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Monday, May 6, 2019

From Vajpayee to Narendra Modiji ~ BJP's National Security policy consistent

By the time Japanese airplanes bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Military Intelligence Service Language School had been operating for more than a month in a converted airplane hangar at the Presidio in San Francisco, according to a short history in the MISLS yearbook.A handful of prescient U.S. Army officers who had served in Japan noted the strained relations between the two countries and recognized the need for such a program.  It was reported that  US military recruited Japanese-Americans out of internment camps for a critical WWII intelligence program  .. .. wars and fought and won on better intelligence and strategy .. ..
Indian flag flying high at Nathu La – Indo China border.

The Indo-China War in 1962 was a forgettable experience for the Nation. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war- there had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. India initiated a Forward Policy in which it placed outposts along the border, including several north of the McMahon Line, the eastern portion of the Line of Actual Control proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959.Unable to reach political accommodation on disputed territory along the 3,225 kilometre long Himalayan border, Chinese launched simultaneous offensives in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line on 20 October 1962. Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in both theatres, capturing Rezang La in Chushul in the western theatre, as well as Tawang in the eastern theatre. The war ended when China declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, and simultaneously announced its withdrawal to its claimed 'line of actual control'.

Much of the battle took place in harsh mountain conditions, entailing large-scale combat at altitudes of over 4,000 metres (14,000 feet). The build-up and offensive from China occurred concurrently with the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis that saw both the United States and the Soviet Union confronting each other, and India did not receive assistance from either of these world powers until the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved.  The then PM Jawaharlal Nehru failed to read China and his vibes were vastly wrong. 

There was a book ‘The Unfought War Of 1962’  by Lt Col J.R. Saigal which blamed the decisions of the PM and the lack of strategy and military intelligence.   The basic thesis of the book  is that the 1962 debacle was largely a military failure, and not significantly due to either the Chinese armed superiority or the bungling of political leadership.He writes: "In a nutshell, it will be incorrect to say, as had been written by many, and stated by Jawaharlal Nehru in Parliament, that the Indian Army was at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the Chinese Army."Saigal believes that the military commanders, particularly at the lower levels, were mentally and physically not equipped to wage war. He cites several anecdotes about hallucinations, delusions and plain psychosis of commanders, all of which are entertaining and engaging.

India can never forget and get over the psychological wounds of that black day on 26th Nov 2008 when the financial Capital Mumbai was held to ransom. Worser still  that media in trying to raise their ranking, were doling out all information to killers and their operators who could see the movement of top officers shown on media. The terrorist attack set in motion events that would change the course of life in India's financial capital. A group of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists unleashed a series of attacks at several places, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident and the Taj Palace & Tower. Mumbai was under seize for four days before the national security guards killed nine terrorists and captured one alive. Sadly, that wasn't before India lost 165 people and over 300 were seriously injured.

The attack exposed India's security preparedness. The attackers sailed on a boat from Karachi and entered Mumbai, without anybody noticing them. Terrorists slipping by India's coast guards was a major embarrassment for Indian security agencies. A decade later the 26/11 tragedy, coastal security project is well underway. Today, there is a major maritime defence and surveillance architecture in place.  .. today’s First Post has an interesting article titled ‘From Vajpayee to Modi, BJP's national security policy has been consistent; Congress' claim of reduced defence spending fallacious’.   Some excerpts .. .. …

For good or for evil, national security has become part and parcel of electioneering and point scoring. This is quite unprecedented as, barring the bipartisan rejoicing after the 1971 war, election campaigns have only marginally looked at national security issues. Not that leaders haven’t periodically raged or railed against Pakistan, but that’s not national security, which covers a far greater range of issues than the public is generally aware of.  It is to the BJP’s credit — whatever else it may do — that the party has rather consistently focussed on these issues.

Remember that it was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government that undertook the very first national security overhaul of the system. In 2000, a panel of a Group of Ministers was set up to examine deficiencies across the board, as a result of findings of a separate committee under the redoubtable K Subrahmanyam. The Kargil review committee undertook an honest and searing review of the shortcomings that led to that near debacle. Only a small part of this was ever made public, or indeed, even written down. The discussions covered every aspect of the lacunae in not only intelligence sharing, but also border management, internal security and defence management. The first strategic defence review ever undertaken was done at this time and later upgraded to a national security review.

                     From Vajpayee to Modi, BJPs national security policy has been consistent; Congress claim of reduced defence spending is  fallacious and is only spreading misinformation.  Not overly wanting a complete reliance on the bureaucracy, which usually interprets national security departmentally, the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) was set up, which included some of the most brilliant minds of the time. This included not only MK Narayanan — who later became the National Security Advisor under the Congress — but also scientists such as Roddam Narasimha and well-known journalists, some of them strong critics of the government.This body also came up with the first Draft Nuclear Doctrine and set up the first Technical Intelligence Agency, as well as a multi-tiered structure for intelligence sharing, which involved more than just gathering of information and having it filed for the boss alone. That’s a lot of firsts for any government in the realm of national security, even when the nuclear tests undertaken are not taken into account.

Typically of India, much of this momentum was lost in the succeeding years, in part due to bureaucratic inertia and also due to the lack of power of the Prime Minister’s Office in the later years of Congress rule. Therefore, the present BJP government inherited an NSAB that was more a retirement club of friends of the government rather than the highly critical and acerbic body that it was once was. Some of the reforms carried out earlier — like accountability for border defence — held through the years, but much of the others dissipated.The focus, however, remained the same through both the BJP governments of 1998 and 2014 in terms of an ‘India first’ approach. Both promised to strengthen the armed forces by increasing defence expenditure, even while vilifying earlier governments for not doing so.

The saffron party, therefore, seems to stand by its promise of strengthening — to the extent affordable — the capacity of the armed forces. More importantly, like Vajpayee before him, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi allows the services to decide on the “what, when and how” of response in times of crisis. Both leaders gave a general direction, but after careful consultation with the chiefs.  Modiji adopted a vastly more muscular response — in every sense of the word — and does not hesitate to display just that, evident in how he made the Balakot air strikes an important part of this electioneering.

In sum,  the BJP has had a consistent approach to national security in broad terms. Both Modi and Vajpayee's BJP believe in a strong defence and a demand that India be accepted as an important actor on the world stage  So far, the Prime minister has stated precisely and carefully what he means to do and then gone ahead and done it. This applies across the board from demonetisation to defence. It is this quality that has given him the reputation of a no-nonsense leader capable of delivery on the ground.
Interesting and appreciable – that augurs good for the Nation.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
6th May 2019.

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