Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2011 > Safeguarding the Republic

Mainstream, Vol XLIX, No 8, February 12, 2011

Safeguarding the Republic

Saturday 19 February 2011, by K. Subrahmanyam


K. Subrahmanyam, 82, India’s pioneering strategic thinker, passed away in New Delhi on February 2, 2011. He leaves behind his wife, three sons and a daughter; while one of his sons, Jaishankar, is currently our ambassador in Beijing, another son, Sanjay, is a historian teaching at the UCLA, and a third, Vijay, is a Secretary in the Government of India.

As The Times of India has aptly observed editorially,

“The demise of K. Subrahmanyam… should be an occasion to reflect on what he frequently bemoaned—the absence of a strategic culture in the country, which often held it back from achieving its goals. If that situation has been somewhat remedied today, that is due in no small measure to Subrahmanyam’s own intellectual and institutional contribution. India set up a National Security Council, for example, as late as 1999—and that was partly in response to Subrahmanyam’s tireless advocacy.”

A 1951 batch IAS officer, Subrahmanyam was appointed the Director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in 1968. In 1975 he was sent to Tamil Nadu as the Home Secretary in Madras (now Chennai). As C. Raja Mohan and Inder Malhotra have both recalled in The Indian Express, he refused to implement the Emerging laws in the State because of which, Inder recounts, senior Congress MP O.V. Alagesan criticised him in Parliament. But actually it showed the mettle of the personality.

Following the perfidious Pakistani intrusion in Kargil, the government set up a Kargil Review Committee under his chairmanship. Its report has been implemented only partially.

Mistakenly described as a nuclear hawk, he was a tenacious crusader for a level playing field in the global arena. As Jug Suraiya has pointed out in The Times of India upholding Subrahmanyam’s cogent argument, “if the US, Britain Russia, France and China (not to mention Pakistan) have the bomb, so must India. In an ideal world there would be no need of weapons, nuclear or otherwise. But ours was far from being an ideal world, and we needed weapons, including nuclear weapons.”
In that very context one had ventured to ask him once (before the Pokhran II nuclear tests in 1998) about the kind of expenditure that would have to be borne by the country if we were to go nuclear. He instantly explained that thanks to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Homi Bhabha, Dr Vikram Sarabhai the foundation had already been laid; hence “we won’t have to start from the scratch as would be the case for a country like Iraq”—and then “we are not going to be in competition with the US or the USSR which have numerous weapons in their armoury, we shall have only a few nuclear weapons” for which the expenditure would be far from prohibitive.

He served the country in various capacities including as the Secretary, Defence Production, Chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee. After retirement from service he functioned as a journalist writing newspaper columns, and spoke at length on various themes with emphasis on India’s defence and foreign policy.
One special feature of Subrahmanyam has been brought out in bold relief by Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

“For one who worked in government for many years, Subrahmanyam prized his independence which he saw as the key to his integrity. I have had three careers, he once said when asked why he had turned down the offer of a Padma Vibhushan—as a civil servant, a strategic analyst and a journalist. ‘The awards should be given by the concerned groups, not the Government. If there is an award for sports, it should be given by sportspersons, and if it’s for an artist, by artists.’ The state, he believed, was not qualified to judge different aspects of human endeavour.”
On this question as well as on the issue of the Emergency his views were identical with those of N.C. with whom he enjoyed close relations.

While remembering him on this occasion we are reproducing the presentation he made at a seminar held in New Delhi in connection with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birthday celebrations (January 23-27, 1984) that was a published in full in Mainstream (February 11, 1984). —S.C.)]

Liberating, building, sustaining and safe-guarding the Republic of India has been an unparalleled task in history.

Our liberation struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was a unique event and heralded the beginning of worldwide decolonisation. Thereafter the building up of the Indian nation-state was a stupendous task. One-sixth of humanity, unified by the millennia-old concept of Indian civilisation and culture but divided in languages, ethnicities and religions had to be welded together into a democratic, federal, secular, multilingual and multiethnic Republic. It was a task comparable to uniting the whole of Europe. Today India is the world’s largest democracy. The future of democracy in the world as a whole and particularly in the developing world depends on how it will fare in India.

Similarly, when one talks of safeguarding the Indian Republic we are referring to the second largest nation-state comprising of one-sixth of humanity and the largest democracy in the world. Of the four larger nation-states in the world—China, India, the Soviet Union and the United States—while India and the US are democracies, the other two are not. China is not a federal state, and neither China nor the US is a multilingual state. Hence it will be no exaggeration to say that uniting the nations of the globe into one world depends on the success of nation-building in India and progress towards increased integration in the European Economic Community. Unfortunately for mankind such integrative forces are weaker than the forces of disintegration in the world. Today out of 157 nations in the international system there are more than 60 nations with populations less than one million and more than 30 states with populations less than 200,000. Such a disintegration process has led to increased vulnerabilities of developing nations and their manipulability by powerful industrial nations. The result of this is increased sense of insecurity in the developing world.

After the end of the Second World War in 1945 there have been more than 150 instances of major inter- and intra-state violence and of these barring ten, the rest took place in the developing world. It appears as a paradox that while the industrialised countries spend well over 80 per cent of the world’s military expenditure and produce 95 per cent of all weapons, most of the violence is witnessed in the developing world.

The paradox would not appear to be so if there is a detailed analysis of the conflicts. In two-thirds of them, the nations of the developed world intervened either directly or indirectly. Many of them were anti-colonial wars. Only around 20 of these conflicts were inter-state wars. A number of them were wars against the regimes caused by religious, tribal and secessionist factors. In the subcontinent we have experienced around 15 instances of major inter- and intra-state violence constituting 10 per cent of the global total. One could argue that ten per cent of instances of violence in an area having twenty per cent of global population is not indicative of a high incidence of violence by the standards of the developing world. Yet it does show that the subcontinent is prone to turbulence and violence.
Such turbulence and violence at a time when nation-states are formed is not an unusual phenomenon. Nation-state as a concept emerged only in the 16th century and we have four centuries of history of evolution of nation-states mostly in Europe and for the last one-and-a-half century in the Western hemisphere as well. That period of history was marked by extraordinary violence such as the Thirty Years War, Napoleonic Wars, the Balkan Wars, the First and Second World Wars, the American Civil War, the decimation of the Red Indian population, the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution etc. Countries which are today known for their commitment to peace—such as Sweden and Switzerland—had their full share of violence. The period was marked by religious intolerance, genocide, ethnic conflicts and oppression. The development of science and technology, industrialisation, spread of education and a spirit of secularism over a period of a century and finally two horrible wars within a span of two successive generations have stabilised the industrialised world still under the threat of nuclear annihilation. The developing world has started on this process only since the end of the Second World War and the dawn of the era of decolonisation.

When one hears a lot of preaching these days from the developed world about human rights, provision of minimum needs, keeping peace in the international community, the virtues of religious tolerance etc. directed at the developing world, this is very much like an adult preaching the adult virtues to a growing child or an adolescent youngster. There is no questioning about the direction in which the developing nations have to move just as it is inevitable, children and adolescents have to develop into adulthood. But it is also necessary to reflect on the unreality of a child trying to have all the characteristics of an adult. Very often this crucial aspect is overlooked when Western educated, Western trained and Western conditioned intellectuals demand here and now all those characteristics in the state and society of the developing nations that are prevent in the developed nations of today.

It is not the contention here that democracy, secularism, elimination of poverty etc. should not be the goals of developing societies and those values are unsuitable for the black and brown people as many authoritarian rulers expound. Nor is it possible to think of alternative ways of development which would bypass industrialisation and at the same time feed the enormous populations in the developing nations. Small is beautiful only when the populations are also beautifully small.

OUTSIDE Europe there have been three ways of development into the modern nation-state. The first is an authoritarian political structure with bourgeois values in economic development which may hopefully develop into increasingly liberal structures exemplified by some Latin American states and a few others outside Latin America. The second is the authoritarian model exemplified by Marxist states. The third is India. In all history there is no example of a developing nation overnight becoming a democratic state, reduce income disparities and launch on a path of economic development based on liberal democratic values. No doubt at the dawn of Indian independence and in the first decade thereafter there was a great deal of optimism in this country that India would be able to build a modern democratic nation-state and with centralised planning also reduce income disparities. That dream has not materialised.

Today still a significant portion of our population (whether it is 40 or above 50 per cent) is below the poverty line. Income disparities have not shrunk but grown wider. Or the political side also there are disappointments about the inadequate growth of healthy political traditions. There has been fragmentation of parties on the basis of personality cults. There are complaints about the absence of inner-party democracy revealed by lack of intra-party elections and publicly audited accounts of their funds, political fund collections, which in turn leads to generation of a substantial black money sector in the economy, corrupt practices during elections, lack of assertion of autonomy and interference and suppression of autonomy of states and local bodies, lack of assertion of autonomy of the judiciary and exercise of dominance over it by the executive, tyrannical abuse of power and authority by the executive at various subordinate levels and inadequate protection to citizens against such abuse etc. There is no denying that most of these charges about the state of affairs in this country are true.

Even while admitting this sorry state of affairs it is also necessary to have a balanced perspective of the situation in this country against the perspective of the developing nations all over the world. There are hardly a dozen democratic countries among them. Hardly any country in the world other than India can boast that ex-insurgents who had fought against the Indian security forces could get absorbed into the system and rise to hold honourable positions in the polity as happened in the case of Angami, Vizol and Jasoki of Nagaland. It is only in India a leader who burnt the Indian flag at one time was carried to his grave wrapped in that very tricolour with the last post sounded by the Indian Army as happened in the case of C.N. Annadurai. This is the country where Communists have been voted to power through the ballot box and they conduct their legislative proceedings on the basis of May’s Parliamentary Practice.

Even as we agonise over our shortcomings and lament about our failures, let us be conscious of what has been achieved, what has taken root in this soil, and what our present situation is with all its merits and demerits. Unless we have such an unbiased assessment about our Republic, we are in danger of deviating into one of two dangerous courses. On one side is the risk of complacency which emphasise only our achievements and totally ignore our failures and shortcomings. On the other side is the risk of overlooking our substantial positive achievements and sinking into total self-abnegation. Both deviations will lead to vulnerabilities which can be exploited to the enormous hurt of the Republic and adversely affect this unique experiment of building up the Indian Republic.

THE international environment of today is not conducive to the building up of democratic states in the developing world. Out of nearly 120 developing nations it has been estimated that around 55 are ruled either by the military or have military dominated regimes. Among the rest the majority of the developing nations have various forms of authoritarian governments, some of them parading as being native to the genius of the country or people which very often is a euphemism for tribalism. However, all of them, Kings, Sultans, military rulers, chieftains of single-party rule, claim they are practising their own particular brand of democracy. The industrialised world, both bourgeois democratic and communist, does not attach importance to the development of democracy in the developing world. Understandably the communist countries do not believe in liberal democracy. The Western countries also find it easier to deal with authoritarian regimes than with the democratic ones in the developing world. Their strategic interests are better served through authoritarian regimes. Unlike in the earlier periods in history, today there are two gigantic instrumentalities available to the superpowers which give them a whole range of options in dealing with other developing nations between sending a protest note and landing the marines, as admirably explained by the former CIA director, William Colby. Narrow-based unrepresentative authori-tarian regimes are far more vulnerable to manipulation through coercion, cajoling, and if necessary by elimination and replacement of a ruler or a small ruling clique than a democratic set-up where the decision-making on foreign and security policies is obtained on broad-based participation by the middle class and where replacement of the ruler or the ruling elite will not result in change of policy. Hence the preference for authoritarian regimes.

In our neighbourhood it has been documented that the replacement of civilian rule by General Ayub Khan in 1958 had the support of a super-power. Bhutto believed that his own overthrow was the final denouement of interventionism of a superpower. A study by Lawrence Lifshultz maintains that the overthrow and assassination of Mujibur Rahman was the result of interven-tionism of a superpower. It is difficult to come across instances where superpower intervention has been in favour of restoration of democracy in any country.

The climate in the developing world itself is also not in favour of sustaining democracy. Among the ex-colonial territories, India is a unique instance of a country where English education was introduced in the early nineteenth century, local self-government in late nineteenth century, representative institutions and form of government got internalised over a period of several decades, a middle class of significance developed and a liberation struggle of long enough duration took place for democratic and representative institutions to survive after the departure of colonial rulers. In most of the other colonial countries the trend was towards reversion to authoritarian, tribal and monarchical forms of government and to renounce the democratic form of government as being unsuitable for the people. None of the leaders who have denounced the democratic form of government as unsuitable has devised an alternative form of representative government in the developing world. It has been mostly a pretext to perpetuate a personal or junta rule. Every one of those rulers portray themselves as a prophet or an avatar and such denunciation of democracy is usually the starting point of a personality cult.

In this overall climate, the democratic government in a developing country is viewed as a threat by all its non-democratic neighbours. Very often rulers fall back upon religion as a protective barrier against democracy and hence the cry is that democracy is not Islamic and those agitating for representative government are not Christian but godless people. In this respect there is a vital difference between those who bring into politics revealed religions and the Indian culture. Those who fall back upon revealed religions and texts for political purposes hark back to a frozen past while Indian culture had always emphasised evolution and a cycle of events implying continuous change. Very often authoritarianism and revivalism go together. As the spirit of secularism spreads, even religions have come out in support of democracy. Today the Christian church is in the forefront of the struggle for democracy in Latain America, Africa and elsewhere. The linkage between authoritarianism and atavistic approach to religion is exemplified by the international organisation of nations based on a particular denomination. This again is a factor inhibiting democracy in the developing world.

Democracy and representative government are products of industrial culture and are related to the industrial mode of production. In
the West, democracy developed along with industrialisation and took firm roots when the nations became full fledged industrial states. In Europe industrialisation preceded democratisation and the attempts in the developing world to have democracy and representative form of government before large scale industrialisation is achieved, have by and large failed. Here again India is a unique case. India happens to be the second largest industrialised country among the developing nations and also the largest democracy. The expectation that decolonisation will unleash rapid industrialisation of the developing world has not been realised.

THE controversies about North-South dialogue and the New International Economic Order highlight that there is not much hope in near term of the industrialised world assisting meaningfully in the industrialisation of the developing countries. Earlier in the colonial era the colonial countries were producing agricultural commodities and exporting them to the industrialised world in return for manufactured goods. With enormous population explosion in the developing world consequent on the introduction of modern health technology and drop in death rates and modern techniques of agricultural production in the developed countries, today the developing countries are food deficit and dependant on the developed world to feed their populations. When the euphemistic term interdependence is used, it only means that the developed world needs the energy resources and rare minerals that lie buried in the territories of the developing countries. Otherwise the dependency is all one way. India happens to be one of the small minority among developing nations which is in a position to reach self-sufficiency in food. For a very large number of developing countries, food security is as much an issue as their national security.

A very important and powerful tool in the hands of the industrialised world to keep the developing world in a state of permanent depen-dency is the linkage between the establishments of the developed countries and the elites of the developing countries. The jet transportation and communication revolution have given to the elites of the developing world easy access to the affluent life-style of the developed world. Besides, the elites educate their children in the educational institutions of the developed world. The military of most of the developing countries are trained in the establishments of the developed countries. There is no study on the impact of this on the developing world.

A significant percentage of the elite families of India have their children or close relatives settled in the US and UK. This cannot be without influence on our perceptions and policies. In the turn of the last century and early part of this century, young men from the developing countries went to Europe for education and from among them emerged Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash Bose, Zhou-en-lai, Ho Chi Minh and others like them. In a sense they were the products of the nationalist, socialist and democratic ferment Europe was undergoing at that stage. Today the US and Europe are undergoing no ferment. They are consumer-oriented, democratised and stable welfare states where 12-14 per cent unemployment is managed in a way there is no great social turbulence. Consequently while in the earlier days at least some among those who went for education to Western countries absorbed the revolutionary ideas and values and came back to lead nationalist revolutions, the situation today is different. Those who are educated in the West come back influenced by either consumerism of the West or ideas and values of the post-industrial democratic societies which are utopian for the developing world for quite some time to come. The military men came back often to lead coups in their respective developing countries. None of these influences is conducive to the growth of democracy or spirit of self-reliance vital for democratic development in the developing world.

The Cold War confrontation has further complicated the process of spread of democracy in the developing world. The two industrial blocs engaged in the Cold War tend to place greater emphasis on their strategic interests than on their commitment to ideologies. With the result the Western democracies have supported authoritarian rulers in preference to democracies since democracies in the developing countries have tended to be nonaligned while authoritarian rulers have been more obliging vis-a-vis the Cold War policies of the West as a quid pro quo for its support for sustaining the authoritarian rule.

While the Socialist bloc has assisted in basic industrialisation of countries like India and supported the national liberation wars, yet they have no ideological stake in supporting liberal democracy in the developing world. Given the rivalry of the two superpowers, authoritarian rulers and forces have tried to play one against the other to seek support for their authoritarianism. Idi Amin was able to secure Soviet support. The Pol Pot regime is treated as legitimate by the US and China. Since authoritarian rule is prevalent in a significant percentage of the developing world, they are able to take advantage of the unexceptional principle of non-interventionism in the domestic affairs of nations. But this principle is no bar to the interventionism of superpowers who have powerful instrumen-talities to operate covertly on the domestic structures and forces of a developing nation.

In the Cold War confrontation influencing the developing nations and shaping local balances of power in one’s favour, selective arms transfers by the superpowers play a crucial role. Autho-ritarian rulers of developing countries attempt to establish a security relationship with one or the other superpower and make the support of the superpower to the sustenance of their regimes an issue of superpower credibility in the Cold War. This is what the Shah of Iran tried to do and failed. Today the US Defence Secretary comes out in support of the military regime in Pakistan against the democratic forces in that country and there have been declarations that Iran would not be allowed to happen in another West Asian country.

Besides the Cold War rivalry, other important considerations in the superpower strategy towards the developing nations are the resource availability and access to important communication links, staging facilities and advantageous locations for electronic intelligence collection. These are advantages which authoritarian rulers can exchange for superpower support. It is against all these heavy odds that democracy has to sprout and grow in the developing countries. Since it is the organised working class and the middle class which become the fertile soil for democracy, the present international power structure inhibits industrialisation in the developing countries.

IT is in this overall hostile international environment that Indian democracy has to survive. Apart from this general hostile climate to the growth of democracy in the developing world the immediate environment surrounding India has certain special negative features. Two of India’s neighbours were carved out of what for centuries had been an integrated civilisational area identified with Indian culture and consequently have enormous national identity problems. This is turn sets them against India and makes them susceptible to external influences. Their struggle to have a separate national identity compels them to maintain certain distance from India and a certain level of tension. India is a democracy surrounded by three military dictatorships (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma), two monarchies, one communist state and one democracy, India is a secular state surrounded by nations with established state religions and a federal state surrounded by unitary states. India has developed multilingual autonomy for its states which is denied at least in three of the neighbouring states. There is therefore a basic dissonance between India and its neighbourhood. It is inevitable that international forces and factors will act on this dissonance and since the global milieu is hostile to democracy such interaction will be adverse to India.

An industrially developed and integrated India will be a weighty factor in the international system and will modify the international status quo inherited from the Yalta decisions. At Yalta, China was accepted as a major international power and given a veto. The dispute in the subsequent years was not on the acceptance of China but on what kind of China. A Sino-Soviet combine was considered unacceptable by the major operator of the international system, the USA, but once China distanced itself from the Soviet Union there was no difficulty in accepting it. This is not the case with India. India’s status as a power was always questioned. Even before India attained independence its integrity and unity were questioned by Churchill and many others. Even as India was to become independent it was partitioned and efforts were made to Balkanise it with the doctrine of lapse of paramountcy. If Balkanisation failed it was not for want of effort. Then came the speculation about the dangerous decade for India and whether Indian unity would be sustained in the post-Nehru era. Others thought that Famine 1975 should decimate India.

This was succeeded by the thesis of Spring Thunder over India and prairie fire sweeping over it. General Ayub Khan thought in 1965 that it needed only a push and in 1971 General Yahya Khan thought that India would be helpless against his demographic aggression with 10 million refugees across the border. The 1970s saw the breakdown of the national consensus and declaration of the Emergency. If at that time the country escaped interventionism it was partly because the United States was still recovering from the Vietnam and Watergate traumas and partly because an apolitical and adequately powerful Indian Army stood guard allowing political processes to work themselves out.

Meanwhile India’s impact on the international system was being felt. In 1971 India brought into being the eighth most populous nation of the world against the strenuous opposition of the US and China and reluctance of the Soviet Union. Nineteen seventyfour saw the Pokhran nuclear test. A few years later came the launching of space satellite using an indigenous space vehicle and a little later the establishment of the Antartic station. The Indian Government had five orderly democratic transfers of power. Historically assessed, objectively no other developing country can rival this record.

But this record has not attenuated the dissonance between India and its environment. If anything this has engendered a feeling of sibling rivalry and hostility towards this country among its neighbours and excacerbated their fears that India might act towards them as other big powers had acted towards their neighbours. The national integration process completed with the merger of Sikkim, a non-sovereign territory, was twisted to create suspicion about India’s intentions towards other neighbours which are sovereign members of the UN. The second Cold War with its focus on the Indian Ocean area and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism are further complicating factors interacting with India’s environment. India is also regarded as a legitimiser of the Soviet Union’s relationship with the developing world and a successful model of Soviet industrial and defence aid.

The subcontinent is surrounded on all sides by regions which spend far more on defence. Countries in the West incur half the defence expenditure of the developing world. South-East Asia too is a relatively high-spending area on defence. To the north China is modernising its defence. The Soviet Union in the north and the US with its Rapid Deployment Force infrastructure are manoeuvring to optimise their advantages. A constituent nation of the subcontinent, Pakistan, is within the jurisdiction of the US Rapid Deployment Force. The Soviet forces are in Afghanistan and the US is supplying arms to the insurgents through Pakistan to tie down the Soviet forces. The Persian Gulf area is highly volatile and the Rapid Deployment Force is intended to deal with possible domestic unrest in the littoral countries of the Gulf. Iran is seen as a destabilising factor in the area and there are grave uncertainties about the likely course of developments in the post-Khomeini Iran. The Gulf area has been declared an area of vital interest to the US to be defended by force if necessary. Pakistan is reported to have 30,000 troops in the West Asian countries. There are various reports and speculations about the likely involvement of Pakistan in such scenarios and the consequent stakes of the US in Pakistan.

The US capability to intervene in any situation in the subcontinent is very much more than it was in 1971 when the USS Enterprise was despatched. A US Carrier task force is permanently stationed in the Arabian Sea. Thirteen ships with prepositioned equipment are available off Diego Garcia which has been expanded to operate B-52 bombers. The US has facilities to operate from in Mombasa in Kenya, in Berbera in Somalia, in Ras Banas in Egypt, and in Masirah in Oman. There is also a four-ship force in the Persian Gulf.

An Indian Ocean satellite with capability to gather information about Indian troop movements is in position. Now Jack Anderson, the noted US columnist, reveals that there is an agreement to operate US aircraft from Pakistani air bases in certain contingencies and to share intelligence. More than the supply of sophisticated US equipment to Pakistan, the worrisome issue is the nature of the US-Pakistan relationship.

No doubt the Soviet capability in the region in competition with that of the US is likely to contribute to increase of tension. However, it has to be borne in mind that this is the Soviet Union’s backyard and is half-way around the globe for the US. From the point of view of India currently the chances of Soviet power being used against Indian interests appear to be lower than its being used in a countervailing role in support of India vis-à-vis the US. The chances of the US Congress approving the commitment of the US forces against India are next to negligible but the use of US forces to countervail India against Pakistan cannot altogether be ruled out. There are also possibilities of intelligence sharing and some resupply operations in case Pakistan gets involved in hostilities vis-a-vis India. Similarly with 30,000 Pakistani troops in West Asia and their having access to the sophisticated equipment there and there being commonality between the equipment in those countries and in Pakistan the possibility of the transfer of such equipment on short notice will have to be taken into account. It is in this context that the strengthening of Pakistani naval capability with Harpoon missiles and refurbished Gearing class destroyers are of relevance to the Indian defence planner. They cannot be explained in terms of any defensive requirement of Pakistan vis-a-vis the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.

WESTERN strategies and some people in our own country usually cite the ratio of Indian and Pakistan forces to discount the possibility of Pakistan initiating a conflict. If one were to take into account the Indian defence commitments on the northern border and in North-East, the Indian margin of superiority over Pakistani forces deployed on the Indian border is only marginal and is much smaller than what it was in 1971 or 1965 when the larger superiority of India did not prevent a war from breaking out.

Secondly, if smaller forces were not to attack larger forces perhaps a majority of wars in history would not have taken place. The German Army, which invaded and defeated France in 1940 and which invaded and occupied a large portion of European Russia in 1941-42, was smaller than the forces they defeated. The Japanese, when they attacked Pearl Harbour, knew that their resources to fight the the US was proportionately meagre and inadequate. Yet these wars were started in the expectation of the initiators that surprise, superior generalship and tactical weapon superiority in some cases would give them victory or at least place them in a position of negotiating advantage. Pakistanis have written that similar was the calculation of General Ayub Khan in 1965. The bean-counting approach is derived from the nuclear strategy of deterrence and is inapplicable to conventional war. These are factors which should cause concern to any responsible Indian leadership.

Another question raised is whether the Pakistanis would be aggressive vis-a-vis India with the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Probably not. But the entire world, including India, wants the USSR to leave Afghanistan and there are no proposals that when the Soviet troops leave Afghanistan, Pakistan will reduce its forces and send back its armaments to the US. Further, the Soviet presence in Afghanistan complicates the issue by involving the US in Pakistan in a large way and, as Agha Shahi has explained, any attack on Pakistan by the USSR will make it a direct superpower confrontation. That is the meaning of the term ‘the frontline state’.

The crux of the problem is that Pakistan is ruled by a military junta which, even according to the most sympathetic Western observers, is universally hated in that country among at least the articulate section of the population. The junta does not any longer talk of restoring a civilian government under the 1973 Constitution but an Islamic system. The only system of government known in Islam is the sultanate. While it is possible in the 20th century to rule a people without their consent (and this happens in a majority of countries of the world), it is not possible to do so without large scale repression which in turn engenders instability, makes a country vulnerable to external intervention, and results in an extreme sense of insecurity for the ruling junta. This situation all along our western border has its impact on our security.

We have not exactly the same but somewhat analogous situation to the east in Bangladesh. There is today instability in Sri Lanka and northern Burma has had a continuous history of insurgency for well over thirtyeight years. While the discontent in Tibet is perhaps well under control, one canot be certain about what would happen in China in the post-Deng period. On this issue even the Americans have their anxiety. In other words, we are surrounded on all sides by current and potential instability and within our own country we have problems of Assam, Punjab and some North-Eastern States. The linkage between the problem of Assam and its external origin in terms of influx from Bangladesh is too well known to need further elaboration. In the case of Punjab at least some of the vocal protagonists of Khalistan and Sikh extremism and separatism are to be found among the Sikh population of Western Europe and North America.

There has been some speculation of their connections with outward-going drug trade and inward-flowing arms. The external origin of arms and ideology in the North-East are also well known. Earlier the international trend of fragmentation of the developing world in terms of micro- and mini-states which would give a great degree of manipulability and intervention capability to major industrial powers was referred to. If there can be sovereign members of the UN with populations of 25,000, every mohalla chieftain could dream of his place in the UN General Assembly. Naga, Mizo and Manipur insurgents, Chogyal and others partly derived their inspiration from this international trend.

BESIDES these factors with their external origins and inspirations impacting on our security, there is the internal problem of violence in terms of communal and caste clashes, political agitations on various grounds and activities of organised crime and certain sections of labour. Some academicians feel that with rising political consciousness, persisting poverty, growing linkages between money and politics and caste and religion forming primary communication links for social and political mobilisation the increase in violence in the country is inevitable. This aspect needs to be assessed objectively. There is no doubt that agitations have become an integral part of our politics and in most of the cases agitations lead to violence. As developmental and political processes reach down to the rural areas, violent clashes arising out of the agitational approach to politics spring from rivalries in securing developmental and political benefits for particular communities, especially because these processes, the fruits of democracy, tend to upset the traditional hierarchical structural relationships in the rural areas.

In the present political climate agitational politics with consequent violence, has taken the place of constructive work during the time of the liberation struggle as the main instrument to build up one’s leadership and mobilise support of sections of the population. Bus burning has become a major decision-producing technique. The reasons for the rise in agitational politics, though there are many others, can be categorised into two major ones. Firstly, this is considered the most effective way of capturing headlines and having an impact on public opinion. Secondly, the administratiobn is unable to anticipate and act effectively in time to defuse tensions. Both these categories of causes can be related to the process of mass democratisation.

In Europe and North America the process of industrisalsation was accompanied by a great deal of repression. In those countries at the time of industrialisation the population to resources ratio was more favourable than it is at present in India and the population growth rates too were lower because of higher death rates. The process of democratisation was gradual and during the period of industrialisation, power vested in the hands of the land owning and industrialist oligarchies. The enlightened labour laws of today were not there. The Untied States had slavery upto 1865 and thereafter the blacks were second-class citizens subject to various discriminations till the mid-fifities. Industriali-sation, democratisation and elimination of poverty in India are being undertaken in far more difficult conditions than those obtained in Europe and North America when they undertook the transfor-mation to industrialised societies.

Rapid abolition of poverty and redistribution of income have been carried out only by the Marxist states—the most notable examples being the Soviet Union and China. But such transformation also necessitated massive repression involving millions of deaths and maintenance of an authoritarian and highly bureaucratised state. These states were established in the wake of world wars in countries which have had no experience of the democratic form of government. It is difficult to envisage at this stage the majority of the Indian people exercising their option in favour of one-party Marxist state. The working class in India is now so much used to the economistic approach and is above the poverty line and consequently any attempt at redistri-bution of poverty will meet with enormous resistance from them. The Indian approach to organised labour has ensured that it will not be an instrument of revolution. There is no doubt a very large unorganised sector of rural labour which is below the poverty line. The moment it gets organised, in all probability the Indian system will coopt it into the system. In these circumstances it is difficult to foresee the Marxist model being adopted in India.

There is no alternative to industrialisation to eliminate poverty and this is bound to be a time-consuming process. The process could be accelerated by better planning, greater efficiency in administration, lesser corruption in politics and bureaucracy and directed purposeful politicisation of the society at the grassroots level and some restraint on the rapacity of the consumption-oriented top elite. Even then it will take time and cannot be achieved for several decades to come. Meanwhile the Republic has to be guarded and the travails of democratisatiion being out of phase with industrialisation, income generation and speed of maturation and skill acquisition by the society have to be put up with. This period is likely to be marked by violence. The choice before the country is application of a concentrated dose of massive violence to bring about forcible income distribution which in effect means distribution of poverty or put up with lesser intensity of violence over a prolonged period to build up a poverty-free society. Historically, no society has been able to transform itself from the agrarian stage to the industrialisation stage without violence unless the country happens to be floating on oil. Even in such cases poverty may be eliminated but not repression.

TODAY India consists of two layers. Some 40 or 50 per cent are said to be above the poverty line. That means a partially industrialisation state, with people above the poverty line of the size of 280 to 350 million people, has been developed over the last forty years. Below that is another layer of some 350-400 million people in poverty. By all historical accounts of nation-building except in the case of China, the first is a remarkable achievement. One has to look therefore at how we shall expand the top layer and shrink the bottom layer. Will people of this country accept a diktat of a one-child family and transformation of the society to one in which there is no need for words uncles, aunts and cousins? One has to only pose the question to know the answer that it is not likely to be accepted in this country.

Democratisation of an agricultural and developing country by introduction of adult franchise has resulted in political power being diffused to large segments of the population. In this respect the fact that India is in one sense a semi-industrialised country of around 300 million people above the poverty line is significant. The voting percentage in this country in elections is higher than many industrialised democracies. All these factors have contributed to political, economic and social management of the country getting into the hands of a vast number of people who are yet to acquire the necessary skills and values. Once we have opted for democracy, this is inevitable and also necessary. There is no way a child can learn to walk and then run except through first stumbling in the process. The corrupt and inefficient politicians and bureaucracy are part of a developing society’s learning process. Many of the industrialised countries took time in effecting the diffusion of power from the aristocracy and upper middle class to the lower middle class and labour class and even that process was not violence-free.

India has to learn to adjust itself to the limitations in the capabilities, skills and values preferences of politicians and bureaucracy at all levels for at least the next couple of generations. This in turn imposes collateral limitations also on the skills and performance of our technocracy, media and academia. One can see this limitation in the way in which political leaders are invited in this country to inaugurate conferences in Carnatic music or on particle physics where they deliver speeches written by section officers and are applauded by the very academics and technocrats who normally revile the bureaucracy or the way in which pages of our newspapers are covered by reports on the banalties uttered by political leaders of various parties day in and day out.

The next two generations will face a period of vulnerability for the Republic as the last two have been. We were able to get through that difficult period mainly on the basis of the momentum generated by the prolonged libertation struggle and on the basis of certain instrumentalities inherited and subsequently nurtured by the post-independence first-generation stalwart national leaders. These are an apolitical army, a bureaucracy relatively developed for a developing country and the security services. These are the basic instrumentalities of the Republic.

It is fashionable to blame and abuse these instrumentalities. One can understand those who favour a revolutionary change doing so though at the end of it all they are likely to impose a more oppressive bureaucracy and security apparatus. Others who do it have not thought through how hostile the present international environment is to the development of a large democratic state like India, what its impact on the international system will be, the dissonance between India and its immediate environment and the travails of the development process and accompanying violence.

It is not the contention that these instrumen-talities of the Republic are free from major shortcomings. Some of these shortcomings are reflections of those to be found in our political system and are inescapable for reasons already referred to. In spite of all their shortcomings, without these instrumentalities the Republic cannot be safeguarded against the various threats to its stability and further development. For incompetent and ignorant politicians and romantic academics and mediamen, attacks on these instrumentalities become easy alibis to cover up their own inadequacies.

There is a basic commitment to democracy in this country. A vast country like India with around half the population above the poverty line and half of it below it with all its diversities in languages, ethnicities and religions cannot be governed at its present stage of development and held together without the consent of the people—in any way other than democratically. The so-called centralisation tendencies do not in fact constitute centralised accumulation of power but reflect the lack of competence and skill in the neopolitical elite to wield power effectively. Most of them prefer to be in office rather than exercise power. The reality is that power is not being exercised effectively since exercise of effective power needs large scale decentralisation and delegation of authority. This is a passing phase in the learning process of a developing nation.

The commitment to democracy is reflected in the way elections have been made almost a fetish in this country—even college union elections. Various malpractices are indulged in to claim the legitimisation anointed by the sacred ballot box. The earlier practice adopted in Kashmir or Nagaland in the first elections of coercing all competing candidates to withdraw is no longer deemed legitimate. Even in Assam, where a number of people predicted the dire consequences of holding elections, they seem to have had on the whole a becalming effect. While in the sixties some people used to challenge the democratic system, now very few in the country do so. Maoism, as a way of solving the problems of developing countries, has lost much of its glitter in the light of the developments in China. There appears to be a reasonable probability that so long as the democratic system functions and the sanctity of the ballot box is maintained, orderly progress, though not at a rate which is entirely desirable, can be sustained.

To see us through this period of vulnerability and to safeguard the Republic, it is essential to maintain, nurture and allow to mature the democratic system and to keep in good order and repair the instrumentalities of the Republic.

(Mainstream, February 11, 1984)

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