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Monday, May 26, 2014

the citizen - politicisation in the context of the indian military

Politicisation: In the context of the Indian military

Fri May 23, 2014
Politicisation of a military is usually uncritically accepted as ‘bad’. In the democratic scheme, politicization implies impetus within the military to displace an elected government. Since a rash of such action was visible in newly independent states across the fifties and sixties, there was a consensus in political science theory and military sociology that politicization was a negative phenomenon. In the subcontinent’s context, the experience of Pakistan and Bangladesh with political militaries more or less sealed the argument against politicization. However, a milder interpretation of politicization is in the military aligning its perspective to suit the political positions and interests of the government. This is the current threat of politicization in India. The military may be inclined to play spectator, under the professional instinct of keeping out of politics.
A third variant of politicization arises in the circumstance of the incoming government having an expansive agenda that may not be readily visible in the near term, the military would require acting as a deterrent against any fundamental changes to India’s polity that the government in keeping with its ideological inclinations may want to engineer over the long term. In this the military may end up taking on a political role, but one that is in keeping with a third interpretation of politicization that is relatively benign. In this version, in case the government attempts to reframe constitutional fundamentals, then there have to be checks and balances that include the military in last resort political role. Since other bastions of state and society may fall along the way side, the military may require standing up for India. 
The current debate in India surrounding politicization is over the propriety of the outgoing government to appoint a new chief in its final days, namely General Suhag. However, the controversy itself goes back a bit to the ‘date of birth’ controversy raked up by a former chief and recently elected legislator from Ghaziabad, retired general VK Singh. His argument was that denial of his case for a year’s extention at the helm of the army was to keep alive the proverbial ‘chain of succession’ that had been forged earlier with the appointment of General JJ Singh as chief. Since seniority and age left to retire are crucial criteria for back of the envelope calculation of the ‘chain’, it gets easy to see who are in the queue. An extention for VK Singh would then have resulted in the incumbent Chief not making it and, ditto for General Suhag. An alternative line up would then have made it.
That the government nevertheless acted the way it did is taken by those criticizing this as politicization of the military. Specifically, they are apprehensive that the government was responsive either to what it perceived as a political inclination of prospective chiefs or that of those in the alternative line up. Either it found the former relatively amenable or the latter comparatively worrisome. Amenability does not necessarily imply that those in the line-up were politically inclined, but it could even mean that they were politically neutral or could be expected to remain so. Therefore, for critics to say that either the incumbent chief or the chief designate is political is to stretch things too far.
Instead, the Manmohan Singh government would have been more inclined to be worried by political inclination of those in the alternative line up. By this reasoning, in taking a decision against that line up, by showing VK Singh the door, it was persuaded not so much by a desire to have its man in place as much as to ensure that India does not end up with an inappropriate chief. Such a chief would have been more likely to be politically inclined rather than professionally grounded, particularly when answering to a government of a different political complexion.
The danger itself is pretty old going back to the fifties when Krishna Menon sought to politicize the military through foisting on it generals acceptable to Nehru, such as general Kaul, whose names lives in the ignominy of 1962. For Nehru, the aim was perhaps to have his man – an ethnic kin  to boot – in charge so as to control the militaristic tendency that military’s in newly independent states had started showing across the then decolonizing world. Nehru, fearful of the first form of politicization, pitched for the second form of politicization in trying for a subjective control over the military through Kaul. Kaul clearly was an ‘inappropriate’ choice for it did lead to politicization with Kaul and ‘Kaul boys’ trying to outmaneuver professionals such as SD Verma, SPP Thorat, ‘Timmy’ Thimayya and not to forget, Sam Bahadur himself. In the event, both Nehru and Kaul burnt their fingers with the 1962 debacle. Not unreasonably, politicisation has thereafter got a bad name so much so that today charges of politicization are used by both sides in the current controversy to deride the other.
Therefore it behooves investigating what exactly does politicization mean in the context of the present as the hindu nationalist party, the BJP, seeks to stride up Raisina Hill to take the oath of office. The proposition here is that the BJP will try for the second form of politicization – subjective civilian control – to keep the military politically inert and create the necessary space thereby for it to go about its agenda for India that goes beyond its election related focus on development.
While a ‘normal’ government would likely prefer a politically neutral professional military, in the case of the BJP led by Mr. Modi, it is self-confessedly an ideologically inspired government coming to power not merely for tenure at the helm, but to reboot India. There is an expansive agenda of the government not readily obvious from manifestos and speeches. It can be better discerned from the program of the right wing and religion inspired political formations on whose back it has partially ridden to power.
While politicization is negative in general, in such circumstances the third variant of it may not be such a bad thing. In case the reimaging of India is pursued with the vigour that is predicted here to attend it and doing so generates instability for India as a nation and society, then there may be a case for a military to step in to deter and if necessary make such a government back track or step aside. The ability of a military to see its role in this circumstance will amount to a political judgment and action in line with this will be political action. In effect it would be politicization, but a benign one at that.
While traditional politicization with the military on horseback is not the threat, there is likely in the near term the turn to subjective civilian control of the military. This could be sooner than later in case General Suhag finds himself on the block. It could be later since the regime is set to outlast him. The military would need self-regulation not to fall for this lest over the long term it is unable to fulfill a guardian role it may be called upon to fulfill to preserve India’s constitution when majoritarian push comes to extremist shove.

politicisation of indian military - kashmir times

Indian army
The coming threat of politicisation
By Firdaus Ahmed
The Indian army's infamous brush with politicisation was counter intuitively in the Nehru era when arch liberal Nehru, using Krishna Menon, wanted to ease his ethnic kin, General Kaul, into the helm of the army. Placing him, an officer of the support services, as chief of general staff and later in command of an active corps in the mountains, 4 Corps, he hoped to elevate Kaul into the chief's chair once the incumbent, pliable general Thapar retired. In the event, the Chinese attack of 1962 proved inopportune for the trio. The good part was that India learnt a salutary lesson on the perils of politicisation of the military.

However, in all fairness to Nehru it needs being said that the inappropriateness of Kaul apart, he perhaps wanted to assure that his flanks were covered as he went about his modernisation agenda for India. The example of post-colonial democratic regimes falling to army takeovers was surely not lost on him since the phenomenon was on not only across the newly independent countries but close at hand in Pakistan.

Whereas the threat to democratic regimes from respective militaries was one form of politicisation - that of the 'man on horseback' - the other form was the one Nehru spectacularly failed at, that of subordinating the military through what in theory passes for 'subjective civilian control'. In this the regime controls the military through placing a like-minded leadership at the helm thereby having a compliant military.

Since 1962, India has been notably different in the developing world in largely practicing what is termed 'objective civilian control'. In this the government prefers an apolitical military providing it with a professional input and carrying out its decisions obediently. Whereas the Indianmilitary can be critiqued for on occasion allowing its institutional interest to colour it's otherwise objective input to national security decisions, such as for instance on Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Siachen, politicization of either kind - 'man on horseback' and subjective civilian control - has generally been absent.

There has been little threat to civilian power holders in Delhi; the controversy over General VK Singh moving troops towards Delhi during his 'date of birth' fracas with the ministry of defence notwithstanding. Nor have the powers that be attempted to make inroads into the military by having it subscribe to their ideological worldview for subordination. However, this happy state may be set to change in India soon.

The new government that takes control of Delhi has in its campaign promises projected a developmentalist agenda. It would attempt to deliver on this with a neo-liberal turn or with the second generation economic 'reforms'. In so far as this remains the primary agenda, civil-military relations can be expected to remain on even keel. The military for its part is internally pleased since universally militaries vote conservative under the impression conservatives are usually 'strong' on defence. India's military would perhaps be happy with the reversal of Indian 'weakness' associated with the UPA years starting from its perceived inaction to 26/11. The military would also be recipient of further monies from the growth oriented regime. With poll promises on being tough with both China and Pakistan as guide, it can be expected that the military would be pretty busy professionally. Therefore, it would have little time or attention span for the internal political scene.

However, the prognosis is that internal politics are the area the incoming regime would likely want to distinguish itself. It would attempt not only economic reforms as it has advertised but also the less visible agenda of its supporting political formations, the Hindutva brigade. The latter will likely be more subtle initially, with the former being the key area to gain time and legitimacy. The intention in the initial phase would be to placate corporates that have backed Modi to power. It would also gain his regime another term for a more decisive turn to the right since rebooting India would require additional time. This is a lesson from the BJP's earlier stint cut short by the Shining India campaign coming a-cropper.

But how could affairs turn out this time round? Economic measures over time leading to 'have nots' and the articulation of their resentment can be apprehended. India's recent elections and the ability for massive police 'bandobast' and its showing in managing Central India suggest that the government has suppressive capabilities in place. However, second wave reforms could trigger wider alienation. This may entail government leaning on the paramilitary.

The right wingers behind the incoming ruling party will also want their piece of pie. In fact, even as the economy is the visible area of concentration, the manner it fought the elections in the cow dust belt suggests that it has a wider social agenda. It may well be that this agenda is the more significant. The actions that it would take in pursuit of this will over time generate its own backlash not only from minorities, but liberals and those alienated by the resurgent Brahmanism. The national broadcast of Mr. Modi's prayers on the banks of the Holy Ganga indicates a possible direction of the future. As has been seen elsewhere, storm troopers may make an appearance as the answer to the possible internal security problems that will likely arise.

The twin-rise of the paramilitary and that of storm troopers - will be one element that could trigger civil-military tension since militaries traditionally see themselves as the sword arm of the state and are averse to competitors. Additionally, the military would likely be getting embroiled in the suppressive template that would now be applicable across the poorer segment of society that includes India's minority subject to right wing imposition.

It is to ensure against any reservations that the military may have at this stage that the politicisation in the form of exercising subjective civilian control will kick in. While initially the military may continue under objective control principles and mechanisms, over time the government would feel the need to preemptively shift towards subjective civilian control. This would be in the form of placing officers at the helm who share its ideology. Mere conservative views are not enough. They would need people in place who would turn a blind eye, if not participate actively, in the India reset. In fact, the military itself would be a site for culmination of Indianisation, with Hindutva defining India. To illustrate, the greeting Jai Hind, introduced by the current army chief, may possibly be jettisoned in favour of Jai Bharat Mata. Perhaps the threat of this prompted the chief to institute the shift out of the blue to Jai Hind.

Whereas politicization is most often derided, for the military to activate its political rudders, under such circumstance, may be politicization that is welcome. Challenging the government for conservative policies, such as the Egyptian army's current foray into politics, is not what is at issue. In fact a reading of publications by former military men suggests that they would not be averse to a rightward shift. However, once the extreme right wing kicks in then there may be a case for the military to play the role of a guarding praetorian in protecting the Constitution.

This would be praetorianism of a third kind in which the military launches into politics not for it self-interest but as a guardian praetorian, particularly as all other institutions of state would likely have hollowed out by then. The possibility of such politicization must continue in the backdrop in order to be there as a deterrent for the government going down this route in first place, given its proclivities, ideology and the fact that there is no opposition to balance it.

It is hoped that India would not need to wait as long as the German general staff, eleven years from 1933 till 1944.

(Firdaus Ahmed's blog Think South Asia is at

News Updated at : Monday, May 26, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

life under modi

Life under Modi
By Firdaus Ahmed

Milligazette, 1-15 May 2014, Vol. 15 No.9 Issue Serial # 343

It is not certain if Mr. Modi’s grasp of physics comes across in the comic book, Bal Narendra. That his sense of physics informs his politics has been brought home to all pretty clearly by Mr. Modi himself in his referring to the Godhra aftermath as being brought on as ‘reaction’ to the ‘action’ at Godhra. The sentence joins in infamy the supposed quote of Rajiv Gandhi that when a tree falls the earth shakes. While it is plausible that Rajiv Gandhi never quite said what is attributed to him by motivated forces, Mr. Modi’s will not on that count remain alone. It has since been joined by his inimitable expression of his feelings on the death of a thousand Muslims on his watch in his home state as how one feels on the death of a puppy under the wheels of one’s speeding car.
This is the authentic Mr. Modi. Through election time in India that his phrasing has been considerably more circumspect owes less to his reforming himself, but due to the fact that those in his corner have tutored him against straying too far from what can be considered merely conservative views to the views he may otherwise be more comfortable with, those further to the right. Since Mr. Modi needs their ballast for now, he is playing along and, if media is to be believed and opinion polls given any credence, increasing his acceptability as a conservative champion in the mould of a Patel and a Vajpayee. 
Answer to the critical question ‘What will life be like under Modi?’ is displacing the question ‘Who is the real Modi?’ Prospects of gains to be made under Modi make the latter irrelevant. Middle classes that may have largely contributed to his ascent can look forward to gains in a corporate takeover of the land. Peopling the capitalist innards he promises to give full play to puts them squarely among the pickings. Hindus of rightist persuasion will be looking for psychological dividends in the form of a break out from their self-inflicted minority complex. Those of the upper caste will have got their champion to lay the Mayawatis and Mulayams of the lower human clay to dust. While some hope for India’s own Thatcher-Reagan era, others are pining for a very own Indian ‘Dubya’ Bush. Those linked to the national security establishment can then expect their windfall years begun under Vajpayee to continue.
Since this is a relatively narrow band of voters in relation to the number and diversity of India’s electorate, Modi and his campaign managers have astutely taken care not to rely on these sections alone. They have let lose Amit Shah and the Sangh into the dust belt with a more potent opiate of the masses: religion with a dash of nationalism. Thus both Indias, that of the multiplex going classes and mufussil cinema going masses, are being worked on to place Modi in 7, Race Course Road.
The resulting marriage has potential to come apart. Sanghis on the campaign trail will want their piece of the governance action. Some among them have been swadeshi (anti-globalisation). These two areas will breed discord with the upper crust buoy of Modi. This section wants second generation economic reforms. It would not like being embarrassed by reactionary demands of the parivar on Modi’s government.
It is at this juncture that the question of ‘Who is Modi really?’ will kick in. If he is as worldly as his selection of kurtas (tunics) suggests, then he would will allow regressive forces that claim propriety over him only as much leeway as to keep them distracted and contained. If it is the other way round, and Modi is being used by these forces to gain the support of the upper crust to take control of the state, then the reverse is liable to happen with the befooled upper classes being shown their place.
In either case, there is trouble ahead. In case Modi is hijacked by the conservative classes, then the diversion of the masses can only feed an inward frenzy against minorities in their midst. The backlash in the form of a leftist counter to his economic policies, that promise a freewheeling playfield for the business class, will expand instability from its current confines in the forests of central India into towns and cities. This denouement may not In case he turns out a creature of the Sangh, then he would use his new found state authority to keep the surprised murmurings of the educated middle and upper classes backing him now in check, in a manner he has already mastered over three tenures of rule in Gujarat. In both cases, the national security argument will be to fore. 
Though the real Modi will surface after the elections whitewash rubs off, it would be too late to find out who he is. The answer is wrapped up in the riddle of where he was when he abandoned his marriage, leaving reportedly for wandering across the land: in the Himalayas, if you please. It remains to be seen if these early impressions then have been watered down by his later day association with the likes of Adani.
Here the surmise is that Modi by his lights will begin well enough: keeping the economy in his sights; talking to Pakistan and China; following up with his feelers in Kashmir to the likes of Geelani; getting a computer to complement the Quran among Muslim youth; gaining a vice like grip over national security agencies; making both his horses, the BJP and the Sangh, fall in line; and cornering the Gandhis, with Mr. Vadra providing a ready opening. It’s by middle of his first innings that the predicted cracks will begin to show and it is into his second term that India will begin falling apart.
How so? The hijack by the business classes will be resented by the right wing, who will take it out on the minorities. Modi’s economic measures will generate have-nots, forming a constituency for left-wing extremists. The haves will cover behind a garrison state. Modi for his part will emerge in his true colours, mostly saffron and mostly acquired in his wanderings, to use the right against the left at the expense of his current-day advantaged followers.

Late Khushwant Singh’s wisdom in entitling a book The End of India, will reinforce his posthumous reputation.  It is then the likes of Chetan Bhagat will regret their inability to look beyond showing the dynasty the door to the great demoralisation a-coming. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

strategy for the modi era

Strategising for the Modi Era
From their allowing Modi the benefit of doubt, it may appear that Hindus who have voted to propel him to power with an untrammelled majority have let their Muslim brethren down. This could prove disappointing for Muslims if taken to heart. However, it would be a travesty were Muslims to give up on the good sense of their Hindu counterparts. It is best therefore for Muslims to also give Hindu voters who backed Modi the benefit of doubt and give them a second chance at the next hustings.
Modi’s exceptional mandate can be taken as a chance for him to make good on his promise of development and good governance. His media and corporate backers convinced people to look towards him to replicate the so-called ‘Gujarat model’, in particular in UP and Bihar that have seen a relative decline in comparison to southern and western India. Clearly, Modi is on trial and will attempt to deliver with the expectation of another shot at the top in the next elections.
Since it would not do for Muslims, already among the deprived, to be left out of any advances that India may make, Muslims would need to reconcile with the majority verdict and participate to the extent feasible. The condition for such an engagement can only be on the footing of equality. This may be necessary since there may be a programme afoot to make any sops of development coming the way of Muslims conditional on their exhibition of either subordination or national loyalty. Since Muslims have no call to bow, they need to engage with the regime straight backed. This would deter any aggression in the regime even as it accepts Muslim offer of joining shoulders in the promise of national development as equals and partners.
Aware that secularists have been complacent in keeping Muslims backward, the new regime can be taken as an opportunity for conditional engagement to better the lot of common Muslims. Not doing so would lead to another five years of waste and, who knows, even a decade. Also, keeping an open mind will ensure that the regime does not get an excuse to lock Muslims out of any gains India may make. Concerted community action will also deter those in their own midst who may be out to sow discord. Instead, a positive outreach may assure the majority community of Muslims’ continuing faith in their judgment. After all, majority-minority relations remaining in good health is the best guarantor of minority security. It is also a sign of respect for Indian democracy that Muslims abide by the choice of the majority.
Clearly, this cannot be unconditional. Modi would require proving capable of reining in the Hindutva brigade. This is a tall order since their backing of Modi has been as consequential as corporate power and money to have taken him to the top. Modi’s own personal predilections, evident in his adamant refusal to take responsibility for the Gujarat carnage and to reach out to Muslims as a leader with national aspirations, will perhaps be asking too much from him. However, respecting the people’s mandate must imply that Muslims allow Modi to make amends, perhaps not visibly, but in practice by ensuring Muslims their rightful share of any growth in the national pie. Therefore, the first stone must not be cast by Muslims. Modi must be allowed to fail on his own so that the majority community shows him the door next time round as resoundingly as it has ushered him in.
This is not impossible to visualise. Rajiv Gandhi squandered his mandate of greater proportions by getting into a communal quagmire by opening the locks of the Babri Masjid. His twist towards neo-liberalism in the mid-eighties led up eventually to India having to send out gold by air to UK banks lest it default on loan repayments. Since Modi has promised a decisive turn to neo-liberalism under a second generation reform package, that it would create an army of ‘have nots’ can well be imagined. Authoritarianism is the expectation of his corporate backers to push through these reforms. It is not a coincidence that the Gujarat model in which Modi ran a fearful administration has been chosen by them for India. The outcome cannot but be in expanding the foothold of Maoists from their rimlands in central India into the Indian heartland of towns and cities.
Also, there is the Hindutva dividend that his RSS mentors will demand. Modi may have to at a minimum give them sops whereby they can stay out of his developmental agenda with their swadeshi ideology and confine themselves to a cultural reset of India. This may lead to a confrontation with Muslims since in the main the RSS fixation is to take ‘revenge’, in the words of Modi’s UP campaign manager, Amit Shah, on Muslims for what they consider has been a millennium of subjugation. Therefore, it is possible that despite Muslims putting their best foot forward, if not their right hand itself, they may find the pitch queered for them. The steps that Muslims may then take in safeguarding themselves will then be used against them for invective and hatred. 
In case Muslims were to rethink their strategy, depending on the nature of the Modi regime as it unfolds, it is quite clear that they would not be alone. There would be India’s expanding army of disaffected, those imposed on by the economic ‘reforms’ which in reality will be an oligarchic loot of India’s treasures with Modi as national security and corruption minder. There is little doubt that ethnic minorities such as Kashmiris and Bengalis will feel put upon by Modi’s impending policies on the Article 370 and illegal migration respectively. Pockets of India by voting for regional parties have already demonstrated that they are not enamoured of the so-called Modi ‘wave’. Also, liberals will likely stage a comeback with the majority itself revolted by the initiatives and innovations on the cultural front that Modi’s ideological storm troopers will seek. In particular, the fillip that Brahmanism hopes to receive will prompt its own backlash.
Modi will of course try to avert this inevitability. He will employ media hype to keep the counter narratives under wraps. He will use the suppressive might of the India state for his ends. He will seek time to create the rising tide economically to see him through to another term. This will give majoritarian extremists the time they need to reshape India in their image. Therefore, it is not unlikely that it may take till end of the decade for the cracks to begin to show. Once this happens the regime will seek scapegoats. Muslims are their traditional scapegoats and therefore need to have a prevention and responsive strategy in place by then. There being no call to invite such retribution, Muslims must take care to ensure the regime lacks a justificatory narrative for scapegoating. Consequently, Muslims need to wait out the Modi regime, without backsliding in the interim. At the opportune time, perhaps in the elections after next, they can make their move to, in conjunction with the majority, displace Modi democratically. This will finally and emphatically expose him to justice for 2002. 
Strategy is not an outcome of sulking. It emanates from pragmatism. Even as the regime strategises, Muslims too must reflect. It is not a time either for provocation or hot-headed response to motivated provocation. A time shall come as it must when Muslims, in step with the very majority that has temporarily disregarded Muslim sentiment, will show Modi the door. Awaiting that time is necessary to have India’s majority exhaust any attraction for Hindutva.

Friday, May 09, 2014

india's brass

India's brass: What the controversy misses
By Firdaus Ahmed
The movement of a particular file within the corridors of South Block is being watched very closely by partisans involved who then speedily convey its location to their acolytes in the media. The file's movement is expected to result in an announcement on nomination of General Suhag as the next army chief on Bikram Singh demitting office in end July. The defence minister has assured that all procedures will be followed. Media commentary has nevertheless served up yet another agenda item to divide the attentive public into two: those for the government or those against it, not only in general but also on this particular score.

In the discussion the major point emphasized is that the military must not be politicized. It is interesting that both sides are using the same argument. Those on the BJP side suggest that undue haste in declaring the successor by the Congress-led government is to ensure that their nominee is in place. This would ensure a 'line of succession' forged by its pushing out of VK Singh from the chief's office a year before he was due to leave. The opposite view is that not nominating the next chief's successor timely would be to allow BJP to politicize the process by its possibly passing over Suhag as chief. Currently, the next senior in line is an army commander who incidentally is related to VK Singh.

However, this is only the ongoing row. Anticipating the forthcoming row would also be in order. In the widely expected case of the government changing to one headed by the BJP what could likely happen will make the current controversy pale in comparison. If the BJP gets into power, it could consider overturning the announcement of the successor of the chief and undertake the same process yet again to arrive at a different name of successor. Procedurally it will no doubt be well taken care of by bureaucrats piloting the file past the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet; this will by far amount to greater politicization.

By no means is this the only possible future. Firstly, the Congress may get cold feet and leave the appointment to the next government. Secondly, the BJP may not come to power and a third front or a Congress led minority government may have no problem with the changeover. Thirdly, the BJP may choose to stick out the tenure of the next chief. The latter is not impossible to visualize since the BJP may well be deterred. It would be blamed for politicising the appointment. If it appoints the general related to VK Singh, it could be fingered for favouritism, particularly since VK Singh may also be in the legislature by then.

It may also be able to live with Suhag since Suhag would be on the defensive from the beginning under the impression that the government is averse to him owing to the controversy preceding his appointment. Compromised thus, he may be more willing to play along. The example of the sacking of Admiral Bhagwat in the initial period of the earlier BJP government could make him bow even where he need not. Even if it does not pressurise Suhag, as a professional he would be faced with a choice of complying or resigning. In case it does show Suhag the door, the BJP would reason that it is not so much politicising the brass as much as applying a necessary corrective to politicization by the Congress.

Therefore, the possibility of a forthcoming controversy over the near term that is much worse than the ongoing one over the impending announcement of the chief designate is yet at an arms distance, though not remote. It can unfold as early as month end.

However, the more significant point is not so much the personalities involved or the issue of politicization of the appointment of army chief. The latter while important in itself is more so because of the subsequent politicization could upturn the apolitical character and image of the forces.

Even if in a hierarchical structure such as is the army, the chief carries much weight, the military's apex functioning is collegial with the major decisions being taken at the biannual army commanders' conference. Therefore, having a politicized chief is not enough to have critical mass in politicizing the army. The top order needs working on equally. A politicized chief serves a useful function in opening up the military for further politicization over time by enabling the conditions that make only those with right political credentials to rise in the hierarchy setting its political tone and texture as an organisation.

For most part, the scope for politicization is restricted by the professional and technical content of the military's social function. Since by all accounts it is kept out of the loop on key decisions, it is not particularly worrying as to who gets to be chief. Most reaching the rank of army commander are of equal professional worth, so individuals are not of much consequence either. However, the significant issue is that the shift in grounding of professionalism of the military, from an objective to a subjective mode.

Currently, the military is taken as exhibiting objective professionalism. This implies that its input to national security decision making is unbiased, frank and forthright. While it can be accused of having organizational interest clutter such input often, such as in the case of its input on

Siachen or on AFSPA for instance, overall, the Indian military has been credited with practicing objective professionalism.

However, the problem is that with the BJP coming to power, particularly if it is unencumbered by any coalition partners, it may prefer a subjective model of military professionalism. This is the critical issue that will face India and its military over the forthcoming BJP tenure, if it comes to it. It would be a tribute to the professionalism of the Indian military in case it survives the encounter with religious nationalism with its moorings intact. It has been hypothesized earlier by this writer that this may prove difficult in light of the nationalist subcultures waiting on wings for just such an opportunity to 'take over' as the dominant subculture and to eventually dissolve other subcultures, including that of professional and radical professional within the military.

Subjective professionalism in a military implies an obedience that comes from imbibing the ideological predispositions of its civilian superiors rather than basing input on the objective coordinates of a situation. This implies that even if in olive green, the brass could well think saffron. Not only would the government have to bear the opportunity cost of an advice it wishes to hear, but also its consequences. To illustrate, even if retention of Siachen is taken as strategically sustainable, in the nationalist subculture this would owe not to the strategic coordinates of the argument, but for a 'weak' India to overcome its millennial strategic sloth and display its six-pack finally.

Therefore, if an act is to be judged as politicization, a key criterion would be the intent and consequence. The unseemly controversy being raised is only partially about the ambitions of VK Singh, a BJP party candidate. It betrays an intent to take over what is widely regarded as a professional institution with an intent to subvert its professionalism from objective, to the extent it is, to subjective, that it has lately exhibited a potential towards (as pointed out in this column from time to time).

The threat of politicization is not about a military taking over the government but the government's ideological orientation taking over the military. A possible future is that the military will no longer be a professional military of a secular state, but a religious nationalism inspired military serving a majoritarian state. However, by no means is this a 'done' deal yet.

Considered against this yardstick, the Congress' move to get a new chief in place before it demits office, in keeping with the supposed 'chain of succession', is positively benign. It is a defensive maneuver out to protect the army from appointment of a political chief, who would then open up the army to right wing inroads. Consequently, the current controversy over the appointment of the army chief is but a symptom of a wider syndrome out to beset India that may manifest in the army as politicization, soon.