[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 archaicystems, 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.