For decades, the Indian Army prided itself on its apolitical stance. Since independence, the founding fathers of modern India chose to build a constitutional democracy, where the military would strictly remain under civilian control.
Unlike Pakistan, which has seen more military dictatorships, and has the dubious history of never letting a civilian prime minister complete a full term in office, India has steadfastly remained a democracy since 1947.
But is the apolitical nature of the Indian military changing under the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government? There have been attempts in the past to draw political mileage out of the Indian military. Indira Gandhi benefited from India’s decisive victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war that led to the birth of Bangladesh. India’s first BJP-led government under prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee gained a full term in office after winning the Kargil war as a minority government in 1999.
But never in its history has the Indian military faced the kind of pressures that it is currently facing. The ‘Surgical Strikes‘ against Pakistan-based militant outfits in September 2016 led to an unprecedented deluge of propaganda. The subsequent assembly elections in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, saw the use of the strikes as a platform to earn political mileage.
Asia Times ‘Deep Dives’ spoke to Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch (retired), a distinguished veteran of India’s Special Forces, who took part in the 1971 and Kargil wars, and led a special operations unit in the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka. He has valuable insights on a range of issues to understand where India’s military is headed.