The Security Studies Seminar is a monthly seminar series that aims to comprehensively discuss a new piece of academic research on matters pertaining to Indian and international security, with the author.

Since independence, the Indian government has established a strong tradition of civilian control over military policy. However, the influence of politics over the military has come into sharp focus in the aftermath of the Balakot strikes carried out by the Indian Air Force against Pakistan, two weeks after the Pulwama attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, in February 2019.

Colonel Ali Ahmed, visiting professor at the Nelson Mandela Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, discussed his upcoming paper on the impact of politics on military professionalism in the Indian armed forces. The discussion was moderated by Srinath Raghavan, senior fellow at Carnegie India. 

DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS

  • Pillars of a Professional Military: The Huntingtonian models of subjective and objective military control were discussed by the participants in order to establish the desired characteristics of a military that is subject to civilian control. Participants agreed that civil-military relations in India have been characterized by a strong tradition of civilian supremacy over military policy. The participants deliberated the political forces that could, potentially, impact the Indian military’s professional, apolitical, and secular characteristics.
  • Mechanism of Politicization: Participants explored the various mechanisms through which the military is influenced by political forces. First, they noted that the composition of the armed forces plays a crucial role in maintaining its secular tradition. Second, they discussed how a military that is dissatisfied with its budgetary outlays and perceives itself to be underappreciated by its nation may choose the route of political appeasement to have its needs met. Third, they pointed out that the retired fraternity of the armed forces could also have an influence over the armed forces’ apolitical nature—in the Indian context, particularly, political issues such as ‘One Rank One Pension’ tend to impact military professionalism. More recently, the participants also noted the politicization of the Balakot strikes, which soon became a topic of debate during the most recent election campaign cycle. Participants agreed that such manipulation of military symbols for political outcomes could seriously impact the military’s apolitical disposition.
  • The Influence of Technology: Some participants deliberated over the role that technological advancements play in affecting the apolitical nature of the military. They noted that, compared to previous ages where there were no mobile phones or social media, the military today is greatly exposed to the outside world, and possesses the ability to widely share information. Social media and messaging platforms allow the dissemination of political opinions, which are accessible like never before, said the participants. Other participants noted that the increased exposure to social media bypasses the previous ideal of separating the military from the rest of society, which is an essential component of preserving its apolitical character. 

This event summary was prepared by Medha Prasanna, a research intern at Carnegie India.