March 31, 2011: Anit Mukherjee and Stephen P. Cohen

Failing to Deliver: Defense Reforms in India

(Click to enlarge) Mr. Anit Mukherjee discusses India's difficulties in implementing defense reforms.

Presentation Materials:
Mukherjee PowerPoint WASHINGTON, DC (April 6, 2011) -- Following the Kargil War in 1999, which took place along the Line of Command, defense reforms were set in place by the Indian government to address weaknesses in the national defense system. Despite some incremental progress, Mr. Anit Mukherjee argues that these reforms have failed to deliver, due to bureaucratic politics and the unique features of civil-military relations. Discussant Dr. Stephen P. Cohen also offered insights into the factors hindering India from becoming a major military power. Mr. Mukherjee began by providing a historical context to the defense reforms and then enumerated some issues complicating reform efforts. The deliberate subversion by competing divisions within the system, incapacity to appropriately staff the Ministry of Defense, due to a lack of civilian experience, and the absence of dialogue between politicians, bureaucrats, and the military branches are all factors. Mr. Mukherjee argued that “a ‘generalist-bureaucracy’ has contributed to the problems in the effectiveness of the Indian military.” He also believes that until there is a major crisis or more political leadership on the issue, changes to India’s defense structure are unlikely. Additionally, Dr. Cohen explained that the confusion among Indian elites, regarding the strategic purpose of the military and India’s real security threats, is making reform difficult.

Anit Mukherjee is a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, and is also a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His dissertation focuses on civil military relations in India. Mr. Mukherjee previously worked at RAND Corporation as a Summer Associate, and prior to joining SAIS, he was a Major in the Indian Army. His writing has been published in the New York Times , India Review , Wall Street Journal (Asia) and Indian Express , among others publications. Mr. Mukherjee is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, and earned his M.A. at SAIS, concentrating in South Asia Studies and Strategic Studies. Stephen P. Cohen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, which he joined in 1998 after a career at the University of Illinois. Dr. Cohen has also previously served on the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department. He is the author, co-author, or editor of over fourteen books, mostly on South Asian security issues, the most recent being Arming without Aiming: India Modernizes its Military (2010). Currently, he is working on a book which focuses on the intractability of India-Pakistan relations. Dr. Cohen received his PhD in Political Science and Indian Studies from the University of Wisconsin, and in 2004, was named as one of America’s five hundred most influential people in the area of foreign policy.