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Of Faultlines and Challenges

Manpreet Sethi

By Jasjit Singh
National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 175, Rs. 75.00


A powerful voice on national security fell silent on 4 Aug 2013 when Air Cmde. (Retd.) Jasjit Singh, recipient of Padma Bhushan for a lifetime’s contribution to national security passed away. Many have mourned his loss at a time when India stares at an unpredictable world fraught with new faultlines and challenges. But, Singh was used to having the ‘last word’. He may have succeeded yet again with one of his last writings. The book, India’s Security in a Turbulent World provides a discerning study of India’s complex security environment and offers pointers on how the country should chart its course.   Emanating from the author’s 30 year long experience of research and analysis on national security, the book offers distilled wisdom. It provides a broad sweep of trends as evident in the international order to find the right fix for India. Singh visualizes an emerging polycentric world order in which India can ‘play the role of a pivotal state’. He recommends steering clear of neo-alliances and sticking with nonalignment. He concedes that following this policy came at a cost, but it helped India build autonomous capacity that today commands world respect and attention. Singh, therefore, urges India not to ‘fritter away the gains or sacrifices… now that we are able to stand on our feet and look to the future with greater assurance than ever before in the past two centuries’.   In a life spanning 80 years, and having lived through pre- and post-Independence India, Singh perceptively explains the complex paradoxes of scale, contradictions and beliefs that make up India’s reality. As he writes, ‘India is what you believe it is, and you cannot be proved wrong!’ In order to put India’s current position and achievements into perspective, especially for the modern generation, the author provides a sense of what India was when it gained Independence after two centuries of colonization.   The most pertinent question that the book answers is, ‘What are we trying to secure?’ Besides territorial integrity and independence, Singh argues that we have to secure the core values and beliefs of the nation from external and internal challenges and threats. Amongst India’s core values, Singh puts his finger on the ‘equality of the human being’. In fact, to highlight its centrality to the idea of India, Singh contrasts it with the example of Pakistan, which has denied equality to its citizens by adopting policies ...

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