Sunday, 13 October 2013

post conflict factor in nuclear decision making

Article No.:
The Post Conflict Factor in Nuclear Decision Making
Col Ali Ahmed
Nuclear decision-making is only partially dependent on the doctrine. While the operational as against declaratory doctrine will inform such decision making, since doctrine by definition is to serve as guide, the significant coordinates of the conflict circumstance, the opponent’s manner of nuclear first use and conflict termination strategies that would inevitably kick in with introduction of nuclear weapons into the conflict will be equally significant. This article makes the point that along with these very pertinent considerations must also be factored in the post conflict scenario as a second order consideration. 

The nuclear strategy chosen as response to the adversary’s nuclear first use will determine not only subsequent conflict strategy, end game and outcome, but also the nature of the post conflict future. This article examines two nuclear strategies that form potential options for India’s nuclear response: massive punitive retaliation and flexible nuclear retaliation. It argues that from a perspective of a post nuclear conflict future, the former suffers in comparison to the latter. This needs to inform nuclear retaliation considerations.
Nuclear use considerations usually limit themselves to what would deter best. They are formulated in order to prevent the nuclear use. India’s nuclear retaliation doctrine has it that India would respond with punitive retaliation to any form of nuclear use against it or its forces anywhere. In the declaratory nuclear doctrine, this would be of ‘massive’ levels. The threat of this, in an India-Pakistan conflict, is to stay Pakistan’s nuclear hand. It is not impossible to visualize that the operational nuclear doctrine could well be different and that in the event of enemy nuclear first use, the nuclear strategy might well be different.
Some analysts say that India must fulfil its promise in case Pakistan tests India’s resolve. Not doing so will reveal a chink in India’s resolve thereby subjecting it to further attacks. Punitive retaliation will return Pakistani decision makers to their senses. Others maintain that the circumstance of introduction of nuclear weapons into the conflict must dictate India’s response. While the deterrence doctrine will inform India’s response, it will not dictate it. Disproportionate response would be escalatory, opening up India to like retaliation.
What has not informed the debate so far is the factor of post nuclear conflict circumstance. Pakistan has not ruled out nuclear first use. The two approaches differ on the importance of the type of first use: whether this will be at a higher order in the form of an attempted first strike or a counter value strike or a lower order strike such as on India’s military formations on its territory. For the former – punitive retaliation – the type of nuclear first use does not matter. India’s response will be a heavy one. In case of the latter – flexible retaliation, this would be consequential to shaping India’s response.
From the perspective of a post nuclear conflict future, which of the two make better sense?
Punitive ‘massive’ retaliation makes sense in the circumstance of an attempted first strike by Pakistan. India will give back as good as it receives with a higher order strike. However, to the more probable manner of Pakistani nuclear first use – a lower order strike – this may be disproportionate. Even if the response sets back Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal considerably, of the 100 or so weapons it has, there would likely be some left over to damage India. While some analysts are sanguine that a large country like India can ‘take’ the loss of a couple of cities or so, they point out that Pakistan would be ‘finished’. This possibility would stay Pakistan’s hand and is therefore better for deterrence. What of the aftermath?
Firstly, are the environmental consequences; not only to Indian border-states, but possibly also globally. Secondly, there would be an accounting for the harm received by India. Blaming Pakistan may not be enough in the post mortem, since India’s own actions would be under scrutiny. This would be both internal and very likely also external. Internally, it is quite clear that the India’s disaster management capability would be overwhelmed. Externally, this may even take a legal turn with the decision makers being held responsible for their decision. Thirdly, there would be economic fallout. States not persuaded by India’s logic may make it an object of sanctions, effecting India’s recovery. Fourthly, politically, coping with these consequences may push into an authoritarian regime. Lastly, strategically, the expending of nuclear ordnance on Pakistan and the damage sustained by India’s nuclear and military infrastructure would push India back a generation in respect of China.
On the contrary, the flexible retaliation strategy predicated on proportional response in the initial stage of the nuclear part of the conflict does not suffer these disadvantages. In case of escalation, control is exercised and speedy conflict termination arrived at, the nuclear damage can be kept minimal. Environmentally, economically, diplomatically and politically this would be more sustainable.
Its unanticipated consequence may even be benign in a speedy mutual nuclear disarmament by both states. Having sustained nuclear damage, they would be more realistic on the utility of nuclear weapons to security. India would under the circumstance not have China’s retention of weapons detain it down this road. Globally, nuclear disarmament would receive a boost, making it a possibility in ‘Obama’s lifetime’.
Nuclear strategy making must go beyond deterrence and the conflict circumstance it is to prove responsive to. It has to also be informed by a vision of the post nuclear conflict circumstance. Such consideration reveals that ending the conflict earliest and with least damage sustained or inflicted makes strategic sense.  
Col (Dr) Ali Ahmed (Retd) is a Delhi based strategic analyst.  

shyam saran contested
#4135, 8 October 2013


India, Nuclear Weapons and ‘Massive Retaliation’: The Impossibility of Limitation?
Ali AhmedIndependent Strategic Analyst
Shyam Saran speaking in his personal capacity, rather than as the current head of the National Security Advisory Board, relies on his association with the evolution of India’s nuclear doctrine to make the case that India would do well to stick with the doctrine of ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation. He has succeeded in setting the terms of the debate, but more importantly in getting a debate going. This article contests his position in suggesting that there is need for further evolution of India’s nuclear doctrine in light of developments this century.

Saran’s case is that nuclear war cannot be kept ‘limited’. India would therefore require firing off at least a proportion of its nuclear arsenal to inflict ‘massive’ punitive damage on the adversary should it mistakenly choose to ‘go first’. A commitment to this alone will deter the adversary from this first step. Since it is a doctrine for deterrence, this makes sense.

However, in case the adversary does introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, despite the deterrence in place, then the situation is one of responding to the nuclear attack and in doing so also deterring any future nuclear use by the enemy. Therefore, it is partially one of deterrence, and of nuclear use. This implies that the nuclear deterrence doctrine needs supplementing with a nuclear use or operational nuclear doctrine.

Saran would like the operational doctrine to reflect if not be identical with the declaratory nuclear doctrine. India must respond with punitive retaliation, if necessary of ‘massive’ levels, in case of nuclear first use by the enemy, whatever the manner of such first use. The advantage of doing so would be to reinforce credibility and thereby in-conflict deterrence. This will bring the enemy to his strategic senses in double quick time. Such a setback for the adversary would have limiting effects in knocking out the enemy’s ability to continue with the exchanges and, at one remove, the conflict. In any case, it is not possible to get off the nuclear escalator; nuclear limitation being, to Saran, a contradiction in terms. 

Saran gets it right on deterrence. Deterrence doctrine reiterates to a potential nuclear adversary the inevitable - not merely possible - consequence of its nuclear first use. However, an adversary’s nuclear decision is one that can at best be influenced, not dictated. Alongside, nuclear use has to be articulated in an operational doctrine.
A punitive strike, particularly one of higher order proportions in a situation of nuclear plenty, as currently obtains, invites a potent counter retaliation, even if it is a broken-backed one. This is especially so in case the nuclear first use instance is of a lower order level. Incensed by what in its perception would be a disproportionate response, the adversary will try and get even; exacting a price that arguably can prove unaffordable.

While the adversary may be ‘finished’ as a result, India would receive a setback. While for deterrence posturing it is necessary to be cavalier over the possible loss of a ‘couple of cities’, decision-makers who require facing the political, social and environmental aftermath, have more sober considerations.

Secondly, as has been pointed out by critics such as, among others, Ashley Tellis, promising ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation will incentivise first use of first strike levels of attack. The enemy taking India’s nuclear doctrine seriously would, to in Patton’s tradition, be ‘firstest with the mostest’. In the aftermath of such a strike, seeking to respond massively may itself be a contradiction in terms.

Therefore, if higher order nuclear retaliation is not necessarily the only or best way, what are the options? Against Saran’s belief in the inevitability of escalation, the view to the contrary is that only escalatory possibilities will invariably kick-in. Nuclear use decisions informed by the operational doctrine are the manner in which escalation can be managed. As with the tango, escalation management requires both players to ‘cooperate’.  An operational doctrine that enables cooperation towards the common end of nuclear conflict termination is best. Counter-intuitively then, the moot question is: Which responses facilitate cooperation under the prohibitive conditions?

Early on in the nuclear debate, General Sundarji had provided an answer: to end nuclear exchange(s) at the lowest possible level of nuclear use. The opposite view of K Subrahmanyam, echoed by Saran, on the impossibility of nuclear limitation, has instead dominated since. What makes the situation this century different that it is time to hark Sundarji?

Nuclear first use can occur, given the intimate coupling between the sub-conventional and conventional levels sought by India and between the conventional and nuclear levels worked towards by Pakistan. India needs to think equally of limiting the consequences of nuclear use to itself as much as punishing the enemy. The operational doctrine must emphasise nuclear limitation; with nuclear cooperation enabled by a ‘tit for tat’ strategy and structural innovations as joint nuclear risk management. 

It is possible that Saran, apprehending a shift, calls for transparency and re-dedication. While transparency is seconded, a coming out in favour of the shift is called for.

book, review eating grass and afghan endgames

Games Nations Play
Ali Ahmed

Games Nations Play

Ali Ahmed 

Edited by Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla 
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 229, price not stated.

By Feroz Hassan Khan 
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2013, pp. 520, price not stated.


The editors of Afghan Endgames are at the Department of Defence Analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California. In their words, they have assembled an ‘all star cast of experts across a range of fields relevant to solving the strategic riddles of Afghanistan’. Given that Obama’s deadline of draw down and pull out of 2014 is nearing, the book is a timely one to inform thinking on American policies in ‘Afpak’ and consequences for the wider region that includes India. That it is the outcome of a research project funded by the Defence Department in around 2011 indicates that it was part of the input into the policy choices adopted in Afghanistan that finds the US finally talking to the Taliban.   Curiously there is no discussion in the book on this vital issue. This is perhaps the fundamental flaw in the book; perhaps testimony of the nature of the defence ‘establishment’ that in the US includes intellectual hangers on who build the rationale, legitimacy and strategic communication details cloaking US pursuit of its strategic interests through violence and the threat of violence over much of the globe.   Synthesizing the expert opinion in the concluding chapter, the editors suggest that ‘much less is more’. They want the US to ‘go local, go small, go long’. This entails closing most bases and downsizing others, stopping expensive development and infrastructure projects, displacing the ‘old guard’ with ‘young Afghan leaders’, downsizing the Afghan National Army, maintaining a very small anti- terrorist presence for high value counter terrorism missions, drastically reduce funding of Pakistan and persuade India to sharply reduce its footprint in Afghanistan. If the book has helped to arrive at this prescription for US policy, its credibility would depend on (a) whether the US is indeed embarked down this road, and (b) if such a policy makes strategic sense.   A negative answer to (a) is evident from the US initiating direct talks with the Taliban who have opened an embassy in the UAE for the purpose. The US adoption of this route of attempting to co-opt the Taliban, thereby making continuing counter insurgency redundant in Afghanistan dispenses with the book’s suggestions—the verdict on (b). It is clear to the US that it cannot do with a minimal force strength in support of ...

Feroze Hassan Khan is not necessarily the
one to write the definitive book on Pakistan’s
nuclear project as he has been a longstanding
insider in the Pakistani nuclear establishment.
The fact that he has been allowed to draw on
his earlier official work to write the book by
Pakistani authorities themselves indicates that
while there is much that he has covered, there
is also much that may have been left under
wraps. Pakistan has reasons to have its nuclear
capability dwelt on, not least for reasons of
deterrence and transparency. The author’s
project was probably welcomed by the authorities
to the advantage of the author, since
it also helps him record his critical contribution
to the development of the doctrinal aspect
of the programme.
Given this happy symbiosis, Eating
Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb,
while welcome and timely, must be read with
a pinch of salt as to its claims of Pakistani
prowess, contribution to national and regional
security and Pakistan’s ability to keep
their nuclear capability under control. The
book is important not only for what it says
of the bomb, but what it refrains from saying
out loud, though one discerns from the
narrative that the author has more to say but
does not do so.
The book does for the Pakistani bomb
what George Perkovich’s book did for India’s...

Please  or  to Read More Entire Article

Friday, 2 August 2013

Af-Pak: A Strategic Opportunity for South Asia?
Ali Ahmed
In the post-Afghan elections scenario, the US is contemplating another ‘surge’ and a rethink on its counter-insurgency strategy. Though the US is determined to stay the course, it may have to switch from a militarily dominant to a politically dominant strategy, in which case, reaching out to the Taliban will be possible. In case the Taliban were to abandon its al Qaeda connection and moderate its extremist religious stance as part of a negotiated deal, the feasibility of such a political approach is not impossible to envisage. The ‘surge’ could position the US favourably by enabling it reach a position of military strength, thereby facilitating the negotiations. The underside of this strategy is that it could result in an escalation of war with the Pakistani Taliban resorting to an expansion of the theatre of war into Pakistani Punjab, thereby, destabilizing the nuclear armed state. This paper argues that to prevent such an eventuality, the political prong of the Af-Pak strategy must go beyond the ‘moderate’ Taliban to also reach out to the hardcore Taliban. It calls for an ‘engage and moderate’ strategy. The paper makes the case that attempting to defeat the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban combine will place the stability of Pakistan at great risk. Therefore, accommodating it, in return for moderation, may be preferable. This however, could be taken to mean an undesirable ‘appeasement’, especially if the Taliban is seen as an expansionist force, incapable of reforming itself. The paper debates this and arrives at the position that the Taliban can be tamed without the undue risk that predominantly military action entails. It recommends a proactive role for India in bringing about a ‘political first’ strategy for the international community

Monday, 29 July 2013

azm e nau and cold start

India and Pakistan: Azm-e-Nau as a Response to the Cold Start

The Pakistani Army has just completed its summer war games, Azm Nau IV. The press release has it that with the Azm-e-Nau series of exercises held since 2009, Pakistan has arrived at an answer to India’s Cold Start. Its distraction so far with the ‘Af-Pak’ related security situation on its western border appears to be now behind it. With the Americans packing to depart, it’s back to business in South Asia.

The nuclear backdrop does make this worrisome. There is also no guarantee against a war breaking out. A conventional war cannot be guaranteed to stay conventional. It can be argued that Pakistan’s signalling that it is prepared conventionally is good in the sense that it will deter India on the conventional level. But the problem is that this gives Pakistan the confidence to provoke India at the subconventional level; providing a trigger for India to go conventional in response.

The ‘unthinkable’ cannot be wholly discounted. Pakistanis have gone down the plutonium route to miniaturise warheads so as to place them on missiles. Being short on planes, missiles are the mainstay of the Pakistani nuclear force. The latest of these missiles is a nuclear-tipped battlefield missile designed for use against Indian conventional forces. Its battlefield employment serves to bring nuclear war outbreak that much closer. Pakistan’s rationale for such lowering of the nuclear threshold is that it would deter India from launching Cold Start offensives; thereby, making nuclear war more remote.

This has got India debating its options. India could pay Pakistan back in the same coin of proxy war. It is easy to destabilise Pakistan, perpetually on the brink of being a failed and terror sponsoring state. However, there is no guarantee that this will end the terror provocations, and an unstable Pakistan is not necessarily in India’s interest.

India could rely on conventional asymmetry in its favour, deepened by successive defence budgets such as this year’s crossing of the INR250 thousand crores mark. The intent is to deter Pakistani adventurism and, if push comes to shove, to prevail at every level of the conflict, including nuclear. The idea is to gain ‘escalation dominance’, which means to convince the adversary to give up the fight rather than take it to the next higher level at which, yet again, it cannot hope to win.

India’s military has been on a learning curve ever since its conventional war doctrine was rendered obsolete by Pokhran II. While arriving at the concept of Limited War soon thereafter, it was unable to rise to the occasion when it was sorely tested at the next crisis in wake of the parliament attack. The embarrassment of having taken over three weeks to ready itself, led to the intensive thinking that resulted in the Cold Start doctrine.

The doctrine required multiple attacks into Pakistan at-the-double. Genuflecting to the nuclear backdrop, the army sought to limit these thrusts to shallow depths. Even so, this amounted to nuclear flirtation since the attack was to be rapid and along a broad front using resources with ‘pivot corps’ or defending formations and offensive formations staged forward closer to the border for the purpose. With the balance of its strike corps forming up in wake of the limited offensives and an air offensive unfolding simultaneously, Pakistan could well be stampeded into a nuclear decision in a truncated timeframe. This made Cold Start difficult to sell to the political masters.

Consequently, India has since distanced itself from Cold Start. An army chief has gone on to say that there was nothing called Cold Start. The contours of what it has come up with instead are indistinct. The publicity that attended Cold Start, intended no doubt to enhance its deterrent effect, is missing. Consequently, little is known of its successor, ‘Cold Start lite’. It apparently involves quick punches at key locations to punish Pakistan’s army and force its hand against destabilising forces within. While Pakistan could choose to up-the-ante, it is logically expected to be self-deterred when faced with the nuclear overhang. The nuclear scare is to help Pakistani army along in reining in its jihadists in a ‘Pakistan first’ strategy.

At the end of its summer exercises, the Pakistani army has claimed that it is in a position to deploy fast enough to the borders to give Indian attacks a bloody nose. This challenges India’s expectation that Pakistan would choose to lose cheaply than resoundingly at the next higher level. India will need to take the fighting up a notch higher. Its air force is also unlikely to sit out the war. This amounts to getting back into nuclear danger zone.

Clearly, even if a summer’s end finds both militaries more practiced, it does not mean either nation is any safer. The writing on the wall is to not only draw up the calendar for talks agreed on by Salman Khurshid and Sartaz Aziz at their meeting in Brunei recently, but have the two prime ministers meet swiftly to take the reopening forward.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Book Review
February-March 2013

Book Review
INTERNAL CONFLICTS MILITARY PERSPECTIVESBy V.R. Raghavan (ed.) Vij Books, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 324,`1250.00
Internal Conflicts, an output of the Center for Security Analysis, Chennai whosemandate is to look at the non-traditionalsecurity lens, of necessity reflects on the issueof internal security that has been germane totraditional security for at least a quarter centurynow. It comprises papers presented atseminars that notably were also conducted atplaces other than the national capital,organized as part of an ongoing three-yearproject on internal conflicts and transnationalconsequences.
The editor in his strategic overviewexpands the coverage to include Sri Lanka andMyanmar. This  widening of scope of the bookis owed to the Center, co-founded by theeditor along with M.K. Narayanan in 2002,also engaging with security of South and SouthEast Asia. It is one of two organizations inIndia that are part of the strategic studiesnetwork of the Near East South Asia Center(NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, NationalDefence University, Washington D.C.. Thesecond section of the book carries papers byretired military brass, with VedMarwah beingthe exception. While the papers are Indiacentric, there is one on consequences of internal security operations on the Nepal Army.
The editor’s extended essay over 150pages is masterly. His discussion of internalconflicts in India covers North East India, J&Kand Naxalism. The Maoist conflict in Nepaland ethnic conflicts in Sri Lanka and Myanmarare the other areas of focus. He discusses stateresponses, peace processes, economicconsequences, militarization and politicalimpact in its internal and external dimensions.The editor’s conclusion is that the four stateshave used some or a combination of the fourapproaches available: security approachwherein police forces are used, militaryapproach, political accommodation andeconomic/development approach. India’s owncase has been that of a ‘combination approach’but with mixed results whereas for the otherthree, it has been predominantly a militaryapproach. His reflection on peace talks, peaceaccords and ceasefire agreements, also termedSuspension of Operations agreements, is usefulin extending the discussion on internalsecurity otherwise restricted to the conflictmanagement aspects to conflict resolution. Herightly highlights that the main deficiency insustaining peace is inadequate political followup. Given that most conflicts are aboutidentity related greivances, ‘states have toaddress the possibility of accommodation inmulticultural, multiethnic and multireligiouscontext’ (p. 173).
Lt. Gen. Raghavan’s military insight is inevidence in his Foreword on the ‘trilemma’faced in countering insurgency. He writes that‘in an asymmetrical warfare it is impossibleto simultaneously achieve, 1)  force protection,2) distinction between enemy combatants andnon-combatants and 3) the physicalelimination of insurgents. In pursuing any oneof these options, the armed forces need toforgo the other two options (p. x).’ Theexistence of the ‘trilemma’ is borne out in thecryptic reference by Lt. Gen. Sudhir Sharmain his paper on the debate within the army:‘It has been argued by some, that winninghearts and minds is in frucuous (sic) as it doesnot contribute to military success’ (p. 197).It is to his credit that he does not agreewith this line of agrument. This begs thequestion of the strength of the constituencyamidst the brass that does. Clearly, the SriLankan model of military elimination of theLTTE has not come about in a conceptualvacuum. The danger is in the militaryresolving the ‘trilemma’ in favour of point threelisted by Raghavan. The Myanmar andNepalese examples suggest as much andexpectations are that in case the Sri LankanGovernment remains oblivious of postconflict justice for neglect of point two, thenits military victory will be pyrrhic. Theinability of the superpower, the US, to achieveall threesimultaneously in Afghanistan shouldcertainly make any debate rest.
The chapter by Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoimakes the distinction between the traditionalinsurgencies ‘indigenous’ (p. 189) to Indiaand those that are fostered from outside, suchas proxy wars with jihadi overtones. He isdoubtful if India’s traditional approach ofminimal force can sustain into the future.Seeing that the military’s continuingemployment is inevitable, he is of the viewthat an internal security force of the army becreated distinct from its force for conventionaloperations. There will therefore be a two-tierapproach: traditional insurgencies beingtackled by the central police forces and the‘externally sponsored high grade insurgencies’being combated by the army’s internalsecurity force. He wants that this force shouldbe ‘an integral part of the army and should bedeployed, employed and controlled by theArmy Headquarters (p. 194).’ This seems tobe the case even now with India’s twoparamilitary forces, the Rashtriya Rifles andthe Assam Rifles, operating under the Army. Acriticism that can easily be anticipated is thatthe Army in such a case will end up lessaccountable and become a vested interest ininsurgency. From the Army’s foot dragging onissues such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA), some believe that is already the case.
Lt. Gen. Arvind Sharma, a former EasternArmy Commander and overall in charge ofoperations in the North East, writing on thepsychological effects on soldiers opines thatsenior commanders must be ‘involved inshaping the environment to include smoothfunctioning with state government, sociocultural organisations, relations and dealingwith the public, the media and local authorities’(p. 218). He says this in the context of toomany commanders wanting to lead from thefront and imposing on tactical level operations.This debate goes back at least to the midnineties. The problem with arm-chair generalship is in the ‘strategic sergeant’ losing the warfor ‘hearts and minds’ by misapplication offorce. The result is in the commander then‘managing the environment’ by ‘perceptionmanagement’ rather than taking action against  inappropriate force application. Such actiononly draws scepticism about the Army’s recordon human rights, detracting from itsinstitutional credibility. With the state ofrectitude of the military increasinglyapproximating their civilian counterparts, thereis a case to the contrary, for the commander’somnipresence, particularly in high intensitycounter-insurgency.The book is a useful record of the military’sdoctrinal approach at the current time.
ASIAN RIVALRIES: CONFLICT, ESCALATION, AND LIMITATIONS ON TWO-LEVEL GAMES Edited by SumitGanguly and William R. Thompson, Foundation Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 259, price not stated.The Book Review / February-March 2013  
Two-level games are interactions in whichdecision makers operate in competitivedomestic and international environments.Elites not only have to initiate and respondin the international domain but also have totake domestic constituencies along. Suchinteractions are usually in the context of longlasting and ongoing ‘rivalries’—discordbetween serial disputants with potential forconflict and armed confrontation.
The book edited by Ganguly andThompson situates the analysis in Asiabecause of its ever-increasing importance andits ‘high potential for conflict over regionalhegemony and global leadership of anyregion’. The region has witnessed thirty-tworivalries in the modern era, of which nineare ongoing ones. The book covers thefollowing dyads: China-Taiwan, US-China,India-Pakistan, Sino-Indian, Sino-Russian,the two Koreas and China-Vietnam. To theeditors, this makes Asia ripe for a freshoutbreak of rivalry in a multipolar future.The ‘Middle East’ is excluded from theregion since it has already received adequateattention and there is corresponding deficitin relation to the rest of Asia that can arguablyprove more significant in the future.
The two chapters of interest to readersin this part of the world involve India in itsrelations with both its significant neighbours:China and Pakistan. This fact is itself a tellingstatement on its levels of  (in)security.Through the two-level game prism, such apotentially hazardous situation cannot havebeen brought about by factors solely in eitherdomain: international and domestic. Indiais in an intractable or protracted conflict withits neighbours not only because of factorsthat cannot be wished away such as criticalterritorial issues, but also because issues withresonance in domestic politics, such asnationalisms and identity, have made itdifficult. Consequently, when faced withcrisis or events, it would be imprudent torule out domestic sphere factors asinfluencing decisions on escalation or deescalation.
S. Paul Kapur’s chapter on the Indo-Pakrivalry does bring out the salience of thedomestic sphere. However, his argumentationdoes not rise to the expectations raised byhis intricately argued book,  DangerousDeterrent but merely retraces the well knownmeandering of Indo-Pak relations over threeperiods: the first conflictual period fromIndependence to the 1971 War; the ‘longpeace’ between 1971 till the outbreak of theinternal troubles in Kashmir in 1989; andthe troubled period since. The author rightlycharacterizes India and Pakistan as the‘quintessential Asian rivals’. His argument isthat the rivalry has been driven by thedispute over territory of Kashmir that hasidentity related portents for both states, aconstant in domestic politics. Theinternational factors—or factors related to theexternal strategic environment—have driventhe rivalry within this context. The domesticdomain has provided the permissive cause oftension while the efficient or proximatecauses lie in the realm of international strategic variables.
Manjeet S. Pardesi, a doctoral candidatein Indiana University, aims at understandingthe role of domestic politics in the rivalrydynamics between India and China. Heconsiders two cases: the late fifties and earlysixties and the late eighties. His conclusionis that the domestic sphere has littleinfluence on the decision to escalate butbecomes significant once a decision has beenmade. Escalation is more likely when thethreat perception becomes more acute anddeescalation when there is littleaccentuationin the threat. To him, Nehru adopted theforward policy once the internal situation inTibet deteriorated due to China reneging ontheir 17 point agreement with the DalaiLama signed when they reasserted theirsovereignty in 1950. This resulted in reducedTibetan autonomy and increased Chinesepresence in Tibet and pressure. While thedecision to escalate did not have domesticpressures behind it, once the die had beencast, nationalism ensured that the tiger couldnot be dismounted. While the latter is true,to discount the input of the domesticdimension into Nehru’s decision isdebatable. Though Nehru had centralizedforeign policy, he was concerned withdomestic opinion on his leadership sincequestioning in one sector could spill over tojeopardize the whole, or his vision for India.
This can also been seen in his policy onKashmir and in relation to nucleardevelopments.
Likewise, Pardesi believes that in the lateeighties the Chinese threat not having beenprominent, India chose to de-escalate afterthe Sumdorong Chu crisis of 1986. This ledup to Rajiv Gandhi’s landmark visit of 1988.However, the preceding OperationChequerboard and the militarily activeresponse to the crisis can be seen equally asIndia demonstrating its muscles to a domesticaudience in order to undertake the deescalation without its credentials as a credibleactor being questioned.This sensitivity of strategic decisionmakers to the domestic sphere is liable forunderestimation and thereby a misreadingof India’s intentions and actions. It makesfor the dominant perception that areasonable India has been imposed on byinsistent neighbours, who have even gangedup on occasion to corner India. This lies atbase of the ‘two front’ thesis that has beenascendant over the past half decade. Thenational resources that then get diverted intostrategic deterrence and military preparedness are thus legitimized. These havebeen seen instead as India reassuring itselfthat  it can negotiate from a position ofequality with China and can compel Pakistanby placing it in a position of asymmetry. Inother words, the domestic factor predominates in India.
The other chapters will be of interest tothe expanding numbers of China specialists.China is seemingly at the center of Asia withmarked rivalries along its periphery. This isuseful for the third party, the US, to get afoot in the door and to justify its ‘pivot’ or‘rebalancing’. TheAmerican editors justify US  engagement with the region as an Asian power.It is no wonder then that  they prognosticatethe potential for conflict in the region.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Writings on IDSA website

Ali Ahmed

Ali Ahmed was Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile

India’s Limited War Doctrine: The Structural Factor

The aim of the monograph is to examine the structural factor behind the development of India's Limited War Doctrine. 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.

Political Decision-Making and Nuclear Retaliation

July 2012
Currently, India's nuclear doctrine is one of inflicting ‘unacceptable damage’ in case of nuclear first use against it or its forces anywhere.

A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them Beyond Orientalism by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

March 2012
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is Reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Reopening the Debate on Limited War

February 29, 2012
The commentary makes the case for reopening the Limited War debate in order to inform explicit articulation of a Limited War doctrine.

Towards A New Asian Order

Publication: Shipra Publications
ISBN : 978-81-7541-615-4
The volume contains contributions by leading Asian analysts and Asia watchers on the theme of prospects for Asian integration. It discusses regionalism at the continental level and investigates overarching trends. It focuses on Asia's 'rise' and the key factors shaping the Asian regional order. The volume also provides valuable perspectives on Asia's sub-regions. Another salient feature of this volume is its coverage of increasingly significant non-traditional issues in the Asian context.

The Indian Army: What the stars foretell for 2012

December 7, 2011
The Indian Army can be expected to deliver on the strategic challenges it faces, although how it does this depends on how it measures up to internal change.