Monday, December 30, 2019

An Impartial and Apolitical Perspective on CAA

Yesterday, a journalist friend caught me virtually unguarded with a few questions. So far, I had avoided speaking anything on CAA and NRC. But journalists are smart people. They know how to draw you into an area of their own interest.
As a life long student and former practitioner of national security, I look at issues differently. I believe that on key issues of national security, the Government and the opposition, as well as civil society and even media, should be on same page.
Sustained protests and violence are doing a lot of harm to the country. These should have been avoided and everything should be done even now to stop these. Protests are part of democracy, but those destroying public property, deserve severest punishment. Those police personnel, abusing their power to torment innocent citizens should get rather more stringent punishment as they are expected to protect people and uphold law.
Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists etc have faced the most brutal and inhuman persecution in 3 countries listed in the CAA. Their women have been regularly raped and violated, their properties are captured. their places of worship are desecrated and many of them are regularly framed in fake cases. Human Rights groups headed by Muslims in those countries have highlighted these.
No influential Indian has earlier paid serious attention to plight of these people. They have been strategically irrelevant for the West. Hence, it has been unfashionable for a large section of Indian elite to talk about them. These persecuted people certainly deserve all out and long over due support of Indians. It is extremely important for secular Muslim personalities of India to support persecuted non-Muslims of the subcontinent. Their brand of secularism is often construed as disguised mild Islamism.
Nevertheless, I still believe that persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries must get only temporary shelter and protection in India. In long run, they should go back to their own countries. Even in 1947, in lieu of nearly 3 lakh people who left India for Pakistan, we received 1.5 crore plus non-Muslims from the erstwhile undivided Pakistan. My scientifically worked out guesstimate suggests that nearly 5 to 7 crore people, with all their natural increases, have further sneaked into India since then. This has aggravated pressure on our own lands. Some of the illegal immigrants have always aided and abetted the threat of radicalism.
India must use its influence, goodwill and power and everything at its disposal to persuade international community to create conditions in these neighbouring countries that safeguard life, liberty, dignity and all round security of all their citizens, and especially those from local minority communities, so that we do not face a refugee influx from there.
Similarly, with a friendly country like Bangladesh, Indian government must work together to rehabilitate and support all Hindu immigrants from there. We must also attempt to amicably return a larger number of non-Hindus too. It is more important to fight Islamic radicalism to safeguard all people of the subcontinent.
I am one of the strongest admirers of Bangladesh PM. I believe that besides Nelson Mandela, any other foreign leader who deserves to be awarded Bharat Ratna, it must be Banga Bandhu and his daughter and the current PM of Bangladesh.
I have spoken my mind out in the following interview purely in the national interest, with the sole objective of giving an impartial and an apolitical perspective.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Reconciling Governance,National Security and Politics

This is edited version of a write up given to Asian Affairs, UK

[Universal access to nutrition, healthcare, education, gainful employment and secure social spaces, as well as freedom to articulate powerful ideas for building institutional capacities in this direction, are vehicles for securing India’s military-defence capacities and economic prowess]

In the first week of December, I was invited at a short notice to address a small group of academics, students, professionals, politicians and journalists at India International Centre, New Delhi. The issue was ongoing impasse on the academic campuses in the national capital. I was specifically asked to speak from the perspective of national security.
I argued that a strategic vision of national security must focus on building high quality R&D and larger social harmony, alongside universal access to education, healthcare and gainful employment. War waging capacity or military security is no doubt the most direct and non-negotiable component of national security but in absence of a larger favourable  ecosystem, even such capacity, along with the rest of the variables like economic development, could erode. I also emphasized that a state like India needed strong capacity to contain irregular wars and conflicts within its own territory with minimum use of force/resources and negligible distress to citizens. This was not possible unless, the state enjoyed absolute trust of its people.
As a former Securocrat, fighting a court battle against alleged forgery and perjury by my own former colleagues, I avoided response to persistent direct questions on some of the politically contentious issues like Citizen Amendment Bill. I was keen to avoid any politicization or partisan abuse of my views. Hence, I maintained that I could speak on such subjects only in the closed doors with the members of the government, if at all I was appraoched.
I was emphatic that a stronger national security warranted high quality researches in the Universities for technological excellence and innovation in socially relevant areas. Hence, Vice Chancellors and Academic leaders needed to shun the colonial type arrogance and reach out to students to find solutions of the ongoing impasse. These institutions needed amiable and conducive ambience, free from anxiety and insecurity. Undesirable elements, of course, needed to be segregated from bonafide scholars.
 I was urged by many members of the audience to explain my views on national security at public platforms on regular basis. I have always believed, practiced, spoken and written that a stronger India requires a stronger national security and governance capacity. It is critical not only for aspirations of 1.3 billion Indians but also for a safer world for the entire humanity.
It is well known among security establishments of the world that the idea of national security has been expanding since the end of second world war. Ever since the then US Navy Secretary James Forestall spelled out a vision of national security for his country, during a hearing in the US Senate in August 1945, several others have expanded the idea. Today, national security virtually encompasses all dimensions of governance that make up the larger military, economic, social and technological capacities. 
  Forestall had, for the first time, suggested a ‘wider and comprehensive concept, going beyond military strength to include almost everything linked with war-making potential or capacity of a state.’ These included industry, mining, research & development, technological innovation, improvement in quality of human resource and such other activities which also enhanced quality of civilian and social life’.
Today, food, water, energy and environment, apart from individual and social security, are components of national security. Some experts have gone on to incorporate diplomatic influence and soft power to security of sea-lanes and supply chain to security of outer space as national security requirements. Virtually everything that can optimise collective output and capacity of people to build an optimally secure and congenial life comes under the broad ambit of national security.
In 2016, I had attempted to suggest a national security strategy from Indian perspective in the form of my NDC dissertation. I had captioned it:  “..Governance as Bedrock of National Security”. I had emphasized on the need to build an integrated framework of effective institutions, that mutually reinforced each other. I had argued that their structures and processes must push for individual and collective excellence with a sustainable synergy between the two. I had also suggested viable and cost-effective strategies to address conflicts like subversion, radicalism, diffused & irregular wars including insurgency, terrorism, cyber and propaganda wars etc that could cripple even the most formidable states and societies in long-run. High quality institutions alone could prevent, pre-empt and deter such conflicts.
With easier mass access to disruptive and destructive technologies, rise of clandestine cliques and networks and loosening grip of existing democratic governance institutions, both governance and security apparatus in democracies needed re-orientation. They must move to the next higher stage to foster larger collaboration among different entities of state and society. This is indispensable for sustained progressive evolution of democratic societies in the technology driven globalized world. 
I had emphasized in my research work, and maintained during my interaction, that high quality population, equipped with good physical capacity, cognitive and technical skills as well as values like integrity and courage constituted the base of a strong national security pyramid.  It is clinically proven that only in a wider ambience of social trust and integrity, good leadership and good democratic institutions can flourish. If excellence requires larger process of competition and collaboration, alongside containment of conflict, the strategic focus of governance and national security must be on building good individuals and vibrant societies.
To drive home the point that welfare state is not charity, I must quote Austrian Welfare state expert Marin Bernd as well as German and Danish academics namely Herbert Obinger and Klaus Peterson. They have presented extensive and credible data to argue that it were military Generals  who pushed for welfare state in Europe. With rise of mass warfare and universal conscription, they were concerned at deficient pool of population from which the soldiers had to be recruited. Large components of military recruits in Europe were often found to be unfit for military service. Bernd has quoted these figures at 51%  for Switzerland (1878), 54% for Germany (1873) and up to 70% for Austro Hungarian empire (1912).  Even during second World War, he has argued that “50% of US industrial workers and 40% of Japan’s army draft were unserviceable.”
Until late 19th Century or even early 20th Century, Europe was known for deficiencies in education of children, adolescent and young male population, high infant mortality or child birth mortality of  mothers, rampant diseases like tuberculosis etc. Even during the first world war, a write-up in the Journal of Contemporary History (Sage Publications, Ltd. Vol. 15, No. 2 Apr., 1980) has chronicled the growing sentiment in favour of ‘nourishing the new generation of children  as tomorrow’s Imperial Army’. It quotes the then British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, in a speech at Manchester in 1917 that “A grade empires cannot be manned by C grade population.”
Hence, universal access to nutrition, healthcare, education and gainful employment for the entire population as well as innovation of ideas and institutions for such purposes, must not be left on the altruistic discretion of a few. These are powerful vehicles for securing whole gamut of national security objectives, including “defence capabilities and military-economic strengths.”
A strategic national security vision of India must push for building high quality manpower and high-quality leaders in each and every sector. It would require a well thought out restructuring of governance institutions, skirting the emotive issue of identity. People are least likely to act rationally when their identity appears challenged.  Hence, public debates and discourses require simultaneous confidential engagements among stakeholders, lest the dream of resurrection of civilizational state of India is shattered forever.
There will be resistances from formidable self-serving cartels in India for any move in this direction. They have traditionally blocked powerful ideas and talents from coming in to public domain. Their clout appears intact even now as serious governance reforms for genuinely strong and sustainable national security architecture appear nowhere on the horizon. 

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