`We saw the globe (and India) through foreigners` eyes`
Capt. Bharat Verma is the editor of Indian Defence Review. A quarterly journal read by leading policy makers at senior bureaucratic, political and military levels, the IDR is renowned as the `most-quoted Indian defence publication`.
Capt Verma is also the founder and current editor of Lancer Publishers, a publishing house dedicated to defence and security matters.
In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview to Claude Arpi, the former Army officer recalls the travails of setting up the IDR against stiff government opposition, and explains how India`s enemies use the country`s media and other democratic tools to try and destabilise it.
However, he argues, the India of 2012 will not be as pacifist? as it is today. It will be far more assertive and equipped with sufficient power to take on such adversaries in our vicinity.?
The IDR was the first defence publication in the country. How did you start? What difficulties did you encounter?
When I was a young subaltern in the Army, we were posted in the Thar Desert. This was during the Simla summit . My Commanding Officer wanted young officers to deliver lectures. When he asked me to give a talk on desert warfare, I asked him: `Where is the Indian defence literature on the Thar desert?` I was a cavalry officer and if we had to move in this desert during war, I needed to know how to go about it, how do I gather intelligence about people and tribes living in this area? Who will be with us? Who will be against us? He answered: `Forget it! Indians do not read and do not write. You better read Rommel or Montgomery and deliver your lecture, otherwise you will not be served whisky in the Officers mess.` This was part of the tradition in the Regiment to encourage reading habits in the young officers.
When I left the Army as a Short Service Commissioned Officer, I decided to set up a business. I realised that there was no literature available in India on defence matters written by Indians despite the wars we kept fighting. Our analysis was copied from foreign publications. We were looking at the globe (and India) through the foreigners` eyes. Our security perceptions were what somebody else told us. Analysis mostly came from the Western publications. It was not Indian. Therefore, I decided to set up the first dedicated Indian military publishing house in 1979, to encourage Indian military officers to write. That`s how Lancers came up.
In 1986, we took one step further by encouraging strategic thinking in the open domain and started the Indian Defence Review (IDR). The first issues were bi-annual with hard covers and as there was no state patronage, we supported it from the revenues of the publishing house. It became a national mission for me. I thought, it had to be done for India; strategic thinking had to come to the common man in the open domain and this could only be done by the private sector.
Image Caption:INS Viraat was originally commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on 18 November 1959
(All pictures courtesy Indian Defence Review)