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A Window Into Threat Perceptions

Updated: December 20, 2014 5:15 am

The balance of power in South Asia is tenuous. Neighbouring states with nuclear arsenal pose a serious threat in times of conflict and the danger of escalation into a nuclear holocaust in South Asia is ever-present. This book locates the change in India’s war doctrine at the turn of the century, following the Kargil War in 1999 between India and Pakistan. It examines how war policy was shaped by the threat posed by India’s neighbours and the need for greater strategic assertion. It also reveals that this change was forced by the military’s need to adapt itself to the nuclear age. It also raises questions of whether the Limited War doctrine has made India more secure.

In the beginning of the book, the writer traces the movement in India’s strategic posture and in its military doctrine since the 1971 war. Military doctrine has broadly kept pace, moving from being a defensive one to one advertised as proactive and offensive. The book also carries a description of the Limited War doctrine and discusses the conventional –nuclear interface. It tries to the drivers of conventional doctrine at the three levels of analysis–structural, unit (state) and organisational. That leave one last level–the individual level—which while being consequential, the writer has left out since the Cold War doctrine appears to have many claimants for ownership. Since military records are subject to a stringent information regime, the study is largely based on information available in the open domain. Against this backdrop, it is worth mentioning that writer is fortunate, as a veritable intellectual cottage industry grew around Cold War, not only due to increased interest in but also due to increased strategic foreboding over the last decade.

The well-known realist theory provided the theoretical backdrop to examine the doctrine impulse at the structural level. According to realist theory, the anarchical international system prompts self-help on part of the states who attempt to create and leverage power against threats in the environment through internal and external balancing. At the unit level, cultural theory is available as a theoretical lens. While there imbalance of power between states in a system, how states view this imbalance, threat or otherwise, is dependent on their strategic culture.

The writer finds that the nuclear conundrum has not been coped with adequately. The more insecure nuclear weapons make us, the more secure we apparently are. This understanding is dangerous in the extreme.

An astute analysis of not only India’s military strategy but also of military doctrine in general, this book will be valuable to scholars and researchers of defence and strategic studies, international relations, peace and conflict studies, South Asia studies as well as government and military institutions. In a nutshell, the book’s fascinating study will provide useful inputs for military, strategic and political elites in coming to a decision in future. It also offers a window into the threat perceptions, the organisational culture and politico-military processes, by which conceptual concepts are evolved in the Indian context.

By Nilabh Krishna

46-47 Bookshelf+

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