India is often accused of and perceived as a soft state. This was however not the case during the early days of nation building. Once a threat to internal security and stability had been perceived, the nation moved forward with resolve and determination to deal with the fault lines. This is best illustrated in by the decisive action taken by the political leadership to assimilate Hyderabad state into the Indian dominion against the manipulative and vacillating Nizam of Hyderabad.
By 1947 the state was the richest and most powerful among the 564 princely sates of India with its own airline, postal service, police and army. In fact the Nizam wanted to be an independent country within the British Commonwealth a request which was declined by the British Government. He threatened to secede to and supported Pakistan to the extent that he loaned them 20 Cr at the time India was embroiled in the war in Kashmir. Despite a lot of persuasion he refused to relent and continued mistreating his subjects and getting arms. There was a lot of concern that if the security forces took Hyderabad by force there would be mass scale communal violence with lakhs of Hindus massacred and resultant backlash in the rest of South India. Dire scenarios were being predicted and there was a desire in some quarters for a status quo and ostrich like approach to wish away the problem. It was feared that Hyderabad Air would bomb the cities of Mumbai , Kolkata and Chennai. Luckily the astute and strong political leadership in the form of the Home Minister Sardar Patel and home Seceratry VP Menon had other views. I quote from a book by Mr Menon of a decisive meeting between Laik Ali the President of the executive council of the Nizam to illustrate the political courage at that time ;
On 16 April, Laik Ali had an interview with Sardar Patel… Sardar said: “You know as well as I do where power resides and with whom the fate of the negotiations must finally lie in Hyderabad. The gentleman (KasimRazvi) who seems to dominate Hyderabad has given his answer. He has categorically stated that if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad it will find nothing but the bones and ashes of the one and a half crores of Hindus. If that is the position, then it seriously undermines the whole future of the Nizam and his dynasty. I am speaking to you plainly because I do not want you to be under any misapprehension. The Hyderabad problem will have to be settled as has been done in the case of other States. No other way is possible. We cannot agree to the continuance of an isolated spot which would destroy the very Union which we have built up with our blood and toil. At the same time, we do wish to maintain friendly relations and to seek a friendly solution. That does not mean that we shall ever agree to Hyderabad’s independence. If its demand to maintain an independent status is persisted in, it is bound to fail.”
It was in this backdrop that the Indian Army under Maj Gen JN Chaudhari (later Chief) marched in to Hyderabad against the Nizam’s forces commanded by an Egyptian mercenary Maj Gen S A El Adroos . The nascent yet well trained Indian Army defeated the Nizam’s State forces in barely 108 hours and the Nizam quickly acceded to the Indian union. Thus the first serious threat to India’s Homeland Security was thwarted due to a strong and decisive political will. It is therefore most important for a broad political consensus to be built around an astute and strong political leadership to manage the many emerging threats to Homeland Security.
Lt Gen Sudhir Sharma,PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VSM,(Retd) is the Chairman of MitKat Advisory Services, India’s leading premium risk consultancy. He hails from the Brigade of Guards.