India needs its paranoid
Kumar draws attention to Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s review of Arun Shourie’s latest book. Mehta starts by asking
Anyone who dares criticise (Shourie) cannot possibly be serious about national defence; anyone who demands more methodological complexity is guilty of evasive obfuscation. How does one intellectually engage his argument? [Outlook]
He concludes with the following:
Shourie is right that many of us are in an unthinking stupor. But Indiaâ€™s real tragedy may be that intelligent men, with integrity, courage, commitment, economic vision and potential for scholarship have given themselves over to a simple-minded politics of paranoia and sheer misanthropy. [Outlook]
How does one intellectually engage this conclusion? (Aside: Ravikiran’s superb post on politeness for thee)
Mehta accuses Shourie of being paranoid about everything from the machinations of the ISI, Bangladeshi immigrants and China’s designs, everything that is, except the rise of Hindu nationalism. What Mehta really needs to prove is whether the exclusion of Hindu fundamentalism discounts the need to be paranoid about those other threats.
Nobody denies the existence and potency of the ISI, or the presence of fanatic Islamic groups in Bangladesh and Pakistan. But in the long run whether they will have the political upper hand is still an open question. [Outlook]
It was Keynes who said ‘in the long run, we are all dead’. All the stuff about defeating ISI-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir in the long run comes too late for the thousands who are already dead or the hundreds of thousands who are displaced. And if India does prevail over these threats over the long run, it will be partly because there were some among the intellectual and political class who were paranoid and spoke out about their fears.
Shourie’s idea of a solution, according to Mehta, is to put India on a dose of Viagra. Why not? What’s good about a security policy that fails to rise to the occasion?