EVEN as India basks in the glory of the successful Ballistic Missile Defence Interceptor test titled Mission Shakti, shocking facts are emerging from inside the scientific community that such a test had been stalled earlier in the absence of political will to achieve the mark. India could have conducted such a test right back in 2007, and subsequently in 2012-13 as well, but the political leadership in those times was not willing to permit it.
This version of the country’s top scientists is certainly an endorsement of the universal experience of how political leadership makes all the difference in shaping contemporary events that have historic significance. There is little doubt all such decisions are circumscribed by a lot of factors such as issues of realpolitik, entanglement of domestic discourse, personality flaws of the leaders, their philosophical beliefs, the biases and prejudices of the people manning critical positions in the Government ...! In a few cases, many of those constraining factors have their own unavoidablities, but on a few occasions, timidity of the leadership to get tough and bold in national interest also act as constraints for which history has had no antidotes. In its 77 years of post-Independence life, India has witnessed many such moments when the leadership took courageous steps, but also shied away from standing up and getting counted on quite a few.
The moments a few top scientists are referring to about denial of permission to conduct Ballistic Missile Defence Interceptor tests indicate the weak links in the country’s contemporary history. But then, the country also saw a few moments of great political candour when the national leadership stood tall and strong and made decisions that stunned the world, like the decision of Prime Minister Mr.
Lal Bahadur Shastri to take Pakistan head on in 1965, or Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s decision again to take on Pakistan in 1971 and slice East Pakistan off to change the world’s political map, or her decision again in 1974 to conduct the first ever nuclear test to make possible Pokhran-I, or Prime Minister Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao’s decision to request Opposition leader Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee to lead the national delegation to the United Nations Human rights Convention at Geneva, or Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s decision to teach Pakistan a lesson it would not forget at Kargil, or his decision to order Pokhran-II, or Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s decision to confront China at Doka La for an extended period of nearly two months, or his decision to conduct two surgical strikes (on ground and in air), or his latest decision to give a go-ahead to Mission Shakti to beat a possible international regime in domain of security through space! Each of these moments has had a profound impact not just on India’s position or condition but also on the world scenario in equal measure. Such is the critical contribution political will often makes, or refuses to make.
Mission Shakti marks one critical moment in India’s current geopolitical trajectory that will impact contemporary history in a way nothing may ever do. Making such a decision to beat a possible international restriction required a lot of courage and a tremendous sense of urgency. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi displayed those leadership attributes in full measure to emerge not just as a great Indian statesman but also as a global leader whose thought and action the world would always watch with a little trepidation, thanks to his sense of nationalistic duty. This sense has often formed a critical component of political will, which only a few leaders actually understand. Behind the decision of Mission Shakti are stacked up all such components that underline the leadership style of Mr. Narendra Modi and the critical imperatives the current security scenario throws up. It is stupid to link this decision to electoral politics. For, what has got counted in it was nothing but a national need.