A month ago, Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, soldier, scholar, and mentor, passed away. In the strategic studies field, Brig. Kanwal is known for his illustrious career in the Indian Army as well as a scholar par excellence of Indian military strategy, holding senior positions at three of India’s premier think-tanks, the Observer Research Foundation, the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, and the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses. He was a regular face at conferences on South Asian security issues as well as India-Pakistan Track II dialogues. But to the South Asian Voices and Stimson Center community, this loss is personal. Brig. Kanwal was an early supporter of this platform and embodied its mission of encouraging regional dialogue through spirited debate as well as nurturing early career analysts.
Below is a tribute to Brig. Kanwal from some members of this community. His community.
“One is obliged to speak of Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal in the present tense. His passing from this earthly plane is noted, his physical burdens relieved after a prolonged campaign. Still, he remains with us. He continues to be our companion, he continues to challenge our assumptions, and he continues to connect at a human level. For this we are grateful.”
-Michael Krepon, Co-founder, Stimson Center
Brig. Gurmeet and I had an amazing joint talk on strategic stability in South Asia at the Pentagon. The positive feedback that we received from our audience was that they listened to two completely different perspectives, from a former Indian military officer and a female Pakistani scholar, covering everything from domestic politics to battlefield issues and deterrence at all levels. We had disagreements on policies and strategies but we always agreed on shaping perceptions, supporting dialogue, and averting war.
-Sannia Abdullah, Stanford University
Though sitting on opposite sides of the table [during Track IIs] and often engaged in heated debates, there is no doubt that we learnt a great deal from Brig. Gurmeet about Indian military and strategic thought. After the session ended, Brig. Gurmeet would sit separately with young scholars like me during lunch and in his typical warm style, encourage us.
-Majid Mahmood, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad
For most, Brig. Kanwal is an invaluable scholar and prolific writer who covered a range of security-related topics. However, for others who worked with him, he was also a great leader. It was in the everyday moments that he showed us what leadership is all about. He never failed to praise a colleague, even for small achievements. He would publicly give credit to colleagues (senior or junior, young or old) for their contributions, no matter how insignificant. Such gestures made us admire him even more.
-Aditi Malhotra, SAV contributor and New Delhi-based analyst
I will miss [Gurmeet’s] interjections on the advantages of artillery to resolve some tactical quandary. I will miss him. Trips to South Asia, conferences on South Asian security, won’t quite be the same. And yet I will trade memories of him with countless scholars that Gurmeet also touched with his generosity, with his hospitality, with his time, and with his years of accumulated wisdom.
-Christopher Clary, Nonresident Fellow, Stimson Center
[Brig Kanwal’s] legacy richly lives on through the books he wrote and the policies he shaped, but most importantly through the lives he touched. As I reflect, I consider myself fortunate since Brig. Kanwal took the time to train and equip me with the analytical tools and frameworks that I needed to shape my career. His wisdom continues to guide several of my professional undertakings to date.
-Sylvia Mishra, SAV contributor and DC-based analyst
Gurmeet saw himself as advancing strategic discourse, not only with his own manifold contributions, but also by fostering the work of the next generations. Gurmeet had a sincere desire to help young analysts advance their research and thinking—no matter their experience—to nurture their intellectual journey, even if at the end they concluded differently from him.
-Sameer Lalwani, South Asia Program Director, Stimson Center
Image 1: Gurmeet Kanwal via Twitter