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From the Defense of the Nation to Aid to the Civil : The Army in Contemporary India

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Unlike many professional armies in the developing world the Indian Army has shown little or no interest in political involvement. During British colonial rule the officers and the men of the army were socialized into accepting the notion of political neutrality. Independent India's politicians, most notably Jawaharlal Nehru, carefully reinforced this tradition. In the past few decades several developments have threatened this Nehruvian legacy. Increasing ethnolinguistic violence coupled with the venality of local police forces have led to increasing reliance on the Army to maintain civil order. Its tactics and strategy are designed to fight organized forces not urban mobs or elusive civilian terrorists. More importantly, in an ethnically plural state like India, repeated use of the Army to quell communal violence threatens to politicize the Army. Inordinate reliance on the Army to maintain civil order may also help erode its long-standing tradition of political neutrality. When the Army begins to assume duties normally restricted to the civil bureaucracy the temptation to intervene in politics increases dramatically.


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Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, NY, U.S.A.


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