Note - Also can be downloaded from the blog's right margin.
Wednesday, 25 December 2019
The Ali Oeuvre:
National security this century
I was fortunate to arrive in Delhi as a young captain when India turned a corner at the end of the Cold War. My five years as an infantry man till then had opened up the tactical level. I had already gained an early introduction to the operational level on holidays in Kashmir, where a rebellion had broken out just then and had caught my family in its vortex. In Delhi, from my back row vantage in seminar rooms, I had a ring side view of strategic debates and managed a glimpse of the strategic level.
I witnessed old verities being abandoned and a new path forged. Thus, as with global history, this century can be taken as beginning a decade earlier with the end of the Cold War. The principal political shift was in cultural nationalism going from being incipient at the fall of the Babri Masjid to entrenchment. The right wing busily consolidated its sway over domestic politics. Its influence on national security was subtle initially as India’s upward economic trajectory - in part - hid revivalism as another impetus to its great power quest.
Even as history marched on, I took time out to acquire an education on the side in a sabbatical. This made for a well-spent subsequent decade in the military in which I participated in the internal debates by writing for professional publications. Freshly back from learning about military sociology, among other things, I watched as the ideological wares of the right wing acquire adherents within the military. The imprint of cultural nationalism was evident on both strategic and organizational culture.
My initial encounter with this was on the day when suddenly I espied a new layout in the Valmiki Library at the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington. I was a regular library visitor and was surprised to see a statue of the Hindu goddess of learning gracing the library one day. I dashed off an article for the Trishul, the journal of the DSSC, pointing out what I thought was a step away from the military’s secular ethos. For my pains, I was marched up to the chief instructor for being political, whereas to me the appearance of the statue was evidence of a step away also from its apolitical ethic against which the military needed to be cautioned. The senior instructor who marched me up can be seen in his retirement on google garlanding the statue of right wing icon BS Moonje. The then commandant of DSSC has since written a book that is in most military libraries that talks of air planes in ancient India.
I have since - subconsciously for most part - traced the rise of cultural nationalism. I recorded this intermittently, taking pains to apprise editors of the baleful imprint of right wing trope in military journals. Among other issues I dwell on, my writings provide a cultural explanation for the developments in Indian security over this century. I was an early bird in reckoning an attempt at right wing hegemony that rightly espied the security field as an easy conduit. The inevitable impact of this change in domestic political culture on strategic and military culture is a story that needs being told. I retrospectively notice that I have done so – explicitly at times and unwarily at others - in my writings.
The thread linking these writings is the liberal perspective on use of force in national security matters. It is clear over the past few years of a right wing regime in power that a pronounced reset of India is underway. A retrospective of my writings throws up several instances my cautioning against such a pass. I think that this prescience is the key to my work. Though voluminous, the corpus is an original perspective on South Asian security since it largely – and singularly at that since there are no other competing works on this - dwells on the influence of political Hinduism on national security.
This is a minority viewpoint in more than the usual way of interpreting ‘minority’. While I bear a Muslim name and that identity did I reckon in part influence my perspective, the ‘minority’ viewpoint I champion is the liberal one on national security. It has required investment of time, resources and energy to challenge the prevailing conservative-realist paradigm. In the context of the times, I like to believe that it took some gumption.
Since the corpus covers a vast terrain both in time and scope, I undertake a summary here. Besides the underlying theme of the work mentioned, the body of work is a useful record of the military and Indian strategic affairs over the last quarter century for students, practitioners, attentive public and academics to peruse. The published work earned me a doctorate – my second - from Cambridge University under its Special Regulations. I assume on that account that my work might interest a wider audience. The presentation here is to attempt reach it. This is hopefully timely in light of what I believe to be dire straits into which India is headed under this regime.
An intellectual journey
At various times in my professional life of over three decades I have been a military man, an academic and an international civil servant. These exposures have contributed to my thinking on strategic affairs and peace studies related questions. I began my writing career, that was coextensive with my professional engagement, over the past quarter century as an infantry officer in the Indian army. Immersing myself in the academia after premature retirement from the army, I was able to contribute to the discourse as part of Delhi’s strategic community. Alongside, I worked towards a doctoral degree in international politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
A perusal of the collected works comprising close to a 1000 published pieces of varying length, over 4000 pages and some two million words, needs summarizing. The aim is to bring out the underlying unity to the whole. The work has been informed by the peculiar and unique vantage points in my journey. My academic background has enriched the reflection, distinguishing my work from that of other practitioners in that it is a combination of learning and experience. The analytical tools acquired by me while at the DSSC, at the military intelligence course, at the New Delhi think tank and as a UN political analyst with its mission analysis qualification, have been put to good use.
A quarter century of extensive engagement with the strategic discussion in India finds expression in the collection. Not only did I feed into the discussion, but my thinking was enhanced by it. My writings enabled the strategic discussion (if not cacophony) to be taken further and in the dissemination of the content to an attentive audience, initially within the military, and over the past decade - after I left the military - to an interested public through writing on the web and compiling the collections in two blogs: www.ali-writings.blogspot.in and http://subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.com/.
In the period, India emerged as a reckonable power, with an expanding economic and strategic footprint. There was a growing interest in matters of national security among the educated, middle classes. Consequently, there was much to engage with and write about, particularly off the mainstream track. My contributions are at the interstices of international relations, strategy, military sociology and the political backdrop to internal security.
An aspect of India’s politics that caught my attention early – as mentioned - was the rise of the right wing in national politics. I concentrated on the implications for national security and regional strategic affairs. Having studied civil-military relations at the master’s level, I was able to see the impact of the ideology on the military. While the Indian military is known as a professional, apolitical and secular force, I was able to trace the manner the change in national politics was influencing the military. This is a consistent theme in my writings on the Indian military over the past quarter century.
While within service, I consistently pointed out to editors of in-service journals the trickling in of right-wing ideas into the publications, and thereby into the military mind. This phenomenon has acquired a magnitude lately. My writings covering this aspect are perhaps the singular source on this phenomenon in India, and on that are of interest in military sociology.
They expand the horizons of military sociology that usually restricts itself to the study of the power of military over national politics in the form of praetorianism. What I bring out is the reverse, on how forces in politics seek to control the military through expansion of their reach into and within the military, termed subjective civilian control. Military professionalism is imbued with the cultural nationalist ethos of the ruling political formation, the ruling party and its support base in far-right cultural and political formations.
After leaving the military, I gained a measure on the emergence to respectability in national politics of right wing views. There was a concerted assault on India’s largest minority – and incidentally the world’s largest numerical minority - India’s Muslims. As a member of this community, I have - as with other Indian Muslims in the middle classes (including cultural and non-practising Muslims) and professions - been concerned by implications of majoritarianism for the minority.
I have in my writings taken a security-centric view, covering a gap in the discussion since very few in the strategic community are Muslims. The theme I tackle is the rise of Hindutva – cultural nationalism – in India is not without costs for India’s plurality, democratic ethos and secularism. I concentrate on the implications on the security of Muslim communities.
Further, I have reflected on how the right-wing penetration upsets rational strategy making and choices. I looked at how and why a secure and powerful state such as India behaves like an insecure, paranoid one. India has shifted its strategic posture towards greater assertiveness of its growing power over the past decade and half. It appears caught up in a security dilemma with its neighbours, with neighbours reacting to its security actions.
One arena of my particular interest in which this action-reaction is found reflected in is of security doctrines: strategic, nuclear, conventional and sub-conventional. I have extensively dealt with doctrinal matters, making for the distinctiveness of my work in India’s strategic community.
Having been a practitioner once, I participated in counter insurgency operations and conventional war exercises. I acquired a perspective on nuclear strategy at the two universities in UK. I was thus able to appraise the inter-linkages between the three strategic levels – subconventional, conventional and nuclear – and, link this to the grand strategic and political levels. My strategic work, included in the compilations, is on the potentially dangerous doctrinal inter-linkages between the two regional rivals, India and Pakistan, in the nuclear age.
Of some consequence in the strategic debate has been my doctoral dissertation at JNU on limited war in South Asia. My doctoral thesis titled, ‘India’s Limited War doctrine: Structural, Political and Organisational factors’ culminated in a book India’s Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia. It covered the Cold Start doctrine, the doctrinal shift in India towards a proactive strategy. The dissertation culminated in a well-received book, India’s doctrine puzzle: Limiting war in South Asia (Routledge 2014). The research and the book were done at a time when I was advantaged by being in the rooms where the doctrinal shift underway was often discussed. I dwelt on the implications of shift in conventional level on the nuclear level.
My engagement with doctrines goes back to my Master’s dissertation in London on peacekeeping doctrine. In the mid-nineties, peacekeeping had spiked with the end of the Cold War. Doctrine required catching up with the outbreak of conflicts as Cold War stability dissolved across Africa, South East Asia and Balkans. As a young military officer of an army extensively engaged with peacekeeping and student, I was thus an early inductee into doctrinal thinking.
Back in India, the army was grappling with the advent of the nuclear age in South Asia in the two back-to-back nuclear tests in Pokhran and Chagai in May 1998. India brought out a nuclear doctrine. I examined its implications for the conventional doctrine, arguing for the applicability of limited war doctrine in South Asia. India’s conventional war doctrine at the turn of the century was modeled on a total war scenario, in which three offensive strike corps poised to knock out the adversary and capture territory for post-conflict bargaining. I found this was anachronistic in the nuclear age.
My two monographs at IDSA captured this shift, along with my book. I was in the midst of the doctrinal effervescence in India, in which the armed forces put out respective doctrines. Due to a peculiarity of India’s nuclear quest, the military had been left out of the nuclear loop. Thus, its conventional doctrine was put out in a vacuum of strategic guidance. I took on the role of stitching the two levels – nuclear and conventional – together and hopefully made an original contribution to Indian strategic thinking.
The writings dealing with the conventional-nuclear interface were informed by a liberal perspective. I found myself constantly at odds with the realist-conservative bias in the military that surfaced in its publications, approaches and doctrines. The military is an instrument of state power and tool in the use of force, I pointed to the goal posts having shifted since the nuclear advent. My bringing out that it could not be business-as-usual was a contrarian position initially in the strategic discourse in India. The effect of hyper-nationalist and cultural nationalist thinking on strategy was liable to underplay the nuclear genie let loose in the region.
The Indian discourse was on how to outpoint and overawe Pakistan leveraging the growing power differential with Pakistan. The assumption was that nuclear deterrence would hold. India was grappling on how to have Pakistan discontinue its support to its proxies in the Kashmir conflict by using its conventional advantage. Pakistan, for its part, pulled down its nuclear awning to compensate for its conventional weakness. India, mindful of this, decided to pull its conventional punches in its new doctrine, Cold Start.
However, the nuclear doctrine remained unchanged at a declaratory level and consequently continues to pose a threat to regional – and global - security. With Pakistan poised for first use and India promising massive nuclear retaliation, there is a potentially catastrophic doctrinal impasse. A shift in India’s nuclear doctrine for greater flexibility is one way out of this conundrum, even if it makes nuclear war appear fightable, if not winnable. If escalation pessimists are right, then the alternative staring India in the face is to put its money where its mouth is – it is fond of saying that it is against nuclear weapons - and de-nuclearise.
Liberal security perspective:
Though India adopted Cold Start doctrine, India’s military exercises did not reflect the necessity of doctrinal shift to limited war in the nuclear era. Conflict termination under nuclear conditions was not sufficiently thought-through. My contributions, spread across multiple websites on strategic affairs, were combative, taking the argument to the realist camp. I have packaged these in books of my compiled words, so that the thread of the argument and the debates within the strategic community of the last two decades can be easier followed.
I believe that my advocacy from an Ashokan perspective was a lonely intellectual guerilla effort since the Indian strategic community – as elsewhere - is realist dominated. Realism has limitations that need to be brought to the attention of policy makers grappling with global consequences of military action in the nuclear age.
India’s foremost internal conflict, Kashmir, the most likely trigger for nuclear conflict, was an abiding interest. Challenged by a people-centric militancy, India chose to characterize it as terrorism and proxy war precluding political resolution and privileging a military template. It was aided in this with the anti-terror discourse internationally after the 9/11 episode. This approach limited policy choices with conflict management instead of conflict resolution approaches to fore.
I was an early bird in examining the internal conflict, as my Kashmir-related writings going back to the early nineties, testify. I was posed thrice - briefly each time - in J&K during my military career and acquired a worm’s eye view to complement my strategic perspective from my academic engagement. I had grappled with the issue of external intervention in internal conflict – proxy war by Pakistan in Kashmir - in a chapter in my MPhil thesis while at Cambridge. By mid-2000s India and Pakistan reached out to each other. This was not to last, derailed by 26/11, as the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 were called.
From another perch - my peace studies exposure in academia – I advocated progressing peace talks both internally and externally. Discerning why these do not succeed and what it might take for them to succeed is my attempt to stitch power oriented strategic studies and peace studies, that looks at negotiated end to conflict. I notice a conflict management approach trumps conflict resolution approaches, regardless on the implications for the community in which conflict is played out. I have been particularly critical on the latest constitutional initiative in Kashmir, whereby Kashmir has been reduced to a unit to be administered by New Delhi.
The theme of peace initiatives and humane conduct of counter insurgency operations permeates my writings. This was usually to counter the militarized discourse in professional journals and within the strategic community in general and on how to tackle Kashmir and Pakistan. I reflected on the place of military template in this, arguing for human rights sensitivity in counter insurgency even where there is incidence of proxy war. I had two stints as an infantry officer in India’s north east: in Assam and Tripura. Thus, I was able to have a practitioner-cum-academic view, a not-unknown combination.
While India’s military has mostly been cognizant of human rights law and requirements, there is often a ‘Rambo’ tendency in fighting men. Institutional measures are needed for curbing can have strategic consequences as seen in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The turn to cultural nationalism and its influence within the military also needs factoring in. Seeing the conflict as a civilisational one between Islam and Hinduism, dating to a thousand years back, constricts scope for concessions and mutual understanding. This is an understudied area since the military is treated as a holy cow. I brought up these issues, calling for a draw-down in the military prong of strategy in favour of a political approach.
I have been able to gain a greater appreciation of political approaches and options in conflict resolution in my capacity as a political affairs officer with three UN missions. I undertook two UN trainings in mediation in Oslo and appreciate the potential for conflict resolution of non-military approaches.
Political approaches are not unknown in India. There are multiple suspension-of-operations agreements in place in the north east and a major and long lasting ceasefire agreement is under implementation in Nagaland. Even in Kashmir, there has been a Ramzan suspension of operations, though the initiative appears to have set the stage for Operation All Out, an operation that in turn created the conditions for the constitutional initiatives of August 2019. The lack of traction for peace brings to fore the necessity of peace studies insights and their wider dissemination.
I was acquainted with this deficit while at the peace studies faculty, getting to know the march that strategic studies faculties have acquired over peace studies faculties. Policies favour the former; thereby, having the role of and use of force appear more efficacious when contrasted to the possibilities of peace through peaceful means. This is taken as an exercise in sovereignty in post-colonial states that see citizens as subjects. The view that citizens are to be protected by the state against conflict and its effects, if necessary by preventive, mitigatory and resolution-seeking negotiations and mediation for conflict termination is not widely prevalent. The sense of insecurity allows a statist view to prevail, leading to self-perpetuating conflict management rather than conflict resolution.
A summary of the oeuvre
I consolidated my writings in disparate locations into book compilations over the years to enable access for a wider audience, particularly the student community in international relations, South Asian studies, Indian politics, South Asian security issues and peace studies. The writings cover the period since the early nineties and have touched upon all security relevant issues, such as the nuclear issue, the conventional doctrine, counter insurgency practices, Kashmir, India-Pakistan equations, peacekeeping and civil-military relations. The conventional-nuclear doctrinal interface and civil-military relations or military sociology are I believe path-breaking, the latter is particularly so since the subject is understudied.
Below I undertake a synopsis of the books on my blog to provide the context and knit together the argument that at heart of India’s security predicament is the rise of the Right wing in Indian politics. A co-edited book, Towards a New Asian Order (2012), comprising the conference proceedings of an international conference I organized on Asia for my think tank, is a prominent output not covered here. Sixteen books have followed (http://www.dogearsetc.com/dogears/search/Author/Ali%20Ahmed; http://www.dogearsetc.com/dogears/search/All/firdaus%20ahmed), three of which are monographs (one unpublished). My dissertations below are at my blog:
· PhD in International Politics, Jawarharlal Nehru University – ‘India’s Limited War Doctrine: Structural, Political and Organisational Factors’
· MPhil at Cambridge University – ‘Intervention In Internal Affairs By States In South Asia’
· MSc in Defence and Strategic Studies at DSSC, Madras University – ‘The Contending Philosophies In Indian Strategic Thought And The Impact On SAARC’
· MA in War Studies, King’s College London – ‘UN Peacekeeping and Military Doctrine’
The sixteen books can be divided into four sets.
· The first set comprises my two books with my peer reviewed book chapter and article contributions respectively to edited volumes and publications: South Asian security: A vantage point and Indian security: A vantage point.
· The second set comprises the three monographs, two worked on at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, namely Reconciling Doctrines: Prerequisite for Peace in South Asia and India’s Limited War Doctrine: The Structural Factor, and the third (unpublished) one at the United Services Institution, Institutional Interest: A Study of India’s Strategic Culture.
· The third set comprises my compilations of publications (South Asia at a Strategic Cross Road; India: A strategic alternative; India’s National Security in the Liberal Perspective; On War in South Asia; On Peace in South Asia; South Asia: In it Together; Think South Asia; and Subcontinental Musings) and a book compilation with a proportion of my writings as a military officer (On India's military: Writings from within). Two further book comprise respectively some 100 op-eds in the Kashmir Times and another some 50 book reviews, including in the The Book Review India.
Synopsis of the sets
The first set
The first set with my book chapters and essays/articles respectively for eminent publications such as the Economic and Political Weekly – for which I share the monthly strategic affairs column with two other writers – is my major work. They cover the past decade and I believe are a significant contribution to the strategic debate in India, particularly so since the liberal perspective has not had space.
The essays reflect a contrarian perspective arguing that when India has enough power for security sufficiency, more of the same as argued by realists is unnecessary, counter-productive and liable to create a self-fulfilling prophecy in generating a security dilemma in neighbours, such as in India’s case, a relatively weaker Pakistan. Some essays carry an anti-nuclear stance, arguing through a strategic lens that nuclear weapons possession implies a critical time break. The argument was for adapting India’s conventional military power to the nuclear age. On the contrary, India, in the period, attempted to continue searching for ‘decisive victory’ through a new conventional doctrine, under cover of an expansive – and that count implausible - nuclear doctrine.
The implacable logic of deterrence in the nuclear age suggests a diplomatic outreach externally (with Pakistan) and peace interventions internally (in Kashmir). In the event, this is not the policy choice India adopted. I make the case through my writings that the reason for India missing out on the logic of the nuclear age is that its nuclear ascendance was in part induced by cultural (religious) revivalism in India and the need for primordial, national pride makes it continue to adhere to power – rather than accommodation - as means to conflict resolution.
The second set
My second set comprises monographs. These have both research and conceptual content. In the monographs, Reconciling doctrines, I make my most significant argument that the doctrinal propensities of the two states – India and Pakistan – makes for a volatile combination when juxtaposed against each other. The two have offensive doctrines at the three doctrinal levels – Pakistan at the subconventional and India at the conventional level. Both have offensive nuclear doctrines: Pakistan does not have a No First Use doctrine while India though with an NFU has a ‘massive’ retaliation doctrine. My case is that a doctrinal interface is required between the two for conflict prevention, escalation control and conflict management.
The second monograph is on the structural factor determining doctrinal shift towards a proactive doctrine. It highlights a doctrinal impetus for India lying in Pakistan’s constant challenge at the subconventional level in Kashmir.
Of the three monographs, the one at the United Services Institution, supervised by the doyen of India’s strategic community, Mr. K. Subrahmanyam, was not published as I was an army major then and anticipating that the critique would not have been passed by the authorities had requested the monograph not be published. A bold look at how institutional interest of security agencies trumps national interest, the monograph is a critique of the subcultures in the security establishment, including its influence on the army’s performance in Kashmir.
In all three monographs, I show the hand of an assertive turn to strategic culture, brought about by inter-alia cultural revivalism in India, perhaps the first such academic observation in strategic literature on and in India.
The third set
My third set of books record developments in the security field in India and South Asia over the past two decades. The major websites of think tanks and publications in strategic field to which I regularly contributed are ipcs.org (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies), claws.in (Center for Land Warfare Studies), idsa.in (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses), citizen.in, foreignpolicyjournal.com, Kashmir Times, countercurrents.org, indiatogether.org, milligazette.com etc.
The methodology in my papers is usually to contrast the liberal perspective with the operative realist one, thereby providing a sound critique of extant policy. The books taken together are a trove for students and have a historical value, because they trace the political change in India and how that has impacted the strategic discourse and India’s defence, foreign and internal security policies.
For instance, in Kashmir over the past three decades there has been a consistent recourse to the military template, to little avail since the hard option only creates more recruits for the militancy and attracts Pakistan’s intelligence meddling. Therefore, the neglected policy choices including political approaches and peace interventions are advocated in my pieces covering Kashmir. It is no wonder India has compounded its predicament in Kashmir lately.
I follow the nuclear issue through the years, again making an anti-nuclear case but in strategic terms to carry the argument into strategic discourse. The anti-nuclear discussion is otherwise restricted to activist circuits that are marginalised, depriving the debate of energy.
A word on my writings while in the military, On India’s military: Writings from within. I was an active participant in the intellectual life of the Indian military. The record provides insight into the concerns of the military over two decades of late last century and early this century. The book is a window to the military.
A must read among my writings while in-service is one comprising the then unpublished articles owing to the requirement of obtaining military intelligence clearance for writings by military personnel, but have since been self-published as From within: Reflections on India's army. Equally significant is a compilation of comments on articles published in military publications wherein my critique was on the right wing cadence and influence. These letters now form a record for tracing how the right wing had penetrated military thinking and the extent to which it has. I reflect on the rise of cultural nationalism and trace its influence on the Indian military.
I bring a practitioner-cum-academic point of view to bear, a rare combination. There are few prolific writers from within the Indian military; fewer have put together their work between two covers. The Indian army is an oddity in the developing world in being both professional and not having meddled in politics. However, my work is different in showing up how politics has pervaded the military stealthily at first and more blatantly of late. This is in itself a original contribution to the ongoing national debate on where is India headed.
The key take-away from my writings is that the change in India’s strategic doctrine from defensive realism to offensive realism owes to the impact on Indian strategic culture of India’s rightward political shift under the impress of cultural nationalism. Here I contrast the popular realist perspective with the one I have furthered in my writings, the Asokan perspective.
The key competing explanation for this shift in India’s dominant strategic perspective is a structural one that has it that India’s security predicament has led to a response leveraging India’s increasing power over the period. The realist explanation is in is traditional balance-of-power terms.
The Chinese juggernaut looming large across Asia and the traditional Pakistani threat taken together combined to generate a potential ‘two-front’ problem. India’s economic indices since the liberalization of early nineties had an upward trend in the early 2000s. This led to greater investment in the defence sector, allowing for greater self-assertion by India in response to the ‘two-front’ dilemma. The nuclear breakout in 1998 was brought about by a Chinese collusion with Pakistan that posed a missile and nuclear threat. Under the nuclear umbrella, revisionist Pakistan sought to upset the status quo along the Line of Control, in Kashmir and pose a terror threat in India’s hinterland. The Chinese infrastructure development in Tibet led up to an adverse force ratio on that front. India was able, through an increased defence outlay, to play catch-up, both in terms of infrastructure building along the northern – undemarcated - border but also by raising its military strength.
The threat forced Indian response in terms of doctrine development, equipment acquisitions, military exercises, defence infrastructure building, forging of strategic partnerships and organizational innovation (such as the mountain strike corps). India reached out to the United States (US), fellow democratic powers in the Indo-Pacific and adopted an ‘Act East’ policy, to complement the US’ ‘pivot’ to Asia. Today the discourse is on Indo-Pacific. An increasingly vibrant economy helped India offset the Chinese attempt to box-in India into South Asian confines, using Pakistan as proxy.
On the other hand, in the Ashokan perspective, the ‘threat’ appears as a self-fulfilling prophecy, resulting from a security dilemma generated in the smaller neighbour, Pakistan, due to India’s own posture and actions. Over the eighties, India had a conventional war doctrine of conventional retribution using its two strike corps, as demonstrated in Exercise Brasstacks in the mid-eighties. This prompted Pakistan in the early nineties to neutralize India’s conventional advantage by bogging the Indian military down in a proxy war in Kashmir, even as India went in for a third strike corps. India’s military template in Kashmir kept the locale ideal for Pakistani interference.
To make its conventional advantage usable in face of Pakistan’s covert nuclear capability, India went overtly nuclear. It held China responsible for forcing its nuclear hand, even though at the time India had forged confidence building measures with China. This suggests that instead of a reckonable threat from China, the Chinese threat was a rationale to cover a development prompted by India’s equation with Pakistan. This reading has it that the structural explanation is only partial. By a structural yardstick, at best, the Indian strategy was to reinvigorate its conventional advantage, and thereby deter Pakistan at the subconventional level.
Alternatively, liberal explanations do not disavow power balances but are sensitive to policy impulses in other causal chains. At a wider – grand strategic level - Indian actions prompted the threats it faced, which were, in turn, used as strategic rationale for continuing down a chosen path of self-assertion. This begs the question as to impetus behind self-assertion.
In my writings, a cultural explanation has been privileged for its explanatory value.
The principle change in India has been a discernible shift to the Right, not only economically with adoption of neoliberalism, but politically in an emergence and rise of cultural nationalism. This impacted Indian strategic culture, in turn imposing on the strategic doctrine as traced in the cases followed: doctrine making, Kashmir, minority security, India-Pakistan relations and the organizational and sociological impact on the Indian army. In my writings, spread over a quarter century as outlined here, the rise of cultural nationalism and its impact on strategic culture and on military culture can be traced.
The quest has been for peaceable solutions – peace through peaceful means. Using the timeless Ashokan tradition in India I shone the light for and provided a mirror to the Indian strategic community. Retrospectively, my observations appear to be vindicated, with religious majoritarianism in ascendance in India. A sense of perspicacity is little satisfaction in face of aggravation of the Indian and regional security problematic. My advocacy for a liberal turn to politics, a return to a strategic doctrine of defensive realism and critique of an assertive strategic culture and offensive military doctrines, appears set to continue in light of the ideologically driven strategic missteps of the right wing regime.
Note - Also can be downloaded from the blog's right margin.