Ranjit B Rai


New Delhi, 05 November 2001

It was late Gen K Sundarji who opined that one of the best kept secrets of India was that it had never institutionalized long term defence planning. This modus operandi has suited the politicians and bureaucracy. It provides room for manoeuver. Last year at the Field Marshal K M Cariappa Memorial Lecture, K Subrahmanyam delivered a hard-hitting lecture and echoed a similar theme with the then recent experience of the Kargil war. He headed the Kargil Committee and did a good and swift job and found that everyone paid less heed to what he had said.

Subrahmanyam bared many national shortcomings and adhoc isms that bedevil a coordinated approach so necessary for security issues. In the present climate of globalisation and unbounded terrorism the need for the MEA, Economic and Intelligence agencies to coordinate vigourously with the Armed Forces to enable credible political direction is inescapable. Otherwise action is piecemeal especially as the para military forces have mushroomed with large budgets. Subrahmanyam also touched upon the criminalisation of politics and many felt he used the platform to vent his personal pique against the National Security Adviser's dual charge (which continues) and the NSC's inactivity. He was also head of the then newly instituted National Security Advisory Board which has since lapsed IDC learnt at the lecture. Tehelka had not been born then.

Shri George Fernandes as the Chief Guest replied eloquently and assured that matters would be rectified. It is heartening that some of these measures especially changes in the procurement system and DIA are due to be implemented via the GOM report. A Chief of Defence Staff system is on the anvil though the powers of the CDS as another Chief amongst equals, may prove to be debilitating and confusing. Only time will tell as it is a Swadeshi model.

This year Lt.Gen V R Raghavan (Retd) a former DGMO who heads a Think Tank was invited to deliver the 29th Cariappa Lecture on the theme "Comprehensive Security for India". Raghavan did a creditable job of assembling the theme, the facts and laced it tongue in cheek with quotations from none other than the two Defence Ministers George Fernandes and Jaswant Singh, and K Subrahmanyan to explain how the paradigm of comprehensive internal and external security for the citizen is lacking and how it needs to be addressed. It was on a good plane though his delivery was monotone and in summary it was the same old wine in better bottles.

He surveyed the effects of globalisation and free trade on security issues and explained that economic performance contributes to whether a Nation has robust or weak security. Only strong economics can contribute towards internal and external security objectives. The alternative to globalisation he opined was fragmentation, and weak economic states tend to instability. He cited Afghanistan and the 11 September incidents, which led to America's war on a faceless enemy. He explained that the same phenomenon accrues in Kashmir and some other Indian states where armed gangs disturb security and implored India's leaders to attend to economic performance.

Earlier in a brief introduction Army Chief Gen S Padmanabhan had spoken of non-state players arriving on the security scene and Ragahavan threaded linkages of various sectors of national development, cultural identities and needs of police protection for citizens, to prove how security can be offered to individuals and societies. Finally he gave a relevant example and explained how the economic downturn in the early 90s led to the lack of force structures when the provisioning of required hardware for the Armed Forces suffered. Coupled with political dithering and a soft approach towards security issues, Pakistan was encouraged to make an incursion in Kargil. He felt every cabinet looks at its own tenure and that needs to change. Surprisingly a year after Subrahmanyam gave his lecture the audience wondered if any thing had changed. On a personal note Raghavan recommended the use of Institutions and think tanks to support the bureaucracy, which is over burdened with day to day work overload.

Shri George Fernandes presided and spoke extempore and like last year conceded that there were shortcomings but digressed. He spoke of China having moved ahead and won the race even before India had begun. Then he moved to the poor work ethics in Defence PSUs like the ones at Garden Reach Workshops and lack of development in the border areas especially the North East that had contributed to the insecure conditions there. He agreed with the speaker that an attitudinal change to take a comprehensive look at security was essential and quoted his mentor Ram Manohar Lohia who had said that the fist (Armed Forces) can only be strong if the arms (the people) are strong.

That needs to be taken as the larger message and addressed even by the States, police organisations and para military forces and only then can ‘Total Defence’ be provided.

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