Perils of institutionalized Nehruvianism
Ravi Shanker Kapoor | August 1, 2019 10:43 pm
The recent revelation about the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s decision in 2001 not to join the US-led war on terror underlines the institutionalization of Nehruvian Consensus in the system, the institutionalization that remains entrenched despite an avowedly anti-Nehru prime minister.
In a book, A Prime Minister to Remember: Memories of a Military Chief (Konark Publishers), the then Navy chief, Admiral Sushil Kumar, says that external affairs minister Jaswant Singh wanted India to be on the side of the US, but the military chiefs disagreed with him. Vajpayee supported their viewpoint.
At the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting in the wake of 9/11 attacks, on the issue whether Indian armed forces should join the US-led coalition for Operation Enduring Freedom, Kumar wrote that Singh “waxed eloquent on the need to join this operation as it was part of a global war on terror and could garner international support and so on.” However, Kumar wrote, “the devil lay in the details, which precisely specified the tasks for the Indian armed forces.”
Kumar didn’t like the idea, and Vajpayee “must have noticed my look of disapproval.” He said “Hamare Admiral khush nahin hain” (Our Admiral is not happy). Nor were other chiefs. Defence minister George Fernandes, an old socialist, couldn’t agree more with them. He said: “Our military chiefs have said it all.”
Kumar wrote: “The Prime Minister had soon realized that there were sharply divided views. But he had also clearly understood that there could be serious implications of committing the Indian armed forces for Operational Enduring Freedom. So Vajpayee graciously put the matter to rest with a philosophical quip: ‘Isko thoda aur sochna padega.’ (This may need more thought.)”
While Vajpayee should be lauded for his attitude, for taking into account professional counsel, one can’t be so charitable about his judgment—that is, to disregard Jaswant Singh’s opinion. By not joining hands with the US, a historic blunder was committed. Islamic fundamentalism and the Taliban couldn’t be ended in Afghanistan; Pakistan’s role in the region has increased, while India is engaged in the so-called development works. Pakistan, the engine is terror, is still mollycoddled by the US, while India, with best intentions, does little more than pontificate the world about the perils of jihad.
Such are the consequences of institutionalized Nehruvianism.