervised National Register of Citizens (NRC) process culminates in the state.

Championing the illegal immigrants issue enabled the party to make inroads in northeast India. Now, it seeks electoral dividends nation wide. To the extent it succeeds, it would deepen an ethnic divide, planting and nurturing Bengali nationalism. This is the gravamen of Bengali political heavyweight Mamata Banerjee’s warning, of a possible, if not impending, civil war.

It is strange that a party which prides itself on being sensitive to national security issues should need such cautioning. And, after claiming that four million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have been corralled in Assam, it is curious that the BJP should make a national security case for appropriating the credit.

The BJP may yet be surprised to find its expectation upturned that religion will hold India together, irrespective of buffeting from ethnic subnationalism.

It is unmindful of recent subcontinental history, which saw a second partition in 1971, with Pakistan – founded on religion – falling apart. East Bengalis threw off the yoke of Punjabi rule and the imposition of Urdu in a civil war.

Mamata Banerjee is no stranger to political grandstanding and hyperbole, but even if civil war is an exaggeration, national security could do without a stirring of Bengali (sub)nationalism. Bengalis constitute a quarter of a billion people and inhabit a contiguous territory on the subcontinent. They are happily divided by religion, for now. If they were to come together as an ethnic nation, they would easily come among the top five nations by population.

History should not end up recording that the first step in this direction was the changeover to the name ‘Bangla’. Already, social media has begun to record Bengalis being mistaken for Bangladeshis. A Bengali (Hindu) writes plaintively about being wilfully mistaken for a Bangladeshi in the national capital. In one brazen case, a Bengali (Muslim) was hacked to death in Rajasthan and the gruesome video uploaded. The perpetrator was later honoured with a float at a religious procession depicting him as a new-found saffron hero.

The Kashmiri, Naga and Sikh insurgencies testify that India is no stranger to ethnic nationalism. The long-running Manipuri and Assamese insurgencies indicate that being Hindu does not preclude an ascriptive challenge to the state. One of India’s concerns has been Tamil nationalism. The desire to preempt its taking an ugly turn prompted India’s Sri Lankan intervention in the eighties.

National security minders in government need to assert themselves to keep the ruling party from unnecessarily putting India’s Achilles’ heel of plurality to the test. The national security establishment’s blind spot is this: that although it tacitly acknowledges plurality as vulnerability, it believes it can paper over it with a turn to religion, using Hinduism as the glue. Its myopia lies in mistaking Hindutva for Hinduism.

National security czar Ajit Doval’s speeches (which litter YouTube today) throughout his ten-year post-retirement wait in the wilderness under UPA rule, make the case for a polity based on religion, and under a strongman to boot. Even as the aspiration was declared, the threat of Islamist terror was magnified – illegal immigrants figuring as a subplot – with Hindutva footsoldiers planting bombs from Surat to Malegaon to build the case.

The stratagem eventuated in Modi, hurling a national security cloak over his chest, ascending to power.

This also explains the home minister’s case, made in the debate preceding the no-trust vote in Parliament, that there have been no terror incidents in India over the past four years.

The culmination of the NCR process is handy, as is the Supreme Court’s coincident appraisal of the challenge to the constitutional validity of Article 35A. To some the Article is the remaining thread that binds Kashmir to India; to others it keeps Kashmir from being bound to India.

No doubt the Muslim angle to this story prompted the Centre’s interest, so much so that the one issue credited to the otherwise moribund mission of the special interlocutor in Kashmir has been his interest in Article 35A. This will whet the BJP base’s appetite, and keep it hoping that in its next iteration in power the BJP would follow through on its manifesto promise of ridding the Constitution of Article 370, that other Article – which to some keeps Kashmir as an ‘atoot ang’ of India, while, to the BJP, it keeps Kashmir different and distant.

There is yet a trump card the BJP has up its sleeve, which it does not need to reveal as it is rather well known – the Mandir card.

At present it is happy to restrict itself to building a statue of Lord Ram. Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Parliament during the no-trust motion, which though made without recourse to notes and with the historic hug on its heels, has not catapulted him into a political David out to lay low the Modi-Goliath. The Modi-Shah duo likely sees a bigger challenge elsewhere, and does not want to elevate the profile of the saffron-clad potential challenger Ajay Singh Bisht, alias Yogi Adityanath, who would, as provincial chief, surely corner the credit for any progress on the Mandir.

In a nutshell, the BJP in its pursuit of polarisation to conjure up another Modi wave can leave a long-term, three-fold national security mess behind. This is the primary security concern, one that needs calling out. It cannot be left to the national security leadership appointed by the ruling party; the more so because its ideological subscription to the Hindutva national project makes it believe that a coat of saffron paint is just what India’s debilitating multi-hued reality requires.

Four million incarcerated in concentration camps is just the right potion to bring this about.