Millennium Post

Defense and democracy

Politics and governance are two different ball games. Stirring them up with the ladle of defense will only cook up unscaled disaster.

The surgical strike by the Indian Army across LoC on terror launchpads in PoK on September 28-29, 2016 was a discomfitingly hyped routine military operation by every measure. That publicised achievement has found its way back in recent political discourse with further sensationalised 'evidence' which is more telling of letting out security information. Posed to be in retaliation of the September 18 Uri attack, cross-border provocations were far from deterred following this exchange. Yet, the surgical strike remains a current national achievement despite that not achieving the purpose of deterrence by punishment. Certainly, motives persist; but the extent to which such motives drive into matters of national security must be comprehended beyond military accomplishments. Besides the obvious electoral motive, what ought to gain greater prominence is the notion that any merger of defense and politics is potentially detrimental to the essence of democracy. Pushing military beyond its boundaries and politicising it is to invite its invasion.

At the fag end of the security situation is the Indian Ocean Region. The importance of the strategic region has been brought to attention time and again by China's ambitious expansion drive. What primarily prompts attentiveness to the maritime region is not military but economic concerns – it is the need for secure trade routes that has nations competing for space and prominence in the ocean. This, in turn, has led India to develop and strengthen diplomatic relations with neighbouring island nations. A point of success has been jointly developing the strategic port at the tip of Sumatra Island near Malacca strait (a crucial trade route for China's economic lifeline). On the contrary, with China fervently developing Hambantota deep sea port at the southern tip of Sri Lanka, economic development in strategic oceanic regions serve a dual purpose: secure economic facility; and, should the need arise, take military recourse to assert itself.

Between these two tipping points lies an India with fleeting focus on governance and policymaking. Despite the amount of coverage and condemnation, both nationally and internationally, children continue to get horrifically violated. Just when the gang rape and murder of the 8-year-old in Kathua was thought to have hit the rock bottom of inhumanity, the Nirbhaya-like brutalisation of another 8-year-old in Mandsaur happened as if to test how resilient the collective Indian conscience is that could be shaken afresh. Women remain unsafe across the length and breadth of the nation and that garners attention only when a normalised incidence of sexual violence happens – on any female, from baby to senior citizen. Failure to prevent Nirbhaya of December 2016 got Delhi declared as the rape capital of the world. In 2018, India is (disputably) deemed the world's most dangerous place for women.

With unapologetic disregard for half the nation's workforce, women issues remain largely an electoral carrot or a method of appeasement. Several other matters of urgent national concern like farmers' crises, worsening environment, energy requirement and availability, increasing water crisis, mismanaged disaster, manufactured communal disharmony, etc. fester unaddressed. A nation can rest stably on internal institutional strength, not on a sensationalised personality or glorified individual achievements. Surgical strike is not an exclusive matter of national interest if it has the prominent political parties at contrasting variance. Making boastful claims when there is a barely satisfactory defense budget and the defense sector is subsisting in a hand-to-mouth situation amounts to belittling the military and reducing it to a political plaything. The shamelessly politicised surgical strike flashes with greatest priority – besides disinterring sensational national history from decades ago. Military can ensure territorial security as evident along the frontiers, but economic stability and security are the result of good administration. Politics and governance are two different ball games. Stirring them up with the ladle of defense will only cook up unscaled disaster.

(The author is Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal)

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