India: Soldier–Civilian Alliance in a Democratic Context
- Anshu N. ChatterjeeAnshu N. ChatterjeeDepartment of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School
What role does India’s military play in its politics? India’s military is one of the largest in the world, with a budget that mirrors its enormity. It is a busy force, having fought five wars since 1947 and having managed persistent insurgencies in India’s northeast and the one in Kashmir since the 1990s. Prevailing studies on its role in India’s institutional structures often characterize it as a body external to the governance of a diverse, and at times perplexing, developing democracy that only intervenes when called on. Its comparatively lower underfunding to its main external threats and exclusion from strategic planning draws a significant amount of scholarly interest that seeks to explain this professional stance of India’s armed sentinels. The focus of such studies on the regulating mechanisms and the lack of resources available for the forces contextualized by India’s external challenges, which often produce institutional anxiety, blur an understanding of the military’s influence on politics in India.
Instead, the question of what role the military plays in India’s politics requires an inquiry into the collaborative linkages that were initiated at the end of colonial rule, when the civilian authorities and the military elite acknowledged each other’s importance in the consolidation of a modern nation-state. Although fear of the guardians guided some initial safeguards by the new civilian authorities, the relationship that emerged soon after reflected extensive collaboration in the face of external and internal threats, which is often ignored in India’s civil–military studies. A closer inquiry into the mutuality of the decision making during selected conflicts brings to fore an understanding of the institutional insight that has allowed the military to influence resource management, participate in governance, and shape political competition in a democratic context.