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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Missing In Action

Singh's polemical thesis suggests an absent strategic culture

Missing In Action
Missing In Action
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
THE last Indian foreign minister to write a serious book on external policy was Jawaharlal Nehru. This is at least one reason to read this book! Indian politicians are no longer a particularly writerly or readerly class. Jaswant Singh, who became foreign minister after he wrote this - though not because of it - has written a book you'll either like or dislike. If you believe that independent India has accomplished something and been relatively secure, you'll find Defending India disturbing, to say the least. If you believe that its accomplished very little, you'll congratulate Singh for some plain-talking which is'nt something our politicians generally do.

The Jaswant Singh thesis is essentially the following: that India has no real strategic culture for a variety of reasons; it's had a respectable military tradition but the coming of the British and the nature of the nationalist movement under the Congress Party obscured this tradition, indeed undermined it by an emphasis on pacifism, non-violence, idealism, moralism, and a general fuddy-duddiness; that the armed forces and independent India's military operations have been muddled by all of the above plus ineffective institutions, incoherent decision-making, and timidity; that all this has culminated operationally in defence spending thats been inadequate, poorly used and often skewed in the wrong direction; and a force structure which appears to be calibrated for use against Pakistan when there are far more serious threats (China, counter-insurgency, for example). The defence of India is not just a matter of guns, training and doctrine though. In the new world disorder, other things count as well: a more imaginative foreign policy; economics; energy; environment-food-water; and demographic change (read illegal migrants). Finally, nuclear weapons count, and India must have them....

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