writings of ali ahmed, PhD (JNU), PhD (Cantab), with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Download books/papers from dropbox links provided. Twitter: @aliahd66
Also see blog-www.subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.in. Former UN official, academic and infantryman. Author India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia (Routledge 2014). All views are personal.
The influence of Hindutva in political culture on India’s strategic culture has been traced. It has resulted in a hardening of strategic culture with the bias towards the offensive also resulting from the military’s organisational culture that has been independently penetrated by Hindutva. But, a strategic doctrine of compellence is combustible, and the retraction of Hindutva from polity is a prerequisite for stability.
When the army is called in aid of civil authority, robust action taken by the army in a timely manner can prevent civil disturbance from exacting a strategic cost. The recent revelations on army inaction in the critical first 24 hours during the Gujarat carnage in 2002 are examined.
Nuclear decision-making, when examined at the institutional and individual levels, suggests that India’s case is fraught with shortcomings. This adds to the complications for regional security, already present on account of Pakistan’s nuclear decision-making being military dominated. The aggravated institutional infirmities of India’s nuclear decision-making structures and the authoritarian tendencies in India’s primary nuclear decision-maker, the Prime Minister, heighten nuclear dangers in future crises and conflicts.
As the ruling party at the centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party, contemplates the forthcoming national elections, its record on national security warrants a review. The key player in crafting and implementing its national security strategy has been National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. An examination of Doval’s record over the past four years reveals that his principal contribution has been in facilitating national security interests to be held hostage to the electoral calculus of the Narendra Modi–Amit Shah combine.
The representation of Muslims in the army officer corps, at around 2%, is abysmal in contrast to their percentage in the population of India. Diversity is also compromised in the army, with over half of army officers hailing from a handful of north Indian states. This deficit of diversity along social and geographical lines has negative implications for the army’s apolitical and secular credentials.
The ill-planned and hurried appointment of an interlocutor for Kashmir by the government, supposedly for a sustained dialogue, does not suggest that the government is serious about resolving the Kashmir conflict. The initiative, however, appears to want to hold the United States at bay, which needs India and Pakistan talking to safeguard its Afghan engagement. The interlocutor’s mission will likely turn out to be yet another wasted opportunity in Kashmir.
The reference to a “two and a half front war” by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is critically dissected. The “half front” apparently covers large tracts of India and a significant number of its marginalised people. The thought of a war on the half front, as conjured by this term, needs to be controverted outright. The army’s imagining of such a war and preparation for it is questioned.
The recently released joint doctrine of the armed forces outlines the manner in which they expect to fight the next war. Though the doctrine suggests “decisive victory” is possible, it bears reminding that the closer they get to this the closer would be the nuclear threshold. Since the doctrine does not dwell on the nuclear level, it cannot be said that the doctrine makes India any safer. However, the doctrine’s take on civil–military relations is far more interesting.
The army has had an extended deployment in Kashmir. While it has enabled operational experience for its members, there is a danger that the advantages of this can make the army acquire a stake in the disturbed conditions. This makes the army part of the problem in Kashmir. Its deployment is not without a price in regard to the internal good health of the army.
In abandoning strategic restraint in favour of strategic proactivism, India is transiting from a strategic doctrine of offensive deterrence to compellence. This is not without its dangers since the military doctrines of India and Pakistan are presently coupled in a volatile way. Moving towards proactivism makes them altogether combustible. This makes the strategic logic of the shift suspect, prompting speculations as to its inspiration.
A case for the peace lobby to continue its engagement with anti-war issues, even in times of relative peace. The military doctrines are geared for a quick war, resulting in shorter crisis windows. Therefore, keeping the public informed and capitalising on such preparations for ensuring moderation in strategic decisions in crises and war can prove useful when push comes to shove. This would be an uphill task, but inescapable for war avoidance and limitation.
The debate on nuclear retaliation options has been hijacked by realists, with even the liberal security perspective marginalised. Engagement with the issue by nuclear abolitionists is called for, lest the impression of a consensus develops around the realist offering of "unacceptable damage" that promises nothing but genocide, a global environmental disaster and national suicide in its wake.
Drawing on the news reporting of the army's association with Ramdev's organisation for yoga training, a discussion on the potential and possibility of politicisation of the military with Hindutva philosophy.
That India's No First Use policy is under threat of the axe in any future review of the nuclear doctrine is apparent from the election time controversy over the mention of a nuclear doctrinal review in the manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The reference - subsequently toned down - was possibly an attempt by the conservative party to live up to its image as a strategically assertive replacement of the Congress Party.