Saturday, 16 February 2013
The 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.