“Extreme problems require extreme solutions” may be an overused cliché, but we do have an extreme situation on the India-China border. Even the most friendly and moderate media voices concede that we’ve had the most serious military stand-off with the Chinese since 1962. We need an extraordinarily extreme man to fix the Chinese for making extraordinary efforts to send infiltrators into New India.
We need a new Raksha Mantri.
Most strategic experts will readily concede that in recent years, our optimal pursuit of maximum national security has been critically weakened because we have had an unfortunate string of inadequate defence ministers. Starting with A.K. Antony (compulsively indecisive ), Arun Jaitley (part-time), Manohar Parrikar (unwell, unexcited, un-engaged), Nirmala Sitaraman ( fish out of water), and, now, Rajnath Singh, a mofussil man, locked in the political rhetoric of 1990s. And they all have one common trait: they have all been reactive.
Rajnath Singh may once have been a senior political figure but is now completely without any weight. The rise of Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh has been so choreographed as to hack away whatever clout the defence minister may have once had. And, the generals, always good at reading the political leaves, do not take him seriously. Nor can he take them on for the Chinese ingress into our territory. The Krishna Menon precedent need not necessarily be re-activated but surely everyone agrees we need a change of guard at the Ministry of Defence.
We need to convert our current adversity into an opportunity to give “New India” a proactive, activist, and perhaps interventionist defence minister. And Amit Shah is the very man for the moment.
He is tough, even tougher than the prime minister. And, what is more, he can easily handle defence in addition to his current responsibility at North Block. In fact, he is today quite underworked as he has fulfilled all the promises the BJP made in its 2019 manifesto, that too in just one year. In any case, home is a status-quo ministry and as home minister, Shah has ensured that the juggernaut of coercion and control remains well-oiled. His surplus energy and time can thus be better utilised in South Block rather than getting squandered in virtual rallies for a no-contest in Bihar, so many months away.
Whereas the Chinese have posed a-here-and-now challenge that needs to be dealt.
China’s Galwan valley grab is designed to weaken us psychologically and damage our morale. As it seeks an assertive global role for itself, Beijing wants to deter India from its resolve to become a ‘vishwa guru’.
True, the Chinese leadership may have a civilisational claim to Sun Tzu, but we also have the historical heritage of Chanakya. And, Amit Shah has more than once proven himself to be the rightful legatee of that heritage. Repeatedly, the best and the brightest among our media have anointed him ‘Modern-day Chankaya.’
It helps that Amit Shah has two other qualities: he is obsessed with ‘ghuspetiyas‘, and is a ‘nibbler’ par excellence. If Chinese infiltrators can nibble our territory, we also need to have a minister who is adept at the art of nibbling. A man who can nibble Congress MLAs in state after state can be confidently relied upon to start playing the nibbling game with the Chinese. It is an enterprise that admits of no restraint, no moral qualms, and no second thoughts.
The idea of the same man presiding over the home and defence ministries may not be all that palatable to the Lutyens lobby but it is an idea whose time has come. India needs to think out of the box on how to bring about maximum symbiosis between the tools of internal security and the instruments of external security. We need the strategic convergence of four Ss, as Modi might put it: Shakti (strength), Suraksha (security), Samanvaya (harmony) and Samajhdari (insightfulness). The man to bring about this convergence is Amit Shah.
He will bring to the job a raw energy. He will know how to make the generals respect the political leadership. Perhaps the corrosive juglabandi between mediocre ministers and mediocre generals will finally be disrupted.
And there is more. Amit Shah brings in an uncluttered clarity. If violence is deemed to have a curative, beneficiary effect at home – in taming opponents as well as in firing up the partisans – then, why should we be so squeamish about the use of force against our national enemies?
As home minister, Amit Shah had, on August 5, 2019, undone one of Jawaharlal Nehru’s follies, Article 370; now, he can be tasked with the responsibility for undoing the consequences of Nehru’s greatest folly – of trusting the Chinese. He is perhaps the only man who has the Chankayan cunning to divine the adversary’s deepest design and then to move to neutralise the enemy’s ill-intent.
An additional benefit – perhaps a totally intended consequence – of a joint home-defence minister will be that Amit Shah would take on the role of India’s security czar. He will acquire a decisive voice in the conceptualising and conducting of our foreign policy. And that may not be all that bad, because it would put an end to the undeserved and unnecessary importance the Ministry of External Affairs gets accorded in our scheme of things
The new India has to recognise that it is time to drain out the Nehruvian politeness that has got institutionalised in the MEA’s organisational blood-stream. This effete mandarinate thinks that etiquette and protocol are a solution to an aggressive China. Too much importance is attached to diplomacy; it got us nowhere with Islamabad, and finally it was only surgical force that made the Pakistanis read the message on the Modi wall.
In recent times, the prime minister has repeatedly and earnestly assured the nation that it is time to take bold reforms. A new Raksha Mantri, a new Security Czar is the boldest reform possible. It will send an unmistakable and unambiguous message across to all of India’s enemies, internal and external.