“Being Aatmanirbhar does not mean winning this global race. To be Aatmanirbhar implies offering a new paradigm of trade and progress that assures material comforts, security, guarantees future life and also ensures a feeling of peace and contentment. We will have to construct a new edifice, new systems that are in harmony with our Aatman. We need to think about ourselves by completely decolonising our minds”.
– Dr Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in the exclusive interview to Organiser and Panchjanya, dated January 15, 2023
Can power be peaceful? If you go by the realist paradigm of international politics, which is primarily an American discipline, then yes, only if there is a ‘balance of power’. Bharat is trying to negate this realist prism based on balance of power with the adversary. On the contrary, Bharat is pursuing hard power to attain the goal of world peace by spreading the values of universalism. What is the significance of this pursuit of power based on the idea of Aatmanirbharta?
We need to understand the transient geo-strategic environment before decoding the Aatmanirbharta. The contemporary world order is in flux. European supremacy is in decline after the Russia-Ukraine war. The US is facing a strong challenge from belligerent China. Economic models, both market-led capitalism and State-controlled socialism, have failed miserably in providing sustainable development. Humanity is still struggling to come out of the COVID-19 shock fully. Maritime security and technological supremacy have gained unprecedented importance. Cyber-space, information warfare and exploiting domestic faultlines have emerged as the new frontiers of war. Data is the new oil, and control and manipulation of big data are new weapons. Where do we stand in such an atmosphere of flux?
During the seventy-five years of Independence, we have seen twists and turns in our military strategy. After initial idealist rhetoric, we realised the importance of military strength. Slowly and steadily, we developed a robust standing army supported by a large and modern arsenal of weapons. Despite nuclear capabilities and initiatives, such as developing drones and missile defence systems, there have been concerns about the availability of modern equipment for the Armed Forces and the border infrastructure.
The Modi Government, which came to power in India in 2014, has taken several steps to augment the country’s defence preparedness. Some key initiatives and policy changes include increasing defence spending, promoting indigenisation through ‘Make in India’, fostering strategic partnerships through private participation in defence manufacturing and technology transfer, and developing border infrastructure to improve the mobility of the Armed Forces. Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) is giving a fillip to the innovation ecosystem through the participation of defence startups, MSMEs, and academia. The creation of Defence Industrial Corridors also provides a favourable atmosphere for domestic production and reduces dependence on foreign supplies.
The revamped National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) ensures greater integration and coordination among various Ministries and Armed Forces on national security issues. From being the largest importer of defence equipment, Bharat is striving for self-reliance and aiming at $5 billion in defence exports by 2025. Naturally, Bharat’s global standing has improved, along with the apprehensions about the resurgent Republic.
We as a nation should be proud of these achievements without being complacent. The exhibition of strong political will and the exercise of strategic autonomy are encouraging signs. But, these are just instruments of securing the State – through political and military means. The Republic consists of ‘We – the people’, and we as a nation somehow have lost the understanding of ‘self’ and threats to selfhood. The wisdom about the strategic culture, through which we explored the world without exploiting anyone, had depleted over the centuries under the colonising influence of Western modernity.
The solar alliance, sharing the COVID-19 vaccines and Cowin App under Maitri policy and internationalising the Yogic practices are signs of the revival of our elderly civilisational wisdom. In the strategic field also, powerful Bharat is a guarantee for global peace and prosperity. The recently held ‘Voice of the Global South Summit’ is a testimony of the same. Amidst the great power politics, while we have to assert our military, economic and technological strength, it is not meant to make others vassal states but to spread the values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – familial and not market or state-centric globalisation – the guiding spirit of Bharat.