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Live Debate…

January 11, 2010

…On whether India should deploy troops to Afghanistan, it can be reviewed here. On the panel were Nitin, aka Acorn, Sushant from Pragati & Rohit, aka Retributions. Unfortunately, the panelists’ comments and those of the members of the audience have not been differentiated in this transcript – apologies for some incoherence.

Several members of the audience chimed in with questions and comments and while there seemed to be widespread skepticism towards the proposition, the poll showed that there was a two to one support for sending Indian troops to Afghanistan.

My view was that, apart from the right and the wrong of it, the question to ask is – does the Indian Army have the kind of muscle required to pull off this overly ambitious mission? Albeit in an informal context, it was hard to miss the constant references to the dearth of quality military leadership in the Indian Armed Forces, perhaps because I grew up hearing about it through my childhood! While it is true that India has deployed troops to various regions around the world as part of the UN Peace Keeping Forces, for us to be able to prove ourselves a force to reckon with, our Armed Forces would need to ramp up both technically and in terms of manpower. And then there’s the question of the fickle power play that the US is now notorious for.

And in a timely reference, Pragmatic of INI points to an interview of Lt. Gen VK Singh, who is most likely the next army chief. And as the interview demonstrates, in no unclear terms, the Indian Army is not designed to fight wars on foreign territory. And, my view is, rightly so – India as a developing economy cannot afford a murky war for PR reasons alone, if nothing else. It is foolish to assume that FDIs will continue to come our way, irrespective of our internal and external security issues, especially if we choose to dive headlong into them.

That there is a clear security issue due to Pak MJC cannot be denied but to fight them, we need to engage with them directly, not fight America’s war in Afghanistan and lose goodwill in the international community. Also, it cannot be discounted that Pak MJC (a conglomerate of Pakistan-based Jehadi outfits) can continue to undermine our domestic civilian security despite our best efforts to quell them on the Af-Pak frontier.

And as Pragmatic points out, despite a good case being put forth by Acorn & Retributions, if the policy makers and military leadership see this as an unfeasible operation, this entire discussion is moot.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2010 4:23 pm

    I’m a pacifist so any debate about sending military anywhere is always a negative for me. In this case, I especially think that India shouldn’t send troops. U.S. policies and alligences are slippery as you mentioned and I don’t think India should even waste their rescources on a situation that they didn’t create.

    • January 15, 2010 12:47 am

      Pacifism breaks down fast in the face of persistent terrorist attacks on civilians in public spaces – the state is forced to defend its people, even if it means confronting the nemesis head on. Unfortunately, in India’s case, it has rarely been known to take a confrontational stand in such matters and the defence forces have been used exactly for for that – defence, never offence.

      I agree with you on the slippery territory of military partnership with the US!

  2. Jose Kurian permalink
    January 15, 2010 3:47 pm

    On the issue of whether or not to deploy Indian troops in Afghanistan, it is an extremely complex question for one to give an YES or NO reply. But having been part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in 1987-88, I can definitely say with full conviction that it’s not going to be a cake-walk. As regards certain other issues discussed, pertaining to the quality of Indian military leadership, I can assure you it is second to none. We have proved it in the real acid test of it all for a military- winning wars against our adversaries. In peacetime too, India’s Armed Forces have not let its people down- be it rescuing a 3 year old from a blind well in Haryana or earthquake rescue operations or aid to civil authorities during major riots like in Bombay (1993) or Ahmedabad (2002). As a person who has been in uniform for over three decades, I would say it is unfair to adversely comment on the quality of military leadership. Coming back to the issue of deployment of Army in Afghanistan, as the disciplined Armed Forces of a mature democracy (unlike what we see in our neighbourhood), it is the ultimate decision of the political leadership. I am sure the Armed forces wouldnt shy away from such a duty, in case the political leadreship thinks it is in India’a overall strategic interests to deploy in Afghanistan.

    • January 15, 2010 5:58 pm

      Papa, I would completely agree with you on the matter of quality of military leadership but to divide up the resources between domestic and foreign territory, the matter goes beyond that of quality and refers to quantity too. Famously enough, the Indian Army is short of some 11,000 Army officers, and given that such military engagement would invite casualty, the Indian Army might need a lot more of the quality military resources it already has.

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