Resetting India’s National Security Vision
There comes a moment in the destiny of a nation when it should accept the ultimate truth howsoever bitter it might be and end its ongoing suffering to secure its own future. In other words, no nation can move forward without squarely facing its past mistakes. Those nations who fail to do so get thrown into the dustbin of history.
With the repeated Chinese back-stabs, Pakistan’s continuing terror attacks in J&K and an internal security situation where the actions of a combo of Pan-Islamists and Communists are destabilizing the nation, is it time for India to do an analysis of its past blunders and effect a gear shift in terms of its national security vision?
Perhaps yes. India has been aware of the nature of the deceptive Dragon since 1962. After Modi became the Prime Minister India did take measures to contain China and turned India from an underdog to an equal partner before China. And yet it allowed itself to be lulled into complacence in Galwan valley. Modi did a great job of befriending anti-China powers like Japan and Vietnam, wooing back pro-China powers like Myanmar, and opposing Chinese aggression in South China sea and lastly taking anti-China stand in Covid related issues.
None can deny that his grand plan to build military and civil infrastructure on the 34,00-km-long Indo-China border was one of the provocations for the Chinese incursions. But on the other hand India revealed a weak spleen after Modi’s arrival when it prevented Dalai Lama from being vocal against China in an attempt to appease the Chinese and in the end got deceived as shown by the latest episode. Even when China was opposing designation of Maulana Masood Azhar as a terrorist by UN we chose not to play up Tibet as well as Chinese atrocities against Uighurs Muslims in Xinjiang .
Series of National Security Blunders
Let’s start with a throwback into history. Jawaharlal Nehru’s blunders on national security front which cost us heavily in the 1962 Indo-China war were rooted in the ‘ peacenik ’ thinking of Gandhiji. Nehru’s Panchsheel doctrine for which India paid a heavy price against China was a mixture of Gandhiji’s non-violence and his affection towards Left ideology. The great visionary of India’s national security Veer Savarkar had warned in 1954 when Nehru came up with the Panchsheel doctrine that such kowtowing to China after its aggression in Tibet would whet the Chinese appetite for swallowing land and he won’t be surprised if China did that with India itself. He was proved correct eight years later in 1962.
There are more examples of Gandhism’s dark shadow over India’s national security. Around 1978 an upright leader like Prime Minister Morarji Desai under the influence of Gandhian ideology committed the monumental blunder of revealing to the then Pakistan dictator Gen Zia Ul Haque that India had a spy network in Pakistan and that he (Desai) knew about progress of the Pakistan atom bomb project at Kahuta.
Next, Zia weeded out all of India’s moles, set up by a resourceful Indira Gandhi during her tenure as Prime Minister as part of her successful plan to create a great spy network in Pakistan. Zia killed some of them while others managed to flee. Desai also rejected Israel’s request for refueling facility to its fighter jets in India for destroying the Kahuta facility. Interestingly, till Modi’s arrival as PM Indira Gandhi came closest to a robust national security vision that India needed but she too demonstrated serious flaws because of the Gandhian streak.
After breaking Pakistan into two pieces in 1971 war, she failed to settle the POK issue even when India was holding 93,000 Pak jawans as prisoners. On the contrary in the Shimla agreement with Z. A. Bhutto she gave back Pak territories that India had won in Sindh region in that war. Before that in the Tashkent Agreement under Lal Bahadur Shastri India had given back to Pak areas that it had won in 1965 war.
On the internal security front India allowed as many as 10,000 foreign Wahabi missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat to come to India since 2014 to preach an exclusive brand of Islam that turns local Muslims against the idea of nationhood. The Indian security establishment has been aware for years that Tablighi Jamat is the biggest Wahabi movement in the world spread over 150 countries and forges the vision of Ummah ( World Islamic brotherhood) which militates against the Idea of nationalism.
But yet it is proof of the lack of national security vision of a nationalist Government that 10,000 foreign-based Wahabi missionaries were allowed to preach in India in the past six years. The Shaheen Bagh movement was a creation of Pan-Islamists or Wahabis who wanted to fix Modi and Shah for having dealt repeated blows to their plan of Islamising India by winning Assam and Uttar Pradesh elections and freeing J&K from the clutches of Article 370 besides facilitating a judicial solution of the 500 year old problem of Ram Temple. Removal of Article 370 was proof of Modi’s Government’s great commitment to issues affecting national security which was just unthinkable in recent past. It carved the names Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in golden letters in Indian history.
And yet the Government by its actions allowed the situation to spiral out of hand in the Shaheen Bagh issue in the hope of winning the Delhi polls, thus dwarfing a national security issue before a small state election. A clinical national security vision warranted that the Government at the centre woo the non-Wahabis to isolate the Wahabis in the Shaheen Bagh issue. But instead, driven by election fever, the BJP targeted entire Muslim community thus uniting the hardliners and the moderates.
Against Pakistan India, which is four times the size of Pakistan, might have taken revenge for Pulwama but it is still not able to contain that terror nation even today despite herculean efforts. Pak-sponsored terror attacks continue in J&K. Yes, on the national security front India is in a far better position than it was in the past several decades but the fact remains like the previous Governments the Modi Government too has failed to impose sufficient cost on Pakistan or China for their transgressions against India like Israel does for hostile Muslim nations. Clearly, there is something wrong with India’s security vision and there is urgent need to fix it both internally and externally.
Gandhiji’s Ideology: The Impediment
What is the way out? It is very clear that Gandhiji’s contribution has brought immense dividend to India on the international stage. On the national platform his model of social service and Swadeshi, his vision of Gram-Swaraj that aims at making villages self reliant and his idea of Trusteeship which inspires businessman to contribute to the progress of the poorer sections of the society by apportioning a part of their personally-owned wealth for poverty elimination have greatly inspired the nation. His method of Dalit assimilation is also nationally recognized.
But it is equally true that his ideology of complete non-violence and Hindu-Muslim unity at Hindu cost first led to partition by spurring the demands of Muslim League. Later in Independent India it allowed the Pan-Islamist elements to take advantage of his austere ideology to further their own agenda in the name of various slogans woven around Gandhism. It is not without reason that in Shaheen Bagh protests across India and even in foreign countries the first photo at every demonstration was of Gandhiji. So it is clear that the Gandhi model of Hindu-Muslim unity has become a tool to blackmail the majority community with.
Not many know that Gandhiji had also once suggested that after getting independence, India should dismantle the army and only rely on police. In 1925 he had shocked many when he said that Guru Gobind Singh, Maharana Pratap and Chattrapati Shivaji were misguided patriots.In WW-II when Germany was raining bombs on London, Gandhiji first said he felt like committing suicide and later advised England to rely on its moral force instead of defending itself with military power. His unthinkable suggestions had greatly incensed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Clearly, Gandhi’s pacifism prevents us from seeing the evilness of an enemy like China. Except in rare cases like Balakot or surgical strike after Uri attack we have rarely followed tit-for-tat ideology, a direct result of Gandhian legacy. If China can capture our territory why can’t we do the same at some other point of the border. Significantly, Modi has set new paradigms in diplomacy and security engagement but in the end few can deny that the vision of a visionary like Modi too remains hamstrung by Gandhism when it comes to national security.
US and India: Revenge Strategies
When we are challenged we start with homilies like ‘India never commits aggression but doesn’t tolerate it when it is thrust on it’. Where is the need to say the first part? Clearly it is a sign of diffidence. The US relentlessly chased Osama Bin Laden 11,000 kms away 10 years after 9/11 and killed him to extract revenge for the 3,000-odd people who died in the twin tower tragedy.
In a sharp contrast, Hafiz Saiyad and Maulana Masood Azhar, who have killed thousands of Indians since 1995, lie within 150 kms of our border and yet we are unable to liquidate them. Is it not in sharp contrast to the US response against Osama?
So, first, there has to be an honest debate on Gandhiji’s ideology in the context of the damage it has done to our national security even while appreciating his contribution to the nation. And second, Veer Savarkar, who is in one sense the father of our national security vision, and Subhash Chandra Bose, the hero of Azad Hind Fauz, should be adopted as India’s security icons.
Why Savarkar and Bose as national security icons?
Let us examine Savarkar first. Savarkar is that unique person who had predicted many years before Pakistan was born that Congress’s Muslim appeasement policies would become Muslim League’s fodder, whet its appetite for special demands at the cost of Hindu rights and would ultimately result in partition. From 1937, Savarkar repeatedly warned Congress against Minority appeasement but was dubbed as a communalist though he never demanded special treatment for Hindus at the cost of Muslim rights. Ten years later he was proved correct when Pakistan was born.
Savarkar was a great visionary of India’s security. He predicted Assam’s Muslim problem in 1940s (Assam’s Muslim population then was just over 10%. Today it is 35% ) and the 1962 Indo-China war eight years in advance. In 1954, he warned Nehru that his principle of Panchsheel would spur China’s evil designs and that he won’t be surprised if China attacks India and swallow it’s land in near future.
His warning on Pakistan was also unique. He said till a nation based on religious fanaticism was India’s neighbor she won’t be able to live in peace. This appears true to the last dot today.
Interestingly, Savarkar had advocated armed strategy for India’s independence during 1st as well as 2nd World Wars . He advocated militarization of Indians before and after independence. He advocated atom bomb for making India Superpower. But most of all he preferred national security over any ideology in sharp contrast to how he is painted by Pan-Islamists and Communists.
Savarkar’s contribution to India’s national security vision is endless and beyond the scope of this article. For example, he had advised the then Jawaharlal Nehru Government soon after independence that India should call Arabian Sea as ‘Sindhu Sagar’. But Nehru never agreed.
But more importantly, according to Savarkar’s biographer Dhananjay Keer, it was on Savarkar’s sound advice that on world stage our enemy’s enemy has to be seen as our friend that spurred SC Bose into leaving for Japan, Italy and Germany, striking a deal with Axis powers and forming the Azad Hind Fauz comprising the Indian soldiers captured by them and attacking India with the aim of freeing Hindustan from British rule. Although Bose’s AHF lost, it played a big role in pressing Britain to give independence to India. And in one sense Bose implemented Savarkar’s vision.
There is unimpeachable evidence on Bose’s contribution on this. Clement Atlee who gave India Independence in 1947 as British Prime Minister of made some startling revelations during his 1956 visit to India (when he was not the British PM ) in his talk with the then acting West Bengal governor PB Chakraborty with whom he stayed in Kolkata for two days. His comments warrant a complete change in the way India looks at independence struggle history.
Atlee told Chakraborty: “The pressure built up by the AHF episode, the unwillingness on the part of Indian soldiers returning from WW-II to accept British rule and finally the mutiny by Navy solders at Mumbai Dock in 1946 played a big role in pressing Britain to withdraw. To a specific question by Chakraborty Atlee said that influence of Congress and Mahatma Gandhi was ‘ minimal’ in pressing Britain to give independence to India.
So, the time has come for India to adopt Savarkar and Bose as its national security icons firmly declaring that India will now walk on the Savarkar-Bose doctrine when it comes to national security thus making it amply clear that in security-related issues India won’t follow Gandhiji any more. Significantly, there were some differences between Savarkar and Bose on attitude towards Muslim community but their views on most things to do with national security were one.
What will be the impact of such a move?
Such a move will at once stop blackmail of the nation by Pan-Islamists using Gandhiji’s name which they have done with unerring regularity by first challenging the majority with violence like in Godhra episode and on facing retaliation invoking ‘ Gandhiji’s non-violence and his doctrine of ‘ Hindu-Muslim unity at Hindu cost ‘ to accuse majority community of biases.
The blackmail by communists, the co-brothers of Pan-Islamists, would also end. This will also enable India to properly define that section of the Muslim community which is moderate and not wedded to Pan-Islamism and wants to remain in the Indian mainstream. The numbers of inclusive Pan-Islamist Muslims is quite vast in India but India is unable to tap them due lack of a national security vision.
Delinking Gandhji from our national security plan will also immensely help India in sending the right signals to the world, especially the powerful nations besides of course its key rivals, Pakistan and China.
Entire world would know what to expect from India, if it is challenged. But the greatest service it will render to the nation is in cleansing the confused national security vision of Indians. In contrast to my suggestion, many in RSS and BJP believe that Gandhiji shoudn’t be tempered with as the present rulers (read Modi Government) are already following Savarkar-Bose doctrine as demonstrated in the Balakot strike or the surgical strike against Pakistan earlier or the removal of Article 370 from J&K.
But the argument has defects. The need of the hour is to clear the vision of the countrymen on the security front and not of the rulers alone. Plus, even the Modi Government has taken decisions under Gandhian impact in areas touching the nation’s security scenario like allowing the foreign missionaries of Tablighi Jamat to come to India for six years from May 2014, when the Government came to power, to April 2020, when it finally decided to stop these missionaries from coming. Clearly, the time for a vision shift on national security front has arrived. There is a hole in the Indian ship that needs to be immediately plugged to realize its future dreams or else the ship might sink.
Featured Image: DNA India
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