(Delivered by Shri K Subrahmanyam at Vigyan Bhavan on 28th October 2000)


In his introductory talk, Lt Gen Shankar Prasad, DG Infantry explained and rightly extolled the role of the Indian Infantry (which has been in battle since Independence) as the mainstay in the four wars India has fought, and in the proxy wars in the troubled States. He welcomed the Chief Guest, RM George Fernandes, the Army Chief Gen S Padmanabhan, and the Guest Speaker Shri K Subtahmanyam. The Army Chief spoke about the RMA i.e. Revolution in Military Affairs.

The speaker of the day, Mr Subrahmanyam delivered a hard hitting, upfront lecture on the            "Challenges To National Security". He is an ex IAS officer and now India's leading strategy analyst and columnist, who authored the Kargil Report and India's draft nuclear doctrine. He is also the Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board and so came to the platform with vast knowledge, pedigree and experience unmatched.

Executive Summary

Subrahmanyam painted a dismal picture of the state of affairs in Defence and explained how Indians leaders have failed to face reality since long, making India's security apparatus weak. He spared no one involved with India's security –– the common man, the Services, politicians and bureaucrats, with a mouthful of harsh words during his 55 minute delivery, with some glaring repetitions, especially the phrase “POLITICIAN/BUREAUCRAT CRIMINAL NEXUS’. He talked of the lack of strategic thinking since Panipat, poor mindset of politicians regarding India's defence, lack of public awareness, skewed political and corrupt practices in daily polity, that affect security and clubbed both the IAS and the military as bureaucrats who are still preparing for the last war with no refreshed thinking.

He added the nuclear dimension in India with the weapons, delivery and command and control not clearly defined. So unless a shake up takes place, internal security is in danger and external security not comprehensible for most, while politics, coalition governments, the opposition and the Bofors saga, have skewed the procurement process. India's attitude to defence at the highest level needs education and change. He defended the draft nuclear doctrine as the most economical.

Surprisingly, he pointed at the non-performance of the newly formed NSC which has only added to the challenges before India's security. His main solution is the effective functioning of NSC, which has not uttered a single cry since birth or met often enough.

He recommended that for the NSC to take on the mantle, a separate staff for it and full time NSA need to be provided. The present mode with Brijesh Misra doubling as PPS to the PM and NSA is woefully inadequate for the task. The other measures were to use ‘think-tanks’, revamp of intelligence system, with proper feeding of civil and military intelligence to the NSC and make it chalk out paths for all ministries to ensure India's security.

He emphasised that security and economy were very closely interlinked and warned that disruption like the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai can be disastrous. He advocated far greater transparency with most issues under public scrutiny and that no statements should be ‘off the cuff’. He also asked for less secrecy to the media which had a long way to go in defence journalism; and frequent briefings of the opposition to ensure that national interests are furthered. He surprised everyone by saying, "it is the Congress that should rightly get the credit for the Shakti (nuclear) readiness leading to the successful Pokhran blasts of 1998, as it were the Congress PMs who sustained the critical work that enabled the BJP led Government to explode five devices within days. But the Congress was not consulted and took on an adversarial stance, which was not in the interest of national security.

On DRDO he said they are incapable of delivering on latest weapon technology, so the civil sector needs to be involved. Finally he pleaded for the reports of the four ‘task forces’ on security that have been tendered admirably swiftly, to be analysed and implemented.

The lecture was a refreshing look inside our security apparatus and ultra critical. Mr Subrahmanyam based his introduction on the exchanges that the late Field Marshal Cariappa had with Mahatma Gandhi in 1947 when he was living in the Bhangi Colony and the Major General had returned from the Imperial Defence College. Cariappa asked the Mahatma how he could explain non-violence to his troops when their job was the opposite. The Mahatma admitted he was not clear on the role of non-violence in uniform, but fully supported the Indian Army's action in Kashmir and left it at that. The speaker used this as backdrop and the Pakistani perception that Hindus are not good fighters and hoped there would be clarity in policies that will now follow, after 53 years of dealing with power politics in international relations and four wars.

IDC pens below some other one liners for those interested in the challenges to India's security as seen by K Subrahmanyam :

  • There has been no discussion on India's nuclear policy or threat.

  • Pakistan Army must be taught that they falsely believe Indian morale cannot be sustained as this misbelief of theirs has led them to repeated aggression against us.

  • The Henderson Brooks report and 1971 War History must be released for all to learn lessons.

  • The Politician-Bureaucracy-Criminal nexus, corruption and mis-governance are a threat to national security.

  • Information on defence is not shared even amongst colleagues in MOD. ‘Think- tanks’ must be encouraged as MOD is just a house keeping body with no time for long term assessments.

  • Coalition politics leads to less interest in security related matters.

  • ‘No intelligence policy planning’ is a threat to security.

All this was music to IDC, which have echoed similar sentiments right from our inception and wish to contribute to inform, debate and act as a ‘think-tank’ in its own humble way for net-surfers interested in’national security’. We were however, disappointed he did not touch upon the subject of JOINTMANSHIP or a CDS system but then his roots are in the bureaucracy!

Mr George Fernandes as the Chief Guest spoke extempore it appeared and replied with great confidence to Subrahmanyam's hard hitting issues, which were pointed at the MOD and started by agreeing that even Nehru did not face reality when Aksai Chin was gifted by Pakistan to China and put forth four points which IDC noted as crucial. The rest was rhetoric recounting of the MOD's achievements which have been many. On corruption he said there was a turn with the conviction of a former PM and a former CM, referring no doubt to Narasimha Rao and Jayalalitha but not by name.

The four points:

  • He promised that Subrahmanyam's speech would be looked into and analysed carefully and action taken where necessary.

  • He informed the audience at length that he had called the CII to join the defence industry to be partners with the Government i.e. Ordnance and DRDO, for production of military wares but after the initial response there has been no serious interest .

  • He made what seemed an ‘off the cuff’ statement that the four task forces on security have submitted their reports and after the spade work on them which is nearing completion is over next week, the four concerned Ministers of Defence, Finance, Home and External Affiars will meet and decisions will be taken. This seemed rather optimistic knowing the ways of the South and North Blocks, but he seemed confident and if this schedule can be kept it would be a near miracle.

  • He explained that the problems in Kashmir and North East had been aggravated because of the educated youth not having jobs, fell easy prey to the terrorist inducements. But this was being attended to and has been brought under control in the North East to a great extent.

The event was well organised and surprisingly only three English papers carried some truncated versions of the speech on the following day. Former Chiefs, the Air Chief, Ambassadors, senior Services officers and Defence Attaches were in the distinguished audience. Altogether it was a fine tribute to India's first Commander-in -Chief.

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