As part of our regular private roundtable discussion series on Foreign Policy, Brookings India hosted a discussion on “Civil-Military Relations in India” which was chaired by Ambassador Shivshankar Menon, Distinguished Fellow at Brookings and India’s former National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary. The discussion featured Mr. Sushant Singh, Associate Editor of The Indian Express and a former officer of the Indian Army. The discussion revolved around problems in the civil-military relationship in India today, primarily at the level of civilian and military elite. A fundamental problem is the dissonance in views of the civilian and military leadership on the proper role of the military in policy formulation and decision making. While the civilian administration largely considers the military as an agency that should delivery on policy decisions taken by them, the military considers itself an equal stakeholder in the decision-making on security and foreign policy issues. Lately, some signs of strain in the civil-military relationship in India on the civilian side have been manifested in issues such as the defence of Siachen glacier, debate over repealing of the AFSPA in Kashmir and employment of the army against Naxals. On the military side, the issue of pay and allowances, and due recognition for military services in difficult situations are some of the irritants in a healthy civil-military relationship.
To this effect, lack of an adequate institutional mechanism for dialogue between the civilian and military leadership within the institutional auspices of the government of India is an important concern. The National Security Council is perhaps the only framework in which the military, the political class and the bureaucratic establishment are represented together for the purpose of policy formulation. The detachment between the civilian and military bureaucracies can be addressed by more integration starting from lower levels of these establishments. Creation of specialised military services in the bureaucracy similar to the Indian Revenue Services or Indian Forest Services will also help in bridging this disconnect. Military education should also include civilian aspects and vice versa in order to encourage discussion and understanding.
In conclusion, a lack of common strategic thinking as a result of inadequate dialogue between the civilian and military bureaucracies remains a big concern for India’s growing strategic footprint.
-by Shruti Godbole
Like other products of the Brookings Institution India Center, this report is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues. The views are of the author(s). Brookings India does not have any institutional views.
An expert roundtable discussion on “Civil-Military Relations in India”. The discussion will be chaired by Ambassador Shivshankar Menon, Distinguished Fellow at Brookings and India’s former National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary. The discussion will feature Mr. Sushant Singh, Associate Editor of The Indian Express and a former officer of the Indian Army. The discussion will focus on the current state of higher defence management and relations between the civilian and military leaderships. The discussion will be private, off-the-record and under the Chatham House Rule.
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