Security Bollywood Style

Bollywood (including all the regional variations like the southern Tollywood) probably churns out more movies than the rest of the world put together. Of this about 90 percent are unadulterated trash – usually carbon copies of each other they are aimless, plotless, good dancing, sub-standard songs and uniformly atrocious acting.  The remaining ten percent however includes some stunning niche movies and some exceptional blockbusters. Another relevant factoid: of the 11,000 + cinema halls in India about 75% of them are located in the four, highly literate, more prosperous southern states. At one point of time these film drenched southerners  controlled the all-powerful Indian bureaucracy. As the saying went if you worked in South Block you were either a “madrassi or chapraasi” (southerner or a janitor) – janitorial duties being the preserve of North Indians. (South Block is a decrepit British era visual monstrosity that houses India’s Defence and Foreign ministries and is riddled with bats, rats and god knows what else).

Not surprisingly India’s security policies mirror Bollywood movies to a tee.

For starters 90% of India’s foreign policy is bunk. Aimless and plotless it reeks of repetition, sub-standard scripts (or strategy), and atrocious actors. India’s China policy is a case in point. Since the hammering China delivered in 1962, The Defence ministry  was caught napping and conditioned itself to be bellicose. The Foreign Ministry was caught being too smart by half conditioned itself towards playing the ostrich.

The Defence Ministry last year approved the addition of 100,000 additional mountain troops all explicitly aimed at China.  Yet when China briefly occupied  Indian territory earlier this year the MoD feigned complete surprise. The Foreign Ministry predictably espoused  appeasement asking the government to soft pedal and played down the entire episode.  In the reproductive nature of Indian movies, both ministries did exactly what they’ve always done, one escalated unmindful of the consequences, the other soft pedalled equally unmindful of precedent.

What does that make India’s China policy? To find a Bollywood parallel, watch a movie called Sabse Bada Khiladi – A thoroughly predictable farce, with everyone working at cross-purposes that stretches the imagination to the point where the “temporary suspension of disbelief” becomes unachievable.

On the other hand India’s Afghan and nuclear policies mirror the very best of Indian cinema. Here the movies to watch are “Kahaani” and “Sarkar Raj”. The sheer convolution of their plots and the deviousness of the protagonists would the Borgias and Medicis to shame.

Of the 67 years of bilateral relations India has ensured a quasi-allied Afghanistan for 60 years – all of this without sharing a border. Consequently Pakistan’s paranoia is understandable. General Kayani speaking in 2001 said “Strategically, we cannot have an Afghan army on our western border which has an Indian mindset and capabilities to take on Pakistan.” The “Indian mindset” here is critical. It implies a soft and economic power offensive that makes Pakistan lose rationality and chase phantoms of its own creation. India’s engagement – any engagement, irrespective of its nature will by default cause Pakistan to hang itself with its own rope. This is understood only too well in Delhi, where Afghanistan is increasingly becoming the means to an end. That end – the big prize – is the complete strategic divergence of the West and Pakistan, bringing India one step closer to regional hegemony.

The India-US nuclear deal was another example of these oblique attacks that India’s foreign policy establishment is notorious for. Its aim was to acquire French reprocessing technology, enough uranium to to keep current reactors running, and some to pilfer for the weapons programme.  In the deal India got everything it wanted, plus some in return for a vague promise to give the US some contracts for new reactors. The subsequent Indian civil nuclear liability law – something no US firm can swallow – ensures the US will not bid for these contracts.  India gets what it wants, the US gets strung high and dry.

The bottom line: Indian movies like Indian security policies suck, big time, 90% of the time. But the 10% that works, you had better watch out for .

Posted in , Culture, India, Policy, Security

Abhijit Iyer Mitra

Abhijit Iyer Mitra

After his B.Com from the University of Madras he pursued a career in the corporate world before turning to academia. He holds a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Political & Social Inquiry at Monash University, and is pursuing his PhD. He served as research assistant on several projects all under the aegis of the Centre For Muslim Minorities & Islam Policy Studies at Monash (2007-2010). He is a Programme Coordinator at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, and currently a Visiting Research Scholar at Sandia National Laboratories. The views expressed here are the author's own and do not represent any institutional or national position. His primary research is on limited wars and nuclear thresholds, but his interests include, military transformation, defence planning, procurement and offsets, infrastructure, governance and Historical Patterns of Conflict in Democracies. His spare time is spent traveling, cooking, flying microlight aircraft and scuba diving.

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One thought on “Security Bollywood Style

  1. @ the Author,
    the people of India beg to differ from your take on the US-India nuclear deal. The “Indians got everything without giving anything in return” is an western narrative, which is far from the truth ….. it is obvious, you buy this narrative, hook line and sinker ……… Do you think the Americans are fools, to be taken for a ride by a bunch of Indians …. ?

    The reality is, this much hyped US-India nuclear deal was dead on arrival. The Americans managed to kill the intent and the spirit of the deal by introducing a number of poison-pill amendments, one by Obama himself, in order to bring India into the NPT through the back door, and rob India of its strategic sovereignty on critical issues like future testing.

    The people of India can thank GOD, that this time, the otherwise naive Indian negotiators have read the Americans right. The result was India’s tit-for-tat “Liability legislation”.

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