India has rolled out the agenda for the next five years. In his first Independence Day speech in his second term in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated a broad-based strategy for inclusive and integrated India. As anticipated, he spoke at length on the recent abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A and the creation of two union territories out of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mocking the opposition’s logic that keeping the temporary Article 370 intact was important for the development of J&K, the PM argued why no earlier government thought of making it permanent in that case. There can be no two opinions on the fact that the combination of Articles 370 and 35-A kept a large section of the people of J&K out of the political spectrum, like the tribal groups, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, displaced persons and generations of their descendants living as stateless people since Partition. With the issue of 370 going into oblivion and the creation of two union territories, the Centre needs to reach out to the people of J&K with a renewed commitment.
As though presenting the report card of his 70-day-old government, the PM took credit for tackling serious issues of governance kept pending for 70 years. The Prime Minister listed out the actions taken on making the archaic triple talaq illegal, strengthening the terrorism tackling mechanism through amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act (UAPA) and the bill to tackle violence against children (POSCO).
Elaborating on the theme of “one nation one Constitution” the PM signalled the possibility of one nation one election, a theme he has been articulating for some time now. Frequent elections at intermittent intervals and at multiple levels seriously hamper policy decisions and their implementation. The Prime Minister evoked the government’s previous record of one nation one (power) grid, one nation one tax (GST) and one nation one connectivity (mobility card) as precedents for one nation one election.
The most important aspect of this link in line with other “one nation one law” could be the issue of bringing Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The PM cautioned about the ticking population bomb and pointed out that economic growth and poverty alleviation targets get diluted because of unplanned population growth. Looking through a political prism too, the possibility of enacting UCC looks imminent as it has been high on the agenda.
By far the most important announcement of 73rd I-Day was the creation of the office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). “To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort: India will have a Chief of Defence Staff—CDS”, the PM said. It was a significant announcement because it was the Kargil Review Committee, which had recommended the need to establish the office of the Chief of Tri Services. The objective of creating the position of CDS has been to coordinate effectively among the three wings of services. The CDS will also work as the military advisor to the Prime Minister on strategic decisions relating to nuclear weapons. The CDS will have the huge responsibility of optimising resources by joint planning and training. The office of the CDS is expected to create a seamless situation where all the three wings of services—Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force—will attain complete integration during the case of any eventuality.
A careful analysis of the events in the last few years, especially with the advent of the Modi era, will reveal the interesting change in the strategic and security thinking of the government and that of the Army, from defensive to offensive actions. It is imperative to have a CDS in order to consolidate military strength, minimise training and operational cost and make best and optimal use of available supplies and resources.
The Modi 2 government appears to be serious about resolving long pending festering issues, tackling internal and external threat perceptions arising out of both conventional and non-conventional sources and also hasten the process of economic growth with equitable distribution of resources and profits so that optimum social equilibrium is achieved within the given constraints of a developing economy. The larger objective will remain focused on holistic development of India at every level. His consideration of the maintenance of India’s national security will receive optimum support because that remains the key for India’s elevation of its status in the global sphere.
Dr Arvind Kumar is Professor of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal. Seshadri Chari is a political commentator and strategic analyst.