Monday, 17 December 2012


India’s Limited War Doctrine: The Structural Factor

IDSA Monograph Series No. 10
The aim of the monograph is to examine the structural factor behind the development of India's Limited War Doctrine. At the structural level, the regional security situation has impacted India's strategic posture - primarily the threat posed by Pakistan, India's revisionist neighbour. Given its revisionist aims and relative lack of power, Pakistan covertly went nuclear. This has accounted for its prosecuting a proxy war against India. India was consequently forced to respond albeit with restraint, exemplified by its response during the Kargil War, Operation Parakram and in the wake of 26/11. Emulating Pakistan's proactive posture at the subconventional level, India reworked its conventional war doctrine to exploit the space between the subconventional level and the nuclear threshold for conventional operations. This has been in accordance with the tenets of the Limited War concept. In discussing India's conventional war doctrine in its interface with the nuclear doctrine, the policy-relevant finding of this monograph is that limitation needs to govern both the conventional and nuclear realms of military application. This would be in compliance with the requirements of the nuclear age.

About the Author

Dr. Ali Ahmed is currently political affairs officer in the UNMISS.
The monograph was completed during his fellowship at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi in 2010-12.

Download Monograph

Order Hard Copy

Please email us at publication [at] or call +91-11-2671 7983 (Ext. 7322)

Late Maj Gen S. C. Sinha, PVSM

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .......................... 7
1. INTRODUCTION .................................... 9
2. DOCTRINAL CHANGE ............................. 16
3. THE STRUCTURAL FACTOR .................. 42
4. CONCLUSION ....................................... 68
REFERENCES ......................................... 79


This monograph is the outcome of my fellowship at IDSA in 2010-
12. I am thankful to the Cluster Coordinator, Brig (Retd.) Rumel
Dahiya, and members of the Military Cluster for their support. I
am deeply grateful to former Director-General, Mr Narendra
Sisodia for his encouragement. The monograph was made possible
by the IDSA providing me an intellectually stimulating working
environment, world class infrastructure, competent support staff
and an inspiring set of colleagues. The monograph draws on the
research for my doctoral dissertation in International Politics at
Jawarharlal Nehru University, which the IDSA was kind enough
to grant me permission to pursue alongside my fellowship. I stand
greatly indebted to my Supervisor, the very capable and always
kind Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan. I thank the three anonymous
referees for their comments that have helped improve the
manuscript and the copyeditor for making the monograph readable.
However, despite the advantages I have had in preparing the
monograph, there are the inevitable lacunae for which I am solely
Ali Ahmed


India developed its Limited War doctrine in the wake of the Kargil
War. Officially, the land warfare doctrine dates to publication of
Indian Army Doctrine in 2004. It was for a period of time, in the
century’s first decade, colloquially referred to as ‘Cold Start’. The
doctrine per se is for conventional war, but embedded in it are the
tenets of Limited War. The understanding is that whether a war is
‘Limited’ or ‘Total’ would depend on political aims of the conflict
and their strategic and operational translation. Since political aims,
can reasonably, only be limited in the nuclear age, the doctrine
can be taken as being a Limited War doctrine.
The doctrine has evolved from the military developments of the
past four decades. While India’s earlier doctrine - post the 1971
War period - had been a defensive one, organisational and doctrinal
innovations in the eighties served to enhance the offensive content
of military doctrine. Initially, changes were prompted by the
necessity of conducting conventional operations under conditions
of perceived nuclear asymmetry. This took the form of
mechanisation, deemed as more suited to a nuclear battlefield. The
doctrine was one of conventional deterrence comprising a dissuasive
capability (deterrence by denial) along with a counter offensive
capability (deterrence by punishment). In the light of Pakistan’s
acquisition of nuclear capability by the late eighties, the counteroffensive-capability, embodied by strike corps operations, became
problematic. This was capitalised on by Pakistan to enhance its
sub-conventional provocations taking advantage of the ‘stability/
instability paradox’. Consequently, India was forced, among other
reasons, to adapt its offensive capability to bring its conventional
edge back into the reckoning. The idea was to reinforce
conventional deterrence and in case that was found wanting, then
to be in a position to execute coercion or compellence as required.

Doctrinal development has been driven by the military experience
since the mid-eighties. The period witnessed the crises of 1987 and
1990 and the peace enforcement operation in Sri Lanka. Internal
conflict in Kashmir reached a climax with the Kargil War of 1999.
Pakistan’s proxy war culminated in the parliament attack that
prompted Indian coercive diplomacy, and Operation Parakram,
in 2001-02. Conflicts in the Gulf in 1991 and 2004 and Operation
Enduring Freedom which showcased the changes in the character
of conventional war influenced thinking. Organisational changes
and equipment acquisitions prompted by the revolution in military
affairs accelerated during this period. Cumulatively, these have
led to considerable doctrinal evolution. However, it was overt
nuclearisation that had the most profound effect and made conflict
limitation an overriding imperative.
An offensive and proactive capability that under-grids the war
doctrine speaks of a readiness to go to war, and, further, to take
the war to the enemy. The conventional doctrine and the nuclear
doctrine combined go beyond deterrence, to potentially enable
coercion through offensive deterrence. The nuclear doctrine posits
‘massive’ punitive retaliation in its 2003 formulation by the Cabinet
Committee on Security (CCS). This expansive formulation, it
would appear, is designed for enhancing the deterrent effect and
push up the Pakistani nuclear thresholds. Doing so enables the
leveraging of India’s conventional advantages in case Pakistani 
subconventional provocations are emboldened by nuclearisation.
Pakistan’s offensive posture at the sub-conventional level and the
consequent Indian offensive orientation at the conventional level,
leads to heightened  nuclear possibilities. The nuclear backdrop
serves as reminder that escalation could occur, either by accident
or design. The problem therefore has been as to how India should
cope with sub-conventional provocations. It has responded by
leveraging its conventional advantage. This needs to be tempered
by an inbuilt limitation at the conventional level in order that the
nuclear threshold is not breached. This challenge has proven
difficult, with Pakistan attempting to posture a low nuclear
threshold. India for its part has attempted to raise  this threshold
by promising higher order nuclear retaliation. This intersection
of the Indian and Pakistani doctrinal postures at the conventional

and nuclear planes has an escalatory potential that could do with
some mitigation.
The monograph makes the suggestion that limitation must attend
both conventional operations (as is indeed the direction of
thinking), and also equally importantly, nuclear operations. Its
chief recommendation is that India’s strategic doctrine should  be
informed by defensive realism. The compatible strategic doctrine
is therefore one of defensive deterrence. India’s military doctrine
therefore needs to be tweaked away from the proactive offensive
stance to one more mindful of the nuclear overhang. Merely
acknowledging its presence as the nuclear backdrop is not enough
in light of escalatory possibilities. The deterrence logic has its
limitations. Given this, not only must conventional doctrine be
cognisant of this, but indeed also nuclear doctrine.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Comparative Strategy

Cold Start: The Life Cycle of a Doctrine
Ali Ahmed a
a Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution Jamia
Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

To cite this article: Ali Ahmed (2012): Cold Start: The Life Cycle of a Doctrine, Comparative Strategy,
31:5, 453-468

To link to this article:

India’s conventional war doctrine has been extensively discussed over the past decade.
It has been dubbed Cold Start, though the term has been dropped from usage recently.
The article discusses India’s limited-war doctrine in its origin, impetus behind it, tenets,
and reasons for the current distancing from the doctrine. The doctrine was India’s
rekindling of its conventional deterrent in the face of Pakistani subconventional proxy
warfare. Its implications in terms of escalation possibilities to the nuclear level attracted
considerable attention. Its “quick on the draw” nature added to concerns on crisis
stability. These conspired to shift the latest doctrinal movement in India away from
default reliance on traditional conventional operations to a proactive strategy that
includes in addition punitive military response options.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Contemporary Record
Ali Ahmed

The Book Review, October 2012

Edited by D. Suba Chandran and P.R. Chari
Routledge, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 297, `795.00
The book under review is the fifth Annual Report on Armed Conflicts
in South Asia brought out by the think tank, Institute of Peace and
Conflict Studies, New Delhi. The Institute’s idea and practice of
taking out annual reports is laudable. Over a period of time, these can
serve as a reliable contemporary record, besides being useful for students,
academics, policy makers and practitioners over the immediate term.
The previous editions have been welcomed, no doubt prompting and
enabling continuing of the series.
It is perhaps in genuflecting to peace studies that the editors have
chosen to include the term ‘Transformation’ in the subtitle. Suba Chandran
details why this has been done in his leading chapter in the second part of
the book (pp. 137-38) in referring to the concept of some significance for
peace studies. He goes on to say that his contribution ‘focuses on negative
conflict transformation and conflict decay’ (p. 138). This goes against the
grain of the definition from the Berghof Handbook he reproduces while
launching into his chapter: ‘actions that seek to alter the various
characteristics and manifestations of conflict by addressing its root causes
over the long-term, with the aim to transform negative ways of dealing
with conflict into positive, constructive ones.’
It is therefore with good reason that the editors use the term
‘transformation’ in the subtitle rather than ‘conflict transformation’. What
they appear to have in mind are the changes in conflicts for better or
worse brought about by conflict dynamics when they use the term
‘transformation’. Where a conflict goes downhill, Chandran typifies it as
‘conflict decay’. This departure from peace studies theory concept of
conflict transformation explains the possibility of transformation as a
‘threat’, phrased in the subtitle thus:  The Promise and Threat of
Since the editors have chosen to adapt the term transformation to
their purpose, an opportunity to examine South Asian conflicts in the
‘conflict transformation’ framework has been passed up. The volume could
have proved innovative, given that most such analyses, including some
essays appearing in the book, are from an international relations and
strategic studies framework. Conflict transformation, on the other hand,
as a field of study in peace studies concerns itself with structural,
behavioural and attitudinal changes required to move towards ‘just peace’.
The potentiality of conflict transformation of conflicts endemic in South
Asia could have been broached. This is testimony to the marginal presence
of peace studies as an
academic discipline in
India, despite fledgling
academic centers such as
that of this reviewer and
of institutions such as
the IPCS to which the
editors are affiliated.
The book is in two
parts. The first has
chapters by experts well
conversant with the
conflicts each has been
called upon to elaborate
on: Afghanistan, FATA
and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, J&K, North East
and the Naxal movement
in Central India. The
second part is titled
‘Conflict Transformation
and Early Warnings’.
Though the part falls
short of the promise of
looking through the conflict transformation lens as obtains in theory, the
part is a useful prospective look at conflict potentiality for escalation and
de-escalation in J&K, North East, Central India and of fundamentalist
violence in South India. It also has chapters on Nepal and Sri Lanka. It is
debatable whether violence on account of religious revivalism needs to
figure in a book on armed conflict, for that would amount to suggesting
that terror incidence in South India, the locale covered in the essay, is of
the order of an armed conflict. A definitional exercise at the outset by the
editors could have dispelled this observation, even one reproducing a
discussion from a previous edition of the series.
The impression a reader carries away is that conflict management is
all that is being attempted by the State. This can at best help mitigate or
end violence. The shortfalls in delivering on this limited ambition often as
not end up sustaining the violence. Clearly, conflict resolution, the effort
towards sustainable peace by ending of structural and cultural violence, is
not on the cards, leave alone conflict transformation, taken as a step at a
deeper level than even conflict resolution. This is a sobering insight on the
capacities of the States in South Asia, including India that is popularly
taken as an incipient great power. The significance of this observation
deepens in the light of P.R.Chari’s negative take on trends in his introductory chapter. He reflects on the ill-effects of globalization, on the
uncertainty of the ‘demographic dividend’, decline in the rule of law, and
finally disputes over depleting resources.
The lack of capacity of States suggests that peace studies needs being
taken seriously as a subject area. Insights from conflict resolution and
conflict transformation can help with a non-Statist answer to root causes
and conflict dynamics. Answers anchored in the people are necessary
since conflicts are now ‘among people’ (Rupert Smith). Therefore solutions
should also be ‘people to people’ (P2P) centric. Currently the academic
field draws principally on conflicts in the Balkans and Africa for insights.
Its generic insights are sustainable in this region’s setting. A theoretical
prism that can be applied fruitfully is that of ‘protracted social conflict’. It
is perhaps the perspective that privileges State interventions and power
centric approaches that is sustaining the conflicts in the region.  The
Institute can live up to expectations prompted by its name, by deploying
its Annual Report to bring about this change of perspective. This will help
widen the field, attract students to its fold and over time create conflict
resolvers in numbers and quality necessary to tackle conflicts of the future.
Ali Ahmed is Assistant Professor at the Nelson Mandela Center for Peace and
Conflict Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Prospects for UN Peacekeeping
 in Afghanistan

by Ali Ahmed
It is fairly clear by now that a draw-down, not amounting to a withdrawal, of the US-NATO force ISAF from Afghanistan is underway. The exit is not to be a complete one since the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Obama and Karzai allows them to stay on till 2024. This is to keep the Kabul regime stable and the ‘Bonn process’ on course but also in connection with the strategic interests of the US in the region, namely, Iran, Central Asia, China and increasingly Pakistan. Also, precedence from the nineties suggests that a full exit is not an option. Since pulling out would reveal the superpower has lost the war, it certainly cannot be admitted in an election year. However, the cover of a rebalancing towards the Pacific against China is a useful starting point to help the superpower disengage.
Currently, what the US appears to be envisioning is continuing blood-letting. It hopes to outsource this to the ANSF. It will employ its special forces from the bases retained, provide air cover and keep up the drone attacks. The US staying on may not be useful since what it has not been able to achieve in a decade’s untram-meled military operations, it cannot be expected to do with a reduced military presence. Since the Taliban has managed to evade the intended effects of the ‘surge’, at worst the likelihood of a civil war exists and at best a manageable insurgency.
To this must be added prospects of spread of instability in Pakistan. Currently, the status quo is a hurting one for the US, not so for Taliban due to its sanctuary in Pakistan. To bring about a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’, it may be necessary to expand the conflict into Pakistan, at the risk of destabilising it. The US’ current policy thrust to rush Pakistan into North Waziristan is to finally wrap up. The region shall be a likely witness once again to another Pakistani military operation, leaving that state vulnerable yet again to terror attacks on rebound.
Superficially, it would appear that a mutually hurting stalemate that signifies the ripeness of a conflict for conflict resolution is not at hand. After all, a superpower can marshal resources, while the Taliban has shown itself to be a resilient actor. However, a realistic reading would be that both belligerents need a helping hand to extricate. The allies of the US are pulling out. The indicators—such as drug abuse among troops, green on blue attacks, violence by war veterans on return to mainland America, isolated instances of soldiers running amok etc.—suggest that the US too is exhausted. As for the Taliban, at least two members of its top-line leadership have been eliminated this month. Therefore, there is scope for measures towards a politically negotiated ending to the conflict apace with the drawdown.
This is especially so if the primary referents are taken as the people, and not the states involved. The desirability from a people’s point of view is also not self-evident. Some would argue that saving Afghan women necessitates killing some more Taliban. In any case, it is not a factor that can be expected to detain security bureaucracies or the Taliban unduly.
It would be difficult to convince either side to come to terms with the adversary in the light of the war-time propaganda indulged in liberally by both sides. Likewise, states may envision an opportunity for proxy wars, such as India and Pakistan. India, for its part, is not unhappy to see Pakistan’s disruptionist energy diverted to its western border. Some other states, such as China and Iran, may not be altogether unhappy to see the US in a spot of a bother. It is also not self-evident that an energised peace process can help prevent the most likely outcome of continuing conflict.
While peace initiatives have been in evidence, these have been tentative not having had the weight of the US behind them till recently. The peace prong of the strategy has progressed piecemeal with separate initiatives in isolation of the other by the Europeans, Arab states and also the UN mission in location, UNAMA. The ‘Afghan owned and Afghan led’ formulation has failed to impress the Taliban. The aim of separating the ‘good Taliban’ from the ‘bad Taliban’ has also fallen short. It is only lately, when it was evident that the military surge had failed, that the peace process has been privileged as a significant line of operation.
It is well-nigh possible that, like an iceberg, there is more to the peace process than meets the eye. It is possible that the extent and details are under wraps to keep off spoilers. However, what is certain that it is not yet the primary line of operation. It therefore needs a fillip. The question is:
‘How?’ Conventional balance of power ‘solutions’ have had their play in the discourse. The foremost one of ‘military surge’ not having worked and the so-called ‘peace surge’ not having occurred at all; others only have the limited aim of keeping the Taliban off balance. They are conflict management answers. Such answers are more hopeful than useful. Conflict management north of the Durand Line not being inspiring, there is little to guarantee that a conflict south of it can be better managed. The inadequacy of traditional strategy over a whole decade means that sticking to it amounts to strategic vacuity.
Two points emerge: one is that the worst case scenario must be prevented; and two, that power-centric options are not the answer. The answers therefore are outside of the restricted confines of traditional strategic thinking—‘out of the box’. Such an idea will not come out of security bureaucracies; it can only emerge from elsewhere but would require to be taken forward by the state security establishment.
The ‘out-of-the-box’ idea here is the option of peacekeeping. The idea is in conversion of the enforcement operation underway there to a peacekeeping one. Peacekeeping presupposes a peace to keep. Currently there is no peace to keep. The stumbling block is the Taliban prefering to interface directly with the US and the US, for reasons of prestige, not allowing that. Both sides can be expected to project preparations for a post-drawdown Afghanistan as part of posturing and positioning. Such actions, being mistaken for or willfully misinterpreted as signs of ill-intent, prevent a peace process from taking off.
Peacekeeping, by enhancing the conditions of feasibility of the peace process, can midwife a peace process that can eventuate in peace. A precedent from the late eighties—of insertion of the UN Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan (UNGOMAP) to allow the Soviets to depart—exists. Only this time round the UN must play it differently.
Introducing peacekeepers into the scenario enables face-saving for both sides. The Taliban can claim it remains unvanquished. With security and space guaranteed, they would be more amenable to talks. The US, for its part, can have a neater exit. Since both gain something, there is common ground for arriving at consent for the mission.
The centre of gravity for such negotiations must shift away from the Kabul regime and the US Special Envoy towards the UN, supported by organisations in the region such as the SCO and SAARC. A suspension of operations agreement needs to be arrived at prior to troops getting into place. Peacemaking, with mediation by the UN, may be advanced alongside a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement that is beyond the current ‘Kabul process’—the outcome of the London and Kabul conferences that were the political part of the ‘surge’ strategy of Obama’s presidency.
Peace monitors must deploy to oversee a ceasefire followed by a peacekeeping force on ceasefire. The UNAMA, that is currently a political mission in support of the state engaged in ineffective peacebuilding and protection of the civilians’ tasks, must graduate into an integrated peace operation. On the contrary, at the moment the UN’s thrust is towards a graduated disengagement and handing over to the Kabul regime. This is in line with the US’ aim of projecting an image of planned transition. This is a trifle premature.
If the talks prong of the strategy is to be energised, regional states must be ready to supplement, and if necessary substitute, the US. In particular, since who pays the piper calls the tune, funding may have to raised from within the region’s resources. This is where either the SAARC-SCO combine or the regional countries represented at the Istanbul conference of last year can assert themselves as regional arrangements taking on their share of the burden in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.
The peacekeeping options broadly are: under regional arrangement, a regional organisation-UN ‘hybrid’ peace mission and the usual UN mission. The talk of Muslim countries sending in troops has been around since Bonn I. The force configurations include: a SAARC force; a joint SCO-SAARC force; a UN force comprising Muslim countries; a force sent by the regional states represented at the Istanbul conference; or a UN force from uninvolved countries.
What are the implications of this for India and China, the leading states of the SAARC and SCO respectively? As rising powers, they get a stage to showcase their power by turning round a situation in their backyard. They also create an opportunity for cooperation, which can over time avert the seeming inevitability of a clash between the two Asian giants. They can together save Pakistan from itself. What are implications for India? India’s self-interest is in seeing no spill-over from AfPak in Kashmir or on its social fabric in terms of majority-minority relations. Its reviving relationship with Pakistan can be taken to a new level. Its power aspirations can be better served. Its UN permanent seat campaign can be strengthened. The idea is in keeping with its strategy of restraint.
What are the prospects of this idea? To say that an idea requires political vision and will is to kill it at birth. However, little can stop an idea whose time has come.
Ali Ahmad, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor, Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Do we need a Chief Warlord?

10 Sep 12

IN A recent article, former Chief of Army Staff,
General Deepak Kapoor, has weighed in against
the idea of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of
Staff Committee. One among a series of selective
leaks of the Naresh Chandra Task Force report
suggests that the task force has recommended making the
appointment of the head of the cosc a permanent one.
The leaks are themselves trial balloons sent up by a
government unable to arrive at decisions on the merits.
Aware of lacking the political heft to implement these
even if it could do so, the leaks create a storm that it can
then point to for lack of consensus and consequently a
decision. It does not see its role as exerting to create the
consensus. In this case, Deepak Kapoor’s article, taken
as reflecting the position of his former service, will help
forestall decisions, since he would be seen as voicing the
army’s position. That would be a pity, since holding out
for a cds as Deepak Kapoor’s ‘all or nothing’ position has
it, is the worse option.
This owes to the nuclear context and the ever-present
possibility of war, brought home most recently in the foreign
minister’s remark on the eve of his meeting with his
Pakistani counterpart, ‘The consequences for Pakistan
would be disastrous.’ This was to reinforce India’s deterrence
of terror provocation. However, the problem is in
India being hoist by its own petard, which in theory is the
‘commitment trap’. To ensure that such disaster for Pakistan
does not also turn into a disaster for India, there is
a need to have a military bridge between India’s conventional
and nuclear capabilities.
Currently, none exists. The Strategic Forces Command
manages India’s nuclear deterrent. However, its C-in-C
has two masters. In theory, he reports to the Chairman
Chiefs of Staff Committee. It is hard to see how the Chairman
cosc, a rotating appointment that Naresh Chandra
seeks to make permanent, can possibly oversee the sfc.
While challenging enough in peacetime with the chairman,
double-hatted as boss of his service alongside, it
would be quite a tall order in war.
He would require conducting the operations of his
service, integrating those of the three services for a joint
campaign, and also overseeing the nuclear-conventional
interface. It is for this reason that Naresh Chandra perhaps
wants a permanent incumbent. At least he would not
be straddled with overseeing any particular service and
would, hopefully, be beyond its parochialism in order to
serve as a single point source of advice to the civilian master.
While the discussion could benefit by reflection, such
as General Kapoor’s, on the demerits of the organisational
reform, it would need to take on board the advantage. The
primary one is in monitoring impact on the nuclear level of
what is going on militarily on the conventional level in war.
Currently, it is possible that in practice the National Security
Adviser oversees the sfc in his capacity as head of
the Executive Council of the Nuclear Command Authority.
This is, to say the least, a strange arrangement. Nuclear
watcher Bharat Karnad, in a recent expose of the arrangement
suggests that the NSA relies on a retired head of sfc
for fulfilling his nuclear-related role. This arrangement
clearly calls for further institutionalisation. Naresh Chandra
possibly has an answer.
SM Krishna’s terse observation, if not threat, recounted
above suggests that India is preparing a military counter
to any major terror attack by Pakistan. In such a case, escalation
could occur depending on the Pakistani counter.
If this results in a conventional tryst, then limitation
needs being foregrounded. Advice on this, alongside
linked nuclear related reactions, would be required. This
has to be done at a mechanism one step removed from the
action, such as by a permanent chairman of the cosc.
He would be on the Executive Council to both advise
the Political Council alongside the nsa and work the nuclear-
relevant reaction as ordered by the Political Council
through the nsa. This way there is a military link between
the Nuclear Command Authority and the sfc. Secondly,
the headless hqs Integrated Defence Staff would gain a
leader and an agenda. It could provide the control staff for
the sfc since a line headquarter as is the sfc cannot also
be its own judge.
LASTLY, KAPOOR’S cds, imagined as a warlord
over all three services, has an underside. He would
not be in a position to advise the government since
it would amount to judging his own case. Such an appointment
has potential for a folly of Hindenberg-Ludendorf
proportions, praetorian figures from Germany’s
World War I past.
Therefore, to write off the task force report may not do
for the government. It will have to demonstrate it exists.
If it fears that push comes to shove as its foreign minister
thinks, then it had better emerge from somnolence.
Better still would be if it gives up threats and settles
with Pakistan through getting SM Krishna to talk meaningfully.
Then it would not manufacture a threat where
none need exist.
Ali Ahmed is Assistant Professor, Nelson Mandela
Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia

Monday, 27 August 2012

The sub-unit cries for army attention
Financial World, 27 Aug 2012


THE ARMY has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately. The reasons have to do both with the good health at the top, among the brass and at the lower levels, the spear end. While the former has hogged the headlines, there are good reasons to leave the latter to the army’s own ministrations.
It is quite obvious that with over 200 years’ institutional memory of man management
practices, increased interaction with foreign armies, academic exposure to management studies, first-hand knowledge,
and a better educated threshold on intake, the army is competent to navigate the social and material change it is inevitably
beset with. The aim here is to bring to fore the aspect of cohesion, one that can help it tide over the problems. When a candidate officer or soldier looks up at a billboard demanding to know: ‘Do you have it in you?’, what exactly is ‘it’ is left to the accompanying photos to suggest. These depict a life extraordinary: of fun, adventure, odds, risk, outdoors, technology,
camaraderie. In effect, the poster asks whether he has a ‘need’: a need for adventure, glory, friendship, physical and mental challenge, altruistic service etc. Those with such needs are to self-select the profession of arms to help them fulfill these needs. The youth pledges his life in return. While the service environment, both in field and peace, caters to this, the possibilities are maximised in war.
In peace time, needs are met largely by the organisational hierarchy from the wider army to the rifle company. While pay, perks and welfare form the formal package, the operational environment in the field either of counter insurgency and high altitude deployment and hectic round in peace stations of competitions, visits, operational exercises, firing practices,
military relevant ritual like parades, socialisation
practices, courses, patrols etc. All this makes for organisational cohesion.
In war, the organisation provides the operational context that enables fulfillment
of needs. However, the critical difference
is that the horizon of the soldier constricts from the vast expanse of the cantonment, counter insurgency grid or parade ground plenty, to his foxhole, tank and gun. Thus, in the outbreak of war, the organisation is suddenly and dramatically, substituted by his subunit and, more immediately,
his squad, troop or section. What needs ensuring then is that the identities
of these seemingly less significant entities at the bottom of the organisational ladder are fostered and maintained.
In war, the members of this primary group rely on the group for their mutual, collective and individual needs. This is enabled through the process of primary group bonding in which the member relies on his team mates for survival and they in turn on him, thereby not only enhancing his life chances but also fulfilling his needs ranging from physiological to psychological.
Since the primary group exists for an organisational purpose in the form of operational
objectives, positive articulation of horizontal integration is by vertical integration, or cohesion of the command channel. Horizontal and vertical integration
therefore are prerequisites for combat success. This is a bare bones distillation of received knowledge from an academic field enhanced by the contributions of the likes of Lord Moran, Bartov, Stouffer, Marshall, Shils and Janowitz, Gabriel and Savage, Charles Moskos and Nora Kinzer Stewart, among others. India’s wars, as any reading of regimental histories and autobiographies tells us, have only reinforced
the observation that the identity of the subunit needs nurturing.
A REITERATION OF this timeless piece of military wisdom may well be against the management ethic increasingly in evidence and universally so. With the organisation looming large, particularly in military stations, subunits and sub-subunits are under the threat of marginalisation in the hectic scheme of things. There is no gainsaying that the smell of cordite and crack of the weapon can easily recreate the primary group in quick time. Nevertheless, the expectation
of short wars in future suggests that a higher threshold of primary group bonding
may well be the difference between effectiveness
and efficiency.
The remedies are no doubt at different levels. As has been pointed out by a former vice chief in a recent newspaper column, incessant deployments in unending counter
insurgency or on unresolved borders is one area for the government’s intervention.
In any case, that would still leave the military to revert to the radical ethic. Its problems finding their way into the headlines
suggest that the balance between the organisations’ space and that of the subunit
has been upset in favour of the former. It is time to recreate the primary group, a task well within the military’s capability and hopefully its attention.
Ali Ahmed is Assistant Professor, Nelson Mandela Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia

Friday, 24 August 2012

Strategic Culture and Indian Self-assurance
Journal of Peace Studies, Vol. 17, Issue 2&3, April-September, 2010.

Ali Ahmed*
[*Ali Ahmed is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. He is pursuing a PhD
in International Politics at the School of International Relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.]
The article examines the realist critique that India lacks a strategic culture. The realist critique is
neglectful of India’s record of strategic behavior predicated on simultaneous resolve and restraint. India’s
normative set carries the influence of its traditions and democratic political heritage. Its operational set
is sensitive to use of force in its national interest, while being alert to the limitations of force. This
reading of India’s strategic culture empowers India to proceed down the route of rapprochement with
Pakistan. Currently, the pace of resumption of the peace process is retarded by the weight of the
realist critique on policy makers, ever apprehensive of being found wanting on defence matters. This
need not be so. Armed with this self-belief, India should engage with Pakistan with greater rigour,
beginning with the expected meeting of the two foreign ministers over the winter.
Critique has it that India lacks a strategic culture. In the realist narrative India is a ‘soft state’
and ‘weak power’. This betrays its lack of an understanding of and felicity in power play
between nations. Critics aim is to mould strategic culture into a more force-friendly direction,
seeing this as better suited to serve Indian security. While acknowledging that India has made
some strides in this direction since the Shakti tests, they critique the pace. Arguments in the
realist mould provide a rationale and public acceptability for a more combative India. Policy
makers, ever wary of being found wanting on ‘defence’, tend to overcompensate towards an
aggressive posture to avoid realist sniping. Therefore, contesting the realist narrative is
necessary for balance in policy making. India’s strategic behaviour negates the understanding
on India’s pacifism. Reappraisal as attempted here gives policy makers the space necessary to
keep from being stampeded into realist inspired costly and risky directions, especially when
other policy choices exist.
The paper looks at Indian strategic culture through the prism of theory and Indian strategic
behaviour. The picture that emerges, contrary to one in the realist narrative, is of an India
cognisant of power and utility of force and experienced in its usage. That the revisionist picture
has consequence beyond the academic is illustrated by looking at India’s Pakistan policy as it is
currently unfolding. Arguing that there is nothing to be apologetic about in pursuing an
agenda of d├ętente, the article encourages Indian policy makers not to be overly sensitive to their
flanks. Instead engaging Pakistan with greater self-assurance can alone take the initiative to its
logical conclusion. The article is laid out in two parts: the first approaches Indian strategic
culture through a theoretical lens while the second applies the findings to India’s Pakistan
Strategic culture in theory
Jack Snyder, to whom the term ‘strategic culture’ is attributed, defined it as ‘sum total of
ideals, conditional emotional responses, and patterns of habitual behaviour that members of the
national strategic community have acquired through instruction or imitation and share with
each other with regard to national strategy’.1
Strategic culture comprises basic assumptions about the strategic environment and the role of
war, about the nature of and threat posed by the adversary, and about the efficacy of the use of
force. The secondary part is of assumptions at the operational level about what strategic options
are most efficacious in dealing with the threat.2
In his book on Ming dynasty’s strategic culture, Alastair Ian Johnston argues that there was
evidence of two strategic cultures: ‘one a symbolic or idealised set of assumptions and ranked
preferences, and one an operational set that had a nontrivial effect on strategic choice….’3 The
former ‘symbolic set’ is to justify behaviour in culturally acceptable terms. The latter
‘operational set’ – or a parabellum or hard realpolitik strategic culture - prefers dealing with
security threats by eliminating them. His finding is that, contrary to the acultural, ahistorical
realist framework, states are predisposed to use of force, not because of prevalent anarchical
structures, but the underlying parabellum strategic culture.4 Parabellum strategic culture is
cross cultural and learned, making realpolitik behaviour a product of a ‘cultural realist’ norm,
the ideational source of state behaviour.’5 This finding has significance in India’s case also.
Three additional theoretical points need be made before moving to situating the theory on the
Indian case. First is that strategic culture is subject to change and second that subcultures can
exist alongside a dominant strand. The third owes to cultural theory that has it in the words of
WPS Sidhu that, ‘Strategic culture examines the influence of domestic politics and culture on
India’s strategic culture
With the winding down of the Cold War, India started to recast its approach to the world. In
order to understand India then opening up, the US Department of Defence commissioned the
RAND Corporation to do a project on ‘India’s Future Strategic Role and Power Potential’. The
project leader was George K. Tanham.7 His influential finding, disseminated in an essay, Indian
Strategic Thought: An Interpretive Essay, was that India lacked a strategic culture. Tanham
attributed limitations in strategic thinking to India lacking political unity historically; the Hindu
concept of time discouraging planning; the cultural view of the mystery of existence; the fact
that Indian’s were largely kept out of strategic circles by the British; and, lastly, to little interest
in strategic planning in the elite ever since.8
K Subrahmanyam concurs, writing: ‘Our government, however, has had no strategic culture,
and has never thought and planned ahead and never offensively.’9 His consistent reflections on
this theme over the years comprise his contribution to fostering a strategic culture accounting
for his status as doyen of India’s strategic community. As early as mid eighties, Subrahmanyam
had argued, ‘Usually politicians, diplomats and academics indulge in the normative approach
in the absence of their thinking through what India’s national interests are, what the current
international strategic environment is, what the realities of power are and how India would
secure its interests and values in the current global strategic environment.10 As example of
Indian deficiencies in appreciating force and the instrumentality of power, he cites the Pokhran
decision of 1974 as ‘an ad hoc decision of one person…(and) in equally ad-hoc fashion the
scientists were asked not to conduct any more tests.’11
A significant contribution to the thinking on Indian strategic culture since has been that of
Kanti Bajpai. In his view the observation that India lacks a strategic culture is ‘not altogether
incorrect’,12 since the only exception to India’s absence of central canonical texts has been the
ancient classic, Kautilya’s Arthasastra. Since the end of the Cold War, at least three different
streams of thinking are vying for dominance: Nehruvianism, neoliberalism, and hyperrealism.13
Nehruvians believe that this state of anarchy can be mitigated through international laws and
institutions, military restraint, negotiations and compromise, cooperation, free intercourse
between societies, and regard for the well-being of peoples everywhere. The neo-liberal
paradigm has it that economic strength can substitute for military power. In a globalised world
of complex interdependence, force has questionable utility. Hyperrealists on the other hand,
think that the surest way of achieving peace and stability is through the accumulation of
military power and willingness to use force.14 Currently, in India neorealists are in control of
policy making; though realists dominate in the strategic community, in the security
establishment and in security institutions.
India’s ‘symbolic set’
Kanti Bajpai’s categorization on subcultures finds echo in Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s view of
foreign policy being conducted along two strands: an idealist (Ashokan) one; and, a realist
(Kautilayan) one.15 Cohen uses the terms, Gandhian and Machiavellian respectively, instead.
Subrahmanyam likewise divides the strategic community into two types: the ‘relatively small
but very vociferous’ ‘boy scouts’ who are more comfortable to see India as one of many
developing countries that needs to overcome poverty etc. and the majority that would like to
see India as a civilisationally and culturally befitting major power.’16 It would appear then that
in their political and ideational contention, existing paradigms shape higher order symbolic set
of strategic culture. Thus, privileging realism is not necessary since it is already well
entrenched. This brings into question the origin of the realist arguments to the contrary.
As Johnston finds in his study of China, India’s symbolic set also has reservations on force as
the preferred route to security. Restraint is evident through most of India’s trysts with force. In
the 1947-48 War, India did not proceed with the complete integration of the princely state of
J&K. It took the case to the United Nations instead. It accepted the ceasefire of the Chinese in
1962 instead of carrying on with the war after rearming with foreign help then on offer. It
agreed to a ceasefire in the 1965 War and returned territory captured at the Tashkent
Conference in early January 1966. It did not take the 1971 War into West Pakistan. Even in
internal security operations, its doctrine has been one of considerable restraint in the use of
force. It has not employed higher caliber weapons and the air force in such operations. In the
Kargil conflict its forces did not cross the Line of Control, though at a considerable cost in lives.
It did not use the parliament attack in December 2001 as a casus belli to launch a war against
Pakistan. Though it has gone nuclear, it has an NFU doctrine, a unilateral moratorium against
testing in place and is pursuing minimum deterrence by abjuring a nuclear arms race. The
actions have not only contributed to a culture of restraint, but also reflect the same.
To Subrahmanyam ‘India’s defence policy is essentially reactive….17 ’ Pratap Bhanu Mehta
elaborates in the same vein, noting that ‘almost all of India’s security policy, whether nuclear or
conventional had been driven by a deeply defensive idea, formulated in the context of
defending territory.18 To him, the ‘only incontrovertible conclusion one can come to is that
India is, to put it mildly, skittish, about using force as an instrument for foreign policy
objectives.’19 This explains why India is not having a tradition of thought that thinks of ‘power
as an objective’ of foreign policy.20 The realist framework is constrained as a consequence of its
military, social, and political ‘incapacity’ .21 His accounting along ideational and normative lines
finds echo in Bajpai: ‘National interests as articulated by the state, national power, and the
ability to coerce are very much part of India’s security conception, but so, broadly, are
institutional and non-coercive means that aim to accommodate or change through peaceful
means the views of enemies and rivals, both external and internal.’22 One reason for this is
expediency, in that, material factors as deficiencies in power or ability to use it makes India rely
on accommodation. The second is ideational, in the form of a norm against power-seeking
based on the logic that pursuit of power gives rise to the outcome that one seeks to avoid.23
It emerges that the restraint in the symbolic set is not only norms based, but the norm is itself
a result of calculations of power. Realists press on both counts: one for creating power through
their emphasis on capacities, and, secondly, against the norm in favour of a greater readiness to
employ these capabilities. This has been the direction India is embarked on as changes over the
past two decades suggest, though not at a pace that placates realists.
India’s ‘operational set’
Insight on India’s parabellum culture or the ‘operational set’ can be had from India’s record
of resort to force or threat of force. The very first instance was within a few months of
Independence. This included military action in integrating princely states of Junagadh and
Jammu and Kashmir, soon followed by police action against Hyderabad. The last operation was
planned for six month prior to its execution in September 1948. India evicted the Portuguese
from the peninsula in 1961. A ‘forward policy’ was followed in respect of tackling the Chinese
threat across the Himalayas since 1959. It culminated in Nehru ordering the eviction of the
Chinese in 1962. India expanded the scope of the 1965 conflict that was initially in Kashmir to
the plains in Punjab. It intervened in the internal conflict in East Pakistan in 1971 and executed
a meticulously planned and prepared military operation in November-December that year. It
similarly carried out the occupation of Saltoro heights in Siachen in 1984 and has maintained its
occupation since. In internal security, it deployed the Army in the North East in the fifties and
sixties and later in Punjab in the eighties. Its peace keeping operation in North and East Sri
Lanka turned into an enforcement action in 1987. It has used military exercises for signaling its
resolve in the eighties to both Pakistan and China in the form of the Exercise Brasstacks and
Exercise Chequerboard. The former turned into the crisis of 1987. Through the nineties the
Army was deployed in J&K under laws permissive of the use of force, the Armed Forces
Special Powers Act. The military evicted Pakistani intruders from Kargil in 1999. India has since
the mid sixties evolved into a nuclear power with second strike capability. It numbers among
the foremost arms importers. It is opening up its defence sector to private companies and to
foreign investment.
The findings of Johnston on parabellum strategic culture appear validated in the existence of
the same in India. The operational set predisposes India to use of force. As in Johnston’s case
study on China, while India’s symbolic set strategic culture does not prefer force, its
operational set is not averse to force. That force when employed is restrained indicates
existence of a symbolic set alongside. Realists not only willfully neglect this record on use of
force but also over emphasise the constraints placed without reference to the strategic
underpinnings of restraint.
The offensive turn
Engelmeier notes the shift in India’s strategic culture, stating, ‘While the ideal of a peaceful
world is still upheld, it no longer stands in the way of pragmatic politics which point in the
opposite direction. The justification for the nuclear bomb is a prime example of this. There has
been a significant shift towards pragmatic foreign policy unimpeded by ideological or idealist
considerations.’24 The offensive turn to Indian strategic culture can be seen in its conventional
and nuclear doctrines. The Kargil War and the near war situation of 2001-02 have been
landmarks in their respective evolution. On the conventional level, India adopted a policy of
compellence based on limited conventional war.25 This can be inferred from ‘Cold Start’
envisaged proactive offensives.26 The nuclear doctrine also reflects changes in strategic culture.
Firstly, is the use of the term ‘massive’ to indicate the nature of nuclear retaliation. The term
first found mention earlier - twice over - in Jasjit Singh’s discussion of nuclear doctrine.27
Second, was expansion of the nuclear deterrent to cover a major attack by chemical and
biological weapons.
The offensive turn has three drivers. One is that economic advances over the past decade
have made it possible to make up for the incapacities. The second change has been in political
culture, specifically rise in nationalist-conservative politics. Stephen Cohen writes that the
Nehruvian perspective has been credibly challenged by ‘a renascent conservative-realist
perspective and second a more ideologically driven ‘Hindutva’ (or Hindu revitalist)
viewpoint.’28 According to Cohen, revitalists subscribe to a culture driven view of the world.
They are inclined to stress the active nature of conflict between civilizations. India, being nonaggressive,
is taken to be weak and submissive.29 The impact on strategic culture is in political
ballast to the realist position. Much of the inspiration for the strategic vision of revitalists has
origin in domestic politics.30 Lastly, the movement in the conventional and nuclear doctrines,
formulated towards the fag end of BJP led NDA dispensation, has served as ‘strategic
communication’ to Pakistan to desist. This is in keeping with Cohen’s thesis that interaction
between foreign policy and domestic pressures is a factor shaping policy.31
he combination of a change towards a more force-permissive ‘symbolic set’ and the already
force-friendly ‘operational set’ is already making Indian strategic culture as realist envision it.
Engelmeier writes, ‘Indian foreign policy is becoming increasingly more pragmatic, driven by
strategic considerations based on realism, while an idealist inflection (the conflation of ideal
and interest) still exists at a reduced level.’32 Therefore, there is little reason for India to be more
muscular than necessary in order to continue placating realists. This conclusion has policy
implications, best illustrated in the brief analysis below on India’s Pakistan policy at the current
Implications for India’s Pakistan initiative
The initiative launched in a meeting of between President Zardari and Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh at Ykaterineberg on the sidelines of the SCO summit a year ago is reaching
culmination. The delay since Ykaterineberg owed to the backlash in India on the conciliatory
Sharm-es-Sheikh joint statement that followed. This signified the tussle between the neoliberals
and the realists. Finally, at another meeting, this one on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in
Thimpu, the two prime ministers have mandated their foreign ministers to arrive at an
understanding on how to bridge the ‘trust deficit’. Consequently, the Indian foreign minister
arrived in Islamabad in mid July 2010 to discuss the possibility of resumption of the composite
dialogue. The outcome was predicated Pakistani sincerity against terrorism. Since Pakistan’s
internal constraints prevent it from taking the necessary initiatives with the required gusto,
date for yet another meeting in December has been set. The interim could be usefully utilized in
setting the stage for progressing the peace agenda.
This section argues that India’s reluctance to proceeding purposefully down the peace route
owes to political weakness in fending off realist sniping on India’s lack of will to power. The
foregoing section argued that such criticism is ill founded. It is therefore not from a position of
weakness that India would be reaching out to Pakistan, but from a position of self-confidence
were it to do so.
The realist position is that India requires leveraging power to operationalise a compellent
strategic doctrine. Deterrence having failed is evident from Pakistani intransigence. Credibility
of a compellent doctrine would be only when backed by the requisite military wherewithal.
This implies higher defence budgets and acquisitions. The material dimension of capability
demonstration has also been catered for by India in Exercise Yodha Shakti and the firepower
display at Pokhran. India is already in the midst of doing more for defence, with allocations of $
50-80 billions slated over the next five to ten years. At a national conference acquisitions
conference at IDSA on 27 Oct 2009, the Defence Minister, in his keynote address, said, ‘we have
made a provision for approximately US $8.5 billion for capital acquisition in our Defence
Budget for the current financial year. Over the next five to six years, the total budgetary
provision is likely to reach US $50 billion.’33 Given this military growth trajectory, there is little
reason for India to talk meaningfully. In any case, India is pledged only to talk, not to arriving
at an outcome through talks.
Past Pakistani behavior belies the assumption that it would remain static. It has lent its
strategic location for great power interest, thereby helping redress the conventional imbalance
with India. It has innovatively tied down Indian military power in unending counter
insurgency, beginning with the Punjab problem and continuing in Kashmir. It would continue
to do so, particularly in external balancing through the support of China. Clearly, ‘live’
problems and the mutual ‘security dilemma’ of the two nuclear armed states, compels caution.
The future could spool out in this fashion, but for balance in policy making conferred by the
symbolic set. Normatively, negotiations imply a certain play in positions. The Prime Minister
has acknowledged as much stating, ‘But I recognize that the key to the problem is a political
solution that addresses the alienation and emotional needs of the people. This can only be
achieved through a sustained internal and external dialogue. We are ready for this. We are
willing to discuss all issues within the bounds of our democratic processes and framework.’34
This intent needs to be followed through in both its internal and external dimensions with
respect to the people in Kashmir and with Pakistan.
The search for a position of military advantage has been damaging for Pakistan as witnessed
from the backlash it has been subject to. It cannot but be so for India also, if only on a different
level. Military advantages gained by India through additional military spending can be
imaginatively neutralized by the nuclear card. Pakistan has already stepped on the nuclear
accelerator.35 Compellence would only result in higher costs and risks, with no guarantee of
recompense. Continuing, and perhaps additional, internal security complications, both in
Kashmir and in ‘hinterland’ India, can only be expected.
Then, ‘What holds up India?’, is a fair question. The fear in policy makers is of being accused
of a sell out to Pakistan or to Kashmiri separatists in case policy approaches envisaging
accommodation are followed. It is no wonder then that the recommendations of the five
working groups from the Prime Minister’s three round table conferences on J&K through 2006-
07 remain substantially unimplem-ented. Politically, the government fears the right wing
criticism of being ‘soft’ on terror. Given the protective initiatives taken in wake of 26/11 and the
promise of Cold Start doctrine in case of another terror attack, the government has covered its
bases. Higher military credibility through investment in armaments for Cold Start can result in
the ‘security dilemma’ in Pakistan. Chinese reaction, in terms of greater focus towards its south
from its current Pacific orientation, could attenuate India’s ‘security dilemma’ with respect to
that state. In effect, military growth does not have ready answers. It mostly helps partially cope
with the problem and not resolve it. India’s symbolic strategic culture indicates restraint and
sensitivity to India’s limitations. It balances emphasis between external and internal security.
The implication is that India’s potentially compellent strategic posture needs to retract to its
traditional deterrent strategic orientation.
Therefore, India needs to seize the opportunity coming up in December. This it can only do
in case it prepares public opinion prior. Countering the criticism that it is not sufficiently
cognizant of defence compulsions needs be done as attempted here. Movement cannot be
expected without talks and India has the requisite power to back its position at the talks.
Chasing an elusive position of strength in order to dictate terms is not how talks are
approached. Pakistan, already convinced of the growing and irreversible asymmetry in light of
India’s growing power credentials, would settle for incentives on offer. Political assertion is
required in backing the neorealist strand in its strategic culture that has it that reaching out
would firstly protect and secondly with resulting regional integration further the economic
miracle underway in India.
Indian strategic culture exists. Its operational set or parabellum strategic culture is sufficiently
mindful of power and the utility of force. Realist arguments for a realpolitik orientation are
illogical, since this is already the case. The policy implication of immediate consequence is on
India’s current reaching out to Pakistan. Bridging the ‘trust deficit’ requires self-assurance in
policy makers. In so far as the gap requires making good by India, policy makers need not look
back over their shoulders. India’s realpolitik orientation to its strategic culture has brought
about in part India’s Pakistan predicament. It can be predicted that, at best, the peace process
could resume, but negotiated outcomes will be far and few. While Pakistani obduracy would be
singled out justifiably, introspection would suggest it to be result of the inordinate drag of
realism on Indian strategic culture. In the nuclear age it is not unreasonable to pitch for
alternative outcomes. The prerequisite is in bringing balance, lent by the symbolic set that
emphasises restraint, back into the policy reckoning.
1 Alan I. Johnston (1995), “Thinking About Strategic Culture”, International Security , 19 (4): p. 36.
2 Ibid, p. 46.
3 Alan I. Johnston (1995), Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Ming China , Princeton:
Princeton University Press, p. x.
4 Ibid, p. 2.
5 Ibid, p. 31.
6 WPS Sidhu (2007), “Operation Vijay and Operation Parakram” in Sreedharan, E. (ed.), The India-Pakistan
Nuclear Relationship: Theories of Deterrence and International Relations , New Delhi: Routledge, p. 233.
7 K. Subrahmanyam with A. Monteiro (2005), Shedding Shibboleths: India’s Evolving Strategic Outlook , Delhi:
Wordsmiths, p. 3.
8 George Tanham (1992), Indian Strategic Thought: An Interpretive Essay , Santa Monica: RAND, p. 50.
9 K. Subrahmanyam with A. Monteiro, Shedding Shibboleths: India’s Evolving Strategic Outlook , p. 16.
10 K. Subrahmanyam (1986) (ed.), India and the Nuclear Challenge , New Delhi: Lancers, p. 258.
11 Ibid, p. 259.
12 K. Bajpai (2002), “Indian Strategic Culture”, in Chambers, M. (ed.), South Asia in 2020: 23 Ibid, p. 195.
24 Tobias F. Engelmeier (2009), Nation Building and Foreign Policy in India: An Identity-
Strategy Conflict, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India, pp. 246-47.
25 S Paul Kapur (2005), ‘India and Pakistan’s Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia is not like Cold War
Europe’, International Security, 30 (2), p. 148.
26 S Paul Kapur, (2008), “Ten Years of Instability in a Nuclear South Asia”, International Security , 33 (2), p. 89.
27 Jasjit Singh (2001), “Nuclear Command and Control”, Strategic Analysis, XXV (2), p. 148.
28 Stephen Cohen (2001), India: Emerging Power , New Delhi: Oxford University Press, p. 43.
29 Ibid, p. 45.
30 Ibid, p. 46.
31 Ibid, p. 63.
32 Tobias F. Engelmeier (2009), Nation Building and Foreign Policy in India: An Identity-Strategy Conflict, p.
34 PM’s opening remarks at the meeting of All Party Delegation from J&K, August 10, 2010
New Delhi,
35 The latest figures (July/August 2010) have it that Pakistan has 70-90 weapons to India’s figure of 60-80. See Rob
ert S. Nori s & Hans M. Kri stensen, ‘Global nuclear weapons inventories, 1945–2010’, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists ,

Friday, 3 August 2012

To call out the army or not

Financial World - 2 Aug 12


emerged from the blame game in wake of the
Bodo-Muslim riots in Assam is the response
of the army in ‘aid to civil authority’. Guwahati
has let on that there was a lapse of two
days between its requisition and its deployment. This
was despite both the state and centre being run by Congress
governments. The latest in this episode is the home
ministry’s missive to its neighbour on Raisina Hill, the
defence ministry that such calls on the army by a district
administration must be responded to without waiting for
clearances from the hierarchy.

But this amounts to turning the clock back. A point in
the post-Kargil reforms agenda was on distancing the
military from internal security to the extent possible.
This was along two lines: one was in raising additional
crpf units for taking over internal security duties and the
second was in reducing the calls on the army for assisting
with law and order duties.

The procedure for the latter was changed from the dc
having a lien on the military in the vicinity for such duty
to having the demand routed through and vetted in the
home and defence ministries. In an age of instant communication
this can be a real time process, but can be delayed
on two counts. One is in the decision-making procedures
on ‘babudom’, and second the bureaucratic politics
endemic to civil-military relations in general and which
have deepened lately.

Even though this time round the procedure accounted
for more fatalities than need have occurred, harking
back to the older system may not be the most useful
‘lesson learnt’.

Under the strain of deployments in ‘aid to civil authority’
through the eighties and nineties the military had
urged for change. Over the period, a substantial portion
of it had been caught up in countering insurgency successively
in Punjab, Sri Lanka, Kashmir and Assam. The
rotations of units in peace stations had been cut short to
two years. During this time they were on call for restoring
law and order, particularly in a situation of worsening
communal harmony in the run up to and beyond the
Babri Masjid episode. In tiring out the military, such duties
were seen as denuding its cutting edge.

Besides, an early resort to military assistance was an
easy way out for the administration. Not only was this
holding up preventive action, it was also hampering the
professionalisation of police. The ease of conflict management
made conflict prevention and resolution recede
from the consciousness of governments. Thus the constitutional
responsibility vesting with state governments for
Public Order and Police, included in the State List (List II,
Seventh Schedule), tended to be neglected.

A course correction was done in having the military
less readily available, first through procedural measures
and secondly by substituting it through an expansion in
the central armed police forces (capf), as recommended
by the NN Vohra Task Force on internal security as part of
pos-Kargil reforms. This has been duly done over the past
decade. However, the demands on the expanded crpf
ranging from Kashmir to Central India have tied it down.
Consequently the government cannot seem to do without
the military close at hand.

There are advantages in the military’s ready availability.
Firstly, the human toll can be contained. Secondly, long-
term effects of extensive blood-
letting are precluded. For instance,
the post-Babri Masjid Mumbai
riots cast a shadow over the balance
of that century as did the Gujarat
carnage over the last decade.
Likewise, the recent Bodo-Muslim
clashes are likely to remain in collective
memory of the two communities
making political and social
reconciliation difficult. Lastly, the
intervention of the military, seen as
an honest broker by all sides, helps
defuse the crisis and tensions.

system currently in place
needs preserving to deter
over reliance on the army, over-
riding protocols can be worked into
it that can enable quick time reactions
in situations warranting it.
The army, itself attuned to developing
situations through its static formations,
can be enabled to act on
lateral calls on it. This was the case
in Srinagar in the January 1990 crisis
when the Srinagar Corps commander,
Lt Gen Zaki, deployed
military assets without recourse
to higher headquarters, even while
keeping it informed of the developing
situation. Incidentally, while
the word martial law does not appear
in the Constitution, the defence
service regulations devote
three pages to the concept and its conduct!

In the case of the clashes in the Bodo Territorial Council,
the army is already in location as part of the counter
insurgency grid in Assam and enabled by afspa. It could
and should have deployed without unduly looking over its
shoulders. Therefore, while the state government is amiss
in allowing the situation to have come to such a pass, the
army’s slovenly reaction suggests that its live-wire characteristic
is somewhat rusty. While prescriptively the
case for police reforms comes to fore yet again, the interim
cannot be tidied over without the army.

Ali Ahmed is Assistant Professor,
Nelson Mandela Center for Peace & Conflict Resolution,
Jamia Millia Islamia