This article was first published in July 2013 by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.
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Keywords: State Security and the Indian Constitution, Civil-Military Relations in India, Internal political dynamics and military purpose (India)
Abstract: The close correlation between internal discord and State security is in effect the relationship between the democratic impulse of the people, orientation and implementation of policy and the credibility of military institutions. Quite elementally, the erosion of one facet of the trinity cannot leave the other two undamaged. In a perversion of this reality, denial has become the drift in contemporary Indian politics. Policy makers and its implementers fail to recognize that internal disturbances are not a unitary or even a phenomenon whose resolution is wholly a task of the military, but a compound of many elements ranging from politics to technology to administrative incompetence to human emotions. While it is preposterous to imagine in a democracy a unity between internal political dynamics and military purpose; there is, however, an imperative for understanding consequentiality of political action or inaction and its impact on the trinity.
Solomon’s First Temple: the Legend
In the fourth year of his reign, King Solomon (970-931 BCE) found his rule unchallenged. His father King David (1006-970 BCE)[i] had spent his rule in conquest and imperial expansion and made Jerusalem the capital of a united Israel and Judah. But, it was left to Solomon to give a basis for unity to his people. In this quest he gave stately solemnity to the institution of the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ and its contents, the Ten Commandments, the charter which endowed that realm with principles of conduct and the font of law. He did so by enshrining this instrument of collective security in what Biblical lore called “The First Temple of Solomon” and in doing so gave it sanctity in the minds of his citizenry. Solomon ushered a golden era and the Jewish people would revere the moral and legal foundations of society and the security that the Temple stood for. [ii]
Wealth and opulence flourished for four hundred years but with time and immoderation a decadent effeteness set in. The veneration and inviolability of the Charter was replaced by disparagement and compromise. Despite warnings of the coming slide, pliability and conciliation remained the order. Retribution took the form of pillage by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian armies, leaving the city and the First Temple erased and the people condemned to slavery and desperate dispersion for the next two millennia.[iii]
This mythological narrative is not about Solomon’s sagacity or his ability to discern motherhood through recognition of compassion;[iv] but more to bring home the lesson that integrity of a nation and effective governance are predicated on security and uncompromisingly espousing the foundational statutes of the realm, dodgy concessions made are always at the cost of security.
The Palpable Analogy
The Indian freedom movement, by means of noncooperation, civil disobedience, at times violence, and at others ahimsa, voyaged through a period of uniting élan, which created a momentum that carried them from challenge through response[v] to the next challenge, and independence till the Indian Constitution was forged and brought into force on 26 January 1950. The Constitution struck a balance between the thrust towards modernity and the abject reality of poverty, the astounding diversity of its people, with security of the State remained an overarching covenant. In setting off on its venture of nation building it made an important assumption; that its people would be led by leaders of strong moral character with the spine to uphold the Constitution and the Institutions that it created. This belief was stained by the very frailty of its guardians. The effect on the hapless citizenry is best summed in the words of the late Nani Palkivala, “The Indian people Who gave unto themselves the Constitution but not the ability to keep it, Who inherited a resplendent heritage but not the wisdom to cherish it, Who suffer and endure in patience without the perception of their potential.”[vi]
The singular art of leadership that the first generation netas preached and practised was soon lost in the venality, contempt of institutions and material hunger of their successors. The most persistent legacy of the day, as Palkivala once again pointed out, “is to have too much government but too little administration; too many laws and too little justice; too many public servants and too little public service; too many controls and too little welfare.” And so the proverbial Temple began to parade cracks as public disorder, administrative implosions and political malfeasance became the order of the day. The cracks widened when constitutional impropriety extended into areas of national security—as was so disastrously exposed in the 1962 war against China, when policy, intrigues and preparedness failed the nation to espouse the Constitution in one of its primary promises “to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.”[vii]
The Anatomy of Internal Discord
The close correlation between internal discord and State security is in effect the relationship between the democratic impulse of the people, orientation and implementation of policy and the credibility of military institutions. Quite elementally, the erosion of one facet of the trinity cannot leave the other two undamaged. In a perversion of this reality, denial has become the drift in contemporary Indian politics. Policy makers and its implementers fail to recognize that internal disturbances are not a unitary or even a phenomenon whose resolution is wholly a task of the military, but a compound of many elements ranging from politics to technology to administrative incompetence to human emotions.
While it is preposterous to imagine in a democracy a unity between internal political dynamics and military purpose (since historically and as the experience of our Western neighbour will testify such harmony never makes for sound domestic policies); there is, however, an imperative for understanding consequentiality of political action or inaction and its impact on the Trinity.
Conclusion: State Security and the Trinity
Looking back at the history of the Indian civilisation we were never beset with far reaching and at times perilous decisions that today nation building has thrust upon us. Earlier, the very expansion and contraction of civilisation imposed choices before a select few who ran empire; the bulk of the denizens enjoyed an innocent form of security that can only be termed as ‘sanctuary without representation’. But with the evolution of the idea of the Indian Nation and progression to independence and nationhood, the need to nurture and abide by a set of foundational principles that formed a bond between the people and their chosen destiny becomes an imperative and takes the form of the Constitution. State security and the Trinity are at the core of this design; the former as a collective belief while the latter provides the motive force. To injure any facet of the Trinity is to grievously distress security. For lawmakers to indulge in acts that shake the foundations of the First Temple is therefore treasonable. The words of Joseph Stone, the American constitutional lawyer rings an ominous note which our political class will do well to take heed of “The Constitution has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, the people.[viii]
[i] Both King Solomon and David’s period of reign derived from Biblical chronology.
[ii] The Bible Kings 10:24.
[iv] Legend has it that when Solomon was to pass judgement on a case of biological motherhood and therefore infant custody, he drew a sword and told the two women involved that he was left with no option but to hack the child in two. The first woman remained unmoved but the second screamed and pleaded that the child be given to the other, in that exhibition of compassion Solomon saw who the real mother was.
[v] Toynbee Arnold. A Study of History, Volume VII to X abridgement by DC Somervell, Oxford University Press, New York 1957, p 357-359, writing on Challenge and Response and the Virtues of Adversity.
[vi] Palkivala Nani. We the People, UBS publishers and distributors 1999. ISBN 9788174761675, Foreword.
[vii] Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution and as enshrined in the Preamble.
[viii] Stone Joseph Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, second edition. Little, Brown & Co, Boston (1851), vol. 2, chapter 45, p. 617