Tag Archives | honour

India’s Grand Strategy

The K Subrahmanyam lecture

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon delivered a lecture yesterday to honour K Subrahmanyam, India’s foremost strategic thinker, who passed away in February last year. Mr Menon rebutted the notion that India has never had, and doesn’t have a grand strategy.

The NSA said Subrahmanyam had made four key contributions to Indian strategic thinking: building a consensus that nuclear weapons were the cheapest and most effective way of guaranteeing national survival in an uncertain world; creating an understanding that defence could not be sidelined in the pursuit of development; developing a modern national security structure; and emphasising the need for India to seek autonomy in its strategic decision-making.

For Subrahmanyam, Mr. Menon said, India’s core constitutional values — secularism, democracy and the pursuit of the peoples’ welfare — constituted a road map that provided overall shape to decision-making.[Hindu]

The lecture is worth watching in full. Here it is in two parts, courtesy Ms. Smita Prakash of Asian News International.

If these 27 minutes leave you unsatisfied after whetting your appetite, spare an hour. Go to the IDSA website and listen to this talk by the master himself. In what was among one of his last talks at IDSA (here), recorded on 29 April 2010, Mr. Subrahmanyam gives a tour d’horizon of “India’s Grand Strategy” to probationer officers of the Indian Foreign Service undergoing their 10-day module at IDSA. (Link thanks Rohan Joshi)

My fellow blogger, Nitin Pai conducted an interview with K Subrahmanyam for Pragati. You should listen to the interview in his own voice. You can also download the published interview in PDF.

Comments { 0 }

Budget us in US dollars

A cruel irony from an army that does everything in the name of protecting its country’s honour.

Pakistan Armed Forces have demanded (a politically correct euphemism for instructed) from the government that the defence budget, from the next fiscal year, be allocated in US dollar terms and not in Pakistani rupee.

The Defence Ministry sources said that dollar is being traded at Rs 87.50 in the market at present and its price will soar to Rs 91.50 in the next financial year. Therefore, the budget be provided to the armed forces keeping in view this situation.[The News]

As a natural progression, Pakistan Generals ought to follow this up by asking for their salaries in US dollars in foreign banks. They would after all need to protect their hard-earned monies against a weak Rupee. But what happens if the US dollar weakens vis-a-vis the Euro or the Renminbi? Will the next demand be to have the budget be allocated in the strongest currency in the world? What happens if that currency is the Indian Rupee in a few years time? An interesting possibility indeed.

On a more serious note, this is as serious a vote of no-confidence in its own country’s economy as any armed forces can have. But when that country happens to be Pakistan, memorably described (in the words used by Friedrich von Schrötter for Prussia) as an army with a country — or soon to be without one, as Ahmed Rashid fears — the irony of this ludicrous demand is rather cruel. After all, Pakistan army claims to be the ultimate protector of the honour of its country.

Update: Dhruva Jaishankar summed it up pithily in his tweet: “An army without a country without an economy?”

Comments { 8 }

A reason for ISI’s churlishness?

CIA trying to infiltrate the ISI

Amidst all the talk about honour, respect, equal-partners, drones being discussed by the ISI Chief with the US officials during his visit to Washington DC, this is one bit that may have missed many an eye.

Former CIA officials say the ISI believes many of the agency’s operatives on the ground are gathering information about Pakistan’s nuclear program and trying to infiltrate the ISI, not just fighting terrorism.[WaPo]

Come on ISI, be a sport. That is what spies are meant for.

Comments { 1 }

A patch on the arm not needed for honour

The strength does not lie in the uniform. Indian military veterans must realise this truth.

Former  Major League Baseball player and the NYT columnist, Douglas Glanville talks about the life beyond the uniform for a top baseball player. It has huge parallels for military veterans who find it extremely difficult to adjust to a life without uniform. As the traditional social and political structures have changed in India, this transition from an uniformed life within a military garrison to one in civvies outside has become troublesome for many.

…I enjoy a tradition of watching one of our favorite movies: “A Few Good Men,” starring Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Tom Cruise and Demi Moore. Its most famous line is Col. Jessup’s “You can’t handle the truth!” But the one that always sticks with me is Lt. Kaffee’s parting words to one of the defendants, Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson: “You don’t need a patch on your arm to have honor.”

Our uniform is our patch on the arm, a badge that becomes our ticket to social acceptance, fame, financial security (maybe) and admission to an elite club of “success.” But it’s also a ticket into the theater of self-doubt. A doubt that turns most players into awkward Clark Kents without their Superman costumes. Or Col. Jessup in his “civvies.”

Because with that uniform comes the responsibility of representing cities, towns, family names, team legacies and even your own childhood hopes. And all that can confuse your sense of where the uniform ends and your real self begins.

In the end, I had to find honor outside the game — or, more specifically, outside the uniform — and I had to find it in areas where I’d had little exposure. I could no longer just flash my “badge” and watch the rest unfold automatically.

It takes a lot of introspection to avoid this Superman effect, of feeling heroic and powerful in uniform and ungainly and lost outside of it.

The exhortation is just right when we see the many veterans cling on to create ludicrous designations like Lieutenant General (Emeritus). Other veterans try very hard to usurp the role of spokespersons for those serving in uniform. As seen recently during the SCPC fracas, it only vitiates the environment, polarises the debate on civil-military relations and creates ugliness among various stakeholders in the defence setup.

Unless one is a Field Marshal and thus uniformed for life, other veterans have to deliberately resist the lure of associating with uniform after hanging their own. The excuse of tradition to perpetuate this association sounds hollow when viewed in light of the changes in polity, society and economy of the nation and the culture of the defence services themselves. Veterans must find their own individual roles out of uniform (it would be based on skills and experience picked up while in uniform) while allowing the defence services the freedom to charter their own paths in a new environment, unencumbered by the past linkages. The conclusion of Doug Glanville is thus bang on target for Indian military veterans to ponder over.

Eventually, many players find honor outside of the uniform… But it takes a lot of work. I had to fight for it and to trust it. I had to understand that the things that made me excel in a professional baseball uniform could help me in other environments, too. But it takes time to truly understand that while there is a history and a legacy behind every baseball uniform, each player who wears it adds something to that history — something that was there inside them long before they ever put on a uniform. And that this same “something” can be found again when the uniform is put away.

So I carry on, as many do, without the pinstripes or the M.L.B. logo on my hat. Lt. Kaffee was on point: you don’t have to wear a patch on your arm to have honor. But I don’t think he really understood how hard it could be, or how long it might take, to really feel it to your core. If ever.

Remember, one doesn’t have to wear a patch on his arm (or on her shoulders in our case) to have honour and power. The earlier a majority of military veterans in India realise this, the better it will be for them, the defence services and the nation.

Comments { 18 }