Friday, 26 January 2018

The Missing Muslim Army Officers

The second highest grosser of 2017, the blockbuster Tiger Zinda Hai, has an actor playing a Muslim army officer working in the Research and Analysis wing(R&AW). He is selected by the team leader played by Salman Khan, for his expertise in sniping. In one of the scenes, another teammate questions the Muslim army officer’s patriotism, who is shown fishing out an Indian flag from his rucksack to prove his nationalist credentials. Presumably, the Muslim director of the film wanted to show that Muslims can be patriots too. The moot question is: Why the doubt?
The Muslim army officer is an endangered species. Official figures are unavailable as to the number of Muslims in officer ranks in the army. Innovative ways, therefore, are to be found to get an approximation. One such attempt has been made by going through the Indian Military Academy’s (IMA) biannual commemorative volumes for each passing out course (Ahmed 2012). The number of Muslims could be tallied from the name and one-line description of each Gentleman Cadet (GC) of the passing out course beneath the squadron-wise course photos.
It being relatively easier to pick out Muslim names, it is possible to be more confident of the numbers, than, say, if educated guesswork is done to compile the numbers for those belonging to the Scheduled Caste from lists of names, as was the methodological problem faced in one such exercise (Aggarwal et al 2015).
While there are multiple officer entry streams apart from the IMA, such as short service commissions from the academies at Chennai and Gaya, these would take the absolute tally up, but are unlikely to change significantly the relative presence of Muslims in officer ranks.
A perusal of six editions of the biannual IMAjournal over the period 2005–11, covering about half of the seven-year period, led to a tally of 50 Muslim officers having passed out of the IMA. This suggests that about 2% were Muslim, excluding those from friendly foreign countries. In the academy journal’s Spring term 2016 edition, on the 137th Regular and 120th Technical Graduates’ course, nine out of 469 or 1.9% of the officers having passed out were Muslims. The figure from the 2016 Autumn term is five GCswith Muslim names out of 403 GCs. The figure goes up thrice over, to 14 GCsfor the following course, Spring 2017, that had 423 GCsin all. In effect, Muslims constituted 2.1% of those taking the Antim Pag, the “final step” of training, also the first step as an officer, to the lilt of “Auld Lang Syne.”
If one contrasts these figures to the figures on GCsfrom Afghanistan—with which India has a strategic partnership agreement since 2011—who have passed out of the IMA, the journals indicate that India has trained some 50 Afghan GCsper term; thereby, training about five times more Afghans than Indian Muslim GCswhile its own Muslim population is five times larger than that of Afghanistan.
The consistency in dismal numbers of Muslims obtaining the President’s Commission suggests that there is little know­ledge, leave alone an understanding, that this is a problem calling out to be remedied. Recall, Muslims, at 172.2 million in India, account for 14.23% of India’s population. It is apparent that Muslims are under-represented. The unfortunate part is that this is unsurprising.
The Sachar committee—the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee for Preparation of Report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India—was set up to seek an answer, among other things, to: “What is the Muslims’ relative share in public and private sector employment?” (Sachar Committee Report 2006).
The answer it reportedly received from the army was that the army had 29,000 Muslim troops (Unnithan 2006), which adds up to 2.63%. These are embarrassingly low figures.
A Continuing Decline
The problem appears to be worsening. The latest National Defence Academy course at Pune commencing in January 2018 and consisting of 371 cadets (including those bound for the air force and navy), has only 4 Muslims. Only two Muslims joined the 153 cadets of the 10+2 Technical Entry Scheme course that commenced in January 2018 in Gaya. In the Direct Entry course that commen­ced at the IMAin January 2018, only one Muslim GCfeatured in the list of 103 names. Only one of the nine who joined the Army Education Corps course commencing in January was Muslim. One Muslim ­figured in the list of the 59 who joined the Technical Graduates course at the IMA. Of the 705 Indian youth signing up for an army officer career at the start of 2018, Indian Muslims could not even make it to ­double digits.1
Further, Muslims’ lack of visibility at the academy is manifest in all dimensions. Not only do too few Muslims make it to the academy’s portals, but, while there, their performance is indifferent. The IMAjournals perused for data reveal only one Muslim as having figured in the top GCappointments (34 appointments per course) at the battalion and company levels.2
In the two recent courses examined (Autumn 2016 and Spring 2017), only two Muslims held a “tabbed” appointment as the lower-rung Junior Under Officers, responsible for a platoon (the subordinate grouping to a company). The appointments are indicative of the relative order of merit of the GCthat is fixed on passing out. Of the surfeit of academy awards, only one Muslim GCreceived a mention for meritorious performance in equestrian sports.
The effects of under-representation and underperformance persist into their careers. Since only professionally sound officers land instructional appoint­ments at the IMA, it is possible to see how Muslims are faring by examining whether they find representation in the IMA’sfaculty. Lt Gen (Retired) Ata Hasnain, the notable defence commentator, was once an instructor at the IMAas a major. The instructional staff names appear in lists below the group photos of the training faculty and academic staff in the IMAjournals. There were no Muslim officer instructors in two of the terms examined, one each in 2008 and 2011. In the latest two editions of the journal, there was a single Muslim major visible in the Autumn 2016 edition and two in the Spring 2017 edition.
Not tenanting such prestigious appoint­ments early on in careers, results in fewer making it to higher ranks since the steep pyramidal structure of the army weans off underperformers early. It is apparent that there is a cascading effect of the deficit in Muslim youth making it into the academy. It is no wonder that the only Muslim officer who reached the army commander level in this century
is recently retired Lt Gen P M Hariz, one of the two generals controversially passed over for promotion to army chief in late 2016.
The situation is equally appalling when the non-officer instructor lists are examined in the journals. In eight of the journals (six of the earlier set from 2005–11 and two of the latest (2016–17), of the non-officer instructor staff in the consequential training section comprising 100 ustads (non-officer instructors), none were Muslim. The only field having consistent Muslim presence is equestrian, owing to the instructors largely coming from the only horsed cavalry regiment that traditionally has had Muslims in its ranks, 61 Cavalry.
Not a ‘Minority Problem’
Is whistle-blowing on this score warranted? The army values its apolitical and secular image. It believes that it can only work on the youth the communities themselves forward, and that it is an ­all-volunteer army of a free country into which any eligible citizen can step up for recruitment. Given that it does not acknowledge that a problem exists, it is unlikely to take any steps to mitigate it.
However, under-representation is not only a “minority problem,” as Muslim issues are usually clubbed together. Any claim that the army is an equal-opportunity employer is questionable. The biannual media write-up on the passing out parades at the IMAinvariably provide a state-wise break-up of the officer commissions. At the last passing out parade in December 2017, of the 409 GCspassing out, 76 GCs were from Uttar Pradesh (UP), 58 from Haryana and 29 from Uttarakhand (ToI2017a). The June 2017 passing out parade had 423 GCspassing out, with 74 from UP, 49 from Haryana, 40 from Uttarakhand, 30 from Rajasthan, 28 from Bihar and 23 from Delhi (Pioneer 2017). Thus, a substantial proportion of the officer corps appears to be coming from a ­narrow, if populous, segment of India’s sub-nationalities inhabiting North India.
At the last passing out parade—one reviewed by the Bangladesh army chief—there were only six Bengalis. This implies that a majority of Indian communities, taken socially (as in case of Muslims) and geographically (East and South Indian communities), are under-represented. A research scholar writes, “Just as Muslims are under-represented in the army, so are the Bengalis, Biharis, Oriyas, South Indians or Gujaratis. And just as Sikhs are over-represented, so are the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas and others” (Saksena 2014). Arguably, the army does not reflect India’s diversity sufficiently.
The soldiery is not the focus here. As military sociologist Samuel Huntington (1957: 8) reminds us, the significance of officership to military professionalism is critical. Being apolitical and remaining so is a critical aspect of military professionalism. An officer corps that is non-representative socially or ethnically opens itself to the possibility of losing its apolitical and secular character.
It is liable to unwarily reflect the political inclinations of its catchment areas. Over this decade, right-wing ideological trope and memes have been liberally exchanged on the army’s social media networks (Ahmed 2017). The army chief recently has had to remark that keeping politics out of the army was necessary (ToI2017b). Since he did not clarify his remarks, there are two possibilities. Either he is apprehensive of the right wing’s penetration into the military, or he is against the emerging pushback within the army against such penetration. The latter reflects the discourse within the middle class, a step back from their falling uncritically for the so-called Modi wave initially.
Perception of Muslims
Reverting to the scene in Tiger Zinda Hai, it can be inferred that the MuslimR&AWofficer’s teammate perhaps did not have sufficient professional and social interactions with Muslims owing to there being very few Muslims in theR&AWand Muslims over the past two decades having been increasingly pushed into urban ghettos, respectively. TheR&AWbeing in the intelligence agency keeping a keen eye on the shenanigans of Pakistan, he has perhaps acquired a prejudiced mindset in this organisation. A similar effect can be apprehended within the army too. There are too few Muslim fellow officers whose professional showing can help dispel the negative stereotypes that have come to be associated with Muslims in general. The army also has a cloistered social space, restricting social interaction outside its cantonments. Virtually every officer has rotated out of operations in Muslim-dominated Kashmir, where, in one popular perspective in the army, he is up against a jihad (Hasnain 2016: 157). Army Chief Bipin Rawat, interacting with the press on the eve of Army Day, hazarded that Kashmir’s education system is suspect and that its madrasas (religious seminaries) and masjids (mosques) bear watching (Business Standard 2018).
More Muslims in the officer corps could be preventive, leading to greater self-regulation in social media exchanges that forge the negative perception of Muslims and Islam. An increase in their numbers on the ground in operations could mitigate any adverse fallout, such as, for instance, egregious violence inspired by misinterpreting problems with Pakistan and in Kashmir as a religious or civilisational war.
Since the army can be expected to be less than forthcoming on change—especially since ethnicities that are well represented apprehend a loss of employment opportunity, power, and the welfare slice of the defence budget—for now, only a sensitisation to the problem at hand can be done. Change can await democratic ousting of the current day government, not known to be predisposed to the minority in any way. Take, for instance, the discontinuing of the publishing of the numbers of Muslims in the police force early in its tenure. The decline by one percentage point of Muslims in half a decade—from 7.55% in 2007 to 6.55% in 2012—was put out by the National Crime Records Bureau (Sheikh 2015). This was during the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) rule, which the then opposition and current day ruling dispensation had held to be guilty of the appeasement of Muslims.
Change should not be read as affirmative action, but focused on recruiting processes targeting India’s missing mino­rities, ethnic and social. An Equal Opportunities Commission and a National Data Bank, both recommended by the Sachar Committee, are needed. For now, the army’s outreach programs could be redirected towards absent communities. For their part, Muslim communities across the country need to identify service in the military as an area for diversifying their presence and contribution to national life. Quite like how Muslim communities are endeavouring to get their wards into the civil services by setting up coaching centres, such centres also need to be set up for cracking the army officer entry exams. A long-term effort should be to encourage Muslim boys to attend Sainik schools run by states. Alongside, Muslim girls must be encouraged to opt for the Officers Training Academy, Chennai.
Pluralism and a rejection of intolerance are the sine qua non for Indian demo­cracy. These stand gravely threatened. The pernicious challenge to democracy that majoritarian extremism represents has not left any institution unscathed, including the army. Internal diversity, both social and geographical, can help insulate security organisations from the ongoing attempt by cultural nationalists to collapse “Hindu” and “Hindustan” into one.
1 “Merit Lists, Joining Letter Status,” Join Indian Army, Government of India,
2 A company is equivalent to a “house” in schools. Three GC companies make one battalion.
Aggarwal, Ankita, Jean Dr├Ęze and Aashish Gupta (2015): “Caste and the Power Elite in Allahabad,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 50,
No 6, pp 45–51.
Ahmed, Ali (2012): “The Army: Missing Muslim India,” Mainstream, Vol 50, No 27,
— (2017): “Dark Side of Army’s Social Media Groups,” Tribune, 2 March,
Business Standard (2018): “Army Chief Bipin Rawat Calls for ‘Some’ Control over Mosques, Madrasas,” 13 January,
Hasnain, Ata (2016): “A Counter Proxy War Strategy for Jammu and Kashmir,” The New Arthashastra: A Security Strategy for India, Gurmeet Kanwal (ed), New Delhi: Harper Collins.
Huntington, Samuel (1957): The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil–Military Relations, London: The Belknap Press.
Pioneer (2017): “After UP, Haryana, U’khand Tops List with Contribution of 40 GCs in Indian Army,” 10 June,
Sachar Committee Report (2006): “Summary of Sachar Committee Report,” PRS Legislative Research,
Saksena, Amit (2014): “India’s Muslim Soldiers,” Diplomat, 20 May,
Sheikh, Zeeshan (2015): “Data on Muslims in Police Will No Longer Be Public,” Indian Express, 30 November,
ToI (2017a): “IMA POP Today, Maximum New Officers from UP, Haryana & U’khand,” Times of India, 8 December,
— (2017b): “Military Should Be Kept Out of Politics: Army Chief,” Times of India, 6 December,
Unnithan, Sandeep (2006): “Sachar Committee: Congress Minority Agenda Comes under Scrutiny,” India Today, 27 February,

Thursday, 25 January 2018

War in 2018? 

By now it is de rigueur that there would be a war of words with Pakistan on a few landmark days each year. The usual tit-for-tat responses begin with army day since that is the first one on the calendar. It is followed by the acrimony on the commemorative day of the other two services and the by now annual India-Pakistan spat in the General Assembly. 

The last year saw the army chief owning up to the Cold Start doctrine at his first press conference in the run up to army day. This met with the predictable Pakistani response - described by an analyst - that even if the war's start is cold, the ending would be hot. On air force day, the air chief claimed that the air force could put out (in his words, 'locate, fix and strike') Pakistan's nuclear capability by conventional means using air power. Taking up the cudgels for Pakistan, its foreign minister warned all against any expectation of restraint on Pakistan's side. Navy day was rather subdued, presumably because navy has been in the dog house for damaging its nuclear submarine by keeping a hatch open; so much so that a Union minister feels emboldened enough to make disparaging remarks on its look-out for housing in South Mumbai. The annual UN General Assembly exchanges are now folklore (recall the juvenile phrases 'terroristan' (2017) and 'Ivy league of terror' (2016)).

The dangers of witnessing these unsavoury episodes is that it inures people at large into a false sense of complacency. They begin to take the implicit warnings in the threats exchange in their stride, unconsciously making these recurring, albeit identity-shaping episodes, a mundane part of daily, overburdened lives. However, the 'nationalists' among them welcome these and their applaud eggs key policy and decision makers to play to the gallery. 

Take for instance the instant case of the army chief on army day this time round burnishing his credentials as a bold and aggressive commander by threatening to call Pakistan's 'nuclear bluff'. The army chief said, 'We will call the (nuclear) bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff.' 

While Pakistan's foreign minister belligerently invited India to test Pakistan's resolve, its Inter Services Public Relations bounded back with a relatively sober response, saying, 'The only thing stopping them [India] is our credible nuclear deterrence as there is no space of war between the two nuclear states.' Continuing in a self-congratulatory tone, the major general let on that, 'That's why they are targeting us through sub-conventional threat and state-sponsored terrorism.' 

The good part of this exchange is that bluffing is part of the deterrence game. Sides at play are to posture so as to convince the other side of respective implacability. Word play is better than sword play. The second good part is that India appears to have options and is liberally using these. Unfortunately, these are to mirror Pakistan's strategy of some three decades, of sotto voce aiding and abetting terrorism across the border. The third good part is that in periodic exchanges of invective and shadow boxing, the two states can let off steam. Fourth, there's some free political capital to be had with routine Pakistan bashing. It helps the government deepen internal polarization as it turns for the next ball at the top of its run up. Apparently, this year it is an eight-ball over, with eight states - including consequential ruling party dominant states - going to the hustings.

Happily, the two sides appear to have hedged their bets. The two national security advisers have reportedly met some four times over a period, though the foreign office admits to one such meeting. The confidence building measure of a weekly call between the two military operations heads is on. The border security meetings take place. The beginning of the year exchange of lists of nuclear establishments has been done punctually. There has even been a release of prisoners. India has not gloated overly over Pakistan losing out on American largesse as the United States turns a page. The figures from last year released at army day eve on the relative pain inflicted on the other side suggests the army has got the better of Pakistan's army (138 against 28!). Perhaps that - and US pressure - has driven Pakistan's army chief to plead with the civilian politicians to reach out to India in a meeting with senators dutifully leaked. All this gives India cushion for swagger. 

Against this scaremongering can only be just that. Nothing can quite go wrong. And if it does, India has the redoubtable trio Modi-Doval-Rawat at the helm. 

Pointing to an implosion coming would be to do what liberals must. In the Gujarat elections are portents. Just as losses in Delhi and Bihar forced the ruling formation to dig into its majoritarian and communal arsenal and retake lost ground, the twilight campaigning in the Gujarat elections forced the 'great communicator' to resort to outright lies (such as his predecessor supping with the enemy at that gadfly Mani Shankar Aiyar's residence). As the elections roll out through the year, more of the same can be expected, with the saffron clad head of India's largest state dispatched hither and thither for vote catching, Karnataka being an example. And yet, as Gujarat has shown, the magic might not work all the time. More wattage, more innovation in hate might be needed soon. 

Further, the political storm stirred up by the four puisne justices has yet to run its course. Showing up the vile reach into the judiciary of right wing politics, it may help voters (Hindus) snap out of their mesmerized state. While demonetization pains could not bring this about, there is hope in the air. It would not do to give up on democracy just yet, with a year to go to national elections.

That's when the army chief could be tapped to make good on his promise. The army chief who chickened out from having a go at Pakistan in wake of the 26/11 attacks, General Deepak Kapoor, was part of Aiyar's jamboree with the Pakistanis. This time the Indian army has its answers ready. Merely in anticipation of his marching orders, the army chief has already clicked his heels and shouted out, 'Yes, Sire; three bags full, Sire.' Deep selection of a chief has its advantages, of respectful and timely delivery of answers sought. He would be available to carry the can too.

To be true to General Rawat, he has an army that has practiced its paces over the past decade. The army chief having admitted to Cold Start doctrine itself suggests that it has moved beyond the doctrine. The army has no doubt watched the Azm e Nau series of Pakistani military exercises and seen the outcome in Pakistan's 'new concept of warfighting'. It has half a decade on since the advent of Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons perhaps - implausibly in conjunction with the air force - found an answer at the conventional level. Not having tweaked its nuclear doctrine in face of this development, the nuclear answer is also likely available - not owing up to which is itself a dead give-away. To take exception to Rawat expression of confidence in the capability of the force would be uncharitable. 

The danger is in his confidence translating into over-confidence within his political masters. Convinced by his bluster, they could turn to him for bailing them out of a political tight spot. Surely, the judicial wheels let loose by the four judicial horsemen of apocalypse would grind to their logical conclusion should the ruling party be dislodged from Raisina Hill. A war can yet rescue it. Whoever said there cannot be a good, timely, short and sweet war.

Friday, 12 January 2018
Books under my pen name
Also see my other  blog - 

South Asia in it Together
The book comprises of commentaries by Firdaus Ahmed over the last few years. These articles, which largely deal with South Asian security issues, have appeared throughout 2014-15 in various respected publications such as, Kashmir Times and the Milli Gazette. Collectively they make the case that South Asia is 'one' and should come to be seen as such. The security of its states and people is intertwined. South Asian states should move towards a South Asian union. The articles make this case obliquely in covering issues in Indian security, and point to how these overlap borders. Some themes dealt with in the book - India-Pakistan relations, Kashmir, India's Muslims and the rise of religious extremism - clearly show that most problems lend themselves only to a South Asian, rather than national, solution. The book continues engaging with the issues addressed in Firdaus Ahmed's two earlier books, Think South Asia and Subcontinental Musings (both CinnamonTeal 2014).
Subcontinental Musings: Making a Difference
The book interrogates India's strategic trajectory, decisions and events from the liberal perspective in security and peace studies. The aim is to inform the public debate on security issues. It is a record of the 'interesting times' in the security field since nuclear weaponisation in the subcontinent.
Think South Asia: A Stand for Peace
The book comprises commentaries authored by Firdaus Ahmed covering the 'interesting times' which India and the region have been through since South Asia acquired a nuclear backdrop. The author’s observations from his ring side seat in the region cover all dimensions of security - from internal security to nuclear war. The book offers an alternative - liberal - perspective on security. It would be of interest to students, researchers, policy wonks and attentive public. The book is a contribution to the peace discourse in the region.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Spiking possibilities: What is the army chief up to?

In quick succession the army chief has taken care to set out the army's position in relation to developments that portend peace. When the representative of the Union government was appointed in October last year for a sustained dialogue with stakeholders in Kashmir, the army chief was quick to point out that his appointment would not affect army operations in Kashmir. Apparently operations facilitate a position of strength for the government conducive to negotiations. Recently, in the context of the news from across the border that the Pakistan army was softening up and its chief had called on the civilian authorities to progress matters with India, Gen Rawat immediately drew attention to Pakistan's continuing interference in Kashmir. However, this was of a piece with the foreign ministry line. Thus, two peace possibilities were nipped at the outset. 

To be fair, it would be stretching credulity that peace is at hand and the two possibilities were evidence of a dawn of sorts. It is widely reckoned that India and Pakistan are in yet another hiatus phase, with the Pakistani elections crowding 2018 and India's run up to 2019 crowding out any other demands on attention and effort. Upcoming election times are taken as precluding policy initiatives, such as exploring peace possibilities. This was also the case early this decade when Manmohan Singh's Pakistan policy was stumped by election time, first in Pakistan and then in India. The policy at that point in time heralded possibilities, with the two sides having gotten across the Mumbai terror attacks episode in a tentative reaching out between the foreign policy establishments. Internal to Kashmir, the three interlocutor's report was with the government, but - as P Chidambaram, the then home minister confirmed later - there was no stomach for the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi combine to stick their neck out for the sake of peace. Therefore, there is precedence for a glacial pace to events stemming from the compulsions of election time and to expect a peace outbreak is wishful. 

Currently, prime time is exercised positively by the US president's tweet that to some presages a turn of heart in the US, finally distancing it from Pakistan. The US president appears to be taking his Afghanistan policy, unveiled in August, further in tamping down on the Pakistani sanctuary available to anti-US terrorists. In Indian commentary this has been credited to Modi's Washington visit of June last year. He is taken as influencing the US decision to turn the screws on Pakistan soon thereafter. Since the Indian diplomatic policy of isolating Pakistan appears to be coming to a head, there is little likelihood of India cashing in on the dividend just yet. Pakistan would require being in the corner for longer before it is mellowed sufficiently to rethink its policy of export of terror to its neighbours, India and Afghanistan. 

Therefore, for India to be overly effusive over the Pakistani army chief's message - delivered at a meeting of the senate committee - on repairing ties with India, would be premature. This explains the foreign ministry's response to the feelers from General Qamar Javed Bajwa. It reiterated India's long standing position that talks and terror cannot go together - echoed by General Bipin Rawat in the media. 

In the event, India has reportedly taken care to keep the communication links going, with media reports on the military operations heads interfacing now and then and keeping a covert channel between the two national security advisers open - who if the media is to be believed met secretly at a foreign location. This is deemed sufficient to keep the pressure on Pakistan, without allowing event to boil over. This policy context provides a rationale for the army chief's staking out of a hard-line position on the intertwined external and internal fronts - Pakistan and Kashmir. So to arraign the army chief for speaking out of turn or off-key - the dimension explored here - is to be hypercritical and motivated.

Leaving matters at that happy pass for the status quo would not do. At the risk of sounding hypercritical and motivated, issue needs being taken with the army's unnecessary weighing in on the side of war and hate mongering, for that is the political dividend for right wing formations within India from the standoff with Pakistan and in Kashmir. Since this criticism arises from the realm of internal politics, a defence of the army line can be anticipated at the outset: that the army - being apolitical - is oblivious to this and therefore cannot be faulted on this count. 

The contention here is to the contrary. The repeated chiming in of the army in favour of a policy line that has internal political dividend for its political masters lays it open to such criticism. The repetition - and likelihood of being the domesticated 'his master's voice' into the future that this suggests - compels pointing this out timely. It is to prevent the army from becoming yet another legitimising source for policy lines that are only chimerically anchored in public policy, but actually have origin in domestic political calculus. Should the army get so entangled it ceases to be apolitical and ends up a political player, unwitting at first but a committed one as its role deepens.

Firstly, neither of the two policy domains - the home ministry's Kashmir peace initiative and the foreign ministry's domain of response to Pakistani overtures - is the army's turf. For the army to stake out a position can only be as part of an orchestrated policy rollout. This is unlikely since the Indian policy making and implementation framework is not known for such finesse. The army chief was likely as not speaking out of turn. That this is in sync with the party line has kept eyebrows from being raised, besides the supposed proximity of the army chief with the national security adviser on account of likemindedness. How much shared ethnicity has to do with this, history shall no doubt uncover.

Secondly, militaries are universally known to be conservative and realistic. They are slow to anger; prefer to stay out of a fight; and if forced into one, like operational freedom. In short, they are less likely to be spoiling for a fight than their civilian masters. This is in regard to external antagonists. 

The implications for internal security commitments of this bit of civil-military theory is that the armies prefer not being involved militarily in what are seen as political problems and if so engaged prefer early disengagement brought about by developmental and political ministrations by the civilian authorities. 

Contrary to the received civil-military relations theory, the Indian army appears to be belligerent, aggressive and straining at the leash. It seemingly prefers an unsettled Kashmir and appears happy that there is a reliable enemy at the gates, Pakistan. The army chief's operational persona as a spirited commander overshadows the strategic level expectations of him, of sobriety and restraint. This is an unfortunate deduction that the army - and its chief - need to hereon work overtime to dispel. 

It warns of an internal change in the army, warranting a closer study by military sociologists. Here is parsed that this is handiwork of the industrious band of cultural nationalists in the veteran and strategic communities, apparently reaching into the military. 

Finally, and importantly, time and again the ruling party has demonstrated its penchant for furthering polarization for political gains. The substrata of right wing pseudo cultural political formations have been busy deepening this. For the ruling party and its supportive majoritarian base, Pakistan is a handy foe and Kashmiri militancy a useful target. In the trope in the bylanes - that the otherwise verbose prime minister does little to stem - there is an identification of India's Muslims with Pakistan; accentuating thereby a Hindu ownership of India. It helps project India in a defensive war with Islamism, if not historically with Islam, itself. This transforms an essentially territorial dispute with Pakistan and an internal security problem in Kashmir into a civilisational war. This enables and justifies a single policy stroke - the hard-line. 

Within this political context, the army's role can at best be restricted to the operational. It cannot buy into the party line. It must step back from the information war frontline. In this, the army chief needs to lead by example.