Home Contact Us  


Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3000, 9 November 2009
An Issue in Civil-Military Relations
Firdaus Ahmed
e-mail: firdyahmed@yahoo.com

Recently, the Army Chief is reported to have said that the "US has not allowed a second 9/11 to happen. Indonesia has not allowed a second Bali bombing to happen. India has allowed people to get away after the Parliament attack, the Delhi blasts and finally 26/11. It's time for all of us to say no more." In the light of weightier civil-military issues however, both analogies are inappropriate and not worth pondering. But it might be useful to consider if this is indeed a defining juncture in India’s civil-military relations.

The context is the forthcoming anniversary of 26/11, which India would hope will pass without incident. The urgency owes to the worsening situation in Pakistan. It is possible that the government is mounting pressure on Pakistan to rein in the jihadis to the extent it can. This explains the Home Minister’s earlier warning that “If Pakistan attempts to send terrorists into India again, India will not only foil those attempts but also give them a crushing response.” This ‘good cop-bad cop’ routine has helped balance out the Prime Minister’s offer of friendship to Pakistan on his trip to the Valley late last month.

The Army Chief made his statement in the presence of the Minister of State for Defence, the provocation for which seems to have been the news that the latest terror plan, a plot busted by the FBI in the US, was to target India’s prestigious National Defence College. The statement made by the present Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is in keeping with the precedent set by the previous COSC Chairman, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, of making policy-influencing pronouncements such as his recent address at a National Maritime Foundation lecture regarding India’s China policy.

But is India capable of such finesse in signalling? Answering this question in the ‘affirmative’ would mean treating the Chief’s statement as a departure in civil-military norms as an attempt to generate conflict where there is none. Whether there is a plan behind the government’s moves cannot be known with any certainty, and therefore, giving the benefit of doubt is warranted. The government is using the Chief’s broad shoulders to unmistakably convey to Pakistan that India is poised precariously on its proverbial ‘tolerance threshold’.
Nevertheless, even as an academic exercise, it is worth probing what the juncture implies. Keeping civil-military relations under periodic scrutiny, helps keep militarization in check and democracy in good health.

Firstly, the statement was made at a CII-Army seminar. This indicates the vested interests of corporate India and external arms dealers, in arming India. This is not surprising considering that the Minister of Defence has indicated that India is likely to spend US$50 billion over the middle-term. Of consequence is what this implies for policy choices. This can only be to facilitate military expenditure in pursuit of capabilities, allowing India to prevail, in case of the exercise of a military option - an inevitability since the Chief has spoken.

Secondly, one needs to question whether the Home Minister’s and Chief’s utterances have sealed India’s policy choices. High-end options, such as war, can be ruled out for reasons that have held back India even in the past - the economy, US presence, and the nuclear shadow. However, surgical strikes against any of the 5000 targets, a list of which the Air Force Western Command Chief has claimed has been drawn up, is possible. This could perhaps be supplemented with Army action across the Line of Control, so that all services can be part of the action. Would this make sense in a situation in which Pakistan currently finds itself? The expectation that India can pull off Israel-like punishing air strikes is to mistake a nuclear-armed state with Palestinian non-state actors. Since madrasas can reasonably be expected to be part of jihadi training complexes, images of bloodied madrasa children on CNN will be a political debacle best avoided.

Thirdly, in case India has not foreclosed its options, then credibility of the minister and the Chief, and in turn that of India, will suffer. With credibility at stake, the pressures for the military option would increase. This would be in addition to the right-wing pressures that would be strident, in the hope of regaining the ground lost in recent electoral battles. Therefore, even if the option is open, it has been virtually foreclosed.

This brings to the fore the most important question - can the military make pronouncements on policy choices? While it can discuss and advise on various options; making choices in democratic systems are a patently political prerogative. Military positions on issues command credibility that a government would find hard to challenge. The leaking of the MacChrystal report is an example of civil-military relations in the US. In the current circumstance, were the government to choose the saner option once again, it would reflect in bad light the opinion generated, albeit inadvertently, by the Chief’s remarks, in favour of an overtly militarized response. While not over dramatizing these developments, the lessons they may have to offer will only serve to deepen India’s democracy and military professionalism.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Rescuing Tribal India: The Nagaland Model

AFSPA in J&K: Why should it go?

Interrogating Security Expansionism in India

Compellence, Deterrence or Defence?: Saxena Task Force and India’s Defence Reforms

After Osama - VII: Should New Delhi Engage Pakistan or ‘Wait and Watch’?

An Indian Anti-Nuclear Peace Movement

Revisiting Intelligence Reform

The Indian Army: Organizational Changes in the Offing

Blast from the Past - The Varanasi Explosion

AfPak: Beginning of an End?

India’s COIN Policy: ‘Peace Preceding Talks’?

Jammu and Kashmir: Need for a Political Solution

Countering the Naxal Threat-IV: Military as an Option?

Revisiting ‘1971’

The Bright Side of ‘Asymmetric Escalation’

Questioning Defence Spending

India at 60: Acquiring Escape Velocity?

Making Obama's War Also India's

Disarmament in South Asia

Emulating the US

The 'Vision Thing'

Kargil: Ten Years On

From ‘No First Use’ to ‘No Nuclear Use’

Agenda for the Next Government

Rethinking Civilian Control

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.