ESTABLISHING THE INDIAN CONTEXT: INTERNAL PEACE & CHALLENGES TO THE STATE.
Col. Anil A. Athale
In the last fifty years or so behaviouralism has seen ascendency at the cost of normative speculation. At one end of the spectrum , behaviouralsim and associated empirical work has given the field of strategic studies 'respectability'on the other hand a homogenization inherent in the behaviouralist approach has robbed the work of essential realism. For;the cultural , racial and civilizational diferences in the world are a fact of life that can be glossed over only at sacrifice of the truth value. The classic example of behaviouralist approach leading to disaster was seen in the American conduct of countersinsurgency in Vietnam. To avoid this pitfall, it is first essential to clearly define the Indian context, setting and parameters under which the study of use of force has to be carried out.
This section will first establish the diferences in approaches between the Indian and Western models as well as basic philosophies. This will be preceded by discussion on importance of context and preception. The nature of Indian state, its attributes and problems and diferences will also be highlighted . Having firmly established these foundations then it is intended to establsish the methodology intended to be followed.
The field of strategic studies is a sub field of politics and naturally enough the methodologies used have commonalities. In order to come to the selection of unique and need based approach it is necessary to fully appreciate the constrains that are a part and parcel of the social sciences in general and Politics in particualr. Unlike the natural sciences, there is no accpeted framework of metatheory and even agreement on current paradigms . The debate amongst the idealist and realists is continuing one and has gone on for atleast over a thousand years. There are further diferrences between empiricists and classicists, behaviouralists and normative analysts, mechanistic versus organic and pessimists versus optimists. The usually known and apparent division between the Hawks and the Doves is basically the outgrowth of the above given divisions. There also exist determinist appraoches of various hues ranging from the historical determisnism of Hegel to economic determinism of Marx.
Strategic Studies, like the parent discipline of Politcs is about human beings. Like all social sciences there is a strong human element ever present. Often enough strategic analysts tend to focus exclusively on the 'material' or physical aspects of their field. But if strategy was to be defined solely in material terms then even a well programmed computer is all that is needed.
But the presence of psychological element in the shpae of human being, both as subject, object as well as part of the instrument, context and environment, make 'perception ' an important consideration.
PERCEPTION AND CONTEXT:INTER-RELATIONSHIP
At the level of basic human understanding David Hume as well as Emanuel Kant subsume all learing under the process of perception. We sense the realiy of external world through our audio, visual , nasal and touch senses. In this sense there is no reality but only perception of reality. The sensation once it reaches the brain ,it is recorded and decoded or interpreated in refference to the existing images. All reality is thus an image and previously existing images form a very important part of the process of perception. A Tribal who sees an aircraft for the first time naturally enough relates it to the image of bird that he knows and the aircraft is perceived as a huge bird. When no prior image exists to explain or compare the transmitted image, the human reaction is 'irrational'. Thus it is not uncommon to see a tiny toddler play with a cobra!
If the human thinking process is to be understood as primarily an image comparison exercise then it is akin to an analog computer.Thus the sharper image has the endency to be evokes more often . In turn this makes it even more sharp and we have formation of sterotypes, mindsets and fixed notions. Since these are both universal and affect thinking ,perception and ultimately behaviour, these cannot be ignored.
Eye is undoutedly the most sensitive of the sensory organs. Even eye 'sees' things not in isolation but in association with the context. Thus knowing the cultural context and keeping it in mind is necessary to understand and explain perception and behaviour. If this is not borne in mind there is every danger of the adversary acquiring the state of being a mirror image of the analyst.
An oft repeated adge describes reality as never black or white but mostly shades of grey. At perceptional level this poses problems. Human ability to take in and interpreat multiple images of the same object at the same time is severely limited, unless it is a trained analyst. The famous goblet and talking couple illustration is a case in point. One can perceive either of the images at one time but not both simultenously. Perception of complex entities is thus segmented into parts and the perception process gets reduced to the blind man attempting to 'see' an elephant.
IMPACT OF GEOGRAPHY
No study of India can begin without clear understanding of the geography of the subcontinent and its impact on the history and is of continuing relevence todate.India is geographically in a state of semi isolation from the Asian landmass. In the North and North East lies the great Himalayan and Karakoram ranges that rise above 20000 feet and vary in depth from 400 kms in the North to 30 kms in the East. To the South , West and East, India is surrounded by sea.
There are several passes on the mountain ranges , mostof them above 13000 feet through which traders and small groups of people have been passing over the years but no large scale human migrations were possible in the past or are likely in future. The only area that provided a comparatively easy access to India lies to the North West of what was Gandhar Desh and is today modern Afghanistan. Right upto third century BC when Macedonian invasion detached the area politcally from the rest of India, this served as the bastion of defence and India was relatively free from external threats. Sea powe was yet to develop and though sea was used for trade and commerce, move of large invading armies was still to come.
This semi isolation provided for unmatched security for over 2000 years during which the unique Indian culture and civilization was born. There however remained the problem of internal conflicts in subcontinental sized area. It is internal peace that occupied the Indian mind for most of this period.The most persistant amongst these conflicts was the one between the Aryans and Dravidians.
the Indian sages devised various methodologies to deal with this problem. The central purpose of state was the upholding of dharma or righteousness and neither wealth nor territory. This primacy of Dharma automatically circumscribed all conflicts and concept of limited war eveolved much befor its modern day avatar.
Social order was kept by dividing the society into functional divisions. In time this gave rise to the caste system. Brhamins or the intellectuals were at the top with Kshatriya or the warrior case next. Traders and craftsmen formed the Vaisya caste with the Shudras or menial workers forming the fourth class and caste. It is to be remembered that caste was not necessarily synanemous with class. Thus a Brahmin could well range from the cook of the King to his principal advisor. Similarly in Kshtriya or warrior caste, the doorman as well as the King both belonged to the same caste but a very diferrent class. Though the King had political power, he had to exercise it within the bounds of Dharma as interpreated by the intellectuals. Vaisyas held the purse strings and though Brahmin occupied the top rung of the society , he was prohibited from owning property and was at the mercy of the society even for his sustenance. This division which in the initial stages was a functional one , soon got transformed to one based on the birth and stagnation set in .
Indian civilization also divided life into four ashrams or stages. In the first or Brhmacharya stage the duty of the individual was learning from the 8th year to the 25th. In the second stage , from 25th year to 50th year , the Grahasthashram or raising family was the prime duty . In the third stage of Vanprastha-ashram from 50 to 75, a person slowly removed himself from the worldly concerns and devoted himself to the service of society. In the final stage of Sanyas, after 75 years of age , an individual was expected to leave his home and hearth and take to the forests in the Himalayas. In combination with the caste system, the four ashrams produced a remarkably stable and advanced civilization based on specialization. The thinkers with freedom produced worlds finest treatises on subjects ranging from medicine, astronomy , mathematics , phlosophy to sex.
Abundance of Means of Livilihood
In the late part of British colonial rule a myth of perpetual Indian poverty has been perpetuated to justify the sorry economic plight of the Indians under the British, in itself the result of colonial exploitation. Out of this myth was born the theory of 'white man's burden' used effectively to continue the exploitative colonial regime. Even Karl Marx fell pray to this falsification of history and wrote that India was never prosperous and Golden Age of India is a myth.
Till the 18th century industrial revolution, agriculture was the chief source of economic prosperity. India is extrmely well endowed by nature. A full 53.33 % of Indian land mass of 3.28 million sq kms is agricultural land. The Indo-Gangatic river basin is the worlds largest river basin and is phenonmenally fertile. Indian sages early on realized the importance of cattle wealth and put a religous taboo on beaf eating. This saved the Indian cattle population from being devoured by the beef eating Aryans and in time made India the home of the world's largest cattle wealth. Extrapolating the Indian food production in 1947 to early 15th century, the food availability per capita worked out to a comfortable 252 kg per annum per capita. This prosperity is in direct contrast to the current reality of hunger and malnutirtion.
But that is directly atributed to the impact of Islamic rule of over 800 years followed by the British for a hundred years over the most productive regions of India. With the exception of two to three rulers, the Muslims who came to India in the 13th century, were interested only in revenue gathering. Thus the state did not do any 'development'. The hundred years of British rule was even worse as the Brtish aim was to exploit the entire country not merely for the Royalty as in the case of the Muslims but for the entire population of Britain. It is worth noting that at the begining of the 17th century, the wealth in just one province of India, ie Bengal, was greater than the GNP of entire British isles. The same Bengal was reduced to destitution and suffered more than 2 million deaths from hunger is a part of history. The exploitation by British systematically de-industrialized India, the most stark example of this was the cutting of Dhakka weavers thumbs in order to finish the Muslin production that Brtish could not compete with. This brief interlude with history is necessary to understand that the Indian system of stable society had economic prosperity as a backdrop. It is doubtful if the rigid and stratified system could ever be created or sustained in absence of economic resources. The system continued even in the period of poeverty is due to the social inertia and forces of history and religion that were interwoven in the very fabric of the society. In this sense the Indian social order is unique and conflict resolution and peace is inbuilt into the civilization. Absence of revolution in the Indian history is another pointer to the existence of this fact.
One of the dominant philosophical Indian view of the Man and nature is that the enitre universe is made of three Gunas or attributes , Sat (moral and righteous) , Raj (material) and Tam (literally meaning darkness but pointing to the undesirable attributes of aggression , violence and other animal instincts). The entire nature including man are said to have these three attributes in varying degrees . Thus reality of world is never black or white but complex. There is no absolute good or absolute evil. This is in marked contrast to the Judic Christian view of seeing the world as constant struggle between the God and the Satan. This is at the base of celebrated Indian tolerance. Since there is no absolute good or evil, conflcit can also not be total and are seen as mere limited efforts to defeat the Tam in the adversary.
The main fuction of the state and force it uses is to uphold Dharma. Dharam has been defined not as religion but one's duty in life. This is in direct contrast with the Western view that sees the state as a necessity to control and regualte the competetion between men. Thomas Hobbes , the 16th century English philosopher in his work Leviathan, thus postulates that state as a mediating agent is virtually an a-priori requirement for civilized existence. In absence of state, according to Hobbes, it is a war of everyone against every one and mans life , nasty brutish and short. Even the social contract theorists like Rousseau accept the priamcy of state and legitimacy of its use of force to keep internal peace. This legitimacy is lacking in the Indian view as the Indians view social order as self regualting and regulated by Dharma and not force.
Partly the cleavage between the Western view and Indian view also has to do with the ultimate goal. Contentment is a desirable goal and road to happiness in the Indian view while in the materialist concept of West constant progress is the goal. There is no room for self satisfaction and constant striving for bigger, better, and deadlier is rational. Even the very concept of rational behaviour is defined in terms fo 'profit maximising behaviour'. This terminology , essentially in the economics field , has a wider significance as it is nor merely maximising the economic goods but the concept is applicable to the field of security as well . This constant drive to better is part and parcel of Western civilization. It is possibly the engine that saw the West emerge dominant in the world from 16th century onwards. In philosophical terms the Western goal is conquest of nature while the Eastern ideal is co-existence with it. Human existence is thus a constant struggle either with the nature or with other human beings. Once the conflict model is adopted then violence either against nature or another of the species is inevitable. Today the 'old ' world civilization faces a dilema. While the Indians desire the fruits of 'progress' and advance, the next lgical step is to accept the Western view of rationality and also Western structures of state. A structure in which conflcit is inevitable and has to be controlled with force has to be adopted once Western notions of progress are accepted. This basic issue has ramifications both internally as well as for external relations. It is the inability of country like India to see this clearly that is at the root of current intellectual confusion that has India dither on the issue of developing nuclear weapons for deterrence or the state unable to use force even against the lawbreakers and terrorists. While the society has given up the old concept of Dharam or the goal of contentment, the state appears to be having a hangover of the past. The Indian state structure is thus in pre -modernist mode while the society is becoming 'modernised' or aptly, 'westernized'. There are no doubt regional variations in a continent size country like India but the variations are of degree and not substance.
STATE OF INDIA :
FROM DEVELOPING TO DEVELOPED ; A BUMPY ROAD
Internal violence can only be understood in the backdrop of the current stage of developement in India. There is a persistant confusion on the term development, commonly thought as economic development. While economic development may be independent of political, as in the case of rentier oil rich states in the Middle East, political developement is impossible without a degree of economic development and vice versa. On the other hand economic development of self sustaining nature is impossible without political development , that is the lesson of collapse of Communism in Europe and may yet prove the point in China.
Political development is signified by the effectiveness of the governemnt and ineffectiveness signifies underdevelopment as evidenced by violence and instability.Political institutions mediate between competeing groups and individuals and maintain peace , their genesis is attributable to this fucnction. Adaptability, autonomy subordination, complexity and co-herence in disunity are some of the characteristics of a developed institutions and it is these and these alone that make for a developed country. Political institutions work to further their own institutional interest as distinct from that of the individuals manning these institutes.
Modernization or the process of adoption of Western values generates alienation and normlessness due to the conflict between the old indegenous and new value systems. Efforts to achieve modernization invariably begets violence. In huge country like India as the societies in diferrent regions are in diferent states of modernization and there are glaring racial, linguistic and religous diferrences, the resistence to modernization rather than produce a revolution like Iran, produces scessionism.
Efforts to achieve literacy in a country has generated additional violence due to awareness that leads to heightened expectations. Corruption is a 'modern' phenomenon in a traditional society of India due to changed values and attempt of new rising groups to muscle their way into the rank of the elites through acquistion of economic means at any cost.
In the democratic process 'partisanship' soon replces corruption. The rash of rise of caste groups and leaders is a pointer in this direction. Through political parties this partisanship is then institutionalized, the 'Mandal' effort by Mr VP Singh in 1989 was an epitome of this. Through Mandal, the ideology of partisanship has reached national level in India.
All the while relentless urbanization is going on and this has produced gaps in political conciousness. An alliance of the city group with landed gentry then produces 'green uprising ' as in case of Punjab. When geography leads to lack of physical communications and tenous economic links as in the case of North East and Kashmir valley, combined with perceived racial or religous separatism , a movement for political separation takes birth, often in violent form. If the area is close to international border, it is only a matter of time before an interested adversary like Pakistan takes active interest to achieve its own strategic aim.
Modrnization in traditional societies involves innovation and reform. This presupposes two conditions, one re-distribution of domestic power and also increase in the absolute power of the state. In case of India while in many places there has been a shift and re-distribution of power , notably in the South, in North , redistribution has not been accompnied by any increase in the productive resources as the sole focus is on battles of redistribution while there is no growth in the economy. Coupled with this is the growing birth rate and declining death rate. The net increase in the population is also uneven and the destitutes and poor are growing at a phenomenally high rate. Thus in a segment of society there is virtually no capital accumulation , no skills and education. In India it is not poverty that has increased so much as the poor have increased in number. This strain of a section of society getting increasingly impoverished is what generates conflicts. The classic case of this kind of violence was seen in Lebanon where most terrorists were second generation slum dwellers and the same phenomenon is being repeated in the Kashmir valley. In democratic system as votes are important , the only approach to limit population growth amongs the poor are based on 'carrots' and no stick. This has seldom worked.Thus in India under the democratic framework there is a total lumpenization of the the society.
India's Crisis of Identity
India is a unique case amongst the nations of the world in that it has no dominant minority or well defined ruling elite.Arnold J. Toynbee in his study of world history asserts that virtually every great nation has a well defined dominant minority that defines the values and direction that the society and the state must take. In real world also we have the examples of such a phenomenon, be it the English in Great Britain, the great Russian in Russia or the WASP or the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the US. In India division of power is virtually a civilizational pre-condition. Thus the caste system that divided intellectual, political and economic power ensured that no one element is can dominate. In the federal Indian set up this is most glaring wherein the ruling elite is totally hetrogenous. An arguemtn is often put forward that while India may lack a Pan Indian ruling elite, it nevertheless has regional elites.
Superficially the argument appears true, be it the Marathas in Maharashtra, the Patels in Gujrath, the Rajputs in Rajasthan the Jat Sikhs in Punjab and et al. But this is not true as within the regions as well the dominant minority does not have political, intelelctual and economic power concentrated. On the other hand through the pan Indian phenomenon of caste, the wielders of various components of power are loosely linked. This gives a lie to a frequently propogated notion that India is a collection of nations. It is not. It is this weakness at the regional level that on the one hand gives strength to the federation where the secessionist challenges are never too serious and the pan Indian links prove stronger than regional pulls.
The Indian civilizational pre conditions are thus tailor made for federalism as well as democracy. This explains the curious puzzle that while the indicators like the GNP per capita or literacy disqualify India from becoming and remaining a democracy, the reality for last 47 years has been the other way around. India thus does not fit into the model of political under-development of Samuel Huntington despite the indicators being to the contrary.
This obvious Indian strenght has been frittered away as over the last fifty years or so India has failed to evolve its core values in defence of which its citizens, at least a large majority of them , will be willing to make the supreme sacrifice. It did appear in the initial years of independence that the Indian Constitution and sepcially the preamble provided such goals. But for one the values are not well defined and there has been frequent challenges mounted to the Indian Constitution, some overt and some covert. This lack of national consensus coupled with the weakness of the system often paints a picture wherein the only value of the Indian state appears to be SURVIVAL.
India is today in the catagotry of a "developing " country. Essentially it is keen on economic development and industrilization but has neither clearly accepted the notion that along with Western technology comes the baggage of western values,culture and systems. The Hindu view of life with its emphasis on 'sanchita' or accumulated merit or demerit based on the actions in the previous births legitimized the inequalities and the caste system that kept social peace for several thousand years. In modern day India and specially since the 19th century both these concepts have been challenged and are no longer accepted by the society. Even in the Western society there was an equivalent divine rights of the King and rights of nobility over vassals and institution of slavery , all of which had received sanction of religion. But the west underwent several revolutions and these concepts have been removed after lot of blood letting. India is going through these processes only now. A degree of violence is therefore inevitable. In addition as the traditonal society fights back the modernization process , it challenges the authority of the state, though the proximate and apparent cause may be something else. What makes every such outbreak an internal security threat is the fact that India and specially the Hindu religion never had a corporate identity. Indian society is an 'atomised ' one and there is very little social cohesion. Thus every challenge raises the spectre of the break up of the state and hence the paronia over internal security.
The concept of order and peace is alos often used by the traditional society to thwart change while paying lip service to the modern egalitarian values as embodied in the Indian state. Thus often while the emphasis is on order the real aim is maintaining the status quoa and stagnation.The state and its actions derive their legitimacy not merely out of the shared and universal values but also the day to day life experience of a group of people. When due to the systemic failure the life expereince is contrary to the values of the Indian state, the state actions lack legitimacy.
Universalized concept of human rights has introduced another complication. This issue is being used by the industirialized countries as a strategy to hinder the economic developement in the third world. The rationale behind this is the fear of change in the global power balance this may bring about. While the rehtoric on this issue stresses the moral aspects , the motive is in the realms of real politik.