I have been an avid reader of Nitin Gokhale’s books. The latest being the 3rd part of the trilogy following ‘BEYOND NJ 9842: THE SIACHEN SAGA’ & ‘1965: Turning the tide’. ‘Securing India, the Modi way’ takes you to the decision-making table in Delhi, the MoD and the Army HQ. From the border conflicts on its eastern and western flank to the re-invigoration of Indian foreign policy, this book tries to covers a lot of ground.
A lot of accounts mentioned in this book are still ongoing, especially the Doklam issue, which makes for a more clear reading of the current situation.
Comparing the Accounts of Surgical Strikes
One of the first comparisons I made was with the recently released book – ‘India’s most fearless’ by Shiv Aroor & Rahul Singh. Nitin Gokhale had focused more on the broader context of what was going on behind the scenes in Delhi while Shiv Aroor had given a personal account of the Surgical strikes in Pakistan and Myanmar. A combined reading of both books gives a more holistic picture. That is good enough material to make a movie for an enterprising filmmaker.
Additionally, my perception of the Pathankot attack changed after reading the book as he gave a more balanced perspective of the magnitude of damage the terrorist would have inflicted had they succeeded. This was a far cry from the mainstream media which had deemed the attack as a major failure of the Modi Government.
Foreign Policy Czar
The author takes us through the 3 years of Modi Sarkar’s global outreach. From the Gulf countries to Israel to the West, Modi’s strategy of developing a personal equation with world leaders was something new. The fact that PM Modi was the first Prime Minister in over 34 years to visit UAE stands testament to the fact that this administration wants to reimagine India’s global standing.
When it comes to China, the government appears to have decided that the only way to counter aggressive Chinese moves on the border is to stand firm and not give into their tactics of creeping nibbling of territory. The Doklam (Dolam) standoff story mentioned in the book gives a clear picture of the context in terms of previous border crisis in Chumar (2014) & Depsang (2013). The standoff was itself resolved peacefully before the BRICS summit in Xiamen when PM Modi surprised President Xi Jinping by having an impromptu meeting during the G-20 summit in Hamburg, giving the opportunity of a face-saving resolution to China.
In its short-term, Modi government has quietly buried the non-alignment stand of India and moved India closer to the US, at the same time maintaining ties to Russia and Iran. A strong and decisive government has enhanced India’s credibility in the international arena
The author deftly covers the complexity of Defence procurement in India through his behind scenes take on the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Rafale deal. Recent reforms in Defence procurement procedures (DPP) and allowing FDI in defence will definitely take time to show results. Despite the steps taken in the right direction, the administration’s handling of the OROP reforms stands out. What could have earned the government, some brownie points turned into a PR disaster. Looking back, this should have been avoided.
Space & Cyber Domain
Very few desi books have given a separate chapter to these areas despite its military and strategic importance in a technology-driven world. ISRO today has developed indigenous high imaging satellites with a spatial resolution of 65 cm can be used for urban development and monitoring terrorists at the same time. The author covers the recent completion of India’s very own Regional GPS satellite systems and the NavIC application being tested.
In the cyber domain, however, one is not sure how much of an impact will structural changes like the appointment of a National Cyber Security coordinator have. Right now, very little is known of India’s offensive and defensive capabilities in cyber warfare.
What was missed?
There was only a brief mention of the successful evacuation operations at Yemen by the Indian Navy. However, I would have loved to read the insider account of the events in South Block at that time. For those who are interested, Shiv Aroor covers the operations carried out by INS Sumitra through the personal account of Commander Milind Mohan Mokashi.
Although the book mentioned intelligence agencies in general, they were not covered in detail. It is hard to say for any outsider if there have been any significant reforms in the spy bureaucracy. My personal suggestion to Gokhale sir if he is reading this; there might be room for one last project on the intelligence services of India.