Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand ... Nehru’s idealism and his perceptions that China would pose no...

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Transcript of Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand ... Nehru’s idealism and his perceptions that China would pose no...

  • Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand

    Occasional Paper – March 2014

  • Nehru Era’s Defence and Security Policies and Their Legacy 2 of 29 © Vivekananda International Foundation

    About The Author

    Brig (Retd.) Vinod Anand is a Senior Fellow at the Vivekananda International

    Foundation (VIF), New Delhi. He holds a post-graduate degree in Defence and

    Strategic Studies and is an alumnus of Defence Services and Staff College and

    College of Defence Management. Earlier he was a Senior Fellow at the Institute

    for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Brig Anand has also been a Senior

    Fellow at the United Service Institution, New Delhi. His recent publications

    include monographs on ‘Pak-Af Equation and Future of Afghanistan’, ‘Multi-

    Vector Politics of Central Asian Republics and India’ and ‘Strategic Enviornment

    in Central Asia and India’. Earlier he had authored a monograph on ‘Joint Vision

    for Indian Armed Forces’ and a book titled ‘Defence Planning in India: Problems

    and Prospects’. He writes on military and strategic issues including regional and

    international security. At the VIF, he is coordinating research activity and

    focusing on China and Ballistic Missile Defence.

  • Nehru Era’s Defence and Security Policies and Their Legacy 3 of 29 © Vivekananda International Foundation

    Nehru Era’s Defence and Security

    Policies and Their Legacy


    During the nationalist movement and struggle for independence, there was little attention paid to

    articulation of India’s defence and security policies by the Indian National Congress (INC).

    Allusions to concepts and precepts of defence of an independent India were entirely absent from

    INC party resolutions and documents or for that matter in the speeches of the political leadership.

    If at all there was some reference to defence issues, it was in the sphere of developing defence

    industries as part of an overall plan of industrialization of India. The dominant impulse among

    INC leadership later led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was that India’s security would be bolstered

    not only by its natural frontiers but also by its professions of peace and neutrality in the emerging

    world order. Nehru was more inclined to pay attention to socio-economic development and

    industrialization rather than strengthen the armed forces. Coordinated development in a sense

    was an appropriate strategy for the newly independent nation but Nehru failed to pay adequate

    attention to building up of the armed forces that would protect the sovereignty of the nation.

    In defence matters, he chose to be guided by bureaucrats and political leaders who had little or

    no understanding of strategic and military matters. Influenced by British traditions and mores, he

    selected PMS Blackett, a renowned British scientist to advise him on development of defence

    industry and science who later expanded his mandate to advise Nehru on defence and security

    strategies in which Blackett had no expertise. Whatever recommendations were given by Backett

    in his report were largely coloured by British conception of what India should be doing in

    matters military. There was hardly any independent or original thinking done especially in the

    context of threats and challenges emerging at that time due to changing strategic environment

    after the end of Second World War, beginning of Cold War and realities of Communists coming

    to power in China. Treating China as not an adversary also suited Nehru’s economic policies as

    defence preparations against China would require a much bigger Army and Air Force involving

    additional defence expenditure. Sage advice of his own military leadership was largely ignored.

  • Nehru Era’s Defence and Security Policies and Their Legacy 4 of 29 © Vivekananda International Foundation

    There was a lurking suspicion shared by Nehru and some of his political colleagues that a

    powerful and unified military might pose a challenge to the civil authority. Therefore, during his

    reign Nehru successively lowered the stature of military leadership in the official Warrant of

    Precedence and dissolved several defence appointments, structures and mechanisms which could

    promote conceptual unity, integration and jointness among the armed forces. Krishna Menon, the

    Defence Minister during Nehru years at the helm of affairs, has been credited more with

    interfering in promotions and postings of defence officers and appointing his yes men rather than

    with formulation and pursuance of a prescient defence policy.

    Nothing more underscores the lack of Nehru’s long term strategic vision than his policy choices

    during Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir by so called ‘raiders’ in 1947-48. Firstly, he stopped the

    advance of Indian troops after they had evicted the outer reaches of Kashmir Valley and were

    ready to reclaim rest of the Kashmir and secondly, Nehru committed the monumental blunder of

    taking the issue to the UN where it lies unresolved till date. But what shattered him immensely

    was his failure in understanding China and his miscalculations about the intentions of China.

    Nehru’s idealism and his perceptions that China would pose no threat to India floundered on the

    rock of unrelenting realist and hard headed policies followed by Chinese leadership on the

    question of Tibet and border issues. Since Nehru did not visualize a threat from China, he did not

    take adequate measures to prepare for the same. All indications of building up of threat from

    China were overlooked by him despite some perceptive advice by many political leaders

    including his own Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Looking back, it can be

    easily surmised that the first decade or so after India’s independence was a formative period for

    Indo-Pak and Sino-Indian relationship that set the tone for many decades to follow. Even after a

    passage of more than six decades it has been difficult to obliterate or rectify the negative impact

    of past decisions and strategies adopted then.

    Therefore, this paper seeks to critically examine the defence and security policies of Nehru’s

    years and posit that the legacy bequeathed by such policies has left an indelible impression on

    the policy making establishment and even today some of our defence policies bear the stamp of

    Nehruvian era.

  • Nehru Era’s Defence and Security Policies and Their Legacy 5 of 29 © Vivekananda International Foundation

    Approach to Security

    References to defence and security were few and far between in the deliberations of INC’s

    political leadership, in the pre-independence era. Though there was general awareness that India

    has to be built up as a nation but most of the intellectual discussions were on the social,

    economic and industrial aspects of building a nation. If at all there was some discussion on

    defence aspects it was development of defence industries as a part of India’s overall

    industrialization effort.

    Nehru in his speeches before independence did say that “We have an Indian Army which is

    brave and efficient, and well-tried in many continents. It is good enough to fight for freedom of

    the Allies in the battlefields of Europe and it will be good enough to fight if necessary for the

    freedom of India. When freedom comes, we shall develop our army and strengthen it to make it

    more efficient than it is today.” 1 However, he saw the pre-independence Indian Army as

    advancing only British interests and had some misgivings about the nationalist credentials

    especially of the Indian military officers. Nehru alluded to the Army being a mercenary army

    though not in a disparaging sense but strictly in a legal and technical sense 2 . In his remarks to the

    Press in 1945, he said that “I am convinced in my mind that it (Army) would have done infinitely

    better if it was given a national colouring. Nationalist sentiment is bound to have influence.”

    3 Nehru was desirous of removing barriers that isolated Indian soldiers from the people. But that

    was impractical as long as the British power ruled over India. This disconnect between the Indian

    Army and the newly emerging political leadership continued to