Politics Versus Professionalism: The Indian Military’s Dilemma

Politics Versus Professionalism

In the realm of Clausewitz’s Trinity, the military is traditionally seen as an apolitical institution that is solely focused on the execution of military operations. Numerous military scholars and theorists, including Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz1, support the view.2 Both scholars emphasize the importance of maintaining the military’s autonomy and keeping it free from political influence to ensure its effectiveness. In recent years, the politicization of the Indian military has become a growing concern. The Indian military has been politicized in various forms, ranging from the influence of political parties to the eagerness of military personnel to express political inclination. These trends have significant implications for the Indian military, including a loss of institutional autonomy, decreased effectiveness, and increased corruption. Moreover, the consequences of such politicization have not been limited to India alone, as they have broader regional and international implications. 
The military in a democracy serves according to the constitution and is not aligned with any political party. A nonpartisan and apolitical military is crucial for the stability of any state, allowing for a peaceful transfer of power and maintaining a professional outlook internally and externally. This is considered a bedrock of democracy. A politicized military exercises loyalty to a single political party while consistently advocating and defending partisan political positions. There could be two types of military politicization: civil activism and military activism. Civil activism refers to the attempts made by civilian leaders to co-opt the military for personal, partisan, or electoral gains. On the other hand, military activism, or militarization of politics, involves individual or collective efforts by the military to inappropriately influence policy outcomes or provide a political advantage to a party, candidate, or group.

To maintain its relevance and influence, the Indian military, especially Army, has shown overtures of a partisan role during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s government.

The German military’s participation in the Holocaust during World War II resulted from military alignment with the Nazi Party’s racial, political, and territorial ambitions.3 German military personnel were sworn to an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler rather than the constitution, making them blind followers of Hitler’s orders. This ultimately resulted in catastrophic consequences during the war.
Various testimonies and trends have emerged due to the politicization of the Indian military. The civilian government controls the Indian military and operates within a constitutional framework. Indian constitution and norms provide firm, stable, and authoritative civilian control over the military. The President acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for managing the military, and the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) serves as the principal military adviser to the government.
Primarily, the world’s third largest military has not been able to fulfill the political ambitions of the world’s fifth largest economy due to capacity issues despite consistently revamping doctrines, such as Sundarji Doctrine, Cold Start Doctrine, Proactive Operations, and rehashing Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans (LTIPPs). To maintain its relevance and influence, the Indian military, especially Army, has shown overtures of a partisan role during the

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s government. Following are a few testimonies: 

▪  The appointment of the former General Bipin Rawat as CDS set the environment for negative political reorientation of the military, establishing the following trends:
▪ The reward for overtly displaying political inclinations.
▪ Pre-requisite for military men to ascend to the upper hierarchy.
▪ Promotion of politically-motivated officers.
▪Late General Bipin Rawat spoke out overtly against the massive nationwide protests opposing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) while supporting BJP’s stance was immediately highlighted to stay neutral and apolitical by media and opposition political parties.4
▪Politically motivated cross-border Uri surgical strikes resulted in the pictures of Director General Military Operations (DGMO) pasted on banners/posters alongside Modi and Amit Shah during Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections.
▪ Political dividend of military misadventure in the shape of BJP’s landslide victory after Balakot strike. UP Chief Minister (CM), Yogi Adityanath, referring to the Indian Army as “Modi ji ki sena (Modi’s Army)” during the election campaign in April 2019.
These practices are bringing normative change for accepting the politicization of the military amongst Indian polity and military. The transformation is expected to be ingrained with the continuity of the BJP government, as it suits both BJP and the military.
India is a present need for the geopolitical interests of the U.S. and West; however, the politicization of the Indian military has the potential to topsy-turvy their vested geopolitical and geoeconomic dividends. Interestingly, Indian military politicization may find synergy in its application against Pakistan; however, it may not function against China. Following are a few likely implications or consequences:
▪ Military misadventure for political mileage (in the shape of surgical strikes, LOC/LAC violations) may escalate into full-blown conventional to nuclear war–the Balakot incident is a case in point. 
▪ Coupling religiopolitical ideology (Akhand Bharat) with the politicization of the military would threaten regional peace, where the Indian military would serve as a key player. An analogy can be drawn with the Nazism of the German military, who blindly followed political narrative/ambitions.
▪ Oppression of minorities, predominantly Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, using the military would affect the overall secular outlook of India, besides serving as a constant irritant or threat to the economic interests of regional and global stakeholders. 
▪ The military can leverage politicization for its fast-paced development, resulting in a surge in the arms race and affecting the balance of military power in South Asia.
  Desired politicization of the military would increase the temptation to use the military as a preferred instrument, leaving little to no space for diplomacy.
▪ The repercussion of Indian military politicization is not larger; however, it is sufficient to ring alarm bells for the future. Collaborative and well-orchestrated responses from stakeholders may offset likely, and attendant setbacks to geopolitical and geoeconomic interests of the West and the U.S.
The politicization of the Indian military would have multifarious implications for regional and global security and the economy. Without a timely response, stakeholders may remain ready for unintended political and economic consequences for bolstering India. Learning from history and working together to ensure a secure and peaceful future for all is imperative.

Courtesy by Lt Col Muhammad Imran Shafi, Lt Col Khalid Khan Lodhi & Lt Col Muhammad Imran Khan – HILAL English

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