Civil-Military Relations and Nuclearization of India and Pakistan

By Khan, Zillur R. | World Affairs, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Civil-Military Relations and Nuclearization of India and Pakistan


Khan, Zillur R., World Affairs


Research on the evolving power relations between civil societies and military institutions in different cultures has shown interesting patterns of interaction having a common characteristic. It relates to what Janowitz calls the mark of sovereignty, which denotes the role of military as defender of national sovereignty, covering a broad spectrum of civil-military relations ranging from minimal involvement to active participation in revolutionary movements, from military praetorianism to military intervention, from veto or dual rule to complete takeover, from caretaker to quasi-civilianized regime in its own right (Janowitz 1964, 5-7; Perlmutter 1977, 9; Finer 1988, 149-67; Clapham and Philip 1985, 8-11; Sivard 1989, 21-22). An equally important degree of commonality exists in the justification by military leaders in different cultures for takeovers of civilian government.

Military leadership is not culture bound in its justification for takeovers of civilian governments in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Most countries that succumbed to military rule after transition from colonial rule to independent nation states faced corruption, instability, and mismanagement. Samuel Huntington finds that "the most important causes of military intervention in politics are not military but political and reflect not the social and organizational characteristics of the military establishment, but the political and institutional structure of the society" (1968, 194, 196). In clarifying the power relationship between civil societies and military institutions, Huntington suggests that the stronger a civil society, at least economically, the less likely the military is to intervene in the civilian government. Whether the same or a similar hypothesis applies to civil-military relations in less-developed nuclear states such as India and Pakistan needs to be assessed.

The more politically mature a civil society the less chance that the military will try to intervene for reform (Perlmutter 1977, 9). The absence or weakness of strong political institutions often tempts the military to expand its involvement in the civil society from a transit regime into a more permanent civilianized regime by building a mass base of popular support (Huntington 1968, 194; Welch 1976, 35). The military leadership often uses referenda, manipulated elections, the electoral college, a new political party, or an existing political party to legitimize its rule (Janowitz 1962, 63-67; Finer 1988, 221).

In this article, I will examine how India, a less developed country, has not only been able to avoid having the military expand its control to the civil society but has instilled the value of civilian supremacy in national security policymaking, planning, and implementation. Because India frequently uses its military to aid the civil administration in crisis situations, from controlling internal insurgencies to electoral violence, keeping the military under civilian control becomes a remarkable feat.

The military leadership of Pakistan, on the other hand, has followed Field Marshal Ayub Khan's usurper-caretaker model, with an effective organization requiring the least physical force for takeover of civilian governments from time to time. Ayub's legitimizing strategies involved a referendum, a limited election, a new constitution, and the use of a faction of a major political party as a political anchor. Military leaders of Pakistan seem to emulate--wittingly or not--the Kemalist model of legitimization without its secularist core. Although military leaders floated new political parties for legitimization, they shied away from following Kemal Ataturk's constitutional secularism. Instead, political and military leaders of Pakistan have been pursuing a different ideological route by incorporating theocratic principles in the country's constitution. In India, although Hinduism is a powerful ideological force, non-secularists such as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) inner circle have made no attempt to incorporate it as a basic principle of the constitution. …

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