File photo of PM Narendra Modi in Gujarat | PIB
File photo of PM Narendra Modi in Gujarat | PIB
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In the wake of the Balakot air strikes, India is about to witness its first ‘national security’ political campaign, which comes at the cost of numerous economic and social problems.

The political class, however, must remember that sooner than later a deified and politicised military can become a law unto itself. In its extreme form, it can lead to the creation of a national security state like Pakistan. In a national security state, the military becomes the all-powerful authority that not only ensures external and internal security, but also exerts overriding influence over political and economic affairs of the state.

Media and mood of the nation

A recent exchange between union minister Piyush Goyal and journalist Rahul Kanwal at the India Today Conclave acutely illustrates the present state of the Indian media, military’s accountability, its deification, and its blatant political exploitation.

“Do you believe this … puts some pressure on India to convince the world, and the public and the opposition that indeed the mission was successful?” Rahul Kanwal asked the obvious question on the conflicting claims about the casualties and the damage inflicted in Balakot.


Also read: Not even 1% of Indian MPs have served in the military. And that’s concerning


The question offended the minister and he responded aggressively, “Are you convinced first? Are you a part of this narrative that is trying to belittle our armed forces?” “I wonder … where this country is going if you’re going to have this kind of thinking also, that you’re going to accept what Pakistan says, and… colleagues of yours are going to propagate the Pakistan theory in India. I think it’s a matter of shame,” the minister said.

Kanwal, however, argued that a question to a BJP minister doesn’t become a question to the armed forces.

But, the media in the last five years has become a party to the politically driven neo-nationalist sentiment, which deifies the military and blurs the distinction between armed forces and the government. Most journalists have stopped questioning the government and the armed forces on national security and have gone along with this perceived ‘mood of the nation’.

It is indeed poetic justice that media’s servility in the last few years has now come back to haunt journalism.

Armed forces and accountability

The armed forces are as accountable to the people as any other institution in a democratic country. More so, when they are a necessary organisation maintained with taxpayer’s money. The government, the media and the public must question the armed forces with regard to their preparedness for any mission assigned to them, and their performance while executing it.


Also read: First OROP, now cantonment roads: India sees rise of military as political pressure group


Had pertinent questions been asked of the government and the military in the 1950s, then we would not have suffered a catastrophic defeat in 1962.

It is ludicrous for the government to advance the logic that ‘armed forces have been given complete freedom’ and one cannot ‘question’ them. Armed forces are given political directions with certain limitations and ‘freedom of action’ is restricted to execution.

Anti-national criticism

In most societies, people love and admire the armed forces. An ideology driven government often exploits this sentiment. On national security issues, criticism of the government becomes criticism of the military, which is considered anti-national.

As per empirical wisdom, the military by nature is a status-quoist organisation and requires external stimulus for reform, which can come from the government, the media or the public. With dissenters and military reformists being labelled ‘enemies of the nation’, modernisation of the armed forces has been stymied.

Politicisation of armed forces

Once no distinction is left between a political government and the military, the next logical step is exploitation of the latter for electoral gains. Military-themed political posters and politicians campaigning in military fatigues post-Balakot are examples of that trend.


Also read: Indian armed forces up against an adversary they aren’t trained to fight — politicians


Have no doubts that what we are likely to witness in the near future is politicisation of the armed forces. Politicisation implies that the armed forces identify with a political ideology or a political thought-process and start exercising influence in the affairs of the state. Military advice on national security becomes biased as does its actions with respect to internal security. This does not augur well for a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious society that requires a secular and apolitical military.

A politicised military can then lead the way for the creation of a national security state. Do not let the genie out of the bottle!

Lt Gen H.S. Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. “In the past, change of power never happened without bloodshed. The reason democracy is significant is we change power without spilling a drop of blood. If we get into a feudalistic mindset, we will once again see blood in the name of power changes”.

  2. Crazy! In 2019 we stand on a platform that has been solidified with the leadership ( political driven by self-interested groups’/communities’ etc. decisions/executions/bottlenecks and flows of the past 70 years. Like,post 1947, if there was a Bose instead of a Nehru, what would have happened? Or, if Indira Gandhi and not Nehru had taken on the mantle of leadership earlier? Would ATALJI still compliment her as “Durga” in Parliament , post an earlier B’desh/Kashmir victory?
    We cannot ignore nor fudge history. And like few commentators we cannot ridicule the current leadership w/o understanding international politics either. Foreign policy has different tactical approaches- anyone from the Army always should understand. The writer of the article is also one such a product – of our convoluted past/present gong on to the Future. Where is our national pride or balance? Analyze the chopping waters of scams etc .etc of the past. We need to identify what we want and what we must discard as good/bad best practices for our children/grandchildren. Let us not be parochial or bent in “isms” but realists for a better change- the type China is. And India can never bend it like Pakistan either- we have far better though limited achievements- through our scientists and technocrats . Eulogizing the Military may create a possible dictatorship- if such be apprehensions, let these play out then-a nation’s peoples’ gets the leadership it justifiably deserves….? Unlike America, Indians as a polity protested against the negative status quo till 1947 only. After that the ruling class became even more vicious than the British, I think. Otherwise why the cruelty and lack of growth possibilities till 2000 A.D, I wonder! Only in 21st century are we realizing our potentialities and trying to reduce the “as-is” / “to-be” gap- now we must be prepared for any consequences….article writing will not suffice. To beat Modi you have to become Modi! Can you? If not, then articulate in this democracy, but remember:- ” in the past, change of power never happened without bloodshed. The reason democracy is significant is we change power without spilling a drop of blood. If we get into a feudalistic mindset, we will once again see blood in the name of power changes.” This quote is only a forewarning…prof. partho from Far Pavilions

  3. Being retired army general first the author needs to prove he is apolitical. What privileges such retired army officer had which they missed during last 5 years of NDA?
    Adarsh Scam, Chopper scam, Bofors, Rafael congress listed L1 bidder but never placed order for want of money, and many others are gift of Congress to Nation. Congress never considered army preparedness as priority so money went to corrupt politician and other officials.
    Those who benefited during congress one party rule can’t digest the nationalist leader who is out to serve country and not seeing personal or family favored.

  4. I think we should also confront the elephant – baby, at the moment – in the room. It takes two to tango. There are signs discernible that some senior military brass have begun to sway a little in the breeze. There are many favours the political executive can bestow. It can begin to hollow out the ethos which it has taken two hundred years to create.

  5. Andh Bhakt . Don’t see any logic. Person writing this piece is Lt Gen (Rtd.) . Try to think before writing . Same can be said about for people like you , in you love for a person you are ready to defend everything without asking any question.

  6. No one spoke like this when Indira Gandhi attacked and divided Pakistan into two parts. Only blind haters of @narendramodi and Left liberal gang are singing this tune. Modi ji has shown the courage and chutzpah which was lacking in last 40 years. Don’t cry. Only those persons are picking holes with Prime Minister Modi who have some personal grudges against him or those people who were fattening themselves on the patronage of corrupt Congress and now feeling the ground slipping beneath their feet.

    • MODIJI IS A LAUGHING STOCK NOW. NO LEADER HAS SO MUCH DISGRACE TO THE COUNTRY AS MODI WHEN CHINA KICKED ON INDIA’S FACE WITH THE DEMAND THAT INDIA PROVIDE PROOF FOR AZHAR TERROR AND WITH THE 1.39 MINUTE VIDEO WHICH WAS REMOVED AFTER 97 VIEWS.FROM YOUTUBE “China is India’s friend, not a hostage to Indian nationalism’ POSTED ON 14 MARCH. THIS MAN BROGHT THE BIGGEST DIPLOMATIC DISGRACE IN INDIAN HISTORY. CHEST THUMPING ON BELAKOT OVER A WEAK PAKISTAN AND ABSOLUTE SHMEFULL SILENCE AFTER CHINA INSULT.

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