Civil-Military Dissonance and Ineffectiveness

Civil-Military Dissonance and Ineffectiveness. How political changes in India since independence have affected the country’s civil-military relations? Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam, famous international strategic affairs analyst and the “ideological champion of India’s nuclear deterrent,” once summarized the current paradigm of India, “politicians enjoy power without any responsibility, bureaucrats wield authority without any accountability and the military assumes responsibility without any direction” (Mukherjee, 2012, p.331). With this quote, Subrahmanyam’s vision has guided the study of Indian civil-military relations in the past decades. 


India became independent from British India in 1947. In the process of decolonization, the country chose to establish its political system based on the British model, including the construction of new democratic institutions and the establishment of civilian control (Shah, 2010, p.91). Although India is the world’s largest democratic state, the country’s independence did not bring a healthy and democratic civil-military relations. On the one hand, most civilian administration believes that the military should serve as an agency to deliver their policies. On the other hand, the military considers itself as the key player in the decision-making process, especially on issues related to security and foreign policy (Mukherjee, 2012, p.326). 
From a theoretical perspective, the civil-military dissonance and ineffectiveness in India have revealed the drawbacks of what Samuel P. Huntington advanced the theory of objective civilian control (Mukherjee, 2012, p.4).

Although the Huntington’s theoretical framework can best explain the conditions of civil-military relations in contemporary India, the country fails to define the term “civil control” correctly, and fails reach a balance between political leadership and its isolated armed forces. Compared with other democratic countries, civil-military relations in India can be viewed as a continuous battle among politicians, civilian bureaucrats, and military commanders regarding policy formulation and decision-making (Prakash, 2014). 
From a historical perspective, the battle among politicians, civilian bureaucrats, and military commanders is influenced by many factors, such as the power of political order, domestic political environments, the country’s perceived foreign threats, and the personalities of politicians and military officers (Mukherjee, 2012, p.2). In the period of post-independence, the exercise of civilian control in India was based on the principle of civilian supremacy over the military. The Indian military also presented an apolitical attitude under the influence of the British colonial rule. However, these factors could not create a healthy civil-military relations in India, as national elites continued weakened the role of military in foreign policy, imposed their preference on the military, and expanded their power to represent civilians (Shah, 2010). 

Civil-Military Dissonance and Ineffectiveness

The purpose of this paper is to examine how political changes in India since independence have affected the country’s civil-military relations. The paper is an examination of the factors that have shaped the country’s civil-military dissonance, ineffectiveness, and citizen’s attitudes towards its armed forces. The paper engages with this research question by studying the history and the role of the Indian military in several wars. This paper further argues that the Indian model of civil-military relations could not maximize its military effectiveness for two reasons. The first reason is the lack of expertise in military affairs. The second reason is the strong bureaucratic controls over military. 


In what follows, the paper first reviews recent literature on the theoretical framework of civil-military relations, India’s national security framework, and the civil control in the Indian context. Then, the paper studies the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962, the Indo-Pakistani war in 1965, and the 1999 Kargil War, in order to analyze the impacts of political changes on the Indian military in terms of policy formulation and decision-making process. Based on the analyses above, the paper identifies several factors that caused civil-military dissonance in India. Finally, by summarizing the characteristics of civil-military relations in India, the paper yields its conclusion through providing three recommendations to improve military effectiveness. Given India’s unique democratic system, the study of civil-military relations in India would be inspirational for other emerging democratic developing countries, in terms of how to balance the relationship among civilians, political leaders, and senior military commanders. 

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