Pragmatic: An open letter to Mr. Arun Singh

[Due to technical issues, Pragmatic Euphony and other blogs on the Indian National Interest have been off-air since today morning. Till the time we restore full service, PE and other INI blogs will continue here at their temporary home.]

Dear Mr. Arun Singh,

Although Indian media’s shrillness on trivial issues betrays the gravity of serious national concerns that they raise with the same stridency, one would have to agree with their alarmist tone today. These are tough times for the Indian state, the country and even though the government might not have officially notified it, the current situation would classify as a national emergency.

May I take this opportunity to recount what you told Shekhar Gupta in an interview a couple of years back–

I draw a distinction between a political emergency and a national emergency. If there is an emergency concerning India I am always available. But as far as politics is concerned, it is best left to those who know it best… I have one regret — that we have not, in respect to our interests, defence and the security of India, attempted to go into any depth in the requirement of change…

It is not only the internal security that is in a mess today. The civil-military relations are strained to a point never witnessed before in this country. The armed forces feel that they have been shoddily treated while the civilian bureaucracy and political masters have formed an impression that the defence services are overreaching their jurisdiction. There is a distinct lack of effort to resolve these tenuous matters of national and internal security — the two are so closely intertwined that it would be pointless to create a dividing line between them.

There were many newsreports yesterday, later disproved by the ensuing events, that the National Security Advisor had also tendered his resignation. If those reports were true, then they would have needed a suitable replacement. You wish to stay away from politics [your view— “politics is basically a game played by politicians largely in self-interest, although the outward excuse or elaboration is always in terms of the nation, the state, the people, especially the poor”] and your wisdom, experience and competence [although you very humbly do not “claim any monopoly on competence or wisdom”] can not be allowed to be frittered away. You are ideally suited to be the National Security Advsior in these troubled times and most countrymen would resonate this plea for you to take over this onerous responsibility.

The despondent and cynical mood among large sections of our society is a poor reflection on the rambling and lackadaisical approach of our leaders today. Your credentials as a “brilliant civilian administrator and planner“, with a passion for and tremendous insight on matters of defence and national security, are unquestioned. Your reports on Defence Expenditure [which is still marked as Secret] and Restructuring National Security [as part of the GoM report after the Kargil Review Committee recommendations] are references for any student of Indian national security; although the major recommendations contained in those reports still await implementation.

At this point in time, allow me to quote two other portions from your interview

It is lack of leadership. There is no question in my mind that politicians must lead by example, not by consensus, not by discussion.

If the vision is there, the politics will fall into place…

The nation today needs vision and leadership on these matters of grave national importance. The country bemoans lack of effective institutions, but institutions are built by leaders and visionaries. There is no one better suited to junk the archaic systems, procedures, processes and concepts that hold back our national security institutions and replace them with modern institutions suited for a twenty-first century India.

Barring a few short stints as guest lecturers and a couple of years at the South Block for specific tasks, you have stayed  in the salubrious climes of Kumaon for nearly 20 years now. My co-bloggers at the INI believe in what they call the Distance from Delhi factor — staying away from the political machinations and power-games in Delhi allows the distant observer to have a rather dispassionate and clearheaded view of the situation. In that sense, you are truly blessed of being in an unique position — of being an insider and an outsider at the same time, trusted by the armed forces and respected by the bureaucrats, the media and the intelligentsia.

In the United States, Barack Obama has set a wonderful example by retaining Robert Gates as his Secretary of Defence. A nation at war needs continuity and India is today a nation at war, engaged in fighting an asymmetric war. The nation goes to polls in another five months time and the electoral politics is going to render the gravitative issues of national security and internal security ineffectual and inefficacious. You are a bipartisan person who has worked with most of the Congress leaders in your earlier stint as a minister and also worked alongside most top BJP leaders during your assignment with the NDA government. If both the political formations agree to your candidature for the National Security Advisor, then you are ideally suited to continue into the next administration and provide continuity on matters of national and internal security. That is what this nation needs in these times of political acrimony.

I do not know whether Dr. Manmohan Singh has the wisdom and the boldness of vision to pick up the telephone and place a call to you in Binsar (near Almora). However Mr. Advani and Mr. Jaswant Singh could probably take this opportunity to advise the Prime Minister to initiate that telephone call. That would be truly an act of political unity in national interest and not merely a symbolic one.

I hope that you will respond favourably to that telephone call, if and when it comes, and the advantages of “hindsight, age, greater wisdom and more experience” will allow you to steer the nation through these turbulent waters.

Yours sincerely etc.


13 responses to “Pragmatic: An open letter to Mr. Arun Singh

  1. The civil-military relations are strained to a point never witnessed before in this country.
    The CM of Kerala abuses the Martyr Maj Sandeep, the Cabinet Secretary denigrates the military by saying that parity will be very difficult, the GoM find it difficult to find time to resolve the Pay commission anomalies for the Armed Forces, you down play the Armed Forces by tainting their image in a never before media coordinate attack of slander and nitpicking, you widen the civil military gap and then say things are strained. So bloody obvious when the Govt has abetted the degardation.

  2. If the vision is there, the politics will fall into place…
    Is that vision there? After the Mumbai attack we start our rhetoric of ‘Pakistan did it’. Exhibit a facade of resignations, plan castles in the air like a Federal Investigation agency, NSG hubs, police reforms and such like. Advertise a ‘New improved Government’ formed overnight.
    Nothing about revamping the available resouces idling in lard.
    We behave like adolescents and demand the Intelligence Chief of a Sovereign country be summoned at our beck and call. We rant the same chant of proof of involvement without being able to prove anything. Finally we are back to the election mode – fooling the people.

  3. Farewell to Arms

    brinkmenship and posturing are no solution to terrorism. We have to go at its root- illitracy, fundamentalism, lack of development, inequality.

    Every body (including media) has very quickly forgotten that Pakistan has very recently lost its top national leader Mrs Benezir Bhutto as result of Terrorism. Pakistan has also faced bigger terror attack in Hotel Merriot.

    The basic issue is what situations – political, economic developmental or religious/ fundamentalism are facilitating pakistan to become nursery of terrorism.

    TV media and some trigger happy ex- generals (“security expert” of TV media) is trying to paint as if the whole of Pakistan ( a nation of 17 Crores people) is a fundamentalist nation like taliban and thus contributing to raising the tempers. The worst mistake we will do is to raise the tempers.

    There is a civilian democratic govt. in pakistan after long years of military dictatorship, which is trying to stand on its feet and trying to assert its authority over rouge armed forces of pakistan as well as other redical element of pakistan

    Therefore , posturing of the manner as we did in 2001 (op parakram) and bringing both nations to the brink of a nuclear war will be foolish step. Rather than posturing, more important thing is silently initiate fundamental changes in surveillance mechanism and intelligence.

    It is important that we don’t do the same mistake as we did in 2001 – mobilize forces to the border.

    Another thing we have to do is to make State Police is first defense against terrorism. mumbai police was competent enough to take on 10 odd terrorist, but it was made useless and onlooker by involving multiple agencies.

  4. @Farewell Arms,

    I am sure you are either a Passive muslim Jihadi in India or infiltrate or a Pakistani.. We know how to run India.. and never asked for you advice Mr. You keep quiet.. PAKI MULLAHS WILL GET IT VERY SOON. JUST A MATTER OF WEEKS. GET READY FOOLISH JIHADI MULLAHS .

  5. A clear and continuing lack of will – Arun Shourie (Op. Ed in

    “Where do you think, and by whom do you think are the teachers instructed to ensure that students from Class 1 onwards “recognise the importance of jihad”; to ensure that they “must be aware of the blessings of jihad”; to ensure that they “create yearning for jihad in his heart”; to ensure that they develop “love and aspiration for jihad, tabligh, shahadat, sacrifice, ghazi, shaheed”? Where do you think, and by whom are teachers instructed to ensure that students from kindergarten onwards learn to “make speeches on jihad and shahadat”, and are “judged on their spirit while making speeches on jihad”?
    Do you think these are instructions issued by the Islamic fundamentalists to maulvis in madrasas? They are instructions given by the government of Pakistan through official circulars to principals and teachers in government schools of Pakistan.


    THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/BANGALORE: “If it had not been (Major) Sandeep’s house, not even a dog would have glanced that way.”

    This is what CM of Kerala had to say.

  7. Even before the tears of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s mother could dry up, Congress general secretary and heir apparent Rahul Gandhi went partying with his pals at a farmhouse on Delhi’s outskirts.

    The Prince partied hard, till 5 in the morning, on Sunday at the ‘sangeet’ for the forthcoming wedding of Samir Sharma, his childhood friend. They were at a sprawling farmhouse at Radhey Mohan Chowk, the haven of people who lead charmed lives beyond Chhatarpur.

    Just a day earlier, his sister Priyanka Vadra had caused a flutter by saying the late Indira Gandhi would have “made us very proud” by the way she would have reacted to the Mumbai terror strikes. Mumbai appeared to be far from her brother’s mind as he boogied at the farmhouse with Samir Sharma, US-based furniture designer son of Captain Satish Sharma, the late Rajiv Gandhi’s flying partner who nursed the First Family’s pocketborough, Rae Bareli, till Sonia Gandhi chose to contest from there in 2004.

    Read all.


    A blast on a passenger train in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district has left two dead and about 17 people injured.

  9. Mayuresh Gaikwad

    @ Sudhir,

    The Kerala CM is absolutely right. He says: “If it had not been (Major) Sandeep’s house, not even a dog would have glanced that way.”

    But now, since it is the Late Major Sandeep’s home, a stray dog (Achutanandan) has glanced that way. He got the perfect treatment that should be given to stray dogs …. he was shooed away. I wish he would have been stoned away from the Major’s home. Bloody rabid dog trying to play politics over a true son of Bharatmata

  10. @All,

    Will the last person to leave India, please turn off the light.

  11. Slightly off topic – but this is the truth reg. our politicians

    when can this stop and responsible people get tickets during elections

  12. IndianACE // December 2, 2008 at 7:27 am
    Will the last person to leave India, please turn off the light.

    But saar, saar, what will that do when lightbulbs like your good self continue to shine onlee, no? What, I ask you, saar?

    Now please go into hibernation and watch Bollywood and kirket. Then next terrrrrrist attack, no, please come out and continue your “I am a Resident non-Indian, and that by definition makes me better than Non-Resident Indians” whines.

    Try to differentiate between people who are concerned and those who are not, eh? Or are you in the habit of alienating the few friends that India has left? Or maybe you are one of those paid Antonia-lickers who go to blogs to derail any discussion, since Antonia does not like any pro-India activity anywhere?

  13. Pingback: Offstumped - Countering Pakistan’s Salami Tactics « Indian National Interest

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