27 November 2019
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi revels in making bold decisions and upsetting the status quo. In September 2016, in response to a terror attack in Kashmir, he authorized an unprecedented cross-border commando raid on suspected terrorist camp a few miles across the Line of Control in Pakistan. A few months later, in a nationally televised address, he announced the demonetization policy that — overnight — invalidated 86 percent of the existing currency in circulation. In February of this year, in response to a deadly suicide attack, he ordered an air strike on an alleged terror camp in Balakot, deep within Pakistan. In August, the Modi government abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
All of these moves have been loved and loathed in good measure. Analysts argue that demonetization failed in its stated goal to recover black money and instead contributed to the present economic slowdown. The military strikes in 2016 and 2019 were popular, but it’s unclear whether they will deter Pakistan from using terrorist groups to achieve its foreign policy goals. Likewise, Kashmir still remains in partial lockdown, its future far from certain.
… If, however, India fails to substantively reform its defense structure, including creating theater commands, then one can justifiably infer a pattern. Modi’s bold policy moves may be unveiled with great symbolism and flourish, but perhaps they lack substance. The prime minister should be commended for his willingness to challenge the status quo, but big ideas only matter if they are translated into policy. The consequences of this proposition — of compromised military effectiveness — should be worrying, for both Modi and for India.
… Anit Mukherjee is an assistant professor at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and is the author of The Absent Dialogue: Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Military in India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 28/11/2019