A COUP IN ATEA CUP

India Today - - UP FRONT - MAN­VEN­DRA SINGH Man­ven­dra Singh was a mem­ber of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence, 14th Lok Sabha. He is cur­rently the ed­i­tor of De­fence & Se­cu­rity Alert, and co-con­venor of BJP’S De­fence Cell.

Maj-gen Ahmed Shiyam of the Mal­dives De­fence Force is the only In­dian-trained of­fi­cer to get in­volved in a coup. His ini­tial ed­u­ca­tion was at Sand­hurst, but he at­tended the pres­ti­gious Na­tional De­fence Col­lege ( NDC), New Delhi, in 2011. He re­turned to Mal­dives, joined the coup of 2012, and was promptly cat­a­pulted to Chief of De­fence Force.

His NDC ex­pe­ri­ence ob­vi­ously did not pre­vent him from ven­tur­ing into ex­tra-con­sti­tu­tional ter­ri­tory. But an­other aca­demic stint might have. He was also the first Mal­dives of­fi­cer to at­tend the Com­mand and Staff Course in Quetta, Pak­istan, where the Pak­istan armed forces train their fu­ture mil­i­tary lead­er­ship. NDC New Delhi is clearly not where coups are made; but Quetta is a dif­fer­ent story.

This came to my mind dur­ing the re­cent mur­mur of an at­tempted coup in In­dia. How­ever far-fetched it may seem to most, there were some who took the coup story se­ri­ously. It was cer­tainly se­ri­ous enough to war­rant an­i­mated dis­cus­sion on prime­time tele­vi­sion. The story it­self was false. There has never been a coup at­tempt in In­dia, in the dis­tant or the re­cent past.

The es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents for a suc­cess­ful coup do not ex­ist in In­dia. For starters, a coup re­quires that the of­fi­cer corps be dom­i­nated by a ca­bal, a clan, or a tribe. It is also vi­tal that a faith in ei­ther re­li­gion or ide­ol­ogy unites them. It helps if they be­long to a com­mon re­gion. If most speak the same lan­guage, it is al­ways an ad­van­tage. Pun­jabi is the lin­gua franca of the coup in Pak­istan. The so­ci­o­log­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the In­dian Army pre­cludes a coup from ever be­ing planned, let alone launched.

All that hap­pened on that foggy Jan­uary day was a mo­bil­i­sa­tion scheme prac­tice, which ev­ery combat unit must re­hearse pe­ri­od­i­cally. Noth­ing more, or less, than that. Ob­vi­ously a home min­istry spook was so spooked by the mid-jan­uary ma­noeu­vres that he trans­mit­ted his anx­i­ety up the chain, set­ting off a se­ries of per­cep­tions that even­tu­ally found their way into the public do­main as moves of a coup. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Any po­lit­i­cal per­son­al­ity who feels desta­bilised by el­e­ments of two units mov­ing to­wards Delhi need only look closer around the Cap­i­tal.

The In­dian Army main­tains two bri­gades within the en­vi­rons of Delhi, with air de­fence and ar­tillery units in sup­port. In ad­di­tion there are three Ter­ri­to­rial Army units within this po­lit­i­cal space, as well as two of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Guard com­posed en­tirely of Army per­son­nel on dep­u­ta­tion. That is the quan­tum of combat power al­ready avail­able within the lim­its of Delhi city; a di­vi­sion’s worth of fight­ing forces. Any­one with Bon­a­partist in­cli­na­tions had no need to call in el­e­ments of mech­a­nised in­fantry or the para­troop­ers.

The Pak­istan Army has a brigade in Rawalpindi, vir­tu­ally ear­marked as the coup task force. All coups be­gin with the first mo­bil­i­sa­tion scheme put into mo­tion by the Rawalpindi for­ma­tion, and there are a num­ber of col­lo­quial jokes about the ap­point­ment of Com­man­der 161 Brigade, Rawalpindi. In In­dia’s case there are two bri­gades in Delhi, phys­i­cally al­ready closer to the power cen­tres of the coun­try, and nary a men­tion about who com­mands these for­ma­tions. This re­as­sur­ance is only be­cause the In­dian Army has never, and will never, coun­te­nance a mil­i­tary over­throw of civil­ian demo­cratic struc­tures. It is sim­ply not in the DNA of the Army. So the moot ques­tion—why so much combat power within Delhi? Two rea­sons ac­count for that. 1984 con­tin­ues to haunt the In­dian Army. Even as it lost scores of of­fi­cers and men to the sav­agery of those days, the break­down of polic­ing or­der in Delhi re­mains etched in the blood of in­no­cents. The Cap­i­tal can­not be al­lowed to live that hell again, just as it can­not re­main vul­ner­a­ble to the in­ef­fi­cien­cies of bu­reau­cratic struc­tures when dis­as­ter strikes, nat­u­ral and/or man-made. Sav­ing lives of lead­ers mo­ti­vates the In­dian Army, not tak­ing them. In that sense, the move­ment of troops from His­sar and Agra to­wards Delhi is the least of the wor­ries for In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. The In­dian Army will never launch a coup against democ­racy.

SAU­RABH Singh/www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

The es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents for a suc­cess­ful coup do not ex­ist in In­dia. For starters, a coup re­quires that the of­fi­cer corps be dom­i­nated by a ca­bal, a clan, or a tribe. It is also vi­tal that a faith in ei­ther re­li­gion or ide­ol­ogy unites them. It helps if they be­long to a com­mon re­gion.

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