Indian armed forces face several challenges in terms of defence preparedness and most of these problems are a ‘gift’ of the previous leadership and regimes. The political will of PM Modi's regime has ‘re-crafted’ the defence forces to face new challenges.
New Delhi: “You cannot make people any smarter but you can give them new lenses” – said strategy guru Gary Hamel. “There is no proprietary data about the future. The goal is to imagine what you can make happen” – is another quote of this management consultant. These statements appear extremely relevant today in the context of what Rahul Gandhi has done unto himself and his party.
Rahul's daily Twitter actions have only brought out the discussions and skeletons out of the old cupboard. People are talking about Shyam Saran, a former foreign secretary’s observation, vis-a-vis Siachen talks planned in 2006 between the Manmohan Singh regime and Pakistan then under Gen Pervez Musharraf. The Congress party also needs to explain – a line largely being pushed by nationalists – on what really transpired between the Congress leadership and the Communists Party of China in 2008. The snap of Rahul sitting diligently ready to sign a paper and Xi Jinping keep a close eyes from his shoulder will haunt the Congress party some more time.
With this kind of background, only a naive politician would try to provoke the rivals. This is exactly what Rahul Gandhi has done and the BJP is happy today to find issues in their basket to debate about Congress' folly.
‘Chacha (Nehru) ke Bahaduri ke kucch kissey’ is going viral on social media. This snap talks about Pt Jawaharlal Nehru’s failures in PoK, Aksai Chin and Coco islands! It actually suggests had Nehru been around – perhaps India could have lost Doklam and Ladakh too. I do not subscribe to the entire message. But more and more such questions will be raised.
What else is now happening at the China front? Apparently, Rajnath Singh has shown his typical gutsy and ‘Thakur variety’ of stiffness in mind and snubbed his Defence counterpart Wei Fenghe declining him an audience in Moscow. I have spent considerable time with Rajnath ji during his tenure as BJP chief. In 2013, it was he who readily gambled with his ‘Modi as PM-face of BJP’ card, rubbishing strong opponents to the idea. But, Rajnath Singh - as I know – knows when he ought to be firm. This time, in the context of meeting request from Chinese defence minister, of course both he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were on the same page. So would be Amit Shah.
Now, keeping politics aside, it is imperative to talk about security issues and defence preparedness. By reducing Pak High Commission strength by 50 percent, the Modi government has opened a front with its traditional rival too. This is reminiscent of 2002 developments when the Vajpayee government almost opened the war front.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor explains the entire canvas of Indo-Pak tension in his eloquent style – “The fundamental problem that prevents meaningful friendship (between India and Pakistan) is the nature of the Pakistani state. In India, our state has an army, in Pakistan the army has a state. And the Pakistani army’s desire to continue to control the largest proportion of GDP for military expenditure and military control entities gives it a vested interest to stir a trouble”. (courtesy Al Jazeera TV)
Into a different plane, the Indian armed forces face several challenges in terms of defence preparedness. Some problems are ‘gift’ of the civilian and political leadership. For instance, bullet proof jackets approved in 2009 (under UPA regime) arrived for the forces only in 2016. In terms of artillery yet again, sources say India has perhaps only one-tenth or one-ninth of self-propelled artillery. In 2016, the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tried something different and refreshing. About 80 per cent of army’s capital budget was dedicated to artillery. There can be more such examples.
India's defence preparedness has improved a lot in recent years. Our aerial and satellite surveillance capabilities have improved and these were vital ones. India is certainly better equipped than 1962 or even 1999 but still has a long way to go.
Defence preparedness has been generally guided by a terminology called ‘catching up’. India is certainly better equipped than 1962 (war with China) or even 1999 (Kargil conflict with Pakistan) but still has a long way to go.
During an interaction when Late Jaitley when he also held Defence portfolio for some time, he had told a select group of journalists that there is a need for a political will to ‘re-craft’ the defence forces for new challenges. Things have improved a lot in recent times. India’s aerial and satellite surveillance capabilities have improved and these were vital ones.
But all these preparedness has been generally guided by a terminology called ‘catching up’. India is certainly better equipped than 1962 (war with China) or even 1999 (Kargil conflict with Pakistan) but still has a long way to go. In such a situation, we are unable to push a tagline called ‘taking an edge’.
Leadership is all about results. Cricketer Krishnamachari Shrikant once in the context of captainship virtues of Sachin Tendulkar had said that “the leadership is all about results. You chose a bowler and get a wicket, you will be called brilliant and there goes a four, you may be dismissed as a ‘pagal’ – a mad fellow”. This yardstick applies to politics and in military warfare too.
There is yet another important facet. There is hardly any example of a cricket team or a company succeeding in the future when people around are pessimistic about the potentials. Great leaders not only search for new perspectives, they also opt for effective methods of delivering and communicating their vision. To a large extent, PM Modi has able to do so.
Intellectuals may not agree, but that’s the truth. With regard the Congress party, the leadership needs to shun family retainers like Anand Sharma. The former Commerce Minister is seen in the snap with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in China during the signing ceremony in 2008. Remember he also accompanied Rahul Gandhi during ‘secret’ dinner meeting with Chinese envoy in 2017 during the peak of Doklam crisis.
In the meantime, Indian defence forces are also changing. They appreciate the need for Defence Intelligence Agency set up in 2016, the Andaman and Nicobar Theatre Command that commenced in 2001 and also the Strategic Forces Command of 2003. But the challenge to decode the ‘Chinese intent’ vis-a-vis India’s national security interests remains a permanent feature.
Here is an example. Few years ago a Doordarshan news reader identified ‘Xi Jinping’ as ‘Eleven’, and the person was booted out. It may not be best of illustrations to push any argument, but it proved one thing - both the countries need to know each other better.
(The author is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of many books including 'Modi to Moditva - An Uncensored Truth')