Book Review | In honor of Modi’s calibrated risk-taking on the security front
It is a partisan book, but there is no pejorative attached to the word partisan. The author, an academic, makes his case well with arguments, opinions and facts in a way that reinforces his basic thesis that Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the theory and practice of national security. The partisan overtones of the author are reflected in the opening pages when he contrasts the inefficiency and ineptitude of the Manmohan Singh government in the aftermath of the terrorist act of November 26, 2008 in Mumbai, in contrast to the calibrated responses of the Prime Minister Modi to the terrorist attacks in Pathankot and Uri. in the September 2016 surgical strikes on camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the February 2019 Balakot airstrike following the Pulwama terrorist attack. And he also argues that Mr Modi and India had handled the Doklam crisis on the Bhutan border quite well, as well as the eastern Ladakh showdown in May-June 2020. He also points to the style of taking of Mr Modi’s decision in the creation of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) and the construction of the War Memorial, two long pending issues. He points to Mr. Modi’s new personalized style of diplomacy, of personal chemistry with his counterparts, whether with the Pakistani Nawaz Sharif or with the Chinese Xi Jinping.
We have become accustomed to the misconception that academic reporting should be objective, neutral and critical. This is not the case. Much academic work in the United States is partisan, sometimes Democratic or Republican, and sometimes even personality-driven, whether John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan. So, once we get used to the idea that an academic can make a legitimate partisan presentation, Chaulia’s book becomes worth reading. Even then, he sometimes goes too far in his praise of Mr Modi. For example, he writes: “Indian journalist Uday Mahurkar recounted a point-blank exchange between Modi and Xi on the banks of the serene Sabarmati River, when the Indian leader apparently said, ‘That was not what we expected from your country” and asked , ‘Can you tell me when the troops are withdrawing.’ Although the exact wording of Modi’s outspokenness with Xi has not been officially declassified, the Indian leader revealed that he did not end any obligatory sense of hospitality, expectations of direct investments foreign (FDI) Chinese in the Indian economy, or deference to Chinese military power…” (p. 38). And about Modi’s decision to carry out surgical strikes in PoK on September 28, 2016, after the terrorist attacks in Pathankot and military bases in Uri, the author says: paris. (p. 19) This is indeed an interesting way of explaining things.
The author reveals that India was in close contact with the United States before the surgical strikes at PoK, and that Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval was in constant contact with his counterpart Susan Rice. The author writes: “On September 28, 2016, just before the surgical strikes, Doval spoke with her American counterpart, Susan Rice…Once Rice learned of the surgical strikes the following day, she called Doval back, “to make sure there was nothing left”. escalation.’…” (p. 24) The crucial missing link is of course whether Doval informed Rice of the surgical attack to be performed. From the call she makes the next day, it appears that Doval did not disclose the crucial information. This shows that India is acting alone despite close consultation with the United States. The tacit consent of the United States seems quite obvious.
Similarly, the account of the capture of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan in the Balakot airstrike in February 2019 indicates that India pointed six missiles ready to be fired at Pakistan if it was not releasing Abhinandan. Interesting story, but again, we may have to wait a long time before we can verify the details, even if we accept the author’s version at face value.
The author sees Prime Minister Modi as the man of the hour, the man of destiny, who completely changed India’s security and strategic outlook due to his personal bravery. He says it has freed India from the Hamlet-like indecision of previous prime ministers, and he thinks of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is a useful book to read as it gives solid rationale and rationalization with layered detail of Modi revolutionizing India’s responses to Pakistan’s terrorist attacks and China’s military confrontation. But we must take Chaulia’s arguments with a grain of salt. Not all the facts of the case are there, and that’s not the author’s fault.
Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises
By Sreeram Chaulia
p. 219, Rs. 595