Soldiers, The Silent Partners of Indian Democracy

Source: The post is based on an article “Soldiers, the silent Partners of Indian Democracy” published in The Times of India on 18th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 The Security forces and their mandate

Relevance: Role of Indian Armed Forces in Indian Democracy and reforms

Context: Over the last 75 years, India has acquired the tag of being a responsible military power.

What are the issues facing the Indian Military?

India has been a diffident power when it comes to the application of military force as an instrument of statecraft. This has held back the Indian state from deploying the military on a number of occasions.

History of Indian armed forces contributions

(A) Phase of vital contribution to nation building

(a) Soon after Independence, it helped in the restoration of peace and communal harmony in several places in northern and eastern India.

(b) It fought a land-air battle for over a year across two fronts in the Srinagar Valley-cum Ladakh sector, and the Jammu and Poonch sectors.

(c) Helped to quell a potential secessionist rebellion by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

(B) Phase of declined contribution

The political class had misplaced fear of militarisation of Indian society. Therefore, they gradually stopped listening to the Indian military. For example, the ruling class ignored Generals Thimayya and Thorat’s warnings and assessments of Chinese intentions and were side-lined for their views which were termed, alarmist. As a result, India experienced its only major military defeat in 1962.

The military took an eternal 14 years for evicting the Portuguese from Goa.

(C) Post 1962 resurgence phase

PMs and Defence Ministers started understanding the Indian military and allowed service chiefs to speak truth to power in the nation’s interest.

The political executives started focusing on an indigenous defense manufacturing and licensed manufacturing ecosystem.

As a result, India’s military revived and won the Indo-Pak War in 1965 and 1971 conflicts. Another manifestation was India’s ‘fighting fire with fire’ response at Nathu La in 1967.

(D) The post-1972 period

This time Indian forces learnt new lessons as they faced challenges of ‘Full Spectrum Conflict’.

The Indian forces carried out Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka, Operation Cactus in the Maldives, and Operation Bluestar at Golden Temple, Amritsar.

In the realm of ‘No War and No Peace,’ and strategic coercion, change was made in the strategies and structures for national security. These were aimed to allow India to flex its military muscle, which could act as a credible instrument of deterrence. India won the Indo-Pak Kargil war of 1998. However, it was a costly victory.

(E) New Paradigm- Limited military action used as a means of political signaling

In recent years, Indian forces carried out military action along and across the Myanmar-India border against insurgents; and also had a face-off at Doklam.

The Special forces and IAF carried counter-terrorist strikes after the Uri and Pulwama attacks.

What is the issue in India’s ongoing paradigm?

There is a reactive approach to external security challenges at present.

What should be done?

India must migrate from a reactive approach to a more proactive and preventive strategy.  This can only be achieved through the following steps:

(1) The military should be nimble in its thought and action across the spectrum

(2) It must have cutting-edge technology and synergised joint strategies across the land, maritime, aerospace, and cyber domains.

(3) The military is an instrument of the state and a strong pillar of democracy. It cannot rest in a complex and unpredictable global security environment with powerful adversaries

(4) The Indian state has applied military power, ensuring it remains non-expansive and non-intrusive. This is part of a robust and resilient democracy.

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