Civil-Military Relations in India: The China Crisis and After

Civil-Military Relations in India: The China Crisis and After

Journal of Strategic Studies, 25 February 2009

The pattern of civil–military interaction in India is informed by the notion that civilians should refrain from involvement in operational matters. The emergence of this trend can be traced back to the defeat against China in 1962. In its aftermath, the belief that the debacle occurred because of civilian interference took hold. Thereafter, politicians restricted themselves to giving overall directives, leaving operational matters to the military. The Indian ‘victory’ in the subsequent war with Pakistan was seen as vindicating this arrangement. This essay argues that the conventional reading of the China crisis is at best misleading and at worst erroneous. Further, it contends that the subsequent war with Pakistan actually underscores the problems of civilian non-involvement in operational issues. The historical narrative underpinning the norm of civilian abstention is at the very least dubious.