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Civil-Military Disconnect


Rajesh Rajagopalan


Edited by Rajesh M. Basrur , Ajaya Kumar Das and Manjeet S. Pardesi
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 311, Rs. 950.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 2 February 2015

India has one of the world’s largest military forces and it is also among the largest military spenders in the world, both in terms of military expenditure and arms imports.  Nevertheless, the Indian military faces huge challenges.  This is partly the function of the variegated nature of these challenges, fighting in theatres as diverse as the Himalayas, the deserts of Rajasthan and the jungles in Chhattisgarh for the ground forces and equally diverse ones for the other two services.  But India’s political and administrative systems are also to blame for a confused and confusing approach to every aspect of security policy, from nuclear weapons to counterinsurgency and defence research and production.  These problems become even more acute when the current phase of military modernization is taken into account.  The growth of the Indian military, a natural consequence of a larger economic pie (the proportion of wealth devoted to the military has remained low and steady), brings these issues into sharp focus.  This volume, edited by Rajesh Basrur, Ajaya Kumar Das and Manjeet Pardesi, brings together both scholars and retired military leaders to present a comprehensive picture of the challenges that Indian military modernization faces. The story is one that is almost uniformly depressing.   One of the key problems is the civil-military disconnect that all former service officers pointed out at the end of each of their chapters.  The problem itself is well known: unlike in the higher defence management structure of any other country, the chiefs of the military services are not integrated into the national security decision-making structure of the country except in times of crisis.  The reason for this is an exaggerated fear of the military, which is repeatedly stoked by the Indian bureaucracy as a way of ensuring its own grip on decision-making.  Admittedly, there is no perfect system of decision-making in any country but the Indian system is designed to be dysfunctional because there is no means for professional advice from the military to be directly sought or given, even on national security matters, to the political leadership.  The most famous case is of course in the decision-making regarding nuclear weapons, where atomic scientists, the foreign service, economists and civilian bureaucrats all had say but the military was largely kept out.  But it affects other areas too such as defence research and production.  Indeed, one of the reasons why both Indian defence research as ...


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