India’s National Security Strategy

Here r a selection of articles on India’s National Security Strategy!

Ashley J. Tellis Op-Ed December 3, 2012 India in Transition
On the eve of India’s founding, no one could have imagined how successfully it would come to navigate the international system. At that time, there were legions of skeptics who believed that the half-life of this new country would be measured in years, perhaps decades at most. The questions of when India would split apart was one of the staples of public discussion going back to Churchill’s celebrated remark, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.” Since then, legions of commentators believed that it would be a miracle if India survived.

Today, however, India’s unity is taken for granted. In one of the greatest feats of modern history, India has built a cohesive nation despite incredible poverty and diversity. India has done just as well in regard to its territorial integrity. Yes, it lost one major war and it has lost bits and pieces of territory, but India as a unified territorial entity has survived despite being located in an extremely contested and unsettled regional environment. And, to everyone’s surprise, India has managed, despite great material weakness, to protect its political autonomy.

No one who has had the pleasure of negotiating with Indian colleagues on the other side of the table will conclude that this is a country that is incapable of protecting its interests. When I was working on the civil nuclear negotiations, my team was often accused of being unable to protect American interests, and of course there were a few Indians who made the same complaints about their team. But there were no Americans who walked away from that conversation believing that India is incapable of holding its own!

So today, sixty-five years out, the dominant view of India among international elites is that of a rising power. That single phrase echoes and re-echoes in American thinking about South Asia. It has found its way into the most important American national security strategy documents and it has influenced major portions of American foreign policy. Yet India’s view of itself is quite different. Understanding that perspective is critical to understanding the future of the U.S.-India relationship.

India sees itself, first and foremost, as a developing society, with a host of challenges yet to be overcome. When Indians think about themselves and their role in the world, their first question is not about how they can shape the universe but rather how they might cope with it. Therefore it is no surprise that, from the foundation of the republic, India’s grand strategy has always been introspective, even though its rhetoric in the early post-Independence years gave the opposite impression.

The reason why many outsiders invariably end up complaining about India being reactive is precisely because Indians have held onto the view – with good reason – that success in navigating the world derives principally from success in political, economic, and social management at home. Three constants, all in varying degrees of transformation now, have characterized the way New Delhi has thought about its relationship to the world.

The first constant is an abiding obsession with economic growth. There has been great transformation in this regard. Whereas India began managing economic growth primarily through autarky and dirigisme, today it is shifting to a vision that has greater room for globalization and a greater acceptance of market forces. It is still an incomplete transition, but the fact that it is underway offers the greatest opportunities for developing the U.S.-India relationship, not simply at the level of strategy or at the level of diplomacy, but where it matters most, in people’s checkbooks and their pockets. One can imagine a great future for this relationship because of the transformation that has taken place in the economic component of India’s grand strategy.

Second, India has focused on building state capacity and empowering its citizenry from the very beginning. It is far from completing this task successfully, and yet this is one area where India’s success will be determined entirely by its internal actions. Outsiders – including well-meaning outsiders like those in the United States – can help, but only on the margins. The choices that India makes with respect to its own institutions and how it invests in its people will make the real difference to India’s strategy. There are big debates now, centered around the balance between the state and the market in achieving India’s goals. The United States can provide ideas from the sidelines, but this is an argument that Indians will have to work through themselves.

The third and last component of India’s grand strategy has been a desire to enhance its national security while minimizing security competition. India settled for such a conservative strategy because it has always been aware of its own weakness. Weaknesses within and the unsettled environment without have pushed Indian policy makers to become defensive positionalists, focused not necessarily on improving India’s position in the world, but rather on preventing its position from deteriorating further. At its core, Indian policy therefore has always focused on avoiding the foreclosure of options.

This approach sometimes rattles an anxious United States, which would like to see a far more energetic India that acts as a shaper of its environment rather than as a country that simply protects its equities. The U.S. government must remember, however, that India’s defensive positionalism is intimately linked to its own stage of development. The day that India overcomes the internal challenges that continue to weigh on its policy makers will be the day that India gets into the shaping business as opposed to simply the adjustment business.

India today finds itself between the times. It has accomplished the core task of what states are supposed to do: to protect political integrity in the broadest sense. Such success came against great odds, but India’s tasks are now becoming far more complicated because popular expectations within are rising just when new great powers – and new threats – are becoming manifest in its extended neighborhood. As India succeeds, people – including many in the United States – have great expectations of it. Therefore, how India understands itself, its role, and its contributions will concern not only Indians, but everyone involved in the U.S.-India partnership in the years to come.

Americans need to appreciate that no matter what labels India uses, its size, its history, and its aspirations will always ensure that New Delhi marches to the beat of its own drum. No matter what its circumstances, India will not become the kind of treaty ally that some Americans would like to see. The fact that India seeks to plot its own course, however, is not necessarily a threat to American interests. In fact, Washington ought to ask itself not what India can do for the United States, but what India will become: Will India be strong, even if independent, or will it be weak?

An India that is strong is fundamentally in American interests, a perspective well-recognized when I served in the George W. Bush administration. We did not engage in nuclear cooperation with India on the expectation that there would be a quid-pro-quo. We did not push the transformation of U.S.-Indian relations merely out of expectations that India would help us to realize narrow interests. Rather, if India could find the sources of its own strength, its success both as a democracy and as a rising power would contribute towards creating a balance of power in Asia that is ultimately favorable both to American and to Indian interests simultaneously. If Indian foreign policy can find the opportunity and the capacity to reflect this fact, it will go a long way towards quelling American anxieties about the future of the U.S.-India relationship. And in the last twenty years, I would argue, we’ve gotten off to a great start.
India’s foreign policy, which is far more successful than is often acknowledged, is in the midst of major changes that will shape the country’s future as a great power.
Delhi’s Strategy Deficit

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Sumit Ganguly
March 20, 2012
Does India have a grand strategy? To answer this question, India’s national-security adviser, Shiv Shanker Menon, two of his predecessors and several independent analysts of considerable stature gathered in New Delhi in late February. They were there to observe and comment upon the launch of a new, seventy-page report entitled “Nonalignment 2.0.”

The document purported to chart a new course for India’s foreign and strategic policies. But immediately after the launch, it was off to an inauspicious start. According to press reports, two of the erstwhile national-security advisers sought to distance themselves from some of the key conclusions of the report. Their disagreements ranged from the continued viability of the concept of nonalignment to the severity of India’s internal-security threats. As might befit a serving official, Menon made noncommittal comments on the document—but he notably failed to publicly endorse it.

Menon’s reluctance to stand by the report was probably an astute choice. Given its title, “Nonalignment 2.0,” any reasonable commentator or analyst must wonder why its authors are attempting to resurrect a moribund set of principles. Does India need to harp on a doctrine that may well have served its interests in the 1950s but is singularly ill-suited to the needs of today’s vastly altered global order?

The authors might argue that the cardinal element of nonalignment, India’s commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy, remains as relevant as ever. In its latest guise, the document refers to this obligation as the quest for “strategic autonomy.” In practical terms, this injunction translates into urging India’s policy makers not to cast their lot with either the Western world in general or the United States in particular. Yet nowhere in the tract is a compelling rationale spelled out for the avoidance of such a strategy.

Indeed, what is striking about the analysis is its deafening silence about India’s burgeoning relationship with the United States. During the entire Cold War, the two states were mostly at odds. However, in the post–Cold War era they have not only significantly narrowed their differences but also have managed to forge a multifaceted relationship, one which covers a gamut of issues ranging from nonproliferation to trade and investment. Despite the transformation of this vital relationship, the authors of “Nonalignment 2.0” choose to refer to Washington only in passing, mostly in connection with concerns about the future behavior of the new Asian behemoth, China, or India’s nettlesome neighbor, Pakistan.

Some Strengths

In contrast, the report’s discussions of policy choices toward China and Pakistan, India’s two principal adversaries, display a degree of imagination and even verve. For example, the authors forthrightly confront the policy conundrum of a nuclear-armed adversary’s continued dalliance with the use of terror as part of its asymmetric war strategy. But their suggestions for responding are mostly unexceptional. That said, the authors are to be commended for forthrightly stating that the one viable option that India must implement is a strategy of denial. As the memories of the horrors that visited Mumbai in November 2008 fade, the importance of this approach cannot be adequately underscored.

On dealing with China, the authors demonstrate both boldness and imagination in the discussion of possible policy options—especially in the security realm. Cognizant of the limits of India’s conventional military options, the report actually calls for the development of asymmetric capabilities, including the ability to provoke guerrilla warfare if China were to seize disputed territory in India’s troubled northeast. It also emphasizes the need for the continued development of India’s maritime assets in a variety of offshore islands in the Indian Ocean.

The analysis of India’s internal security threats in “Nonalignment 2.0” also shows a degree of candor and common sense. The authors carefully spell out how the Indian state suffers from self-inflicted wounds, with the collapse of governance in parts of India have enabling various armed organizations to step into the breach and engage in predatory behavior; on occasion the Indian state itself has become a predator, ruthlessly suppressing human rights in the quest to maintain order. Couched in clinical and anodyne prose, they also argue that the Indian state has not always been an impartial arbiter when confronted with ethno-religious tensions. Such failures, combined with other shortcomings, have contributed to a range of domestic social fissures that have precipitated violence.

Nuclear Strategy

Sadly, the resourcefulness that “Nonalignment 2.0” displays when it comes to dealing with both internal and external security threats is noticeably absent when it turns to a discussion of India’s nuclear strategy. Here, the authors fall back on hoary propositions that are meaningless in the practical realm. They allude to the ostensible significance of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan of 1988, which called for a phased, time-bound plan for global nuclear disarmament. The authors do not seem to recall that when announced, the plan elicited virtually no interest on the part of nuclear-weapons states, and the plan and the quixotic vision it embodied have subsequently been ignored.

Nor, for that matter, is their call for a global no-first-use treaty likely to find any real traction. Even if some states did, in mostly self-serving gestures, embrace the concept, would it really have operational significance? Proposing antediluvian ideas of this sort raises serious questions about the reflectiveness of these key members of India’s strategic community.

Brain Drain

The report’s discussions about emerging global norms and institutions are also less than inspiring. For example, when alluding to the incipient norm of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine, the authors highlight its significance. Yet they feel compelled to state that R2P should not become a cloak for the feckless pursuit of great-power interests. It was precisely this form of reasoning that led India to sit on the sidelines during the recent UN Security Council deliberations on the use force in Libya.

The document’s obvious unevenness and some of its more bizarre policy recommendations suggest a paucity of intellectual ripeness within India’s foreign- and security-policy establishment. Such a lack of sagacity is especially disturbing as India is increasingly called upon to assume responsibilities commensurate to its economic and strategic heft in the global arena. But “Nonalignment 2.0”underscores how India remains unable to readily shoulder the demands being placed on it—and how far it has to go in demonstrating leadership, both in its region and beyond.

Sumit Ganguly is a professor of political science and holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington.


Dr Rudra Chaudhuri is Lecturer (South Asian Security & Strategic Studies), at Department of War Studies, King’s College London

Grand Strategy of Plus 2
In India, the terms “grand strategy” and “national interest” are used for almost anything.

hat India needs a grand strategy is a matter of consensus amongst academics and practitioners alike. However, what this really means is a matter of conjecture. For the most part, the terms grand strategy and “national interest” are used for almost anything. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s pledge to send a spacecraft to Mars is called a “grand strategy” in the “national interest.” India’s aspiration for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council is said to be India’s “grand strategic objective”.

Yet, what serves as one club’s “national interest” can well be another’s nemesis. Signing on the dotted line to enter nuclear commerce with a range of nations was considered central to India’s “national interest” by the Congress party. For the Left, it was a matter of humiliation. So who defines and produces a nation’s grand strategy? Is it simply a matter for the incumbent or does it require a degree of agreement amongst members of the Opposition? What role does dissent play in the making of grand strategy? These are only a few questions worth pondering over as India celebrates its 65th year of freedom.

To be sure, there are no clear answers. Grand strategy is not a product or a document that can be manufactured by a group of experts and policy wonks. It is, in many ways, a byproduct of history that needs further nurturing by way of political direction. First defined in ink by Basil Liddell Hart, the British army captain and military theorist, grand strategy was loosely understood to mean an effort to “coordinate and direct all the resources of a nation” to obtain a set of political objectives. To put it simply, the idea was to concentrate a nation’s mind and resources with the view to get to a certain destination, a sort of man-made guiding star.

It was introduced in the National War College (Washington DC) syllabus in 1946 by George Kennan, the US Foreign Service officer and the so-called “father of containment”, the strategy to control Communist expansion. At the time, Kennan had access to only two books that dealt with anything worthwhile on matters of war and peace: Edward Earles edited volume titled Makers of Modern Strategy and Bernard Brodie’s Absolute Weapon, the classic work on nuclear deterrence first published in June 1946. With these two books in hand, Kennan designed a course to query the questions raised above.

In the following 60-odd years, his course, although adapted and transformed, served to introspect issues around “national interest” and whether the very idea of a grand strategy was feasible. This is an ongoing project. There are no answers, but what Kennan managed to do was place the question of interest at the forefront of public debate. Perhaps that was his grand strategy. He democratised the idea of strategy.

In 2000, Yale University authored a course much like Kennan’s, but for civilians. By 2010, such programmes could be found at universities like Duke and Columbia. Americans may have got a lot wrong. Indeed, one could argue that having a grand strategy can be as confusing and even lethal as not having one. George W. Bush had a grand strategy premised on “democracy” and “freedom”. Iraq and Afghanistan look like anything but these. Nevertheless, and the cynicism aside, what America appears to have got right is their approach to questions of international relations and a vibrant debate around interests. Walter Lipmann, the Pulitzer award winning columnist was not wrong when he wrote that the “people” developed a “veto” over policy. They were and continue to lie at the heart of any nation’s grand strategy. Beyond the ideal, the polling booth assures this.

There is a desperate need to start addressing such questions and issues in India if this is truly to be a nation that matters beyond the obvious and the immediate. This need not mean some huge and excessively funded project on grand strategy housed at a think tank or university department. To be sure, this would do little for the questions above. Instead, tweaking university syllabi to accommodate difficult questions around grand strategy may go some way in inspiring the sort of debate India perhaps needs if it makes it to the UN or Mars. Luckily, we have more than two books to get us there.

India and Her Grand Strategy

Brig Raj Shukla

In a recent article ( 03 Dec 2012 ) for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, entitled “ India’s Predicaments and its Grand Strategy,” Ashley J. Tellis recounts as to how Indian foreign policy has successfully navigated the international system through the six decades since independence. In doing so, the writer outlines the contours of India’s ‘grand strategy’ and recalls her success in surviving as a unified entity despite great poverty and diversity, rubbishing in the process Winston Churchill’s grandiose assertion that India was nothing more than a geographical term ; he also points to the nation’s courageous feat of preserving its strategic autonomy in the face of substantial material weakness.

The article also helps to revive an old debate about ‘grand strategy,’ which is significant because discussing ‘grand strategy’ is arduous business in India where in the view of some of its leading lights (Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani) the very thought is mimetic of western responses and defiles the Indian genius. So while we may not articulate a ‘grand strategy,’ we will do well to pursue one – in a pragmatic, understated and commonsensical manner. After all, China talks of ‘a peaceful rise’ but packs it with the punch of an annual defence budget of 180 billion dollars and a prescient military modernization programme which some analysts describe as the most massive in the history of mankind ; one that is set in precise timelines and choreographed with deft politico-military signaling of intent and capability through a series of Defence White Papers and periodic military manouveres. Whatever course we adopt, here are a few random thoughts, which may help to flag some criticalities in our emerging worldview / strategic outlook / grand strategy.

In the course of the article, Mr Tellis seems to attribute to India’s foreign policy a certain sagacity that is debatable – most visible in his analysis of India’s view of itself and the three constants that in the writer’s view define India’s relationship with the world. There is need for sombre reflection and course correction here, if India is to find the right strategic balance in its security discourse. While there cannot be any quarrel with the theoretical exposition of the first constant (abiding obsession with economic growth), its practice has been drifty -while India may have rightly identified the economic well being of its people as the cornerstone of its foreign policy, precious little was done beyond platitudinous sloganeering to secure it – it is common knowledge that our economic liberalization was forced more by quirk of circumstance than by sagacious policy. The second constant ( building state capacity and empowering its citizenry ) which expounds on the need to secure India’s internal challenges first, before proceeding to shape the external environment is also trite – external security challenges do not descend on nations only after they have stabilized internally ; so the advocacy of this sequential posturing, from ‘adjustment ( till we secure ourselves internally) ’ to ‘shaping ( once we do so) ’ as a tenet of our grand strategy is more the outcome of lazy thinking, rather than well thought through policy. The practice of the third constant (enhancing national security while minimizing security competition) has been most flawed. Our foreign policy in all these years has not been inclusive enough – it is held hostage to the worldview of a limited few amongst India’s politico – bureaucratic elite, specifically seeks to exclude the military in policy determination and is unschooled and cagey about leveraging hard power – it therefore lacks the robustness and military dynamic so essential to the addressal of external security challenges.

If the successful practice of foreign policy is about the skilful calibration of force and diplomacy, India is in Jurassic Park. While strategic restraint is indeed the hallmark of wisdom in statecraft, we may like to distinguish it from the strategic muddle that seems to have defined many of our responses to crisis situations in the past, reducing in the process our strategic restraint to a forced choice as against a carefully chosen alternative. Which nation would have the heart of its parliament and its commercial capital struck and responded in the pusillanimous manner that India did ? There is much that is amiss in our national security discourse and structures – our defence spending has been hampered by false debates ( guns vs butter and defence vs development, issues that have long since been harmonised by more enterprising nations), our acquisition structures are outdated, there is perilous lack of integration between various institutions dealing with national security as also amongst the armed forces themselves ; our Civil Military relations are archaic when compared to models in most mature democracies and our security debates unlike the economic ones are not deep enough. They feed on diluted truths while failing to nail the real lies – the humbug of indigenization for instance which has distorted and substituted the Nehruvian concept of self reliance in high end, critical, strategic areas with a strange kind of obstructionism driven largely by considerations of turf. If this is the punctuation of our strategic grammar, is it a matter of surprise that our instruments of force are not utilitarian enough ?

To turn to the subject of strategic autonomy, we will do well to remember that the successful pursuit of such an objective is not only about steering clear of rival camps but also about the astute practice of strategic creativity to adjust to a changing international order in accordance with the national interest ; it is not only about shunning cavorting alliance seekers but also about embracing them when our needs so dictate. While India is no longer a wallflower – she is indeed being feted and wooed, her foreign policy does not give her the muscle, wit, confidence and poise to respond meaningfully to the overtures of prospective friends.

Ashley surmises that India’s Grand Strategy is what it is because of its decided introspective tenor that in turn drives the transformation of its political, economic and social management. In the years to come, however, India’s Grand Strategy will have to undergo dramatic introspection and transformation – principally in the domain of appropriate leveraging of instruments of force and the military dynamic – then and only then, will our Grand Strategy become wholesome enough to be able to navigate through the challenges and predicaments of the future. Ashley Tellis through his fulsome compliments has been kind ; we must not however delude ourselves into believing that our Grand Strategy, National Security and Foreign Policies are in fine shape – they are in many critical areas wholly out of synch with the needs of a modern nation state. While it is good to march to the beat of your own drum, the strains of that beat must be in synch with modern sensibilities and not remain perpetually wedded to dated ideological baggage. We need a ‘grand strategy’ that allows us to zoom economically while pausing periodically to translate some of that prowess to deliverable military capability.

India Does Do Grand Strategy

FEATURES | March 5, 2013
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On three key fronts – relations with Pakistan, China and the US – the neoliberal school is in the ascendant

India has been described as a major power without strategic thinking. This, of course, is not true. But how does India – one of the future possible great powers of this century – operate in the world? Contrary to the view that India lumbers along without any great reflection, calculation and direction, successive governments in New Delhi have adopted an increasingly ‘neoliberal’ course, avoiding the temptation of lapsing back into pure ‘Nehruvianism’ or pursuing a potentially dangerous hyper-realism. This is clear enough from the way in which India has dealt with its three greatest strategic interlocutors: Pakistan, China and the US.

India has a very lively strategic debate between three major schools of thought – Nehruvians (followers of India’s first prime minister), neoliberals and hyper-realists. After the Cold War, Indian strategists took aim primarily at the reigning grand strategic orthodoxy – Nehruvianism. Some 20 years later, Nehruvianism no longer rules the strategic landscape with the imperiousness it enjoyed from 1947 to 1989. Indeed, it is being supplanted by a new orthodoxy – neoliberalism. To make sense of what India has been doing in the world since 1989, one has to understand how India’s neoliberals think, and how they differ from members of the other two schools.

Nehruvian grand strategy is premissed on the view that relations between states depend on the nature of communication and contact between governments and peoples. The Nehruvian formula is a simple one: the greater the degree of communication and contact, the fewer the misunderstandings and misperceptions, and the greater the chances of stability, cooperation and peace. The inherent community of interests between states and societies is disclosed and made apparent by transparency and interaction. In short, Nehruvians are classic internationalists who place their bets on diplomacy and transnational understanding.

India’s hyper-realists are at the opposite end of the grand strategic spectrum. For them, the verities of Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Morgenthau and, to be sure, the Indian classics of statecraft, including the Arthashastra, are immutable across time and geographical space. States need to look after themselves in a dangerous world, and power, force and war are the essence of international relations. Security comes from strength – military strength, in particular – a balance of power is the basis for international order, and all the rest is strategic illusion. In other words, no amount of communication and contact between states and societies can overcome the dangers of an international anarchy.

Neoliberals base their view of grand strategy on the primacy of economics in international relations. In an ever-globalizing world, trade, investment flows and technology are the keys to economic growth, internal social and political resilience, as well as relative national power. Grand strategy in such a world must be built around a robust free market economy that is receptive to open trade, the flow of capital, and the diffusion of technology. In dealing with other countries, a state must look to the impact of its policies on trade, investment and access to technology. Neoliberals argue that economic rationality encourages grand strategy pragmatism, and that governments must constantly be attentive to the economic costs and benefits of policy choices.

Any grand strategic disposition must have a macro-historical view of the world – in respect of where the world is at the present, how it got to where it did, and where it is going. Of course, Nehruvians, hyper-realists and neoliberals differ on this macro-history. Nehruvians see the globalizing world as the latest stage of a rampant, ugly capitalism. Hyper-realists, on the other hand, regard the world as timeless: the relations of states are always more or less the same, in every historical epoch and in every geographical theatre, and are marked by competition and contention between the great powers. Globalization benefits some powers and hurts others. For these hyper-realists, all great powers are imperialists. Neoliberals, for their part, accept that the present era is a global capitalist era par excellence, and that capitalism is the basis for human prosperity and emancipation – if only states would recognize and work with the power of the market. Imperialism in the classical sense is therefore over, and it is folly to use the term in an era of globalization, since even the imperial powers cannot altogether control their economic destinies. Bref, Nehruvians are suspicious of capitalism, hyper-realists are ambivalent toward it, and neoliberals are enthusiastic capitalist ‘roadsters.’

Nehruvians, hyper-realists and neoliberals differ significantly over India’s policies toward Pakistan, China and the US. Nehruvians see Pakistan and China as ‘brother enemies’ – that is, as fellow Asians with whom there has been a terrible mix-up. On this logic, communication and contact, relentless diplomatic negotiations, and a correct appreciation of the historical context are the ways to end these largely fraternal quarrels. The US, on the other hand, is an imperialist power that must be held at bay and brought around to more progressive policies and stances. In a world where capitalism is rampant, and where the Western powers still rule the world, Pakistan and China are potential allies in a coalition of resistance that also includes the non-aligned nations and enlightened Europeans.

Hyper-realists take a quite different view. For them, Pakistan and, even more so China, are the main antagonists. Pakistan is fading as a strategic threat, as it increasingly falls behind India economically. But China is rising to great power status, and like all great powers is manifestly imperialist in its ambitions. For hyper-realists, India must pivot to take account of China. In a world where China’s rise is seemingly unstoppable, the US is a possible ally. But given the US’s frailties and its physical distance from Asia, India must possess sufficient military strength to hold its own against China. Since the US will first and foremost look to its own security, and will eventually leave Asia to its own devices, India must build a coalition of resistance against China – with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and others in Southeast Asia.

Neoliberals differ with both Nehruvians and hyper-realists. For them, as for the hyper-realists, Pakistan is a secondary threat, and negotiation and compromise with Islamabad is a rational policy. On the other hand, globalization has made China a colossus – one that will soon rival and most likely overtake the US in real economic terms. The US held the key to India’s entry into a globalized world after the Cold War. It was also a quasi-ally against Islamic extremism and terrorism, a mediator with Pakistan, and a potential check to Chinese power.

The US remains a strategic prop against Pakistan, China, and Islamic extremism and terrorism. India’s policies toward Pakistan, China and the US must, in the end, be based on a correct reading of world history. Contemporary history suggests that national power and security depend on high levels of economic growth. Until India attains self-sustaining growth in the way that China did from the late 1970s onward, it will remain a second-rank and vulnerable power. Economic growth and economic instruments in diplomacy are vital. India must find a way to manage its quarrels such that these do not impede its growth prospects, and New Delhi must use economic linkages as a tool of conflict management. Negotiating with others without economic strength is futile, just as the use and threat of force against competitors, particularly China, is infeasible when China is India’s largest trading partner. Neoliberals thus conclude that India should follow Deng Xiaoping’s dictum of keeping a low profile and not giving offence in international relations when one is relatively weak and dependent.

The ideas of the three Indian schools are today dispersed, if unevenly, across India’s strategic community – among officials and politicians, in the armed forces and intelligence agencies, within think tanks and the media, and in the general public. In recent years, however, the neoliberals have steadily gained ground, such that India is today in a Nehruvian-neoliberal transition, with neoliberalism increasingly in the ascendant. Government policies are not exclusively neoliberal, but neoliberalism does describe the commanding heights of Indian grand strategy, if not every turn and nuance.

India’s Pakistan policies certainly bear the marks of both Nehruvianism and neoliberalism. Since the 1990s, despite the scourge of cross-border terrorism (and despite the early 2013 Kashmir clash), New Delhi has maintained communication and contact with Pakistan. The six-plus-two formula with Pakistan dates back to the mid-1990s. The dialogue focusses on Kashmir and security, but also on trade, river waters, the smaller territorial disputes (Sir Creek, Siachen), and normalization (visas, tourism, culture, sports). From the early 2000s, India has engaged in both public and secret diplomacy over Kashmir – to the point of near agreement back in 2008. Most importantly, New Delhi has emphasized economic engagement – particularly trade. The insistence on trade may have finally paid off when Pakistan announced last year that it would give India most favoured nation status and reduce the number of goods that could not be traded between the two countries. For its part, New Delhi has quietly encouraged its border states to develop better relations with their Pakistani neighbours. Indian pragmatism was also evident after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008: New Delhi refused to be provoked into a confrontation with Islamabad (unlike in 2001 when, after the attack on the Indian Parliament, India mobilized all of its forces along the Pakistan border). Instead, India has insisted that, in spite of terrorism, it will continue to talk to Pakistan, and to push the process of bilateral trade and normalization.

India’s China policy also clearly bears the imprint of the Nehruvian-neoliberal approach. Here again, while there have been ups and downs in the relationship, India’s broad approach has been consistent. In 1988, India dropped its insistence that a more fully normalized relationship must await resolution of the border conflict. With the end of the Cold War, New Delhi deepened the relationship, broadening it to encompass four pillars: border negotiations, confidence building, summits and trade. The border negotiations, begun in 1981, were continued – even intensified – as more senior officials on both sides took charge. By 2005, the two governments had agreed on the protocols and principles that would form the basis for a final agreement. In 1993 and 1996, the two countries signed into existence a series of confidence-building measures in order to stabilize the line of control. Summits and foreign ministers’ meetings between the two sides increased in frequency – bilaterally, as well as in various regional settings, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS, the G20 and the UN. The two sides have made common cause on climate change, global economic reforms, and intervention in the Arab world, where their interests have more or less coincided. Of the four pillars, it is trade and investment that has shown the greatest dynamism: bilateral trade grew from a mere US $200 million annually in the middle 1990s to nearly US $75 billion in 2011, and is slated to easily exceed US $100 billion by 2015. China is already India’s biggest trading partner; New Delhi now wants Chinese investment, particularly in infrastructure, transport and alternative energy – areas in which China leads in global terms. Above all, India has refused to be provoked by Chinese actions or statements, and in the manner of Deng Xiaoping, has kept its head down and literally got on with business. Put differently, India is pulling a China on China.

India’s relations with the US have been transformed since the end of the Cold War and, ironically, particularly after the nuclear tests of 1998. While India will not sign up as a formal ally of the US, it now sees the US as a strategic asset – in South Asia, in the rest of Asia, and indeed globally (particularly in relation to Islamic extremism and terrorism). After 50 years of suspicion and worry about the US’s policies toward South Asia – and Pakistan specifically – New Delhi today views Washington’s influence in Islamabad and the region as a huge benefit. Having for years hoped that the US would largely withdraw from Asia, its current anxiety is that the US might actually do so, thereby allowing China to dominate the continent. Globally, the US was the great imperialist. In India’s new thinking, America’s fight against extremism and terrorism is crucial to India’s security – even if India considers the last Iraq war and some of the US’s methods questionable, even counterproductive. India has been pragmatic and business-like with the US over the past 15 years – from the nuclear dialogue begun in the immediate aftermath of its 1998 tests, to the India-US nuclear deal a decade later, and also increasing military cooperation (exercises, dialogues, intelligence sharing, arms purchases, technology co-development, and military support during the first Gulf war and after 9/11). The economic relationship has flowered, even though there are concerns on the US side about India’s lack of openness to trade and investment. While China remains India’s biggest trade partner, the US is one of India’s biggest investors. Indian positions on various global issues are certainly in tension with US preferences – on Palestine, on Iran, on intervention in Libya and Syria, on humanitarian intervention generally, on climate change, and on the Doha round of trade talks. Still, the two sides continue to see each other as strategic partners. In sum, India no longer regards the US as an imperial power; rather, the US has become a de facto ‘natural ally’ – so natural in terms of parallel interests that it need not be a formal ally.

What of achievements? What has India’s Nehruvianism-transitioning-to-neoliberalism achieved? First, India’s relations with Pakistan have scarcely ever been more stable. The steep reduction in violence in Kashmir and the perceptible decrease in cross-border incursions are at least in part due to the policy of pragmatic engagement with Pakistan. The two militaries continue to be watchful of each other, but since the confrontation of 2001-2002, they have returned to normal peacetime positions and deployments. While the six-plus-two formula has not produced any breakthroughs on the big issues, it has led to two significant changes: a more sensible visa regime between the two countries, and steadily increasing trade. The effects of these changes will only be known in the long-term, but they will surely enlarge the constituencies within Pakistan for better relations and more rational policy. Indeed, there has already been an evolution in Pakistani attitudes: Pakistan’s own internal troubles, but also India’s policies of restraint and engagement, have led to far more moderate Pakistani public opinion on the Kashmir dispute and on overall relations with India than at any time since the 1970s.

Second, with Beijing, New Delhi has made greater progress toward stability and resolution of the basic disputes. While there are latent tensions – over Tibet, the border, increases in military deployments, China’s Indian Ocean and India’s South China Sea presence – the relationship has never been better in terms of the tone of pronouncements, the bonhomie at official meetings, and the exchange of information and goods. Concretely, India has achieved several things. The 2005 agreement laid out the broad contours of a final agreement on the border conflict. The two sides have exchanged maps on the so-called middle sector of the border as well. They have instituted a bilateral strategic dialogue, allowing them over time to develop a better sense of each other’s security concerns and policies. China has gradually taken a more neutral stance on the Kashmir dispute. It has also begun to affirm India’s much greater international status: Beijing has stated that the UN must be reformed, and that India will necessarily play a greater role in international affairs. While this evidently falls short of endorsing India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, it is moving China in that direction. A long-term worry for India is the diversion of China’s southern rivers, which curl around into northeastern India, to its northern provinces. The Chinese leadership has been made aware of Indian concerns, and China has shared some information on river water matters with India. Beijing has publicly refuted the notion that it seeks to divert the rivers.

Third, setting aside its ideological view of the US, New Delhi has helped to bring Washington around to a more positive view of Indian power. Clearly, this has been helped by the rise of China and the opening of the Indian economy after 1991. Not only does the US take a more positive view of India’s role in international politics, but it is also far more tolerant than it was during the Cold War of India’s desire for strategic autonomy on global and regional issues. Washington’s investments in Indian power include the nuclear deal and arms sales, as well as high-technology cooperation in various fields – including nanotechnology and bio-pharmaceuticals. Diplomatically, the Americans have leaned on Pakistan (though India would like Washington to do more), endorsed India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the Security Council, and urged India to play a bigger role in East and Southeast Asia.

India’s grand strategic shift from a deeply rooted Nehruvianism to an increasingly neoliberal posture is apparent in both ideational and policy changes since the late 1980s. Contrary to the view held by many Indians and foreigners in respect of India’s security, the country has proceeded consistently along a more pragmatic path, has adjusted to the post-Cold War environment, and has successfully engaged its most important interlocutors. Of course, a neoliberal grand strategy has not solved all of India’s security problems, and has not resolved the long-enduring quarrels with Pakistan and China. However, it has stabilized relations and set in motion trends that could soften the rough edges around those quarrels, leading to eventual resolution. And it stands to reason that an India that is more secure and confident in respect of Pakistan, China and the US will be in a position to play a bigger role in global governance and international security. India’s neoliberal grand strategy may therefore in the end serve not only the national interest, but also more cosmopolitan purposes.

Kanti Bajpai is Professor and Vice Dean (Research) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Grand Strategy for India 2020 and Beyond

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V. Krishnappa and Princy Marin George

Publisher: Pentagon Security International
ISBN: 978-81-8274-657-2
Price: Rs. 995/- [Download E-book]

About the Book

This volume presents perspectives on cross-cutting issues of importance to India’s grand strategy in the second decade of the 21st century.

Twenty-five specialists drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds provide incisive arguments for framing grand strategy in a complex world. Authors provide expert perspectives on wide ranging security concerns including India’s domestic socio-economic concerns; need for reforms in military institutions; India’s regional and global foreign policy; and global commons issues. The volume also addresses emerging security threats such as left wing extremism, international terrorism, climate change and energy security, and the impact of these issue areas in framing of strategy for India.

The authors in this volume address the following important questions: What might India do to build a cohesive and peaceful domestic order in the coming decades? What should be India’s China and Pakistan strategy? How could India foster a consensus on the global commons that serve India’s interests and values? What strategic framework will optimise India’s efforts to foster a stable and peaceful neighbourhood?


1. Grand Strategy for the First Half of the 21st Century
— K. Subrahmanyam
2. Strategic Challenges and Risks in a Globalising World: An Indian Perspective
— N.S. Sisodia
3. The Global Commons and India’s National Security Strategy
— Kanti Bajpai
4. Grand Ideology, Bland Strategy
— Rahul Sagar
5. Reforming the Military Institutions and National Security Strategy
— Rumel Dahiya
6. The Maritime Dimension in India’s National Strategy
— Sarabjeet Singh Parmar
7. Left Wing Extremism—Challenges and Approach
— Vivek Chadha
8. Thinking about Counter Terrorism in India’s National Strategy
— S. Kalyanaraman
9. International Terrorism and National Security Strategy
— Deepa Prakash
10. Nuclear Weapons and India’s National Security Strategy
— Rajesh Basrur
11. Nuclear Doctrine and Conflict
— Ali Ahmed
12. Strategic Implications of Human Capital Today
— G. Balatchandirane
13. Economic Policy Dimensions of India’s International Strategy
— Ajay Shah
14. Contemporary Health Security Challenges, and National Strategies
— Rajib Dasgupta
15. South Asia in India’s National Security Strategy
— Arvind Gupta
16. A Note on the China-India-US Triangle and India’s Strategy
— Tanvi Madan
17. Dealing with the Endgame: India and the Af-Pak Puzzle
— Rudra Chaudhuri
18. Nation Building in Afghanistan and India’s National Strategy
— Shanthie Mariet D’Souza
19. Russia in India’s National Strategy
— Smita Purushottam
20. Europe in Indian Strategy
— Dhruva Jaishankar
21. One World 2020: A Decade-long Vision for India’s Relations with the United Nations
— Manu Bhagavan
22. India and United Nations Peacekeeping: A 2020 Perspective
— Satish Nambiar
23. Energy in India’s National Security Strategy
— Devika Sharma
24. Climate Change and India’s National Strategy
— Sandeep Sengupta
25. Water Diplomacy and India’s National Strategy
— Medha Bisht

About the Editors

Krishnappa Venkatshamy
Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). His research interests include India’s grand strategy, global governance, security politics of Israel and comparative strategic cultures. His recent publications include- Global Power Shifts and Strategic Transition in Asia (ed.), Academic Foundation, 2009, India’s Grand Strategic Thought and Practice*(ed.), Routledge, (forthcoming November 2012). He previously led the IDSA National Strategy Project (INSP). He is currently leading the Strategic Trends 2050 Project, an interdisciplinary study of long-term strategic futures, sponsored by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Princy George
Research Associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and works with the Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and UN Centre and the IDSA National Strategy Project. Her current research focuses on the recent Arab revolutions, and the impacts of these on the region and the Western Sahel states. Her other research interests include India’s grand strategy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About the Contributors

Ali Ahmed, Assistant Professor at the Nelson Mandela Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
Kanti Bajpai, Teaches at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
G. Balatchandirane, Teaches economic history at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi
Rajesh M. Basrur, Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Manu Bhagavan, Associate Professor in the Department of History, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York
Medha Bisht, Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Vivek Chadha, Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Rudra Chaudhuri, Lecturer (South Asian Security and Strategic Studies) at the Department of War Studies and the India Institute, King’s College London
Rumel Dahiya, Deputy Director-General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Rajib Dasgupta, Associate Professor at the Center of Social Medicine & Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore
Arvind Gupta, Director General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Dhruva Jaishankar, Program Officer with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington DC
S. Kalyanraman, Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Tanvi Madan, Doctoral candidate of Public Policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin
Satish Nambiar, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Sarabjeet Singh Parmar, Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Deepa Prakash, Instructor of Political Science at Depauw University, Indiana
Smita Purushottam, India’s Ambassador to Venezuela
Rahul Sagar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton University
Sandeep Sengupta, Doctoral candidate in International Relations at Oxford University
Ajay Shah, Co-leads the Macro/Finance Group at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi
Devika Sharma, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi
N.S. Sisodia, Former Director-General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
K. Subrahmanyam, Former Director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

February 3, 2012

India’s Grand Strategy

Indian strategic thinker K. Subrahmanyam passed away on February 2, 2011. This article is the first of two adapted by Dhruva Jaishankar from four of Subrahmanyam’s unpublished essays on grand strategy, Indian foreign relations, defence policy and nuclear deterrence.

India is unusual in having had a grand strategy at Independence to meet the external and internal challenges to its growth in order to become a major international actor. The Constituent Assembly’s oath in 1947 implied that India would promote world peace for the welfare of mankind, including its own population, and it would assume its rightful global position by developing itself to the standards of the industrialised world. This was the strategic goal. It had to be achieved in a world recovering from a war-ravaged economy and entering the Cold War. At Independence, India was a downtrodden former colony with 80 per cent poverty, a life expectancy of 31, food shortages and low literacy. India’s grand strategy during the second half of the 20th century, therefore, involved a policy of non-alignment to deal with external security problems, the adoption of the Indian Constitution to address governance challenges, and a partly centrally planned development strategy to accelerate growth.

Non-alignment, while a strategy, is often mistaken for ideology. Nehru first articulated it as a means to safeguard Indian security in 1946, after Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, but before independence or Partition plans had been decided. But Nehru was not enthusiastic about a non-aligned movement. He favoured remaining in the Commonwealth and procuring defence equipment and licences from the UK, France and the US. It was only when the Soviet Union emerged as a more reliable provider of cheap but adequate military equipment against an increasingly hostile China that India’s security interests aligned with Moscow’s. Even then, India made defence deals in the 1970s and the 1980s with France and the UK, and also with the Reagan administration for jet engines. Non-alignment was therefore pragmatic, and meant that India could get support from a superpower if its national security was threatened.

While campaigning against nuclear weapons, India’s leadership from Nehru onwards also kept the nuclear option alive. India was compelled to declare itself a nuclear weapon power in 1998, only after the international community legitimised nuclear weapons by indefinitely extending the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and China armed Pakistan with nuclear weapons to balance India. Once India declared its nuclear capability, the attitudes of major powers changed.

The other aspects of India’s grand strategy related to governance and development. No other country is comparable to India in terms of its diversity of religions, languages and ethnicities. Consequently, unity is only possible under a secular, pluralistic, democratic and quasi-federal constitution. Although India’s Constitution implied accountable governance and the delivery of goods and services by the state, grave deficiencies emerged. Inadequate justice and law enforcement, unacceptable poverty and widespread illiteracy all persist, but universal adult franchise has empowered the previously disadvantaged to a level incomparable to elsewhere in the decolonised world. Although the record of the Election Commission is something to be proud of, deteriorating governance remains a serious internal security threat.

By century’s end, India was a pluralistic and secular democracy on the path to becoming the world’s third largest economy, with 62 per cent of the population above the poverty line despite its having grown fourfold. India had also dismantled the licence-permit-quota raj, demonstrated its technological prowess, and developed sizeable foreign exchange reserves. Despite such positive trends, poverty and illiteracy have still regrettably not been eliminated. Many have wondered whether India’s development could not have been expedited by following another model, such as China’s. They forget that Chinese communism allowed 30-40 million deaths from starvation. Independent India, by contrast, has never experienced that thanks to its democracy. Moreover, China benefited from Soviet assistance in the 1950s and external investments in the 1980s. Nor were many US allies significantly better off than India. It was only after the rehabilitation of Western Europe and Japan that available capital enabled the development of the Asian Tigers. India (along with the US) is unusual for democratising before industrialising. The emergence of most major nations — Britain, France, Russia, Japan and Germany — was viewed with concern by others, often resulting in war. While China’s rise causes concern today, India’s emergence does not.

The 21st century is vastly different from the 20th century. The number of states, their populations, their productivity and their standards of living have all increased manifold. The transportation and information revolutions have globalised the international system. Humanity as a whole has become more sensitised to gender, racial, and religious inequality and inequality of opportunity. Migration and demographic trends mean that pluralism will be required for peace and domestic stability. Violent conflict between great powers is becoming ever more unthinkable, and major states are today competing in peace, not war. There are many reasons for this: the existence of nuclear weapons, the establishment of the UN, powerful military alliances, decolonisation, the success of armed insurgencies and the spread of democracy. In this century, knowledge — not weapons — will be the currency of power and will determine the international hierarchy.

However, there are still challenges and threats to peaceful human progress and the preservation of pluralistic and democratic societies, including terrorism, failed states, one-party rule, pandemics and organised crime. The 20th century world order is unable to adequately address these challenges. The NPT cannot address terrorism resulting from acquiring nuclear weapons, old military alliances cannot deal with challenges such as Afghanistan, and the UN is not designed to defend pluralism, secularism, and democracy.

India’s gravest security problem is jehadi terrorism, centred in Pakistan. Pakistan has been using terrorism as a state policy since it acquired nuclear weapons with Chinese help and American acquiescence in the 1980s. The United States’ motives at the time were anti-Soviet, but China’s were anti-India. India, of roughly equal population to China, has proved that a developing country can grow rapidly without sacrificing either democracy or pluralism. Along with American influence, India’s rise threatens China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia, and Pakistan serves as a convenient springboard by which to counter both.

Thus the real question about the future world order is whether it is to be democratic and pluralistic, or dominated by one-party oligarchies that prioritise social harmony over individual rights. If the US remains the world’s predominant power, and China is second, India will be the swing power. It will therefore have three options: partnering with the US and other pluralistic, secular and democratic countries; joining hands with China at the risk of betraying the values of its Constitution and freedom struggle; and remaining both politically and ideologically non-aligned, even if against its own ideals. Many Indians worry about an unequal partnership with the US because they do not appreciate the full potential of India as a knowledge power. In the years ahead, the US will require a reservoir of skilled manpower, and India will require green energy and agricultural technology to grow faster. The emerging Indo-US partnership is not about containing China. It is about defending Indian values from the challenges of both one-party rule and jehadism, and realising a future in which poverty and illiteracy are alleviated.

February 4, 2012

India’s Strategic Challenges

Indian strategic thinker K. Subrahmanyam passed away on February 2, 2011. This article is the second of two adapted by Dhruva Jaishankar from four of Subrahmanyam’s unpublished essays on grand strategy, Indian foreign relations, defence policy, and nuclear deterrence

Among the strategic challenges facing India are those relating to defence policy, nuclear strategy, and governance. India is the world’s fourth-largest military power and has fought five wars against neighbours that are today nuclear-armed revisionist states advancing territorial claims against it. But India has lacked an ability to formulate future-oriented defence policies, managing only because of short-term measures, blunders by its adversaries, and force superiority in its favour. The cardinal mistake of India’s leaders was flouting the principle that chiefs of staff should never be in command of their forces. Separating command and staff functions enables the service chiefs to focus on defence planning and policymaking, including procurement, human resources, and military diplomacy. Theatre commanders handle the administration, daily management, operational planning, and operational training of forces. This is the practice of all large, modern armed forces, but there is no demand to rectify this shortcoming in India.

At present, defence policymaking is ad hoc, short-term, and service-specific. The state of readiness of forces and jointness of operations, training, and planning have not been addressed. Although a Chief of Defence Staff has been discussed, the position is not in harmony with India’s size and democratic structure; a Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee under a full-time chairman is more appropriate. The National Security Council, which had been expected to address policy incoherence and inadequate strategic planning, burdened itself with executive responsibilities. The services intelligence directorates are ill-equipped for long-term intelligence assessments, and area specialists are few, suggesting a greater need for think tanks. The armed forces have also not fully though through important aspects of nuclear policy and strategy. In a nuclear era, the role of the military becomes, essentially, preventing wars from breaking out through appropriate weapons acquisitions, force deployment patterns, the development of infrastructure, military exercises, and defence diplomacy. This is a far more demanding task than peacetime operations in a pre-nuclear age.

India is a reluctant nuclear power. After the Bangladesh war, India opted for a “recessed deterrence”, but this position could not be sustained after a 1979 intelligence assessment that Pakistan was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Indo-Pakistani nuclear deterrence is often viewed in the West through the prism of the Cold War, with doubts about the viability of India’s no-first-use doctrine and concerns about an arms race. But theirs is not an unconstrained competition, and India’s position has always been that deterrence is not proportionate to the number of warheads a country faces. No-first-use is also at the essence of deterrence, as the threat of a first strike is plain aggression. Although China was first in announcing a no-first-use policy, its caveat is that areas considered parts of China are excluded. The more important challenge with China is not nuclear confrontation but its defying international regimes and norms.

As a revisionist state espousing terror as state policy, Pakistan’s conception of deterrence is radically different from that generally accepted by the international community. Pakistan’s lesson from various crises over the last twenty-five years was that India had been successfully deterred. Other than perhaps during Operation Parakram, India, not being a revisionist state, has never been deterred because it never contemplated aggression against Pakistan. Successive Indian governments have proclaimed that a stable and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interests, but these sentiments have never been reciprocated. Given Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent, India must resort to engagement as the only viable strategy against terrorism. India is handicapped because Pakistan defines itself as anti-Indian, and its army is against developing commercial or social contacts with India. As Pakistan requires American aid, the US has a better chance of increasing Pakistani dependency in order to persuade it to give up terrorism as a state policy.

A final note on governance: It is a myth that India’s political classes submit themselves to public accountability at every election. India’s first-past-the-post elections, in which as little as 25 per cent support can produce victory, results in patronage politics that favour some sections of the population at the expense of the majority. Democracy therefore does not always result in the fair delivery of goods and services to the entire population. Non-inclusive growth is consequently not a result of globalisation but of patronage politics. Politicians also often have a vested interest in keeping voters poor, as it costs less to buy their votes. As long as the first-past-the-post system prevails, corruption, caste politics, and the poor delivery of goods and services by the state will continue, and the elimination of poverty and illiteracy will be hampered. The simplest solution is run-off elections if candidates are unable to attain a majority, but second-preference voting is another possibility.

India’s foreign relations: The transformation of the Indo-US relationship from estranged democracies to strategic partners is bound to take time, and relations should not be measured by the number of successful transactions. The shared values of both countries — democracy, pluralism, tolerance, openness, and respect for freedoms and human rights — acquire a greater prominence in building a more peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, secure, and sustainable world. The relationship must therefore be assessed on its progress in setting up structures that make it more effective in countering the challenges of the 21st century. In addition to terrorism, failing states, organised crime, pandemics, and nuclear proliferation, there are threats to various global commons — such as international waters, cyber space, and outer space — which cannot be addressed unilaterally or through NATO-like military alliances. In any other age, China’s rapid and inevitable rise would also probably have led to war, but that is unthinkable in a nuclearised and globalised era. US advantages in its competition with China include China’s ageing and unfavourable demographics, US immigration policies, and its culture of innovation. But to sustain its preeminence, the US still has every incentive to enter into a partnership with India, a democratic, pluralistic, and secular country with a young population that will soon exceed China’s.

What about Indian interests? If not sabotaged by poor governance and corruption, India’s growth will make it the world’s third-largest economy. It could then try to develop further on its own, but will be unable to bridge the vast gaps between it and the US and China. It could cooperate with China, but the Chinese model is inadequate for a diverse country such as India. Finally, it could partner with the US, a country that is home to a large Indian diaspora and shares India’s values. Other countries — including Japan, France, and Germany — face similar concerns as India. Together, the leaders of the democratic world must face the combined challenges of authoritarianism and jehadism, which cannot be countered by military means alone. Comprehensive and cooperative action by democracies, who constitute more than half the world’s population for the first time in history, is therefore necessary. Global governance must rely upon networks of bilateral strategic partnerships among democratic powers that manage rather than impose outcomes, and provide a powerful response to the challenges they face.

Defence must be India’s way

by Narayan Ramachandran — June 14, 2013 4:37 pm

India’s grand strategy has been, is and will be unique. It must be developed even more keenly.

It has once again become fashionable in international foreign policy circles to lament about India’s lack of strategic culture. The Economist kicked off the latest round of this criticism with its March 2013 article called “Can India become a great power”? The latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine has a lead article by Boston University Professor Manjari Chatterjee Miller titled “India’s feeble foreign policy”.

The Economist article about India’s great power potential is rather weak. It is written strictly from a militarist point of view with little appreciation of India’s millennial history of being pacifist. The article details the military capabilities of India, China, Pakistan and Indonesia. On most military ‘things’, India’s capacity is about a third or half that of China’s – for instance India has 870 combat capable aircraft to China’s 1900. The article ends with the observation that “India’s strategic shortcomings are a liability and an obstacle to India’s dreams of becoming a 21st Century world power”. If you were a cynical observer, you would read the article as an international corporate manifesto to sell more arms to India. Read more objectively, the article mixes its time-frames in the development of a nation. Like China before it, India needs to focus on its economic development and on creating prosperity for its citizens before it begins to spend on a regional arms race to keep pace with its richer Asian neighbour. Can India become a great power? Perhaps. But it is not time yet.

Miller’s article in Foreign Affairs is extensively reported, based on her conversations with foreign policy mandarins in Delhi. Miller focuses on the mechanics and intent of India’s policy and finds strategic objective wanting. She writes of policy being made by individual foreign-service officers without a strategic umbrella. In contrast to the US and China, India lacks an intellectual ecosystem for policy – experts, think tanks and governments – that debate and recommend policy, she says. There is, of course, some truth to this current description of Indian foreign policy. Since Independence, it was first the purview of one man (Jawaharlal Nehru) and since has largely been the domain of a select few IFS officers with little engagement with civil society and think tanks. But as the author herself admits, this is changing with more think tanks and influencers making their voices heard and with the foreign office planning an expansion of the Foreign Service.

While these articles are recent, the original seed of the idea that India lacks a strategic culture was sown in a seminal article by George Tanham of the Rand Institute in a paper entitled “Indian Strategic Thought” written in 1992. Tanham describes the purpose of his report thus “this study focuses on the historical, geographic and cultural factors influencing India’s strategic thinking: how India’s past has shaped present day conceptions of India’s military power and national security; how Indian elites view their strategic positions vis a vis their neighbours, the Indian Ocean and great powers alignments; whether Indian thinking follows a reasonable consistent logic and direction; and what this might imply for India’s long-term capability to shape its regional security environment”.

Tanham had wide access to the defence and policy establishment of that time – General Krishnaswami Sundarji (of Operation Blue Star fame), Dr K Subrahmanyam (of Institute of Defence Study and Analysis) and Admiral KK Nayyar. Tanham’s 80-page paper is comprehensive. The first chapter on “Influences on India’s Strategic Thinking” is written with nuance and wisdom. It is, one of the most incisive short pieces that captures the idea of Indian thought. This section is littered with gems, for example, “India is a dazzlingly diverse country. No ruler or dynasty has been able to impose a single ideology or doctrine on its population” and “Indians express pride in the spread of their culture and note that they had the greatest influence abroad through their ideas, rather than through military or political coercion”.

Tanham captures India’s security strategy succinctly in the second chapter. He describes this as a series of mandalas (concentric rings). The core is India – and its strategic purpose is unity – the immediate next ring encompasses all of the sub-continent. The third, includes China and Russia and so on. The chapter tours through Pakistan, non-alignment, China, and the Indian Ocean. Tanham writes, “strategically India sees itself as a friendly regional peacekeeper”.

Tanham’s third chapter entitled ‘Propositions’ is the one in which he makes a disastrous leap. He connects India’s historical lack of political union and the Hindu concepts of time and fate and says India derives its lacunae for strategy and planning from there. To this magic potion, Tanham throws in three more ingredients: the agricultural basis of India’s culture (which country was not agricultural before it became developed?), the rigid structure of Indian society and the bureaucracy of India’s administrative services. And there you have it: a brew that adds up to a lack of a grand strategy – and the defining view since then from outside idea.

There is much truth in the details provided by each of these articles about India. And we would do well to understand and improve upon those. But these external observers miss the most central point. My colleague Nitin Pai wrote in the Business Standard in response to the Economist article that India’s grand strategy is and should be national unity. To that I would add that India’s offence has historically and contemporaneously been synonymous with defence. From an expansionist, militarist point of view, the word defence is often substituted with the pejorative ‘defensive’. In a game of semantics, soft power and weak power are used interchangeably. But time and again through history we have learnt that soft outlasts hard. At Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote “India is going to be and is bound to be a country that counts in world affairs, not I hope in the military sense, but in many other senses, which are more important and effective in the end”. Rather than follow the herd, India must develop this unique strategy even more keenly. It must become a voice for defence over offence.

A world that has seen two major wars and numerous minor ones in the last hundred years is not yet in a position to appreciate tolerance, pacifism and unity as India’s grand strategy. But in a world where there are likely to be a dozen or more nuclear powers, the old rules are no longer likely to apply. The benefit of historical wisdom suggests that that will be India’s contribution to a post-modern World order.

Grand Strategy

By Nitin Pai on 14th January 2011 in Foreign Affairs, Security
India has always had a grand strategy: to keep the country united

N S Sisodia, IDSA’s director-general, makes the case in the Indian Express today for the strategic affairs community to develop and articulate a grand strategy for India. IDSA recently launched the National Strategy Project (INSP) that aims to bring together a wide range of scholars, analysts and experts and jointly shape a grand strategy. (Disclosure: a couple of us at Takshashila are involved in this project).

Now, that government-related institutions are beginning to think systematically about the big “Why” questions of foreign and national security policies is a good thing. (ICRIER had launched a National Interest Project in 2007). Does India need a grand strategy that will inform and influence policymakers across ministries, across political party lines and over time? Obviously, yes. Should this be publicly articulated? Most certainly—it might not convince everyone, but doing so offers us a way to assess whether or not policymakers are sticking to the given script.

But is it true that India has lacked a grand strategy all this while?

Two answers are usually offered: the first, made famous by George Tanham, suggests that India lacks coherent strategic thinking. Unlike many other countries, the Indian government’s decision-making remains behind a wall of secrecy, records remain locked up in archives or personal collections and few people close to the action write books on contemporary events, if they write at all. So it is fair for information-starved academic scholars to conclude that the absence of evidence is really evidence of absence—forget grand, they would say, New Delhi lacks strategy.

The second answer contends that non-alignment was India’s grand strategy from independence to the end of the Cold War. During the early Nehruvian-era, non-alignment had realist underpinnings, but in 1962—when Nehru requested Kennedy for US air power support—non-alignment became a grand slogan. But what are bureaucracies for if not to provide policy continuity? Non-alignment continued to be worshipped by India’s politicians and intellectuals even after Indira Gandhi—in an act of hard realism—signed a treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971. It was only when the Cold War ended that non-alignment became a painfully obvious anachronism. The deity had vanished, leaving the worshippers lost and confused.

So it is perhaps not a coincidence that Tanham’s view gained traction in India the early 1990s, just after the Cold War ended.

Actually, the case of the missing grand strategy remained unsolved because they were looking in the wrong place. India’s leaders, at least from the Mauryas to the Mughals to Manmohan Singh, have always had a grand strategy. And it is a very simple one—to unite India and keep it united. Scholars of international relations have missed this because India’s grand strategy has been largely domestic in its focus. As K M Panikkar laments, India’s rulers have always been preoccupied with the subcontinent. Even as it indicates a lack of interest in extra-subcontinental geopolitics, it suggests that they were not “bereft of coherent strategic thinking”.

From Chandragupta’s empire building to Aurangzeb’s military expeditions to the Deccan to the Indian republic’s foreign policy, the grand strategy is consistent—bringing the whole of the Indian subcontinent under their rule and keeping it that way. Non-alignment was not grand strategy, but rather, an approach that followed from the grand strategy. And Tanham was wrong. The survival and security of the state, the most parsimonious definition of the national interest, has been and remains India’s grand strategy. It should remain so.

That said, can India afford such parsimony in its strategic approach towards the twenty-first century? Not quite, because to the extent that India’s grand strategy caused India’s leaders to be inward-looking, both the opportunities and threats emanating from outside have been neglected. In the highly competitive times of the twenty-first century, India cannot afford to miss either. So there is a case to rethink grand strategy. There is a need to shake up the foreign policy and security establishment from one that was defending a weak India from a world that was out to get us, to promoting the interests of a stronger India in a world where there are opportunities as there are threats.

Planning without a strategy

N. S. Sisodia : Fri Jan 14 2011, 03:01 hrs
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Nearly two decades ago, an American scholar, George Tanham, published a monograph in which he argued that India was bereft of coherent strategic thinking. Many other scholars have bemoaned the absence of systematic Indian strategic thought. A young Indian scholar, Harsh Pant, asserts that due to a lack of strategic thinking, economic growth serves as a surrogate for national strategy. In a recent article (‘Knowing what’s good for us’, IE, December 24), diplomat and former chairman of the national security advisory board, K. Shankar Bajpai, notes the lack of “a national consensus on our strategic concerns” and asserts that, “even our apparatus for interacting with the world is inadequate, in concepts and in mechanics”.
Following the Kargil war, a taskforce on defence reforms had emphasised the vital need for a national security strategy to enable meaningful and long-term defence planning. Yet, even after a decade no such document is in evidence, at least not in the public domain.

Its absence may have two explanations. Either a national security or grand strategy does exist but its disclosure is not considered desirable. Alternatively, there may be a view that an exercise to debate a national security strategy in the public domain is quite unnecessary. It is simply impractical, according to this view, to expect democratic governments of different dispositions to adhere to some master document on national security strategy. They have to take sequential, practical decisions on issues as they arise, and a formal articulation will only restrain their freedom of action.

Since India does not have a grand strategy or a national security strategy or even a white paper, perhaps it is desirable to consider whether we need to have one and what would an exercise to formulate such a strategy entail.

It is not unusual sometimes to hear even some knowledgeable people say that a grand strategy is relevant only for countries indulging in great power politics.

India — a non-aligned country which won its freedom through a non-violent struggle — did not need one. To dispel such notions it needs to be clarified that grand strategy is simply an academic term, referring to plans and policies undertaken to balance national ends and means at the highest possible level. Grand strategy includes strategies dealing with the military, economic and diplomatic resources of a country, as well as trade-offs across those domains. It thus encompasses all elements of national power — military, economic, technological, diplomatic, social, cultural and even psychological.

Influential elements within government, political parties and the strategic elite believe, justifiably, that India’s non-alignment, crafted by Jawaharlal Nehru, was itself a grand strategy. In a bipolar world, Nehru had correctly reasoned that India’s national interests would be best served through non-alignment and the leadership of the newly independent countries. That strategy gave India a stature and influence well beyond its economic and military weight.

But six decades later, India and the world have transformed in fundamental ways. India’s economy has opened up and has seen an unprecedented dynamism; the world economy has been rapidly globalising; Asia is becoming the new theatre of geopolitical and economic action; new powers are rising in a multipolar world; and power is increasingly being diffused among non-state actors. Can a strategy designed for a different era be effective today? Or does the ongoing transformation at least call for a fresh look at our old assumptions? At the very least, a vigorous debate is needed to revalidate the relevance of the non-alignment strategy in a changed world order.

What can one expect from such an exercise to review India’s grand strategy? First, it will help us reassess how the global and regional security environment has changed; which emerging strategic trends are shaping the future; and what the principal challenges are to our national interests and objectives. It will also help us determine priorities among competing objectives. As resources are finite, not all goals can be attained simultaneously. Without inter se priority among competing objectives, all interest and threats would be treated as equal. That would be a fundamental flaw in the strategy. As Frederick the Great had aptly observed: “He who attempts to defend too much defends nothing.” Once core interests and objectives are determined, a strategy can be formulated to apply to all elements of national resources to secure those interests and achieve those objectives in the most effective manner. The exercise will involve trade-offs between competing ends and available resources.

The process of strategy formulation, especially in a democracy, is not easy but essential. A strategy developed through an open debate will impart legitimacy to the process and its outcomes. It will promote greater awareness of the rationale behind policies and key decisions. The process will help develop a strategic vision, a long-term view on core issues and minimise knee-jerk reactions and ad hoc decisions.

Second, a national security strategy, once placed in the public domain, would facilitate inter-agency coherence in the government and within the Central and state governments in effectively dealing with the country’s complex security challenges. Not too long ago, in handling the Naxal problem, discordant voices were heard from the home ministry, the army, the paramilitary forces and the state governments.

Third, the process will help involve India’s political parties in debates concerning strategy more actively. National security and foreign policy are not particularly important in determining electoral fortunes. In an era of coalition politics, regional parties may influence foreign-policy making, but so far they have been indifferent to issues of national security and foreign policies. It is vital that they are connected to the process and participate in the debates. Their marginalisation can result in ad hoc approaches when they happen to be in the driving seat.

Fourth, in the theatre of international politics, a state has to interact with many actors, some of them competitors and others potential adversaries. In the absence of a sound strategy, other actors can choose the space on which competition takes place. Those who wait to make decisions may be forced to accept the choices made by others.

Finally, is a grand strategy valid for all times to come? It must be emphasised, especially in the present context, that grand strategy is not a mechanical exercise but a dynamic process, which requires constant adaptation to shifting conditions and circumstances. Strategists should examine assumptions when necessary and modify them, if warranted. Grand strategy debates thus never end, they resurface in different forms and different shapes. In making their strategic decisions leaders may not follow a master document on grand strategy, but their decisions will be made in the backdrop of informed debates.

The writer is director-general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi

– See more at:

Towards an Indian Grand Strategy

Jaideep A. Prabhu / In Commentary, Featured, Foreign Affairs, Longform / March 6, 2012

There is no clear definition of grand strategy that is fully satisfactory. The more one thinks about it, the more one realises how complex, uncertain, and even ephemeral its environment is to hazard embarking on such an endeavour. The Prussian military theorist, Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, explained this experience of mental clumsiness,

…the way out of this difficulty is to argue that a theory need not be a positive doctrine, a sort of manual for action…it is an analytical investigation leading to a close acquaintance with the subject; applied to experience – in our case [strategy] – it leads to a thorough familiarity with it. The closer it comes to that goal, the more it proceeds from the objective form of a science to the subjective form of a skill.1

An essential prerequisite for thinking about grand strategy is a knowledge of history – only the past holds the secret (and not so secret) prejudices, unpleasant realities, motivations, and long-term goals of states that have shaped the present and will inform the future.

Grand strategy, then, requires the willingness to think about the future and goals of an entity, and to match its aims to its resources. It requires a flexibility to adapt as political, economic, and military conditions change over time. Above all, grand strategy must be rooted in the realisation that it is the political will that must drive the economic, social, and military towards the ultimate ends. All these requirements must be founded in a realistic appraisal of one’s own nature – devoid of myths, sophistry, and truisms – as well as others.

Given the importance of preparing for the future, one would assume that there is a long history of texts on the matter, from which modern scholars and policy makers can draw and compare. Oddly, this is not the case – in the Occident, Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian Wars is the only work that pontificates on grand strategy. Others, such as Tacitus, Niccolò Machiavelli, Antoine-Henri Jomini, von Clausewitz, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Basil Liddel Hart, and Guiliho Douhet were tacticians and strategists of war more than grand strategists. Very few figures have been grand strategists The West’s first true grand strategist after Thucydides was Adolf Hitler, over two thousand years later, even if his weltanshauung was utterly inflexible and led to his ultimate destruction. Undoubtedly, there were many practicioners of grand strategy in the intervening years – Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, Abraham Lincoln, Otto von Bismarck – but few left behind a body of work that those who came after could use to guide them. As a result, George Kennan is considered the modern Urvater of grand strategy.

Similarly, the Occident has only Chanakya (also known as Kautilya) to offer, but since then, has been silent – at least in written form – on the subject of grand strategy until K. Subrahmanyam (KS), again in the twentieth century. Like the West, the East has had many tacticians and strategists – Sun Tzu, Wei Liao-tzu, Wu Tzu, Huang Shih-Kung – and practicioners of grand strategy – Ashoka, Chandragupta II, Rajendra Chola, Akbar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Zhou Enlai – but few had articulated or deliberated on their thoughts.

It is said that India lacks a strategic culture. George Tanham, perhaps the first to study Indian strategic culture, is accredited with making so bold a claim in his famous essay, Indian Strategic Thought: An Interpretive Essay. Although this has spurred a wave of Indian scholars (Amitabh Mattoo, Kanti Bajpai, Sumit Ganguly, Varun Sahni) leaping to criticise Tanham, the fact remains that even if India did have a strategic culture, it is at best “implicit and inchoate.” It is sad that Shivshankar Menon, National Security Advisor of India, entirely missed Tanham’s point when he cited the Arthashastra and India’s two epics (!), the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as evidence of Indian strategic culture at the recent Subbu Memorial Lecture in January 2012. Tanham’s point, perhaps better articulated by Alastair Johnston’s Thinking About Strategic Culture, is that the most important ingredient in any strategic culture is the production or introduction of new knowledge. In simpler terms, nations learn to think strategically by being forced to do so repeatedly and rigorously. The Government of India’s absolute refusal to declassify its documents as per the thirty-year rule and the needless difficulty in gaining access to policy makers has crushed any hope of this. Until recently, independent India had produced only one intellectual who could think not only in terms of strategy but grand strategy as well – KS.

Given this lacuna of thinking about grand strategy, one dare not ask if India has a grand strategy, or what an Indian grand strategy should look like. As KS points out, India already had a grand strategy at independence – non-alignment, or in updated jargon, strategic autonomy. Unfortunately, as is wont to happen in personality-cult obsessed India, this grand strategy ossified into an ideology, hurting India’s interests as well as her standing in the world community of nations. Since 1991, India has had what some might consider a sort of grand strategy – economic growth. The thinking in New Delhi seemed to be that India should first raise her per capita income to a certain amount, say $10,000 in purchasing power parity (PPP), and then she could start playing a global role. However, that is not how the world works; while India has been raising her gross domestic product (GDP), the world around her has changed, requiring different responses and affecting India’s growth prospects. In any case, as discussed earlier, grand strategy operates in the nexus between the political, economic, social, and the military, and India’s somewhat naive growth ‘grand strategy’ does not fit the bill.

In an ideal world, grand strategy would be concerned only with maintenance – the aim would be simply to retain the status quo. The era in which we live, however, induces rapid change. India’s institutions, which had been set up to function in a world accustomed to the Hindu rate of growth – slow, steady, and predictable – are inadequate and ill-equipped to deal with this new era. In a world that is changing so quickly, it makes little sense to create grand strategies for the century or for the next fifty years – in such long time spans, there come into play too many variables and too much can change. An effective grand strategy in today’s environment would look ahead not more than ten years. In the next decade, barring fundamental changes to the world order, India will remain a regional power with global ambitions. Therefore, an Indian grand strategy today must preoccupy itself with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China in India’s immediate mandala, and the United States, Russia, Japan, and Australia in the second circle of states. Other regions of the world – the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and South America – will remain sources of vital resources but will not be areas of primary concern for India. For while India would wish to maintain good relations with states in these regions and boost bilateral trade, their present role on India’s immediate political horizon is limited. In India’s immediate mandala, she has to balance threat, food and water shortage, economic stagnation, increased fundamentalism, and communal fissures.

The Immediate Mandala

A grand strategy is more of a weltanshauung than a strategy – insofar as offering a concrete plan of action, it does not. This is primarily because, as Helmuth von Moltke (Karl Bernhard Graf, as opposed to his nephew, Johann Ludwig) explained, “No plan of battle survives contact with the enemy.” The following must be taken in a similar spirit, as a warning of where New Delhi must pay attention, and what the general tenor of available options might be, rather than a formula. It is the job of strategy and logistics to carry the state through the winning stretch, which are more suited to adjusting for local and temporal particularities.

Another point to be made is India’s systemic deficiency in the exercise of power – over the millennia, India’s ethos has been a welcoming one. Indians welcomed foreign ideas, foreign trade, foreign religions, foreign people, and even foreign armies, and in so doing, left their imprint on the foreigners. Culturally, Hinduism places a great premium on restraint and reconciliation as the epics richly illustrate. Even today, the civilian government is clearly separated from the military. While this is a good thing for a nascent democracy (in that it puts a dampener on the military’s adventurism), it is not a suitable state of affairs for a state looking to take its place at the big boys’ table. As a result, Indians are not used to decisive action; but to engage in world politics, Indian leaders must not only understand the utility of power but appreciate its exercise.

Bhutan: A predominantly agricultural country, Bhutan remains among the least developed countries in the world. Exports to India of hydropower have boosted growth in recent years, and since the eradication of anti-India (ULFA) rebels in the southwest in 2003, relations with India have been strong. Bhutan’s relations with India have always been ambiguous and the Bhutanese have worried that India might annex Bhutan as she did Sikkim in 1975. However, after the Chinese plot to assassinate Jigme Singye Wangchuk was exposed (China hoped to blame India and alienate Bhutan from India), Thimpu kept little contact with Beijing, reducing India’s worry of a Chinese foothold this side of the Himalayas. Bhutan transitioned from a monarchy to a bicameral parliamentary democracy between 2008 and 2011. Presently, the pro-monarchist, conservative Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) control 45 of the 47 seats.

However, an issue that may cause some turmoil in Bhutan is the issue of Bhutanese refugees (mostly in Nepal) of Nepali origin and new ideas such as political criticism have been greeted with unease. India needs to watch for threats to the nascent Bhutanese democracy, particularly from Maoist (and possibly pro-Nepal/China) forces in Nepal acting in concert with the refugees. Indeed, Thimpu may well start looking to Beijing again to create some breathing space for itself. To cement Bhutanese ties to India, New Delhi should strengthen trade, provide economic assistance, and increase cultural exchange at various levels but particularly educational scholarships – providing Thimpu with an Indian weltanshauung will reduce some of the apprehensions the Bhutanese might feel regarding the survival of their traditions.

Maldives: India has traditionally enjoyed good relations with the Maldives but the recent rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the coup must concern New Delhi. India has already bungled in an appropriate response to the coup in February 2012, but it may be able to salvage a little dignity yet. India’s primary worry is the further increase of Wahhabism in the tiny archipelago and its influence on the government, particularly with so many Indians and Indian-owned businesses in the Maldives, not to mention its strategic value.

To prevent a further erosion of Indian influence in the Maldives, India has few options. Close relations with the government and economic aid are no guarantee of amiable relations as US relations with Pakistan for the past 65 years have proven. Outright hostility will only make louder whatever anti-India voices exist in the government and in the country. India’s only available policy would be to wait and watch – and hope for promising results in the elections next year. A key development would be the opposition’s reactions to the elections and the results, which India could maximise on.

Nepal: India’s relationship with Nepal has also been fraught, as one would expect in any relationship between two countries with enormous and ineliminable disparities in power. Nepal’s people have always seen Indian officials as rude and condescending, treating Nepal almost as another Indian territory. India’s annexation of Sikkim (which Nepal sees as part of a ‘Greater Nepal’) worried Kathmandu and King Birendra Shah pushed for a reform of the trade and transit treaty with India. The issue was finally resolved in April 1990 after a complete blockage of Nepal by India. Not surprisingly, Nepal has made overtures to China and Pakistan and even purchased weapons from the former in violation of the 1950 treaty with India. Nonetheless, India attitudes towards Nepal have forced Nepal to seek greater autonomy. Although relations between India and Nepal are cordial today, the tiny Himalayan state chafes at India’s natural but unwanted influence over Nepal’s politics and society.

A brutal decade-long civil war rocked Nepal from 1996 to 2006 in which the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – now the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN(M)) – came to power. Drawing inspiration from China’s Mao Tse-tung and the Peruvian Sendero Luminoso, it is no surprise the party has been accused of horrendous violations of human rights and is on the terrorist list of several European countries and the United States. The CPN(M) has been overtly anti-India since its split from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre) in 1994. In 2001, it coordinated with other communist parties in South Asia and formed the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), which included terror outfits such as the People’s War Group and the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Despite arming the monarchists, Indian assistance to Nepal, mainly small arms, did not swing the tide of battle. Refusing to get bogged down in a guerrilla war on foreign terrain may have seemed wise (an allergy the Indian army acquired after the mishandled Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) mission in Sri Lanka), but the political ramifications today are not much better. An overtly anti-India group that has links with the Naxalites holding power in Kathmandu is no recipe for peaceful sleep in New Delhi. At this point, India would be best served by offering generous economic packages and increased trade and cultural ties. The CPN(M), despite winning the war, won the elections held in 2008 with only 33% of the votes – cultivation of other parties and some indulgence in bilateral relations could weaken the CPN(M)’s anti-India card with the voters.

Sri Lanka: Relations between India and Sri Lanka have generally been friendly, though a contemporary observer may find that hard to believe. In 1971, India helped quash a communist coup against Sri Lankan prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Although no official treaty was signed, Sri Lanka was understood to be under an Indian security umbrella in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, as clashes between the Sinhalese and Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority escalated, it is reported that elements of the Tamil Nadu state government, playing populist politics, funded, armed, and trained the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The Indian government found itself dragged into the conflict as public anger in Tamil Nadu began to rise in response to Sri Lankan human rights violations and the flood of refugees started increasing. In 1987, India sent in the IPKF and brokered a deal between the Sri Lankan government and most of the Tamil groups. However, the LTTE rejected the deal and targeted Indian soldiers. Many Sri Lankans also saw the deal as giving India too much influence in Sri Lankan internal affairs. After 1,000 casualties, India withdrew the IPKF. As fighting ebbed and flowed, the situation became critical for the government in 2000. This time, and since, New Delhi has stood idly by, afraid of getting caught between Colombo and Madras (Chennai).

India’s inaction has been capitalised upon by Pakistan and China, the former in supplying weapons to Colombo in its war against the LTTE, and the latter in the development of Hambantota and Colombo ports. Although Pakistan’s influence has waned, China has veritably made Sri Lanka into another one of its pearls, a clear threat to Indian interests. Unfortunately for India, politics between New Delhi and Madras preclude her from engaging with Sri Lanka with a free hand. On the one hand, it has been suggested that India demand accountability from Sri Lanka over Colombo’s human rights violations against the Tamil minority during the 26-year long Sri Lankan Civil War. Another burr under Madras’ saddle has been the issue of Indian fishermen being apprehended or killed by Sri Lankan naval patrols in the Palk Strait (over 530 have been killed in the past 30 years). Tamil leaders such as Vaiko Gopalasamy and Jayalalitha Jayaram have accused the Centre of not doing enough to defend Tamil fishermen.

On the other hand, such bullying by India, however justified from New Delhi’s or international perspectives, will only push Colombo closer towards Beijing and Islamabad. It is keeping this in mind that South Block recently gave up India’s traditional fishing rights within Sri Lankan territorial waters. India has also been very active in development activities in Sri Lanka – medical camps for people displaced in the civil war have been conducted, the construction of 50,000 houses for displaced people has been undertaken, agricultural aid has been extended, railway lines, airports, harbours, and power stations have been renovated or constructed, small industry has been encouraged, trade has been strengthened, and agreements for cultural and educational exchange have been signed. Nonetheless, the issue of Tamil rights remains prickly so soon after the war, and India needs to treat carefully and not give in to interest groups, be they international issue advocacy groups or from Madras.

Bangladesh: For a country in whose establishment India played a pivotal role, relations have soured between India and Bangladesh faster than yesterday’s milk. South Block feels that negotiations with Bangladesh are not going anywhere while Dhaka feels ignored by India. There are a series of existing disputes between Bangladesh and India – Farakka barrage, Teen Bhiga Corridor, illegal immigration, transit facilities, border security, territorial waters – but none of these are serious in themselves. Rather, they are a symptom of something far more worrisome for New Delhi, and the consequences have been irksome – India’s (or at least the Congress (I)) obsession with domestically fabricated issues (Emergency, nationalisation, economic obtuseness) and neglect of foreign affairs save the Washington-Moscow circuit. To India’s South Asian neighbours, who refuse to understand Indian ineptitude, it comes off as condescension by the biggest boy on the block. As Bangladesh’s former foreign secretary Farooq Sobhan explained,

Bangladesh should be important to India but it has been a relationship which has been relegated, in football terms, to the third division. We want to be back on your list of priorities…A lot of our problems, certainly on Bangladesh’s side, stem from a certain degree of ignorance. But, then, India also is so ‘obsessed’ with Pakistan that Bangladesh gets marginalized.

An Indian grand strategy needs to understand the engines of instability in Bangladesh over the next ten years, which will affect Bangladesh’s stance on India. India’s eastern neighbour is an unstable democracy – internecine battles between Sheikh Hasina’s Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) and Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have made development slow. In 2004, there was even an assassination attempt on Sheikh Hasina, which the intended victim has blamed on her rival, Khaleda Zia. From India’s perspective, although the BNP (and its Jamaat-e-Islami allies) are more centre-right and anti-communist, they are also more critical of India and take tougher positions on disputes (though their anti-India position did not garner them any votes in the 2008 parliamentary elections). The BNP is notorious for flirting with China (Chittagong port, deep sea facility at Sonadia island, transit facilities similar to those of India) to offset living in India’s massive hegemonic shadow.

Bangladesh’s population has almost tripled from approximately 65 million at the time of its creation to about 160 million today. Other than micro-states, the country already has the highest population density, and with economic growth at about 5.5% over the past decade, unemployment stands at 5% (and underemployment at 40%). Poverty and hunger abound – almost 65 million people live at less than $1 per day. This is a recipe for growth in crime, terror, and/or a massive influx of refugees into India, trying to escape to dire conditions in Bangladesh. A more stability-enhancing and responsible Indian grand strategy must take this into account and rather than push an Indian agenda out of national pride, help stabilise a neighbour teetering on failure. There is much both countries can gain from each other, and Bangladesh should want to grow on India’s coat tails as the Indian economy continues to roar ahead. A grand strategy must look past the tactical inconveniences to the larger gain.

Afghanistan: India has enjoyed a long history of close political and cultural ties with Afghanistan, though that may not have always been seen that way – India was one of the few countries that recognised the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), the puppet state set up by the Soviets after their invasion in 1979. Relations soured considerably under the Taliban, who took power in 1996 – India did not even recognise the government (only Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates did). Afghanistan is of vital importance to India as it could provide yet another gateway to the Central Asian republics (the other being Iran) and their mineral resources, particularly oil, gas, and uranium. Obviously, Afghanistan also serves as a counterweight to Pakistan.

India has demonstrated true political acuity in dealing with Afghanistan, perhaps far better than it has with any other country in the world. While the Indian government extends aid to assist in the rebuilding of Afghanistan – schools, hospitals, roads, energy, the parliament building, telecom, health facilities – Indian soft power has won the hearts and minds of Afghans. The Indian soap opera, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, runs at 90% audience penetration in the war-ravaged country. In the information age, it is not the side with the bigger army, but the side with the better story that wins, and India has already got the better story.

The next phase in India-Afghanistan relations will be much trickier. While the Afghan on the street seems very pleasantly disposed towards India, the Taliban are a different beast. With the imminent US and European withdrawal and Hamid Karzai’s government being seen as weak, illegitimate, and corrupt, it is likely that the Taliban will return to power. The Taliban have never been friendly to India but as Ajai Shukla, an Indian defence journalist, argues, they had little reason to be so. From their perspective, leaving aside the jihadi talk, India has always backed the side opposed to them – the DRA, the Northern Alliance, the US-led coalition in 2001. Today, however, the Taliban is a much weaker entity and has also split into two factions, the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network. While the latter is an Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)-backed group, the Quetta Shura has appeared genuinely interested in talks. Indeed, the US has already engaged with them to map out the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan and a few voices in New Delhi not afraid to think outside the box have advocated this as well – in January 2010, when Indian Minister for External Affairs, SM Krishna, told then UK foreign secretary David Milliband that India did not recognise any ‘good’ Taliban as there were no ‘good’ terrorists, then Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao hinted at a rapprochement with factions like the Quetta Shura, saying that any integration process in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led, and should include

those who abjure violence, give up armed struggle and terrorism and are willing to abide by the values of democracy, pluralism and human rights as enshrined in the Afghan Constitution.

India is not an imperialist power, and does not seek to impose her values on others. There should be no problem in talking to the Quetta Shura if it is willing to lay down its arms and engage in a democratic process – after all, India deals with much worse in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. New Delhi does not wish to dictate Afghan lifestyle or change long-held traditions. Its only goal is to ensure stability and prosperity in the country that has not known peace for over 30 years to the mutual benefit of both…and limit Pakistani, Chinese or other foreign influence in the country.

Pakistan: India’s history with Pakistan needs no introduction – cut out of India in 1947 due to demands for a Muslim homeland (oddly by secularists more than the religious groups), the Islamic nation has fought four wars with India in 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Pakistan’s raison d’etre has been to be a Muslim opposite of India, and with such a flimsy basis for national cohesion, is today, teetering on the brink of failure. It is from this crisis of Muslim identity that all crises between the two nations has erupted – Junagadh, Kashmir, and Bangladesh (the sharing of the Indus system waters is perhaps one of the few issues not tainted by this). As a matter of tactics rather than principle, the problems of asymmetric warfare (Pakistani support of terrorists), the nuclear arms race, and trade barriers have arisen.

Pakistan’s threat that they would die if we shoot seems to have worked exceedingly well in putting a curb on any harsh measures planned against the state, by the US or India. The notion of nuclear weapons in the hands to Islamic terrorists justifies the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) assessment that Pakistan is the most dangerous place on earth. Indian foreign policy hawks have been egging the government on to conduct military strikes against Pakistan’s trump card, its nuclear facilities. That option is a mirage that only the most ignorant mention – first, any leak of radiation from Pakistani nuclear facilities will almost certainly affect India. Second, Pakistan’s uranium enrichment plants are far less radioactive than India’s plutonium enrichment laboratories – any retaliatory strike by Pakistan would hurt India more than anything India could inflict upon Pakistan. Third, Pakistani facilities are far more isolated (due to their military nature) than Indian nuclear sites – the damage to Indian cities is far likelier and deadlier than a similar attack on Kahuta.

Given the lack of the military option, India can take solace in her victory in another war – after years of appealing to the international community, it is widely accepted now that most leads on terrorism lead to Pakistan. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s ill-begotten nation has lost all credibility with other nations, so much so that when Islamabad approached the US with a proposal to have a nuclear deal similar to that the United States had signed with India, US officials did not hesitate to bluntly reject the idea, saying, “India is a responsible nuclear power – you have AQ Khan.” The United States has tried to convince South Block that in a nuclearised South Asia, a stable Pakistan is in India’s interest too. However, the US calculus is entirely different from India’s. On the other side of the planet, Pakistan is in no way an existential threat for Washington, nor has the US earned the honour of being the ISI’s primary target. An Indian grand strategy needs to ask the following three questions:

Is Pakistan’s retrograde inevitable?
Will a secession of Balochistan and Pakhtunistan be to India’s benefit?
What will happen to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?
Although statistically not impossible, Pakistan’s downward spiral does seem difficult to stop. The medicine is the most bitter Pakistani security forces will have to swallow – the dehyphenation of India and abandonment of a default anti-India stance as their raison d’etre in favour of a transparent, peaceful, and law-abiding political process and governance. It should be no surprise that any civilian government in Pakistan that has ever contemplated such a manoeuvre has found itself abruptly ousted. If the main fount of Pakistani power – the security apparatus – insists upon maintaining their old ways of supporting the Taliban, cross-border terrorism, and nuclear blackmail, India has no incentive to assist in Pakistan’s stability.

However, a balkanisation of Pakistan is not an occasion for glee in India either. With the (probable) creation of Balochistan and Pakhtunistan, it remains to be seen if Pakistani Punjab and Sindh can tolerate each other either. While Punjab became the poster child of the new nation’s martial spirit, Sindh was home to a large muhajir community which has never been completely accepted in Pakistan; while the former has more fertile land, the latter has access to the sea. India could very well find itself across from two or four new states, and the question of the effect of an independent Punjab on Khalistani sentiments also must be considered. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Balochistan or Pakhtunistan will be friendly to India – indeed, Pakhtun ambitions may clash with Indian objectives in Afghanistan (part of Pashtun claims lie in Afghanistan), and Balochis are not known for a mild and tolerant version of Islam either.

The greatest worry India (and the US) has is the fate of nuclear weapons and technology were Pakistan to fragment. Already, the AQ Khan network has disseminated nuclear know-how to Iran, Syria, and North Korea, and further weakening of central authority may unleash even greater horrors. It is of note that while India and the US have lost much sleep over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, China has had little to say and even agreed to sell two more reactors to Pakistan in 2009, with negotiations on for a third. The US and India must make it clear to Beijing that China is partly responsible for any ill-conceived plan by Pakistan. Such impositions of responsibility are not new – during the Cold War, the US made it clear the Soviets understood their responsibility were Mao to ‘go off the reservation’ as it were. Similarly, North Korea has been made China’s ward. It is perhaps prudent for India to hold regular talks with the US, Israel, and even Russia on Pakistani nuclear weapons.

If Pakistan were to collapse, most of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities would fall in Punjab. Barring the Chagai Hills and Wazir Khan Khosa – the two desert test sites in Balochistan – only the uranium enrichment facility at Golra Sharif (Islamabad Capital Territory), the uranium mine at Lakki (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), and the Karachi nuclear power plant and heavy water facility (Sindh) fall outside Punjab. It stands to reason, then, that Pakistan’s second largest and most prosperous province be considered the inheritor of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and Punjabi politics receive much more scholarly attention. A cursory look, however, suggests that a landlocked nuclear Punjab (with half the income of a unified Pakistan) would find it harder to maintain and further its nuclear programme or arsenal.

While it is obviously beneficial for India to have a stable and democratic Pakistan as a neighbour, it must be noted that Pakistan is yet to renounce terrorism against India and continues to build up its conventional and nuclear forces. Furthermore, it has not held to any security treaty between India and itself. Therefore, while Islamabad and Washington could ask fraternity, cooperation, and assistance out of New Delhi, supplication is off the table. What? No, sorry…the ship for a nuclear-free Pakistan has already been set adrift by the US and China.

China: After India’s nuclear tests in 1998, George Fernandes called China India’s ‘Enemy No. 1‘ and there is not, to date, a better encapsulation of post-1962 India-China relations. Before independence, Nehru had been close to Chiang Kaishek and his wife; they exchanged letters and Nehru, ever the fuzzy idealist, spoke in terms of civilisational strengths and values. The first blow to Nehru’s aspirations for good relations with China came when the Communists took power in 1949. The second blow came soon after in 1950 when they annexed Tibet. China was now on India’s doorstep.

Fully aware that India could not win a military conflict with China, Nehru tried to befriend the Chinese leadership and win them over with professions of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. The slogan, Hindi Chini bhai-bhai, was shattered in October 1962 when Chinese troops struck across Aksai Chin and the Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA). Since then, India has always viewed China with great suspicion, although she has reached out a few times to Beijing in an attempt to mend fences.

As of 2012, there are still skirmishes along the India-China border, China still claims Arunachal Pradesh and regularly makes difficulties for government officials from the state to get visas to China, Aksai Chin is still in Chinese hands, Beijing is the main obstacle in India gaining a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Gilgit-Baltistan has been leased by Pakistan to China and the latter is already moving troops into the region, Beijing maintains nuclear links with Islamabad, and continues to arm and assist Pakistan against India. Nonetheless, trade between the two nations crossed $75 billion in 2011 and is expected to hit $100 billion by 2015. Had the situation been less grim, it would be amusing to note that all this is carried out by China behind language similar to Nehru’s – said Wen Jiabao during his December 2010 visit to India,

India and China are two very populous countries with ancient civilizations. Friendship between the two countries has a time-honoured history, which can be dated back 2,000 years, and since the establishment of diplomatic ties between our two countries, in particular the last ten years, friendship and cooperation has made significant progress.

It is important for New Delhi to stop believing its self-perpetuated hype that sees India and China in competition – China is far ahead of India in almost every economic and military index. Worse is the utter nonsense about ‘Chindia’ espoused by Jairam Ramesh. The best example in recent history that resembles the India-China power dynamic is the equation between Russia and Britain in 1850 – Russia was no pushover as it would prove in the Crimean War three years later but the British Empire dominated the globe from Australia and India to Canada.

So what does India do when saama, daana, and danda are not possible and bheda is not applicable? A Kautilyan would suggest that India form an alliance with other powers until she has the means to enforce her rights. Our experience in the 20th century has taught us, however, that alliances are great instruments of war but are rather poor at maintaining a fruitful peace. It is not in India’s interest to commit prematurely to a clash without even knowing the parameters of the conflict. That does not mean that India accept Chinese suzerainty in South Asia. It is imperative that India strengthen her social, cultural, economic, and even military links with states in the region – the Central Asian and Southeast Asian states along with Russia, Japan, and Australia are vital in India’s balancing act with China. Any such ‘alliance’ India forges must take the shape of an entente amicale rather than an aggressive posture as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) assumed against the Soviet Union in 1949. These agreements would be trade treaties, agreements for cultural and military exchange, and an understanding that a cooperative effort would make Asia an independent zone of prosperity that it could not be if each state were on its own. China has already tried to establish such a framework, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), with itself at the centre, but an alternative would be a welcome choice among China’s neighbours. In the past, India has squandered opportunities to become a rival centre of power in Asia through its incompetence, ineptitude, and indecisiveness (and lack of a grand strategy).

Indian politicians must realise that they do not need the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) permission to assume a greater role in Asia, and seek to create an alternative to the Chinese narrative. Without upsetting the apple cart, New Delhi must deliver on its promises (since the late 1950s) to build roads, bunkers, airbases, and other defence infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh; there is much need to increase indigenous defence R&D before a larger percentage of defence procurement can be made indigenous; supercomputing capabilities must be expanded and improved upon; space assets must be created; ballistic missile defence (BMD) must be improved and implemented; the nuclear triad must be completed and proven reliable. This will be achieved much faster through cooperation with other friendly states who wish to have another option to a Chinese century. If India wishes to become another pole in the world – Asian – order, she must give prospective investors something worth believing in.

The Second Mandala

With the states of the next mandala, India retains fair to good relations. However, complacency should not be the reason for good relations to erode and fair relations to whither away. India shares many common interests with Australia, Japan, Russia, and the United States, and New Delhi’s hand in this region will involve military partnerships, nuclear cooperation, membership to international fora, piracy, and acquisition of high technology.

Australia: India-Australia relations have been in an upward trajectory since India began to liberalise its economy in 1991. Although recently plagued by problems with Canberra’s refusal to sell uranium to non-NPT signatories and Indian students increasingly coming under attack, both problems have been resolved amicably. Growth in trade has been good, doubling from $5 billion in 2005 to $10 billion in 2011, and is expected to double again to $40 billion by 2016. From New Delhi’s perspective, not only is Australia a destination for Indian graduate students and a source of liquid natural gas (LNG) and uranium, it is also a partner with shared concerns about the world economy, climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the fraying of Pakistan, piracy, the rise of China, and the reshaping of the global and Asian diplomatic order. Both states also share, being products of the British Empire, similar forms of government and are fellow members of the Commonwealth. Both countries already have a history of military cooperation, taking part in the Malabar 2007 naval exercises along with Japan and the United States.

There is much scope for India to cultivate this blossoming relationship over the next decade. While India provides Australia with a market hungry for Australian energy and technology, Australia provides India with a strategic partner in the Indian Ocean for scientific cooperation, curbing piracy, and watching Chinese ambitions. Whispers of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) close to conclusion exist, which would significantly strengthen ties and boost both economies.

Japan: India’s relations with Japan have always been cordial, and the two countries share a culture of social conservatism and Buddhism. Since World War II, Japan has been India’s largest donor and is today the third largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. While there has been a history of economic relations – India waived all damage claims from Japan in 1952, Japan has been a source of financial assistance to India since 1958, Japan was marked as the key partner in India’s ‘Look East’ policy in the 1980s – India’s position on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 have caused some unease in bilateral relations. Nonetheless, India and Japan signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2010, and Japan is a major investor in infrastructural projects in India (Delhi-Bombay Industrial Corridor, Dedicated Freight Corridor, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad).

The 2011 lifting of the Japanese ban on selling defence equipment to India has set the stage for even closer relations in the coming decade. With the Japanese economy shrinking in 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, Tokyo will welcome this move as much as New Delhi. While trade between the two countries will hit $14 billion this year, expansion of business into defence and nuclear hardware could see trade skyrocket, much to Japan’s advantage. Furthermore, India’s strength in software plays well to Japanese mastery of electronics hardware, and technology transfers could help the Indian economy leapfrog a phase of development.

However, Japan’s trade with China stood at $345 billion in 2011, and Tokyo would not want to disturb trade relations with its largest trading partner. This does not mean that the island is not watching the mainland closely – Japan has embarked on a military modernisation programme of its own and has increased its missile defence capabilities. Citing Chinese nuclear weapons (and delivery systems), military modernisation and growing defence spending as a global concern, Japan has increased the number of submarines in its navy from 16 to 22 and moved troops from the north to the south, across from China. The small island nation’s defence spending, though only 0.9% of its GDP, stood at $56 billion in 2011. Japan has already demonstrated its will, even eagerness, to invest in the Indian economy across a wide swath of sectors – infrastructure, electronics, automobiles, raw materials, defence. If India can build upon this economic cooperation, unofficial defence cooperation may not be too difficult to achieve in light of the common concerns.

Russia: Barring the United States, Russia is the only country in the world who can go toe to toe with China militarily. This behemoth of a country is a vital asset to India’s foreign policy, defence, and economic needs in the next decade. India enjoyed close relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and India still maintains good relations with Russia. A permanent member of the UNSC, Russia still carries some political clout in world affairs. Although saddled with corruption and a growing oligarchy, Russia’s economy grew at 7% from 1998 until 2008 when the global financial meltdown depressed growth to 4%. However, rising oil prices are sure to help the world’s largest exporter sustain a modicum of growth.

India’s three most sought-after objectives presently are energy, defence, and geopolitical influence, all three of which Russia can provide in abundance. Although India does not share Russia’ concern about the United States to the same degree, Russian and Indian interests are allied in many respects. Both watch warily as China moves from one growth milestone to the next; both are worried about the rise of political Islam and the associated terrorism; both wish for stability in the Central Asian republics; both are looking to new groupings such as BRICS to boost their international profile and economy; both are worried about US unilateralism.

Admittedly, there are differences too. Where Russia sees China as the world’s largest consumer of energy and the second-largest importer of oil, India worries that energy links do not expand into anything more substantive – Russia had in 1998 signaled its favour of a Russia-India-China strategic triangle, and may decide to go ahead with one side missing. Similarly, where India sees an opportunity for technology transfer and the creation of India’s own BMD, Russia sees US expansion of BMD into Eastern Europe as provocative. Furthermore, India’s ties with the West have taken a chunk out of Russia’s exports – the Indian military, which used to comprise of 70% Soviet hardware, has now let it slip to 60%, and India has slipped from Russia’s largest arms buyer to its second-largest. Nonetheless, Russia’s readiness to supply India with strategic platforms and technology that no other country will part with – such as nuclear submarines, cruise missiles, fifth generation fighters, and Sea-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) – maintains for that country a niche in a lucrative strategic sphere.

Indian officials complain, however, that Russia has made access to its economy very difficult bureaucratically if not politically. India needs to push corporate India’s interest in doing business in Russia and investing there over the next decade. While India’s ties with Russia are fairly secure in matters of defence, energy, nuclear cooperation, and geopolitical interests, India’s business interests could suffer as India’s purchases from Russia increase with the addition of nuclear reactors and fuel.

United States: India’s relations with the United States has had one major obstacle which has coloured all other aspects of their ties – Pakistan. The Pakistani entry into the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) in 1954 and US arms supplies to Pakistan have earned much ire from New Delhi. In America’s global chess game with the Soviet Union, Washington frequently overrode local concerns for (perceived) global gains. US pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan while selling it tanks and fighter jets seemed to India as duplicitous. Despite US aid to India far exceeding its aid to Pakistan, Foggy Bottom was not able to cash in on the good will of their assistance.

When the Cold War ended and India opened her economy, there was some hope of better ties between the two estranged democracies. India’s nuclear tests in 1998 riled US President Bill Clinton so much that the nuclear issue became almost as big a contaminant in India-US ties as Pakistan. It was under President George W. Bush that relations between the two countries finally bloomed – Bush’s understanding that Pakistan’s support of terrorism and nuclear proliferation was a clear and present danger to the world and his offer of civil nuclear cooperation and high technology trade with India softened the hearts of Indians. While progress has been slower under President Obama and new discontents have arisen – Iran, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), linking the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir to US difficulties in Afghanistan and Pakistan, India’s civil nuclear liability bill – relations seem on the upward swing. India has even purchased military equipment from the US and plans on bigger purchases in the future.

For all the public rhetoric about Sino-American cooperation and coexistence, the US is worried about China’s rise. Were it a largely economic rise like Japan’s and West Germany’s after World War II, China’s growth would not have set off warning bells in the Pentagon. Growing Chinese assertiveness, its military modernisation, and increased defence spending have caused the US to return to Asia. Obama’s visit to Australia in November 2011 and the expansion of US military power there was a clear signal that the US was not willing to accede to growing Chinese influence in the South Pacific.

India’s primary concern with the US is not to get drawn into an alliance. The US has a habit of demanding too much from its allies, and US interests may not be Indian interests everywhere in the world even though the two countries share many values. This is why India has remained dovish on China in its conversations with the US, for New Delhi does not wish to alarm the dragon prematurely. India must avoid needless entanglements the US seems to have an affinity for, first in Iraq, and now in Iran. Over the next ten years, India should focus on boosting its trade with the US and acquiring high technology in the defence field as well as for civilian and environmental applications. While India would remain a bulwark against Chinese expansion, it would be on New Delhi’s terms, not Washington’s. It is also vital for India to make her way into as many exclusive international fora as possible – the US has already declared support for Indian membership into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Wassenaar Arrangement, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and the Australia Group. Although the US has expressed its support for India’s permanent membership into the UNSC, the bid is currently held up by China’s objections.

It is in India’s interests that the US continue to hold the preeminent position in the world. Even though China is growing rapidly and will probably overtake the US in a couple of decades in at least some indices of development, it will not mean much until the wealth spreads beyond the CCP and a few hundred business tycoons to the Chinese people. Furthermore, the US has a huge technological edge over China which will buffer it for a little while longer. With US ability to attract international talent, there are many reasons for India to hope that the US economy will remain close to China’s, even if a little behind (its not the quantity of GDP but the quality of GDP that matters). In this capacity, India must foster close bilateral relations with the US – India’s rising economy needs US high tech and the US needs India’s markets. India’s economy and the US economy are at different phases – while one is in a labour intensive phase, the other is more services and technology oriented. This makes for a natural synergy between the two countries which New Delhi would be foolish to pass up.

Domestic pitfalls

No state can achieve any modicum of success unless its own house is in order. For India, the challenges that will beset it domestically are Herculean yet not impossible. The load-bearing pillars of Indian growth in the coming decade will be population, education, and energy. Undoubtedly, problems abound for New Delhi – defence, water, reforms of all stripes (economic, agricultural, tax, judiciary), communal tensions, terrorism. However, they will have a lesser footprint than the three horsemen of India’s apocalypse.

Population: With the population at 1.21 billion and growing at 1.4%, India represents one of the world’s largest markets as well as one its largest impending disasters. The benefits of economic growth cannot spread as widely or as fast if India adds, in effect, a Chile every year. While the world population ages, the Indian population’s average age will be 29 years in 2020 and have a dependency ratio of just 0.4%. This has been seen by many as a decisive advantage, a youth dividend, which will keep India growing when other economies slow down. However, this is based on the assumption that all these young people will be gainfully employed – between 2010 and 2030, India will add 241 million new people to its workforce, a whopping 12 million per year. However, unemployment is at 9.4% according to government statistics and underemployment at least as high – the youth dividend could easily turn into a youth bulge. Another problem the Indian population faces is the sex ratio – 1.09%, meaning 917 girls to every 1000 boys (the world average is 1.01%), inviting all sorts of social problems.

It is vital that India step up measures to encourage family planning and discourage female foeticide by providing educational and other incentives for the girl child. Awareness about such social fractures must be spread. No doubt, the government has already started initiatives in this field, but manpower must be stepped up. Unfortunately, these initiatives take time but even one step in the right direction is a start towards solving a desperate situation. Creating employment for 12 million people per year will remain a challenge, for the private sector as well as the government. It is crucial that India turn into a manufacturing hub as well as a services centre. Unless there is a spurt in domestic consumption as well, there is little hope of providing jobs for so many people.

Education: Knowledge, not weapons, will be the currency of power in the 21st century, and technology will be the engine of growth. As we have observed in the evolution of warfare, armies have become smaller, smarter, and more diffuse. The next step, already here, can be seen in China’s massive cyber warfare efforts. India’s famed institutes of technology produce barely 3,000 graduates per year, many of whom go abroad for work. The rest of India’s education system is an absolute wreck. Many institutions suffer from incompetent management, incapable teachers, poor infrastructure, and an outdated syllabus; they are colleges only by the grace of semantic generosity. In a recently conducted study by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Indian students ranked 73rd out of 74 nations. As PB Mehta of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) wrote,

Nobody in the political system realises that the historical window of opportunity for putting in lasting changes is very small. In our case, it is 10 to 15 years given our demography. If we don’t lay the foundation for wealth and prosperity in the next 15 years, then the India story is gone forever. You will then grow old, before you grow rich.

There is much India needs to learn about education – it is not merely a matter of throwing more money at the problem. The Right to Education Act (RTE) passed in 2009 is a farce – it establishes a system of reservations and dilutes educational standards in teachers as well as students. Furthermore, the tax the government has collected as an educational cess sits unused. Recently, Finland‘s schools have shown promising results that India can try and replicate. Until education is made apolitical in India, results cannot be expected. India’s 12 million-per year workforce will not only be a big one but also an unqualified one.

Energy: India’s booming economy is an energy guzzler, and successive governments have yet to achieve anywhere near 100% electrification. At least 25% of Indians have no access to electricity. India desperately needs energy to sustain its industrial growth, adding approximately 1,200 GW by 2050 to its presently installed 185 GW capacity. The per capita consumption of electricity in India in 2011 was 778 KWh, while in the European Union, it is 6,200 KWh.

While the government has finally woken up to the impact of 8-hour load shedding on the economy, it has recently been impeded in its power plans by demonstrators against nuclear power at Kudankulam and Jaitapur. India’s energy plans need to be better than good to not only post an increase for industrial use but to make up for the less than full electrification at present (there is a 13% shortfall). Nuclear energy is not the only way forward but it is fastest and cleanest. India cannot meet its energy needs through thermal power plants as India has neither the mining nor the rail system surplus to deliver the coal to the power plant. Furthermore, the ash content of Indian coal is significantly higher than other varieties of coal, creating greater inefficiency and pollution. Renewable energy simply cannot deliver the volume of energy needed to power India’s growth. On the other hand, reactors can be built in India as well as purchased from abroad with generous lines of credit.

Power generation is not the only problem India needs to focus on. Approximately 32% of generated electricity is lost in transmission or theft, compared to a world average of less than 15%. Without sufficient power, the lights could very well go out on India’s economy.

* * *

It is not that India has no other problems than the ones discussed herein. Indeed, India has a plethora of difficulties to overcome – corruption, judicial delays, pollution, communal disharmony, divisive politics, economic reforms, legal reforms…the list is long. Neither does a state compartmentalise – for example, say, attempts to ameliorate pollution will not begin only after corruption has been tackled. All these heads of the hydra are to be attacked simultaneously. A grand strategy, however, steps back to lend perspective and streamline and funnel national efforts into critical fields. India’s domestic problems are no less serious than its foreign policy problems – in fact, if they are not addressed satisfactorily and soon, it will not matter what India does abroad. India’s immediate priority should be to secure her neighbourhood and consolidate the engines of her growth.

Grand strategy is what a state does when it has put its domestic house in order. India is presently too self-absorbed to give its full attention to such an endeavour. It has over a billion people to feed, clothe, house, and educate, and these people will need jobs, schools, electricity, and a thousand other things. Perhaps we should have patience with India…after all, the British had a few centuries of practice playing power politics before they forged their empire; and the United States had 80 years from 1865 when they were capable of acting on the world stage until 1945 when they truly did. Or perhaps not…for while time has been kind to Britain and to the United States and we are content to wait on India, the world is not. There is an old Sanskrit verse:

रात्रिर्गमिष्यति भविष्यति सुप्रभातम्
भास्वानुदेष्यति हसिष्यति पंकजश्रीः।
इति विचारयति कोषगते द्विरेफे
हा हंत हंत नलिनीं गज उज्जहार॥

Night will be over, there will be morning,
The sun will rise, lotus flower will open.
While the bee inside the lotus flower was thinking thus,
The lotus plant was uprooted by an elephant.

New Delhi should strive to ensure that India does not share the fate of the bee in that lotus.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshou Kada Chana !
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani !!
— Srimadbhagvadgita, Chapter 2, verse 47

It means: Follow your passion and do not worry about results. If one puts in hard work and is determined to create a path of his own, success will follow.

PK Mallick

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